Sunday, November 12, 2006

Let's Rohm these streets.

The crunch of leaves beneath my Pumas quickens, as I come upon previously undiscovered Mt. Washington alley. The excitement brought by this happenstance revelation of a hitherto unbeknownst street, like that of an archeologist tripping over a brachiosaurus skull on his back patio, is even more pronounced now that I have lived in this neighborhood for some years. It never ceases to amaze that new streets, alleys, and ways are still being unearthed right outside our doors. As the Brain Trust’s undisputed cartographer I attempt to put down on two dimensional paper that which exists on this mountain in a dizzying 3-D panorama. The discovery of these hidden gems of paved connectors has fueled further research both as a pedestrian in search of lovely walking paths, and in adding to an exhaustive geographical understanding of this domain. As such I have compiled a list of some of my current favorite walking routes:

Sewer Way- A lovely way that extends parallel to Olympia Street. In reality it is a straight line extension of Olympia Road, (not to be confused with Olympia Street) a thoroughfare that was only later so named, most likely because the respectable residents of Chatham Village would never live on Sewer Road; but they do.

Piado Way- I love alleys like Piado. It stretches for 1 full city block between Olympia St. and Hallock St. Amazing. Octave Way and Alta St. are a similarly wonderful tracts spanning the length of 1 block between Hallock and Meridan, down by Olympia Park.

Off of Alta in both directions you find a lovely oddity of Mt. Washington geography called Athlone Way. Athlone Way is fabulous because it is a “No Outlet” street in two directions, accessible only via Alta St. It has a wonderful display of garbage cans, garages, retaining walls and fences. On the terminal south end there is an estimable tree with four trunks worthy of note. But what makes Athlone really special, is that it is a split road. While having no outlets south of Virginia Ave., it restarts on the North side of Virginia calling itself Athlone Street. It is impossible, therefore, to travel from beginning to end of Athlone, a characteristic shared by Sycamore and Piermont as well. Athlone Street can be accessed on either end via either the treacherous Piermont Street or by Beam Way, which is a tiny turd of a road that serves only to connect Athlone to Meriden. Athlone St. has a quaint view of the Olympia valley, Chatham Village, and also the tops of the USX Steel Building and the Mellon Building downtown.

But the featured alley of this post is the unparalleled (not literally, actually many streets run parallel to it) Rohm Way. When traveling up Rohm Way from Virginia Ave, this pot hole strewn road appears to go on forever. It has an eerie and lovely display of street lights. Then it gracefully and elegantly meets up with Piado way (see above.)

Rohm way is particularly interesting because of its unusual name. Pronounced both “ROM” and “ROME” by various residents, the origin of the name is shrouded in ignorance. I have no certain information to alleviate the aforementioned ignorance, but will supply a fair amount of conjecture in hoping to formulate a reasonable explanation for the name, through the process of elimination.

The most famous Rohm is the vile Ernst Rohm. This alleged homosexual pedophile was one of Hitler’s army officers and chief organizer of the Nazi storm troopers. Only NAMBLA (the North Americal Man/Boy Love Association) would name such a quaint alley after him.

The second most famous Rohm is Elisabeth Rohm. This former blonde Law & Order prosecutor was unceremoniously fired, her last lines being “Is this because I’m a Lesbian?” Which was odd, being that this subplot was evidently never even touched upon in the whole course of her tenure on the show. The street was thankfully not named after her.

The street is also not named after origami master Fred Rohm, nor B-movie starlet Maria Rohm, famous for appearing nude, then being murdered in most of her films. It is unlikely that contemporary figures like the unpopular novelist Wendy Goldman Rohm, Clear Channel regional VP John Rohm, or bartender trainer Chuck Rohm were deserving of the honor (though if any of you are able to contact me I would greatly appreciate it). Nor are the various companies with no Pittsburgh ties, like Rohm and Haas, and Rohm American. More promising possibilities include Dr. Joe Rohm a music professor of piano and jazz who has had a tenuous relationship with the University of Pittsburgh, or WWII vet Dave Rohm who was a medaled POW. Currently, Pittsburgh has Dr. John G. Rohm, the most recent in multiple generations of Rohm dentists, who were perhaps beloved enough to garner their name on a street sign. There is also an artist/sculptor famous enough to have his works displayed in the Guggenheim and the Pennsylvania Academy who may be worthy of the title, though being born in Cincinnati, Ohio, I banish the thought.

