Wholey Fish and Pittsburghers

People say that Pittsburghers, and yes, people actually call them that, always return to Pittsburgh. They may leave for a few years, or sometimes a few decades, but they always come back home.

I’m not from Pittsburgh. I’m from Tucson, Arizona, from Dallas, Texas, from Hershey and Harrisburg and Hummelstown and Middletown in good ol’ Pennsylvania. I’m a little bit from Ireland. Maybe you could argue that I’m even from Greensburg, just a 45 minute drive outside of Pittsburgh.

But if you put me smack dab in the middle of downtown Pittsburgh and asked me to find a bridge in the city of three rivers I’d be a lost cause.

As it turns out, there’s a fish market in the middle of Pittsburgh. Who knew?

Pittsburghers, obviously.

I didn’t know.

I must admit, when I found out that was where we were going for our first Travel Writing class, I did not expect Wholey.

Robert Wholey & Co. Inc. is considered a “Seafood market” by Google Maps.

I don’t eat fish. I don’t eat any animals. I don’t like dead things.

Wholey overflows with dead things. It smells like, well, fish. There’s really no better word for it. It’s the kind of fish smell that doesn’t remind you of the ocean or even a seafood restaurant. It’s fishy, like real, dead, gross fish.

I shouldn’t judge. I can be pretty gross myself. I haven’t washed my hair in several days. No one has suggested I smell though. Wholey smelled.

Also, it was pronounced “wool-ey.” Like sheep’s fur with a “y” on the end. I realize that it’s a last name, it just doesn’t quite make sense to me.

Not all of the fish were dead. There were tanks packed full of living, swimming fish. There was another tank with only a few living, swimming fish.

The third tank is what got to me though. I didn’t take a picture, because every time I looked over I wanted to throw up. Most of the fish, packed in closely together, were swimming, although slowly. One fish, however, was floating, upside-down. I can’t tell you why, but it made me feel incredibly sick.

I reminded myself that it was just a fish. Fish die every single day. It was obviously no big deal to the rest of the fish, who pushed his floating body up against the side of the tank.

This didn’t help.

I walked, sort of ran, away from the tanks. I couldn’t deal.

I moved over and talked to friends. I got my mind off of it. Still, a week later, all I can think about is that fish’s eyes open, floating, upside-down, pushed up against the dirty glass side of the tank.

I can feel my stomach turning, so I’ll move on.

Wholey had more than just a broad array of sea-creatures. It also had meat. Another thing I don’t do. My parents don’t understand, partly because my baby brother loves anything and everything meat.

I came across a magical machine to make orange juice. Honestly, I don’t like orange juice that much, but it was a really cool concept. It gave shoppers the opportunity to squeeze their own orange juice. My dad would love it.

“None of that artificial crap,” he would say.

He thinks that’s the reason that he and I are the only two in our family who aren’t absurdly skinny. It makes no sense. My brothers eat more junk food and artificial flavoring than anyone I’ve ever met.

That’s not the point though.

Wholey had all kinds of beautiful produce as well.

There were vegetables of course, but what really caught my eye were the potatoes.

See, my baby brother (who is 15 but will always be a baby to me) calls me a potato. In fact, he calls everyone a potato.

Except himself, he’s a banana.

Apparently it has to do with hair color. I had died my hair red for a few years. During that time I was a “red potato.”

The problem with his theory, besides the point that he doesn’t account for other hair colors like black or gray, is that his hair is getting darker. At this point in time, I am more blonde than he is. Of course, he hates this.

Better yet, he denies this.

So, I call him a potato. He hates it. I’m okay with being a potato, but he has to be a banana.

I told him that this was him… And this was me…

He was not happy with me.

After Wholey, we set off in smaller groups to explore more of Pittsburgh. It was great. We mostly walked into small, incredible stores in the “Strip District.”

Of course, being in Pittsburgh, there were a billion sports stores as well.

There were lots of really fascinating things outside as well.

Pittsburgh is a beautiful city. I can’t wait to spend more time in it!

I could spend my life arriving each evening in a new city.

Bill Bryson