July 20th, 2012:
After Mirza and Anthony’s fun UCLA/USC rivalry shoot, Felicia and I were really looking forward to their wedding day in our hometown of Burbank. It was an eventful day with 2 ceremonies: first a Catholic ceremony at Mirza’s family church, followed by a short Christian ceremony and reception at the Calamigos Equestrian Ranch. We’re really glad to have a lovely venue like Calamigos literally 7 minutes from our house. It felt pretty surreal and very awesome to get home so quick: all the better to start downloading the memory cards…
Congrats Mirza & Anthony!
November 30th, 2010:
Now, my Thanksgiving started out pretty solid. Felicia and I drove a traffic-less 70 miles from our house in Burbank to meet up with the rest of the family for a little holiday photo session in Riverside. Any day that starts off with pictures and family is a good one, and I had plan to write a post about how thankful I am for my family, friends and everyone in my life. But, unfortunately, life had other plans for me on this particular Thanksgiving Day.
Now (to bring you all up to date), I own a condominium in Riverside which I have had for about 5 years, and it has always been a rental property. The day before Thanksgiving the tenant called me up and said his heater wasn’t working (in the middle of some freezing So. Cal. nights), but I also knew that recently one of the neighbors killed the gas to the unit, which killed the pilot light on the water heater. I figured the heater needed reset as well. I told him I would swing by there real quick after our shoot.
I showed up with a Leatherman and a lighter, figuring it would be fairly simple. I never would have guessed the condo had a hot water/radiator based system that is linked into the water heater. It actually is quite a clever, energy saving system, but it doesn’t have a pilot light. I pulled out the heater manual and read in the troubleshooting that if the heater hasn’t been used in a while I needed to spin the water pump shaft to free it. Fairly simple if I had any tools. Just shut off the water, pull 4 screws, spin the pump, replace the pump with 4 screws and turn the water back on.
Needless to say it didn’t turn out this way – the 30 minute process ended up being 5 hours, with lost seals, sheared off screws, driving all over Riverside to collect tools and parts, scrambling to find a open hardware store on a Thanksgiving afternoon, and, all the while, receiving calls asking when I would arrive to eat Thanksgiving dinner. Also, because it was a sealed water based system, the house would have no water until I could get the heater working again….
The “simple” project took 5 stressful hours, and I arrived to Thanksgiving, dirty and irritated, to a table of leftovers.
Sigh…. at least the pictures are cool.
My sister and Brother-in-Law.
Grandpa looking charming as always.
Mom and Step-Dad.
Well after a night of thinking it over I changed my mind about sitting on a bus for 10 hours to Bulgaria, only to have to follow that with a 22 hour ride into Romania, and follow that with 12 more into Hungary. 44 hours on a bus over the next week just does not seem like the most enjoyable use of my time, no matter how many special sleeping pills I have. So, the new mission of the day is to try and find a cheap ticket to fly out of Istanbul (which still seems impossible to leave) and try to see the Grand Bazaar.
After dredging the internet for an hour or so I realized that I wouldn’t find anything that way, so I headed off to the travel agent next door to see what she had to offer. Her flights where also crazy expensive, she had a loophole though, if I was a student I could get a flight to Budapest (in Hungary) for 110 euros instead of 160 euros. Unfortunately I haven’t gone to anything resembling a class in over 4 years. After talking it over with some guys at the hostel, they suggested Jasper (who was in the same predicament trying to get a flight to Barcelona) and I try to search out a shady travel agent who would sell us the International Student Identification Card (ISIC) without any real ID necessary. Hey, Its 50 euro, so we set out to ask around and on our 5th or 6th place we stopped we meant a nice woman who would make us one, no questions asked, for 20 euro. I was still going to be up 30 bucks for the day, so I ran across the street and took a quick passport photo and within 20 minutes I was once again a student of California State!
We headed back to Yasemine, our travel agent, and whipped out our new ID’s, which she giggled at, but still gave us our discounted flights. I accomplished the first half of today’s goals now it was time for us to set out to see the Grand Bazaar, which is supposedly…Grand. A 15-minute walk and we were there.
It was a gigantic assault on the senses, everywhere people where trying to get us to buy things, from lamps, rugs, shoes, leather jackets and scarves to tea sets, hookahs, plates (I should have bought a reserve), and backgammon sets. It was really quite an experience. After spending the afternoon just wandering around the Bazaar and it surrounding area, we had lunch/dinner of Turkish meatballs, potatoes, and bread. Around 5 we headed back to the hostel for a shower, and to pick up our tickets from Yasemine, who Jasper was also hoping to pick-up.
I think he managed because he was gone the rest of the night and I spent it reading and having a beer while talking to the cute British bartender.
