It could have been a different life, and it almost was.
In the long series of events that unfolded in to what my life is now, it would have only been a few folds different for me to wind up in Greensburg.
If Siemens had not given me a job offer back in June 2011, I’d probably still be at the Elliott Company, and its more than likely that I’d have an apartment in Greensburg today. I even went to the trouble of touring several locations at the time, and at the moment when I got closest to pulling the trigger, some little piece of instinct bubbled to top of my brain and told me to wait for a few months.
A few months later, I was starting grad school in Pittsburgh, instincts proving to be reliable.
I don’t really believe in destiny, but instead, I wanted to share with you some reasons why I’ll always harbor some warm affections towards the idyllic little city.
For years, while I was working at the Elliott Company, I fully intended on following a certain life plan. I was convinced that Elliott was going to give me the chance to work in London, something I very much wanted to do, and while I waited, I’d move to Greensburg with my friends and wait patiently. It seemed inevitable. Greensburg, for better or worse, was the center of my social universe for most of my post-college years.
During college holiday breaks and raucous post-college weekends, our standard game-plan was to tear up Greensburg at night. Our favorite bar, Mr. Toads was our local fixture, although while it temporarily closed for much-needed repairs, we branched out to a few more watering holes, namely Scooby’s and the Headkeeper.
At the same time, we were getting closer to a new branch of friends, and my good friends Zach and Jen began to appear in our lives. Hailing from Latrobe, about the same distance from Greensburg as us, but on the opposite side, we naturally began to meet in the middle frequently.
Just a few months before my job offer at Siemens, two of my best friends moved to Greensburg. Nathan and DPM made the giant leap as the first members of our group to move out of our childhood homes (except for Skivvy, though only for academic obligations). And then, it seemed like our social circle was cemented to the city.
I imagine that if I had followed them, a large portion of my life would be different now. Greensburg always had a charm for me that I couldn’t find in other places. It is a typical rust-belt city, with a lot of great architecture and culture for a city of its size. For me, integrating with it was always part of the plan. As an exceedingly type-A person, I planned to conquer the city’s social network in a matter of months.
Even today, it’s where I go visit my friends from home. Just this weekend, I had a night out with the gang, including the very dapper Mr. Bober pictured below:
I anticipated several years of my life getting to know the city from the inside, photographing all of the concerts in the park, checking out the few dive bars buried underground, and mostly, getting to continue a lifestyle of seeing my friends nearly every day.
Of course, Robert Burns said it best, and the plans didn’t come to fruition. Siemens and Carnegie Mellon came knocking, and I chose the path towards Pittsburgh. And I don’t mean to indicate that I regret anything; I love Pittsburgh. I worship its streets, fell in love with its history, and relish the sites and the sounds that the big city offers. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t feel a little homesick when I visit Greensburg. I’m far away now, and I don’t see my friends as often as I need to.
I remember the time that Nathan and I walked all the way from Mr. Toads to UPG because we didn’t have a car with us. I remember all of the nights singing Karoke at Callaghans. I remember taking turns making pathetic attempts at pick-lines on the waitresses at the Headkeeper. And I especially remember games of darts in the Mr. Toad’s basement over frothy pitchers of Molson and the smell of clove cigarettes.
Greensburg is an old city, and it looks like it. And the same iconic style that the city celebrates resonates with the fondness for the past I feel when I walk its streets. The eerie orange glow cast by the sodium-vapor street lights evokes almost a haunting mood to the whole city. It’s a place that is timeless for me. Despite the profound limitations of existing as a small city, and even though I never actually took up residence, the place always feels like home.