Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The London Bankside and the Millennium Bridge

The stone stairway, whose footing slid into the brown and ancient Thames River, provided seating for the early and the jolly.  The Globe Theater shouldered the bank above the stairs. Behind the Globe’s closed doors, Macbeth applied his makeup, the staging crew fingered the bags of fakery blood and checked the trap doors.  Having arrived well before the play’s ticket-takers, prepped for drama, I looked out to the scene of the London bankside on that September eve, searching for some memorable and fortuitous entertainment.

The Cheese Grater, the Gherkin, St. Paul’s Cathedral, and a multitude of other lesser known rooflines postured boldly in the bright slantwise light at the end of the rare sunny English day.  The pub quayside filled-up with plastic-cupped ale drinkers, the sidewalk traffic moved slowly past the huckster magicians and the performers - men with hoops, whose languid and majestic bubbles swept sideways followed by cascades of little iridescent globes - jettisoning children into bubble popping ecstasy.

There was already a rarity of rail side seats, but as I nudged between two gawkers and looked over the edge down to the bankside of the Thames River, I spied that stairway to the river below me.  There was a seat or two remaining on them; that is, if I cared to insist that the two lovers scoop up their banquet spread on a napkin between them and balance their edibles in their laps, leaving me a seat.  Or if I requested of an elderly couple - sitting a chilly foot apart grouching at each other – if they couldn’t share their animosity at a closer range.  I erred towards hovering patiently until the elders, still grousing, left.  I took their fifth-row seat up, safely above the occasional lapping wakes produced by the river traffic.  Snub-nosed tugboats, barges emitting microphone squawks over the heads of tourists and two lone rowers.  I unclipped the lens cap on my camera and surveyed the glorious expanse of the tidal river, the juxtaposition of old and new buildings all overarched by the Millennium Bridge.

I focused my camera on the bridge’s passengers, snapping photos of the characters walking in and out of my camera’s zoomed lens.  An assortment of humanity.  The father with his two children on leashes, leaping like monkeys pulling in opposite directions.  The hunched financiers, heads down appearing exhausted and distracted, clutching briefcases.  The selfie takers, heads up, stalling traffic into bunches.  A continuum of walkers crossing the sky.

And then, that girl with the bike crossing the bridge. 

Unbeknownst to her, with her frock highlighted by the last rays of the day, the roundness of her wheels contrasting to an upsweep of stark and gripping lines, her head turned in curiosity, she pushed her bike directly and perfectly into a killer photo shot.  And then, she disappeared anonymous into the streets of London.

I capped the lens.  Shut off the camera.  Turned my head and there above me rail side was a photographer with a huge lens.  As I joined my sister, my daughter and her beloved in the crowd entering the Globe Theater, my sister said that the photographer had been taking photos of me taking photos.  Swept through the doors hidden, I too became anonymous, memorable and fortuitous entertainment in the drama of the London bankside on a September eve.


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