For every Lewis and Clark, there are pioneers who were murdered, abandoned or simply vanished from the face of the Earth during their expeditions. Here is a look at some of the notable trailblazers who set out into the unknown and never came back, with no trace of their bodies ever found.
Amelia Earhart has reemerged in the news cycle over the last several months as hopeful researchers try in vain to identify what exactly happened to the aviation pioneer during her unsuccessful flight around the world in 1937. Excited headlines last summer boasted that a newly discovered photo indicated she survived a crash landing; earlier this month, competing reports claimed her bones were identified on a western Pacific island near her projected flight path. What we do know is this: She was last heard from on July 2 while attempting to become the first woman to circumnavigate the globe, and no conclusive evidence exists, as of publication, to explain what became of her.
Peng Jiamu was a Chinese biochemist who disappeared in 1980 during an expedition in China’s tumultuous Lop Nur desert, also known as the “Wandering Lake” and “Asia’s Devil’s Triangle.” Though he survived his initial exploration of the landscape in 1964, when he discovered “dozens of wild species,” the punishing terrain claimed him during a second expedition more than fifteen years later. While leading chemists, geologists, biologists and archaeologists, the group’s water reportedly began to run out, and some wanted to turn back, which Jiamu refused to accept as an option. A few days later, the biochemist left a note saying he’d gone out to search for water and never returned. Despite an aggressive and highly publicized search for him, his body was never found and is theorized to likely be mummified deep in the desert’s unforgiving, all-encompassing sand.
British explorer Henry Hudson has a few prolific achievements under his belt, including his namesake river that runs from Albany, New York, to New York City and beyond, emptying into the Atlantic Ocean. But his success as an explorer ran out quickly after sailing the Hudson, as did his knack for managing a crew. For what became his final voyage in 1610, he was asked to find the “so-called northwest passage” to the Pacific Ocean. He didn’t get anywhere near it, although he did discover what’s now known as the Hudson Strait and the Hudson Bay, the latter of which being where he met his demise. When winter fell and a restless and hostile crew thought Hudson was hoarding rations and doling them out to his favorites, two members led a mutiny and cast Hudson, his son and seven others with scurvy onto a small lifeboat in the Bay. That was the last anyone heard or saw of them.
Everett Ruess went into the American wilderness at age 16, supported himself painting pictures and writing about the untouched landscapes he encountered as he traveled, and vanished during a venture into southern Utah’s rigorous backcountry when he was only 20. A fervent admirer of the outdoors, he has inspired a type of passionate cult following in the years since his death, and his family is actually still looking for any hint to what happened to the young traveler. For a glimpse into the type of person Ruess was, take a look at this snippet from his final letter, sent to his family from Escalante, Utah, in November 1934:
“As to when I shall revisit civilization, it will not be soon. … I prefer the saddle to the streetcar and the star-sprinkled sky to the roof, the obscure and difficult trail leading into the unknown to any paved highway, the deep peace of the wild to the discontent bred by cities.”
Colonel Percy Fawcett and the Lost City of Z
Colonel Fawcett’s story is the type movies are made of — literally. “The Lost City of Z” was a feature film released in 2016 based on the misadventures of Fawcett, who disappeared in the Amazon while searching for said city. At age 57, Fawcett was on his way to establishing himself as one of the world’s great pioneers — previous exploits included successful map charting trips to Bolivia and Brazil — when he and his two companions, including his young son Jack, disappeared without a trace. An estimated 100 people have died attempting to follow his footsteps, and a few have met the same fate of seemingly slipping from the face of the Earth. History.comnotes that as recently as 1996, a team searching for answers was captured by Amazonian natives and only escaped after paying ransom with $30,000 of equipment. Perhaps Fawcett’s fate was the same.
Naomi Uemura was a legendary Japanese explorer who disappeared after successfully reaching the peak of Alaska’s Mount McKinley, the highest point in North America, during a solo climb during a brutal winter in 1984. (Really, all of Alaska’s winters are brutal, aren’t they?) Known as the first person to reach the North Pole alone, as well as raft the Amazon solo, Uemura was planning for an upcoming trip to summit Vinson Massif, Antarctica’s highest peak, by taking on McKinley. It was sometime after he made it to the top and radioed photographers flying over the mountain that he was on his way down that he disappeared. His diary and self-rescue poles, which were left behind to lighten his load, were found in a cave. The body of Uemura himself has never been found, with many believing he was injured or fell into a crevasse during his descent, permanently frozen into the mountain and snowed over. Here’s an excerpt from his last diary entry:
“I wish I could sleep in a warm sleeping bag. No matter what happens I am going to climb McKinley.”
The Roanoke Island Colony
It’s a familiar story from history class, but a chilling one, nonetheless. It goes like this: In 1587, Englishman John White left more than 100 men, women and children on Roanoke Island, now known as the Outer Banks of North Carolina, while he ventured back to England to get more supplies. Unfortunately, England’s war with Spain kept him from returning to the New World until 1590, when he came back to find the settlement completely abandoned and looted, with no trace of the settlers — including his daughter and granddaughter. The only hint left of what happened on Roanoke was the word “Croatoan” carved on a post, and “CRO” etched onto a tree trunk. Some popular explanations theorize that hostile Native Americans killed the settlers; others say they were absorbed by friendly tribes, including one known as the Croatans, while White was gone. Either way, the group vanished, and the centuries-old mystery still captivates.
Last Sunday, a few minutes before 11 a.m. Mass, about 20 parishioners wandered into a well-lighted chapel, exchanged pleasantries, and settled into pews. The celebrant was a young Franciscan whose sermon included a tale of Lenten penance gone wrong (as a novice, he forswore warm-water showers, but dreaded the cold ones so much that soon he was skipping those too). Before he began, he tapped the microphone and asked if he was audible: “The sisters said they were having some trouble hearing me.”
In the choir behind the altar, habits and bowed heads were just visible. They belonged to the ten nuns who inhabit Corpus Christi Monastery, the oldest contemplative Dominican monastery in New York State and one of the few active monasteries in New York City. Their sprawling seven-acre spread in the Hunts Point neighborhood of the South Bronx is a pocket of sanctity in a district—New York’s 15th—designated by the U.S. Census Bureau in 2010 as the poorest in the country. A recent visit revealed a way of life alien even to regular churchgoers, especially in a bustling city.
