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The Ultimate Fairytale : A short history of Greece, Rome, Israel, England, France, and Germany.

If the world were flat, a skyscraper, moving through the floggistrom, would indeed scrape it.

But isn't that what walking is about?

On this preposterous supposition, skyscrapers exist to amplify a feeling which comes about through a misconception.

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I spent two weeks in New York. Travelling alone, I had to wait for my luggage to be scrutinized through an electron microscope. One does not travel for pleasure alone, apparently: such is what the customs official insinuated, anyway.

I must admit I was not quite sure what I was doing there. Naturally, there was the event which shook our generation, to bring my mind ever back to the city.

And, of course, plenty of movies and TV series were centred there. I discovered that they had given me a false impression of places like Harlem, for instance. Or perhaps it is as coming from South Africa that I felt no more at risk than walking around my own neighbourhood.

Hoping to find better accommodation--at least, more suitably priced--I had not booked my entire stay beforehand--I had reluctantly accepted that a BNB does not serve breakfast (which is no doubt why it is not called a B&B). This was in Harlem. After extending my stay for two nights, I was eventually put out on my heels. Up and down the subways and the streets I went, and eventually found a hotel in Brooklyn.

And now I felt like I was actually in America, at last.

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Large billboards portending the end of the world: this was New York. A couple in love, walking along the street in the evening: this was Brooklyn.

But the Brooklyn-ers didn't understand the meaning of the word kettle. I feel somewhat awkward explaining to an English person the meaning of a simple word.

They do seem to understand the simple things, and a small privately owned take away shop made me the best breakfast I remember having.

But I couldn't stay. Not without being able to make myself a cup of tea.

Now the billboards were portending my fate: I could consider myself lucky if I kept the clothes on my back. Another day in the subways and on the streets; night fell, and I was wandering around Central Park. After dodging the cops for a while I decided it wise to leave, and headed down to the Staten Island ferry. This bought me some time, going backwards and forwards, but there were still a few hours till sunrise when I was ejected from the ferry and then the ferry terminal on the island: the insignificant one.

I had been here before. In my first few days, while I had a place to stay, and in between looking for a new one, I had done the regular sightseeing. And there's nothing like a free ferry ride for someone on a shoe-string budget. There was something very homely about this island, to me. They talk of the homely and the comely, do they not?

Yes, this was my first taste of America.

And now, outside the ferry building, on a bench, I lay me down to rest. Foolishly I had wrapped myself in an aircraft blanket. I rather feel like one could sleep like a baby on the South Pole itself, under one of those.

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The shelter is an institution that is foreign to South Africans. They were friendly folk, those who lived there: they pointed me to a cheap hotel.

Now possessing only an aircraft blanket, and the clothes on my back, the billboards seemed to be having their way with me. I figured I would be safer to conclude my stay on this island.

I mentioned two things which had brought me to New York; there was a third: its history. What does the Statue of Liberty represent?

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The Anglo-Saxons had been fighting the French for all eternity. It was not by choice: that it was necessary to be ever on the defensive was proved by every blade of English grass nourished by human blood.

But there was an attraction to making War, in the hearts of French-women. Thus the Redcoats; thus the Uniform.

Thus, Joan of Arc.

Related: South Africa, America.

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