Friday, May 02, 2008

Erieburgh

While no one has directly asked me the following question, I'd wager that at least a few of my readers must wonder: Why is an Erie native championing Pittsburgh? My family left Erie after I completed the 3rd grade. My father sensed that the time was right to make a move within General Electric, trading the Erie plant for the one in Schenectady, NY. While both of my parents were born in Erie, we were the first of the extended family to embark on the economic out-migration. Many soon would follow, though most went to the Charlotte, NC region. The gist is that the bulk of my childhood memories were made in Upstate New York and my ties to Erie remain somewhat weak on a good day.

The second piece of the puzzle is the divided allegiances of Erie. My dad cheered for the sports teams of Cleveland. Most of my cousins living in Buffalo and Rochester rooted, of course, for the Bills. I was child of the 1970s, making the Pittsburgh Steelers an easy choice for me (4 football championships in that decade, for you non-sports fans). I've been on that bandwagon ever since.

I'm by no means an anomaly. Check out this post (read the comments as well) at the Green Apple by Ashley Weber, one of the members of GlobalErie:

I am on a date with a Rangers fan, so I don’t want to ruin the mood by cheering on his enemy team; however, I was raised at Penguins games. For years my father used to take me to watch Lemieux and Jagr (during which I usually read a magazine - I was never one for sports). Regardless of whether or not I loved the game, as a western PA native I have always identified with every Pittsburgh team. How could I switch to the opposing side now mid-way through my life?


Ms. Weber is part of the Erie Diaspora and she lives in New York City. I point this out because I have noticed that expatriates tend to harbor a sense of home that is much larger in area than any local would embrace. I consider myself to be culturally Western Pennsylvanian. In my mind and heart, the Burgh Diaspora is more or less the part of Steelers Nation that hails from this corner of the United States. I have plenty in common with people who used to live in the I-79 corridor.

But being from Erie, I also have a lot in common with people who used to live Northeast Ohio and Western New York. I still have relatives living in both of those regions. Let me add to that my time spent living in Northeastern New York State (Plattsburgh) and Northern Vermont (Burlington, where I met the Pittsburgh girl that I eventually married). I offer up that geography thanks to its proximity to Canada. I've spent a lot of time across the border and parts of Southern Ontario feel like home. I still remember watching Hockey Night in Canada as a child in Erie.

I think I have confused a few followers of this blog who have noticed my emphasis shift from Pittsburgh to Cleveburgh or the Rust Belt. I'm still trying to help organize the Burgh Diaspora, but I've moved that project to the Pittsburgh Quarterly blog. I renamed this blog (the one you are currently reading) Cleveburgh Diaspora in hopes of communicating my expanded sense of place. In my world view, I don't see any sense in dividing up what feels like a community with a shared heritage.

Welcome to Erieburgh.

1 comment:

Ashley said...

Jim,

I'm glad that someone else can identify with the dichotomy that is our lives. Sports are a perfect example of how one is torn between his admiration for multiple "hometowns." It's difficult to choose just one team when you have a love for both cities.

Thanks for reading "Green Apple."

-Ashley