Sunday, June 23, 2019

Walking in my Nashville neighborhood ... with French surprises

On a beautiful day, not too warm (mid 80s F - 29C) with low humidity, I decided to walk in my Nashville neighborhood, Hillsboro-West End.  The center of Hillsboro Village is located along the former Hillsboro Road, now called 21st Avenue, about 3 miles from downtown Nashville.  Most of the neighborhood surrounding Hillsboro Village is on a grid as it was built in 1910 around a streetcar line running out Blair Boulevard.  It is assumed that Francis Nash (1742-1777,) a brigadier general in the American Revolutionary war, after whom Nashville was named, was raised in Hillsborough, NC; our village name was shortened to Hillsboro.  At the southwest end of the village are the neighborhoods of Hillsboro-West End (adjacent to West End Avenue close to Vanderbilt University) and Belmont-Hillsboro (adjacent to Belmont Avenue close to Belmont University and Lipscomb University.)  Below is the historical marker for Hillsboro-West End surrounded by lavender bushes.  Click on collage to enlarge.

A panel in front of my house says "Walking District" and it certainly is a walkable area with sidewalks along vintage homes.

Most of the houses are craftsman bungalows from 1910 to 1935.  There are also some houses built in the popular style of that period: Tudor Revival, Foursquare and English cottages.  I found my house listed in the Hillsboro-West End Historic District Register: Weatherboard Bungalow, c. 1925; irregular form; 1 1/2 stories; gable-end roof; gable dormer; recessed front porch, brick foundation, etc.  I took pictures of some of the houses along the way so you could have a look at the architecture.

Many houses have picket fences around their yards.  Most have porches and swings in them.  My neighbor across the street even has a vintage automobile (not sure of the brand or year) that compliments his house.

Most houses have grass and shrubbery in their front yards but some have pretty flowers and flowering bushes; there are many large trees.

If you walk closer to Belmont University you'll find some hip eateries, cozy cafes and cocktail bars, but closer to my home on Belmont Avenue there are larger historic homes dating from the 1900s and up, plus always nice sidewalks for strolling (or jogging or walking your dog.)  Both Hillsboro-West End and Belmont-Hillsboro are on the National Register of Historic Districts and are considered "trendy" and relaxed areas of Nashville.  The community is a mix of university academics, students, families, couples and young professionals.

My walk in the neighborhood was quite nice but tiring as there were no benches anywhere.  The next day the weather was still lovely, so I decided to walk toward the center of Hillsboro Village.  I found many benches along 21st Avenue.  It was pleasant walking under the large trees.

I walked by an historical panel and a mural.

Then I realized that this mural was on Belcourt Avenue.  Last April, a couple of blocks down Belcourt Avenue, my daughter, grandchildren and their Chinese au pair had gone to a new noodle shop called Meet Noodles.  We drove and I did not know it was less than a mile from my house.  Meet Noodles is an offshoot of a popular Brooklyn restaurant serving a variety of spicy noodle dishes from Chongquing, China.  Chongquing noodles, "little noodles" or xiao mian are traditional common street food served with or without soup plus a variety of meats, fish and vegetable.  The Chinese au pair said the food tasted authentic and my grandson ordered in the Chinese language (all the grandchildren attend a Saturday Chinese school nearby.)  My order, fish balls (below top right,) came in a bowl and was a huge portion.  I took part of it home.  Now I know I can walk back up to this noodle restaurant.

Next to the mural was the Belcourt Theatre, a historic movie theatre showing classics, documentaries, indie movies, foreign films, musical performances and live theater.  As I was checking the posters I noticed that in a few minutes the matinee featured that day was "Double-vies / Non-Fiction" a French movie, with English subtitles.  So, I stepped inside, of course!

The film was being shown in the 1925 historic hall (shown above.)  It was renovated with a larger screen, new sound system, new seats and more.  They have two other renovated halls from the 1960s.  Their snack bar offers local draft beers, wine and specialty cocktails to enjoy during the film.  They also have a standard concession with popcorn, candy and healthful snacks.  The theatre dates back to 1925 when it was a silent movie theater named The Hillsboro Theater.  Now as The Belcourt it is one of the very few theaters chosen to be a part of the USA Sundance Film Festival program.

