Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Medaba from Istanbul

Where does one even begin after their first 13 hours in Istanbul? I’m in my room right now, and yet, there are still streets crammed with people like SoHo on a Saturday in July and then some—though I’m about a perfect 20 minute stroll, literally right off the main street in New Istanbul (Istiklal Cadauk), from busy Beyoglu and famous Taksim Square. And to give you a better picture, before we go any further, I’ll describe exactly where I am in this truly astonishing place.

If you chose to look at a map (which I highly recommend), you’ll notice the city is split in two by the Bosphorus. I’m on the west side of it (European side); furthermore, you’ll notice there is a rather wide tributary that juts off the river and splits the western half—the Gold Horn. I’m staying on the southern part of the northern side of the river (if that makes sense), in a neighborhood known as Galata. To the north is “New Istanbul” (or so it has been recently coined) and it is unreal. Old mixes with new as boutiques, bars, clubs, and restaurants line the streets and vendors fill the corners. It is simply divine. Over and across the Galata Bridge is why I came; Old Istanbul, or Sultanahmet, is where the vast majority of historic sites lie. The Grand Bazaar district is also on the southern half. I chose to stay in Galata because it is right in the middle of old and new, perfectly juxtaposed in this (I’m running out of words) awesome city.

When I first started planning this trip, one of the dictionary.com words of the day that appeared in my gmail box was errant. More often than not, the words of the day are obscure and difficult to assimilate into ones daily vocabulary, and if I were not planning on running about to a far off corner of the world, errant, too, would be just as fucking random. However, I cannot find, nor create a more fitting word. Errant, in my own words, is to spend a day in Istanbul with all that you have to cover on your mind, and yet cover none of it because the scenes are so captivating, all the while misbehaving here and there; the streets so lively and full; the city undoubtedly surreal. Why have a plan on my first day—especially after only about 4 hours of sleep in the past 36 hours—when you’ve never been to a place? Get to know it while not knowing it first at all.

You might consider noting that I’m writing this blog at a rather obscene hour (04:13 local time, 21:13EST (I’m seven hours ahead)), but my brain just can’t stop spinning; words are running, sporadically, randomly, and thoughtlessly through my head. All I have been able to think about since I arrived in this historic metropolis is what the fuck I’m going to write about. And here, as I sit in my room, I still have no idea. It is simple going to spew from my fingertips.

I’ll quickly recap my departure from the City—New York City that is. ( Please note: “the City” will always and forever be New York City, no matter what.)

I left from JFK on Alitalia on what was supposed to be a fight that left at 18:00, to say the least it didn’t. We were stuck on the plane for just over an hour with no air conditioning…now, I can handle no air conditioning (I’m staying on the 4th floor here, its 85-90 and humid, with no AC), but on a plane with 290 people, it’s a bit rough. One of the engines would not start properly, hence the necessary delay. Needless to say, I got through it with no problems, as did the rest of the passengers. Thankfully it was a plane full of mostly Europeans who do not wastefully use as nearly as much AC as we devouring American’s do. Anywho.

The flight was fine. Of course there was one glitch. I booked my ticket through American Express Travel, and to my grand realization and stunning surprise, there was never an option when I booked my ticket about meal specifications. It dawned on me while I was checking in; I asked and she said it’s was too late and the best I could do was hope there was an extra one on board.

The plane was a Boeing 777 and holds 291 people, including crew. There were Four sections: first class, business, the frontal coach class and the rear coach class (no difference between the two coach classes). I was in row 34, so I got to board first. I asked every flight attendant I passed about a veg meal and their response was the same as the lady at the ticket widow: if you didn’t request it in advance, you’ll just have to wait a see. Well, wait and see I did. I got so jealous as all the other people with special meal requests got served first—as vegetarians, diabetics, and any other food specific person always does—I was pissed at myself and at American Express. Thankfully, the cabin stewards were all delightful and when they came around asking if I wanted “Chicken or Fish,” in their Italian-English, I finally had the chance to ask if there were any veg meals left. After everyone else was severed, finally I was too. And I’ll be dammed, it was a fabulous Indian Cuisine vegetarian meal (I would argue it was vegan).

