Sometimes travel's a wake-up call; there's often a dark side, be it the 1st World, or the 3rd...and what exactly is a world by numbers anyway?
...there's a guy on a busy Korean street corner, prostrate on a low wooden raft on small rubber wheels. There's sun, but mid-morning ice. It's minus 3deg
Traffic lights flash, cars and trucks not 2m distant. City folk give him a wide berth, nothing said - those bent legs shrivelled, face down on his trolley top, tartan woollen cap askew, skaters' knee protectors, gloved hands. The clothes oddly hippy, straight from the 70's... there're clean, bright colours; someone cares.
This twisted body looks far too frail to make it another week, but he lives day by day. And there's music for a withered body and rushing shoppers, from a battered box propped at the head of his trolley. And there's another on top, smaller, with a crooked slot; a faded picture of a fresh faced woman with long dark hair - a daughter, a wife, a lover?
I pull off one glove, stoop and drop notes in the slot. I feel his sideways look, and there's a shuffle as he struggles to turn and raise his head, lopsided, one hand pushed into wet pavement stones for balance. I wish him the best; in English. There's no way he'd understand, but there's a quiet toothless smile; his whiskered face tilted towards mine as he struggles to hold it there for one fleeting moment.
I wish him a warm bed, for someone to lift him, to change him and feed him, and someone to tuck him in on bitter winter nights. I wish I knew where the pretty young girl was.
Later, I'm thinking of the homeless, the hapless or maimed; even the 1st World often tough; in pot-of-gold cities I know well: in the EU, New York, Norway and Melbourne.
- "beggars, charlatans and thieves" we cry; always out to fleece us...well, maybe not always. There's the maimed from within and without; and yes...There, but for the Grace of God, go I.
Is there a increasing world-wide gap between the haves and the have-nots, and do we really care?
Happy New Year Frank East Village New York
Photo: Stairs and Ladders - East Village, New York City, USA _ Ian Cochrane