Pittsburgh is a town of trolleys. All of the old trolley lines are gone now. The buses had names from the trolley lines until a few years ago with a round of route consolidation and now my 86B Frankstown is called the 88 Penn to Bakery Square. Bakery Square used to be the Nabisco factory and though there's nothing wrong with this, its now where Google has offices.
I've got a map of the Pittsburgh rail system as it ran in the late 50's. Some tracks were pulled up, others paved over. The trolley system is like an endocrinal system pulsing beneath the surface of our modern commute, a residual path. Along with the map are plans to take a half dozen walks, a psychogeographic view of Pittsburgh through the logic of public transportation 60 years ago.
A few days ago, Kathryn and I were walking down to the grocery store. It must have been Easter Sunday, we came home with bags of lamb, mint sauce, seitan and cabbage. Walking down Friendship Ave, we crossed Negley where they've been resurfacing the road.
(photos by Kathryn Kane)
Peter Ackroyd talks about London as a living being, with vital organs formed by the fact of consistent human activity. (Iain Sinclair, in his Guardian review, quotes Ackroyd ""In London," he writes, "the past is a form of occluded memory, in which the presence of earlier generations is felt rather than seen. It is an echoic city, filled with shadows." ) A place where people have always made watches, or always slaughtered cows, or always run haberdashery store. That activity creates a resonance, and sure London has thousands of years but the Pittsburgh decades were intense ones and all the poetry of all those lives running along each rail drains in to the psychogeographic troughs and ditches etched where the lines don't run anymore.
I'd guess the new tarmac is down now, but nobody was working then and we could see the trolley tracks in the older layer of road surface.