Guests are welcomed warmly. Sister Mary Hansen of the Sacred Heart, a kindly former prioress and current vocation director, is the community’s de facto spokeswoman and frequent emissary to the outside world. Once there, however, access was restricted. Dining with the sisters was a non-starter—contemplative orders, it seems, don’t brook intrusion into their private spaces. So too was speaking with any of the other sisters—four Sundays into Lent, they had other, less earthly things on their minds.
In a conversation in the parlor—the room near the entrance used for receiving guests—Hansen explained the sisters’ daily schedule. Wake-up is at 6, followed by a morning prayer in the choir and Mass at 8. On Sundays, Mass is at 11 and wake-up is an hour later, a luxury denied this day by the beginning of daylight saving time. (Hansen had yet to adjust her watch.)
Midday prayer (11:15) is followed by dinner at noon and recreation at 1. Hansen described a casual and congenial atmosphere. “At recreation,” she said, “sisters laugh, some might play games. You know, do light things. One sister used to roller-skate. We used to have a basketball court, and we would play basketball.” She didn’t cop to any fierce competition, but recalled one sister who was “excellent.”
After mid-afternoon prayer (1:45) comes profound silence—where, Hansen said, “We try to keep complete silence. Throughout the day, we’re really not supposed to be talking, outside of recreation.” This goes for meals, where the only noises are spiritual readings or tapes. Exceptions are made on high holidays, sisters’ birthdays, and Sundays, when sisters “speak about personal things, things in their family, things that we have studied, our insights.” These (comparatively) chatty Sunday meals count as the day’s recreation.
Evening prayer, supper, and night prayer round out a demanding schedule, with an hour of optional recreation sandwiched between the last two. ”A few sisters watch the news” during this optional hour, said Hansen, “so they can pray for what’s going on in the world. Let’s say, we might pray for the leader of North Korea when he was threatening to….” She trailed off, but the prayer she alluded to is surely familiar to even the staunchest atheist.
The notion that most frequently needs disabusing is that the sisters are hermits. While they are contemplative—devoted to prayer rather than active ministry—they are not austere in the extreme like the Carthusians, who emphasize solitude and keep strict silence. “I don’t think I’m called to that,” said Hansen. “I mean, maybe for a short time, if I go on a retreat, for a week or ten days. But after that … I couldn’t do it permanently. I think I need community.”
Her path wasn’t always clear. A child of privilege, she attended international schools in France and Germany, and spent breaks skiing in the Alps and visiting London and Paris with her mother. During the summers, she stayed with her family at their home on Manhattan’s Park Avenue. “I had everything, as far as material things,” she said. “But something was missing.”
The nuns at her Catholic grammar school had inspired her to become a nun herself. But, for a time, other interests got in the way, like a love of underwater photography that led her to join the excavation team of a famed Bronze Age shipwreck off the coast of Turkey in the early ‘80s. As for her calling, she said, “I didn’t think about it anymore. I was so busy, I guess, with my life. But then the call came back very strongly. At that time I thought God was calling me to an active community—because I wanted to be a missionary, work with the poor, and with children. But God had other plans.”
A vivid dream sealed the deal. Sight unseen, Hansen imagined herself in a monastery’s backyard picking pears with two novices. The next day, she said, she saw the same image on the Corpus Christi pamphlet her parish vocation director handed her. “When I came here,” she said, “as soon as I went into the chapel, I knew that this is where God wanted me to enter. You can’t really explain it, you know? You know it in your heart.”
When Hansen joined the community 20 years ago, right out of college, there were about 25 sisters (the monastery was built for 100). But recent years have brought fewer vocations—the last was a Sister Marie, who entered 15 years ago—and aspirants have come and gone without taking vows. Perhaps unsurprisingly, younger generations of aspiring monastics seem to be opting for a more active lifestyle. Hansen cited the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal and the Sisters of Life as two popular choices for young people—and, indeed, Google searches of the communities yield pictures of hardy friars and dimply nuns.
As the sisters of Corpus Christi have aged, their numbers have dwindled. Of the 10 who remain, five are over 70, and doubts about the monastery’s future are common at chapter meetings. Doubts of a higher order are present in the contemplative life as well. “You do go through periods of darkness, or dryness, like you’re in the desert. That’s very common as religious,” said Hansen, invoking Mother Teresa’s prolonged dark night of the soul. She described doubts as “feelings” that don’t threaten to undermine her faith. “I don’t let it become part of me,” she said. “It’s just a feeling. And our feelings constantly change.”
She is sanguine in the face of the community’s uncertain future. “Sometimes we speak about the future and not getting vocations, and sometimes we have doubts,” she said. “But at the same time, God, if he wants this monastery to continue, he can do miracles—he can send people. So, you do have doubts—but what keeps me going is my faith.” She seemed similarly hopeful about the prospect of an article on the monastery. “Do you think we can get vocations?” She smiled. “You never know, right?”
On the ranking of the best sex ever, hotel sex often rings in at number one. Whether it’s the high thread counts, the room service champagne, or the heightened level of anonymity, there is something about hotel sex that makes it a cut above the rest. For the ultimate in hotel sex, why not visit hotels that are geared directly toward sex itself? Here are five hotels to know where sex is most certainly on the menu.
Breathless Resorts & Spas
Sex appeal is full frontal at this party-centric resort company. It’s all about playful seduction here, with a party scene evocative of South Beach, but a resort atmosphere that is Caribbean luxury. By day it’s sexy pool parties with clientele embracing a ‘barely there’ attitude. By night, things heat up in the clubs with a roster of sensual parties, like PJ’s and DJ’s, Bacchanalian blowouts, and body painting. There are five resorts under the Breathless umbrella: Breathless Cabo San Lucas, Breathless Playa del Carmen, Breathless Riviera Cancun, Breathless Punta Cana, and Breathless Montego Bay.
