Ten years ago today, me and Je’m squeezed into the GTI and headed west on the PA Turnpike. It was a warmish February day and sun splashed the Southside when we arrived in Pittsburgh. We sat in the beehive and drank Americanos out of Mason Jars. I’d spent about a month apartment hunting and finally settled on a little one bedroom right off Carson Street that was $450 a month. The same landlord had a similar place on the Slopes for $325, but there is no parking on the slopes. Some of the roads there are still dirt. Some of them are only stairs.
That night we slid the GTI sideways on the slush into a parking space.
It barely seems real that ten years has passed since then. The past decade is so vivid in my mind. Everything seems as if it just happened a few minutes ago. The loneliness of living there the first few months was excruciating. It was relieved only by a regular exchange of emails and only when I could pick up wireless from the neighbors across the street! I couldn’t even afford internet! If I got really desperate, I’d go to the beehive and pay $1 for 15 minutes on the shared use computers.
Moving to Pittsburgh was a metaphor for growing up. I did it at 26 and I should have done it at 18, or at least 22. When I moved there, I finally had to be responsible and make decisions. After all of my moving expenses and utilities were paid, I had $100 left. I knew I had a few photography checks coming in the next month, but that was not going to be enough. I got on craigslist and found a few drywall jobs. I emailed the guy and he called me the next week. I called Dad and asked him to UPS me my tools. They came the next day and I had to pick them up on the North Side evening facility because they wouldn’t leave them on the steps of my building. My first day for Shawn Taylor was a repair job in Houston. I over slept that snowy day, woke up in a panic and still got there in time. He paid me $15 an hour, I put in a strong 9 hour day and he wrote me a check for $135 at the end of the day. I more than doubled my bank account! Zoey from Philly mag called me that day and gave me a shoot in KOP which I drove back for a week or so later. But drywall… It paid a lot of my bills in Pittsburgh. When I got my 1099 the next year, I was stunned to see that it was over $12,000.