It was still light and sunny when I left the theatre.  I started walking back up 21st Avenue.  A bicycle behind me used its horn.  Still thinking of the French movie I moved to the side and said in French "allez-y, passez" /go on, pass me.  I was surprised when the rider stopped and said "I can't believe an American speaking French with no accent!"  When I told him I was French he started talking to me, in French, telling me he was from the French Antilles (not sure which one, maybe Martinique, Guadeloupe or St. Martin) and we had a nice conversation.  That day in honor of the French women soccer team who had won a match in the World Cup I was wearing my blue French soccer tee-shirt.  Walking still up 21st Avenue I passed by the outside eating-drinking area of Double Dogs, where you can eat, drink and listen to live music.

As I came closer to Double Dogs, a young man, who was sitting there with a friend during the Happy Hour, said to me "that's a neat tee-shirt" so I responded "it's a French tee-shirt" and he replied "Je sais, je suis francais." (I know, I am French.)  I was surprised because usually in the US a young person rarely talks to a senior.  All through my walks in Nashville, never anyone has talked to me, and I passed by many young people.  Well, he was French, and that does explain it.  Seniors are not as invisible in France as in the US.  I stopped and talked with them for a while, about soccer first.  He told me he had just moved from Minnesota to Nashville and was originally from Lyon, France.  After a nice chat, in French, I went on up the avenue.  It certainly had been a charming afternoon, full of French surprises.  Below is the French feminine soccer team playing in the World Cup 2019.  They won their match against Brazil today, June 23, 2019, and now can go on to the quarter finals (photos courtesy austade.fr.)



Monday, June 3, 2019

A Syro-Malabar wedding in Atlanta

On Saturday, May 25, 2019, I attended a wedding in Atlanta.  The ceremony was conducted under the liturgy of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, one of the oldest Eastern Catholic churches.  I am not a Roman (or Latin) Catholic and I know even less about the Eastern Catholic churches, so I did some research.  There are twenty-three Eastern or Oriental Catholic Churches; they belong to the worldwide Catholic Church but they have they own canons, laws and traditions.  For example many of these churches allow the ordination of married men to the priesthood.  The total membership of these various churches comes to about 18 million of 1.5% of the Catholic Church compare to the 1.2 billion members who belong to the Latin, Western or Roman Catholic Church.  These Eastern Catholic Churches have their origins in the Middle East, East Africa, Eastern Europe and India.  Some of my father's cousins belong to one of the Eastern Catholic churches, the Armenian Catholic Church, that follows their own, independent liturgy.  The Syro-Malabar Catholic Church is one of the largest and is based in the state of Kerala, in South India.  Their community is made of more affluent members.

India is a federal union comprising 29 states and 7 union territories.  The state of Kerala is on the tropical Malabar Coast and has 375 miles (600 km) of Arabian Sea shoreline.  My son-in-law was born in the US but his parents are from Kochi (also known as Cochin,) a major port and the financial capital of Kerala; the bride was one of his mother's cousins.  I read up on Kerala and Kochi and include some information here.  Large parts of Kerala such as Kochi were autonomous kingdoms rules by Maharajas during the British rule of India.  They were more progressive especially in education and health care.  Now Kerala is considered one of the safest regions of India with a high standard of living and their education, life style and healthcare are on par with developed countries.  It has the highest literacy rate (93.91% in Kerala and 97% in Kochi - the literacy rate in the US is 86%,) the highest life expectancy (77 years - the US is 78 years) and the lowest positive population growth rate in India.  The state has lush green vegetation palm-lined sandy beaches, mountains, tea, coffee and spice plantations, canals, backwaters and more.  Kerala is known in India as God's own Country.  National Geographic Traveler names Kerala one of the "ten paradises of the world."  Below are some photos, courtesy Kerala Tourism.  (click on collage to enlarge.)

Kerala has many ayurvedic spas and treatments, eco-tourism initiatives as well as national parks, wildlife and bird sanctuaries.  The state is home to elephants, langur monkeys and tigers. 

The city of Kochi, also known as the Queen of the Arabian Sea, was a spice trading partner with the Arab merchants of the pre-Islamic era.  It was occupied by the Portuguese from 1503 until 1530 when the Portuguese moved to Goa.  Many international tourists visit Kochi; tourism is a major contributor to the economy.  It also has a sizeable expatriate population, mostly European retirees.  International cruisers call on the port of Kochi regularly.  It has the first marina facility in the country attracting a large number of yacht owners.