Temptation Cancun Resort
The resort slogan, “Playground for Grown-Ups,” fits in nicely with its topless-optional policy. For years, this resort has been an institution in the Cancun sensual circuit. But a recent mega renovation has redone its reputation, as well as the Cancun skyline. The vibe here at this 21+ resort is laid-back and chic, with a playfully provocative vibe and a seemingly ‘anything goes,’ mentality. Even the beach at Temptation is topless, which is a first for the Cancun area. The elevated party scene at the ‘Sexy Pool’ includes cocktails, day parties, and the promise of no tan lines for the ladies. While at night, the energy transfers over to the Bash nightclub for resident and guest DJs and all-night dancing. Even the cuisine at Temptation is geared to sex, with SHE restaurant, with a multi-course menu built around aphrodisiac ingredients.
Desire Riviera Maya Resort
Where Temptation leaves off, Desire kicks in. Topless is all well and good, but with that comes the hope for a little bit more. Desire takes it there. And we mean all the way there. This all-inclusive resort in Mexico’s Riviera Maya is designed for couples who want to make sex and sexuality the focal point of their vacations. Desire Riviera Maya Resort unabashedly celebrates sex as evidenced by its calendar of events that range from everything from tributes to Playboy to Vampires & Virgins. Themed nights include white and neon parties, to naughty nautical themes, and Lipstick & Lingerie. But one of the unique experiences at Desire is its fantasy menu, which offers guests curated experiences based on a number of fantasies. If you’ve fantasized about making your own erotic video, there’s a package for that. A private stripper show for you and your significant other? There’s a package for that. There’s even a package that (tastefully) curates sex on the beach, including a private “love bed,” wine, and chocolate covered strawberries.
Desire Riviera Maya Pearl Resort
Desire has a second Mexico property, that ups the ante a bit when it comes to sexual fantasies. The Desire Riviera Maya Pearl Resort is a collection of 88 villa-style rooms on a stretch of Caribbean beach in Mexico. Similar to the other Desire property, the theme is sex and lots of it. From Food Play to Pole Pleasures, Erotic Massages and Strip Seductions, Desire Pearl aims to make fantasy the real thing.
Hedonism II Negril
And then there’s the mothership. The Mecca of Swingers’ Resorts. Hedonism II is an institution in the swingers’ community, as being one of the first to hit the scene. Hedo paved the way for lifestyle and nudist hotels, and has one of the most loyal followings of clientele, who are drawn to its entertainment, theme nights, and, of course, the Playroom, where sex comes in all shapes and forms, from voyeurs and monogamous couples to swingers and orgies. Though technically the resort is a nudist resort, the only place where clothing is not allowed is on the designated Nude side of the resort, so you don’t have to be a nudist to go, nor do you have to be a swinger. It’s a playground where the two lifestyles happily intersect. Hedonism recently underwent a multi-million dollar renovation, as well, upgrading its guest rooms and public areas, as well as its food offerings, to be competitive with other high-end resorts, so not only is it a naked vacation, but it’s a comfortable and downright luxurious one.
This is a beach that’s best walked with shoes on. The sand on the shore of Dead Horse Bay near Rockaway Beach in Brooklyn doesn’t glitter innocently — it’s brimming with pieces of broken bottles and glass that tinkle as the waves lap over them. A kind of trash graveyard from the residents of New York past, it’s possible for visitors to see anything from dentures and forgotten baby dolls to sun-bleached horse bones poking up from between the dunes.
That’s because this modern-day archaeological dump was once a beach of Barren Island — now Floyd Bennet Field — a piece of land used for industrial purposes and disposing of New York City’s garbage in the 19th and early 20th centuries, including the carcasses of dead horses.
When the island was an active dumping sight, the smell was said to be unholy, with then-mayor Theodore Roosevelt calling the island a “nuisance of the worst kind” in 1899. The New York Timesreports that trash fill was used to connect the island to the mainland in 1926, and things progressively declined from then on. Condemned by the prolific developer Robert Moses in 1936, the few living on the island were forced to leave by 1942.
In the 50s, Moses continued to expand the island using trash, but as the Times notes, only used topsoil to cover it. Erosion in the decades since has released much of that trash, which blends with newer discarded items to create what is perhaps the National Park Service’s most filthy piece of land in the country. Take a look at what RealClearLife saw during a recent visit.
What does a gentleman drink for St. Patrick’s Day weekend? We asked an Irish whiskey founder and a New York City bartender so you can spend your festivities classy but creative, with a taste in your mouth that’s a clip above what your peers are having.
But first, an introduction. Whiskey runs in Jack Teeling’s blood. A born and bred native of Dublin, Teeling launched the Teeling Whiskey Company with his brother Stephen in 2012 — but the Teeling name has been tangled up in the business since 1782, when Walter Teeling started a small craft distillery on Marrowbone Lane.
“Scots don’t like people to say it, but it was the Irish who invented whiskey distillation,” Teeling said, which we fact-checked and found is true. (Sorry, Scotch enthusiasts.) But arguments over origin aside, what’s the actual difference between Irish and Scottish whiskey?
“At the core of what’s different is our environment. You can take an Irish distillery and bring it to Scotland and produce it the same way, but what’s different is the maturation. You have that environmental influence that determines what the flavor profile will be,” Teeling explained. “In Ireland, it’s not too hot, not too cold. It’s a soft climate, and that produces a softer style of whiskey.”
But if you don’t like to drink it straight, Erik Trickett, a bar manager at the Holiday Cocktail Lounge in New York City, stopped by RealClearLife’s headquarters in Manhattan with Teeling to explain how to work Irish whiskey into a mixed drink and get the best of both worlds.
“When you’re making a cocktail with a new spirit, the first thing you want to do is spend time tasting and nosing it,” Trickett said. “The idea behind making a good cocktail is not to cover the spirit or make it disappear — it’s not the ‘80s, we’re not trying to hide booze — but the idea is to take a beautiful spirit and enhance it, and pick up on the little nuances. For instance, the vanilla and caramel that come out from the bourbon barrels (in Teeling whiskey).”
