Monday, June 29, 2015

Me and Jimmy Stewart

Strange to feel a stranger to the airport. It’s only been two months since I’ve been in one, and of course, it grows more familiar with each step past the familiar restaurants newsstands and bookstores. But I’ve been quite happy to be mostly home, walking or biking or driving, each with its own speed and thus, sense of participation. If our hope is to attend more closely to the world, walking is the best. If we want a bit more exercise, the workout of uphill and thrill of downhill, the chance to do errands without fighting traffic and parking, then biking it is. If it’s a ten-hour trip to Portland, the car with a book on tape is just the ticket. And if it’s halfway around the world to Turkey to teach for one week, I suppose it better be a plane!

Now back in a thin tube of metal soaring through the skies, mostly aisle seats these days, so not even the sense of the world below. Instead, my book, the movies, my dreams if I’m lucky enough to sleep on this long, long flight to Istanbul.

Yes, it’s the traveling music teacher at it again, from Istanbul to Izmir to a place further in the countryside for a week music camp with mostly Turks and Iranians. Don’t know quite what to expect, not exactly the typical Orff workshop with xylophones and class plans adaptable for teachers hungry to gather material. Instead, it sounds like a kind of Middle Eastern Burning Man led by a Turk, Brazilian and American (that’s me!). Well, probably not that far out, but something more about just gathering and making any kind of music with whatever is available and not worry so much about the two most frequently asked questions: “Which grade kids do you do this with? And is it in the notes?” (The answers are “all” and “no.”)


Now in the Istanbul Airport and movies it was—from the frivolous Mom’s Night Out to the suspenseful State of Play to the prophetic Head of State (2004 movie with Chris Rock winning the election as the first black president— now old news!). The man next to me moved his seat. Nothing like an empty seat on a long flight to bring instant bliss! If only the next man vacated, I could have (gasp!) lay down, but that was too much to expect. But on the cusp of 64 years old and with an established reputation as a sought-after workshop leader with hard-earned expertise, maybe it’s time to declare myself Business-Class worthy. Yes, I like being a man of the people and sharing the misery of coach, but hey, I’ve paid my dues. Maybe enough is enough.

Meanwhile, Turkish Airlines has the worst take-off and landing music, some non-descript New Age pablum, but the best meals. Fresh cucumbers, tomatoes and olives, fabulous cheese and bread, an amazing eggplant salad, Turkish delight and baklava deserts, all with real (not plastic) silverware. Simple pleasures.


Now about to board the next plane to Izmir. No wi-fi in the airport and no wi-fi where I’m going (though apparently close by), so could be that by the time I post this, it will already be obsolete. The blog is more the form for the flotsam and jetsam (hmm. Where do those words come from? No wi-fi to look them up!) of each day’s news, not wholly conducive to ocean-worthy observations. Sometimes I try to dive beneath the surface, aim for more depth or capture amount floating placidity on the ocean’s calm expanse. But not today! More from the next opportunity to write. For now, the boarding tones are ringing.


A short, smooth flight, my luggage arrived intact, my name on a sign outside the baggage claim, a half-hour ride in a van to a small town, transfer to a car and up into the hills on a bumpy road, get out and change to a donkey– ha ha!– just kidding. The car arrived at the Circle Camp site and people grouped on the lawn in the refreshing cool night air chatting, the first to greet me an ex-student from Germany and then some five Turks and five Iranians I know and my wonderful host Ezo and companion-in-crime Estevao and I’m in a jet-lag stupor, but happy to have arrived. Still worried and wondering about grandson Malik, parts of me running to catch up from San Francisco and the rest preparing for what looks to be yet another marvelous week of exploring how to be in human community. A new book idea flashed through me like lightning last night, awoke at 3 am to jot things down, managed to sleep until 7:30 and now the rooster crow and a shower awaiting.

Jimmy Stewart never got to realize his travel dreams, but I certainly have and we both have arrived at the same conclusion: “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

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