chapter 4

lost and found in olympos

may 29, 2010

stilllllllll goreme, turkey

we're stuck in oz. but it's not really oz. no lions or tigers or bears, oh my! ok, we're stuck on the tour bus. in kapadokya. the green tour. the red tour. the open air museum. the underground byzantium city hiding unholy christians. so many things to see. so many things to buy. buy this. buy that. tour tour tour. buy buy buy. hellllllllllllllllllp. let us oooouuuuuuttttt!

it's just our third day at the star cave in kapadokya, but it seems like a week. or a year. too much touring. too much shopping. even for da wife. it's 5pm at the star cave and we're finally walking our rolling suitcases down the little cobblestone hill to the one horse bus station in goreme. we'll be boarding another torturous overnight bus, heading about 10 hours south to olympos, a tiny seaside village on the south coast of turkey, on the north coast of the aegean.

we're just about there... at the local greyhound... when handsome, star cave razadan zips up on his noisy motorbike. what's he doing here? did we forget something? "hey, did you guys pay for the beers and your meal on the first night?" "yeah, we paid for the beers." what the...? oh yeah.... no, we didn't pay for the dinner because we had the distinct impression that we were invited to join our new friends, ali and judy from pamukkale, for a home-cooked-on-the-open-fire, traditional chicken kebap dinner, cooked by razadan himself, for no moulah. "sorry, man, you owe me 25 lira."

sorry, man? we paid you an extra 110 DOLLARS for the sultan's suite, man. wasn't that enough? do you have to squeeze every lira out of us that you can? sure, bidness is bidness, but c'mon, how ‘bout a little graciousness? a little generosity? "i'm not paying you 25 lira, razadan. why didn't you didn't mention it before now? pretty tacky coming after us at the bus station for 25 lira." "c'mon, man, 25 lira." i don't know if ol' raz understands what "tacky" means, but we've seen enough of his tourist-squeezing iron fist. not just with us, but with every one of his guests. enough is enough. even in fairy chimney kapadokya. i reach into my pocket and count out 20 lira, mostly in coin. i hand it over. ol' raz isn't happy. "c'mon, man!" suddenly, he sounds like one of my fellow, long-haired hippies, circa 1969. but he's not. "that's it, razadan. take it or leave it." he takes the handful of lira in his large, meaty hand and squeezes his talon-like fingers closed around it... like a vice.

so much for oz... i mean so much for somewhere over the hot air balloon turkish rainbow called... kapadokya. onward to.... olympos!

across from the bus station, we buy a couple of delicious flatbread-eggplant sandwiches for the trip, and then, without enthusiasm, we climb the gallows... i mean, we board the bus. the only problem is, this heart of darkness, all night bus doesn't take us all the way to olympos. it stops in antalya, the biggest town on the north aegean coast. from there we have to take two more buses... one along the coastal highway until it intersects a smaller, dustier road ... a second from this said intersection where we have to descend steeply and wind down the hill to olympos along the coastal aegean shore.

so now we're waiting patiently at the roadside stand that sits conveniently next to the bus stop to olympos. the local turko-chicken and turko-cat are keeping us company as we refresh ourselves with a couple of glasses of sweet, freshly-squeezed OJ, and some equally fresh-picked wild raspberries.

which...we pick ourselves.

and here's our little friend, who wants in on some of the action:

finally... after another hour, the bus comes and bumps/cascades us down the hill to olympos. we've finally arrived at bayram's, the most popular backpacker hostel in this completely isolated, but still lovely, little village. but hey, i graduated from backpacker hosteling many full moon parties ago. what are we doing back in the 60s? it's... good ol' gihan's fault, our tour organizer in istanbul, who said we'd "love it here. free breakfast and dinner, free internet connection"... free free free, fun fun fun. ok, gihan, what's not to love?

you see, bayram's, and in fact, the whole north aegean tourist coast, is famous for its tree house accommodations. just like in kapadokya, where the hotel cave rooms were built right into the mountainside, here the rooms are built up on stilts, right into the trees, at the base of another range of coastal mountains. actually, it's pretty cool and... what can i say? the turks really seem to have their tourist accommodations and amenities figured out! cheap too!

