Yeah, I know.
But it’s not the city it was 20 years ago. Not even close.
When the executive editor of the Post-Gazette called me in November, it was late afternoon, I was up against a Globe deadline, the kids had just gotten home from school and the house was noisy. Half of what he said, I couldn’t hear, but I heard this: “Is it plausible that you would consider moving to Pittsburgh?”
It’s also plausible that I might move to Alaska (where they pay you to live), or to Poland (where my daughter is going next month), or to the moon.
Plausible, yes, but not likely.
But David Shribman is a legendary newsman with a Pulitzer, and the paper has six of its own, and when I visited, I looked out of my hotel room and saw lovely old houses and churches atop cliffs, and sports stadiums, and the rivers, and some of the city’s dazzling bridges. It didn’t seem anything like the places I now call home, and it was much too far from the ocean, but it was …. plausible. Yes, it was.
So here we are, nudged (maybe shoved) by a confluence of odd circumstance, and although there are still mornings when I wake up and think “what the hell just happened?”, for the most part, it’s been terrific.
I’m learning to do a type of writing I’ve never done before — editorials — and loving being part of a newsroom again. And, not insignificantly, I finally got my goat.
LAST YEAR, I bought a birthday card that shows an Old-World, gray-haired woman complaining that birthdays promise, but never deliver. “I make wish. It never comes true. But eets fun tradition.” Inside, she says, “I make wish for goat. Does goat come? No!”
On our refrigerator is that image, with “no” crossed out and “yes” in its place.
As most of you know, I’m all about animals. I think a lot of people who were overweight as children are — animals were (are) the only creatures we could trust not to make fun of us. We get attached.
I would have hundreds, but for my desperate desire to sleep (circa 1-14-93, the birthday of my firstborn). You can’t hit the snooze button on dogs. Or roosters. So maybe farm livin’ isn’t the life for me. But you never know.
When I accepted the job on the editorial board of the Post-Gazette (meet my distinguished colleagues here), I started looking for a house in Mt. Lebanon, a well-regarded suburb of Pittsburgh infested with gorgeous brick Tudors and white-tailed deer. But I also placed an ad on craigslist that said: Looking for three-bedroom house to rent within 30 minutes of Pittsburgh, in a great school district, with room for donkeys. I know, I know, but miracles do happen.
I expected nothing.
Over the past five years, I’ve grown increasingly cynical about miracles, but as readers of my book know, I still have a rich, complicated relationship with hope.
And damned if, for once, it didn’t deliver.
I got an email from an amazing couple who live in Mt. Lebanon, but have a farmhouse in the North Hills, where they do organic farming when they’re not at work, or caring for their nine children, or homeschooling, or taking care of feral cat colonies.
The house was empty; they were mostly just using the land. They would consider renting it. Without traffic, it was just 20 minutes to the newspaper office.
So here we are – looking out the kitchen window at, best as I can count, 150 free-range chickens, 12 ducks, 10 pigs, four cows, three calves, and, soon to be, two donkeys. (Jo-Jo and Foggy arrive in two weeks.)
There’s a treehouse, a tire swing, a trampoline, a gazebo with a swing, an enthusiastic stream, and …. five goats.
Hope doesn’t often deliver. But when it does, it delivers in spades.