Sixty million years ago, this part of the Gobi desert called
Yet, I love these two tiny words: Flame and Cliff.
Both so inherently dangerous.
Flame conjures up images of things set ablaze, things that burst into strident blasts of angry red and hues of passionate orange.
The word flame makes me think of my middle school years when girls used to remove the hair on their arms by passing a candle rapidly over them. They burned the hair off their arms to make them caressable, to offer them naked and soft to boys with clumsy hands and sticky fingers. They singed the fuzz on their arms out of love. So that they were welcomed and accepted and kept.
But only little girls do such silly things. When they grow up so do their pain, the caliber of their offerings, and their boldness. Some of them favor self-immolation over singeing. They offer themselves in sacrifice by setting their whole bodies ablaze. They do it as a form of protest, of martyrdom, out of scorn. They sacrifice their flesh and bones in the name of love. Afghan women wishing to escape abusive marriages, Tibetan nuns protesting Chinese rule, Indian widows seeking eternal love throw themselves into their husbands’ funeral pyres.
Think heat, your skin peeling off, first crispy then waxy like a candle left out in the sun. Think pain, the fat of your body coloring the flames with traces of bleeding green and tender yellow, turning your midriff into a volcanic blow torch.
Flames. Kisses. Passion. That short-of-breathness, the giddiness of a torrid affair, the first love, the first kiss, the first time. Consuming flames that devour and destroy, leaving nothing behind but a mound of smoldering twigs.
I once loved a boy who loved alcohol more than he loved me.
“Why do you drink so much?” I asked him one day.
“Because I like how it burns my throat,” he said. “It’s like a flame rushing down my windpipe all the way to my belly. You wouldn’t understand.”
Cliff. That's the word that comes to my mind when I think of roller coasters, paragliding, bungee-jumping, sky-diving and gravity-defying stunts, a list that comprises my worst fears. I’m afraid of free-falls, of losing control, of letting myself go. I imagine how splendidly irrevocable the pull of gravity must be as one goes off a cliff. The word cliff evokes memories of that last scene in the movie Thelma and Louise when the women are cornered by police only 100 yards from the edge of the Grand Canyon. They weigh out their options and rather than to be captured and spend the rest of their lives in jail they decide to keep going. Thelma steps on the accelerator and drives the 1966 Ford Thunderbird convertible over the cliff.
I once loved a boy who loved his mother very much. On one mother’s day, after a weekend out in the country with pals and cheap booze, he drove to his mother's house. He was too drunk and drove too fast. He missed a bend and his car flew off a cliff. It was a difficult rescue, the firefighters later said. The boy was tall and skinny, he wasn’t wearing a seat belt; the car catapulted his body into the air first, and later into the belly of the cliff.
The casket was sealed.
No one was allowed to see his mangled body.
A gaping abysm swallowed him whole.
Every culture has its very own definition of aesthetic beauty, its very own assessment of what is visually appealing and what's not. In Turkmenistan, fountains are of paramount importance; water and lights (lots of them) are at the core of what it means to be a beautiful, progressive, sophisticated city, even when the fountains are nothing but tools of political propaganda.
Moscow, like any other big city, is not beautiful as a whole; instead, it is a massive metropolis of complex road and underground systems, impossible traffic, rain, and stern-looking Moscovites. But, but, it is all sprinkled with gorgeous corners full of eye candy gardens, structures, whimsical art, and music (a group of baritones reduced me to tears when they broke into a surprise Gregorian Chant inside a museum).
Gorky Park is one of those places. It underwent a major reconstruction last year and it is now a free (no entrance fee!) eco-friendly recreational zone, with rides, large green spaces for aerobics, yoga and salsa dancing instruction, the pétanque cafe where you can buy food in a rented picnic basket and pay a deposit for a blanket, grab a bottle of wine and have a superb afternoon anywhere in the park. The fact that the park has an open-air cinema theater free Wi-fi, a 15,000 square meter ice rink, contemporary public art exhibits, a mobile book store, and plush swings to drink, dream, and read, makes this park my favorite spot in Moscow.
Oh, and what about them building jammies? Pictures 1, 2, and 3 are not fully erected buildings. They are pictures of construction sites disguised as functioning edifices Cover the mess with your prettiest PJ's and you have a beautiful looking building that fools the eye.
At Charles Bridge.
….as you walk across this 14th century stone bridge linking the two sides
of Prague. It’s perfect for holding hands, for stopping to intertwine your body
with the one you love, to lean against one of the 30 Baroque statues flanking
the bridge, and get lost in the warmth of a kiss.
It’s hard not to want to share the fairy-tale views of the Prague skyline with your
significant other. The moment you see the wide expanse of the river that flows
beneath the bridge, the Prague Castle towering above in its eminent position,
the moment you hear the trumpets of that jazz band playing Mississippi blues
right by the Mala Estrana bridge tower, you’ll want to love, again, for the
first time, or just love more.
For many years the only decoration on the bridge was a simple crucifix, but the
Catholic Church’s lust for ornamentation resulted in 30 statues being erected
between 1600 and 1800.
The oldest statue and probably the most relevant for those seeking and/or wishing
for long-lasting love, is that of John of Nepomuk, an archbishop who was
tortured and thrown off this very bridge at the behest of King Wenceslaus back
in the 14thcentury. And what does the saint have to do with love?
Everything. The king suspected that his wife was having an affair and because
Nepomuk was her confessor, the king demanded to know the name of her lover, but
the priest refused to break the Seal of the Confessional. So he died. Three reliefs below the statue depict his refusal to divulge the queen’s
confessions, his torture and death by drowning. Touching the third relief is
supposed to bring luck, protect one’s secrets and to defend one against