I really like maps. I like pointing out when they’re missing something, I like that many are controversial, and I like comparing them with former (and future) maps.
Yes, yes, a good map would let you know where “north” is, and contain things such as a legend and a scale. But when your phone is dead, or don’t speak the language, and someone draws you a couple of wavy lines on scrap paper to help you return to your hotel, those might be the best ones yet.
Yet, even after having surrounded myself with maps since childhood, there remain some parts of the world map with which I lack overall familiarity. The Caribbean is one. Save for the ABC islands — whoops, that’s the ACB islands — I’m a greenhorn in that region. I had 24 hours in San Juan, and a long weekend in Santo Domingo, and that’s it. It’s fair to say that, regardless of having visited the area, it’s still possible to have the wherewithal to place islands on a blank map … but in my case, I wouldn’t know where to begin, once I was east of Puerto Rico.
Speaking of tropical islands, the South Pacific is the other region that continues to befuddle me. Fiji and the Marshall Islands I can figure out; to wit, I once flew from Nadi, Fiji to Majuro, Marshall Islands, via Nauru and Kiribati, on Our Airlines (now Nauru Airlines). The randomness of the itinerary (given how infrequently I was in Oceania, it was random) sealed the deal, not to mention that trip did give me a greater appreciation for the remoteness of that part of the world.
Well, if you like maps — or at the very least, artwork that resembles a map — then you may want to visit New York City.
Tucked away in a pedestrian plaza between 40th and 41st Streets by 3rd Avenue in Manhattan, my favorite piece of public art in the city can be found:
It’s the South Pacific! This mural highlights the entire region, even if the placement of island names get crowded at times.
Whenever I’m in the city, I try to stop by to pay homage to this underappreciated sliver of Earth, and ponder how nice it is to not be eating fresh noni fruit.
Do you have any favorite works of art that involve maps or geography in some way?
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