A New Appreciation for the Places I Go

I find myself filled with gratitude for these places, from the highest cultural institutions to the neighborhood dives. I miss them. I know that, when I return to them, I will see them with fresh eyes.
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At some point last year, two close friends separately commented on the high number of places I seem to go every day. I hadn’t given it much thought, so I started counting.

One day: home, laundromat, office, lunch meeting, back to the office, gym, quick dinner at Burgatory, movie screening, Target on the way home.

Another: Home, DVE studio, drive-through Taco Bell (sorry), office, visit at the History Center, back home for a nap, stand-up gig, stop at the casino for a drink and an ill-advised NBA wager before bed.

I quickly determined that I average seven places a day. Eight if you count my car.

This is just how I like it. It’s not that I don’t like my home; I’m perfectly comfortable here. Something about my internal rhythm, however, prefers to go from one thing to the next. If I’m at home with no plans — an eventuality that nearly never happens — I’m likely to head to a movie or a friends’ house.

Then, perhaps, somewhere else. And somewhere else after that. It’s what I do — partially due to the varied nature of my work and partially just because I prefer to be collecting experiences, information, new places.

Obviously, I haven’t been keeping that rate up in the past few weeks. Minor trips — filling up the gas tank, taking a walk or (in a thrilling turn of events) dropping off clothes at the laundromat — have become the most vibrant portions of my day.

I’m fine, of course; not being able to do what I want is not the great tragedy of the COVID-19 pandemic — that would be the increasing number of lives claimed by this leveling, global emergency. A secondary tragedy, of course, is the number of livelihoods interrupted or obliterated.

In the face of those losses, me not being able to hop around town is not important. It is, however, weird.

Many people have been struggling with guilt over their own frustrations in the face of the pandemic; how can we gripe about social distancing when so many others are sick (or bankrupt)? Yes, remembering to be grateful for health and wealth is important. We are still permitted, however, to react to the pervading weird of it all.

It is weird that the restaurants are closed. It is weird that people we’re used to seeing every day or every few days are now faces on a laptop screen. It is weird that there are no sports. And, yes, it’s weird that we’re not going anywhere — whether that’s one or two locations a day, like most people, or back-to-back-to-back appointments, like me.

Weird is disconcerting and unsettling. We’re all going to be affected by that.

When I’m not focused on the pure, unfiltered weird, I’m trying to reflect on how fortunate I am — and how fortunate we all are — to live in a city full of places I always want to be. We are surrounded by vibrant and varied neighborhoods overflowing with places worth visiting, living, exploring, discovering, rediscovering and embracing. Warm and inviting coffee shops mixing fragrant, rejuvenating elixirs that (no matter how expensive your kitchen was) you could never recreate at home. Restaurants for every mood and meal, experimenting with thousands of dishes from hundreds of culinary traditions. Houses of art and artistry — theaters, galleries, concert venues, cinemas and so many multi-hyphenate performance spaces — that are in the business of engaging, enlightening and entertaining every night of the year.

I find myself filled with gratitude for these places, from the highest cultural institutions to the neighborhood dives. I miss them. I know that, when I return to them, I will see them with fresh eyes — appreciate not just the varied amenities and offerings of these places but the very essence of them, the inherent nature of every bar stool and movie screen.

In a few months — with some luck and tenacity — I will once again be able to go to all of these places. And I will appreciate them so much more than I did before we all closed our front doors.

Until then, I’m trying to change my classification system. It might help if I at least pretend I’m still going seven places each day.

Today: Home, parking lot (left something in the car), actually in the car, the park for a run, walk around the block while on a phone call, the mailbox, the front stoop.

See? Still seven places.

Sean Collier is Associate Editor at Pittsburgh Magazine.

Categories: Collier’s Weekly, The 412