The Long Way Home


Bellevue: A Study in Light
October 28, 2013, 7:18 AM
Filed under: Pennsylvania | Tags: , , , , , , ,
evening in Bellevue.

Evening in Bellevue.

Bellevue is a small town off Route 65 along the Ohio River, across from Neville Island. It’s most famous around the area for its “Live, Worship, Shop” sign and for being one of the few dry towns. It’s like most river towns in Western Pennsylvania: crumbling brick roads winding up steep hills with clusters of large, early 19th-century homes, some a little bruised from the wear, but perfect for people like Jeff and me who don’t mind. When I was in junior high, I wrote an essay on three things I wanted to carry out in life which I found recently among my mother’s papers: 1. To travel to Hungary (check). 2. To write a book of short stories (half-check) and 3. To live in a giant, old house. Any time Jeff and I pass a late-Victorian with a rambling porch, we argue over who gets to set up their cave in the tower. Now I want a place of our own with empty, clean space flooded in light.

this is jody

This is Jody.

indian summer

indian summer

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E. 9th Avenue
May 22, 2013, 7:53 PM
Filed under: Pennsylvania | Tags: , , , , ,
e. 11th avenue

this is a house we found on e. 11th avenue

The first place I lived was on E. 9th Avenue in Homestead. My father worked at US Steel, a few blocks away, and my mother worked the front desk at the downtown Hilton. The mill is now closed – replaced by mall development – and so is the Hilton, a ghostly structure overlooking the Point where three rivers meet. The house though is still there, and it’s for sale; on Sunday, Jeff and I stood in front of it, imagining what it would be like to live there. I remember the dark, wooden bannister leading up to the third floor apartment where my aunt Linda lived; the fireplace in the front room where a Pepsi bottle exploded, shattering glass over my hair (this memory, my mother told me enough times it feels like mine). There were blue beaded curtains in my bedroom instead of a door. When Jeff asked me what it looks like inside, I tried to explain how the rooms were all cast in blue – that same blue that seems to cover all of Western Pennsylvania on most days: cloudy, chance of rain, a part of my historical landscape.

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st. michael's, e. 9th avenue

st. michael’s, e. 9th avenue



Neville Island
November 6, 2011, 9:31 AM
Filed under: Pennsylvania | Tags: , , ,

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Neville Island has always been something of a mystery to me. It’s the largest inhabited island in the Ohio River, and once a farmland hub for nearby cities. During World War II, it became a ship building center, with factories popping up at either end of it. Growing up, I remember “Poison Park,” a designated patch of unusable land that now has an ice skating rink. But the Island is more than its fabled industry. We still go roller skating at Neville Rollerdrome, which hasn’t changed its decor since the 70s. The houses along Front River Road are old, some dating back to the Civil-war era, with sprawling porches and giant green lawns. The old Neville school is for sale, and Jeff and I dreamed of ways to divide chunks of it to make into a living space. We stood facing the barges parked along the riverbank, listened for the whispering rustle of leaves.

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