Monday, September 8, 2014

Pittsburgh Rarities I


    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." 
    Hmm. 
    Frick Park. 
    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. 
       If Pittsburgh is where people witnessed the wheels of history rise up out of the ground and grind with or against them and their daily efforts, then this is one of its scars. An unintentional trace left by conflicting needs, by supply and demand. Poor people lose more children. A cemetery needs to apportion its space. People remarry, grow old and don't always come back and put flowers next to a little tragedy common in its time. In the red ledgers of the cemetery, most of the 78,000 dead are given reasons why they died. Inscribed in the flawless handwriting of another age. One said, "Baby was too weak and faded away."
        When you leave you can walk right into Frick Park, passing by quick joggers headed back where you came from, and down a wide path onto the cool valley floor. 100 yards before the shadow of the Forbes bridge there's a small path which climbs up to the right. It stops at a slate outcropping which forms a rock lean-to. It might be where Gene Kelly used to go and hide and build himself a fire and which 70 years later he recalled to his young wife as the happiest times he knew. 



    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.

7 comments:

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    1. Hi Lisa!

      Have a look here and fall in love too :-D
      http://www.visitpittsburgh.com/

      The architecture of the city is mind-blowing, its dynamism is awesome and there is SO MUCH to discover...

      Hope you are well, take care!

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  2. Your last 2 posts are wonderfully written.
    There is this flow of non restrained passion for the "Alcosan" post - and it's interesting to see that they responded... there must be a way to make sustainable changes at lower cost.
    This one here feels more peaceful, love the way you bring things and lead us (also true for the other post but will focus on this one).
    The look of it changed. Would you happen to have a new "editing" tool?
    Very nice style - keep it up! Take care -

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    3. Hi Lisa - am fine thanks =)
      Actually, we do have some people who alarm citizens. Now they are more & more often being shut down or are on unefficient networks.
      Will tell you more sometimes per email,
      Have a great day!

      SAME TO YOU DAVID =)

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  3. Ah... I live here and never knew the history of this fabulous park. I am inspired to start to learn where I live and live where I learn. I believe an uphill run-and-seek is in my future! I'll find Mrs. Frick's grave and smile that you took the time to let so many people know about it (unless of course I am the last person to know about it - quite possible - in which case, I will smile that you found the last Frick ignorant person in the Burgh and enlightened me!) Clare

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