Besides the meal escapade, my fucking seat would not stay in a locked position. Now, this was fine for me, but since it went back further then all other did, the woman behind me was a bit perturbed. After it happened a few times and I felt her evident, yet polite nudge, I turned back and said, “I’m so sorry, the seats broken.” It was annoying and relieving at the same time.

We landed in Milano with about 40 minutes for me to spare until my connecting flight to Istanbul took off. And it was the perfect amount of time. Back through security I went and by the time I found the gate, I only waited about 7 minutes before boarding. Almost three hours later, the Alitalia 737 touched down in Istanbul.

I was numb. Emotionless, really when we touched down. Why, I do not know. But it was probably a good thing that I was over tired so very awake and not to eager to get where I needed to go because a problem immediately arose once I arrived.

After grabbing my lone and quite small checked bag, towards the exit I went. I needed cash. I had spent the two previous days in the city all over the place, from banks to embassies and offices galore, trying to find Turkish Lira, but had no luck. To my delight, I spotted a CitiBank ATM. I did the ATM thing, insert card, type pin, choose account, how much, etc., and then was blatantly greeted with a not-so-positive message. “The issuing bank has denied your financial request.” Well, fuck you CitiBank. I traversed the globe with this ATM card and never once had a problem (well, until it got eaten in Brazil by the HSBC machine). Coincidently, I hesitantly tried the HSBC machine—no luck. Then both Turkish Bank ATM machines and got the same response each time. Thankfully, I had my Washington Mutual debit and had just deposited a very small amount of money which I was not planning on touching just before I left.

Well, it worked, and damit, I didn’t even tell WaMu I was going anywhere. I told Liberty Bank that I would be in Turkey and Greece at such and such times. I never once had a problem previously overseas with Liberty; I prefer using them because they refund all ATM transactions fees at the end of the month.

I withdrew 150YTL (Yeni (new) Turkish Lira) with my WaMu card. I was pointed to a shuttle service that would take me right to my hostel. Perfect. They set it up, I paid, waited about ten minutes, and then was off to my hostel in Galata with a driver that spoke maybe five English phrases—and that was just fine.

I checked in with home to make mummy and daddy happy, only to report my dangerous and dire financial inaccessibility. You see, it is better to withdraw from ATMs if you can because you get the best exchange rate as opposed to bringing cash and buying the local currency. So of course, I had a ten, a five, and probably about 17 ones which I purposely brought just in case. Nonetheless, they were virtually worthless; right along with my fucking Liberty Bank ATM card.

The drive into the city was sort of a blurr. I was tired, but wholeheartedly ignoring it. I talked to mom and dad, gave them the report and off to work they enthusiastically, though unfortunately went in order for me to have cash. Credit cards are easy to use, but you can’t get as good of a price if you’re paying with plastic when bargaining—so fuck it, I needed the paper damnit! Anyway, they had an hour before the bank opened, so I would be calling them back sooner rather than my planned later second phone call.

Like I said, the driver spoke only a few words in English; he said “Thank you very much,” for just about everything. I politely smiled and nodded as he went on in Turkish. He was able to point out and say what I was numbly viewing—the Sea of Marmara (to the south of Istanbul). It was beautiful though depressing. It was filled with cargo and oil tankers, some anchored, some sailing, but nonetheless, each ship hindering the should-be stunning and serene view. We kept driving.

It was beautiful all around us. The middle of this road (I’m guessing the main highway) was landscaped with geraniums and marigolds, brightly popping out below the many maple trees that filtered then scattered the sunlight from above. Still driving.

Finally, while I was still on the phone with my mother—who was excitedly and legitimately inquisitive already as to my adventures thus far—there it was: The Aya Sofya, or westernly known as the Haghia Sofia. This stunning mosque (though it was originally it was a place for Christians to worship) was emotionally moving from afar. I quickly told my mother I had to hang up the phone and that I’d call later because I needed a moment to take in the dreamed and picturesque view as tears trickled down my check. (Whatever, make fun all you want. Either way, it was my first time crying over a piece of art history, though I’m sure the Acropolis will bring floods). You see, my love for art history began in this corner of the world; first with the Greeks, their massive thrones and seemingly effortless sculpture (the Romans, too, but they mostly copied the Greeks and just furthered from their already perfected styles), then, slightly further more to the East in Turkey and Iraq. (Iraq was once home to more architectural structures and indeed feats than any other region in the world, though closely rivaled by Greece, Turkey, and Egypt. Today, well, I’m sure you can just imagine what is missing from their tarnished and tattered landscape.) For an adorer of late antiquity, this is unequivocally the place to be. And hey, here I am!

