Off the Map

Monday, 9 June 2014

Off the Map 271‘It is not down on any map; true places never are.’ It’s one of Herman Melville’s most famous quotes, from Moby Dick, and Alastair Bonnett’s book certainly pursues that idea. Many of his ‘Lost Spaces, Invisible Cities and Forgotten Islands’ never appear on maps or fade in and out of reality. Five of my favourite chapters:

Old Mecca
As a non-believer I’m never going to see Old Mecca, but for that matter nor are Muslims, because it’s being systematically destroyed. Those strictly Islamic Saudi Wahhabis believe that it is ‘not permitted to glorify buildings and historical sights …’ So out goes any hint of older forms of Islam from the Abbasid and Ottoman eras, to make room for more hotels and shopping centres for all those Haj tourists. Starbucks, Topshop, the Body Shop are all OK, but the historic Islamic Mecca? Goodbye.

Fox Den
London has become a world centre for urban foxes although they’re also moving into many other big cities in Britain and further afield. They’re also diverging from rural foxes, becoming a separate species which rarely interbreed. I’ve seen foxes within a couple of hundred metres of Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament in London.

Geneva Freeport
A class leading example of the hyper-wealthy equivalent of your local self-storage centre, here it’s million dollar cars, $100 billion of art, millions of bottles of classy wine. All that valuable stuff which the 1%, or 0.1%, accumulate because it’s a better investment and causes less tax problems that money, investments and other old economy stuff.

Bright Light, 4 Mures St, Bucharest
If I’d read the book sooner I’d have gone to have a look at it when I was in Bucharest a few weeks ago. The building there was definitely not used as an interrogation and detention centre for ‘war on terror’ suspects brought here in that process known as ‘extraordinary rendition.’ Well definitely not according to the Romanian and American governments, but who believes governments these days?

LAX Parking Lot
Parking Lot E in particular where the airport authorities put up with what has essentially become an RV campsite. And who camps here? Well pilots, flight attendants, aircraft mechanics, people who may work at Los Angeles International Airport or somewhere further afield that they fly to, they probably live somewhere else but Parking Lot E is closer to work.