Kochi is a cosmopolitan city with a variety of temples, churches, mosques and synagogues.  The oldest group of Jews in India reached Kerala in the 10th century BC.  The Paradesi Synagogue was built in 1568 and is the oldest active synagogue in India.  Indira Gandhi, then the Prime Minister of India, came in 1968 to celebrate its 400th anniversary.  Hinduism is practiced by 47% of the Kerala population but with its 35% Christians, Kochi is the city in India with the largest Christian population.  Syro-Malabar Catholics trace their origin to St. Thomas the Apostle, who is said to have come to India in 52 AD.  The adjective "Syro" in Syro-Malabar refers to the liturgical rite that the Christians celebrate and to distinguish it from the "Latin" liturgy, not to Syrian ethnicity.  These Catholics, also called St. Thomas Christians, have a distinct culture, influenced by both Hindu and Jewish customs, with special wedding customs and rituals.  Several hymns in the wedding ceremony were in Malayalam, their native language.  Below are several Syro-Malabar churches in Kerala apart from the bottom right picture which shows the interior of the Paradesi Synagogue.

The families of the bride and groom, the extended family, and most friends were from Kerala and living in various states of the US, from India, especially Kochi or were first generation Americans from Kerala parents.  The ceremony was going to take place at the small church in Gwinnett County where the Syro-Malabar priest officiates, but since there were 300 guests attending the wedding another church was selected.  The ceremony was celebrated at Mary our Queen Roman Catholic Church in Atlanta, a new church dedicated just a couple of months ago.  Three Syro-Malabar priests celebrated the sacrament of matrimony (the usual pastor of this church was away on Memorial Day holiday.)  As you know I do like to research everything and wanted to know more about this new church.  What I found is interesting.  It seems that parishioners in the community had been gathering funds for many years to build a new larger Catholic church.  St. Gerard's Catholic Church in Buffalo, New York, founded in 1902, was closed several years ago.  The initial plan was to dismantly St. Gerard's brick by brick and move it down to Atlanta.  Instead the Atlanta congregation decided to build a replica of the Roman Basilica-style church that was St. Gerard's and buy the century-old stained-glass windows, pews, altar and other liturgical elements of the old church.

As shown above, St. Gerard's Church building was sold to the Muslim community in Buffalo who needed a new mosque.  Part of St. Gerard's is now incorporated into Mary our Queen Catholic Church in Atlanta and the old building in Buffalo is now the Masjid Al Salam.  This is what could be called divine recycling (-:)  After all this background information, which I thought would help appreciate the wedding and ceremony, I'll finally get to the wedding!  A booklet "Order of Service" was given to everyone so we could follow the ceremony - and that certainly was helpful.  The church service lasted over two hours and part of it was in the Malayalam language.  First came the three Syro-Malabar priests wearing beautiful vestments, in ivory, red and embroidered in gold.


The groom came in with his parents and sat down, and everyone waited.  I'd say about 99% of the ladies were wearing Indian clothing - sarees, half sarees, anarkali, lehanga, etc.  The colors were exquisite, richly embroidered, heavy silks - a feast for the eyes.  They were some of the most beautiful garments I have even seen.  I took very few photos of them to preserve their privacy but I found similar clothing on Indian catalogs.  I have a couple of Indian outfits but they are for winter wear so I was one of the exception wearing western clothes.  It was very warm, close to 95 F in the shade (35 C.)  One of the guests who came all the way from Kerala, India, for the wedding told me that it was the same temperature over there.

The mother of the bride, in purple and gold, was escorted to the front of the church.  The eight bridesmaids and maid of honor wore long lavender gowns.  A small boy, the ring bearer, was ahead of the 5 flower girls (my granddaughter was one of the flower girls.) 

Music was being played.  Most hymns were different than those usually heard in Catholic or other Christian churches.  The Syro-Malabar liturgical chants originated in the Middle East in the 5th century and the hymns had Middle Eastern-Indian sounds.  The bride walked up the aisle with her father and the groom joined her at the altar.  There was a prayer, then a song - 3 young ladies singing in Malayalam.  Then readings from the Bible were followed by another hymn.  The main priest gave the homily followed by more prayers.  The groom then placed the "Thali" around the neck of his bride.  It is a Bunyan tree leaf-shaped pendant embossed with a cross - the symbol of the Covenant of Marriage.  This was followed by the blessing of the rings and the blessing of the "Manthrokodi."  It is a wedding garment covering the bride's head during the blessing, followed by another hymn and the matrimonial pledge - when the couple places their right palms on the Bible.  Then more prayers, more hymns during the two-hour service.  It ended with the couple presenting flowers to the Virgin Mary then lighting the Unity Candle.  The couple departed followed by the bridesmaids, flower girls, family and friends and so on.

