City Guide 2008: Frames of Reference | Pittsburgh City Paper

City Guide 2008: Frames of Reference 

As I write this, the streets of Downtown Pittsburgh are becoming a veritable menagerie of "furries." There are people wearing fake cat tails waiting for the bus; others don full animal suits before ambling over to the convention center. It's the time of year in which Pittsburgh hosts Anthrocon, an annual convention for fans of anthropomorphic animals that, somewhat improbably, has taken place here for the past few years.

It took some getting used to, but many of us now anticipate the furries' arrival in Pittsburgh, as if they were the swallows returning to San Juan Capistrano. And say this for furries: They're less obnoxious -- and more likely to be housebroken -- than some Yankees fans, many of whom have also been in town for a series against the Pirates. (Traipsing around town in a full-blown dragon costume I can understand. But a Derek Jeter jersey? Not in front of the children!)

But what's most interesting is that such worlds are colliding in Pittsburgh, that supposedly stodgy and hidebound town.

Pittsburgh is celebrating its 250th birthday this year, and of course for much of its past, this city was defined by industry. In more recent years, we've lost a lot of the manufacturing base, and many of the people who used to be a part of it. But there's an upside: In the heyday of big steel, it's true, we had a great story to tell -- but now we have many. It's a college town and a retirement community, a rec center and a research facility, a place that clings to a smoky past while looking to a greener future.

The following links will take you to directories of Pittsburgh bars, Pittsburgh restaurants, Pittsburgh art galleries and other Pittsburgh cultural institutions. You'll find a guide to other resources here.

And to illustrate the city's increasing diversity, we're providing a series of "tours" that you can start by clicking here. Each tour focuses on a particular interest; each provides a different way to navigate the city -- as an art-lover, for example, or a history buff, or environmentalist. Taken together, and combined with the entertainment and cultural destinations listed elsewhere in the guide, these tours show how today's Pittsburgh is not one place but several ... an Iron City where you can find everything from the ferrous to the furries.