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.


Mount Washington Brain Trust & Pipe Club said...

Only you could discuss a civil war hero and NAMBLA in the same blog.

I think one of the MWBT&PC's long-term goals should be to get a street names after us. Each of us.

that shouldn't be hard, right?

evan said...

i take offense to the word undisputed

Heath said...

Well, when I see a map made by any other MWBT&PC members, then we'll dispute.

Is someone sore because "Keeper of the Pipes" is now in question? There's always "Qualified Possessor of a Pipe, Sometimes" or "Sporadic Loser of the Pipe."

Actually, I preferred "General Member." Maybe we could instead call you "Member General" (kind of like attorney general or court martial.)

Heath said...

Over the weekend, My grandpa showed me an old grade school photo dated 1907, from the small town of Rector, PA. In that photo were a number of "Rehms." I wonder if Rehm is not an alternate spelling for Rohm (as names often got spelled differently upon immigrating.)

wendy said...

i noticed your post while updating my google files. just a correction, while i have had no street named after me (!), i am not an "unpopular novelist." i am a New York Times bestselling author of narrative nonfiction, not novels. thanks for the attention anyway! best, wendy goldman rohm : )