Jasper and I decided to spend the day following another of Akbars suggestions and take a ferry out to Princess Island, take an hour long walk to the top and have lunch. Since we have been spending too much money lately the 1.5 lire ($1.10) ferry ride and a free walk seemed like a great plan. After an hour long ferry ride we arrived at this little island where the streets have all been torn up for construction. Right out of the ferry we (being obvious foreingers) were instantly hassled but touts trying to get us to take a horse and carriage ride instead of taking the hour long hike. We decided for the hike because of fiduciary reasons and we didn’t want to look gay (not that there is anything wrong with that) taking a carriage ride together.
The island was wonderful and green once we got away from town and we were thankful for getting to walk after all the food we had been eating on the ship. When we arrived at the top we had a spectacular view of all of Istanbul and the little restaurant up there we had been told was wonderful. We had lamb shish kebab, fries, salad, and a bottle of wine. Ill rave about the lamb because it was probably the best meal I have had in all of Turkey (probably because it was meat).
We spent a while up there playing with the cats who kept begging, I wasn’t about to give away any lamb but I tossed them some bread and they ate it right up. Stupid cats. We made our way back down the hill and caught the ferry back so we could attempt to find a way to get out of Turkey (I am hoping to go north to Bulgaria and Jasper is trying to find a flight to Spain).
It’s geography time! Everyone find a map and take a look where Istanbul is. Now it is a huge distance from any city in Europe and almost impossible to get a cheap flight from. Jasper searched and searched (online and the travel agents) but just couldn’t locate anything for less that 200 euros ($240) to Spain and that was more than he was willing to pay. I found overnight bus times to Sofia (8:30pm and 11 pm) but decided to spend another day here than head north (after all they are firebombing busses here so maybI should just fly also). The transportation out of this region seems impossible. It may sound easy but I am just not a good enough writer to convey our frustration (mainly Jaspers, because I have plenty of time). Spent the rest of the day wandering the windy streets of Istanbul finding cheap kebabs for dinner.
I actually managed to sleep 11 solid hours on an overnight bus, the drugs Dr. Akbar gave me kick ass. Fortunately he set me up with a few more of these magic sleeping pills for future uncomfortable long term travel. I woke up some time around 8:30 in the morning right as the bus came into the outskirts of Istanbul by mid-morning we had found our way into the city center, dropped off Akbars bags at his hotel where he had been storing most of his stuff for the last 10 days and headed out to find Jasper and I a place to stay for the night. Akbar was leaving today to head back to Pakistan for a couple of months before he starts a new job in the states.
We found a nice place, then decided to wander the town, see the Blue Mosque, find some lunch and have one last beer with Akbar before he set out on his way to catch his flight. Jasper and I had been told by many people that we just had to see the underground cistern built in the 3rd century A.D., but after spending the $8 to get in we were less than impressed. It was a small underground water reserve with a cool roof, we could have saved our money and had a couple more beers instead. We did some more wandering of the entire city and were constantly hassled by rug dealers trying to get us to come in, have tea and look at their rug. Whenever we said we had no way to carry it they all suggested sending it home to our moms. “Mom’s love rugs” they would say. We never bought any rugs, so mom, don’t expect one for your birthday next week (they wouldn’t go with your house anyhow).
By early evening we just decided to buy a bottle of vodka and have a few drinks (vodka and OJ) with our new friend Grant then just wander the city seeing what it had to offer at night. I thought it might be something special with 13 million people here, but no, it was the same collection of bars and parties as any big city. We decided to partake.
When we woke up this morning we realized the water was way to deep to dive for my plate, so I just wrote it off and apologized to the captain, who seemed to have a good laugh over the whole thing, probably because he was 50 lire richer.
The only real plan for today was to get off the cruise ship, find an internet café to play blog catch-up at and see about getting an overnight bus to Istanbul. Our boat let us off in Fethyie around 10:30 am and we set out to find a internet connection for what I knew would be about 4 hours of work. I found a nice, cheap, gamers café where I went to work and Jasper and Akbar checked their emails and headed out to have a look around this little port town while I continued working and watched their bags.
They finally made it back around 2:30pm and I was just about ready to go so I wrapped things up and headed with them down to the waterfront, near the bus station where an overnight to Istanbul was supposed to leave. We had a couple of beers and around 5pm we made our way to the bus station to buy our tickets on the 12 hour, 7pm ride. When we arrived we found out it didn’t leave until 9pm, so we bought our tickets and headed back to the waterfront for another round of beers and then found a place for dinner of lamb kebabs.
I made a few phone calls to my sister, mother, and friend Ed, then got on the bus (fortunately not the Kamil Koc bus) that left precisely at 9 pm. Akbar, being a Dr. in general medicine, carries around an assortment of pill for various ailments and gave me a few pills to help me sleep on the bus. Within six minutes of the bus departing I was out like a rock.
