Pittsburgh: The Taxi Driver’s Guide to Almost Absolutely Everything

On my way from the Pittsburgh airport to the hotel, my very enthusiastic cab driver, who was like Fonzie, age 90, and I had a conversation that began like this:

Scene 1 HIM: Where do you come from? ME: Well, I came from Cincinnati today... HIM: BUT...?!??! ME: But, I live in New York. HIM: You a road warrior?!?!?! ME: I guess so! HIM: SOMEbody's gotta do it!

Scene 2 One Minute Later

HIM: So you from New York City?!?!?!?! ME: Yes. HIM: Everybody's gotta live SOMEwhere!!!!! ME: I guess that's true! HIM: So YOU got an abiding LOVE AFFAIR with the N-Y-C! ME: I guess I do! [Ed. Note: As is evidenced by previous posts, I do not have a love affair, abiding or otherwise, with the N-Y-C lately.] HIM: Yep, we hear it all the time.

So we went on to talk about my book and Fonzie bestowed a few jewels from what he called Cab Driver Philosophy, which I think is the specialized sequel to One Man's Opinion:

"You want my opinion of your age category of girls? They should all go home and have their mothers wash their mouths out with soap. I been doing this 40 years and I understand insecurity and oppression and suppression but they're damn right vulgar."

He then held up a plastic shopping bag and said, "You know what this is? It's the Cab Driver's Weekend Survival Kit." I thought he meant he peed in it when he was too busy to stop. "The vast majority of the young ladies use it." Oh, a barf bag for drunk girls. Lovely.

He also told me about four times that he can't go around taping girls in the cab, because that would be illegal, but maybe I should do that becaues it would give me some insight into what makes 'em tick.

He summed up his entire manifesto with "Dis is da 'Burgh. Best we can do." I love this. I highly recommend you say this a propos of absolutely nothing, because it's highly convincing and a good way to justify pretty much anything.

I walked around the waterfrontish area near my hotel in Station Square and sat outside for a while. Then I walked the 2.5 miles or so to the evening's event at Joseph-Beth, another fantastic, gigantic independent bookseller. I'm here to say that Pittsburgh's South Side is far hipper than Williamsburg (Dat is da 'Burg...) and I really liked it. Everyone was young and hip and the restaurants and bars and shops were packed with people who seemed to know how to have a good time. Whatever that means. I mean they were boisterous and young and attractive and seemed in good spirits. Later they will barf in a plastic bag in the back of a taxi, but until then, they were stardust.

The event at Joseph-Beth was a "Girl's Night Out," organized by only-two-months-on-the-job Events Coordinator Rich, who put together a truly fun night. (PS Confidential to Rich, I am writing this from the Pittsburgh airport, it's 5:30, I had a wakeup call at 3:30am, it was brutal, check in later for Melissa: Asleep in Broad Daylight in Kentucky.) I chatted with a group of women who were on average a tad older than my usual crowd, many of them mothers, all wise and enthusiastic. Here are some "I wish I'd known earlier" stuff they shared:

  • I should have listened to my own voice and not the majority of people telling me what I should be in my 20s, because it took until my 30s to realize I hadn't followed my dreams, that what others wanted for me wasn't right for me.
  • Being single is okay. You can be in your 40s and unmarried, have no children and be happy.
  • Don't buy new shoes right before you get pregnant because your feet will never be that size again.
  • As wonderful as breasfeeding is, someone should have told me it hurts.
  • It's okay to be a late bloomer.

    One young woman said she wished someone would have told her how hard it was to be a stay-at-home mom, how tedious changing diapers is, how you become your child, you never get to sleep. Another woman chimed in and said she'd thought that as well, but now her children are grown and told the other woman to hang in there, it goes by fast, and it's worth it. Then a third woman told her that many women would envy her for having the opportunity to stay home with her kids, to not work. I loved it. Strangers giving each other advice. It was like the dream of the Girl's Guide, made real before my eyes.

    Argh, I took a few pictures of the crowd, such a very wonderful bunch of women, and they somehow didn't make it onto my computer and I deleted them. Pittsburgh, I remember you. If every crowd were as excited and communicative as you were....

    I must say, the crowds keep getting larger as I flit across the country, which is encouraging. No one tells you that if you build it, they will not necessarily come, especially if you're a first-time author with no fan base. This point is further made clear to me as every place I go, I am right behind Jodi Picoult, Giada DiLaurentis and Paula Deene. And every escort and bookseller has informed me that my fellow "road warriors" have had up to 1000 people waiting to have books signed. I think I catch up with Paula Deene (someone I'd never even heard of before I went on The Road) today in Lexington, where I should be shortly.

    I'm sort of smarting over having lost those photos.

    I slept 2 hours as I had to be at the airport by 4:45 this morning for my two-legged trip to Kentucky via Chicago. I think I'm supposed to be on the plane right now. More soon.

  • Tour, TourMelissa Kirsch