Monday, May 07, 2012


We've been taking advantage of the gorgeous weather lately to go out with the kids to cafes, parks, the lake, by the river.

Saturday the lake was still and clear, though covered with fluff from what I believe are some species of cottonwood tree. 

But it was weird - we noticed as we went into the park that the usual popcorn and soap bubble vendors weren't around. Then we saw several police clustered around a fast-food kiosk, supervising its dismantling. On our way out of the park near noon, we saw a camera crew racing in.

It looks like it might be a city-wide sweep of informal or unlicensed vendors. It made me kind of sad, actually, since it's probably more politically motivated than anything else, and the people hurt the most will be those who lack the start-up capital to open a formal business. People on the margins trying to make a living.

Later, when we walked down by the river, I realized that the streets were strangely empty of another informal sector - the women and children who are usually at this intersection begging. It's annoying to be asked for money from an insistent child who follows you and tugs at your clothes, but at the same time it was sobering to see them all gone. I wonder if it's part of a city-wide crackdown of some kind? Even the people who come around to scavenge scrap metal and glass from the city dumpsters were absent.

But it wasn't a holiday for pickpockets. As we were leaving this park to head home, waiting for the light to change at the intersection, I was telling Terry something when I felt my shoulder-bag move against my hip. My lizard-brain instantly keyed into the man standing too close behind me, and my heart began pounding with adrenaline as I turned around and checked my bag. It was unzipped, but nothing was missing (camera, cell phone, about $70 in cash). The man moved away nonchalantly but I noticed a sweatshirt draped over his arm and hand. He didn't meet my eyes. I turned to Terry and said "if that guy's a pickpocket he's a really bad one." When I turned around again he was gone.

In almost two years that's been my first encounter with a pickpocket (that I know of) - other than losing my wallet on the bus to Vlora, but I'm pretty sure that was my fault and its ultimate disappearance was a "finders keepers" kind of thing. I've heard there's been a rise in petty crime since the economy in Greece has been tanking, and Albanians living and working there have been returning home, rising the tide of unemployment here. Everything reverberates; there are always ripple effects. The water looks still, but it is not frozen.

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