As I said, today was rather uneventful.
I’m pretty sure the captain of this ship hates us. This morning he was so hung over that he would only grunt and didn’t even tell us what we were going to be doing for the day. I believe we were supposed to stop in a town on one of the nights but I think he is keeping us in little deserted bays so we get bored and buy his booze. The ship moved maybe 3 kilometers today, yesterday when he said “bad weather” (slightly cloudy) wouldn’t let us stop where originally planned. I think his planned may have paid off for him, we were out of vodka by this point so we sat around drinking Efes all day and just sitting in the sun. Late in the afternoon when they dropped us off at a deserted beach that looked like someone’s front yard.
We spent the entire day bullshitting and hanging out until some time around eight we decided to drink our entire bottle of Raki (its awful by the way) in 5 minutes. 4 shots each and about 3 ½ minutes later our bottle was empty and we were about to be really drunk, which was good because we had been kind of bored all day. Once the Raki kicked in we became loud, offensive and a general all around pain in the ass to the crew. Who were inside and we were on the front deck.
We had been picking at our dessert (sliced apples and oranges), when I found one of the apples was slightly bad in the center so I began throwing the rotten slices into the Mediterranean, somewhere around this time Jasper and Akbar were laughing there asses off at something else I must of said and Akbar says “don’t throw the plate in the water”.
Now, in classic Rob style what else was there to really do other than throw the plate in the water?
So I grabbed it and heaved.
Now, all three of us were rolling around laughing our asses off like it was the funniest thing in the world. That is until the captain and crew came out giving us dirty looks and the first mate asked.
“Where is the plate” (probably all his English)
I quickly responded “you took it a little while ago” (hey you never know, I might be that sneaky)
The captain pointed at me and says “You throw” (accompanied by a series of throwing gestures)
Damn. He had been watching me. I was caught.
“To much Efes” I said hoping to blame it on the alcohol.
But he wouldn’t have it he wanted me to pay for the plate. I offered him 15 lire ($12 for a plain white plate), but he wouldn’t accept he wanted 50 lire ($40)! So in my drunken haze I threw down a 50 lire note just to get him to leave us alone.
But first Akbar had the balls to order another Efes!
Brought down slightly, we continued to giggle for the next hour over a plan to dive for the plate in the morning and try to get my 50 back. Not that we thought we’d get the money back, but it’s the principal of the thing.
I am sure the Captain hates us now, especially me. Well, I’ll tell you one thing, He’s not getting a tip when I get off this boat.
A knock on my cabin door wakes me up followed by a Turkish accented “Breakfast”. I mumble something and head up to the deck to find a spread of olives, tomatoes, cucumber, hard boiled eggs, goat cheese, bread, an assortment of jams/honey and tea. I am sure going to be spoiled when I get back to countries where my dollar doesn’t go as far. The captain tries to explain the day’s itinerary to us but all I understand is that we will head into Kas for an hour to walk around and look at the tombs in the cliffs, then travel west for two hours when lunch will be served. He said a bunch of other stuff but that was all I could decipher, I seem to be having the best luck of our group so far understanding what he said, so Akbar and Jasper just deferred to me and made me the bad-english to bad-english translator because they say I speak it fluently. I headed down to my cabin for about and hour to type up yesterday’s blog entry (can’t get behind, even if I can’t post it) and photoshop a couple of pictures.
After lunch we had been hoping the weather would clear up but unfortunately it stayed cloudy all day and the sea was too choppy to stop where the original plan had said we would. But in truth, none of us could really understand the original plan, so the new plan didn’t make us feel like we lost out. We were now on our way over to see the island covered in ruins where old St. Nick (yeap, Santa Claus) lived out part of his life. As I stood on the top of a cliff overlooking the Mediterranean it came to my attention that our image of Santa couldn’t be farther from the truth. This is a hugely tropical environment, where there is no snow or reindeer, (although I did see a few feral cats) and you would never need a huge coat. My childhood feels lessened.
After our hike around Santa’s island, we headed to the boat for a quick swim (extremely quick, the water is freezing), a shower for me, watched the sunset, ate dinner, and continued to drink until all of our vodka was gone. The captain of the ship had gone to town for the evening and came back extremely drunk around 10:30, stumbled across the deck and went to sleep on one of the cushioned deck benches. That was my queue to head off to sleep as well and hope for better weather tomorrow.
