Monday, May 28, 2007

The Pittsburgh Club

A Florida retirement community is home to hundreds of Pittsburghers, enough to support two Pittsburgh clubs:

Last year, Emily Emigh wanted to join the Pittsburgh Club, but its membership had grown to more than 700.

So she started another club.

“I knew there was a strong contingency of Pittsburghers in The Villages,” Emigh said.

The Pittsburgh II Club (its official name hasn’t been decided yet) held its second organizational meeting Thursday night at Bacall Recreation Center.

“It’s going to be a social club,” Emigh said. “It’s a place where Pittsburghers come together and reminisce about Pittsburgh, to develop friendships with other people who are from the same area, and have fun.”

Before the meeting, several residents chatted about where they lived in the Pittsburgh area. Some came adorned in Pittsburgh Steelers or Penn State Nittany Lions hats and shirts, while others wore Pittsburgh Club shirts.

I don't know if there are other Pittsburgh clubs around the country, but I imagine that there is sufficient demand for them. Then again, the local Steelers fan club may suffice. But Pittsburghers in exile might desire something more than watching a game with fellow fans.

For example, the Newcomer Network in the Charlotte Observer recently connected Pittsburghers who relocated to the region from the same small neighborhood back in the Burgh. Included in that particular column is a story of how one person from Long Island connected with other expatriates in the area:

Newcomer Michael McNally of Indian Trail wrote to say, "After two years in Union County, I discovered our block is a mini Long Island. We have Bayshore, Medford, West Islip, Babylon, Centereach and Wyandanch all represented here in Brandon Oaks.

Michael, who moved here from Medford, shared this small-world story: "While the kids were finishing school on Long Island, I was in North Carolina, working and watching the construction of our beautiful new home," he wrote. "One day, while driving and admiring the neighborhood, I almost crashed into a young lady and her children. She was at the stop sign while I was gazing at the beautiful homes being built.

"I noticed her license was a N.Y. plate. I apologized for my reckless driving and asked where she was from. She was from Medford, N.Y. She lives five houses down from me now. She lived less than two miles from me in Medford. We shopped at the same markets and stores. It turns out that her next-door neighbor is her best friend who moved here from, yes, Medford."

The woman whose car he nearly dented, Kristen Cuccia, "is now a close friend and neighbor," Michael said. "Our kids play together. When one of us heads back north for a visit, we bring back whatever it is that is missed from Long Island: Italian bread, bagels, Ba-Tampte pickles, Chubs' Butcher Sausage."

A Pittsburgh or Long Island club in regions experiencing a large influx of the economically displaced could help assure that such useful encounters are not left to chance. In a sea of suburban sprawl, the culturally like-minded can find each other and build a new sense of community in a place far from home.

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