america






Yes, we’re so high up we must be going to America.










The World Tiramisu Champion













Whisper to me across an arching crowd of commuters surging into the Oyster bar from Grand Central Terminal. The stars are painted back to front in the sky tonight.








Arriving in Manhattan: frenzy ricochets a score of onomatopoeias: zoom! bang! WALLOP, thud!
Miles eastwards along 42nd is The Chrysler, palace of glass and silver decoration. Yolk-coloured sun lights the western slabs of buildings. I think of a passage from Manhattan ’45:
The place is all dapple. Its lights and shades are intense, and endlessly varied – the shadows of the skyscrapers slantwise across the avenues, or plunging the cross-streets into cavernous darkness, the sudden black that New Yorkers prefer for their bars and restaurants, the flicker of bridge girders upon passing cars, the dense patterns of fire-escape ladders, the shifting silhouettes of park trees along sidewalks, the tenebrous gloom, speckled and latticed with light through the ironwork above, that lurks beneath the tracks of an elevated railroad.












Taking an orange paper ticket, we push through the turnstile into Katz’s, and stand before the long, long counter surveying what’s on offer. Knishes, hot-dogs and salami, lox sandwich, potato-salad, sour pickles, cheesecake. I’ll have what she’s having.
I’ll have a rye bagel, cream cheese and tomato, and you have a hotdog with pickles.



















I resist sleep like a faulty canary. 
Roads bracelet the city. The electronic flight map shows our detour as an extravagant flourish; we circle the city and become its commuter traffic. 










The day’s walk has a narrative quality; each scene a photograph or sub-plot in the story. In turn, to write has a dynamic quality, the verb deriving from ‘reissen’ (in German, to drag). To write, then, is to take a thought for a walk. Reading is also active: we jump a paragraph; skip lines, our eyes running down pages, speed-reading, jumping the lights.









Road-crossings stutter our way. Walk/ Don’t Walk/ Walk









Journeys are the midwives of thought and soothe feelings of stagnation. Restlessness is a universal attribute, written about by the Metaphysical poets who thought it led to God:

He hath no root, nor to one place is tied
But ever restless and irregular
About this Earth doth run and ride
[… Because] God order’d motion, but ordain’d no rest.

or

When God at first made man,
Having a glass of blessings standing by,
 ‘Let us,’ he said, ‘pour on him all we can.
Let [him have] the world’s riches
[…] But keep them with repining restlessness’

The etymology of the verb saunter might be from ‘sainte terre’ and imply an ambulation to a sacred land. Or it might derive from ‘sans terre’ and suggest that man has no ‘territory’ and therefore saunters eternally.









I think of your mother whenever I crack an egg. She swished her finger inside the shell after most of the egg had come out into the bowl. To get every bit of its protein goodness. I thought that such a thrifty gesture.










A kind of white noise or ringing silence. A big un-said.










We drive from Newark into New York’s Port Authority Bus Terminal, a reversal of Robert Smithson’s journey from New York to the industrial landscape of New Jersey, in which he saw ruins in reverse, that is – all the new construction that would eventually be built […] opposite of the “romantic ruin” because the buildings don’t fall into ruin after they are built but rather rise into ruin before they are builtThe seashore is dun, scratched by cranes and bridges.





















De Certeau says that when we inhabit a city, we are like renters who come into an apartment and change it a little. This is evident in New York’s place names: Breukelen became Brooklyn; Krom Moerasje, Gramercy; Mannahatta, Manhattan.  
Adapting names is a tactic for getting to know and own the city. Tactics are often re-uses, alterations, un-mappable, and rather rhizomatic in their constant state of flux. Walking is also a tactic that interrupts the strategy of a town plan, introducing short cuts, pointless detours and routes taken in remembrance of demolished buildings or sites of personal significance. Perhaps de Certeau thought of Philippe Petit’s 1974 walk on a tightrope between the two World Trade Centers an example of a tactic, and one of the highest altitude pieces of text written.