In fact, there have been Rohms and Roehms of German decent in the Pittsburgh region since the mid-1800’s as grave markers in Ridgelawn Cemetery and United Cemetery attest. But my top pick goes to a heroic Civil War veteran, originally of Juniata county, Ferdinand Frederick Rohm (b. 1864) who received one of the only 64 Medals of Honor bestowed upon Pennsylvanians in the war, for courageously remaining behind, under enemy fire, to attend to and remove an injured soldier from “great danger.” This alley deserves a patriarch as noble as this figure. Even if new information would come to light explaining who the real Rohm was, I would respectfully tell them to “shove it,” preferring to believe my explanation instead. The truth is probably much more pedestrian, and perhaps the mystery of the name makes the alley even more romantic. I encourage all to walk up this alley, preferably after dark to get the full effect, and remember all of those Rohms who this street may or may not be named after.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Blogging, judging, voting, etc.

I have to be honest, I never wanted to write a blog. The thought of it kind of freaks me out. This is the same person that loved to write journals but then got paranoid about the thought of people reading them, so then she stopped. I wasn’t even worried about people I knew reading them. It’s weirder than that. I was thinking that 20 years after I died, a great-granddaughter that I never really knew would find my journals and judge me.

So a blog… Do you know that once something is posted to the Internet, the image of it can never be deleted? I don’t know if that’s true, but I think I heard it on Law and Order.It’s enough to make you think - what if you wanted to take over the world, but when you’re making your bid for domination some geek finds the blog your wrote about [insert offensive topic here] and there goes that. No more world power. Think about it….

In any case, I like the thought of mocking blogs more than I do writing them. It’s just easier to do. Something about judging is really appealing.

Which leads me to the real subject of my blog, judging, voting and the power of the people.

As you all know, the MWBT&PC attempted a voter registration drive up on the Mount. The success of the drive aside, it was still an enlightening experience. I encountered people refusing to register because they were afraid of being called up for jury duty. Ironically enough, the idea that not registering to vote gets you off jury duty is false. State courts use driver registration lists. Which means that registered or not, you might be called for jury duty if you can drive. But I digress…

How frightening is that that a person may suppress their own right to vote because they are afraid of being on a jury? A jury!! Sure, it could be an inconvenience and you have no idea if you get to be called on an interesting case or a complete snoozefest. But that’s irrelevant. Being on a jury is a powerful thing. Women and minorities had to fight to get that power. The government today keeps getting more and more intrusive, as we stand aside thinking we’re powerless to say a darn thing.

Jury duty gives the people a direct check against the government. For example, say you get called to a jury because a criminal defendant made the rare decision to go to trial. That means that the government actually has to prove to you, and several other people that are nothing like you, that they really have the right person. Even if they do have the right person, you may decide that this act is not worthy of punishment. Or you think that the government should have done things differently and you acquit. Or you decide that the government is correct, and you want to send a message to people who affect your community negatively so you punish. Regardless of the outcome, you have power. Your voice is heard in a more intimate and immediate way than even voting in an election. To the people in that courtroom, your opinion could constitute the difference between a life in prison or being free. FREE! And not in the lofty and arrogant, we should fight to give these people freedom but in the immediate, “I don’t have to live behind bars” kind of free.

We have to overcome this negative image of jury duty. Because realistically, it is mostly the lower class that limits its power by refusing to speak out on elections and refusing to speak on juries. It’s ironic, considering that the lower class is more often personally affected by decisions made by an intruding government and the lower class is more likely to be in a courtroom - as a criminal defendant.

In the spirit of the (nasty) midterm elections, let’s give our community some power and promote the importance of voting AND being on a jury. I mean, how else are we going to get Mt Washington to secede and become its own city with its own mayor? That’s a big step on the road to world domination. Think about it….


Mount Washington Brain Trust & Pipe Club (sans The Kernal who is taking the photo) Posted by Picasa

M.W.B.T. & P.C. in action Posted by Picasa

Lord Johnson and Chairman Tom are blown away by the brilliance of yet another amazing idea. Posted by Picasa

The Captain and Lady Rivera contemplate a golden idea. Posted by Picasa