Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Armchair travel

I'm well aware that the secret to greatness is the ability to edit oneself, but I mean "I'm well aware" so as to say - I'm "well aware" I should save money, for instance, but I'm yet to develop the skills to actually carry this action out. According to Aristotle, who did not believe one could 'have' ethics - only those you acted upon count - I certainly do not understand the value of editing. So, it is in this spirit I present you, dear reader, with fifteen photographs of these 1960s American Geographical Society 'Around the World' guides I bought at the Regent book sale positively ages ago. I got them for $1 each and they are taking turns being on display in my bedroom. At the moment: Bermuda.

What I love about these covers is the way the basic, stereotypical little drawings, making spots on the map - as if you could go to that place and indeed see a real life cart being pulled by oxen - show you the changing views people have of other places - of overseas.

Aside from that, I love the fantasy of a place, which only exists in our collective or individual imaginations - and which will never stand-up to the reality once you arrive. People always look at me questionably, as I talk-up a place I've never been, and ask if perhaps I'm worried I might be disappointed with the real place. I always feel wildly flattered by the idea that my pitiful imagination could possibly dream up an actual pulsating, spontaneous and utterly 'Other' place - not to mention that I could, within my controlled imagination, actually ever imagine another person. A real place, and real people, will always be infinitely more than a controlled, you-absorbed fantasy place.

But the fantasy has a lightness and silliness about it which I quite adore also. Which is why you'll find me sometimes, in a bar in Bangkok, reading an old novel set in Burma and day-dreaming about 'Burma.'

These ridiculous images and maps are precisely for people like me. Below: good old Austria.

And back to Bermuda ! Cricket and cucumber sandwiches, exotic fragrances, exploring hidden waterfalls, horse-drawn carts and early morning jets back to New York.

Below: a friendly traffic warden in safari get-up helps a couple of blissed-out, slightly drunk tourists on their way.

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