New York’s subway seems lighter in atmosphere than London’s, its passengers less subdued and insular. Here, carriages chatter just under street-level. They are wider, with plastic seats and ferociously cool air-conditioning, metallic like Amtrak and space rockets.
A man has a hook for a hand and a Trader Joe’s bag hanging from it.
We shunt over Manhattan Bridge past zigzag girders and graffiti; the neon destination reads Far Rockaway
Dwi am fynd â thi i Far Rockaway,
Far Rockaway,
mae enw'r lle
yn gitâr yn fy mhen, yn gôr
o rythmau'r haf a llanw'r môr:
yn sgwrs cariadon dros goffi […]
yn oglau petrol ar ôl glaw […]
yn wefr o fod yn nabod neb:
dwi am fynd â thi i Far Rockaway,
Far Rockaway,
lle mae cwr y ne
yn golchi'i thraed ym mudreddi'r traeth […]
lle mae enfys y graffiti'n ffin
rhwng y waliau noeth a'r haul mawr blin […]
lle mae heddlu'r dre
yn sgwennu cerddi wrth ddisgwyl trên  […]
lle mae'r beirdd ar eu hystolion tal
yn cynganeddu ar bedair wal,
yn yfed wisgi efo gwlith,
yn chwarae gwyddbwyll â'u llaw chwith,
mae cusan hir yn enw'r lle
Far Rockaway, Far Rockaway.
I will take you to Far Rockaway/ Far Rockaway/ the name/ is a guitar in my mind/ a choir of summer rhythms and the sea’s tide/ is talks of lovers over black coffee […] is smells of gasoline after rain […] is the thrill of knowing no one:/ I will take you to Far Rockaway/ Far Rockaway/ where the edge of heaven trails on the grubby shore/ where the graffiti rainbow is a frontier between the naked walls and the angry sun […] where the city police are sketching poems as they await a train/ where poets on their high-rise ladders are daubing cynghanedd on four walls/ are drinking whiskey with dew/ playing chess with their left hands/ the name is one drawn out kiss/ Far Rockaway, Far Rockaway.
This is a poem by Iwan Llwyd reminiscent both of Peter Doig’s shimmering, grubby paintings and Beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s A Far Rockaway of the Heart.
I. Everything changes and nothing changes/ Centuries end/ and all goes on/ as if nothing ever ends/ As clouds still stop in mid-flight/ like dirigibles caught in cross-winds/ And the fever of savage city life/ still grips the streets/ But I still hear singing/ still the voices of poets/ mixed with the cry of prostitutes/ In old Mannahatta/ or Baudelaire’s Paris/ birdcalls echoing/ down the alleys of history/ now renamed/ And now it’s the nineteen hundreds/ and the market has crashed again/ and my father drifts in his fedora/ his eyes on the sidewalk/ a single Italian lira/ and an Indian-head penny/ in his pocket/ Bootleggers and hearses pass/ in slow motion/ a church tolls its iron bell/ mixed with the sound of car alarms/ in the year two thousand/ as new suits hurry to work/ in swaying skyscrapers/ as newsboys still cry out/ announcing the latest lunacy/ and laughter arises/ on the distant sea.
Ferlinghetti shows that the city is a plethora of simultaneity. The past is present and repeated now and in the future. 
The second part of Ferlinghetti’s poem introduces us to New York’s love-worn beach resort, Coney Island:
II. Driving a cardboard automobile without a license/ at the turn of the century/ my father ran into my mother/ on a fun-ride at Coney Island/ having spied each other eating/ in a French boardinghouse nearby/ and having decided right there and then/ that she was for him entirely/ he followed her into/ the playland of that evening/ where the headlong meeting/ of their ephemeral flesh on wheels/ hurtled them forever together/ and I now in the back seat/ of their eternity/ reaching out to embrace them.
A Far Rockaway of the Heart was Ferlinghetti’s 1997 sequel to a poem he wrote in 1958 called A Coney Island of the mind, which he described as a kind of circus of the soul that collaged eras, memories of paintings, sweeping vistas and bathos:
In Goya’s greatest scenes we seem to see/ the people of the world/ exactly at the moment when/ they first attained the title of/ ‘suffering humanity’/ They writhe upon the page/ in a veritable rage/ of adversity […] it is as if they really still existed/ And they do/ Only the landscape is changed […] We are the same people/ only further from home/ on freeways fifty lanes wide/ on a concrete continent/ spaced with bland billboards/ illustrating imbecile illusions of happiness/ The scene shows fewer tumbrils/ but more strung-out citizens in painted cars/ and they have strange license plates/ and engines/ that devour America.

















