Cities are animals, waiting to devour you, waiting for you to turn a wrong corner, find yourself in a place that is uncomfortable, perhaps even dangerous. They can be your friend, familiar places and voices, even faces, but do not let yourself be mislead. A week in New York – great. Everything grows in New York, horizontally and even the streets have numbers. There is noise from the traffic, from the people, but wait a moment, you turn a corner and something is missing. No people, no noise, just complete and utter darkness. It is evening and that guy over there looks suspicious. He is approaching and puts his hand in his pocket. Shall I run, he might have a gun. He produces a map of the city, he is lost. I am lost, we are all lost between these walls. There is a mist arising from the drain in the road and it smells, like, New York. I can hear the noise of the crowds and walk further, I am saved, I am standing opposite one of the Hilton, or is it the Plaza hotel. They all look the same, but something is wrong. Is there really a human clothed with a large black plastic bag and shivering on a street in New York City, one bare foot poking out of the bag, the other foot wearind an old woollen sock. Her framework is barely covered by her skin and people are walking past, ignoring her presence, although she is shaking an empty tin cup and stretching her bony fingers for a dime, or penny or whatever they are in New York language. I saw some great stuff in New York, the top of buildings with their restaurants, bars and jazz clubs in Greenwich village, but they had no beggars outside. Perhaps it was not worth begging where the tourists are.
Paris is different, or is it? It is a town like any other, but do people live in this town. I suppose if you take a metro train, or even a bus, you arrive in the town streets where people live, eat and breathe. Paris is a town of many characters. The Champs Elysee with its perfect restaurants: the Arc de Triomphe at one end and the Louvre museum at the other. A wonderful walk seeing Paris life at its best. What do we have here, a street seller selling his goods. He is handicapped, from a war perhaps, but he is known and photos are taken by the tourists. Let us go to Montmartre and have a portrait made while you wait, from a Paris artist of course. There are many of them, waiting to pounce with the crayons and pencils – no room for a palette or a paint brush. The finished product must be done quickly for the tourists, they have no time. In half an hour they will perhaps be in the Louvre, or Notre Dame staring at the paintings of the ancient masters. Paris is a small town, everything organised for the tourists, the paying guests.
The bustle of London, Bishopsgate bordering the city, the changing face of 1989. A rest of the old buildings that were not destroyed in the war still remaining with their soiled red bricks: but wait there is a new building in the distance. The first of many to arrive over the years. I know London, I am a Londoner, but it is no longer my London. I still visit once a year. The red buss is still there, although not as red as it used to be, even the shape has changed. The people are still the same, although the Londoners I knew have long gone. The english business man still exists although his origins may be from another country, in the second or third generation. London is a city of opportunity all are equal no matter where you come from. The cockneys of London are diminishing, making room for the new generations. They still speak with the London intonation, but it is not the same. Let us go with the crowd and go shopping. Shopping in the center of London is for the tourists, those that do not know the city. The locals prefer to remain in their own area, where they know the stall holders along the road, the shops where you can buy the bargains. London is tiring, it exhausts you, physically and psychologically. It is a city of many facets.
Look, a Londoner, take a photo and show it to the folks at home. He looks tired, exhausted, his shopping is completed, his bought items in his plastic bag.He is now looking forward to boarding the underground train that will take him home to his cup of tea.