Film Photography: Race Street, The Old Neighborhood

I had a very unscheduled drive to my old home town this past week. My grandmother, who is one of my favorite people in the world, was having heart surgery so there was no question of me being in Indiana the next morning before the surgery. It was only a matter of how. Sure, I could have taken a cab (good luck getting one of those in Brooklyn) to JFK or La Guardia, fought through security to wait two hours until boarding, then fly with at least one stop to Indianapolis, only to rent a car to Evansville where my grandmother was having surgery, knowing at every instant that somehow my progress would be totally screwed up by a delay or mistake. Or, I could just rent a car and drive through the night, being in total control the entire time. I chose the latter, even when I realized that the trip was 14 hours by car. Kate had to stay home with the dog, so I drove through the night listening to FM classic rock as loud as the stereo would play, as I refueled with coffee everytime I stopped for gas. I was able to make it to the hospital to see my grandmother and then spent the day with my family waiting for news of her recovery. She is fine thankfully, and I ended up staying a day in my hometown as she recovered. I only had about 45 minutes to take pictures, but I tried to make the most of it.

These heartbreaking (to me anyway) pictures are of houses on the block I grew up on. At this point in my life, I know that I'm the luckiest person in the world to live in Brooklyn with Kate and Chloe, but I also know that I had an idillyic childhood on Race Street in Princeton, IN. Where/when I grew up, I never feared for my safety. My neighbors were friendly, and their homes were almost as welcoming as my own. We stayed out as late as we could. We rode our BMX bikes over every square foot of that town, and we never felt threatened or unsafe.

Twenty-five years later, my old neighborhood is a disaster. Not Detroit level disaster, but for a kid who grew up in a stable, if unremarkatble small town, it's still shocking to see the level of decay that's visited my old neighborhood. Thankfully, my house and a few others are still cared for, but many others are abandoned, busted structures barely hinting at their former warmth. Princeton, like many small towns in the Midwest, has been hit with the brutal combination of very few new opportunities for young people and too many options for cheap, illegal drugs. As I was walking down Race Street, I stumbled upon this RV and immediately (maybe wrongly, but still) thought of 'Breaking Bad.'

This house was a bit south of my old place, but still on the same block.

This was immediately across the street from my house.

This was on the corner right next to my best friends, the Waldroups.

This house was directly across from another friend's house. His was an empty lot.

Thankfully, my old house was purchased by a family friend who has kept it up over the years. It's nothing fancy, but I spent my first 18 years there.