After mingling and talking with guests in the front of the church the newlywed came back to the altar to take pictures with their close family while I was taking pictures of the church.

The reception was at the Hilton.  First we had drinks at an open bar and buffet style hors d'oeuvres.  We then proceeded to our tables in the reception hall.  The main priest did a welcome blessing then the groom's parents followed with the Lighting of the Lamp (a special ceremonial oil lamp that features a cross unique to the Indian tradition.)  The groom thanked the assembly for attending the wedding.  Then it was time for the bride/father dance, followed by the groom and bride dance.  After which the young couple sat on a sofa on the podium and received family and guests and took pictures.

There was an announcement that four dinner buffets were opened with an assortment of western and Indian foods - all excellent.  While we ate dinner there was Indian dance entertainment, two young boys, then two young ladies, then more ladies, then more dances.  I came close to the dance floor to take pictures - my granddaughter was in front of me.

Everyone was enthusiastically clapping, shouting encouragements - it was an exciting atmosphere.  Men came to join the dancers and everyone shouted - they were very good.  Then the groom joined the dance - more shouts.  When the bride came to join the dance, after having changed out of her bridal dress, the crowd went mad!  Music, dancing, shouting, clapping, laughing, lights going from purple to white to pink - it was something else!  The bride and groom thanked all the dancers.  Click on collage to see better - my photos are a bit dark as I did not use the flash.
I tried to find similar dances on youtube and if you click below, you'll get an idea about some of the dancing.




There were games, then most everyone - the young crowd - went to the dance floor.  The DJ placed some very loud and trendy music - I might call it Indian hip hop...  I watched while eating my piece of wedding cake.  I took a picture of the dancing floor - you can see the backs of my eldest and youngest grandsons, my daughter in the pink sari and my granddaughter.  My son-in-law and middle grandson joined me in another part of the reception hall away from the loud music and we watched at a distance.  It was easy to see my daughter with her bright coral-pink sari and with her high heels she is about 6 ft.1" tall (1 m 85.)

My daughter and granddaughter finally came back as the music stopped.  It had been quite a memorable and fun wedding! 

Best wishes to the happy couple !



Monday, May 20, 2019

May birthdays and other happenings

More pictures from Pittsburgh and New Orleans need to be downloaded for my posts.  But I am back in Georgia now and my main camera is in Nashville.  Today I'll write an eclectic post.   Before I left Nashville we celebrated my little granddaughter's 6th birthday.  She is growing so fast and is almost as tall as her brother, who is about 2 years older.  Below are some photos taken last month while she was on holiday with her mother visiting friends in Malaysia, Singapore and Borneo - am not sure where each of the photo was taken.

Her May birthday was on the 10th.  Her father, my son-in-law's birthday is May 25th.  My own father-in-law's birthday was May 9th and my sister-in-law's birthday is May 30th.  My late mother's birthday was on May 12th and I wrote a post on it in 2009: "Mother's Birthday, l'anniversaire de maman" (birthday in French is anniversaire.) Click on title to read it.  Mother loved hydrangeas, so I'd always give her one, a different color every year.  Now I have hydrangeas growing in the front yard in Georgia.  I'll need to move them to Nashville.

My birthday was last March, on the 26th.  In my post of February 2nd, Books in the Mountains, I mentioned that Nancy Pelosi was born on March 26 as well.  Then strange things started to happen.  I am not making them up, because what would be the use.  Since I am going through my late husband's books to give away, I usually pick up one or two to read while in Georgia.  That one evening I found 3 books by an author I did not know.  Her name is Amy Blackmarr.  The three books were: "Going to ground: a simple life on a Georgia pond," "House of Steps" and "Dahlonega Haunts: Ghostly Adventures in a Georgia Mountain Town."  I started to read the ghost book on Dahlonega as my husband and I went often to that little town in the mountains, then decided it might be too spooky for that evening.  Instead I started Going to Ground.  In it, Amy Blackmarr was recounting how she went back to live in her grandparent's cabin, far away from people.  I checked to see how old she was when she moved there and found out she was born, as me, on March 26, but in 1958.  Coincidence.

