Exile in America (Part 1): Carnegie/West End

After 25 years in New York, the author moves back to his hometown and discovers a new world lodged in the old one . . . Sometimes the strangest destination is home.

Local wheels

Oh deer

Shopping/Work/Death, a cyclical path (Chartiers Cemetery, Carnegie, PA)

Baby Boy McCartney . . . The saddest stories, buried in the ground

Office park at sundown, highway below gleams up at the empty lot

Exile in America: Introduction

Pressed by circumstances, I returned to Pittsburgh, where I was born and raised. Initially I decamped to the West End, far from where I had grown up. It was like being in a whole new city (except for the Iron City beer everywhere and the bus signs flashing “Let’s Go Bucs!”).

Then I moved closer to the heart of town, which was utterly familiar. Still, there were areas I barely knew, like neighborhoods I had only passed through a few times before. I was compelled to explore these places, camera in hand (which would have never occurred to me before).

Talking with someone in a McKees Rocks bar, I told him I had returned to Pittsburgh after 25 years. “This city’s better than you remember it,” he said assuredly. I won’t dispute it. As to whether “you can’t go home again” (Thomas Wolfe), I still can’t say, but in the meantime there is no shortage of places to walk through and pictures to take, of things new and familiar (or a hybrid of both).

Fracking country! (chemical silos beside tracks)

Meterized hillside

Under the overpass (Noblestown Rd. & Penn Lincoln Parkway)

Satellite image © 2012 Google

A prime juncture for exploring Chartiers Creek, a serpentine swath (52 miles long) that runs through Washington and Allegheny Counties, and discharges into the Ohio River.

Once steel country always steel country

A steep city, a city of hills

Man, these hills! On some, it's like walking through water . . . The flatlands of NYC spoiled me for walking (and where I grew up was hardly the hilliest part of town).

A city inclined (to steep declines)

The view from Overlook Park

Ahh, the classic shot (sort of): Pittsburgh skyline/The Point — where the Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio rivers meet; at the confluence, with the bridges like butterfly bandages holding the city together . . . This image is long familiar to me, but mostly from ads and news photos. In person, though, from the heights, it dazzles.

Train through trees from edge of park

A steep city, a city of stairs, etched in hillsides enshrouded by green

Overgrown stairs in the woods off the highway
fade into nature like Aztec ruins

Exile in America (Parts 1-4)

More Images of Pittsburgh (Slideshows)


  1. Great photos. Really-some of those shots are stunning...


  2. This guy can really tell a story. The pictures and text are in perfect "synch" like the engine of a "Vincent Shadow" mounted upon a "Triumph 750 Bonneville" chassis. This narrative arc will get anybody to the chuch on time.
    "C'est trop est c'est trop!!!!
    Great stuff. c.mullen

  3. Your photos and text create such a uniqe mood. I feel like I'm walking with you as you go from city streets to overgrown patches of public works. There's loneliness and mystery. Familiar feelings that I appreciate.

  4. Love it. Great stuff. I am especially partial to shots of Pittsburgh pipe railings – usually found in seldom-used hillside cement stair installations. Fairly unique to our city. They always make me think of home.

  5. I really enjoyed “Exile in America.” You really capture that great mix of architectural ruins and overgrown weeds that makes this place so what it is. The photos are excellent and the observations are sharp.

  6. I'm glad to see you applying your [] techniques to the Pittsburgh landscape. I think I like the "Baby Boy McCartney" pic the best. Probably because I'm morbid.