Guidebooks have short half lives. By the time one goes to press, its prices, and a lot the info in it, may have changed. The bookstore in Cairo rarely has the latest editions. Since my guidebook was printed, the Turkish Lira has dropped six zeroes – in a bid to fit all the numbers on the bills and keep up with the pace of inflation – and Istanbul has added several tram and metro stops.
So when I relied on the guidebook for information about the ferries to The Prince’s Islands, it set me on a little haphazard journey on Istanbul’s public transportation system. But with such a clean and well-run network of trams, trains, buses and ferries, it was a pleasure to be constantly in motion.
Thinking the ferry left from the pier very close to my hotel, and that it left at noon, I made my way in ample time to get a good seat on benches on the outside of the boat. But when I arrived at the docks, I was told the ferries for the islands now leave from another pier, and I’d have to take the tram to the end of the line and get the boat there.
Fair enough, still had plenty of time. So I dashed to the tram stop, hopped on and it briskly and efficiently took me to the end of the line. There, I got out and made it to the ferry ticket window just as the 11:30(!) ferry was leaving the dock. The next boat would not leave until 1:10. With time to kill, I walked down the docks and, for the heck of it, hopped a ferry (most ferries are part of the public transit system and take the same “jeton” or token) for a little round trip across the Bosphorus to the Asian side of Istanbul.
When I got back, I decided a cup of coffee was in order, so I hopped on the new underground funicular train to the top of the hill at Taksim plaza, walked down the famous Iskidal Caddisi and grabbed an American coffee and a brownie.
Then it was back downhill on the funicular, across the street to the ferry, where I made it in time to find a seat on the outside near the stern. The trip out to the islands would take about an hour and a half.
As the boat steamed out to the islands, the young man sitting next to me was reading a book in Turkish. I tried to make out what it was from the pages, but the only word I could make out was Kim. Then, when he turned the book over I could see the jacket, and it had an image of a baseball and the name J.D. Salinger on the cover. It was The Catcher in the Rye.
If you really want to hear about it…
There are about a dozen novels for which I know the first lines (not counting A Tale of Two Cities).
… the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like…
And a few which stick out as pivotal stories that had an impact on my life.
.. and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me…
The Catcher in the Rye was probably the first novel I read (at least one that wasn’t written for young readers) thoroughly and deeply, not just because it was required for English class.
…and all that David Copperfield kind of crap…
It’s hard to believe how many years have gone by since I was first introduced to Holden Caulfield. I’m sure it wouldn’t affect me nearly as much if I were to read it again now. And I wonder how it reads in Turkish? By the way, where do the ducks go in winter?
…but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.
* * *
Once I got to the islands, I rented a bike and rode up the hill to find some castle-fort-wall ruins I had seen from the ferry. I didn’t find it, but I did find some spectacular scenery, and a great view from a garbage dump where the carriage horses go to rest.
[Why is that I always seem to find myself at the garbage dumps when I’m looking for a great view? Once, on the Greek island of Amorgos (where they filmed The Big Blue), we drove several miles out of the way to go see what we thought was volcanic activity on a cliff in the distance. It turned out to be the local garbage dump and a big pile of it was burning.]
After the bike ride, I sat down for a nice meal at a seaside restaurant. The meze was delicious, but the fish took a while longer to cook than I anticipated, so I had to woof it down in a few minutes in order to catch my ferry ride back. I had an evening bus to catch and this was the last ferry that would get me back in time.
* * *
On this trip I’m carrying the same pack I used more than 9 years ago on the big world tour Melissa and I took. The pack has held up well – though I did have one of the zippers replaced. On that trip, I had so much crammed into it, and had carried probably six or seven novels and other books, as well as a laptop and a camera with extra lenses.
This time, I still have the laptop (though it’s a trimmer Mac), and a camera (only one lens) and one book.
It’s only two weeks after all.
And I don’t seem to have the time to read novels as much as I used to. I think the Internet, as useful as it is, takes up much of the time I would have otherwise spent reading. With emails coming from various time zones, the little “you’ve got mail” ding goes off into the wee hours.
Someone once described a family member as having an “abusive relationship with time,” because she was always running late. I think I have my own co-dependency issues with the clock.
Some years ago I interviewed Spaulding Gray, the late monologuist and actor, and he told me he was once asked by a big corporation to star in a 30 second commercial, and the subject and words could be of his own choosing. He described the spot to me this way:
In the first few seconds he looked straight into the camera and said: “take…”
And for 25 more seconds he kept looking into the camera, blankly, saying nothing.
Then, on the 28th second he said “your time.”
Take (Pause.) (Pause.) (Pause.) your time.
The spot never ran. The company didn’t appreciate the message.
But the message is getting through to me as I sit here in Turkey in my final weeks abroad before I cope with the culture shock of home.