To the unsuspecting tourist, a typical Pittsburgh summer can be a bit uncomfortable, even a tad biblical, whether it’s the heat, the rain or just the 17-year cyclical installment of CicadaFest (I believe the next one is schedule for 2021).
But loyal yinzers know a summer in Pittsburgh isn’t biblically uncomfortable; it’s just poetically raw.
The cupid-like humidity creates an indestructible force of love between skin and a leather car seat. The weeping precipitation fills our hearts and floods our basements. And there is the horrific tragedy only a devoted Pirates fan can fully comprehend.
That’s the raw poetry of a true Pittsburgh summer.
Pittsburgh expatriate Marty Izenson’s story may not be quite so raw, but it’s still poetic.
A Squirrel Hill native and Taylor Allderdice graduate, Marty met his wife, Dana, while staffing a summer at Emma Kaufmann Camp.
“It’s nice to know someone that long,” said Marty, who shares “very fond memories at EKC” with his wife, who is also a native Pittsburgher.
Dana, a Carnegie Mellon University grad and Marty, a University of Pittsburgh grad, now live just outside San Francisco with their three daughters, ages 12, 10 and 7.
Though a month or two at EKC would, even now, be an ideal summer for Marty and his San Fran clan, his summer plans currently involve an oceanfront vacation with his Pittsburgh relatives or the “Izenson Beach Vacation,” as the family calls it.
Of course, just because he vacations East doesn’t mean he hasn’t adapted to the California lifestyle.
“The weather is amazing here. And you can also have some very nice Jewish culture or turn around and have very nice Asian culture,” he said.
In the interest of “making a change,” Marty initially moved out West a few years after graduating to earn an MSBA (a master’s of business administration with information science focus) from San Francisco State while Dana began working for Oracle.
Upon graduating, he immediately started working for Visa, and is now a senior business leader, specializing in fraud analysis.
“It’s a very interesting place, seeing trends in the marketplace” Marty said, adding, “You know when a recession is starting and when it’s ending.”
Marty, however was careful not to comment on the current state of the country’s recession (darn).
When he’s not working or being a father of three, Marty spends his time strengthening his love of music.
“I’ve been playing music all my life, since second grade,” Marty said.
After graduating from Pitt, Marty, a saxophone player, said he “fell into a rhythm and blues band and played all over the tri-state area.”
His San Fran-based blues funk band called The Tribal Blues band (six of eight member are Jewish), now practices once a week and performs each month.
Though it is safe to say that he’s made quite a life for himself on the West Coast, Marty still misses Pittsburgh tremendously.
“Pittsburgh has something I’ve never encountered around world,” Marty said. “It has that community feel, that big town-small town feel. You don’t see that out here. I miss that a lot — that, and the pizza and sandwiches.”
And believe it or not, he misses the Pirates too.
“I have a soft spot in my heart for the Pirates. They are my number one team, but so painful to watch.”
Painful and yet, so poetically raw.
For information on Marty’s band, the Tribal Blues Band, please visit tribalbluesband.com.
(Jay Firestone, a Pittsburgh native and staff writer for the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)