Anyway, back to the drive. It took maybe a half an hour to get to my hostel; through part of Sultanahmet and over the Galata Bridge, the driver skillfully weaved the van about the steep and truly chaotic streets. In getting to know the city more today, I learned that streets in Boston are brilliant compared to here, but at the same time—I’d take this place any day.

Down a steep slope we went that was barely wide enough room for the van, let alone the people walking and crowding around it. He asked a few people exactly where my place was, and we finally, and quite randomly, parked right in the middle of the street. Well, two streets actually, though neither separate nor together would they legitimately be considered a pathway for a vehicle in the West. He jumped out, and quickly stared walking in the direction of my place. It was a hike. I never realized Istanbul was an incredibly steep and hilly metropolis (nothing like San Francisco, though oddly reminiscent of Hong Kong Island (in some parts of it)). We walked what I would say was the distance of about five blocks and boom, there it was, he pointed out my place. Never, ever, ever would I have found it one my own. There was only a small sign on the doorbell saying the name of the place—The Chillout Galata Hostel.

And chill it is. Every inch of every paintable space is painted in a psychedelic yet geometric pattern; the walls, the stairs, the floors (though my room has carpet). There’s even this really creepy stenciled girl as you round the second floor stairs that reminds me of the crazy girl from the Ring. Creepy. But it’s a perfect place to stay. I’m on the forth floor with my own room. There’s a spiral staircase that takes me there, but it’s a breeze compared to the ones in Amsterdam. Everyone here, the staff (though they seem to live here, too) and guests are all quite nice and certainly fit in with the hippie ambiance.

I threw down my stuff; unpacked some stuff with hopes of getting some wrinkles to fade (oh, the trouble with linen!); washed up and hit the street, and thankfully I stayed on my feet. And there I went, errantly perusing about this beautiful place.

Passing by music shops and cafés, kebab stands and boutiques, taksi’s (taxi’s) and even the occasional tram, and of course, the thick masses of people, I made my way into the heart of New Istanbul. Of course, I was continuing to try ATM machines here and there, as I had yet to understand the problem with my card. Once I called mom and dad back at the shop, I learned of the problem. For some reason, the bank failed to tell me that Turkey blocks certain American banks. Why, I have no fucking clue, but I was livid. Especially since my WaMu card worked and I never told them I was going overseas—and christ, I even overdrew!

Well, regardless, we went through it all. I found an internet café in hopes of getting my WaMu account number so money could be wired into it from Liberty. Of course, finding your account number online or getting it over the phone is damn near impossible. After asking the WaMu rep on the phone, “Are you going to tell me that you are going to leave a customer stranded with no access to currecy, 4300 miles from the United States?” he managed a way to find help for me. Anyway, a story I’ve made too long already short, I got my account number, gave it to mom and hopfully she’ll be wiring me money.

[Note: my computer died at this point and I’m finishing up this entry at a great Koffehause on Tuesday.]

But it was the one and only American Express who truly saved my life. I called them up and they amazingly gave me a one-time use pin number for an ATM. In never would have called them had I not noticed a lone back with their logo…gotta love the AMEX. And I love their customer service even more. I can’t wait to cancel my Capital One, I couldn’t even get someone on the phone with those fucks.

Anyway, I had to have a beer. I ended up having a few, no big deal, I was in serious need of them. I ate the most amazing nachos ever along with my Turkish beer before continuing to peruse about the main street. After eating, I wanted to scope out some of the hot night spots the many travel books I’d read had talked about. So I continued on, finding myself on streets with no names and people, locals, running about. There are cats everywhere, too. Cats and kittens, all running around, looking for fun and looking for play. They’re all adorable and a mommy and a kitten are residence in my hostel. They are clean and cute. Anyway, I was starting to wear down and so I made my way back, errantly of course, to my place, for a quick nap. Yeah, I know, the fact that I even use the word nap is amazing, but I was very much in need.

