Notes from a fascinating world.
The world is like a bazaar, full of interesting odds and ends, and I've been exiled into it. This is my all-over-the-map (literally and metaphorically) attempt at capturing some of the world's many wonders.
From Bogota I went down to the Amazon Basin, where three countries — Colombia, Brazil, and Peru — meet in what’s called the “Tres Fronteras,” the Three Borders.
The Colombian border town, Leticia, is directly connected by its main street to Tabatinga in Brazil. Indeed, it’s almost more accurate to describe Leticia and Tabatinga as a single town with a border dissecting it, one side speaking Spanish and the other Portuguese. From either town it is just a short ride by boat to the more significant Brazilian town of Benjamin Constant, to Peru on the far bank, or farther upriver in Colombia toward the settlement of Puerto Nariño. Boats travel freely among the countries, and no one ever asks to see your passport.
Last month I was on Easter Island. Legally a part of Chile, the island is really part of the great Polynesian triangle whose other two points are Hawaii and New Zealand, where I grew up.
Easter Island is of course famous for its Moai statues. At various “ahu” or shrines where the Moais stand, signs in English and the native Polynesian language, in an effort to stop visitors from climbing on top of sacred rocks, read, “STOP — TAPU.”
Ah, the American Halloween. Now that I’m outside of the U.S., I rather miss the adult costumes. When I was growing up in New Zealand, anyone above the age of twelve dressing up for Halloween was a curious sight.
This used to be true in the U.S. as well. As of the mid-20th century, trick-or-treating was an annual event for children, but adults seldom dressed up. But by the turn of the millennium, an estimated 65 percent of American adults celebrated Halloween, spending billions on costumes and party accessories. Halloween had become the second most important holiday for America's retailers, second only to Christmas.
Beyond the skimpy “sexy nurse,” “sexy cop,” “sexy cat” costumes or your annual fad like Deadpool, however, Halloween has actually served a very serious purpose in American history. And it was this purpose that made the holiday adult.
Halloween an occasion for transformation, for simultaneously wearing and mask and showing who you truly are. It’s okay because by the next morning you can always claim that it was only a costume. So marginalized groups began to dress up for the holiday in order to make a political point. The Greenwich Village Halloween Parade began in 1973 on Christopher Street because it was New York’s gay Mecca, and it was a way for LGBTs to announce themselves without provoking a full backlash.
Writer, traveler, lawyer, dilettante. Failed student of physics. Not altogether distinguished graduate of two Ivy League institutions. Immigrant twice over. "The grand tour is just the inspired man's way of getting home."