The Long Way Home

Mill Street Blues
October 16, 2015, 6:31 AM
Filed under: Art Gallery | Tags: , , , ,
Mill Street, Coraopolis

Mill Street, Coraopolis

This is the place where I’d bike along the tree-lined street to escape our stifling hot apartment. This is the place where Sherry’s Drugs sold fountain malts, where I’d buy pantyhose at Nola’s to match my color guard uniform. This is the place that housed a café where my friends and I scraped together our first-job cash to order grilled cheeses. This is where I asked a hairdresser to make me look like Louise Brooks. Where I’d buy daisies for my mother, where I’d peek through the windows of revolving stores, each struggling to keep pace with a changing world. This is the place where I ate my first violet pastilles, tiny sugar-coated aniseed in a floral tin imported from France. They taste like sweet, cheap perfume, there isn’t any other way to describe it; I became hooked. They made me want to try the rose-flavored ones, then a candy flecked with hot pepper. They gave me a taste of life outside that small river town – one was never enough. This is the place where I sat on a bench planning my first train trip alone, where my life as an artist began.

Gem Way, Garfield/Pittsburgh

Gem Way, Garfield/Pittsburgh


Message from my Mother, 1984
October 12, 2015, 6:13 AM
Filed under: Art Gallery | Tags: , , , , ,
message from my mother, 1984

message from my mother, 1984

During fall Polaroid week, I chose images that are personal to me, rooted in nostalgia that I’ve been – to move forward, it helps for me to look back, and somehow, through art, it comes full circle. After sharing stories with a childhood friend about our old neighborhood, I visited to capture it on film. It had been almost five years since I was back on Broadway [real street name], but my heart did a little leap when I spotted it: On the sidewalk by the porch, my mother had traced her name in the cement. I photographed it shortly after she died – I had forgotten it was there, and to find it was a great surprise. I’ve thought of it as a memorial, a place I could go when I felt the need to see her. I feared time took hold and it disappeared, but there it was, her name standing out among the cracks in the pavement. So Jeff and I sat on the sidewalk, leaning against the giant white house converted into apartments (my mum, sister and me on the first floor, an exotic dancer and her daughter, on the second), swapping memories. The tiny cottage owned by the couple with the Doberman that chased kids on their bikes, now bulldozed. My friend Amber’s backyard – in full bloom, and comforting to see the wooden shed still standing 30 years later. Across the street, our neighbor Julia’s house is converting to a storefront, its previous incarnation years before the ’80s when we were kids using t-shirts as makeshift baskets to carry tomatoes from her garden to my mother – gifts Julia offered when she couldn’t find the English words to tell us that if we needed anything, we knew where to find her.

Second St., Neville Island

Second St., Neville Island


Broadway & Second
August 12, 2011, 7:02 AM
Filed under: Pennsylvania | Tags: , , , , ,


In the middle of a crushingly busy day, I received a text from my sister. It was an image of a name carved into cement and when I looked closely at the tiny phone screen, I realized it was our mother’s name, a small bright spot of hope in an emotionally trying week. My sister had walked around one of our old neighborhoods in Coraopolis with my niece, showing her the apartment we lived in on the corner of Broadway and Second streets when she found it. I had forgotten that my mother had done this, along with her friend, who had traced “Jeff Loves Maureen 1984” in the pavement close to my mother’s name. My mother was only 33, younger than I am now, but too old to stir up this kind of mischief. The landlord had yelled at her in a mix of Italian and English, but secretly, I think he got a kick out of it because it’s still there after all this time. A few nights ago, I had to take a friend out to the airport, so I drove by beforehand to see it for myself. The house looks mostly the same, brown trim replacing the green, and the new tenants added a porch swing. The cottage next to it is gone, the one where we imagined a witch lived. Our Sicilian neighbor’s house is abandoned, but I remember her bent in black dress and stockings, a scarf tied under her chin, her once-lush garden overgrown with knee-high grass and caged in a chain-link fence. The streets feel smaller and broken. I had lived for so many years in memory, that I had forgotten this was a real place, somewhere I used to call home.

where the witch once lived

a current resident who talked with us about the old neighborhood

the kitten that followed us everywhere

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