Our Downtown Pittsburgh Love Story by Michael Joyce
There are so many things to love about Downtown Pittsburgh: the endlessly curving arches of the bridges, the fiery reflection of a sunny day off of the mirrored glass of PPG Place, and even the clatter of consistent foot traffic and musical accompaniment that echoes through Market Square for farmer’s market Thursdays. Falling in love with the woman of my dreams Downtown, however, became my number one metropolitan memory of the city and only amplified my love for all other things that are Downtown.
It was a rainy and overcast day in April, 2011. It was not just one of those days when a few drops fall thorough a sunny sky. Instead, it was one of the dark, grey days coupled with sporadic and torrential downpours that Pittsburghers are so accustomed too. That night, the Pittsburgh Penguins would face off against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 7 of the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. I was finishing my final year of graduate school at Duquesne University and was lucky enough to “score” two tickets via the Penguins Student Rush ticket release (as many may recall, my score of the tickets was the only goal of the night, as the Penguins were shutout in Game 7 and eliminated from the playoffs that year). As a relentless hockey fan and avid player, excitement was an understatement for mood that day. I quickly texted my long-term girlfriend, Alyson, and let her in on the good news. As the reliable companion that I was, I also volunteered to pick Alyson up a white Penguins t-shirt to comply with the white-out that was taking place in the arena later that night. Of course, I could not be seen with a naïve fan that wears the incorrect garb to a mandatory Penguins white-out, so my altruism was partially self-benefiting.
During the middle of the afternoon, my day became unusually hectic and I broke the bad news to Alyson: I did not have enough time to secure a white-out t-shirt for her. Expectedly, that news did not sit well with my better half who, at that time, was working in the Strip District with ample access to a plethora of Penguins merchandise. Late in the afternoon, however, the rains and winds increased substantially, rendering what could have been a refreshing early morning walk before the big storms converged on the area into a soaking trek through the streets of the Strip to look for the first white Penguins shirt available.
Fast forward to 5:15 p.m. - Alyson arrives at my house in Greenfield, which is a small city neighborhood located just outside of Downtown. We spoke briefly on the phone during her ride to my house and I could tell that she was less than pleased with my unintended alteration to her day. Notwithstanding the unhappiness, the telephone calls gave me an opportunity to track Alyson’s ETA as she neared the neighborhood, which was an important part of my master plan. As she entered the door, she released a deafening huff and was prepared to launch into her well-reasoned rant, or as she termed is “explanation,” as to why my inability to procure a white-out shirt for her and/or failure to inform her of said inability earlier in the day was a major miscalculation on my part. I preemptively responded: “just give me ten minutes and I promise you won’t be mad.”
I took Alyson’s hand and led her through the house, stopping every couple of feet to reminisce about a memorable first in our relationship over the glow of a single tea candle strategically lit for each memory: the first date, meeting the parents and starting our long distance relationship while she attended Penn State, just to name a few. The final candle was larger than the others and, as I explained, represented all of the future firsts that I hoped we would have: getting married, having a family, buying houses and cars and many other future events that were possible. After my explanation of the final candle I slowly descended to one knee, reached under the foot of the bed and revealed a small, cherry box. As I began to open the box I saw Alyson’s eyes well-up with tears and she quickly responded “yes” to my “will you marry me.” She was so overwhelmed that the ring never even met her finger until approximately ten minutes after the initial inquiry, as she required ample time to lie down and compose herself.
Needless to say, Game 7 that night was a memorable one. Although the Penguins failed to pull through with a win, Alyson and I were slightly preoccupied to be overly distraught as to the outcome. After all, she spent most of the night admiring her new accessory in the glowing and flattering lights of Consol Energy Center.
I fell in love with Pittsburgh as a city so many years ago, as a child growing up in the South Hills. Falling in love with the girl of my dreams in Pittsburgh, however, only opened my eyes to how many things there are Downtown and around the city to truly cherish.
I would also be remiss if I failed to explain my fatal failure regarding the white-out t-shirt: I was unable to travel to a store to secure an appropriate t-shirt because I used the afternoon to travel to Wexford to ask Alyson’s father if I had his blessings. In the end, following my explanation and the exchange of a diamond engagement ring in place of a white-out t-shirt, Alyson summarily forgave me and, after our wedding last September, we have truly lived happily ever after.
Sometimes, the big game doesn’t exactly go as planned. In this case, I braved a potential rain-out, was forced to endure a painful shutout, and almost subject to a strikeout for my previously unexplained failure to obtain the proper attire, but, in the end, things worked out for the best.