“It’s very drinkable,” Teeling said.
We couldn’t agree more. Take a look at some of the recipes below to taste for yourself.
For those who like it straight: One of the rarest single malt whiskeys in the world, this exclusive bottle goes for $5,000. “This is very, very limited, there are actually only 38 to buy. I’m encouraging everyone to buy two — one to drink, and one to collect,” Teeling said.
St. Patrick Meets St. Mark
Teeling whiskey: 1.5 oz
Lillet rosé: .75 oz
Raspberry preserves: 1 tablespoon
Lemon: 1 oz
Simple syrup: .25 oz
Shake with ice, strain up, and garnish with a lemon peel.
A Handstand Upside-Down
Teeling whiskey: 1.5 oz
Giffard apricot: .75 oz
Lemon: 1 oz
Simple syrup: .75 oz
Empire White 1 oz
First, dry shake the cocktail, then add 1 oz of Empire White. Then shake with ice, strain and top with reserved beer. For a dinosaur garnish, visit the Holiday Cocktail Lounge.
Not in the mood for a cocktail after all? You can’t go wrong with a Guinness.
There’s no need to get specific and embarrass anyone by naming names or mentioning Hammer pants, but suffice it to say there was a lot of wacky stuff going on in the 1980s.
Case in point: that time Lamborghini popped the 5.2-liter V12 from one of the most sought-after cars of the ‘80s, the Countach 5000 QV, into an SUV.
With a history dating back to the later ‘70s when Lambo was calling it the Cheetah and trying to market it to the U.S. military, Lamborghini’s first attempt at an off-road vehicle when through a number of updates before the Italian marque finally arrived at the LM002 model seen here.
Referred to as the “Rambo Lambo” due to its brutish appearance – and because Sylvester Stallone wound up purchasing one – the LM002 was capable of doing 0-60 in 7.7 seconds and could top out at more than 100 MPH thanks to the 48-valve engine it had purring under its hood.
Quite possibly the model that best represents Lamborghini’s Raging Bull nickname, the LM002 was able to charge at those top-of-class speeds despite having a curb weight of nearly 6,000 pounds.
“Let us introduce you to a vehicle that is to chichi off-road boutique items what the L.A. Raiders are to the Joffrey Ballet,” Car and Driver wrote in its 1987 review of the model. “Meet the Mad Max machine. Meet the closest thing to a street-legal Tiger tank known to man. Meet the Lamborghini LM002. Meet the Rambo Lambo.”
As soft on the inside as it was rugged on the outside, the LM002’s interior was trimmed with fine leather and wood and came with air conditioning and, since CDs had yet to catch on, an Alpine tape deck mounted in the roof.
Sadly, although it was designed to appeal to fans of Guccio Gucci and G.I. Joe alike, the civilian version of the LM002 was limited to a run of just 328 models before Lamborghini ultimately ceased production in 1993 – but not before notable owners from Muammar Gaddafi and Uday Hussein to Tina Turner and Mike Tyson were able to purchase one of the $120,000 SUVs.
Sold for almost three times that ($296,500) by RM Sotheby’s at Amelia Island last weekend, this particular LM002 had fewer than 800 miles on its odometer when it was delivered on a $1,600-apiece quartet of specially commissioned Pirelli-developed Scorpion tires.
As a travel journalist, the most common question I am asked is, “What is the most interesting or surprising place you’ve ever been?” My answer is this story … and it’s definitely a destination worthy of the off the beaten path moniker. When I mention it, most have never heard of it. That in itself makes me smile.
I love history. All kinds of history. But anthropology and the human drive to leave a mark on this planet in our finite time here is singularly fascinating.
One of the planet’s most exceptional examples of historical architecture done in a painstakingly ingenious fashion is the ancient city of Petra. A sprawling stone wonderland that was literally carved from the red sandstone cliffs of southern Jordan nearly two thousand years ago. The Nabataeans built an imposing metropolis full of temples, tombs, altars and aqueducts … all as the epicenter of their trade route. An empire of frankincense, myrrh and spices. Petra is one of the new seven wonders of the world and should be visited without hesitation. Because our world runs on pop culture, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is the visual most of us have of its magnificent construction … and it’s fairly depicted … almost. My experience there was alluring. It was also crowded. The photos you see on Google fail to illustrate its popularity with tourists and modern-day traders of trinkets and textiles. Besides my memories, I have a lovely blanket I bought off a local Bedouin and a bracelet I overpaid for by at least double its value. The blanket still smells like desert warmed camel and strangely it’s not unappealing. According to current Instagram numbers Petra has been hashtagged over half a million times. Still go. Wind through the magnificent rock canyons, explore the city itself and climb the surrounding hills to visit Aaron’s tomb … the brother of Moses. Just be aware that you will be doing this with busloads of others while swatting away selfie sticks as you go.
Africa will forever seem like one of the more exotic travel offerings at the all you can eat buffet of an adventurous life. Among the more alien, alluring, misunderstood and generally less visited spots is without a doubt Ethiopia. A land so rugged and desolate it makes you long for something very primal … a connection to the dusty earth itself. It is also home to a small town with some rather incredible history, Lalibela. A pilgrimage destination to 11 magnificent rock churches carved from volcanic rock almost a thousand years ago. Despite the extraordinary nature of its offerings its current Instagram popularity puts Lalibela at just over 25 thousand hashtags. Not much in the world of social media. This incredible place is my answer to the question that started this story. It’s my reference point for all things rather uncanny that supersede my expectations and preconceived notions in the best ways imaginable.
The history of the churches is both fascinating in its actual truth and imbued with supernatural lore. The medieval structures were commissioned by King Lalibela in the 12th century who envisioned Lalibela as a new Jerusalem for Christian pilgrims. Fearing that Jerusalem would be destroyed by Muslim invaders, he wanted to preserve it’s holiness and offer an alternative destination for those seeking a tangible connection to the divine. Almost a thousand years later the faithful still travel over rugged mountains, often barefoot, to make the journey that can take weeks. Legends give credit to angels working at night that helped the massive undertaking to be completed in just 23 years. The speed is remarkable considering the churches were built from the top down, sculpted inside and out like a Michelangelo masterpiece into a single slab of stone. Other legends point to the Knights Templar and their quest to find a secret resting place for the Ark of the Covenant. Lalibela is home to some of the oldest churches in the world…not the oldest per se because we stumbled upon what is likely to be THE oldest in a maximum security prison in Israel for a TV show called Legend Quest…the same project that ultimately led us to Lalibela seeking the resting place of the Ark and the lore that surrounds it. Yet to be in the mix of the origins of religious devotion is no small feat or claim to historical significance.