Under a leaden sky, Mulberry Street is adorned with bunting and wafts of pastry. The first Feast of San Gennaro was held in New York’s Little Italy in 1926, a gastronomic celebration of the patron saint of Naples by thousands of Italian immigrants.
One of the Feast’s highlights is its Grand Cannoli Eating Competition. Here, some of the faces from Nathan’s hotdog circuit rear their heads.
‘Champion 68 hotdogs in 10 minutes Crazy Legs Jack Conti’ clambers raucously onto the Cannoli stage blocking the street. His fame ballooned when he was buried alive in popcorn and ate his way out.
A petite woman of 100lbs body weight and Boiled Egg Honour (sixty in ten minutes) ties her hair up. This is what to do between the last complaints and first heave.
Pepto Bismo Indigestion Relief is placed before the contestants, several of whom wear latex gloves and are stretching like athletes. Throw-up and workout is perhaps their technique.
Next is the Procession of the Cannoli. About the size of rats, they comprise heavy tubes of pastry filled with a sweet custardy icing. Café Roma bakers carry trays of them on their shoulders and lay them on stage.
The World Tiramisu Champion stands in the crowd, barely twelve stone and dressed like a university academic. He concentrates on Crazy Legs and the others, deducing their technique. Also in the crowd are String Bean and Sweet Corn Champion, Lumberjack Breakfast Man, and Winners of 21lbs of Grits in 8 minutes and 459 oysters in 10 minutes.
The last person on stage does not eat the Cannoli. He is celebrity adjudicator Gianni Russo, born on Mulberry Street and later one of The Godfather’s godsons who sang in a white suit and went to Hollywood. The Godfather script is sticky with Cannoli references: “Don’t forget the Cannoli,” says a wife to her husband leaving for a shooting, and “Take the Cannoli,” the killers shout as they desert their victim in his car. The Cannoli are in a white card box, and the scene, a wheat field behind The Statue of Liberty.
The winner gobbles 13 Cannoli in 6 minutes: it is not Crazy Legs, but one Dave US Mail Goldstein. He smacks his lips and belches.

Sheets of rain charged with electricity suddenly clear the street. We run for shelter, passing the Bowery’s catering shops (huge bowls, whisks and ladles that suit the diets of Dave and Crazy Legs), and into The New Museum. Rivane Neuenschwander’s installation of buckets catching ‘rain water’ from the gallery’s ceiling seems fitting.
On the news next morning, Dave US Mail’s headline is relegated under ‘Brooklyner Killed By Storm-Damaged Tree’.


























Walk/ Don’t Walk/ Walk; we circle the city and become its commuter traffic.











A combination of influences, from Gothic palaces to the 1916 zoning law that insured high-buildings tapered or stepped to limit the amount of shadow cast on the street has modelled much of Manhattan into castle-skyscrapers.
Low down, they rise as normal, openings arched or aluminium-fanned (‘take your pick; era, genre, nation’). And on top, there is the ornamentation again, turrets, spikes and verandas winking from the clouds. In the middle, however, they elongate themselves like Amtrak-train-rockets zooming ever higher.
Around Wall Street, brave naval offices with sash-windows and pitched roofs are dwarfed by modern high-rises. In British terms, the old buildings would be tall, but here, what are seven storeys beside seventy?
Randy, our host at The Melrose, told us that many of Ocean Grove’s houses, including his own, had once been only one or two storeys high, but their balloon structure meant they could be lifted right up off the ground for another few floors inserted underneath them.
In New York I look up at the skyscrapers and realise very similar thinking went into their construction. ‘A pretty base and top with a bumper filling. A kinda club sandwich you could say’.















Through Penn Station’s marble passages we board an aluminium space-rocket Amtrak train to New Jersey. Its bell and horn sound as we enter tunnels and crossings of stunted traffic, the shoreline grimy with industry and an immanent storm. Arriving in Asbury Park, you are nearly clouted by a builder’s toolbox, as the train jerks its brakes. He apologises profusely and says I should have a screen test; his Pop was in The Movies, and incidentally, would we like a lift. His girlfriend collects us from the train as the first bolt of lightening petrifies the sky.
Ocean Grove’s Melrose stands before us. Bed and breakfast, pet-friendly, antiques, and beach passes available at a favourable discount. On one of its tiers of veranda, an old friend and her dog greet us. Shaun, a goaty Bedlington terrier and ‘spoilt baby’ has been groomed this morning, something he enjoys more than his agility lessons. After the storm passes, we walk him by the sea and are greeted by several women in leisure wear, walking their babies, newly groomed and collected from the Barkery, no doubt.  Veterinary surgeries in New York have standing lamps, potted plants and library shelves of their patients’ records. New York Fashion Week featured an assortment of dogs on its catwalks. They bowed when the audience applauded, although because I never saw this, I’m not sure how.  