After a brief snooze, I woke, put clothes on (had to sleep with nothing on—well, you could say I slept in the thick layer of sweat that coated my body and carried the sheet with me wherever I moved, but nonetheless, naked indeed.), and off I went, back the place I had discovered earlier.

BarBache was its name and it was about a 25 minute walk from my place. I started walking, not 100% as to how to get here, but I’d find my way, and yes, that I did. You’d think this place didn’t exist because of the area it was in, even the building. But it did, and in I went. It was empty when I got there—about 2230-2300. It’s the same in the City. It started to get crazy closer to 0:00, and my, it only got crazier. I started chattering on in my best non-existent Turkish in hopes of making some new friends.

I did. Two of them and my are they crazy fuckers. I ran out of money because I only bring a limited amount out with me at night, leaving my wallet and credit cards at home because I certainly don’t need to be pick-pocketed while dancing and drinking. Also, drinks were FAR more expensive than I thought, so I was making sure they poured properly, if you get my drift.

Of the two I met, only on spoke English. It’s funny. And they are crazy. Everyone in Turkey does an obscene amount of drugs, and depending on what bar you are at is what type of drug you’ll do. Not to worry, I was good. But they were rolling like crazy and wanted to get crazier. I was in for the fun and for the laughs, and laugh I did. I watched these two guys smoke fucking crack from a yogurt container—there’s a first time for everything. I just laughed and they laughed at me laughing. It was really a great experience.

Never once did I let me guard down nor did I feel nervous in their company; in fact, I felt much more secure than when I was alone. For being on the drugs they were, they were very tepid and polite and enjoyable. They were always looking out for me, putting their arm out so I wouldn’t cross the street too soon (which annoys the FUCK out of me—I survived Saigon, I can cross any street), and just constantly making sure I was enjoying myself. Once I explained that I really couldn’t do anything else, we agreed to meet the following night in Taksim Square at the McDonalds…eh, I know. Just the thought of meeting them there made me want to vomit, but it was easy for them and easy for me, so I was fine with it. And I knew I wouldn’t have to eat there, so whatever.

Well, I made my way back to my place for around just before the time I started writing this blog. The streets were still teaming with people—tons of them. Drunk and stumbling, loud and laughing, musicians and food vendors, police (way more than NYC) and people, strewn all about. For my first night, I couldn’t have imagined, created, fictionalized anything better—not one bit of it.

So much more has happened since then, but I’m not going to get into it quite yet. I’m fine and well and absolutely adoring Istanbul…and I’m not sure I’ll be leaving.

Of all the cities I’ve visited, Istanbul, but far, is New York City’s closest cousin—in every facet they can be related. An eastern rival, if you will. I’ve yet to find the perfect words for this place and I do hope I can find them before I leave—the people, the places, the culture, the goods, the food, the…everything.

So here I am; I went to the Aya Sofya (at about 0730 only to realize Istanbul doesn’t come alive—at all—on Sunday’s until at least 0900 or 1000) and realized I could die happy now, but I’ve got to make it to the Acropolis. Life is absolutely perfect and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Until next time…

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Begining

Finally something to write about and my how good it feels.

I just opened this blog with a fragment which I really don’t like to do, but there is simply no other way to put it—frag-ed or otherwise. I’m sure you’re wondering what it is I’m just so elated to write about, but at the same time, you might know already.

Side note: I turned on my computer as soon as I boarded my train for the City. The conductor just came by while I was halfway through my third sentence, took my ticket, punched it, and said quite simply and void of emotion: “Enjoy your trip.” If only he knew what the trip I’m about to embark upon only modestly entails, perhaps he would have smiled or lifted his voice a bit more. But regardless.

Here I go and I’m so very excited to be able to take you right along with me as I did just over a short year ago on my voyage around the globe.

