Hashtag throwback Thursday. I was leafing through the old photographs again last night. This is what happens when you get old, you wake up in the middle of the night and think about the past. The moonlight comes in through the window and settles in a trapezoid across your body, bathing you in its quietness. It’s easy in these moments to feel pangs of sadness about the people in your life who are only photographs now. It’s easy in these moments to feel the weight of passing time. The way, for instance, the moonlight moves across you and up the wall and then fades with the coming of the day’s light. You forget the moonlight and the way it was a neat box on your wall as the daylight erases it. But within that quiet, away from the day and its screens, comes a contemplative moment that lifts the fog that is your life and brings into focus the things that matter, and the things that you had thought you had forgotten. I want to talk about the architecture of the east side of Buffalo, New York. I want to talk about it in a roundabout way. I want to convey what it was about the close set houses, the bent chain link fences, and the laundry on the line that stays with me and has somehow informed me and made me who I am today. I want to talk about the density that was the east side of Buffalo, New York before deindustrialization and economic despair destroyed the vibrancy of the place and left it empty and rotting. The low chain link fences invited conversation. The neighbor’s laundry swayed with the breeze like a country’s flag and you watched it, noticing the way the line was tied to the pole that was painted gunship gray. Their yard a foreign country with rock plants and roses. A whiffle ball fouled into their yard lay still until their dog went inside and you could hop the fence and race to rescue it, thrilled with the foreignness of your surroundings. The sidewalks and streets were our playground, where the flirting and shoving and the talking and loitering was conducted carefully because the windows were eyes. The neighbor watering his driveway knew us. The old woman rocking on her porch who never looked up at us, knew who we were, so we had to build our fires on the train tracks. From behind curtains we were noted, so girls and boys pushed each other into deep door wells at the school after it was out, finding their own sacred spaces to kiss and touch. The neighborhood allowed us to travel without ever having been anywhere. The old people conversed in Polish or Italian over the counter at the bakery. A bocce game was played on a lawn. Pinochle and Euchre were words that carried smoke and the smell of stale beer. It’s hard to imagine, if you were to walk through east side of Buffalo, New York, today to imagine its vibrancy. To smell the bakery, to feel the cool dark of the corner bar or the pungent floral smell of the flower shop with its talking Mynah bird. It would be hard to imagine the blue of the milk machine, or the streams of people walking the sidewalks. The stream of dresses and squeak of shoes out of the church. You would not be able to imagine the hardware store, that pile of metal fittings and pipes and screws and doorknobs that packed the place. You would not be able to see the little handmade signs that read screws 5 for 5 cents. You would not hear the bells from the church tower. You would see nothing much, boarded up houses, a decommissioned church and an empty school yard. There is a vacant lot where Ray and Theresa’s Clam shack stood. The little white chalked box we drew on the side of the brick wall of the school where we played a version of baseball called Strikeout is faded to be almost imperceptible, but if you look close you can see it. In the middle of the night, when I am thinking about the past, I see it again, and as the light shifts and moves and disappears I keep it within me. I keep it within me, the hardware store and its hand lettered signs, the smell of the bread, the Mynah bird, the cool dark of the bar, the bent chain link fences, the narrow driveways, the laundry on the line, and it slips out of me as I move into the day and if you listen and look closely, you’ll see it. You’ll feel the old time hello of the neighbor and see the way the white sheet lifts on the line and wafts on a breeze before hanging limply like a white flag.