when we walk into the central courtyard about 9 a.m, the place is buzzing: people coming, checking in, a large group leaving, hugging each other passionately, like they may never see each other again... which based on the evidence of travel, is highly likely. we check into our tiny tree room, and come out into the courtyard, hungry for breakfast. we are not disappointed. there is a huge buffet spread at the far end of the courtyard, brimming with salads, vegetables, freshly-made omelettes, olives, fresh bread, tasty "nescafe", the ubiquitous eggplant, and an endless supply of those sweet, delicious turkish tomatoes.

having a nose for travel camaraderie, we sit down next to a middle age man and woman and their young daughter, as the surround sound speakers pump out dylan's ageless hippie anthem, "everybody must get stoned". right... backpacker heaven. amongst the myriad of 20ish young backpackers, picking the family is not a choice of clairvoyance, just been-around-the-block practice. turns out, the man at the pillow-on-the-floor, turkish-style table, is working at the american embassy in ankara, and he's just driven his family down for the weekend. surprising. you usually don't find such an age range at most "backpacker" establishments. bayram's seems to have it down though. one size fits all.

the diplomat, his daughter and wife, give us the lay of the land. we're just about a quarter of a mile from the aegean shore, but lo and behold, there is an ancient lycian city from the 2nd century BC dedicated to the fire of vulcan, between here and the beach. if you want to go to the beach, you have to pay the modest entrance fee to the ruins. no ruins, no beach. ok.... the turks seem pretty good on historical preservation too, if you ask me.

we make our way down to the beach through the pretty unremarkable lycian city... but ok... we're now on the same shore as the mighty trojans. helen of troy, man. agamemnon, odysseus, the sirens, the one-eyed cyclops. this is homer's friggin' aegean sea. of course, now it's just a stony tourist beach somewhere amidst the all-encompassing mediterranean, but i'm not complaining. i sit down on a flat stone, pull off my shorts and run into the aegean. jeez, it's friggin' cold. but c'mon, it's the goddam aegean. what? am i gonna say, "sorry, man, it's too cold." no way! so... we both splash around for a while in the trojan soup, snap some obligatory photos, and we buy da wife some memorable, bright pink flips flops from the aegean shore. "surya of troy." has a nice ring, don'tcha think?

we trudge back to bayram's... only to discover that... i've lost the room key. merde! not good. but not disastrous either. i go up to most friendly hostel staff member at the wet bar, a pretty temp worker from england, and i prostate myself before her, asking for another room key. "no problem." she smiles, handing me a backup. "don't lose this one," she smiles again. clearly, i'm definitely not the first lost-key criminal she's seen. da wife pops into the shower, as i get a change of clothes from my suitcase. mo' merde! but worse. i've also lost the suitcase keys. all of them. i put the hostel key on my "i love NY" key ring, and it's now obviously somewhere on the aegean beach.

i yell a status report into the bathroom and then trudge back to the beach through the ruins. yeah, right, i'll find my lost keys somewhere on the sprawling tourist beach. i try to re-trace my steps, just like my mother taught me. i try to visualize exactly where i was earlier in the day. i march up and down, scanning the beach, the sea, with radar eyes, re-running my sense memory for signs. ok, this spot looks good. i start scouring the sand for my lost keys. my chance of finding them? ever hear of "needle in a haystack"? hey, what else am i gonna do? i can't open my suitcases without cutting off the locks. not impossible, but not a good plan for the rest of the trip. i keep looking in the sand.

a turkish family of eleven, sitting about where da wife and i were earlier, start looking with me. it's pretty easy to communicate "lost keys", even without any turkish. ok, i'll grudgingly admit, mime is good for something! of course, the twelve of us come up dry. no keys. just a bunch of turned over blankets. which is remarkable in of itself. do you think families on the santa monica shore in sunny california, would be turning over their blankets for a stranger? no way! but these... turkish people... have been doing this our whole time here. you reach for your dropped keys in the street, and five nearby turks will bend down to get them before you can get to them yourself! just... a very friendly people.