To this day, many churches in Ethiopia have a replica of the sacred Ark …. and supposedly one of them is the actual Biblical artifact. The chest into which Moses placed stone tablets inscribed with the Ten Commandments, as given to him on Mount Sinai. Very Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark … minus the bit about the Ark being buried in Egypt.
There is no lack of grandeur in this small dusty town. The church of Bete Medhane Alem is considered the largest monolith church in the world. The most iconic of the 11 rock-hewn structures is the cross-shaped Church of King George, and its breathtaking heritage lives on in the form of daily morning services, beautifully ornate displays of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. A quite spot on a nearby hill for sunset, overlooking the church, is one of my favorite travel memories to date. The pungent scent of incense in the hot air, the sound of skin drums beating and the striking colorful robes and umbrellas parading through the tunnels, subterranean passageways and stone doorways give it all a feeling of otherworldly holy majesty in the midst of an earth-toned desert landscape surrounded by mud huts, albeit some with satellite dishes, creating the unexpected duality of multiple stops made in a time machine all mashed together into one place. It makes the head swim in a rather delightful overload of the senses. And make no mistake, your senses will be tantalized, overloaded and challenged…for better or worse. Sanitation is a sliding scale of proper hotel flushing toilets, holes in the ground designed for squatting…a healthy way of dealing with things actually, although a tad less comfortable for the Westerner unaccustomed to smiling at their neighbor while doing their business…to the basic outdoor facility. By facility, I mean the side of the road. My shoes did not make the return journey home with me.
The churches have been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1978, and despite the difficulty of getting there, Lalibela is a destination truly worthy of the journey.
Unless long road trips on unreliable transportation are your thing, flying is the way to go. If you enter the country on Ethiopian airlines, you receive a discount on inter-country travel which is a deal considering flights can be expensive. Word on the street is that in-person visits to the airline counter often yield the best deals. Flights are generally reliable although we departed by small prop plane when the commercial airliner didn’t come in on time due to a political situation brewing…that sometimes happens in this part of the world. Our pilots were excellent and the plane was in good condition. Still, we couldn’t help make the joke that our situation could easily be an after-school special if it didn’t end well. Fortunately for us, it did.
Your hotel options aren’t vast but there are some good ones. I realize that ‘good’ can be a subjective term in certain parts of the world, and I’m not personally particularly picky, but cleanliness is important and that was adequate. We stayed at the Mountain View property which was basic but nice and the sweeping views of the valley were breathtaking. A good note on travel to places where accommodations might be questionable is the purchase of a silk sleeping sack that keeps you off the bed sheets. It’s lightweight, small and a Godsend when you want a little distance from your mattress.
The other popular option is Sora Lodge, set on one of Lalibela’s steep ridges with equally magnificent views to make you swoon and pretend you’re Meryl Streep in Out of Africa… which was set nowhere near here but still a fantastic movie to envision in any windswept wilds of Africa. Sora Lodge has a quality restaurant and a garden where they grow many of their own vegetables. In Los Angles, we call that organic farm to table fare. In Ethiopia, they call that life. They also have wifi so Instagramming your trip shouldn’t be a serious problem. Understanding you’re still in a third world country and not demanding hotels resemble a more than two-star property is essential to realistic expectations and enjoyment of travel.
The hotels will help you arrange tours of the churches and hire a local guide, which is a great idea as they are valuable for logistics as well as a wealth of information about the area.
Ethiopian food is delicious if you can keep an open mind. It’s sometimes difficult to tell what exactly you’re eating since the majority of cuisine arrives as some form of vegetable or meat stew with a spongy sourdough flatbread called injera that serves as your main utensil. Visually it’s a pile of soupy, earthy colors swirled together on your plate and accented by grains of white rice. Sauces are thick and flavorful generally composed of lentils, beans or split peas. Meats are usually lamb or chicken. Most dishes are quite spicy so if that’s not your preference ask in advance. If you’re a texture person now is a good time to get over it. Every meal I had was finger-lickin’ good, literally, since there is really no escaping being bathed in your feast unless you are proficient with the injera, which I was not.
Ben Abeba is the most popular restaurant in Lalibela but strolling through town to see what’s being cooked in the open air bars and restaurants isn’t a bad idea either. A little more challenging for the digestive tract but fun to window shop if nothing else.
Like any other destination, the people are what make it truly special. Ethiopians are gentle, kind and quite funny. From their beautiful white robes that contrast so perfectly against the reddish desert soil to their soft and slow gestures…undoubtedly developed by years of existence in the hot summer months…the overall feeling of being in their presence is a sleepy comfort like being in the company of good friends.
Kids are ubiquitous in the streets. They play games, sing, laugh, chase after strangers and engage you in conversation. They’re also smart little buggers. Panhandling is frowned upon so they’ve learned that if they dazzle you with their smiles, compliment you and give you gifts you will be so touched that you will either pay them for their generosity or offer something much more valuable in return. This is how I parted ways with my watch, but the experience still makes me smile. I was conned by a kid. All it takes apparently is to call a girl pretty.
Ethiopia wasn’t always a hot ticket travel destination. Ranked as one of the poorest countries in the world drought, famine, revolution and political instability kept tourists at bay for most of its history. For many, the only visual references of this majestic country are the National Geographic photos depicting starving children in the mid-1980s. Only recently did the government make a significant push into developing the tourism industry, improving infrastructure, marketing and promotion. A course that is already being felt. A steady flow of tourists has gone from a mere drip to a bonafide trickle. The floodgates are opening.
