I've mentioned before that our neighborhood in Indianapolis isn't the nicest. We bought into an area that was gentrifying, but the downward economic spiral really hit this area hard. We've had a surge in prostitution in our area, the vacant house across the street was torn down to keep the meth-heads out, and just last weekend a drug dealer was chased down the street and tased within a few feet of our front porch.
The east side of Indianapolis is dying a slow and horrible death; it's chock full of closed shopfronts, abandoned houses, and potholes. The only thriving businesses are fast food joints, cigarette stores, and the Mexican restaurants and groceries that have sprung up like mushrooms after a forest rain.
While the sections closer to downtown (including our neighborhood) has a large African-American population, the further east you drive the more the mix changes to predominantly poor, uneducated Appalachian whites and newly immigrated Mexican workers. These are not the people who will be staying in Indy's fancy new five star hotel, going to our new convention center, or sitting in box seats at our new football stadium; these are the people who will be working at those facilities - usually for low wages and without any union representation.
Washington Street, which runs right through the center of Indianapolis, was one of Indy's major thoroughfares. A streetcar ran up and down the length of it carrying workers and shoppers from what was then the suburbs into the downtown area; you can still see the tracks, paved over in the middle of the street, in some sections of the road that have worn away from poor maintenance.
The city has ran radio ads for years touting "I am Washington Street" to try and lure tourists and citizens downtown; the ad mentions the zoo, shopping, and other middle class interests that are all located in the middle of the city. Step outside of that small area though and things aren't nearly as rosy. No one is going to make a commercial encouraging visitors to come enjoy the east side's urban blight and dying retail.
Since Indianapolis is such a spread out city, we have to drive to go out to eat; there are no restaurants within walking distance of our home and some of the neighborhood streets don't have sidewalks. (Hell, some of them are still brick streets that have never been paved!)
As we drive down Washington Street going east, I often feel sad for the city and, especially, for the street that was Indy's crown jewel. What was once a thriving portion of the metropolitan area - including Indiana's first indoor mall - now feels abandoned, forgotten and, almost as if it is waiting for someone or something to give it new purpose and a new life.
Even at 8pm on a Saturday night, the streets are mostly empty, neglected, and lonely. And so, we ate dinner at a small Mexican restaurant and drove home quietly after - only stopping so I could buy smokes from a dilapidated convenience store where a hooker was begging with the clerk not to throw her out so she could enjoy the air conditioning just a little longer.
Indianapolis has forgotten it's east side. And so I took some random photos last night while we drove to dinner, because someone needs to remember before it's too late.