I got my first tattoo the weekend before my 22nd birthday. I decided – while sitting on the floor of a bathroom stall that I should’ve been cleaning, at the job I worked full-time when I wasn’t in school – on the word “bluets”. Or the title of Maggie Nelson’s lyrical talisman of a book. It was only later that I found out about its cult-object status.
Everybody does it. Watch from the bottom of the escalator at Naples’ Toledo metro station and you see heads stop turning from side to side like loose bottle caps and pivot upwards. They’re looking at a portal into another dimension, or more precisely, station architect Oscar Tusquets Blanca’s perfect cone-shaped tunnel cut deep into the ceiling ...
Years ago, someone told me that the best way to get through a crowd at a nightclub or concert is to dance your way through. The bodies around you will have more sympathy for a dancer – they’ll shift and accommodate, flex and bend – than for someone simply pushing.
The train was to leave Berlin appallingly early. Having confused the German words for Saturday and Sunday in sleepy delirium, I missed the bus to the station. Sitting against a wall on the deserted street corner, my skin blooming with hives, I breathed deeply, clutching the fingers of my left hand in time with each round.
I am, in the purest sense, a lunatic... Given the ancient mythological connection between the menstrual cycle and the moon, I can think of no better word to describe the lurching fear in my stomach as I lie by the pool on the first day of my holiday.
“In the mountains of San Gabriel, overlooking the lowland vines and fruit groves, Mother Nature is most ruggedly, thornily savage.” – John Muir
A failed rock star first made me really think about them. Until then, they’d just been there, a looming wall of jagged green blocking off the skyline to the north. Silent and a little foreboding, preventing the city’s careless sprawl from creeping any further.
You look out over the island from the top of a cypress-scattered hill, surrounded on every side by crystal blue: an expensive diamond moat, cut especially for you. Your dusty feet dangle off the deckchair in the shade of your bell tent, its khaki canvas swaying in the breeze, a twisted rope of healing crystals hanging gracefully in the doorway.
If you have the patience, you can find almost anything on the market floor at Souk al-Ahad. Hiding beneath pink plastic pianos, among stuffed Hello Kitties, giant soup ladles and mountains of miscellaneous clothing, fading lives are scattered like dice.
Empathy: the intangible architecture that supports our deepest connections; the unseen building blocks that help us to understand the needs, perspectives and motives of others; the ticket for a society racked with hate?
“Are you going to experience Resort Cuba or the Real Cuba?” my friend asked me as I prepared to leave Canada for Havana. “Or the Actual Cuba?” she added, neatly encapsulating the traveller vs tourist debate.