Despite the challenges, coming face to face with this kind of history is rare. Especially in a space that is still infinitely more authentic than it is commercial. “I feel small,” are the words that come to mind when you stand next to a 900-year-old church and listen to pilgrims quietly mutter words of prayer or take your breakfast on a terrace overlooking an ancient land.
The feeling of being part of something greater than the present moment in our timeline of life on earth is profound and resonates deep within.
The #MeToo movement exists to expose how sexual harassment, abuse and assault reach into all aspects of society and touch the lives of so many people around us. It looks to expose how vulnerable so many people are to such systematic and often institutionalized mistreatment. The very hashtag that now carries the movement’s banner opens the door to all plaintiffs and gets heads turning toward the endless variety of victims and offenses.
Everyday #MeToo examines how sexual aggression and conduct finds its way into arenas where such interactions are inappropriate and unwelcome. Women call for freedom from erotic approach while in the workplace, so they no longer have to fear the consequences of refusing unwanted advancements. Meanwhile, men explore and wrestle with the new, perhaps overdue riles of appropriate conduct and expression between men and women.
What impact do the changing and evolving standards of sensuality, approach and intersexual conduct have on a world that exists entirely in and around sex? How do prominent porn stars view #MeToo? Did the movement’s awakening have an impact on their business and their lives? And, do they welcome the current societal changes as justice for all, or do they fear a potential puritanical suppression of sexual expression?
The Canadian born porn star has been in the business since 2015 and starred in more than 30 X-rated films so far. She clearly and passionately believes in #MeToo as she was the victim of sexual assault.
“I was raped at 17. I decided at the time to not talk about it to anyone. I did not want people to see me like a victim. Most importantly, I wanted to avoid my family being made aware of such drama. But, after 3 months of keeping this atrocity inside my head, my body decided to react.”
“I developed a Vulvar Vestibulitis – a psychosomatic disease that caused an inflammation of the vaginal orifice, characterized by a severe pain with attempted penetration. This is an intense type of pain like burning or cutting. It makes sex by penetration impossible — and also makes you feel ashamed and depressed.”
“I tried all the treatments possible to heal: Creams, diets, dilators, electroshock therapy on my vagina and extremely painful vaginal injections. One year later, I was desperate. I went to see a psychologist who told me that I would never heal if I continued to repress it. I needed to talk about it. To exorcise these demons, I had to purge as much as possible.”
“I remember the metaphor used by the doctor who convinced me to purge this by speaking about it. He said, ‘It’s like a horror movie. The first time you watch it, it’s scary. But, the second time, it’s less scary.’ Every time you watch it again and again, it becomes banal.”
“It took all the courage in me to first tell it to my close family members and to my friends. I healed in 2 months. So, I’m completely supportive of the #MeToo movement. Any kind of sexual misconduct can create a lot of damage in a person’s life. It is way worst if kept secret. I know the mental and physical benefits every woman has after they reveal their own story of sexual abuse.”
Styles believes #MeToo will force the porn business to treat its female stars, producers and directors better.
“Women are becoming more aware that, if we push back, it is totally acceptable. It may be different because of our type of entertainment, but we are finding our voice. The #MeToo movement serves to dismantle the modes of operation that have facilitated this for years. It is not the business that is chilled; it is the individuals that will now be put on ice.”
Styles insists she can create more impact than most people by posting #MeToo support on her social media, taking advantage of her considerable following.
“There is a connection with my fans who support me and promote what I say or do. Every star should maximize their social outreach and create social impact for #MeToo. I think the movement has improved every type of business if the women working there are liberated from their inner demons.”
Driller piled up eight acting nominations at the Adult Video News Awards. He admits to having a love/hate relationship with the #MeToo movement, cursing that the movement needs to exist and celebrating its results.
“I love that it’s given those affected the confidence, the courage, the strength and the empowerment to release their burden, tell their stories and reclaim their selves in sharing their stories and seeking retribution.”
“I love that it’s making people, especially guys, really think and hold themselves accountable. I hate that there seems to be band-wagoners — people with claims and stories that are not relevant and should not be part of the discussion. Stories about someone who wasn’t your type, or someone you weren’t attracted to tried flirting with you are not relevant to the movement. That’s called social interaction.”
Driller regrets that men are reexamining their behaviors only out of fear — while introducing paranoia into dating relationships.
“With the surge and the claims, some of it is so scary that you almost want and need to video the person you’re engaging with in any capacity — asking them to address that they’re comfortable, that they consent and that are of sound and stable mind at the time anything and everything happened.”
“I’ve always done my best to respect everyone around me. I can’t deny that I’ve made comments and jokes on social media that play out as more of an aggressive sexual advance. I’ve sent booty-call text messages that were probably unwarranted, and the girls rightfully so ignored or shot me down. I didn’t press on, and I didn’t retaliate, so it was nipped before anything else could have come about.”
In his professional work, Driller believes #MeToo could be taking away work.
“I don’t think (#MeToo) helps the industry, seeing how the general public already views porn as an attack against women — always on the search for stories to come about from on set or within the industry.”
In a sad aside, Driller wonders if the pressures of #MeToo’s changes might increase porn viewers as men and women grow more afraid of genuine interaction.
“I guess it could create a greater demand as we all know that the more ‘Puritan’ the person is, the more they watch porn to appease and balance his or her psyche.”
A relative newcomer to the porn business, Dane earned both an undergraduate degree in English and a master’s degree in couples and family therapy, specializing in sex therapy. Her therapist take on the porn business turns her attention first to victims and their plight.
“I appreciate the #MeToo movement because it allows individuals who have been the victims of assault or harassment a voice and sense of community. I believe that it is important for us to allow space to share our stories and give a voice to the voiceless.”
“However, I do feel that there needs to be an expansion of the conversation to include the larger societal beliefs and prejudice that has led us to this place—patriarchy, sexual shaming and unequal distribution of wealth and power, just to name a few.”
“I have been impacted personally by the #MeToo movement because it created more of an opportunity for me to discuss my own trauma with others and have a stronger sense of community and support.”
Dane sees a relevance for #MeToo in every industry and in society as a whole, so its impact on the porn business should be that much more powerful because of its inherent sexual nature.
