Where there’s smoke, there’s Trump. A note from a native Pittsburgher.

Thank you President Trump. You did it.

Despite worldwide pressure, you stuck up for USA towns like Pittsburgh, where I was born, spent my early years and still have many relatives and friends.

You gave a finger as big as the Eiffel Tower (who said you have small digits?) to that uppity French city that also begins with a “P.” You said c’ya later to all those rules and regs about what we can burn and when, and how.

You gave many big-picture reasons but you also did me a big favor. You gave me incentive to finally get back to the city of my birth.

I wanna return to those dreamlike  days of soot in the snoot and phlegm in the throat.

I wanna go home and start burning the garbage again!

Man, in those days we were really free!  You did what you wanted in our backyard. Forget those expensive garbage bills. All you needed was a backyard burn barrel. Me and my little brother, neither of us much taller than that barrel, were nonetheless entrusted with the waste incineration. The girls didn’t have much interest, and we feigned dislike at first, but it was reverse psychology.

 Once we got out there, out on that little flat before the yard’s last hill, we had free reign, and lots of Ohio Blue Tip matches.

It was something to see, for sure. Our little round white faces lit up by flames six, seven, eight feet high some times.  Us, hypnotized by volcano-like honeycombs in the corrugated cardboard … that glow of a puddle of plastic … exploding cans of hair spray and spray paint!

There is simply no sight on this warm earth like a flaming Clorox bottle on a stick, dripping purple,  blowtorch-blue and hot orange into the fresh snow. And that sound! Like Satan himself playing a melting oboe, each sizzling plop a microcosm of a falling star.

We burned everything. There were pyres of polystyrene, polyester, aromatic hydrocarbons and, man, that mysterious, zany family of “enes.” Benzene. Toluene. Xylene.

Did you ever see a half-empty, punctured can of VO5 spinning like a fiery pinwheel on a wooden Pepsi crate? No? Ha! You haven’t lived.

Trump’s given you another shot, though.

By announcing the U.S. will withdraw from the Paris accord, our Conflagrator in Chief has opened the door to the return of all that warm and fuzzy fun from Pittsburgh’s past. The “Smoky City” is back!

Pittsburgh at noon around 1906
Pittsburgh Then and Now, University of Pittsburgh Press

I’m going to start researching real estate prices — maybe my wife and I can buy back the old Iseman homestead that we all had to abandon after our neighborhood never really recovered  from the recession of the early ’80s.

When I was young in the ‘Burgh, you couldn’t see the rivers through the bustling, bulky steel mills. But, factors like foreign competition, a failure to innovate with technology and labor unrest eventually caused most of those giant steel plants to close.

Gone was that beautiful dragon breath that massaged the Monongahela River. Gone was the red sulfur dust on the cars in the morning. Gone was the warm hazy glow that hung over the South Side way past dark.

And, you guessed it,  gone was the garbage burning.

Outlawed by those environmental do-gooders.

They had gotten all hot under the collar in part because the media in our area made a big deal about the oily Cuyahoga River in Cleveland repeatedly catching fire.

 Yeah, sure it was burning river. But talk about a freak-out. The last time it happened, the flames were doused in about half an hour.

But, the damage was done. Everyone worried about pollution. The water was monitored. The air was monitored. Even the garbage had to be buried just right.

Instead of my brother and I rushing with excitement out to the burn barrel, we had to pack up the cardboard, tie up the newspapers and wash out the plastic. That’s like telling kids they have to go to the library instead of the fireworks show.

Sure, the neighborhood eventually smelled more like grass than gas, and asthmatic Amy from the neighborhood didn’t have to stop for breath as often walking up Holzer Hill. But look at what we lost?

The freedom to burn.

The freedom to wait for just the right wind off the back slope to whip those black clouds of burning plastic toward that hated neighbor’s house. The freedom to breathe the fumes from the melting nylon and polyester pile of the old bathroom carpet that finally got replaced. 

The freedom to make ourselves sick if we wanted to. No matter if we had the means to pay the hospital bill.

Our new president. He’ll take care of that, too.

Like everyone’s saying now: He’s a man of his word.

No matter if Pittsburgh’s mayor isn’t buying Trump’s latest move on the climate front. The prez is still a hero to many in the Steel City.

I say they bring him in to throw out the first pitch on opening day for the Pittsburgh Pirates next season. Sure he might be busy answering subpoenas or hobnobbing with some sheikh, but no worry. The Pirates can just pretend it’s him.

Chances are, no one will be able to tell through the smoke.

Author: David Iseman

Longtime newsguy. Retired. Tinkering with words. Lemme know what you think.

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