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Turkey in a (Travertine) Shell

Nov 19, 2014
Skippy Mesirow

Pamukkale - Istanbul 

Pamukkale, pronounce it if you can, is located in central Turkey. The Traverntines, an angelic cloudscape of burning white bathes which cling to a mountainside, are the main attraction. They draw tourists from all over the world.

An intertwined mix of crystalline structures they bubble and dance along the hillside, each glorious tub clinging to the bedrock and its neighboring travertines like mushrooms on a rainforest tree. The pools are filled with hot, glacially-blue water heated in the Earth’s interior. As it pours over the mountainside, the water deposits more of the crystalline white mineral and the process of forming and reforming these celestial bathes begins a new each day. This is where butterflies flutter, where diseases are cured, and where “Care Bears” live.

Or so we're told.

To Write Our Own History

Nov 17, 2014
Skippy Mesirow

Rhodes, Greece – Pamukkale, Turkey

The last day in Greece I rented a bike, a blue Yamaha 660XT, and set about getting lost. I covered about 100 miles as I circumnavigated the little island, occasionally jutting inward for a look at a mountain or a castle. Rhodes's coasts are lined with happy little beach towns, its secluded mountainous center home to a smattering of ancient villages resting below the mild green peaks. The air is cool and crisp, the waters blue, the people friendly. I blast down back roads, carve mountain passes, fishtail on the sandy beach shores. Back to town; one last gyro, yum. I’ve seen so little of Greece, yet enough to know I want more. Another day, another trip.

Crossing the Aegean I return to Bodrum. One last night and one very surprising and exceptionally good Cantonese meal. The next morning at 4am it’s off to Pamukkale. I’m leaving early for two stops along the way, Didyam and Ephesus – both are archeological sites.

Halloween Missed, at least I’m in a Castle

Nov 13, 2014
Skippy Mesirow

Edgiger - Rhodes, Greece

Halloween is by far my favorite holiday. I love dressing up. I love carving pumpkins. I love spooky decorations. I love the creativity. I love making something so fun from something historically so dark. I love that it is not only acceptable, but encouraged that you go to every house you can, interacting with strangers and making new friends. It is the one time a year when everyone is open to meeting strangers who will not only greet you, but give you candy. You open your house to the masses and invite them inside. Everyone is on the same page. Fun, hilarity, vulgarity.

Life is a Winding Road

Nov 10, 2014
Skippy Mesirow

Cappadocia – Kalkan

Life, it is said, is a winding road. You never know what is around the corner. Depending on your perspective it can either be a terrifying experience ending in tragedy or a tremendously exciting journey ending in fulfillment. Traveling intensifies this experience, amplifying every aspect of the road; higher highs, lower lows, bigger crests, deeper valleys. The road while traveling is filled with impossibly tight turns, ludicrously high speed straits, and of course, the unexpected potholes and breathtaking vistas along the way.

The Turkish Bathhouse Experience

Nov 7, 2014
Skippy Mesirow

Safronbolu - Cappadocia

“You will have the skin of a baby on you” a middle aged man with darkening teeth and cigarette breath proclaims. I look to the women to my left as if to say, “do you think they are actually going to cover us in the skin of dead babies!?”

It seems plausible.  

"Good News"

Nov 5, 2014
Skippy Mesirow

Top Gear fans, “Good News!” “What?” “It’s the new Dacia Logan!”

I stand outside Terminal 1 of Istanbul Airport, an hour after having departed my hostel. Two days in Istanbul and I have had time to process and contextualize my Iranian experience. Now, it’s time for some adventure. I’d initially planned to be in Iraq at this time, but escalations between ISIS and Kurds on Turkey’s southern border have quashed those dreams with no safe overland egress into Kurdistan.

So too were my motorcycle dreams dashed as I came to find, much to my consternation, that even scooter rental in Istanbul is twice the price of a small car. It’s an insurance issue, apparently the Turks value life higher than vehicle damage, what rubbish…

And thus, I have settled, or so I think, on a cute little mini.

