Fascinating urban mysteries, explained

Slide show: We unravel enigmas of the city, from the pink faces of Paris to a Virgin Mary under a Chicago underpass

Published November 22, 2010 12:01AM (EST)

A good, productive city is often depicted as a hive of people zipping from one place to the next with purpose and determination. As any urban dweller knows, there's not much fun in that -- few of us move to the big city to sleepwalk through it. Situationist hero Guy Debord called this state of mesmerism the "petrified life" and urged urbanites to interact with the landscape in a deeper (and weirder) way. To notice what is hidden in plain sight, you have to be in the right frame of mind, which is to say, you have to be looking. Proto-slackers like Baudelaire paved the way, drifting through the streets riffing off the endless possibilities and moods, discovering poetry and mystery in the smallest details. Others, like today's street artists, take a more active role, altering the urban terrain in ways that provoke and entertain passersby.

The enigmatic, inscrutable corners of cities get short shrift in guidebooks and travel sections, because they aren't landmarks or must-see-before-you-die kinds of spots. The intersection of art, literature, history and mythology imbues these 13 places with meaning.

By Megan Cytron

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