I just left the New London, Connecticut Amtrak train station—Union Station (and yes, to answer your question there about 10000000 Union Station’s across the United States of America). I’ve got a two hour and twenty-eight minute rail ride ahead of me, directly following the Connecticut’s Long Island Sound (LIS) coastline. New London and a touch of Waterford are a bit of a bore for the eye. But continuing further, riding past the marshlands in Niantic, the old, rotting and flooded broken down docks, with seagulls and egrets perched about and flying above, the coastline livens as we head south. Niantic is lovely: the rock formations off the beach protruding above the dark churning Sound sea; the chilled walkers filling the three-year old boardwalk as they try to enjoy the melancholy sky of this chilly Wednesday (13 June 07). Suddenly, Niantic ends—forest fills the landscape, surrounding the train.

A minute further south and Connecticut’s main artery is exposed—The Connecticut River. With its mouth just out of sight, its first Marinas are just a stone throw from the train’s bridge. The river ends in Old Saybrook. It has just snaked 600 some odd miles south from Canada, down through Vermont, Massachusetts, making its way through the capital city of its given name, still churning further, feeding its flood plains as it has done for centuries, finally dumping its contents—pollutants and all—into the LIS. Usually at this spot in the river, one of its widest, it is bustling with boat traffic, well, as bustling as this part of the river can be; yachts and sailboats, fish catchers and people towers, today there was only one measly powerboat cranking her way up the river from the Sound, I’m sure. Oh the pollutants.

The train stops. Passengers exit while other people now become passengers; it’s the nonstop cycle of Amtrak’s Northeastern Corridor Train system—Boston to Washington with some of the county’s greatest city’s as stops in between. But of course, just one of them stands out and shines above the rest, and it’s where I’ll be stopping soon…six more stops.

The tide is rising, making its way in from the mouth of the LIS, Stonington to Mystic, Groton feeding New London, creeping further and further in towards and up into the Hudson—New York’s main artery.

But I’ve digressed—big surprise.

I’m spending the night in the city and will be wine-ing and dine-ing with some of New York’s finest. Old college friends, if you will. Anyway, I’m going to call this City trip fluff considering what I’ve got in store for the next two and a half weeks or so.

I’m running off east, well, flying really, to what has been known as quite literally a gateway to the East—Asia, that is. It’s a country that, much like Russia, can fall quite comfortably into either a European or Asian category. Turkey is my first destination and I’m just fucking thrilled about it.

I’ll be spending my first days in its most known city—Istanbul, formerly and famously known as Constantinople. This was once one of the world’s richest cities, in all facets a city can be rich in. And yet, after the fall of the Ottoman Empire, it seems the world forgot about Istanbul. The sorrow of Empire and how a melancholy mood can linger on for centuries as a nation tries to rebuild itself into a world player. And that is just what it has done. Commonly confused as Turkey’s capital city (Ankara is the capital: its slightly southeast, 281 miles to be exact of Istanbul; it’s more centrally located, yet with still much more Turkish land to the east than west.), Istanbul is alive and well indeed.

The world’s second or “New Rome,” as it was coined by Emperor Constantine the Great on 11 May 330, sits, literally, as a gateway from east to west. The river running through it—The Bosphorus—empties the Black Sea and then feeds the Sea of Marmara, which then fills the Aegean and its abutting Mediterranean Sea neighbor. Land on both sides of the Bosphorus is part of Istanbul, but the western or European side is what we, knowers of history and art, war and peace, nation and state, understand and indeed envision when we speak of Istanbul: the Aya Sofya (Hagia Sophia), the Blue Mosque, the Grand Bazaar, and of course—the rugs. The eastern part of the city is more like New York's Brooklyn and Queens. The east is connected with the west by an elaborate system of ferries, endlessly running back and forth to keep the metropolis alive, hoping it never falls again.

Turkey’s geography, Istanbul alike, plays more of a role than just the weather. It is neighbors with some of the worlds most spoken of states. For starters: Syria, Iraq, and Iran, followed by Armenia, Georgia (where they tried to throw the bomb at W.!), Bulgaria, and Greece’s outreaching eastern arm—along with the majority of its islands. And though to my mother’s great relief, Istanbul lies in the most northwestern part of the country (picture an oval with an arm and hand off its top left corner—there’s Istanbul, right on the wrist), as far from Iraq, Iran, and Syria as a traveler in Turkey can be, it is still a city of focus for radicals and politics, conflict and turmoil, urban dwellers and business folk alike.

