I like Pittsburgh, with all of its bricks, bridges, and train tracks and just all that steel infrastructure, and I especially like it because have always gotten the sense that it's a place that's this close to tipping into chaos or insanity. It made perfect sense to me as the setting for a fabulous documentary about "street medicine" –or medicine for the homeless –called One Bridge to the Next that I saw at the Hamptons Film Festival last month. (And you should see it too.)
It's a fake penis that got me thinking about Pittsburgh today, and I'll get to that in a moment, because I feel I should first explain my sense of insanity/chaos, and my affection for it. All cities have this, to a greater or lesser extent, at least in certain neighborhoods, and I like it because my neighborhood is nestled right near Bellevue, a methadone clinic and the VA hospital. So crazy feels like home to me.
An example of what I mean about Pittsburgh. This past June, I was walking around Southside, with my friend Andrew, the noted and famous travel writer. We both had cameras on our shoulders. (They are the same camera, in fact, but for the record, I bought mine first.) First we encountered two drunks, one wearing a cowboy hat, who followed us for a little while, and may or may not have been imitating my laugh. Not long after, we walked past a clean-cut looking guy –really every mother's dream –who said "hey girl" (to me) quite friendly-like and then, his smile turned to a snarl, and without stopping, he bellowed "take her fucking picture you douche bag!' (to Andrew). When we stopped for ice cream at The Milkshake Factory –here's the link, but beware of seriously annoying sound effects –and a guy with a very reddened face (not from blushing, perhaps from some exposure to fire?) approached the far younger woman at the counter and said "I came to say I'm sorry for the other night, thanks for putting up with me." And she said, "don't worry about it", in a tone that said he should. And he was sitting with another guy who had two red vertical marks on his forehead, that looked like the had to have come from a pair of clamps?
It was quite the two hours, and it prompted me to jot down the following in my notebook: which city/cities have 1-The most mental outpatients per capita? 2-The most drunks? 3-The most ambulatory elderly?
Anyway, now the fake penises! So it caught my eye that the guys that invented the Whizzinator –a fake penis that heats fake urine to help me beat drug tests –were just convicted of conspiracy. And when I headed over to Wikipedia to learn more about this contraption, I was not at all surprised to learn that a previous conviction involving the Whizzinator had happened in…Pittsburgh:
To wit, emphasis added.
woman and her friend were charged with disorderly conduct and criminal
mischief after they asked a convenience store clerk to microwave one of
the devices so the woman could pass a drug test. The clerk, thinking it
was a real penis, called police. The couple were required to reimburse
the chain for the cost of a new microwave; OSHA regulations do not allow microwaves to be used once bodily fluids have been in them.
Beyond the italics, what more can I add?