My favorite house on Furman Street had a fire. It's all boarded up in the front and along the sides. The porch is charred. The paint still looks nice. The cupola is untouched. I asked the neighbors what happened and they didn't know. Neither did the current tenants living in the unburned part in the back. It's the place I imagined I might live one day when I was finished with school, the one with the large vacant lot to the east. When I went to the back to have a look, there were people eating at picnic table and what I thought was a deer skin nailed to a piece of plywood. It turned out to be a goat skin. "Cabrita," I said, calling it by the name I learned growing up in Mexico.
They wouldn't let me take pictures without explaining myself and weren't satisfied that I was simply documenting the neighborhood. They said outright that they don't trust me. I must have a purpose, what is it? I said I was working in the tradition of Milton Rogovin and Dorothea Lang, but still they weren't convinced. " You are taking pictures of the ghetto," he said. "If that's what you call it," I said, not really wanting to call it a ghetto. Neither were they convinced that I was just doing it for fun. As the man said, I must have a purpose, although at times, it feels like what I have is an instinct that is driving me and what I need to do is invent a plausible purpose until I understand it better myself.