DAVID: “Earl, sing us a seafaring song.”
EARL: (IMMEDIATELY) “Oh, they built the ship Titanic…”
Every so often, I am visited by a moment of searing clarity:
“I’M ON A BOAT!”
What’s the difference?
You cannot sink on land. I know, there’s quicksand, but shut up.
I stay out of the Arabian desert and Tarzan pictures and I’m pretty much in the clear.
“The Briny Deep” is where I’m headed, if things happen to go in the wrong direction. A storm kicks up on land, and you just go inside. On a boat, you can easily be swept overboard. The two scenarios are substantially different.
In reality, our aquatic experience was enormously positive. Here’s how things worked. The night before, Serhan would tell us what time we needed to be on deck for breakfast, along with the “Itinerary of the Day”, which was generally the following:
After breakfast, we climb into a small motorboat (tied up and towed behind the primary boat), and are transported to shore, for a hike to see nearby ruins of interest. (We were informed that there were 43,000 historic sites in Turkey, the problem being that, since Turkey itself is the size of Texas, unlike Rome where the good stuff is all clumped together in one place, a visitor here must travel great distances to take even a small percentage of them. As it was, despite plane and van and boat transportation, we still only saw like, eleven ruins.)
While we hiked, the boat would visit a nearby town to pick up fresh ingredients for our meals, then meet us at the terminating juncture of our hike. We just hiked someplace, made our way back to the water, and there was the boat.
After the hike, we would proceed to our next destination, yet another picturesque cove, and after lunch, we were back in the water. (Despite its somewhat challenging temperature, I swam every single day, if by swimming you mean bobbing in the water, intermixed with occasionally dog-paddling/breast stroking my way around the perimeter (is that the right word?) of the boat.
(Check out to my “Bravery Progression.” At first, I went in wearing a life-preserver, which no matter how tightly I cinched the strap always rode up under my chin, causing me to look several notches lower than cool. Then I tapered off to just a Styrofoam “noodle”, and by the third day, I was entirely unfettered, just me and my bathing suit, frolicking in the Aegean.)
The food was authentically Turkish – lots of cucumbers, yogurt and eggplant – and delicious – fresh fish, chicken, various lamb dishes, accompanied by salads, specifically Turkish side dishes called mezes, and the best bread you can possibly imagine. (Blowing my entire “gluten free” regimen out the window. If you were curious where the discarded gluten went to, it is flourishing in Turkey.)
Three meals, plus a five o’clock break for pastries and coffee. Also, many afternoons, a small motorboat would “putt-putt” alongside of our boat, from which a guy hawked delectable Magnum ice-cream bars. At most, I eat normally maybe two ice-cream bars a year. Here, I had two in two days. Why? They were selling them off of a boat!
After a rather strenuous hour-and-a-half hike, the following day’s itinerary called for an even longer three-hour hike, to visit ruins and a former nomad family who had given up their nomadry to settle down and sell trinkets to the tourists, most notably handcrafted cowbells.
Three of us decided to pass on the three-hour tour, our “cost-benefit” analysis determining that seeing run-of-the-mill ruins (rather than historic standouts) and meeting retired nomads was not worth the commensurate effort. (We instead opted for an improvised forty-five minute mini-hike of our own, and still more swimming.)
I did, however, mention to one of the departing hikers, “If you see a particularly nice cowbell and it’s not too expensive, get one and I’ll pay you back.” I am guessing my ironic twinkle was not working that day, because later, the returning hiker presented me with a cowbell. I thanked her, but did not pay her back. People should not be rewarded for taking innocent badinage seriously. Okay, I’m an ingrate.
At night, after dinner and, for some, accompanying alcohol – at the end of the five days Dr. M’s and my “Bar Bill” was somewhere north of eight dollars – we watched videos (about Turkish history, and a British travel-cooking show in which Serhan himself participated on camera – after guiding the author around, Serhan also wound up serving as the prototype for a character is Dan Brown’s latest novel, the final portion of which is situated in Istanbul. Throughout the trip, Serhan constantly badgered us about knowing “anybody at Fox”, angling for the chance to play himself in the upcoming movie version of the book.
I seem to have lost my thread in that sentence. Oh, yeah. We watched videos, and had friendly discussions. In the interest of good will, I try to keep my opinions to myself, even though at the heart of them lies Rodney King’s “Can we all just get along?” and who can object to that well it turns out a lot of people.
The trouble is, equating silence with validation, I can never respond mutely to opinions I do not agree with. So, if not my two cents’ worth, I threw in my cent-and-a-half. Deep down, there is always this hope that people will hear what I have to say and go,
“You know, Earl, I have always harbored strong opinions concerning this issue, but now that I listen to your reasonable and persuasive argument, my eyes have been suddenly opened, and as a consequence I shall henceforth abandon my life-long beliefs and replace them with your own. You are a legitimate “Truth Teller”, Earl, and you have won me over with your wisdom.”
Not close to anything of that nature has ever happened once. On the boat – and it could easily have been worse – I relievedly broke even. (Meaning nobody hit me.)
Misfortune’s Unwelcome Intrusion:
On our fourth night, on her way to the front of the boat to relax and look at the stars, a traveling companion named Jane missed a step and fell, seriously injuring her shoulder and, somewhat less so, her foot.
The boat swung into action, racing to a nearby beach town, where Jane underwent immediate surgery. Sadly, Jane and her husband Marvin were unable to continue on the tour, Jane being required to remain in the hospital until she was healthy enough to return home. (Postscript: Jane and Marvin are now back in Ann Arbor and word is her recovery is progressing encouragingly.)
An unfortunate and disturbing incident. And not without some interesting consequences for us. Which I shall reveal to you in due course. Because what is this blog about if not how other people’s unhappinesses impinge upon my life.
Hey, Cowbell Lady, I’m kidding!