'I'm back where I belong,
Yeah I never felt so strong' - Coming Home
It's haunted me since the day I first heard it because it triggered something I've been pushing down.
Going home. I've been having a strong pull towards going back there, documenting the neighborhood that I walked for the first 10 years of my life. Seeing if I can finally silence this nagging need to 'revisit.' Going home. What does that mean? I have a home. Here in the suburbs of NY. I have another home that I lived in since 5th grade, in Bayside Queens.
But why do I always consider my true home to be in Astoria, NY?
Maybe it's because I was born there, back in 1972. My grandparents all lived right around the corner on 28th street. Practically across the street from each other. How awesome is that for a kid?
We lived on 27th street in an apartment building not far from the subway and the Triboro Bridge. I lived there from the time of birth until I was 10 years old. I attended Catholic School. I was a super shy kid. Yes, it's true. Hard to believe now.
Astoria was not the 'infiltrated with hipsters' place it is now back then. Astoria in the 70's had two types of people: The Greeks + the Italians. Period. OK, well that is an exaggeration but it was predominantly so. You couldn't walk more than two steps down the block without hearing someone shout out in Greek or Italian.
At the end of fourth grade, my parents decided to move our family to a better section of Queens. It was getting a little shady. A little rougher than I think they felt comfortable with me growing up in. The kids on my block for the most part, were assholes. They didn't really like me because I wouldn't play games like laying in the middle of the street until a car came. Silly me.
I was shy but Queens made me tough. It was the start of the thick skin I have now. I truly credit it for keeping me real all these years and keeping perspective in the privileged area of NY I now live in.
I loved my childhood. I love Astoria and though it was seriously pissing rain, I finally, FINALLY got on that train from NYC and went back last Friday.
I didn't know what I would see, what I would shoot, or how I would feel. It's had been nearly 35 years since I walked the streets of Astoria truly 'looking' at it.
I will let my images do the talking and explain a bit about why I shot each one, how it made me feel, and how I finally went home.
(all images shot on the Ricoh GR II)
There were two places we always walked to when I was a kid. DitmarsBlvd. and Steinway Street. Ditmars more frequently as we were only a few blocks away. I was so happy to see some familiar spots still standing..that and some conversation from the old world still brewing...
If there is one defining 'decor' in Astoria it's the super gaudy, yet super awesome at the same time 'statues.' Not just religious mind you (but mostly).
I am so glad I pushed myself to go back that day. I didn't let the relentless rain rule. I went home. I reconnected. I felt them all there. Maybe it wasn't so much rain, but tears from my most cherished Grandparents above. This place is the opposite of where I live life now, but it still and forever will mean so much to me and the make up of who I am. I am proud to come from this borough. I wouldn't be me without it.