It’s time to move out of my tree house and head out to sea for a few days. The cruise I’ve booked was a great deal, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I may just end up spending three days on a tug. Sometime around my morning omelet I came to realize this trip was only going to be three of us, me, Akbar (a 28 year old Pakistani optomologist who works in Chicago) and Jasper (a 32 year old Canadian finish carpenter and long term traveler). The owner of the Treehouse place, Kadir, was going into town so we all hopped into his little van for a ride to the harbor which was about an hour and a half away. Somewhere in the middle of our car ride we talked him into stopping so I could hit an ATM and we could find a store to buy some alcohol, batteries, cigarettes, and hot sauce (for Akbar who began to complain that everything in this country is to bland for his Paki tastes).
When we got to the harbor we started looking at all the boats there trying to figure out which of the small tugs was for the three of us, but we soon learned that the 85 foot yacht with a crew of 3 was all for us. We were rather impressed and are sure whoever runs this tour company is losing money on this trip, especially since we brought our own booze to avoid buying it from the bar. As soon as we were underway, we made some cocktails (Vodka, Sprite, and OJ) and headed to the deck to get drunk and wait for our lunch and first stop in Simena for a short walk around the island. We powered through our first bottle of vodka just short of our stop and staggered ashore to see an ancient castle (which we didn’t go in because it was 5 lire each and we figured to all pitch in and just buy another bottle of booze instead), women selling scarves and bracelets (which we bought), and more boats and sun. After about 30 minutes we realized our boat was starting to leave without us and the little power boat was going up and down the coast trying to find us. We jumped on board and climbed back on our yacht soon to learn that the harbor police were upset with the boats captain because he didn’t have a list of our names and passport numbers so he was forced to set sail without us.
We spent the next couple of hours heading east towards Kas, listening to Jack Johnson on my laptop while laying in the sun drinking Raki and water (a Turkish licorice alcohol similar to Greek Oozu, 90 proof). At lunch we decided to play a game and eat everything given to us for the entire cruise, now lunch wasn’t to big but when they brought out dinner the crew must have caught on to our game because they brought us so much food that it took us a good 45 minutes to eat it all, but we still managed. We were so stuffed, but out come our server with a dessert of apples and oranges, they took us the better part of 2 hours to eat. The game was getting exhausting. I had realized that Jasper and Akbar were good company (we got along like teenagers, just talking about stupid shit all the time), although it is too bad we couldn’t of convinced 4 or 5 women to join us on this cruise, it certainly would have made things more interesting. We spent the rest of the night on deck acting like 15 year old jackasses, telling stories, making up new ways to piss off the crew (who seemed a little peeved about us bringing our own alcohol), having another glass of Raki and a smoke. I went off to bed (which my legs hang off all the way to my shins) a little after 10 hoping that tomorrow would be sunny and warm so we could get into the sea.
So I was a naysayer…
I though it would be interesting to see this eclipse, but I never imagined something like this. It was amazing, the world went completely black and you could stare strait at the sun and see this brilliant circular flare, my pictures can never do it justice, even if I had the $7,000 lens needed to get the greatest picture. I’ll tell you now, if you ever get a chance to see this celestial event I suggest you do your damnedest to get there. I’m sorry I don’t have the technical know-how to get you all better pictures but you can try NASA’s website. I even kind of understand the “Eclipse-Chasers” that I gave such a hard time to yesterday.
Our bus left the hostel at 11am and after a 45minute ride and a 20 minute hike we (8 of us, me being the only American) made it to the Chimera (see yesterday for details) and grabbed a great spot under a tree to wait for the moon to start to block out the sun. It slowly moved over the course of an hour and then for 3 ½ minutes the entire world went dark and all anyone could look at was the sun. I don’t know about spiritual, but it was a hell of a thrill, it got every ones adrenaline pumping and smiles on the faces of every single person around. I could image nothing like it until I saw it for the first time, every minute of “Traveling Hell” was worth it for that short pay off.
At 3:30pm the bus took us back to the treehouses and I went to work trying to see what kind of pictures I got (the best of anyone around here, but still disappointing to me), and get a couple of entries for my blog ready.
I have decided to head out tomorrow on a three-night cruise around the southern coast of Turkey. It stops on all kinds of islands, towns and historic sights, so I hope these pictures will suffice for those of you disappointed in missing the Greek islands. I got a great deal to because they need to fill the boat last minute and they gave me the cruise for about 40 percent less than what a couple of others around here paid, but as a courtesy to the tour company they asked that I not tell the other passengers I paid only 150 lire (about $110) instead of the 150 Euro (about $180) they paid. If that is the only obstacle to getting a great deal, I can live with keeping my mouth shut (except on the world wide web). I leave tomorrow in the morning and I doubt the boat will have a connection so you all will be without new entries for the next 3 or 4 days. Sunday afternoon I should be in a city and should be able to get up the missing entries for the whole cruise and all the pictures I have backed up since Athens. If you really need more Rob, try going back and read up on any entries you may have skipped or skimmed over, and leave me comments on them to keep me motivated.