Istanbul Travel Diaries: Pre-death chanting is not going to calm me the fuck down
I keep on doing things that make me feel like I’m in a B-movie. Usually, the movie is something like one of those early 2000-something Kate Hudson movies where the career-oriented woman is swept over with desire – the first time in her life! – for a run-of-the-mill funny guy like Ben Stiller or even worse, a bro like Jack Black. Except that in my case, the dude I know I shouldn’t go for is usually just an artist with an unhealthy dose of ego coupled with an attractive body that makes my pudgy thighs shudder in shame.
My trip home to Istanbul was like the beginning of one of those moralistic horror films where bright-faced and slutty college girls get stuck in a foreign country with no way to get home – and then they are hunted down by some psycho with a saw who wants to chop them to pieces. Who the hell gets stuck in a foreign country?
The morning of my last day in Istanbul, I woke up at 5 AM to take my return flight home to Berlin. All I needed to do was take the ferry from Istanbul Asia to Istanbul Europe – the Bosphorus River splits the city into two continents – and then from the ferry, I would take a bus to the airport. By Friday at noon, I would be back in Berlin, ready to work on some projects I’m still involved with in the States, and then art it up at openings in the evening.
I’m the type of person who thinks of the worst-case scenario for any ocassion – that’s why I hate flying – and with flying, I think I’m going to die every time I take a trip. I didn’t die, but at 5 AM, I realized my wallet was stolen, containing my remaining Turkish Lira and my debit card.
I called my bank from my Stateside cell. “OK, OK, You’ll be OK,” they said, “We’ll send you some cash at a Western Union in Berlin.” I cried a little bit. Adults have credit cards and back-up plans. I had money, I just couldn’t access any of it without my card.
I arrive at the airport, stand in the longest line possible to check-in for Turkish Airlines. Everyone in line ahead of me had multiple packages, taped up to protect whatever they needed to take back with them to Berlin. Cartons and cartons of cigarettes? I live in a Turkish area of Berlin with kabob stores on every corner, internet cafes, and these places where old men just sit and chat with each other all day long while smoking cigarettes. I’m living in the 1970s because in Berlin, you can still smoke everywhere.
I wasn’t allowed on the plane because I was only an hour early, not an hour and a half. I was told by the Turkish Airlines staff that I would need to pay for my new ticket. The only other flight to Berlin would leave in 6 hours. But I didn’t have the money. I tried to have my bank transfer money from my account to a Western Union at the airport, but Turkey doesn’t allow bank transfers, only transfers from individuals. At some point during trying to figure out how to get enough money to buy a new plane ticket (or be stuck in Istanbul until I could afford a flight home), I lost my passport. The police at the airport were unhelpful, telling me, “Oh, that’s too bad. What do you want me to do about it? I guess you can’t go home and you should contact your embassy.”
I received a lot of shrugging shoulders in response to my crying. Crying doesn’t work anymore; I’m too old. I’m a frau. This would have worked if I was 19. My face was red as a tomato, my eyes puffy and purple from a lack of sleep, and I had pulled my hair back into a huge ballerina bun planted on the top of my head – a look that screams “OMG! I like American Apparel” to my friends, but one that just confuses most other people in the world. I didn’t look attractive at all – I looked like I was at an age where I should be married, have a credit card, and know how to resolve a situation like this.
With an hour and a half before the last flight and still no money (although I had found my passport close to the smoking lounge), I went up to the first person who looked like she spoke English and asked if she would buy my ticket and that I would pay her back as soon as I got to Berlin. I told myself that if my plan of desperation didn’t work on the first person, I would give up and stay in Istanbul for however long it would take me to come up with the money to purchase a new ticket. The first person I asked bought the crying frau a way back to Berlin.
My return flight was horrible. I was surrounded by elderly German women who probably went on some sort of a Christian pilgrimage to Istanbul’s many Byzantine-era sites and throughout our turbulent flight, they were praying and singing hymns out loud. I hate flying, I think about dying every second I’m on the plane, so a group of gray-haired ladies’ pre-death chanting is not going to calm me the fuck down.
This was the craziest thing that happened to me recently. I’m getting too old for nights of multiple make out partners, hangovers, and the general embrace of decadance that the art scene likes to balance with Whole Foods-health. Of course you can do coke and yoga in the same day, but it’s only acceptable with the creative class. We need a new motto to express the enthusiasm of the art scene for multiple states of mind, another instance of its predictable irrationality, something like: X-tremely Healthly, X-tremely Decadent.