Lord of the Ring

Nov 3, 2014
Skippy Mesirow

Back in Tehran

“God is the greatest (3 times). Glory to him who has subjected this (transport) to us and we could never have accomplished this (by ourselves) and to our lord surely we must return.” The plaque reads above gate 24, Tehran International airport. Prayer bellows from the speakers. Yet, people can’t be bothered. They shop, mill, eat and drink. I sit, sloth, tired, senses dulled, consciousness muted, glass-eyed, and heart a murmur; brain stew. Before me three 747s sit, the tips of their wings touch the snowcapped mountains in the distance, but we should rewind.

The Magic of Esphahan

Nov 1, 2014
Skippy Mesirow

Shiraz – Eshphahan

Abnormal Normality

Oct 30, 2014
Skippy Mesirow

Tehran – Persepolis

For four days now I have traversed Iran: from the busy streets of Tehran to the solitude of the desert and calming Shiraz to the dramatic Persepolis. I’ve taken long bus rides and taken short flights, bargained with locals and discussed politics at mosques. I’ve made friends with young Iranians and shared meals with older gentlemen. Yet, I have a problem. Writers block. It’s not for lack of movement or experience; it’s just that nothing stands out. You walk, you talk, you see, you eat.  

We Should Never Hate Before We Care

Oct 20, 2014
Skippy Mesirow

Aspen – Tehran

A toe drags through the gravel, a raindrop lands on a hand, the clouds waft through the air as if being dragged by angels. The Maroon Bells appear stark white. They pierce through the clouds, surrounded by screaming yellow trees, ominously present and powerful yet benevolent. Amber waves of brush, burning red Aspen tops abound. A friend laughs, a child giggles, a deer frolics.

On the Road: Acceptance and Reflection

Jun 22, 2014
Skippy Mesirow

Tampico - Aspen 

320 miles from Tampico, roughly 40 to the US border. All that stands between me and it is one of the most dangerous stretches of tarmac in all the Americas. Carjackings, drug cartels, grenade attacks, mass murder, and general treachery. Along the way a multitude of police checkpoints, serving as both vanguards of security and targets of terror line the route. Each stop halts my progress, I become a sitting duck. The police, eager to demonstrate their militaristic bonafides don full tactical gear, head to toe camo, bulletproof vests, night vision equipment, massive assault rifles, everything designed for utmost intimidation. Yet, as public servants visibility is paramount, so, rather inexplicably, they layer high visibility jackets over their camo, neon yellow with orange vests with reflective stripes, the sheer lunacy of it makes me nearly double over in laughter. The irony of it, at least the giggle relieves tension.

On the Road: Big Jumps and War Zones

Jun 20, 2014
Skippy Mesirow

Tampico through Tamaulipas

2100 hours. A soldier eats his last MRE for the day. He huddles with his platoon mates for what may be the last time. They look each other in the eyes, man their perimeter and tuck in for an uneasy last night sleep before a sunrise assault tomorrow. They know some won’t make it, they are fearful, but together, they are strong. This is what hell week, all the training, all the battles to this point has lead up to. They think of their children, families, loved ones. In the morning, the fear will subside, they will be trained and ready, tomorrow is their day.

On the Road: U.S. Bank of F. Y**

Jun 18, 2014
Skippy Mesirow

Cancun – Villahermosa

You always expect the unexpected, but sometimes, regardless of your preparation, you get absolutely blindsided. Something happens by no fault of your own but the impact is irreversible and changes your path in an unforeseen and unwelcomed manner. There is nothing you can do, the change is irreconcilable and all you can do it bury your apprehensions, emotions and resentments and push forward, making the best of what you have.

On the Road: Authenticity

Jun 16, 2014
Skippy Mesirow

Havana – Mexico

Gatito sits on a plastic covered couch. She’s back in Cancun looking through the glass outer wall of an Elektra, a one-stop shop for bank loans, cheap credit, home décor, motorbikes, and electronics. Outside looks so different after the last few weeks. People move faster, they wear fewer smiles; pure joys are supplanted by hurried desires.  Cars are everywhere, big and new. Storefronts house things and OXXO’s sell food and snacks on almost every corner. Passing by the window so fleetingly, so flippantly, are all the things desired of the average Cubans she met. Work, freedom of opportunity, and a car are available along with cheap food. Yet, it all feels so hollow, so cold and callous.