In the Melrose bedroom is a Tupperware of pecan cookies and a book: The Frugal Gourmet Cooks American.
Jeff Smith is an ordained Methodist minister who has brought his ministry to millions of TV viewers. His cooking shows rival network prime-time programs, reaching 15 million households weekly.
The cover photograph depicts a bearded and beaming Jeff, with a huge feathered bird across his lap. His peasant wife sits beside him, flanked by two sons in scout uniforms and a huge American flag. I flick to the index:

milkshake:
    peanut butter
    pumpkin
misacquetash
mock snapper soup
Mom’s basic waffle batter
Monticello muffins
muffins:
    bran, the frugal way
    blueberry
    English
    peanut butter corn





Dawn sparkles on the sea, west of which I have only once been. Lace curtains are reflected on the shutter doors. The tin ceiling is moulded into white botanical swirls, disrupted by flue pipes that make the house a stove. Randy, our Melrose host is frying sausages, pancakes, syrup and eggs.

I walk out to the cold sand and greet the morning as it sails in, gracing one veranda after another. Giant wooden beach-guard benches are deserted; the season has ended. A tug draws the horizon like a woman pencilling-on her eyebrows in the morning.
More of Ocean Grove wakes, stretches, puts out its trash and makes coffee. Neighbour 1 exits his house: 7.32 a.m. Neighbours 2 and 3 strap their son, neighbour 4, into their vast car: 7.41 a.m. and drive to Wal-Mart: 7.49 a.m.







































After breakfast we try swimming, but an under-pull and shark drive us back to the boardwalk. A Lumberjack is walking Malia, his pet pig. Shaun inspects her and turns his nose. 
























The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s exhibition, Between Here and There: Passages in Contemporary Photography, is appropriate for my trip with camera, letter-paper and notebook.
On Kawara is represented by his postal project, ‘I got up’. Here is New York on hundreds of blue-sky postcards, shorthand for a universal cliché.  Kawara posted a card everyday, each one elliptically un-intimate: “I got up at” and an exact time stamped on it in capitals.
Yet some intimacy hides here, in the admittance of the everyday into art; in our shared understanding of sleep and rising; and in each card’s nakedness without an envelope. This last factor makes the messages, however general, vulnerable to strangers’ eyes and interpretations. In this, the project is similar to Thompson and Craighead’s London Wall, which publishes instant messages intercepted from the city’s social networking traffic. ‘I got up’ has a wider time dimension, though, ranging from the time the postcard’s photograph was taken, through Kawara’s getting-up, choosing the card, stamping it, posting it, and on into the following day, when the card arrives at its recipient.
Some might suggest such a delayed form of communication is obsolete, and adds a tragic tone to Kawara’s project. Effort and cost are certainly striking in here, but perhaps more magnificent than tragic. The cards have roamed across the city and show it from all over, forming a drifting urban poetry much like Kawara’s own movement (he sent postcards from as many as 28 cities in 1973). Their power is in the unsaid: the thousands of possible stories that might follow ‘I got up…’








Anne Turyn’s Flashbulb Memories explore our recollections of receiving significant or fateful news, bridging between private and public history. I was at Rhiannon’s 12th birthday party on September the 11th. Her mother hovered in front of the TV screen and forgot to light the cake. 

Svetlana Kopystiansky grafts the top halves of postcards to her own photographs of similar places, creating spatial doppelgangers that ask whether vicarious experience can rival the genuine. (Similarities can be drawn here with On Kawara’s postcards of New York, which evoke the touristic dependency on witnessing and photographing as proof, and with Anne Turyn’s witness accounts.)
Matthew Buckingham also plays with photography’s truth-value, fooling us with his doctored photograph proposal for Canal Street to be flooded into a real canal.
Ed Ruscha is also in surveying mood, photographing Every building on Sunset Strip in a concertina that is readable both ways up, and annotated with tiny street names and numbers. It is as if Ruscha and his camera have followed Georges Perec’s instructions to study the street.
Here is an American acquisition, a segue…

 … Southwards some blocks, to The Whitney Museum’s exhibition of Lee Friedlander’s America By Car. His black and white photographs document archaic road signs and gas stations across America. However, while we expect him to be travelling in a Cadillac, his modern car brings us up to date, undermining what appeared predictably ‘retro’. Currently at Tate Britain, Gerard Byrne’s twenty black and white photographs of the American vernacular, taken in 2005 but looking like 1965, are similar. While we often say everything changes, to say nothing changes, is also true. This city is a synchrony, and elements that stand out as being particularly modern – people blogging from Blackberries on the subway – are anachronisms instantly reticulated into the weave of times and recognized as only slight variations in what has been before. 


