After Day Six of the Games of the XXX Olympiad, I have to report that Henri Cartier-Bresson still holds the gold medal as the greatest street photographer in the annals of man. At least, he's not been displaced by me.
The image above was supposed to be an iconic shot of London's Tower Bridge at twilight, with the five Olympic rings hanging from the upper segment of the span. As you can see, they're not hanging.
I don't know why. Yesterday evening I hopped on one of Boris's Bikes and arrived at Tower Hill just as the sun was going down. But I found that the cheeky Brits had made the rings retractable. Then they'd retracted them. You can barely see them in the image above, tucked away.
No one seemed to know why the rings had disappeared. My theory is that the International Olympic Committee is negotiating a sponsorship deal and has withdrawn them until payment is made. I should think Verizon, AT&T or T-Mobile would pay handsomely for the right to call themselves the Official Sponsor of the Olympic Rings. Or, perhaps, a pretzel company. I know we can count on the IOC not to leave any potential sponsorship money on the table.
Disappointed, I docked my Boris Bike and paid 4.30 pounds for an underground ticket to Tottenham Court Road. I know the fare is extortionate, but it was getting dark and I didn't want to get crushed by a big, red London bus on the ride back. I was afraid that the British tabloids would have fun with the story: "American Cyclist's Skull Crushed by Bus in Cheapside. No Evidence of Brains Found At Scene." I don't want people to laugh at my obituary.
On the Central Line, I failed again as a street photographer. I pushed onto the crowded train. Three Americans were seated in front of me. They wore bright red tee-shirts that said "Jews for Jesus" on the backs and "Jesus Made Me Kosher" on the front. Two Russians were standing opposite them, pressed against their knees; one of the Russians, in accented English, asked them where they were from. The Jews for Jesus beamed. They were from Kansas. The Russian beamed. He had been to Kansas, as a fencer for the Russian national team.
I had a small epiphany. I suddenly understood why Baron de Coubertin had revived the games in 1896. It was all part of a Divine Plan to allow formerly atheist Russians to know the Lord.
I wanted to record the moment. Henri Cartier-Bresson would doubtless have done so. Unfortunately for me, my camera was in my backpack and my packpack was pressed agains several tons of human flesh. I couldn't get the camera out. And, as is the way with great photographic moments, this one evaporated quickly. The Jews for Jesus got out at Chancery Lane. The Russians took their seats, still happily heathen.
"You'll go back to Moscow," I said in rusty Russian. "You'll tell people about Jews for Jesus. And no one will believe you."
They laughed. I missed that shot, too.