cityscape

Posted by Ellen

With a sky so propitious, what could go wrong? So many bridges to cross.

Posted by Ellen

Old houses in Prague, as seen through a screen set up around a construction site across the street. The construction in progress is actually restoration work, so that the street can recover its bygone character.

Posted by Ellen

"I don't know," noted the photographer, who calls himself I Shot Baltimore. "Dude bought these shoes. I don't know wtf to say. Whatever."

Posted by Ellen

An apartment courtyard in central Kathmandu. The tent at lower right may be for a wedding.

Posted by Ellen

This is Adelaide Street in downtown Toronto, Ontario.

Posted by Ellen

There's a lot going on up on the rooftops around Kathmandu–clotheslines and gardens and solar water heaters and stovepipes and a lot of other stuff beyond my understanding.

This scene was in Bhaktapur, capital city of one of the three ancient kingdoms of the Kathmandu valley, about half an hour's drive from Kathmandu proper. Americans might understand Bhaktapur as a sort of Nepalese Williamsburg, where old buildings and crafts and cultural traditions are consciously preserved and displayed for tourists. No cars are permitted in town. However, Bhaktapur is about a thousand years older than Williamsburg, and it was no colonial outpost; for hundreds of years, it was the political and religious center of a wealthy royal court, with palaces and temples on a grand scale.

In the late eighteenth century, Bhaktapur lost out to an even wealthier kingdom in Kathmandu, and today the 30,000 townspeople get by on tourism and pottery-making; the pottery specialty seems to be wide, low bowls designed for culturing yogurt. An art school in Bhaktapur teaches ancient Buddhist thenka painting, and a paper factory follows traditional paper-making technology utilizing the inner bark of the lokta bush.

Below, in one of Bakhtapur's central squares, a woman walks past a Hindu temple guarded by a god with a mustache.

Posted by Ellen

In 1917, guy by the name of Jug Reynolds was trying to make a living doing this sort of thing–standing on his hands on top of a chair on top of two tables on top of the cornice at the edge of the roof of Lansburgh's furniture store at 9th Street and F Street NW in Washington, D.C.

Note that Jug's helper out there on the roof had a cigarette in his mouth. All in a day's work.

The domed building in the background is the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History.

Posted by Ellen

WWBD? (What would Buddha do, in his tattoo studio?)

Most Nepalis are Hindu, but we're told that their understanding of Hinduism is expansive enough to include the Buddha and his spiritual ways. Up and down the streets of Kathmandu are ornate, pagoda-style Hindu temples, little curbside chapels associated with one or several deities, modest "resting places" for the spirits of the departed, and big, bold Buddhist stupas like this one.

It is against the law to kill a cow, and cows do wander around town, especially out near the airport. But Nepalis have other cowlike animals--water buffalo and yak--that provide them with meat, milk, fiber, leather, and, um, horsepower, thus facilitating the religious exclusion of cows from these sorts of roles. Buffalo and yak look well-fed; the religiously venerated cows appear to be starving.

A substantial number of Nepali men, especially among the many who ride motorcycles, show a certain veneration for Western-style leather jackets, presumably made of cow leather. The tattoos, body piercings, and dreadlocks, however, are for tourists.

Posted by Ellen

The guidebooks say that Nepal is a "quirky" place, where people use thousand-year-old statues to hold up their clotheslines. The guidebooks are right.

As this photo suggests, Nepalis use a confection of spit and wistfulness to hold up their electrical grid. It works about as well as you'd guess. In the capital city of three million people there is not a single functioning traffic light.

After spending four days knocking about in Kathmandu and another week trudging very slowly through the Himalayan foothills, I filled up my camera with curiosities and have of course become an expert on all things Nepalese. I've got stuff to share in upcoming G'mornin's. But the world has gone on spinning, so Kathmandu cannot always take priority. Glad to be back, hope everybody's well, look forward to hearing everybody's news.

Posted by Ellen

 It's not the city's finest season, but it'll do.