I would not be the first by any means to observe that the failings of government are turned against it, supporting either a neoliberal quest to trim government as inherently wasteful and inefficient or a general authoritarian populist spite for all it considers “elite,” including journalists, including academics.

My mom sent me an email telling me that her cousin had visited Pittsburgh for a reunion and sworn never to return because the roads are so bad. I found this email just as I was about to leave for Erie and spent the entire drive struck by how the failings of government in Pittsburgh, the criminally neglected potholes, brick streets, and cobblestone streets that destroy cars; the failure to address poverty, blight, and racism; the apparent corruption of the snowplowing operation in which neighborhoods might go two weeks without seeing a snowplow, as Carrick did last winter;[1] the interminable and unexplained roadwork projects that progress remarkably unevenly and that so many think contractors milk for every last penny; the appalling traffic congestion that supposedly “smart” traffic signals[2] do so little to ameliorate, might yield the incredible toxicity I have seen there.

“It is what it is,” I have heard so often since I arrived in Pittsburgh, an apparent acquiescence to so much that is wrong there, and yet, I wonder, perhaps sublimating a profound despair and, I have to say, well-earned disgust. In places like Pittsburgh, especially when, as Pittsburgh is, run by Democrats, it can only help the likes of Donald Trump.

I’m realizing I really need to get out of Pittsburgh.

My mom also warned me again about Erie weather. She’s right, but not for the reasons I expected.

To deal with the obvious, Erie is situated on the shore of Lake Erie. It is reputedly the snowiest city in Pennsylvania,[3] due, I assume, to lake effect. There’s no snow on the ground at the moment and the temperature is not much lower than in Pittsburgh. But it feels much colder.

Some of this might be wind. I didn’t feel this so much walking to my car or from it to the café where I’ve managed to find a vegan breakfast but as I look out the window I see some movement in the trees indicating some significant gusts.

I think the rest of it might be the humidity, again from the lake.

I’m getting out early. This will throw off the comparison with Pittsburgh in Uber driving.


Colin Deppen, “Pennsylvania revises Confederate markers, recasts forces as “enemy” soldiers,” Philadelphia Inquirer, December 14, 2021,



Jeff Himler, “Covid cases create ‘desperate’ situation at Westmoreland hospitals,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, December 14, 2021,


Heather Hollingsworth, “US COVID death toll hits 800,000, a year into vaccine drive,” Associated Press, December 15, 2021,

  1. [1]KDKA Television, “Pittsburgh Councilman Publicly Criticizes ‘Unacceptable’ State Of Roads After Snowfall,” December 27, 2020,
  2. [2]Henry Williams, “Artificial Intelligence May Make Traffic Congestion a Thing of the Past,” Wall Street Journal, June 26, 2018,
  3. [3]Beth Price-Williams, “Take A Look At Life Inside Erie, The Snowiest Town In Pennsylvania,” Only in Your State, November 12, 2021,

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