Neighbors and their hoods

I’m sure that it has been noted before, but it is unsurprising that Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood was produced in Pittsburgh. It is a city that prides itself on its neighborhoods. It even counts them — there are 90! Some names reflect the immigrants who populated them: Polish Hill or Deutschtown; others their directional relationship to the three rivers: the North Side, East End. These are then often broken down even further: the North Shore, Central Northside; Central Lawrenceville,  Upper Lawrenceville, Lower Lawrenceville.

It should also be noted that this geographic banding does not always generate neighborliness, at least outside your own bailiwick. There is also an arbitrariness that some of those modifiers like upper and lower hint at. For example the area I grew up in was routinely called Mt. Washington.  That is what the street cars then buses that serviced us said on the front. There are two inclines that run up the side of the hill, called funiculars elsewhere, one with the name Duquesne the other Monongahela. We did not refer to our side of the hill as Duquesne Heights, it was all the Mount. We did call the neighborhood past the other incline, “the other side of the hill.” I’ve always thought its denizens called our spot “the other side of the hill.” A few months ago this nomenclature hit a height, or depth, of controversy on a Facebook page dedicated to this community with people insisting that it was always called Duquesne Heights. I demurred. I also ultimately left that Facebook page not because I felt strongly about it, but the opposite: to quote my son when chiding me about my standards of cleanliness, “why do you care so much?”

Yesterday I went to the local pool where I and every other kid from Mt. Washington – both sides of the hill — spent entire summer days. As I filled out the form to get a tag for the summer the last question asked after address, etc., was neighborhood. I was charmed by this official recognition of identity, as important here as other, more official municipal delineations. I put Mt. Washington.

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