Istanbul – Day 1

So, we’re two full days into Istanbul and I’m wishing we weren’t jetting south tomorrow to see my dad and the southwest Turkish coast. This is a spectacular city, and for a whole lot of reasons, many of which I’ll detail below and in my next couple of posts.  Since it’s taken me longer than I’d hoped to get online and scribe, I’m going to split my Istanbul highlights into three back-to-back posts, one for each day here.  That way you won’t be faced with endless scrolling, involuntary yawning, and that secret wish to jump ahead simply because it’s so dang long!

Okay, Day Numero Uno.  (Presently, my kindergarten level Spanish is still better than my Turkish.)

1. Here’s some sage advice from a guy who knows it firsthand: fly on a single airline your entire life, use their credit card, and take advantage of every partnered perk they have that earns you points/miles.  Believe me, it all adds up.  In the 20 years that I’ve been flying tons I’ve earned almost 900,000 actual air miles with my home-based Alaska Airlines. Add to that bonus miles, credit card miles, rental car miles, 1-800-FLOWERS miles, etc., etc. and it’s probably 3-4 million. And I’ve been able to leverage that into  a bunch of free flights for myself and extended family.

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Turkey Bound

So, my wife and I kick off the vacation of our lives this morning, winging our way first to Chicago, then on to Paris for a quick layover before our final leg to Istanbul, Turkey.  Yeah, pretty amazing, huh?  Little ol’ me in Turkey.  And we’re not stopping there.

You see, it’s like this in a nutshell: My parents bought a small hotel in the Caribbean in 1973, then they divorced and both remarried outstandingly cool people, my dad’s wife Angela being Welsh, and they sold the hotel and my dad bought a place in north central England (Lincolnshire) and they started splitting their time between the Turks & Caicos and England, but then they began vacationing with a sorta timeshare deal and hit on this place in southwest Turkey that they fell in love with and a few years later decided to buy a small place and refurb it, and so now they tri-split their time between the three spots, and this year is my dad’s 80th birthday, so he invited us to join him there to celebrate.  Got it?

But first Nancy and I will hang out in Istanbul for a few days, then fly down to Dalamar where we’ll drive around to Amos, where my dad lives, which is right next to Turunç.  We’ll get there on Monday and then my brother Eric and his wife and daughter will arrive on Wednesday from Bangalore, India, where he works for Boeing.  On Friday we’ll leave them and ferry to Rodos, where we’ll catch a plane to Athens, then on to the Greek isle of Santorini for a week of unfathomable bliss.  We decided to take our first shot at VRBO — Vacation Rental By Owner — and I think we scored big time.  Here’s a photo of our balcony.  Seriously, that’s our exact balcony.  The place is called Mi Amo, you can look it up.  We’ll then finish the trip with one night in Paris, France — we arrive at 2:30pm and depart for home at 10:30am the next day.  A single night in Paris.  Sounds like a movie or something.

See, like I said, a trip of a lifetime.  At least my life time so far.  And if you’d like to tag along on the journey, I’m going to do my best to post something every couple of days.  Some photos and anecdotes.  Should be fun.  Though I’m not bringing my laptop, just my iPad, and WordPress doesn’t work so well on that little unit.  I may need to steal away to an Internet cafe here or there to do my thing.  We’ll see how it goes.

Oh, and if you want to take a look, I just launched a new website which will be the hub for all my work as a writer/author.  It’s pretty simple:  Still not exactly what I want, but it’s getting there.

Just a thought.

Another Wild Adventure

So, I finally took the bull by the horns — or the fish by the fins, as will make sense in a minute — and posted another of my brother Scott’s remarkable life experiences, this tale describing when he was longline swordfishing off the Atlantic seaboard and encountered an unusally large school of ocean sunfish.  These Mola mola’s are one of the largest fish in the sea, outsized only by three sharks: the whale shark (number one biggest creature on the planet), its slightly smaller cousin, the basking shark, and the great white shark of Jaws fame.

And don’t be fooled by the photo here, that diver is floating right next to the Mola.  They’re really that big.  Freaky big.  The biggest on record over 5,000 pounds big.

So, who in their right mind would ever want to ride on the back of one?

Yeah, my brother Scott would.  Check out his story at the Tales of My Brother website.

Just a thought.

Miss You, My Brother

So, I’m in the air again today, brother Scott, this time a quick one day turn around to New York City, rebounding home tomorrow.  You always told me, especially in those last months and weeks and days, how you envied my travels.  My gallivanting to hither and yon, seeing new sights, tasting new foods, experiencing new . . . experiences.

Well, I’ll get into Newark around 3:30, pick up my rental car, then head toward Queens and my Comfort Inn.  I’ll find a FedEx Office nearby and print the copies that I need, then seek out a place for dinner with a few craft brews on tap.  I’ll bring my Kindle and read a few more chapters of Mukherjee’s The Emperor of All Maladies.  You’d like this one; it’s a CSI-ish search using the evidence of history to find the origins of cancer.  Yeah, the roots of the Big C, that foul slayer of thee.  At some point tonight I expect I’ll hoist a pint to you, perhaps coaxing the imbibers around me to join in.  “To Scott, my brother.  My elder.  Gone now two years.  Slàinte.”