I took all three books back with me to Nashville.  As I remember, I was tired that evening after the long drive, February 10th, and decided to watch the 61st Grammy celebration which was in progress on television.  Diana Ross, the American singer, record producer and actress, came to perform.  They mentioned that they were celebrating her 75th birthday, one month early.  I wondered what day she was born in March.  I looked it up - she was born March 26, 1944.  Another coincidence.  Pictures below are hazy, taken from my television.

I returned to Georgia in March.  That first evening I was ready to read some new books from my husband's collection on the long bookshelf in the upstairs hall.  I picked up 2 at first:  "Collected Poems" by Robert Frost and "Memoirs" by Tennessee Williams.  Then I saw a book on the floor with a shiny cover, "The God Delusion" by Richard Dawkins.  As I picked it up I saw an old candy bar stuck behind the shelf, a Stuckey's Pecan Log Roll, certainly ancient.  I started the Robert Frost book and it opened on the poem Ghost House ...

I dwell in a lonely house I know,
That vanished many a summer ago,
And left no trace but the cellar walls,
And a cellar in which the daylight falls,
And the purple-stemmed wild raspberries grow....
...I dwell with a strangely aching heart,
In that vanished abode there far apart,
On that disused and forgotten road ...

OK, enough I thought.  I am back here in my old house in Georgia and don't need to become even more gloomy.  Instead I picked up Tennessee Williams's Memoirs and started to read it.  I wondered where in Tennessee he was born, because of his name.  I looked it up - he was not born in Tennessee, his father was.  Then I saw when he was born: March 26, 1911.  Another coincidence again, thought I?  So I checked Robert Frost, why not - he was born March 26, 1874 (the plot thickens?) Just to make sure I also checked Richard Dawkins - he was born March 26, 1941.  I was apprehensive when I checked when the pecan log merchant, Stuckey, was born.  I found out that Williamson Sylvester Stuckey, Sr., was born on March 26, 1909.  Too weird.  All right, enough, I decided not to read but to listen to music.  I went to bed and played music on my cell phone.  It was Beethoven's Romance No. 2 - so beautiful and soothing.  At least I knew Beethoven was not born on my birthday, I thought he was born in December.  To make sure I checked - yes, Ludwig van Beethoven was baptized on December 17,1770.  But then I saw it ... WHAT? and I got goose pimples.  Beethoven died on March 26, 1827.  Am I going crazy? Is someone playing with my head?  What is this?

Is this what is called synchronicity?  Wikipedia says: "Synchronicity (German:Synchronizität) is a concept, first introduced by analytical psychologist Carl Jung, which holds that events are "meaningful coincidences if they occur with no causal relationship yet seem to be meaningfully related."  I checked several sites on the Internet.  Judy Orloff, MD, says "Synchronicity is a sign that we are intuitively attuned, not only to our immediate friends and family, but also to the greater collective."  Another site indicates: "Synchronicity is an unconscious awareness of life.  It is a set of messages.  Synchronicity is an unlikely or impossible coincidence that cannot be explained by luck and chance."  Another site says "Often mistaken as coincidences, these amazing synchronicities are actually universal nods, confirming that you are on the right track.  Synchronicities, when recognized, are meant to be road signs to help steer you in the best direction.  Quite helpful at times when you are feeling confused or lost in some way."  In an article on synchronicity in Psychology Today it said "When you're on the right path, the universe winks and nods at you from time to time, to let you know."  I like this, the universe nodding at me :-)  I searched for a photo symbolizing the universe - but I don't have one in my collection.  May be one of the secret paintings of Dr. Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel, Children's books author and cartoonist, American 1904-1991) can give some feeling about it?

This time, back in Georgia, I am reading one of my books, in French - the childhood memoirs of Marcel Pagnol (French novelist, playwright and film maker, 1895-1974.)  It was a magical time for him in Provence and a delight to read.  The Kidney Foundation called saying they would come by this week to pick up any clothes, books, etc.  During the days I have been busy collecting some of my husband's clothes.  There is so much of it as he kept everything.  I found a bag full of socks, at least 200+ pairs, some old, some brand new with tags.  I even found two uniform work shirts from when, as a teenager, he worked for a Coca-Cola bottling plant.  They are from 1955 at least.  They are in pretty good shape for being so old.  Here they are below.