Gerard Byrne

Thus Yoko Ono in 1962 coexists with more contemporary art in the Whitney’s own merge of eras. Mailing Piece 1’s directive reads: Send a sound of a smile, and Mailing piece 3: Send a wind around the world many times until it becomes a delicate breeze.  Along with MoMA’s Wish Tree and Rivane Neuenschwander’s 2003 I Wish Your Wish at The New Museum (ribbons printed with wishes, which visitors could take away and add to with their own), the city is a blur of original and revival joss-stick-utopia.




Marcel Breuer’s seductive cast concrete Whitney building is itself a slice of early 1960s design, its entrance a walkway over a moat into a foyer of moon-like lights. Barnett Newman’s black, vanilla and concrete coloured zips in The Promise, hanging upstairs, correspond perfectly. Agnes Martin’s Milk River is almost the same age as the building, minimal yet luxurious in its whiteness that actually comprises cream-strawberry-antique-buttermilk-soft-blankets-and-baby-cream. Matthew Barney’s Drawing Restraint 2 is also a seductively pale combination of white plastic, dun-grubby paper, and black and white photos.


Agnes Martin Milk River


























Russians and Ukrainians promenade in the sun along the boardwalk between Brighton Beach and Coney Island, dressed in their Sabbath-best. An old man wearing a radio on a string around his neck crackles with Klezmer and static as he passes. Further on, from the direction of the Cyclone, rap blears territorially ‘We’re Brooklyners’ over a saccharine backing vocal ‘Be my American Boy’, and the air is all salt and granita. Nathan’s Hot Dogs, a blue and red billboard twenty foot high, is framed by a Ferris wheel, and announces that this year’s winner ate 68 hotdogs in 10 minutes. Crazy-Legs Jack Conti, of Cannoli fame, has his portrait here too. He must do the eating contest circuit.
The Russian women flaunt nylon and gold buckles, their lips pencilled, sluggishly, in. A pair of young Jews passes by and one takes the kippah from his head and puts it on his girlfriend’s, laughing.
Pizza In A Cone is advertised in hand-painted capitals and illustrations, but in vain; the stall is empty. Next-door’s stallholder has a bottle in a bag and a mug that he guards closely. He is gesticulating at a blonde who eventually marches into his stall and confiscates the mug.










Later, we share a bench with two retired NYPD officers eating platters of steak and a melon. One tells us about September the 11th, and finding corpses of firemen who had pocketed watches and jewellery from bodies, moments before dying themselves. I think of a mackerel I once gutted, to find two other mackerel in its stomach, still immaculately undigested. The other officer doesn’t say a word, just chomps, blandly.



















A hundred miles under ground, plastic palms grow between the tables, and a conveyor belt grills bagels and chills Tropicana.






 







Manhattan’s skyline is a masonry thicket framed by the girders of Brooklyn Bridge. Hart Crane stands on the Bridge at dusk and addresses it:

… traffic lights […] skim thy swift/ unfractioned idiom, immaculate sigh of stars/ beading thy path – condense eternity/ and we have seen night lifted in thine arms.

His synthesis of America’s natural and technological wonders is like a screenplay-poem for Koyaanisqatsi. We fly high over canyons, deserts, power stations and congested freeways, scale, abundance and cacophonous noise overpower. America is presented as being out of balance (the Hopi translation of the film’s title).
This is also the feeling here, on Brooklyn Bridge. Downtown Manhattan is swaying, its skyscrapers the tallest letters in the world, [composing] a gigantic rhetoric of excess in both expenditure and production.  












It is New York Fashion Week. The Lincoln Center’s elegance is supplemented with an additional ‘stone’ façade that flows from a rectangular mass into the cinched waist of a mannequin, then out again, forming a ‘skirt’ of steps. This is sartorial architecture, through which models and photographers enter and exit; it is cut like Dior, mysteriously hard and soft… Hussein Chalayan, Alexander McQueen, Yohji Yamamoto.
Women filter from the arena down the steps and across the city. Two blocks further, they replace Manolos with flats.
At night, a convoy of Hilfiger jeeps speeds through Central Park, models on safari.  And one solitary, chiselled figure with his foot on a transistor radio reclines on a girder of Brooklyn Bridge, before a clicking thicket of cameras.
Come Sunday, the arena at The Lincoln Center is a crumple of tarpaulin pock-marked in stone-pattern and gaffer-tape. The mannequin is gone, leaving scaffolding and a marquee shrugging between their solid neighbours. 
