On the Road: Bay of Pigs

Jun 11, 2014
Skippy Mesirow

Havana – Playa Largo

Birds chirp, wheels turn and the city comes to life. Gatito awakens and looks over her Havana Balcony at a black and white 1953 Chevrolet. It’s a beautiful sight, swollen haunches, chrome detailing, leather interior, circular indicators protruding from the trunk and hood, imposing and stately like a bulldog perched atop an island atoll protecting an English manor. She carries her bags down the stairs and jumps high as she can. Nope, smash, face to running board. Again, nope. She tries to shimmy up the tire but again she fails. Covered in dust and hot tire residue she begins to tear up, perhaps she will never reach Playa Largo in the Bay of Pigs. But then, just as despair sets in, a nice little Cuban dog, Charlie, one of hundreds of cute well-mannered pups on the island, walks up, barks spritely, picks her up and slings her into the car.

On the Road: A Pearl in the Caribbean

Jun 9, 2014
Skippy Mesirow

Havana

Havana, what a fantastic city Gatito thinks. It’s big, spread out, home to several million. Old Havana hugs the coastline with its long ocean-front boulevard, soaring buildings forming the skyline. The city is filled with color, buildings awash in every hue, stained glass projects colored light onto the streets, massive 1950’s taxis are painted in bright ostentatious tones, their massive chromed bumpers and flanks reflect light like a kaleidoscope as they drive, local Cuban men wear fluorescent pink and green skinny jeans and pastel deep-v t-shirts, women are adorned in flower and geometric print leggings or colorful short-shots and lacy tops. It’s a cornucopia of vibrancy and movement. Everyone is in sunglasses and jewelry. Everyone smiles, she sees so much energy, everyone is playing, vivacious, its feels like a Jr. high dance, nervous tension, butterflies in the stomach, exuberant embraces, absolutely giddy with excitement. Everywhere Gatito wanders people stop her, shake her hand, pick her up so she can see above the crowed and ask all about her life, genuinely interested in whom she is and where she has come from. When they discover she’s American a glint in their eyes is inevitable and questions abound. They love America; they want to travel there, to see their relatives, to learn about the monopoly to their north that has so affected their lives yet they know so little about.

On the Road: The Journey In

Jun 7, 2014
Skippy Mesirow

Cancun – Havana

On the Road: Forbidden Fruit

Jun 5, 2014
Skippy Mesirow

Cancun

From the time of Adam and Eve it has always been that that which is forbidden is all the more viscerally desired. Human nature perhaps, our drive for the obscure, the unseen, the unknown, breathes within us and bubbles from deep in our souls. And when, though not often we can conquer our fears, it boils over the caldron rim and seeps into every nook and crevasse around the globe, enriching all aspects of our existence. It’s a human story, and our story. It’s what has motivated us to come out of the cave, and move across continents, and cross the oceans, and go to the Moon. So to with travel, the allure of places impermissible and unexplored is all the more palpable. From the far corners of the earth, societies and people beckon to be seen, understood, and experienced.

Skippy Mesirow

San Cristobal –  Cancun

It’s early. 6am. Dawn breaks with the chirp of birds and the flutter of winged creatures. The night’s rain subsides into an early morning mist. I’m packed and ready to go, leaving San Cristobal behind and ready for my final push south. I’m flying out of Cancun on the 17th to a friend’s wedding in New York and then on to a secret destination for 10 days (more to come on this later) before my return to Mexico and the resumption of the road trip. I’ll have a companion today, Becka, who you’ll remember from a couple posts back, is hitching a ride.

On the Road: To Move or To Linger?

Jun 1, 2014
Skippy Mesirow

Oaxaca – San Cristobal

A big toe grips the cobblestone. An arm brushes a wall. A drop of dew is deposited on a forehead. A glint of light reflects off a coffee cup outside a café. Often this is how we see a city. Not so much the photons entering the iris and processed in the visual cortex but the intangibles, the little things. The distant laughter of a child, the wafting of sweet elote, the soft light of a streetlamp, the way a stranger approaches on the sidewalk, the colors of a wall. It is said, “The traveler sees what he sees, the tourist sees what he has come to see”. I’ve come a long way the last few days, perhaps too far, to fast, it’s time to engage the present and walk the path to transcendence. Tonight, I wander the streets of San Cristobol. Slowly and determinately. As I do I reminisce about the past week.

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