This is what fifty four hundred miles from home looks like


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Yesterday, at 10 p.m. Chicago time, Tina and I flew out of the city and headed for Istanbul, Turkey en route to Italy.

If you asked me whether or not I’d ever visit Turkey, I’d probably say, “I dunno. It’s not necessarily on my bucket list.”

But travel courses through our bones, and we jumped at the chance to stop over in Istanbul on the way to Italy to meet Tina’s brother and his partner.

I’m zonked tired. We flew for 11 hours in cramped quarters with a plane full of flatulent Turks and a crying baby.

When we arrived, neither of us slept well. How well can  you sleep when sitting upright in an airplane?

We knew it would be rush hour on a Friday. So we took a shuttle for $11 lira, roughly $5 a person across town. Then we caught a cab to our AirBnB which faces the Asian side of the country from the European side.

We got taken by our cab driver, because — frankly — I didn’t do much homework before this trip. We’ve been so busy that traveling has taken a back-burner seat. When he told us it would be 45 lira to drive us from the bus to our stop, I didn’t argue. We were running late, and frankly, I don’t know the exchange rate.

He charged us too much. But I chalk shit like that up to travel and the human impulse/necessity to take advantage of the gullible and vulnerable. I mean, that’s American culture to a T.

The driver also rejected a 50 Lira bill because it had a rip in it. It was complete horse shit. He said it could be counterfeit if it’s broken. “Broken?” I said. “Common. It’s perfectly good.”

“No,” he said. “It’s broken.”

Our host had to catch a flight out of the country so we were met by her friend Burak. Which I heard as “Brook.”

He was very kind and patient. He waited for us while we freshened up and took us to a restaurant that our host made reservations for us.

He showed us the neighborhood, and then dropped us at our restaurant where he helped us order several small plates.

The atmosphere at the restaurant was festive. Lively. There were several large groups and there was a local drink that I had one of without doing it right. And then the next time the waitress brought it to me, she showed me how to pour it with bubbly water.

The food was great. But we were served a liver dish that was less than savory. Neither Tina or I like liver, so it was hard to eat.

Back here at our AirBnB, we are enjoying a beautiful site and the sounds of Istanbul. What a weird place.

More soon.

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It’s fall. Let’s take a trip to Turkey and Italy.


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Tonight at 10 p.m., Tina and I make our ways into the heavens and will land sometime tomorrow in Istanbul, Turkey.

Istanbul is steeped in rich history, and it’s kind of a dream that we’ll be able to visit there. My dad reminded me yesterday that Christianity, in a way, was birthed in Istanbul. You’ll remember Constantine was a reformer of everything from military to religious structure.

And he declared Christianity the national religion of Rome, and there was also the counsel that decided the biblical cannon and wrote down the Nicene Creed, which if you have a church background, it’s probably rolling off your mind’s tongue right now.

I’m going to save wiki’s to read up on the history of Istanbul and Turkey while we’re in the air.

And I’m going to learn Turkish, because I have all the time in the world before we land tomorrow.

I also plan to learn Italian before we get to Italy on Sunday.

I guess Christianity is thematic of this trip since there’s a few highly religious connections in Italy as well. Apparently it’s where the president of the Catholic dress wearing men resides. And there are paintings there — very juvenile paintings — that you can see. Oh, and a sculpture or two. Ooo ooo ooo … and ruins.

Stand by for some travelogue photos. There may be a few posted while we travel.

 

 

A photo almost tossed by the wayside


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A few months back, I did a job with a colleague. While I waited for her to park her car, I took the above photo.

It’s been sitting on my desktop, as I don’t really know what to do with it, but it’s intriguing enough that I felt it needed to be published … at least here.

I like how the woman outside with red pants kind of balances the lone bench with reddish brown leather.

Enjoy.

Meet Ronnie’s rear end


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Above is a picture of Ronnie dumpster diving in the alley behind our condo.

When Talulah and I came outside for Talulah’s daily fetch routine, Ronnie looked up at us as we walked through the gate. He was throwing cans out onto the ground, which I assumed he was going to retrieve and take along. He had also found a pretty good sized box of KFC, which he was removing things from and putting them in his mouth.

