22 September 2007

AlSo: Coast Starlight 2

Tried to go back to my seat only to find it occupied by my neighbor who had spread olut (granted I had been up for a few hours). Talked with a lady named Linda who has been traveling with her aged mother and a few other friends. They took a 3-day cruise from Vancouver to Los Angeles, spent the night, and then took the Coast Starlight to Seattle at which point they’ll get in a coach. It was about $CA500, cheap because the cruise ships apparently reposition to Mexico for the winter months, with coastal deals to be had in September. This would be great for mom and dad! Also met a guy named Michael who does comic strips and wildfire fighting. He’s just riding the wind right now. We stopped in Klamath Falls, and I got out for some fresh air to find my parents on the platform. And the Aleatoric Sojourn continues!! Dad and Mom were in town for Dad’s 45th high school reunion, and, being the guy he is, called the station to discover our ETA and also to learn that we would be in the station for over 1 ¼ hours while they work on the tracks ahead of us. So they swept me up and took me to a reunion brunch where I crashed Dad’s reunion party. A vivacious crew. And who wouldn’t be with gin fizzes and Bailey’s and coffee to go with croissants (I stuck with Bailey’s and coffee)? we wiled away 45 minutes at which time my train was in danger of turning into a pumpkin. Said goodbye for two days, got back on and to my seat to find my seatmate still slumbering over both of our seats. I wish I could sleep that soundly now. At least it’s given me a chanco get caught up on my blog!!

21 September 2007

AlSo: Coast Starlight

Jan was a doll and took me to the Metro station to get to Union Station in Los Angeles. They have a really cool light rail! It’s really beautiful. Of course, it coincided with the Aleatoric Sojourn, so something weird is bound to happen. In this case, a train collided with a car (ummm, guess whose fault that was?), so we had to get off the train then to a bus and than back on the train. While on the bus, we saw the collision, surrounded by multiple fire trucks and two hovering news helicopters. Not pretty. I met with a lovely young lady who was reading “Ender’s Game”. She is a special ed teacher at a public school and was going to a training. She has been carfree for about a year after she got into an accident and couldn’t easily afford a replacement. She and her husband wanted to see if they could go without, and sure enough they found it possible! So he bike commutes, and she walks and takes the bus/train. She was so darn cool! We talked pretty much the whole time until we hit Union Station. I peeled off to get tickets and then to sit in the courtyard with coffee next to a bird of paradise under incomparable weather. The seats for the train were comfy and spacious. I sat next to Felix, who is a Quaker and a Graphic Design student on the way home from seeing his girlfriend. A delightful conversation. There was also a bachelor party; a fellow by the name of Mike was getting married in St. Luis Obispo and was being accompanied on the train by his friends Doug and Andy. We had a great time, they were kind enough to share their scotch, and then they left all too quickly. Andy had a lot of ranching stories; Doug is a headhunter and can write off just about any trip or meeting on his taxes. Mike is, well, getting married and also works with the armed forces. Their acquaintances wre unlikely, having been acquainted through ex-girlfriends as far as I could tell. Andy actually kissed my hand when he left, which never fails to endear. The train is such a wonderful opportunity to meet new people; I had a number of conversations with people I’d never have otherwise met. The tracks practically lick the ocean (or is it the other way around?), and one can see mountains and surfers and expansive forests. Late in the evening, we passed a freight truck in the dead of night. The slow speed and ominous, almost ethereal sounds seemed reminiscent of a deep sea adventure and passing a leviathan quietly, hoping not to awake it. I was having sleeping issues; I think my body is finally rebelling against yet another night spent in a seat. Grrr! Trying not to succumb to sleep lest jet lag rear its ugly head.

20 September 2007

AlSo: Bye, Corey!

so this is the part of our recounting of the Aleatoric Sojourn in which we part, inevitably but reluctantly, from our traveling partners as we speed home to wedding bells and clover leaves (of the asphalt, SoCo/LA kind). here is Corey's blog for the Seattle story:
he mentioned in a post that any disparity between our posts is a mistake (lying? pshaw, Mr. Schuster! please note the halo hula-hooping over my dishwater locks). in fact, we have concocted a diabolical choose-your-own-adventure with two counterpointing blogs.
lying, indeed.