If you’re a reader of international news, perhaps you’ll recall that Turkey has been in the headlines for the past few months and more recently, for more deadly reasons than the norm. They have a young government (though older than Iran’s revolutionary one) with a devoutly religious population. And yet, as a secular state founded in 1923 by the revered and infamous Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, radical Islam has made its way into the Parliament and is indeed evoking religious and political trouble throughout the country. Bombs and threats, wars games and spies are a daily part of political life in the newly tumultuous Turkey. I won’t even go into the debates being had over what to do about Kurdish Turks and Iraqi Turks at the moment. Maybe I’ll save that talk for when I’m back soundly in the states…though I do enjoy the cliffhanging adventure, but I’m trying not to turn more of my parents hair grey.

Nonetheless, as a global player—and that Turkey certainly is—it has done one hell of a juggling act. They’re trying to join the European Union (EU) while at the same time radical Islam is slipping into its government whilst they fight on both sides of their border with Iraq. They have tightly tied interests in the Middle East, and yet also have to appeal to the dollars in the West, all the while pleasing their citizens at the same time. Wow. WWWD? (What would W. do? Ha. Ha.)

Well anywho. After I tire from the sights, the tea, and the bargaining, I’ll board a plane headed southwest for Bodrum; a popular peninsula between the Aegean and Turquoise (Mediterranean Sea) coasts. This is a spot where wealthy and well traveled Turks and global citizens have enjoyed for years. I don’t even remember how Bodrum came into play as a part in my travel plans, but I don’t really care either. There’s history and culture, shopping and a shore (supposedly stunning), and Ephesus is not far if I’m in need of a day trip. (FYI: As a city with one of the biggest archeology draws in the country, Archeologists digging in Ephessus just found (about a month and a half ago) the first ever graveyard of Gladiators—you know, the ones who spent their lives fighting each other for the people’s entertainment so their days in prison would not be as boring…ha.) History, art, life, and death…oh how I love the rest of the world and its aged cultures.

After a few sun kissed days in Bodrum, I’ll board a ferry bound for Greece. Well, one of its many islands anyway. Kos is my first stop and it’s only a 30 minute ferry ride. I’ll spend a night on the large island of Kos (though not nearly as large is its southern neighbor Rhodes or Crete) in the hotel where I had the most interesting of conversations when I made the reservation.
Me: Hello. I was wondering if you have a room available on 22 June for one person for one night.
Greek Hotel Man Employee (with very broken, very thick Greek accent): Yes, we do.
Me: Oh, great. I’ll take it.
GHME: Ok. What is your name?
Me: Jeffrey.
GHME: My name is John. Nice to meet you Jeffrey, see you soon.
Me: Ummm, you don’t need a credit card or anything to hold my room?
GHME: No, you pay Euro when you get here. It nice room with balcony and view. No worry.
Me: Wow. Great. Thanks, see you soon John.

Kos is one of the many islands in the Dodecanese Islands which are east of Greece on Turkey’s border in both the North Aegean, Southern Aegean, and Mediterranean Seas. Ferry’s run from Bodrum three times a week, Monday, Tuesday and Friday (yeah, pretty random). After my night in Kos, I’ll head to the airport, of which I can’t imagine will be more than a dusty landing strip, and board the plane for 25 minutes north to the much smaller island of Leros. My conversation with the hotel man in Leros was not nearly as exciting as the one in Kos—he took my credit card information.

After my night in Kos, the second true part of my grand adventure begins. I’ll be boarding a fifty foot sailboat with 7 other passengers, and three crew members—a captain, first mate and cabin boy (which I very may well become as well..teehee). From Leros, we’ll sail and peruse about the Dodecanese islands for seven days, making six hidden stops in some of Greece’s smallest and least populated islands. This, I have no doubt, will be one of the many highlights of my grand expedition.

After I came back from my Semester at Sea aboard the grandiose MV Explorer, I was itching for a real sailing adventure. Having had a 100 day love affair with the sea, I was in need of a much closer, albeit it shorter, experience together. For the Sea, in all its glory is the most unexplored and misunderstood facet of our world. Scientists argue that more is known about outer space than is known of the sea; it’s deep, dark, and dangerous, and technology, thankfully, can only go so far. However, thanks to the one and only Rachel Carson and her brilliant ‘The Sea Around Us” (and let’s not forget “Silent Spring”), much more is known about the ever powerful, ever changing, and forever surprising sea that surrounds us. As for the Greek Islands, it’s a region of the world I’ve yet to delve into, and I couldn’t be more excited about it.

