The above photo is from my spec music video password: BRMC

Monday, November 19, 2012


I’ll probably get mugged one of these days because I'm a stubborn idiot.


Wandering the streets at night in an attempt to discover the “personality” of a city is something not to pass up.  Seriously.

And no, I don't mean "wandering the streets" in any kind of sketchy way.  "Walking the streets" is probably literally accurate, however there's a whole lot of connotations associated with that.

So no, we'll stick with "wandering". 

Frankly, I don’t necessarily recommend it for everyone.  And keep in mind I’ve only done this in tourist areas where the police presence is extensive… indeed I have no illusions that I’m a clueless half-white American.

But wandering the streets at night in famous cities is a whole other experience that many people might forget to do.

You can see the places that are normally ruined by crowds and tourists.  You can enjoy the "famous" spaces that so many a poet and intellectual have seen and fell in love with.  And you can appreciate the architecture that has stood for hundreds, if not thousands of years without the overcrowding that is so emblematic of the 21st century.

In the peace of the night, you see the cities themselves for what they are.  In fact, in some ways the true underlying personality of the physical space only comes out when people are absent... when the cloud of humanity is temporarily gone.  There is clarity in witnessing a space for its inanimate value alone.  Think of yourself as an archeologist, seeing the city long after the people are gone.

I think that’s a whole other experience in itself that many people might miss.

Take the Spanish Steps in Rome for example:

At dusk
Late at night
You can be at peace in a place that millions of people pass through:

At dusk
Late at night
(I know the Spanish Steps are famous for "people watching", but tourists don't always make the most interesting of subjects...)

Or take the Trevi Fountain.  In fact, I accidently ran into this on my first night in Rome.  In Los Angeles, you might go for a walk and accidently run into a 7-11.  In Rome, you turn a corner and history and art smack you in the face.

No crowds means you can get close

So, what does central Rome present in the middle of the night?  It's a city somewhere in between the past and the present.  A city bound down by history and tradition...  The reminders are everywhere.  You turn a corner, and they're there.

Or take Paris at night in the winter:

To see the snow fall in silence on a Parisian street is like being on a movie set… only that this movie set is real:

Silence... the fact that it is winter helps

So what is Paris at night?  …A glamorous palace on earth that doesn’t seem real, hence the movie-set-like feeling from the photos.  Paris is the empire from a higher realm and the architectural cues are everywhere to remind you of that.  Paris whispers seductively into your ear, "We're better than you, petit americain".

Or New York and Times Square well after midnight:

NY is never fully empty

New York… excitement and power looking down upon you in a city that never sleeps.  It's like standing under giants.

It must be noted that I only wandered in the tourist areas that have made these cities famous.  In fact I wasn't seeking some sort of "underground", "alternative", or "real" side of the city.  I'm sure that is a whole other adventure in itself.  In other words, I was only exploring what the city wants to present as its best face to the world... its best Sunday clothes, so to speak, for its guests.

Either way, next time you’re in a major tourist city go for a walk at night and see what city-personality you discover...  what underlying theme does the city project?

You won’t be disappointed.

Just don’t get mugged.

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