The Divine Comedy

Midway upon the journey of our life
I found myself within a forest dark,
For the straightforward pathway had been lost

(Dante's Inferno I. 1–3)

This Christmas, I received Dante's The Divine Comedy; Inferno, Purgatorio, Paradiso and a separate book featuring all of Gustave Doré's illustration plates for such. It is divinely exquisite artwork that has captivated me since viewing the originals at the D'Orsay Museum last spring. Immersing into the epic 752-page trilogy, which begins with the tercet above, should make for an interesting read this winter. 

I didn't get to choose the pathway of the previous year. As 2014 draws to a close though, I've decided to give myself twelve months to explore life and all its intensity. Like a moth to a flame, there are many things I am drawn to.

In 2015, I will light the match. 

The Forest (Gustave Doré) from  The Divine Comedy

The Forest (Gustave Doré) from The Divine Comedy

Tokyo on Foot

This book caught my eye when I was in Japan Town, San Francisco: 'Tokyo on Foot' is part travel guide, part graphic memoir. Every page is illustrated with sketches that artist/author Florent Chavouet created while living in the world's greatest megalopolis for six months. His focus is the nuances and quirks of the city that both enchant and confuse; from neighbourhood-specific fashion to life in extremely cramped quarters, this book paints a colourful portrait of a very interesting, unique place. 

To buy Tokyo on Foot, click here


San Francisco Vignette no.5

It was 4:20pm. As the ferry back to Pier 33 embarked from Alcatraz, I made my way to the bow to secure the best spot for photographing San Francisco's skyline. Next to me stood two tourists from Mumbai. We entered into conversation about Goa, dolphin sightings and imagined life in maximum security prison. 

"So what did you think of the tour?" I asked them. 

"It was very interesting," one of the gentleman replied. "but I don't understand why everyone thinks it is bleak. I did not find it so. They were criminals and got the punishment they deserved." 

San Francisco Vignette no.4

It was 5:23pm. We were at Haight-Ashbury admiring the now commercialized former hub of the counter culture. I wanted to visit Whole Foods. 

At Stanyan Street, I gazed into the eastern periphery of Golden Gate Park and felt a thousand eyes stare back at me amongst the darkness of the trees. Loitering about were young people, old people; some more weathered in appearance than others, some with canine companions. They congregated here with visions of 1969. Of free love and cheap drugs and being in the presence of their apostle Garcia, even though he - and the gospel he preached - were long dead.

Death changes everything.

"LSD. I can get you some LSD." a 20-something male with a yellow lab uttered to my companion and I. 

I walked into Whole Foods. 

San Francisco Vignette no.3

It was 1:45pm. The purpose of my trip to San Francisco was ultimately business. I was attending a digital design conference hoping to acquire knowledge and inspiration from some of the greatest minds in the industry. Currently stationed at the podium was a content strategist from Facebook. As he spoke, I surveyed the audience. It consisted of a motley crew of marketers, designers and programmers each remaining amongst their own tribe and realm of self-importance. Half the room had their face buried in their phone. This is how we connect in the modern age; we speak to the world via an interface rather than to those at the same table. 

Later in the evening, I went for a walk. One of the highlights of my trip was strolling through China Town at dusk and I used my limited time in the city to revisit its magic nightly. The colours, the scents, the noise … all weaved together to transport me to another world. My phone, in this setting, was used to capture a part of that. 

San Francisco Vignette no.2

It was 12:36pm. We were seated at a booth near a window overlooking the ice rink at Union Square. My lunch date talked about shopping and clothing and men but I wasn't really listening. To get to this restaurant on the 7th floor of Macy's, we had to pass the seasonal display, the sight of which sucker-punched me into a state not conductive to sociability. The first Christmas without my father is approaching and I am dreading it. I miss him terribly. 

I focused on the rather lengthy menu but could feel the weight of someone's stare. Looking up, I met the gaze of a man seated at a table to my left. He resembled an elderly Spike Lee and was dressed quite dapper for what appeared to be a solitary dining excursion. He smiled warmly at me and didn't blink. I averted my gaze out of habit, as I am wont to do when someone challenges my aplomb.  

"I'll have the soup of the day and a salad."

In between listening to the one woman dialogue at my table and watching a flock of pigeons terrorize the patrons seated on the patio, I continued sneaking a glance at the man at the next table. He didn't look away. Now nor did I. I smiled back at him. He nodded.  

I observed as a waiter brought his order. A large bowl containing a hot fudge sundae. My soup and salad arrived shortly thereafter. We ate in synchronicity.