Just thinking last night about scary places I have been after writing about Tijuana. Some places are scary because of a particular incident and are not in themselves inherently scary. I didn’t for example find Easterhouse particularly frightening when I lived there, although of course there were plenty of stories and you had to keep your guard up. Later, I lived in Tottenham which had a reputation at least as bad as Glasgow’s Easterhouse Estate but again, as long as you didn’t do anything stupid like not get out of the way of a group of black kids coming toward you, it was perfectly fine. It was while I was living there that PC Blaylock was murdered by the mob just a quarter of a mile away.
I found the Greyhound bus station in Detroit very scary. The only white faces waiting for a bus to Toledo at eleven o’clock at night. Not unlike Tijuana, it is when you arrive at the interface usually black/white, that things go awry. I remember visiting Belfast during the troubles on business; I couldn’t believe people could live normally there. But they did.
But the scariest place I have ever been by a million miles was Lahore. Absolutely terrifying city with a population of around 7 million, nearly all of them wanting to rob me or rape me or just kill me. And I kid you not. We were there for a week in the Monsoon season and it rained constantly and torrentially the whole time. We were attacked by cats, strays presumably and I honestly don’t know what they would have done if they had managed to get in; screeching, howling scratching at the doors and windows all night. Then when the rain eased and we decided to walk into the city late afternoon to see some of the tourist sights, we were pushed and shoved and threatened by a large group [more than twenty]of Pak youths who managed to force us into a water fountain in the park where we were drenched. No adult passer-by helped. Could have got seriously dangerous had not some uniformed police appeared.
I was mugged once in Glasgow and if I had been quicker, sharper I would have seen it coming. They didn’t get much. My cousin thought it was funny. Tokyo at night is the place for muggings but by day, it feels perfectly safe. Miami is another place where you can easily and inadvertently cross the black-white interface.
Other dangerous places I have been:
Kandahar: no problem.
Brixton, South London: no problem-even at night.
Manchester Moss Side: big problem; wild dogs everywhere. Don’t get out of the car under any circumstances in fact the City Council officially advises you not to go at all.
Modesto: we stopped off in Modesto once. Do you know where that is? It’s just south of Stockton CA; it is the gateway to Yosemite. What happened was we had booked a hotel [from England] by phone and by letter . . . this was before you used the Internet for all that . . . but stupidly hadn’t realised it was a national holiday weekend and three guesses . . . we don’t have your reservations sir and we are fully booked. As of course was every other hotel/motel for a hundred miles around. So we were on our own, exhausted, tired and hungry back at the bus station at ten o’clock at night sitting on our suitcases when we were approached by three or four local toughs. We had our daughter with us . . . ten years old . . . but they were intent on robbing us, maybe worse. Really difficult situation there was no way we could have taken them on. But . . . just as things were reaching crisis point a police car drew up. Actually it wasn’t a police car it was a prison guard in a secure car for transporting prisoners; there was a large penitentiary just up the road and he was delivering a skinny black guy who had just been released, to the bus station. The four thugs evaporated and the prison guard got on his intercom thing and found us a room for the night near the jail. Then he gave us a lift there because he was going back to the pen. So we sat in the back in a kind of metal cage and heard about his life as a prison warden.
Very lucky intervention. And so completely unexpected to be attacked in a town like Modesto.
Mashhad, Iran: we made the mistake in Mashhad of getting into a taxi and the driver wouldn’t let us out. Very, very frightening experience. You don’t get exclusive use of a taxi in Iran; the driver will stop and pick up other fares and drop them off as he travels to your destination so gradually the cab filled up with all these bearded men with their groping fingers everywhere. At one point a Mullah got in and far from saving us from our plight, his fingers were out groping everywhere. Biting scratching screaming and shouting worked eventually but the driver left us on the dusty streets of some horrible housing estate that we had to find our way out of.
I may post more on this subject later.