but still, no aegean keys. i should just give up and go back to bayram's. if da wife were here, she'd certainly point me in that direction. but there's a reason some people in LA say i have the "hardest head in hollywood". and it's because... i'm stubborn. really... stubborn. so... i just keep looking.... and looking. and then... i see the long, narrow rock i sat on to take my pants off. i bend over and something strange hits my eyes. it's a glare at first. in fact, it looks like a glowing cell phone. or a like a deja vu. but what it is, as i bend closer and my eyes focus beyond the shining object, is... are... my keys. right there... on the narrow rock....untouched from 2 hours earlier. my loveable keys...right there on my "i love NY" key ring. they've patiently been sending me their lost, beacon call: "over here, dude! over here! we're lost but waiting! over here... that's right!" OMG! my long lost keys... i mean, my short lost keys.... have found me! and i've found them! the needle in the haystack! hosannah! definitely a good sign from the land of troy!

i scurry back up to bayram's, break into the tree room, and profuse my enthusiasm to da wife, who is seriously working on her post-showered hair. "look, my keys! i found them on the beach. can you believe it? my keys!" "that's good. can you get my conditioner for me? it's in with the dirty laundry." "uh.... yeah. my.... keys...," i trail off, as i obediently get the essential conditioner from the previously locked suitcase. sometimes you just can't win. or better said, some times... things that are miraculous to one person, are just a delayed satisfaction to another.

the next day we have a new plan. da wife is going for a hike. by herself. i've tried to hook her up with some hostel backpackers, but hey, 9 o'clock in the morning gets no takers. she's determined, and i'm naïve, trusting, and brave, so at 9 sharp, i walk her down through the ruins to the trailhead and set her off on her path. "just remember to follow the red and white arrows. they say you can't get lost." "ok," da wife says impatiently. "you think i can't care of myself?" this is dangerous territory, so i just smile tightly and say, "let's go swimming when you get back, ok?" "ok, how long is the trail?" "i don't know, but they say no more than 4 hours. 2 up to the top and 2 back." "ok, i'll see you at 1." "ok, have a good time." "i will...."

now da wife has done this hundreds of times in LA. gone hiking by herself. in our local elysian park. in LA's biggest, griffith park. up to the top of mount lowe. mount wilson. she's got the shoes, the energy, even the little hiker's backpack with the internal water supply. but... she's never done it... in turkey. land of muslim men who go berserk when they see any glimmer of skin uncovered on a body of the female persuasion. land of sharia. and the "stoning of soraya m" (see it on netflix. best film of the year. but brutal.) am i crazy to let my young, attractive indonesian wife go hiking by her self in turkey? well, i hear many of you: "yes, asshole! are you out of your mind?" but then i counter with: "well, she's my wife, not my property. i can only go so far to tell her what i think. i can't tell her or forbid her to go. can i?" no. i'm her civilized, western, oh-so-sophisticated jewish liberal husband. right? not her muslim pig of a 4-wifing husband. right?

well, there's nothing else i can say or do without getting my head handed to me on a plate, so i decide to just "let it be", and i mosey on back to the hostel to enjoy the morning. i pull out all the necessary ingredients: the portable netbook with free internet connection, the new romanian and turkish CDs, the orhan pamuk "istanbul" memoir, the freshly squeezed orange juice... and... i set myself up in my own little turkish, pillowed alcove... and i disappear in my own private turkish idaho. i write. i read... i listen to turko-romanian gypsy music...

until... i notice it's... 1:30. "time flies when you're having...", you know how it goes. but you know, this backpacker place, as comfortable and cheap as it is, is not really my cup of tea. there aren't really any locals to talk to. just other backpackers. there's no local music to hear. just dylan, the stones, U2, bob marley, and the red hot chile peppers. in fact, this place could be in any country in the world. backpacker china. backpacker vietnam. backpacker ecuador. backpacker turkey... which is apparently where i am. but other than the pillowed and carpeted alcove, i might never know. i certainly wouldn't from the conversations all around me. it's all australians and americans and britishers talking about where they've been, where're they going... how cool thailand was. all cool things, for sure... but why here? in olympos? in turkey? no friggin' reason at all, if you ask me!

anyway... it's now been more than 4 hours. and... still no wife... who has... no cell phone. i gave her my cell number... and bayram's number, but she doesn't have a phone to call from. hey, i figure, if she gets lost or into trouble, she can just borrow a phone, right? right? from the top of the mountain, alone in the woods, in muslim turkey, she can just call me, right? right?

