Tuesday, May 15, 2007
Alone in the big city
Shanghai, China, May 2007 [Click to enlarge]
This city seems to have defined the word frenetic. Crowds of people don't ebb and flow as they would in a large American city. They simply flow. There's no such thing as downtime on a Shanghai street in the middle of a business day. It's an energy level I've never seen anywhere else - not even New York's Times Square. It's one of the indelible memories of this place that I carried with me on the plane home.
Yet if the streets themselves are the mighty rivers of commerce and activity, a quick peek to the side reveals a quieter world of hidden alleys and passageways. Hustlers pushing counterfeit merchandise prowl the streets looking for interested customers before leading them through the impossible-to-navigate rabbit warren of old stone and concrete paths. The sun, so bright and constant on the main road, shines only intermittently here, its narrow beams slashing into the dark gray with no apparent pattern or logic. The final destination, deep within clusters of forgettable and forgotten buildings, almost never has so much as a single window.
Yet for all their forbidding dinginess and age, these places offer a sort of refuge from the massive flow of life mere feet away. They are relatively quiet, shady spots in a city that seems to have neither. It is here where my colleague spotted a man reading and tapped me on the shoulder. He thought I'd find the scene poignant. He was absolutely right.
Your turn: What is this man's story?