In a very friendly way, he said, “Hi, how are you doin’?”

“Pretty good,” I responded. “How about you?”

“Okay.” He responded.

I crumpled my nose and eyebrows a little after I asked how he was. I mean, he’s obviously not great if he’s digging through our trash.

But he seemed unfazed. I was carrying a plastic baggy of Talulah’s vomit that she threw up on our deck earlier that day. I decided to throw it in my neighbor’s trash can so that I wouldn’t disturb the research he was doing in our can.

“Don’t worry. I’m going to clean all this up. I’m not going to leave it like this,” he told me. Empty pop and beer cans were strewn all over.

“I’m not worried,” I said. “I hope you have good luck.”

“Thanks!” He said. “I just moved here from Jacksonville, Mississippi. Um, you wouldn’t happen to have some spare change? I could use a cup of coffee.”

I patted my pockets and said, “Man, I’m sorry. I just came out to walk my dog. I’m going to be leaving here soon. I can bring you some money later.”

“No problem,” he said. “God bless.”

I continued up the hill to take Talulah out. From where I stood, I snapped the picture above. That’s him, hoisting his body up on the can reaching deep inside. Soon after, he pulled out several cans and what appeared to be an entire carton of eggs. You could tell by the way it bent that it was at least partially full.

My heart sank for the guy. This is what drives me to be humanist first. It’s guys like this who encourage my lack of faith in higher beings and support a more natural, level-headed understanding of the world.

I can’t financially support all the people I want to help. But I like to live in a city where there’s a bit of help for these guys in social ways. We live in symbiosis with the homeless people who dumpster dive.

While it angers me that he is forced to dig through trash to find food and pick up a bit of change from trading in cans, it’s a penetratingly deep shot to my spirit when you see someone stick what trash into their mouth.

Later, the guy walked by Talulah and me to retrieve some bags he left further up the alley. He looked over and said, “That sure looks like a nice patch of grass to play with a dog. She’s having a great time.”

“Yep, we love it. It’s like having our own back yard.”

“Yeah, she’s a good looking dog, too.”

After Talulah tired out, I took her in and the guy was too far away to wave to and say I’ll be back out.

When I got upstairs, I told Tina all about the guy I met in the alley. Her heart of course melted too.

So when we got in the car and started down the alley, I pointed him out. “I’ve got a dollar or two,” she said. “Stop stop and give this to him.”

I lowered my window and he walked over. “As promised, here’s some cash.”

He was so grateful.

I asked him why he moved here from Mississippi. “My auntie was sick and I came up to see her. She passed away a few weeks ago. But I decided to stay.”

“I’m Jeremy and this is Tina,” I said. “What’s your name?”

“My name’s Ronnie.”

Ronnie went into a story that he’s applying for his own apartment. But there’s a 30-day processing time. He told us that he’s got income from the state, a check that he gets and can access the money via a debit card. Until he moves into his place, he’s staying at a church, but he doesn’t like staying there, because the other residents are all on drugs. “And I’m too old to get caught up in that stuff,” he said. “It’s not a good scene.

While Ronnie was talking, we noticed a big globule of brown ooze that must have landed on his finger while digging. It looked like KFC gravy, maybe.

Ronnie kept talking about how until he moves into his place, he needs to keep busy. He applied for a job doing maintenance and he’s going to go to school for heating and air conditioning. But if he doesn’t do something, he’d be bored. So dumpster diving passes the time.

When we left, he said, “God bless” again.

Maybe I’m naive. Maybe I’m dumb, but Ronnie’s a great mother fucking guy. He’s almost a role model. He hasn’t given up. He’s doing things to stay alive, and he’s not a big jerk about it.

He’s happy. And even if he doesn’t realize the irony of saying “God bless.” Blessings come in different ways, I know. And you can have nothing and feel blessed. But there’s a unique irony to that kind of thinking … one that is perpetuated by thought police in this country who have too much and don’t understand that some people make omelets from eggs you threw out.