Huffing and puffing about Philly in Pittsburgh

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PITTSBURGH- It’s not, apparently, because we’re city slickers. Or shiftless and corrupt. It’s not because we’re smarter. Or healthier and better looking. It’s not because our mayor is black. Or the former mayor is Jewish. It’s not even because, this season, the Eagles can stomp the Steelers.

The reason Pittsburgh hates Philadelphia so much – the reason Mike Fisher is trying to win votes out here by scaring them with the Philly boogeyman – is they figure we’re robbing them blind.

And we’ve been doing it for 100 years.

Send a Philadelphian to Harrisburg, they worry here, and the state’s tax dollars for economic development will go right back to the bottomless pit on Broad Street.

Right or wrong, that notion finds clarity in the smoke of the Pittsburgh Cigar Bar, a cozy watering hole in the shadow of this city’s glass towers.

Paul Bliss, a hefty man who describes himself as a banker, takes a short draw off his Hoya Petite and lets loose.

“I don’t like the way he looks,” says Bliss. “He looks like a crook, really. ”

He’s talking about Ed Rendell.

But I’m thinking: I don’t like the way you look, pal. That cigar is way too small for a man your size.

I listen and take a hit off my robusto and a slug from a pint of Arrogant Bastard Ale. An earlier glass of Iron City (pronounced ’round here as Arn City) has left a bad taste, and now this guy is turning my stomach.

I don’t care who wins the election, see. But I don’t much care for some ‘burgher bad-mouthing Philly.

Bliss goes on about that scuffle with the taxi drivers, how Rendell paid cabbies 50 bucks to appear in his ads. He’s heard other stuff, too.

“He appears to be the kind of guy who will raise all kinds of taxes,” Bliss says. “Then all the money will go to Philadelphia. ”

His pal, Mike Kozel, notices my neck turning red. He tries to ease things.

“Fisher’d probably do the same thing if he gets in,” Kozel chimes.

Bliss shoots him a look. Kozel reverses himself.

“That’s the way it always is. Elect someone from the east, and that’s where all the money goes.

“We only get the leftovers. ”

So what, I wonder, would you want the next governor to do for Pittsburgh?

Bliss puts down his cigar.

“Put in a mag-lev for the airport. ”

A mag-lev – that’s a high-speed train.

The nicotine burns my throat.

Down the street, they’re building a new convention center. Across the river, they have two brand-new stadiums up and running. PNC, Mellon, Kvaerner – they all have new palaces downtown.

Back home, Philadelphia’s schools are falling apart. Our property taxes are going through the roof. Vacant houses and open-market drug sales are destroying neighborhoods. The population has plummeted. The airport is a mess And SEPTA’s escalators are broken.

And this guy wants our next governor to build him a Disneyland monorail?

They say you can tell a lot about a man by his cigar. Not to be overly judgmental, but this city has been smoking something funny.


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