ROBERT SMITH, host:
And we all know that SDRs can't buy you love. In fact, one is worth about a buck fifty.
That wouldn't even buy a gallon of gas for NPR's David Greene. He's on a cross-country road trip, talking to Americans about the recession during President Obama's first 100 days in office.
On a recent swing through Pittsburgh, David came across three guys in their 20s. They had lost their jobs in different parts of the country, and they all had the same reaction: move back home.
DAVID GREENE: Pittsburgh is actually where I grew up. So when I rolled into town, I knew where to grab lunch: Primanti Brothers sandwich shop.
Unidentified Man #1: You get a big old hunk of meat, some cheese, French fries, coleslaw and tomatoes.
Unidentified Man #2: Fresh bread, too…
GREENE: My favorite meat is clobassi, and that meat and the cheese and the French fries, it all goes right on the sandwich.
This is Anthony Arnold describing how you do it.
Mr. ANTHONY ARNOLD (Employee, Primanti Brothers): You don't need a big mouth to eat it. All you've got to do is smash it there with your hand, you're good to go.
GREENE: I was talking to an expert. This 23-year-old has made these sandwiches for a long time, but he's been out of practice.
Mr. ARNOLD: I just came back last week. I was living in Virginia for two years. So I just came back.
GREENE: It was the recession.
Mr. ARNOLD: I was working for Circuit City. I was running the audio shop, the installation department. And they're out of business. So you know, I had to come back here where my heart is, Pittsburgh. Born and raised, no other place, man.
GREENE: Arnold hadn't planned to be working in a restaurant now. But when his old friends at Primanti's said he'd be welcome back, it didn't take him long to say yes.
Mr. LUKE WHOLEY: Luke Wholey's Wild Alaskan Grill.
GREENE: As I spent some time walking around my old city…
Mr. WHOLEY: Grilled zucchini, steamed rice and wild Alaskan salmon for $6.
GREENE: …I realized Anthony Arnold wasn't alone. This is Luke Wholey. I found him selling fish on the sidewalk.
Mr. WHOLEY: Moving back to Pittsburgh has been the best thing that's happened to me.
GREENE: Turns out for the last six years, he's been working as a carpenter in the wilds of Montana.
Mr. WHOLEY: The hunting and fly fishing - I'd work four, 10-hour shifts, and then three days off. I'd either go hunting or fishing. I was living the dream for a while, until it all just - it all came to an end.
GREENE: The dream ended when the contractor he was working for folded.
Mr. WHOLEY: I tried to stretch it out as long as I could, and then when I finally, completely ran out of money, had to come home.
GREENE: Now, in Pittsburgh, it doesn't hurt to have Luke's last name, Wholey. The family runs the landmark Wholey's Fish Market in Pittsburgh's Strip District. They've been in business nearly 100 years. This recession has brought Luke back to the family trade.
(Soundbite of scraping)
GREENE: He's opened his own grill. And every day, he sells plates of fish or shrimp outside the family market.
Mr. WHOLEY: Got this little Wild Alaskan Grill started. This is my ninth day of business, and we've been through about 240 pounds of grilled salmon.
GREENE: Just blocks away, I came across Dusty Rowe.
Mr. DUSTY ROWE: I lost my job in Ohio and had to move back here.
GREENE: He was working for an excavation company in Ohio last year. It laid off 58 people.
Mr. ROWE: I had a job, I had a house. Recession sucks.
GREENE: You might have noticed those two other guys I spoke to had connections. And they picked up jobs fast when they came home.
Dusty Rowe's not so lucky. He's been struggling.
Mr. ROWE: Construction's not booming. You've got know somebody to get in. It's horrible.
GREENE: But like those other guys, he's okay being home.
Mr. ROWE: I'm a Pittsburgh guy, born and brewed. Well, not born, but brewed here. It works.
GREENE: Well, it works, except for that part about being back with his parents. His mom, Ronda Allen, was standing with him, and yet Dusty Rowe told me exactly how he feels about living back home.
Mr. ROWE: It blows. But, you know…
Ms. RONDA ALLEN (Mother of Dusty Rowe): He's in the dungeon. He's in the basement, in the biggest space.
Mr. ROWE: That's what I wanted to be, a 26-year-old basement dweller living with my mom and dad.
GREENE: What's it been like having him home?
Ms. ALLEN: I like my son. I like him. He can live with me 'til I die. And that's okay. I don't mind. The husband isn't so happy, but I don't mind.
GREENE: And it's actually not just her son. Allen has two brothers in their 30s who were struggling and moved back in with her, too.
Ms. ALLEN: So that's like a family house. People go away. Yet, because of the changing times, they don't succeed. And they come back.
GREENE: Ronda Allen was smiling as she said this. The recession that's brought nothing but misery for millions of Americans has brought her family back together.
I'm David Greene, NPR News.
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