I’m not totally sure when this picture was taken. My guess is around 1994 or 1995. If I remember right I wore this costume to school because it was Halloween. I was excited to wear it, but then disappointed when I saw another kid dressed as Superman but with a red cape and muscle definition. Looking back I like my costume better; it feels more authentic.

That tree behind me eventually fell over during a wind storm (they’re called the Santa Anas; they’re the seasonal winds that the Cold War Kids mention). My mom had to carefully drive around it because it was blocking the driveway. Eventually we built a little flower garden around the tree stump.

There was a neighborhood block party one year. I can remember making the girl who lived across the street laugh at the party while she was on the swings. She had braces but it didn’t bother me a bit because I loved her smile. Her father got angry in public a lot. I can remember my dad sitting next to him on the curb after one of his outbursts and thinking that my dad would talk some sense into him. I hope he only ever yelled. They moved abruptly at one point and I remember feeling crushed because I never got to tell her that I liked her.

My neighborhood was pretty typical for the 90s. All the kids knew each other and we’d often play together. We’d ride bikes and play guns and Star Wars. One time my dad’s truck caught on fire. Our dog Sammy woke us up in the middle of the night. If she hadn’t barked and woke us I probably would have died since the fire was happening just on the other side of the wall. I can remember going up to my friend Tim’s house. He lived at the top of the street. We used to play Legos and a text-based Star Trek game. That night I played Aero Fighters Assault with him while the fire department put out the fire.

A lot has changed since this picture was taken. I don’t know anyone in that neighborhood (or my own for that matter). My mom passed away more than a decade ago and the neighbor’s house in the picture is no longer blue. The iceplant and rock wall are gone now, replaced by more driveway. I don’t like Superman, but I do still part my hair to the right.

When I think about all that’s changed and what that neighborhood meant to me it reminds me that neighborhoods used to mean something. We used to know each other and at least feign interest in the community’s well being. In the age of the Internet I think we traded a digital closeness for real community. Plenty of good has come from it, but I miss trusting the people who sleep just a handful of yards away from me. I hope one day we return to a world where we don’t quickly say hi before rushing into our homes and locking our doors. Maybe it’s time we open our doors for each other again.