The Long Way Home


Gem Way and Other Stories
perspective

perspective

Garfield, Pittsburgh: The longest I’ve ever lived in one place. When I was a kid, we’d bounce from apartment to apartment so often it became spring routine to start looking through the classified ads for another place. The trick was to not get too attached. I made do with small spaces. What accumulated over a year was easily let go for convenience sake. Moving taught me how to let go. When I moved in with Jeff nine years ago, I remember loving this strange storefront-turned-living space, but the street behind it, Gem Way, was a total wreck. There was the abandoned building next door to us that attracted drug addicts and urban explorers, and the building next to it that caught fire, sending black plumes of smoke through the neighborhood. A lawyer rented out the garage beyond that to local bands, so there was the occasional loud dance party keeping me awake on work nights. I’ve documented Gem Way over the years, and have come to love its strange vegetation poking through the fences, its ivy-covered houses and broken pavement. The family of groundhogs nesting under our porch, and feral cats wailing at the moon. Its graffiti-covered brick the only shots of color on a gray Pittsburgh morning.

snow garden

snow garden

convenience

convenience

gem way

gem way

spak brothers: home of the best seitan melts

spak brothers: home of the best seitan melts

time travel

time travel

north millvale ave. from gem way

north millvale ave. from gem way



We’re On TV
September 30, 2012, 8:30 AM
Filed under: Pennsylvania | Tags: , , , , ,

the former building in this lot had caught on fire and was demolished. 

It’s funny how a place finds you. The longest I’ve lived anywhere is the place we live in now: former candy store/grocery store/children’s clothing store/bookstore in the Garfield neighborhood of Pittsburgh. In the past, I’d carefully chosen the places I wanted to live, but then I fell in love with a sweet, strange man who told me he lived in an old store and I didn’t imagine that I’d be there (here) so long that I can’t imagine living in a ‘normal’ house. The area around our building has proven a good place for impromptu photo shoots, found objects for Jeff’s art projects, even providing us furniture for our cozy nest (the desk chair I’m sitting as I type this; a kitchen hutch and a coffee table turned into a guitar). We have half a mannequin from someone’s trash, and our neighbor left a long strip of bowling alley for Jeff to transform into something else. A few weeks ago someone left an old TV in our yard, complete with remote control. Nobody took it home , but the remote was gone the next morning.

the retaining wall in our backyard, site of many photo shoots

doors in friendship

you can’t even give these away now

self-portrait after work

i see this car every day walking home from work

something like dancing



Letter to My City
April 25, 2012, 6:21 AM
Filed under: Pennsylvania | Tags: , , , ,

*

I confess: For years I dreamed of ways to leave you. I wrote to pen pals from Yugoslavia, Australia, Malaysia. I watched Manon of the Spring, got really good at conjugating French verbs. I replaced posters of teen idols with maps. I took train rides to New York, searched for opportunities. I waited for rescue. I hated your overcast skies, your old people, your sports teams, your unemployment. I hated your run-down river towns with nothing to do. I traveled around Eastern Europe, trying to find teaching work and family roots, only to return broke and confused. I called myself a writer, but wasn’t writing anything. Defeated, I figured we should make the most of it. I listened to your streets. I walked through personal history. I forgave my ancestors for never leaving this dirty, broken beautiful place. I still don’t know what the hell I’m doing here, but I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.

[from A Conversation project]



Morningside Mural Project
September 7, 2009, 6:53 PM
Filed under: Art Gallery, Pennsylvania | Tags: , , , , ,

 I’m happy (and relieved) to say that Jeff’s mural is almost finished! One more weekend and I’ll have my husband returned to  me.

I’m super proud of him. He worked so, so hard doing this – from many sketches to the final project – all while working a full time job as well as having two other freelance projects. His dedication and talent are inspiring to me (and yes sweetie, you get a big present waiting for you on the other side, he he). 

I really like Morningside too. It reminds me a little bit of where I grew up in Coraopolis – -everybody knows your business (this could be potentially annoying, as it was growing up in Cory. But I find the idea comforting as I get older). On the afternoon I took the pictures, our friend Bill and I stopped in to Frank’s Pizza to get some lunch. “You’re new here?” the owner (Frank?) said. Jeffrey, the owner of Morning Glory Coffeehouse, held a corn roast to kick-off mural festivities. People kept walking by or driving up to the coffeehouse and saying hello.  Jeff and I marked it on our list of possible places to look for a house.  I may get my garden sooner than I think. 

previous mural, corner of Greenwood and Chislett

previous mural, corner of Greenwood and Chislett

 

painting over old mural

painting over old mural

wall canvas

wall canvas

the first images

the first images

mural4

mural1

mural3
mural7



Sunday Mornings with Howard
March 8, 2009, 10:21 AM
Filed under: Pennsylvania, Vintage Photo Album | Tags: , , , , ,

 

my first apartment (green house on left), 1974

my first apartment (green house on left), 1974

I’m listening to the Howard Hanna Realty show, as I usually do on Sunday mornings. I’ve liked to do this since I was a kid living in a string of apartments;  the idea of living in a house is alien to me, much like living in a foreign country. There is something voyeuristic about catching a glimpse of the home owners’ lives on TV, like unraveling a mystery through their whirlpool-style tubs, their kitchen islands and hardwood floors. A lot of the homes haven’t been updated since the early 90s, leftover shades of pastels carrying over from the 80s, reminding me that if it were mine, I’d have a lot of work to do.

The houses are way beyond what Jeff and I could afford, even in this economy, and now that we’re married, everyone asks us when we are going to get  a house, as if marriage isn’t enough of a giant life-changing event. We’re still recovering from all the financial and emotional stresses of the wedding.

Jeff really wants a place to call our own, but I’m hesitant. The idea of owning a house is so overwhelming to me because of all the responsibility that goes with it. I’d rather travel and have a home base, albeit a rented temporary space. It is the contradiction that is Lisa: I want to carry my home with me on the road.

behind our apartment which was once a shoe store

behind our apartment which was once a shoe store

our backyard

our backyard




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