AlSo: Retracing Steps

I woke up at 6am to head to the airport, though I had to come back once because I’d forgotten my eyes. Oh well! The bus to the train to the airport. I was there far too early and wandered for about 2 hours. Got to Amsterdam and into another transfer Passport Control Check that never ends. Luckily there was time enough, and I sucked down some joe even though my flight was boarding. And then I was in car-dependent Los Angeles, got back to near Jan’s work, and helped her move her office to a different cubicle. It had been a rough few weeks for the gang: Ruffy had been put to sleep, Jan was moving her office twice, and Kev had a few questions without easy resolution. Ed works all the time! He was there late and left early. Jan and I talked for a while, then she went to bed and Kevin and I talked until I was so drowsy I had to fall asleep.

19 September 2007

AlSo: Everyone Loves Brussels

We kibitzed over coffee with the gang as much as time would allow. Shawn and I worked on motivating Matt out of bed, from his lofty bower. A farewell, and Shawn took us to Jurbise. We caught the train to Brussels and then the Metro and to the Jacques Brel hostel. I have been to Brussels once before at the height of the season and got a dorm no problem. It is past peak season and Every Single hotel and hostel was full. I mean brimming. They told us we could put our luggage downstairs and call after 3pm to see if any reservations had been cancelled. We set out in search of food and, after a long travail and metro, we found a Greek pita place which was absolutely delicious. Walked to the Grand Place, and Corey found us coffee. Then beer. We met with Joan and her husband. He’s from Detroit and worked for GM for 33 years and loves them. He also bikes all over the country and has biked internationally as well. They were fascinating people to talk to for the hour or so that they had before getting back on their Paris-bound train. I want to retire the way they’ve done it. We went to the Horta Museum and then to the internet café where Joroen agreed, Incredibly Graciously, to pout us up for the night. Phew! Because Corey and I had negative energy. It was horrible! We walked around a little more, picked up our luggage, and met him at his place that he shares with 3 others in Ixelles. His girlfriend, Anita (sp?) has been working on their website for their Auto-Suficance campaign which is just brilliant! They took a car and transmogrified it into a garden. Then they towed it by hand up the streets and to its downtown roadside installation space. An incredible project. What can we do along these same lines? This is just perfect! We talked and talked until beer became an increasing necessity. We headed to a swell watering hole and had a fdew beers until it was time to go to a nearby vegetarian restaurant at 10pm when they give away their leftovers. So not only did we have a place to sleep but we also got free food! Hot damn. On the way back, we encountered a woman coming out of a car who asked if we knew of a hotek that had space. We said that getting 15 minutes out of town was her best bet. Boy, Brussels is popular these days. We laid out our pillage and had a great dinner, met Anna, one of the other flatmates, and then fell asleep rather quickly.

