The other day, I got an invitation for a party sent by videographer Ben Hernstrom. I couldn’t make it, I had already left Pittsburgh for Basel, but at the end of Ben’s email I found the link to www.ambulantic.com. It took me to a series of Ben’s films and I spent the rest of the evening lingering from one thing to the other. Well, you know Pittsburgh…. first you think, okay, not uninteresting, its history, bridges, Steelers, and Warhol. But the more I go there, the better I like it. No boutique destination, great bars (more about this later), it’s a real city with real people. What does the Washington Post say? “Pittsburgh, Pa., is cool now.” Well, then.
But back to Ben’s films. The first one made me discover Western Pennsylvania’s most complete hobby shop including the slotcar test drive. Not everybody is a hobbyist though. The film that really made me stay was The Hope Business (by Dana Goren, shot and edited by Ben Hernstrom), a portrait of Bill Strickland of the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild. You may know him, I didn’t. So I watched this film and at the certain point, he says these incredible things: “No one assumed that the arts would have anything to contribute to making life better in the community,” and “I knew that or had sensed that if you could create a beautiful space it would ultimately create beautiful people.”
Yes! But I could never say this. Or rather, some years back, I would have said: “Oh how common, the same old idealistic dreams over and over.” But then, as many others do too, I got tired of the money-monkey-years (as we try to get out of them). And Strickland’s comments are not theories, but experiences, and I trust them more. Anyway, this is Pittsburgh: you find yourself in a city where intense history, amazing engagement, and a great dose of ambivalence is no fancy pose, but just around the corner. Just like these great bars: Gooski’s (no homepage, but Oh that jukebox!) and Cattivo (love that homepage).