“As with any cause, there certainly will be those who will take it to an extreme or abuse it. Do I think that it could push us back into puritanical thinking? I suppose it’s possible, but I have faith that there are enough enlightened, intelligent and thoughtful individuals within and outside the porn industry that can keep the conversation on what matters — equality, consent and ultimately, respect for all.”
There are multiple reasons to love a hidden bar. There is the fact that passing through an unmarked door to find a speakeasy club opens up a slew of ideas: if this barber shop isn’t just a barber shop, what else is possible? There is the feeling of exclusivity and the appeal of being in on a secret. There is the experiential nature of speakeasies: getting into a place no one knows about takes effort and that effort raises the act of going out into an event in itself. Whatever the reason, in every major metropolis, hidden bars are becoming more and more popular. Toronto is no exception.
Like any bars, nouveau speakeasies can be hit or miss – we’re game for just about anything, but if you want us to solve a riddle to enter your establishment we’re not coming – but the best of the best offer exceptional ambiance and delicious drinks. Like any good party, they’re also a little hard to find. To cut through the bullsh-t and get to the good stuff, below we’ve listed a guide Toronto’s top hidden bars:
1. The Toronto Temperance Society
This private club was established in 2010 for serious drinkers. Walk-ups are strictly prohibited and a set of house rules (a nod to New York’s sadly defunct Milk & Honey) is established from the onset. Entrance to the bar is, supposedly, reserved for members but a polite phone call or email can sometimes land a reservation pending availability. Inside The Toronto Temperance Society takes cues from the prohibition era for its decor and menu. Bartenders are immaculately dressed and extremely knowledgeable on the fully thought out cocktail menu and well-curated beer list. The attention to detail keeps the atmosphere from feeling too pretentious or too kitsch, striking the perfect balance between upscale exclusivity and local watering hole. If you’re lucky enough to find yourself inside, we suggest going off menu and letting the bartenders create something unique.
Entrance: While no official address is listed online, The Toronto Temperance Society is located above Sidecar restaurant. When booking, ask the host for the specifics on getting in. Location: 577 College St.
2. The Cloak
The Cloak is located underneath Marben restaurant. Though the Wellington Basement suffers from an identity crisis – the vintage hockey sticks on the wall suggest an upscale sports bar, naming drinks after popular punk songs harken to Queen West dives, and the cozy booths create a date night ambiance — it compensates with a spirited cocktail menu and daily drink specials. Happy hour, a rarity in Toronto, runs from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday with ten dollar cocktails. On Sunday nights The Cloak features a premium scotch selection for ten dollars all evening, including a sixteen-year-old Lagavulin that’s not to be missed.
Entrance: Look for the neon BAR OPEN sign beside Marben’s main doors. A phone number is listed just below. Call the number to be let inside. Location: 488 Wellington St. West
3. Cold Tea
Cold Tea is hidden in the heart of Kensington Market, a neighborhood that serves as one of Toronto’s last beacons against the city’s rapid gentrification. The market is a mixture of old hippies, artist types, food vendors, and college students. On any given night you’ll see a combination of these types making up Cold Tea’s clientele. Though the bar is unmarked, it’s well-known among the locals, and until recently was sought out for its loveable dive quality. Last year, an overhaul of the location, which now includes a delicious Asian inspired menu and ever-changing installations by local artists, brought Cold Tea’s interior to par with the city’s other nouveau speakeasies. Unfortunately, it also lost some of the bar’s shabby-chic charm.
Entrance: Cold Tea is located inside the Kensington Mall. Walk down the mall’s long hallway and look for the door with the red light above it. Location: 58 Kensington Ave.
4. Mahjong Bar
Mahjong’s exterior looks like a convenience store designed by David Lynch. It’s a great aesthetic. After passing by the glass countertop and multiple neon signs, you’ll find yourself inside a large back room decked out to look part retro diner and part underground forest. While the cocktails at Mahjong range from solid to delicious, the bar’s biggest selling point is the food. The assortment of small sharing plates are flavorful and ambitious, great to split with a partner or pass around a bigger group. For drinks, start with the Sake-based Stay Cosy. For food, start with the Shrimp/Pork Wantons.
Entrance: Pass the convenience store exterior and into the backroom. Location: 1276 Dundas St. West
Figures is located in the backroom of a comic/toy shop. After entering through a backdoor in a superhero adorned wall, you’re welcomed into an upscale tapas restaurant decorated with custom comic art and a Pacman-inspired ceiling. The restaurant is situated in Yorkville, which means the high-end tapas location caters to a richer clientele than most of the other establishments on this list. Prices aren’t cheap, but if you’re looking to splurge in a unique location, the chocolate shell dessert (made with edible gold and the highest quality dark chocolate, natch) is worth the price of admission.
Entrance: Enter through the hidden door at the back of the comic book exterior. Location: 137 Avenue Road
A once pristine piece of property designed with excellence in mind is currently rotting in your state. It’s in the next town over, and the neighboring countryside as well. The United States is peppered with once-illustrious shells of formerly magnificent mansions and resplendent hotels, their extravagant entry halls now only glimpsed by hungry brokers or trespassers in the night. We’ve included a few notable properties from abroad as well. Take a look.
Mudhouse Mansion, Lancaster, Ohio
This mansion had the quintessential elements necessary to make the perfect haunted house. The imposing property was constructed into a hillside sometime just before 1875 when it began to surface on county survey maps, and one local expert estimates it was abandoned sometime in the early to mid-20th century.
“Inside I found books from the ’60s, but I also found canceled checks from 1931,” Andy Henderson of Forgotten Ohiowrites. “Maybe the books were brought in later. It’s been suggested to me that traveling hippies may have shacked up here for a while, and it doesn’t sound like an unreasonable possibility.”
It was flattened by the city in September 2015, but before it crumbled, it was notoriously difficult to photograph due to an overzealous property owner known to prosecute trespassers to the full extent of the law. You can witness its demolition in the video below.