18 September 2007

AlSo: Traveling Blues

we woke up entirely Entirely too early and got a taxi from Kadikoy to the airport. The taxi driver said it might cost 60, but we got it for 50, about what folks told us it might be. When we got to the airport, we learned that the flight had been changed to 8:55. we had gotten there about 5:30, and the check-in counter didn’t open until 7:00, so we had a while to wait. When the counter finally opened, it was more like a bunch of chunks than a true line, and this line spontaneously moved to different counters based on the activity of the employees. Someone should do a sociological study on this airport. We checked in and walked through duty free before going upstairs to the most expensive and paltry (not to mention rude) café in any airport. We asked for omelette and were told a fervent, “Yok” and quizzical look. Why would order something on the menu? Overpriced espresso that turned out to be Nescafe, and the guy actually slammed the 2 lira change when I added up our order for him and asked for the change. Wow. The security check hadn’t opened yet, but people were lining up anyway. A little kid was playing with all of the ropes, though, and I wondered what would happen if we all started to spontaneously do that, too. Why do people push in line when we’re all going to be on the same plane? It makes absolutely no sense. I’m thrilled to be the last person in line because it means I don’t have to sit as long. We got to the other side of security, and then we had to wait in line to get on the bus to the plane. Same scenario. Both times. People were snippy about their seating assignments, and for some reason this groups was positively manic about standing up and getting baggage even before we had taxied to the gate. Then the fun REALLY began in Dusseldorff’s passport control. The guy who graciously offered for me to go first out of the plane then shoved me out of line when it came to the passport control line. One guy was trying to show his passport while on his cell phone and was kicked out of line. Another guy started speaking angrily at someone after being asked to step aside and was shooshed. But the kicker came when a woman started yelling at the customs official after apparently being asked to produce identification, invitation letter and documents about how much she has in the bank at home. She said, “I have already paid” a number of times and then said, “get me the police. I want to talk to the police”. To which the customs official replied, “we are the police.” This caused everyone in line to laugh. She kept yelling and wouldn’t get out of line, so the customs agent walked out of the booth and into the booth nearer to us, which certainly sped us up! I’ve never seen anything so crazy. People shoving in the baggage claim and out the door. It was crazy!
So now we were in Dusseldorff and had no way to get to Mons. We checked all the car rentals who were all booked, all of the (god help us) airlines to learn nothing went from D to Brussels, and finally with gritted teeth we went to Eurail. $92 for both, which beats the $130 per ticket I’d been quoted online. YEAY! The train was smooth and fast and beautiful with the one exception of some opinionated American spouting out that Arnold Schwarzenegger would make a great President and there is a problem with Mexican immigrants and (this really got me going) the Army Core of Engineers is severely misunderstood. Please. Please spare me.
From Brussels to Mons and then to Shawn, Becc and Matt’s house. We had dinner and some GREAT beer. I bounced on Matt’s trampoline. We talked about the trip and Matt’s teachers. Matt had to go to bed, and we watched “Goblet of Fire” to see if it was Matt-friendly. Corey loves them. He has good taste. Sleep came relatively quickly.

17 September 2007

AlSo: Last Hoorah

This morning it was Nat’s turn to leave. She promised to come to Portland in exchange for pics of my bike wedding. We hustled to the Grand Bazaar and learned a good deal about carpets we couldn’t afford from one who had been a 4th generation carpet dealer. Ethem was free for lunch, so we had the chance to see him again. He has decided not to go to Afghanistan because they wouldn’t allow him a security guard and would not vouch for his safety, so he will instead go to DC where he has been invited by one who has a place to pout him up. He’s finished with research about domestic violence abuse cases with men as victims and will be starting a new project on pedophilia. We thought that he would have to write about something fluffy next like, “history of love in the Ottomon Empire” or “Baklava v. g . . .” (a Ramadan sweet). Turns out he didn’t even know Wahab or Ilhan, which makes the whole experience even funnier! We had tea served to us at Tesev by a fellow whose entire job is making tea for employees and guests. After leaving Ethem (sniff!) we walked through the Spice Bazaar and got some good deals and met one vendor who speaks 8 languages, though not much Chinese because they never buy anything according to him. We went to Suleyman Camii, quite possibly the most beautiful mosque in Turkey at least. The carpet is a tiled pattern of prayer mats pointing to Mecca, and the architectural nuances of the mosque are too numerous to detail, even if I did have the eye to appreciate them all. It’s awe-inspiring. We left the interior to find a movie set outside. Yet another wacky sighting to chalk up to our AlSo. Then it was time to head back to the Grand Bazaar and tackle the voluminous list of gifts to get people. I hate shopping. Truly. Bargaining makes it a little better, and it’s great in learning numbers, but in the end it just makes me feel burdened and tired. We only persevered because they were thank you gifts which I hope will be useful. Corey bought not one but TWO kilims. It was such a leap of faith, but I was not amazed. Corey leaps well. We had a celebratory piece of baklava and meditated on our new impoverished state. Quickly back to get our things, tram and ferry to Rick’s house by way of the best vegetarian durum ever! And we wiled a few hours talking with Rick, a nice closed circle to our beginning in Istanbul. If any final memory would make one want to come back to Turkey, it’s Rick’s company.