After sailing about, and learning the ropes as much as I can, our final port of call is the large central island of Samos. In Samos, I’ll board an overnight ferry bound for Piraeus, Athens’s bustling and famous port on its eastern side. Greece has a brilliant and indeed elaborate ferry system; and rightfully so considering it’s lively, numerous, and popular off shore islands.

Once in Athens, I’m parking my archeticture adoring ass at the Acropolis where I’ll probably pass out or even die from shock. The Acropolis is the one place I have dreamed of ever since I’ve started eating up all of Art History. More so than Rome and anywhere else in Europe, Athens and its stunning thrones will indeed fulfill a massive amount of my art and worldly pleasure, and I simply cannot wait. But then again, I will. There’s lots to see in between, too.

Well, I’m in the tunnel at Penn now. Never did I expect this to take me the full 2.28 to get done, but hey, what are you going to do.

Until I’m in Turkey…cheers.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Potpourri and Such

Well hello and hello.

So I just can’t stop thinking about the World.

Knowing I leave in ten days for the most excitingly historic, architecturally rich, conveniently juxtaposed region of the world is truly mind boggling. By conveniently juxtaposed I mean Turkey and its perfect geographical location. How Istanbul, once a powerhouse economic capital, the second Rome if you will, straddles the Bosphorus, looking north to the Black Sea and south to the Sea if Marmara—the crossroads from West to East, Europe to Asia. But even that is not the only reason I can’t stop thinking about the World.

The G8 conference is in full swing this week and host, Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, is trying to pull her industrialized and coal laden weight to sway the most hegemonic and hedonistic of powers to commit to serious and meaningful environmental change. But before anything even began, there was already a ‘no’ from Washington. George W. Bush is still being himself. And to no avail to the rest of the world—or even the US—he will continue to be the ignorant, selfish, illegitimate president of our poor United States. Merkel wants W to commit cutting greenhouse gas emissions 50% by 2050. Sounds simple, right? Not in the minds of an oil-slicked, blood-tainted Texan. Especially since the Republicans only started believing in "global warming", or perhaps more properly, "climate change" not even a year ago. Talk about a flip-flop.

As for the Democrats, they’re pissing me off too. I found it absolutely appalling that Obama, Edwards, and Clinton took part in an Evangelical Christian Q&A session. Obama quoted the bible; Edwards paid it all to the lord above; and Miss Hil said it was the lord who helped her through her marital woes. Bullshit, bullshit, and bullshit. If we haven’t noticed already, it’s organized faith that seems to be screwing up our world the most…Jerry Falwell anyone? Or wait, what about "radical Islam," you know the new fascists of the world? And how about those born again son of a bitches? I think maybe the Jews have it the best: clean penises, an embattled homeland that no one really gets involved with unless they are there, and christ, even their most conservative of sects has allowed for gay clergy and same sex union blessings. But at the same time, none of them have it. Maybe the Buddhists. But I don’t know.

Now perhaps you found that all a bit rude. Fine, take it that way. The thing is I have no problem with faith, none at all. In fact, I consider myself to the a spiritual person, in an agnostic sense of the world, of course. Which is why I have such a massive problem with FAITH AND POLITICS, together, in the same topic. People pushing their god on my, espically in political ways is simply absurd and an invasion of my rights and privacies. They do not mesh, faith and politics, just look at Iran and Saudi Arabia, and the new secular problems boiling about in Turkey. We are indeed a secular state, but day by day, the all mighty and downright horrifying church hacks away at our separated governmental institution. The Separation of Church and State is so simple and yet it is under the most vicious of attacks by the most hypocritical people in the world. Morals? You want to talk about those religious morals? How about lending a hand in Darfur, that would be moral, would it not? A genocide has been occurring there for how long, and what the fuck have our moral l eaders done…nothing. They simply said, "Not on my Watch." Well, W., clearly you didn’t learn how to read a watch while blowing coke off your gym teacher’s ass and snapping your towel at other locker mates, prancing about at Yale, knowing nothing about the world around you…and all the while your future wife kills someone. But that would be to simple, sending troops to a region in need, where we know there is a problem, and people of mass destruction are killing hundreds of thousands of people day in and day out. But then again, we’re bogged down in a quagmire and our troops are truly stretching thin. Cheers to them, our strong and brave troops, regardless of their duties—they’re simply following their Commander in Chief who unfortunately happens to be the most stubborn son of a bitch on the planet.


