Life At the Foot of Squirrel Hill

Life At the Foot of Squirrel Hill

Where else can you find a Kosher Dunkin Donuts?

I live just at the bottom of Squirrel Hill. Saturday mornings my partner Michael and his 13 year old daughter have a routine of going to the (Kosher) Dunkin Donuts for breakfast then going to the climbing gym together. Normally I go with them, but I worked yesterday and today.

We got the bronze alert of a system wide disaster so I know about the shooting before most of the city. However when I texted my partner…he already knew…the Dunkin Donuts is just 2 blocks from the Tree of Life Synagogue. My mothers caretaker drove past the synagogue just 30 minutes before the shooting. I drive past it twice a day every time I go visit my mother.

It’s Mr Rogers Neighborhood … for real.

If you havn’t read enough stories and articles about Pittsburgh, and specifically Squirrel Hill… it’s an amazing place. I have had many opportunities to move away from my hometown of Pittsburgh and live anywhere I want… since ER physicians are in demand all over the country. I always have returned here not only because my family is here, but because I simply LOVE Pittsburgh.

Shadyside, Squirrel Hill, Edgewood, Regent Square, Point Breeze, East Liberty … these neighborhoods have surrounded my waking hours for the past 20 years.

Collectively they comprise a diverse old immigrant and new immigrant city, multiple ethnicities, and terrain unmatched by any other city…more bridges than Venice, more stairs than San Francisco, Canton Avenue home of the steepest street in the world, and the only place where commuting hassle is measured not in how many miles or minutes you spend in the car, but how many rivers you cross. The working class blue collar roots still ground the city in a “hard work works” attitude, yet it’s also home to progressive technology firms such as Google and Uber.

Finding My Home

Before I started medical school, I lived in the suburbs. I looked forward to my days off work, when I was studying to take the MCATs, when I could drive into town and study at the 61c, a long standing independent coffee shop in the middle of squirrel hill on Murray Avenue.

Two years later when I started school at Pitt, I was so excited to move to the East End and start an exciting new part of my life. After residency when I moved back to Pittsburgh, some people were not shy to suggest I move to Dormont or the South HIlls to be near my new job.

But to me I didn’t think for a second that I would live anywhere other than the East End. So many of my lifelong friends, even from prior to medical school lived in the area within a 2-3 mile radius, including my mother who excitedly moved to Shadyside the year I started medical school.

For a year and a half while renting, my good friend Tom Cahill and I looked for my “dream house”. It was literally 18 months and 1 dream later when I described to Tom a house that was in my dream…two weeks later I was a first time homeowner…in the East End of Pittsburgh.

Even now on my days off most of my daily routine occurs in squirrel hill…my bank, the post office, my eye doctor, the grocery store, multiple coffee shops, people watching, FRICK PARK and (the Mac Miller) Blue Slide Park are some of the activities we all share up at the top of the hill.

Not a day goes by that on some level, I don’t think about how fortunate I am to have found a house I love, in the city, but just far enough outside, in a thriving, vibrant, small town feel community…the East End of the city.

There areĀ  no words for how I’m feeling…

I am saddened with a complete loss of words at the lives lost, one a former colleague and the others no more than 1 degree of separation (this is Pittsburgh after all). However, the past two days, I’ve been impressed and soothed…but not surprised, but the shows of community support. Vigils being held in the pouring rain, organized by high school students from the public city school of Alderdice at the foot of Murray Avenue. All ages, all religions, all nationalities … holding one another as family and expressing their fierce pride in our city, our home.

I worked all weekend and missed the opportunity to attend the moving candlelight vigil at Forbes and Murray on Saturday evening. But tomorrow I know what I’m going to do. My therapy-dog-in-training and I will head right up to the place we call our home and hand out fuzzy kisses and free pets and pay our respects to those who lost their lives in their place of worship.

Thank you for reading.