Kimball Castle, Gilford, New Hampshire
This castle’s history is a decorated one, and for $650,000, it can be yours. Perched above “The Broads” of Lake Winnipesaukee, the grounds offer unparalleled views of the White Mountains in New Hampshire. Built in 1895 by the wealthy railroad baron Benjamin A. Kimball, the once pristine structure has fallen into disrepair over the decades for a multitude of reasons, including a lack of funds and family left to carry on its prestige.
Today, the castle is fenced in and for sale, with multiple assets on the 20-acre property, but buyers beware: The 3-bedroom home and barn may hold steady, but the castle is in a serious state of disrepair. It’s not hard to imagine investing more than initially allocated after seeing the castle up close.
The Kopice Castle, or the “Palace on the Lake,” has a dark history entwined with myth and lore that stretches back centuries. RealClearLife spoke to Wojciech Kuźma, a photographer and amateur historian based in Poland, to shed some light on what it’s really like to be in the palace’s midst.
“Well, the whole palace is huge and very impressive, but for me, it was a very sad journey, because I know the history of the place,” Kuźma told RealClearLife. “Not many people know that the palace is connected with a story like from the Cinderella fairytale. A little girl called Joanna Schaffgotsch was born in a poor Silesian family in 1842, and her parents worked for Karol Godula, one of the richest people in Silesia.”
Kuźma explained the legend like this: Schaffgotsch’s father died soon after she was born, forcing her mother to bring her along to work. Godula enjoyed the way Schaffgotsch spoke freely and without respect in front of such a noble man, and decided to care for her, educating her as she grew. As he died, he left his fortune to her, with the press dubbing her a “Silesian Cinderella.”
Though Schaffagotsch went on to live a fulfilled life, dying just after her husband in 1910, multiple reports say that by the end of World War II, the Red Army arrived and ripped she and her husband from their resting places in the mausoleum, burying them in a mass grave on the property.
The quality has declined since then, Kuźma said. “After that, there was practically nothing left of the palace and it’s getting worse and worse. There were several attempts to save the palace, but they came to nothing.”
The Los Feliz Murder Mansion, Los Angeles
This gorgeous piece of Southern California real estate was abandoned in 1959 when its owner, Dr. Harold Perelson, savagely beat his wife to death with a ball-peen hammer before attacking his 18-year-old daughter, then promptly killed himself by gulping down a glass of acid with tranquilizer pills. Aptly dubbed the “murder mansion,” its interior was ignored by its new property owners for decades, with Atlas Obscura reporting that its neighbors have actually had to help pitch in to maintain the property.
Luckily for the land, that may be about to change. Zillow.comreported that it was sold for $2.2 million in a probate sale in 2016, and estimates its asking price today hovers somewhere around $4.2 million after upgrades. It used to be that any passersby could reportedly still see remnants of the life the Perelsons left behind: A 1950s-style television set, a Christmas tree, dust-covered furniture. The new owners have likely moved around the furniture.
Billionaire’s Row in London
Nicknamed “Billionaire’s Row,” some of the world’s wealthiest people —plus various royal families — have deeds to homes lining The Bishops Avenue in London. While these photos aren’t direct before and after snapshots of the same property, they were taken just a few short years apart on the second most expensive street in the city and illustrate what local journalists have revealed to be an insidious issue.
An investigation by the Guardian found wealthy buyers parking their cash in the properties, then letting them age and rot for decades, sometimes more. The thought process behind this move is simple: Properties purchased in the 1980s or 1990s, for example, are worth many more millions today. The buyers get the best of both worlds — an investment they don’t have to keep a watchful eye on, but one that provides them with exorbitant returns.
With the endless autumn/winter fashion week season and the Oscars now behind us, the well-heeled and creative glitterati turn their focus back to New York City for The Armory Show 2018. Opening on Wednesday, March 7 with a VIP Preview Day, the fair will then officially open to welcome the general public from Thursday, March 8 to Sunday, March 11. Last year’s vernissage saw tennis legend John McEnroe, architect Peter Marino and fashion designer Narciso Rodriguez eyeballing art around the carpeted floors of Piers 92 and 94. While celebrity sightings shouldn’t be this week’s focus, getting oneself into The Museum of Modern Art’s fussy The Armory Party, sure will be. The dance party benefit, also on March 7, is a hot ticket that draws the city’s influential and attractive.
It should be noted that not all is roses and champagne as the fair opens: In a year plagued by sexual-misconduct, misogyny scandals and “Me Too” in the creative, business and political worlds, the Armory Show’s former executive director, Benjamin Genocchio, has been dismissed amid allegations that the New York Times reported stemmed from “five women who [had] worked with him over the years [and] experienced unwelcome touching.”
It will be interesting to observe how many of the show’s staggering 198 galleries (hailing from more than 30 countries) will hone in on the Time’s Up movement as they present their finest contemporary projects from world-renowned and up-and-coming artists.
Organizers divulged that there will be 66 returning exhibitors this year who did not show at the 2017 affair. Gagosian is sure to make a triumphant return to the show as are the much-loved Perrotin gallery and Regen Projects of Los Angeles.
There will 43 first-time galleries showing, including the impressive Pearl Lam Galleries of Hong Kong and Night Gallery, based in Los Angeles.
Separate from the gilded oeuvres and masterpieces on display at The Armory art show are eight concurrent satellite fairs (Art on Paper, NADA, Scope, Independent, Collective Design, Moving Image Art Fair, Spring/Break Art Show and Volta NY) that will also deliver noteworthy creative moments and artists. These top-notch art fairs will compete for attention alongside a multitude of museum exhibition openings, gallery unveils, and charity parties.
Additionally, an onslaught of engaging seminars, receptions, private tours and other activations, exclusively produced for The Armory Show, will take place throughout the New York City area, principally as a part of the fair’s VIP programming.
Last spring, with the atmosphere inside the tents of the Frieze art show feeling a wee bit deflated (and the trek to Randall’s Island undeniably a nuisance); The Armory Show stands as the must-see art fair in New York. There is even the Pommery Champagne lounge, Champagne Bar, to motivate you to navigate the maze of booths.
For more information on the events and visiting hours, click here.