Looking at some of the shirts or sweaters given to him for birthdays or Christmas was kind of sad.  I tried not to think about it.  But again, something happened.  I was not going to mention it, but since I told you about the happenings around my birth date I'll tell you what happened yesterday.  I had already filled 3 large black plastic bags with his clothes and shoes.  The 4th bag was almost full.  In the back of the closet was a green pair of slacks.  I knew them well, as he wore  them often on trips, usually with a plaid shirt.  Should I give them away?  I could not decide.  I cannot wear them and both of my sons-in-law wear different sizes.  With a heavy heart I placed the slacks in the bag.  Then I saw the plaid shirt.  I started feeling tears coming up.  No, can't do that.  I placed the shirt in the bag, then I took it out again.  Placed it in the bag once more, and finally took it out thinking I'll think about it tomorrow.  Moving the bags through the hall filled with books is not easy.  As I pulled this heavy bag, some books fell; I walked on a paper sack.  When I came back upstairs I stopped in the hall to pick up the books and the sack.  Several pennies had fallen out of the sack, a pencil and a piece of paper.  I turned the paper over - it was a photograph.  When I saw it I was completely bewildered.  I looked around, no other photographs anywhere.  I don't know how it got there in that sack.  I went downstairs with the plaid shirt and took the green slacks out of the bag to take a photo so I would not think I imagined it all.  The picture was of my husband wearing that exact pair of slacks with the shirt in front of an angel statue somewhere by the sea, I think in Mexico.  How in the world this happened, I don't know.  I took most of our old photos to Nashville and they never were in the hall anyway.  Another strange happening, or synchronicity?  What do you think?  Here is the picture below.  As I write this I still can't believe it.

I guess I should take this as a sign that it's OK to give away the clothes since I can see them in the photograph, and not be sad.  Actually my son-in-law, whose family is from India, has invited me to come to his cousin's wedding in Atlanta next weekend.  This will be a fun occasion - weddings from Indian families are big events, all the women wearing colorful saris, good food, dancing and more.  I have some Indian clothes but they have long sleeves and the weather predicts 97 F (36.1 C.) in the shade.  I bought an Indian made tunic with tie-die indigo stripes and will wear white linen slacks with it.  Most of my shoes now are sneakers because of my bad ankle.  I found a pair of white lacy Mary Jane style shoes and will wear them this week while dancing with some music so they become comfortable, like boogie shoes!  I used to have great red leather flat shoes for dancing, but they are long gone.  Here they are below with a white pantsuit, photo taken in San Francisco decades ago.  Also shown is the tunic from the catalog, and future boogie shoes.

My record player is still here with all my albums.  I found some old disco LPs so I can exercise a bit with my new shoes.  Here is a video of one of the tunes, from the 1970s - "Boogie Shoes" by K.C. and the Sunshine Band.  Might as well wink at the universe and end this post with a song!








Sunday, May 5, 2019

A visit to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Last week I spent five days in Pittsburgh visiting Celine, my eldest daughter, and her family.  Attending her wedding in California in 2016 was the last trip my late husband and I took, and I wrote a post on it at the time.  Click on "A challenging round-trip to Orange County, California."  Celine invited us several times to visit her in Pittsburgh but my husband's illness was too advanced for a trip, then last winter, it was too cold to fly north ... About a month ago she tempted me to come by sending me a link to the Pittsburgh's Frick Museum that is having an exhibit on 1940s photographs of Paris.  The flight only took about 1 1/2 hour.  I had thought of Pittsburgh as a northeastern city, flat, grey with many factories.  As the aircraft circled the downtown center I was surprised to see an interesting group of buildings, rivers, bridges and hills.

On Saturday the weather was sunny, not too warm.  My son-in-law drove us to Mount Washington, where he used to live when he first moved to Pittsburgh.  It is a 600-foot mountain, on the south side of downtown Pittsburgh, with woods, trails, stairs and inclines.  It used to be barren when several coal mines operated near its base; rock was also quarried from its hills.  Actually, until 1876, it was called Coal Hill.  I found several vintage photographs showing Mt Washington when the coal mines were in operation.  (Courtesy Wikipedia.)