Taxi Driver







A preppy style pervades: sweaters are slung over the shoulder and battered satchels swing against American Apparel legs. Students bask as sleek as the black squirrels that dart under the feet of acrobats and preachers.
A woman is asked out as much for her clothes as for herself says Edith Wharton. Sartorial currency abounds.












Under Manhattan Bridge, beside the wavelets and brick factories hundreds of brides adorn the shore.
On alternate street corners, booms and lamps confect the city into a triangulation of films.
























I finally found my elusive Almond Joy bar in a Broadway candy store. It was the last one, and sweated in the evening’s heat. I saw widest person I have ever seen there too.
And outside, SUVs, trucks called Mack, 16 fl oz milkshakes, muffins and dim sum ‘tiny buns’ the size of my fist. 

















































Beyond the little Church of St Paul, Manhattan’s text contains a gaping ellipsis. The Twin Towers and the excess they represented are audible below the whir of construction on Ground Zero, a kind of white noise or ringing silence. A big un-said. New Yorkers with whom I speak seem keen for redevelopment, and although the concept of a tower seems provocative, it is understandable in the context of the surrounding architecture. To preserve the void might be to preserve a wound.
The following day is 9/11’s ninth anniversary and TV broadcasts the deceased’s names, alphabetically, for several hours.


Doug Aitken













Broad Street was once Herengracht, Stuyvesant and his elders bringing their home across the Atlantic with them, as did we later, turning Amsterdam into York.
In those days land north of City Hall was agricultural, and when the Hall was built in the 1800s, its north façade was not clad with marble because it was not expected to be viewed from there (other than by the odd grazing sheep).  Broadway was the city’s spine, running north from its salty tip.  The Bowery, another vital avenue, derives from the Old Norse ‘bua’ to dwell, hence the words building, ‘Boer’ (country dweller, farmer) and ‘bowery’ (country dwelling). Etymology betrays the history of the city, in this case, a rural and often Dutch one. Even crowd comes from the Dutch verb ‘kruien’: to push in a wheelbarrow.
When plunged into Times Square’s neon, where everything is done in a hurry – all is intense anxiety, reminding oneself of the grassy roots of the city is reassuring, and highlights the absurdity of its extravagance.
The Square’s pavements are saturated with villains, heroes, sirens and lovers. Radio City Music Hall flashes gaudily, lighting the pavement where Al Pacino learns of his father, The Godfather’s, shooting. This is where Catherine and Rodolpho want to come, in A View from the Bridge, to witness the Square’s electricity. Their Red Hook in Brooklyn is now an Ikea.














Edward Hopper












Passing south through Williamsburg’s fashionably decrepit streets we enter the city’s Orthodox Jewish enclave, every figure on the pavement wrapped in dustcoats and tall, ill-fitting hats. The city is an atlas that has been shuffled, Michael Pye says, but here is a clump of cards that escaped the shuffle and has thrived on a patch of Brooklyn. Yellow school buses draw up beside a synagogue, their destination and registration entirely Hebrew.












“How is England?” he asks.
“Fine. Not as sunny as New Jersey, but fine,” I say.
“Not too much immigration? The English language still strong?”
I’m lurched into uncertainty. The main avenue is dappled with shade and wicker baskets. He proceeds: Am I not worried that immigrants are diluting the English language and nation? I reply that I am not, and that English has always been a fusion of Anglo-Saxon, Norse, German, Norman, Hebrew... England is interesting precisely because of its diversity, and this is also the case with America. He disagrees.
“What about Obama or Condoleezza Rice?” I try.
“I don’t give a dime for them. Their kind doesn’t assimilate. Greek, Roman or Saxon blood is fine, but the blacks and the Muslims don’t assimilate.”
I can’t make a scene standing here on the sidewalk. My camera feels like a weapon.
“May I take your photo?” I ask.
“Sure,” he says, smoothing his shock of hair, “and while you’re young, think about what I’ve had to say. And call me Socrates.”
“Interesting to meet you.” I aim my camera and shoot.





















Walk/ Don’t Walk/ Walk







Back at the hostel we heat water with an immersion and jam jar, sipping from it while wondering at our good fortune.