Underrated Stuff We Love: Pittsburgh’s Porch Culture

You never know who you’ll meet right outside your door.


Photo via Flickr

 

Last autumn, after living in Colorado for almost a decade and then in Boston for two years, we moved to Pittsburgh. Settling in a new city is exciting — there are new neighborhoods to explore, restaurants and museums to visit and delightful local slang and accents to understand. But one aspect of Pittsburgh's culture was most surprising: The social experience of the porch.

Upon arrival at our new house, we had to wait a few days for all of our possessions to show up. To make do, we bought two folding chairs and TV trays to use as makeshift desks during the day. At 5 p.m. on the first day, I dragged my chair outside to have a beer on the porch.

It didn’t take 10 minutes for our neighbor across the street to wander over. I froze; after living in Boston for two years, I had learned that neighbors usually don’t come by unless they are going to chew you out. This was different. In his Irish brogue, he introduced himself as Dennis and asked when we got to town. When our stuff arrived a few days later, he was up early with a cup of coffee, pushing a dolly across the street to help us move.

The next few days felt as if I had become part of a very kind practical joke. Every time I’d sit on the porch, I’d meet a new neighbor. Every time, they’d offer something nice — to get our mail while we were out of town, warn us about parking tickets or introduce us to their curious puppies.

Over the long, cold winter, the thing I missed most was our porch. We saw our neighbors only while they were bundled up, hastily scraping their cars. It was such a relief when the city finally started to thaw. I went out to sweep and saw our neighbors doing the same, replacing chair cushions and hanging up bright pots of flowers. St. Patrick’s Day came around, and I went outside to find a four-pack of Guinness in a brown paper bag on our porch. A few hours later, Dennis came by to serenade me with an Irish tune, accompanying himself on spoons. He sang, and I laughed, and later that afternoon I readied our outdoor chairs to celebrate the end of winter and the beginning of my favorite time: Porch season.

Categories: The 412