other Desert Cities. What could be more mysterious and romantic than that? What are those cities? Who lives there? Where are they? Are they really cities or are they just small collections of buildings tucked away out of sight?
And that uncapitalized other just adds to the magic. It seems somehow wrong because we are used to seeing names capitalized, and yet the reason it’s not capitalized is because it’s not a name. But then why are Desert and Cities capitalized? It’s all very mysterious.
Seeing this sign reminded me of the feeling of romance I get looking at the Departures board in Heathrow Airport, where almost all the flights are to distant foreign cities whose names I’ve read in books: Almaty, Freetown, Hanoi, Islamabad, Tangier.
Another reason I loved the sign was that it is the very sign that gave the name to one of my favorite plays – Other Desert Cities. It’s a wonderful play, witty and very clever, with layers of secrets that slowly unfold.
If you have a chance, see the sign and see the play. And if you decide to ever write a play, I give you permission to call it Distant Foreign Cities.
Links and Other Clicks
A review of Other Desert Cities.