Call this a series about wealth. Rich places. In Pittsburgh, our city state. Places where people don't go much anymore.
I won't pay attention to borders - Irwin and and New Ken are as Pittsburgh as Bloomfield- and I won't tell you where you can get a decent cup of coffee amid the hip urban decay. I won't try and sell you on the town because what I'm talking about is of course a spiritual wealth which you can't buy. Which might be the only thing that really makes Pittsburgh worth living in.
To quote a local writer, "If ever there was a place worth not leaving, it's here."
To quote The Deer Hunter, "It's all here."
Sure. Everybody goes there. Pretty much everyone in Pittsburgh knows where it is. Epicenter of the East End. Dog run of the creative class. Backyard of every cake-eater in the 14th ward.
If you think it's too obvious, a place overloaded with happy yin, it still has some brutal yang. Some original sin.
Here's where to find it.
Helen Clay Frick's buried on the highest ground in the Park. (Like I said - no borders- Homewood Cemetery's just Frick park with permanent residents). She died in 1984, probably from joy that Reagan got re-elected. She was 96.
Her dad, a large stone's throw away, died 65 years before and when he was buried next to his two infant children, he gave us the park and 50 years of class warfare in the Mon Valley. Helen gave us more of the park and a lot of art.
Pay your….respects?….and then walk North-west along millionaires' row, past mausoleum after marble mausoleum, family after famous family - the Pitcairns, the Shaws, the Hays, the Lockharts -arrayed along a descending avenue just like they'd lived - tight up against each other in Gilded Age friction, clubbing, working, drinking and stealing each other's husbands and wives, a century before.
The last family pile you hit before crossing cemetery lane belongs to the Benedums. And they sit facing away from the rest of their monied gang, the steps to their front door stacked like a throne which looks out over a field of veterans buried in rows 50 feet below, and out over a right angle of steeply cantered grass bounded by the wrought iron fence of Kirtland street. On this slope of grass are scattered several small stones. "Beloved son". "Baby Grace". "Our Child".
This is Division 3 of Section 15. If you were buried in a "division" and not a section proper, you're in a separate grave, not a plot. Maybe you died young, before your family could plan for the future -which in this case really is the same for everyone- you couldn't afford more space, you didn't have the time, you were a tragedy or bad luck. You were put here and left alone. In this division, it's where people buried their infant children. There are about 300 bodies interred here. More than half of them infants. If you look down on the slope itself you'll see about 20 random graves. The rest of the dead are unmarked, under the grass.
It's also where you can grab a rope hanging from a branch 40 feet above - well secured and re-enforced over the years- and from which you can run and leap, twirling slowly, gliding out across tree tops and kudzu and a little hidden stream fed from the cemetery above.