And I’ll rise at dawn and greet my audience at 8, do my thing until noon, then aim my way back to Newark and home.  Good times, eh?

I’m not sure I told you enough, Scott, in those final days, that for all my cities and miles and points and free drinks in first class, I envied you more than you could have ever envied me.  I think about it often.  Every day, in fact.  And because of you — in honor of you — I’ve slowed myself down a bit.  Given myself that chance to smell the roses.

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Defending the Belt

So, my son-in-law is in Dublin, Ireland, this week prepping to defend his MMA heavyweight title belt in a Saturday 5-rounder against challenger D. J. Linderman.  Mike “300” Hayes (as in the gladiator movie) is the husband of my elder daughter, Meghan, and fights for the London-based Mixed Martial Arts organization Cage Warriors.  They’re basically the British equivalent of UFC or Strikeforce and stage their tournaments everywhere except the U.S.  Mike won his belt in Dubai back in March with a technically gorgeous inverted triangle and kimura. (Jiu-jitsu talk there.)

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Hand Out vs. Leg Up

So, just before Christmas five months ago I loaned $50 to a group of women who sew things. That’s them to the right.

They live in Cuidad del Este, Paraguay, and together they call themselves, Mujeres Virtuosas – that is, Virtuous Women.  My micro-loan was a small portion of the $3,225 they had requested to purchase fabrics, thread, needles, buttons, and other supplies as they strive day to day to give their families the basics of a worthy life without hardships.

Last month they repaid my loan in full.  That’s right; my $50 was back in my account, as was the other $3,175 into other loaners’ accounts. And 6,800 miles away in Cuidad del Este fifteen women are on a self-supporting path to a better life.

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Blood Red Road – A Review (Loved it!)

So, I’m walking through an airport a few weeks ago, right at the height of the Hunger Games hype, and a book cover caught my eye.

I had read the HG books a year ago when a teacher friend gave me some sci-fi/fantasy recommendations, and like most everyone else I read them back-to-back-to-back in virtually one sitting.  Me in the Stratolounger, cans of Diet Coke scattered about, Doritos dust smearing the buttons of my Kindle.  “Just a couple more pages, honey. Seriously . . .”

Which means that while most others were reading the real books in prep for the movie, I’d already been there-done that and needed at least something even vaguely reminiscent of a Katniss fix to tide me over until HG movie D-Day.  And this one looked promising.  Just before boarding my flight I downloaded it to my Kindle and began reading soon after the 10,000-foot chime.  And yeah, I was hooked after a couple of paragraphs.

Here’s my in-a-nutshell no-spoiler summary:

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So, I figure you either know that word or you don’t.

If you do, then you probably won’t need to read any further because I’ll bet you’re already familiar with the fellow sitting over there to the left.  That’s author Elmore Leonard, he of the four dozen mega-popular crime and suspense novels, many of which have been adapted into equally mega-popular movies.  Books like Get Shorty and Mr. Majestyk and Out of Sight.  And he’s screenwritten and collaborated on and executive produced a ton of screenplays for the big and small screens.  Such as the awesome series Justified on FX right now.

Well, the reason I bring him up is that I was cleaning out some files over the weekend and came across an article he wrote detailing his 10 Rules of Writing.  It’s actually titled, WRITERS ON WRITING; Easy on the Adverbs, Exclamation Points and Especially Hooptedoodle.

Ah, see, now you get it.  The whole hooptedoodle thing.  Well, if you don’t yet, you will.  Just click on Mr. Leonard’s photo there and you’ll be whisked away to the New York Times and the original article.  Writers: you’ll find sage wisdom there, from a pro among pros.  Non-writers: it’s still a great article.  And you never know . . .

Just a thought.


Know Your Place

So, I had a work gig a few days ago in the uber-rural town of Price, Utah, the political seat and largest town in Carbon County.  I left my hotel in Provo, home of Brigham Young University, at 7:30am actually looking forward to 90 minutes of digital downtime. I’d been warned the Highway 6 route through tall-walled Spanish Fork Canyon plays havoc with reliable cell signals, and I was hoping for a quiet respite from my usual endless drone of phone calls and emails.

Before I knew it four paved lanes had narrowed to two, shoulders steepened, side-roads disappeared, and recently-patched asphalt began a serpentine wander through a desolate, rocky landscape straight out of some John Wayne oater.  Stratified layers of limestone and shale towered above me on either side, their near vertical cliffs streaked with rosy pink sandstone.  The occasional glitter of pyrite and mica flecks sparkled when the morning sunlight caught it just so.  And then suddenly the steep walls dropped away and revealed an astonishing vista of ancient mesas more numerous than I could ever imagine.

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Johnny and James

So, if you haven’t been following this phenom Joshua Ledet on American Idol, you’re missing out.  The kid’s got insane pipes, as evidenced this week by his rendition of James Brown’s It’s a Man’s World.

Love this archived photo of the Godfather of Soul showing Johnny Carson what it’s all about.

And as a side note, I found this snapshot posted on a sweet blog that my buddy Tod turned me on to:

Just a thought.