Morondava, Madagascar

I left South Africa’s gleaming Johannesburg airport terminal muttering about the homogenization of the world,  bitching at the triumph of international anonymonist architecture. Squeaky clean, brightly lit, fairly shining with stainless steel modernity, I could be anywhere. Sydney or San Diego, Chengdu or Chicago, Dubai or Dallas. Landing in Antananarivo, I reminded myself, not for […]

Mystic, Connecticut

She’s flirting with me. She’s definitely flirting with me.The way she circles past. How her eyes follow me. Finally, she works up her nerve and stops. Through the glass, our eyes meet and her face reveals an enigmatic smile. She opens her mouth and seems ready to speak.And then she bares her sharp teeth, pops […]

Hartford, Connecticut

Hartford is certainly a town not lacking in pretension. A city built on stolid insurance premiums grown glossy and sleek on nouveau riche investment swindles. There are grand boulevards…devoid of traffic. Vast public spaces…abandoned. Towering skyscrapers…seemingly vacant. It’s as if the Rapture came and it turned out that God’s chosen were insurance adjusters and derivatives […]

Death Valley, California

I walk off into the desert like the poster child for what not to do in Death Valley. 109°. No compass. No water. I wonder how long I can go before my tongue swells, the hallucinations start, my brain begins to shut down, the vultures circle, flare their wings and descend. I’m guessing it will probably […]

Yosemite Valley, California

WWAAD? Arriving in Yosemite Valley, I find myself asking that perennial question, “What would Ansel Adams do?” The landscape pioneer was, at the very least, a lucky guy. To be part of the first generation of artists to discover the high Sierra and create a body of work that defines the place to this day. […]

Holbrook, Arizona

Holbrook lies along old Route 66, the mother road from Chicago to the California coast and all-purpose symbol of the American love affair with the open road.The town was once home to a bevy of motels and cafes catering to early cross-country drivers, and a dozen or more garages dedicated to nursing post-war Chevrolets across […]

Monument Valley, Arizona

When movie director John Ford changed Marion Morrison into John Wayne, dressed him up in a cowboy outfit and stuck him out in this arid, forbidding corner of the Arizona desert, he created the defining image of the American West. The first time you come into Monument Valley, you’re enraptured. It’s instantly recognizable; the red […]

Mechanicsville, Maryland

Is there a more quintessentially American sport than Demolition Derby? Take some perfectly serviceable old cars and smash them into each other for the viewing pleasure of paying spectators. A sensible soul might well feel unease at such a debased gladiatorial spectacle. It’s loud and dangerous, wasteful and stupid. And fun. There may be some […]