Hashtag Throwback Thursday. Here is a photograph of the east side of Buffalo, New York, sometime in the mid 1980’s. Buffalo was undergoing a historic transformation from a vital industrial and manufacturing city to a service oriented one. Steel plants closed. The population drastically declined with nearly one in four moving out of the city to find work. Skilled laborers were left reeling, neighborhoods seemingly lay in ruins. It was against this backdrop that I grew up. But the crumbling wasn’t crumbling to me. What I mean is that within it, the crumbling was something else, something distinguished. It carried a patina of the hard work of generations. We climbed, and bicycled, and ran through this landscape of rocks and soggy lawns and brick buildings with brass door knobs. Of steel railings, canvas awnings, and concrete. It was translucent glass, old wires, engines, and flowers. It was foreign accents, incense, and Franciscan nuns. It was the bent chain link fence that demarcated yards which separated but somehow also brought neighbors together. I am not sure what I am saying, the chain link fence allowed you to look through; it gave you a line but one you could cross visually. It is this openness of the chain link fence that stays with me. When I was little I would put my eye to look through one of the diamonds that the chain link fence made. I would look through that diamond to the space it contained and move to another, piecing the neighborhood together like that bit by bit. In the best of the backyards, the chain link fence was a tool, it carried the trailing vines of peas, and cucumbers. It carried the vines of wisteria and rose and grape. The fences became living things in those yards, like hedgerows you see in the countryside and this too is important. The east side of the Buffalo, New York of my youth was a dying industrial city but it carried within it the old homelands of rural Europe, of Poland, Italy, Germany, and Ireland. At dusk, neighbors pulled weeds or smoked and stopped, elbows on the top pipe of the fence, to share a moment, laugh or memory with their neighbor who did the same while their children tumbled nearby seeing without looking, learning without the lesson.