Pittsburgh 2: Forged Steel, Flowing Rivers

Water is the equivalent of the allure of the proverbial sirens. Finding my way to water is a compelling obesseive draw. There’s something in my DNA that always lures me back to the water. A river, an ocean. I get happy about a glass of water.

It’s Jamaica, it’s the Caribbean you know. Clear blue blue water surrounding an island. Can’t shake my roots. Don’t want to.

I also think of the cottonmouth water moccasin in me. I know: cottonmouths are in the South not the cold wintry waters of Pittsburgh rivers. Doesn’t matter. WATER.

I drove for more than hour on the edges of the SouthSide Works in Pittsburgh getting so close to the water but still so far. I could almost visualize the steel works from the past with a clear path to the river now dotted with  modern-day REIs and Urban Outfitters. One hundred lefts into dead-ends with no access to the Mongahela River did not stop me. I was stymied too many times by smooth railroad tracks blocking my way to the murky river. I thought to jump the tracks landing on my feet close to the river’s edge but remembered that third rail is a killer:

Billie Joel’s “All for Leyna” from the Glass Houses CD was playing in my head: “She stood in the tracks, waving her arms, leading me to that third rails shock . . .”  I wound my way to West Homestead but still no water. Hills. Curves. Houses clinging to hillsides. That’s Pittsburgh. Not to be deterred. Still trying to find the water; I could not quite make my goal. And finally: Waterfront. Who would have thought the divining rod inside my head in search of water would land me behind a TGIF by the river?

Pittsburgh is an old soul. It feels like an ancient city in the Roman Empire. A city colonized. By the steel. By chain restaurants and stores. Past. Present. Invisibly one. The water, the steel, the hills are officially stuck under my fingernails.

I would even love the the deep dark blue of the (Wide) Sargasso Sea, real or imagined. The Three Rivers of Pittsburgh come close.

Photo by Dianne Glave

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2 responses

  1. I love your evocation of Pittsburgh as an “ancient” city – you don’t often get that feel in the US. Parts of NYC and Philly definitely have that feel as well – and the Fairmount area of Philly where the Art Museum and Fairmount Waterworks are – it’s like something out of ancient Greece. Great post!

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