May 2nd, 2006

me: ooh!

Mommy, can I go out and kill tonight?

Today, I walked from Vauxhall Station down the Thames Path into the sprawling, ugly council estates of Wandsworth. I felt alien, and not just because I was the only non-black person in sight. Poverty seems to drive people into the streets. Mothers with children too young to go to school, elderly people making the arduous trek from home to the shop for their groceries, gangs of idle teenagers looking for trouble or making it. They stared at middle-class me with a mixture of curiosity and hostility. I could see their thoughts in their eyes. "What are you doing here? You belong in the West End. Go away." I took my Lomo photos as discreetly as possible and obeyed.

Three blocks later, I was in Lambeth, heading toward The Oval down a wide, tree-lined avenue. Since affluence seems to seal people in their houses, I faced only the bright white colonnades fronting each building. I meandered down the silent street past drawn shades and home security warning signs. Halfway to the end, I spotted a house covered by overgrown vines and peeling paint, with a small unkempt garden where the other houses sported spotless paving stones. Everyone in that neighborhood hates that scraggly, singular home, seeing the zeroes dropping off their property values every time they pass it.

I hope the oblivious, eccentric owner lives to be a hundred and sixty.