“That’s so Pittsburgh,” nearly everyone has said when I tell this story, but this was Pittsburgh even for Pittsburgh.

I’d just moved home after nearly 18 years, and I needed a large couch to fill out my extremely large (to me) living room. In Chicago and L.A., the two other cities in which I’d spent my adult life, I’d only ever lived in squishy little apartments. I finally had my own house in Stanton Heights, and even with just two bedrooms upstairs (I have an upstairs now!), it felt huge.

As I filled out delivery forms, the gentleman ringing me up noticed my out-of-state area code and asked my story.

“Where did you live when you lived here?” he asked me.

“Squirrel Hill,” I told him.

“Me too!” he replied. “On Beechwood Blvd.”

“Wow, really? Me, too,” I said.

He told me which block. I felt one eyebrow raise.

“Whoa, me too,” I said.

I gave the address. His mouth gaped.

“My family lived in that same house for 40 years,” he told me. He grew up there, and so did I. My family called it home for almost three decades.

My family taking in some local wildlife at the Pittsburgh Zoo.
My family taking in some local wildlife at the Pittsburgh Zoo.

It was one of those “isn’t this city such a small town?” coincidences Pittsburghers experience just about every day. Little chance connections are constantly reminding us that the ‘Burgh really is its own universe.

And based on the circumstances that surrounded my move here, I’m convinced this universe has a gravitational pull.

My reasons for leaving L.A. and moving to Pittsburgh are unremarkable. You’ve heard this boomerang story before: I sowed some wild oats in big cities, then I got married and had a kid, and suddenly wanted my new family life to be like my old family life. But picking up your family of three and moving across the country isn’t necessarily easy to do. Either my husband or I needed a job. We needed health insurance. We needed childcare. We needed luck.

So we put out feelers. We scoured job listings and applied for stuff. We had a lead here and a lead there, and even a couple of interviews, but for a while, nothing stuckuntil Pittsburgh’s cosmic force kicked in, and unbelievably, everything fell into place: I got a callback for a second interview at NEXTpittsburghan opportunity I’d been pursuing for a few months and on a day we’d planned to be in town anyway. Then my husband scored an interview for the very same day. We suited up, razzle-dazzled our future bosses and both got job offers exactly one week later. We each gave notice in L.A. and quit working on the same day, packed up our lives and shipped them across the country, and started our new gigs on the same day in January. It’s as if Pittsburgh said, “what do you need in order to make a move here work? Here you go.” If that’s not a sign this move was written in the stars, I don’t know what is.

Maybe Pittsburgh worked its mojo on me because I’m a native. It probably helped that, though my husband hails from New Jersey, his mom was born in Morningside. Like the mafia, once you’re in Pittsburgh’s web, you never really get out, even if you leave for a while. But that doesn’t diminish how immensely fortunate we feel to have been able to weasel our way back into town. As we’re all well aware, this old gray Pittsburgh, she ain’t what she used to be. Our big city resumes weren’t impressing anyone. There’s talent already here. We’re just lucky the city took us back.

It’s also why I’m so proud to have landed at NEXTpittsburgh, because here, we celebrate not just how much Pittsburgh is growing and changing for the better, but the people who are driving that progress. That list piles up every day, which is why NEXTpittsburgh has to grow, too. The former editor and founder Tracy Certo is now full-time publisher. And starting now, we’re going to be sending out our e-newsletter twice each week instead of once, so look for us in your inbox on Tuesdays and Fridays. (Not yet a subscriber? Fix that here.) We also publish new content every day, so bookmark our website and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

And feel free to email me anytime to let me know what you think of NEXTpittsburgh, and what you’d like to see more of. Part of my mission here is to connect with you, the Pittsburghers who love their city. Who knows? Maybe we’ll discover a cosmic connection of our own.

Ali Trachta

Ali Trachta joyfully returned home to Pittsburgh after a long stint at LA Weekly. Most recently she served as its online editor as well as digital strategist for its parent company, Voice Media Group, which owns seven alt-weekly newspapers. She lives in Stanton Heights with her husband and little boy.