it's 2:30. still no wife. i'm getting a little worried. i reluctantly exit my private turkish alcove and walk over to the front desk slash bar. this time i don't target the pretty british temp worker, but i go for yusef, the young, together manager of the place. "hey, yusef, my wife went for a hike up the mountain trail this morning about 4 hours ago and she's not back yet. should i be worried?" "no, don't worry, sir, she'll be back soon. what time did she leave?" "9 o'clock." "and she went on the red and white trail?" "i hope so." "don't worry, sir. she'll be back soon." i walk away from the bar, not particularly reassured. whenever they start calling me "sir", i figure something's wrong. and when i see yusef pick up his cell as i walk away, i start to feel something amiss in olympos.

4 o'clock. still no wife. i'm getting worked up. this isn't a set of keys on the beach. this isn't "oops, i've misplaced my wife on the red and white trail." this is more: where the fuck is she? and what the fuck was i thinking to let her go up a mountainside high into islamic turkey all by her fucking self? what an asshole. you're all right. i'm a jewish-liberal, overly-permissive, wife-enabling... giant... pussy! and i've lost my wife. you hear me, motherfuckers? i've lost my lovely, friggin' wife!

4:30. definitely no swimming in the aegean today! "yusef, man, she's still not back. what can we do?" "don't worry, sir. she can't get lost. she'll be back soon." "that's what you've been saying for the last 2 and a half hours, yusef. isn't there somebody to call? the olympos police? the olympos lost and found?" "no, sir, there's nobody to call. don't worry, she'll be back soon."

right, yusef. "back soon." do you know that this is same woman who has called me for the last 10 years she's been LA... from every possible freeway... from every possible principality... from every possible cross section... screaming with impotent rage, "i'm lost. where am i? i'm lost!"? that's right, yusef. even with her brand new GPS. even when i've written down the directions beforehand and drawn her map. even when i've driven her to the friggin' location the day before. in my own car! this woman, my wife, is a goddam expert in getting lost. what the fuck was i thinking, sending her up a turkish mountainside, by herself, into islamic, woman-stoning turkey? you are truly an asshole, trules!

i'm standing on the dirt road outside of bayram's, staring down the road towards the ruins and the beach front, towards the trailhead. it's 5 pm. still no wife.

"hey, my trrrules." before i can turn around, she grabs me playfully, and laughs like a child. a 32 year old child. how can she have come back from the opposite direction she left? "what the... where the f...". i stop myself mid sentence... mid wrath. "you're back. where were you?" i give her a big hug. "i got lost. i shouldn't have listened to dose boys who told me which way to go. i knew it was the wrong way. i lost the red and white signs and went over the mountain to another village. i hired some man to drive me back on a motorbike." "some man...?" what the fuck? some mother-fucking muslim, woman-raping turk? i didn't say that last part. i just hugged my wife again. harder.

a photo by the mrs. on her hike: does it exquisitely define "lost" or not???

we made love that night. and laughed about another mis-adventure of trulesian travel. as we lay in each others' arms, i saw my own love and my own prejudice leering at me from my mental video replay, from which i realized that... there were no "woman-raping turks" on the mountain top, only my own blind stereotyping in the face of my blind, out-of-control fear.

sure, you can say that i should have never let my wife go hiking up that olympos mountainside into the heart of turkish darkness and into the pith of my own friggin' fear. but i say... like i just said before... up above (take a look): just "let it be".

i lost two precious things in olympos, turkey. one much more precious than the other. but i also found them both again. or... they found me. so... what to say or do? what to conclude? nada, me thinks. life has a way of working out... one way or the other. you can either dread and fear the way it'll work out... or... you can visualize and affirm how it'll work out. but one way... or the other... it will work out. trust is better than fear. and luck is an essential ingredient that you have no control over. you can believe in fate. you can believe that "it's not my time," or "it is my time". but maybe... it really doesn't matter... what you believe... and all you have to do is just have to show up and play the game... of life. and as the saying goes: "you win some, you lose some."

fortunately, beautifully.... in olympos.... surya and i... got to play another day.

love from olympos,

blind trules...

an' da wife