What a rant. Whoopse. Anyway. Connecticut has been interesting. Besides preparing for my graduation party non-stop, there’s not much else one can do in the western hills of Norwich, Connecticut. Well that’s not true either, but do you want to hear about the drinking and the toking and the absurdities past ensued?

Either way, I’ll tell a quick graduation story.

It was the night before the big day, the 22nd of May….
My family was in town for the night, Mom, Dad, and Joel, Betty and Amanda, too. Off to dinner we went, never expecting what happened to indeed ensue. We were at Choice Kitchen on 28th and 3rd and to our great surprise, they serve happy hour drinks to the dining tables! Well, that did it. Martini’s all around, everyone. And like that, the laughs got louder and the stories more outrageous. The Sox were playing and of course my brother was overtly cheering them on, just to be the asshole he is, but oh well. It was great nonetheless. From dinner, we started walking back up third towards their hotel.

Dad had expressed earlier that he would certainly get thirsty on the walk back to the hotel, so we’d have to stop for a drink. Knowing my brother and my father, we stopped by Joshua Tree. This place is kinda odd, but crazy too. They have big screen TVs muted with sports playing while the best of the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, blasts away. Joel was immediately frustrated because our drinks were not coming fast enough damnit, and how was it possible that there was only one bartender and one server for a bar full of people!?! Well, after our first round of drinks, shots were necessary. Mom and Bett split, so we just kept drinking. An hour probably went by and Amanda finally called.

I had to run and meet her at Grand Central, maybe five or six blocks from where we were. And so I did. Running all the way, I finally caught up with friendy and she immediately handed me my grad present: a bottle of Van Gogh Vodka, one of the finest of Vodka’s without question. She hadn’t been drinking, so I immediately opened the bottle and we started chugging it as we walked back to the bar. My dad called me wanting to know what we’d want for a drink when we got back. Fucking sweet. We walked in the door and there were our drinks, and the shots Joel surprisingly ordered as well. We stayed for a few more drinks and out the door we went.

Now, my father is a working man. He’s up at 0530 every day and the more and more wasted he got, the less he could believe how many people, his age, older and younger, were still out drinking. He asked the bartender I can’t count how many times, "Don’t these people have to work tomorrow?!?! It’s Tuesday!" But it’s New York…it doesn’t matter what day it is.
We walked up the street a bit more and Dad realized he was "parched." So, we stopped for a few more drinks and a few more shots, and holy shit, were we bombed. After snapping some hysterical pics, I pointed them in the direction of their hotel and Cooter friend (Amanda) and I jumped into a cab, bound for the Heights. We arrived, and off we went to a far off place, high above where our minds typically function. Devon came over. Supposedly, I fell down a lot.
It happens.

So morning comes. We’re supposed to be at 2 Gold for Bloody Mary’s with the girls, but by time I got out of the shower in which I didn’t even wash myself, we were not making it. I was in a tremendous amount of pain, though somehow, it wasn’t affecting me…yet. We jumped into a cab, and pulled up at Radio City just as my family was arriving as well. My brother looked distraught and beat, my father’s eyes squinty and just a big sluggish. I didn’t take my sunglasses off. We snapped some pics and off I went into what would become a pit of hot air and cramped bodies. Fun, though difficult to manage when you’ve only consumed nothing.

I fanned myself the entire time with my graduation ticket. People took pictures of me and told me how much I reeked of booze…which is how I learned that I didn’t wash myself in the shower, only my face when I realized it. But through it all, I made it. Across the stage at Radio City, I shook the hand of our "retiring" president all the while taking jabs at classmates and speakers, laughing it up with the friends surrounding me. What a day it was, and the weather was perfect too!!
I spent the entire day and night recovering. And frankly, I wouldn’t have had it any other way.