The cliffs of Mt Washington border the Monongahela River. "Monongahela" is an American Indian name from the Unami tribe meaning "falling, or sliding banks."  Early on Mt Washington was covered with trees.  But by the late 1800s coal production, extracted from the mountain, amounted to 13 million tons, and the trees disappeared.  A mile-long set of wooden stairs had been built along the ancient American Indian trails.  Workers in the coal plants, mostly German immigrants, as well as horses, had difficulty getting around the mountain on the winding trails and steep stairs.  They suggested that some "standseilbahns" (inclines) as they had in Germany should be constructed.  Starting in 1869 twenty-three inclines (we call them funiculaire in French) were built.  It made it easier to carry freight on the steep hills, and more convenient for workers to reach their housing on top of the bluff.  They were popular and averaged 2000 riders a day.  But by the mid-1960s when the coal plants were closed the inclines also stopped working.  Two old inclines, now restored, are left, the Monongahela and the Duquesne inclines.  Below are some vintage postcards of the inclines then and now (in center.)

The Duquesne incline, opened on May 20, 1877, and costing 5 cents for the ride, was in operation until 1962.  Since 1964 the incline has been operated by a local preservation society after they restored it in 1963; they retained its original ornate wooden cable cars.  In December 2006 the incline celebrated its 20th million rider since 1964.  Below are more views of the Duquesne incline.

I knew the name Duquesne was French and researched on its connection to Pittsburgh.  This led me to the history of the city.  In the 1740s the French started setting up forts and outposts on the Allegheny and Ohio River valleys.  The French called the Ohio River La Belle Riviere (beautiful riviere) althought it comes from the Seneca language Ohi:yo or Good River.  To consolidate their holdings on the river the French built a fort at the junction where the Monongahela, Allegheny and Ohio rivers meet.  This fort was named Fort Duquesne after the Governor of Canada, the Marquis Du Quesne de Mennville.  From then on the French and their native Indian allies fought the British to retain control of the area.  This lead to the Seven Years War, known as The French and Indian War.  By 1758 the fort was in terrible shape with few and starving soldiers and no supplies.  The British took advantage of this, fighting and taking the fort.  The site was re-named "Pittsborough" after British statesman and Prime Minister William Pitt, then Fort Pitt was built.  The site of both forts is now on Point State Park.


A 2006 landmark 750 pounds bronze sculpture, by James A. West, named "Point of View" sits at the edge of Mt Washington.  In 1770 George Washington stopped by Fort Pitt looking for investment in real estate as well as for "bounty lands" - land grants to give away to colonists and soldiers of earlier wars.  George Washington was a large land speculator and held 52,000 acres of land in the colonies.  He met Guyasuta, a member of the Seneca-Mingo tribe, for friendly campfire talks about the land.  The sculpture is based on that meeting.

There are stunning views of Pittsburgh on Mount Washington, indeed.  Looking to the Golden Triangle where the Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio Rivers meet, or the landmark skyscrapers, or to the left or right, the panorama is breathtaking.  In fact, USA Weekend Travel Report ranked it America's second beautiful place in the country.  Overlook platform decks are located along the well named Grandview Avenue.  Graduates were taking photos there and also a couple of weddings.

After a tornado touched down on Mt Washington in 1998, the community rallied to form "Green is Good" to preserve the land.  They feared developers would start building ugly houses and condominiums all over.  The park was officially created on Earth Day 2007 as the 280 acres (1.1 km2) Emerald View Park.  A plaque gives the history of the park.  There are 10 miles of trails wrapping around Mt Washington, and 10 more miles are planned.  The park is free to the public.  (Be sure to click on collage twice to enlarge writing.)

We had parked along Grandview Avenue and I noticed a library sign.  We walked inside and the librarian told me that the building was going to be renovated as it had been built in 1900 as a Carnegie Library.  Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919) had been once the richest man in the USA.  A Scottish immigrant he later formed the Pittsburgh's Carnegie Steel Company that he sold to J. P. Morgan for $303,450,000 in 1901.  The company became the U. S. Steel Corporation.  With his fortune Carnegie became a philanthropist and built 1689 libraries in the US, and 660 more in other countries.  At this branch a telephone booth had been kept.  The librarian told me they used it for storage or when someone needed to make a cell phone call in private.

We walked along the avenue and drove through the neighborhood.  There are many styles of lodging, apartments, condos, cute Queen Ann houses, new and old houses and churches.  The Shiloh Street business area offers restaurants, bars, banks, shops and a post office.  I was surprised at how steep some of the streets were, reminiscent of San Francisco's streets.  I can understand why Pittsburgh is proud of Mount Washington and its community and cherish it.

I'll share more of my visit to Pittsburgh in forthcoming posts.


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