Saturday, September 23, 2006
I'm accustomed to crossing cultures. Despite the U.S. attempt to appropriate the melting pot idea, I have yet to encounter a city containing more streets than "Main" which does not contain its own (however small) ghettoes - excuse me, towns.
So that even the sparkling, British streets of Victoria have their own Chinatown Alley. You can find this arch of carved dragons and tourist gold-leaf next door to the Authentic Native American Tribal Trading Post & Souvenir Shop. T-shirts on sale 5/$10.
And hidden market squares.
It is fascinating to me what one block can hide. How much open space is concealed by apartment towers in every city.
What one alley can reveal.
Please don't misunderstand me. I love these hidden areas. The sparkle of paper lights, the bright colors people create when they live in small, dirty spaces. Benches are red, storefronts yellow, and most people (especially those stuck in driving by on their way to wherever they are always late to) never see the courtyard in the middle of the block.
I have found entire parks, gardens, fountains and treasures just by walking down the space between the buildings. These hidden worlds are magical.
Worlds that can only be seen at night. Worlds that don't involve tourists. Where, in order to find them, you have to find the only streets where busses still run after dark. Worlds which are, surprisingly, devoid of those pesky humans.
I watched the lights of Parliament reflected in the harbor to the sound of Canadian Mounties arresting a gentleman for sleeping in public.
Despite the rumors in the states that the Canadian police/army/defense have no power, they certainly act just like their American cousins.