Saturday, March 10, 2012

Send Me to Istanbul

Here I sit in the airport, having survived the indignities of check-in, but sad that I'm not taking a trip like the one Paul Theroux describes in Ghost Train to the Eastern Star.  

Or maybe not.  His trip, a retracing of the journey he wrote about in  The Great Railway Bazaar, takes him through Romania, where "The look of Bucharest was desperate and naked, . . . everyone struggling, everyone dressed as though for a hike on a rainy day or dirty job."

Or maybe so, because he also passes through Istanbul , "habitable, a city with the soul of a village . . . the sight of its mosques and churches can be almost heart-stopping, . . . Most of all I like the city for its completeness and its self-sufficiency; it is a finished work, distinctly itself."   It is "dramatic in its vistas, its spaces, its mixed population....great for walking, or taking a ferry from embankment to embankment, ... the bazaars, the gardens, the promenades, the fish markets, and the fruit stalls . . ."

When I read those passages, my birthday was coming up and I couldn't think of anything to want but a trip to Istanbul, 'cause there's nothing I love better than vistas, gardens and places to walk. 
But I settled for a box of frozen Ding-Dongs instead.

Moving along, Theroux's journey pulls him through Turkmenistan,.where the bumbling despot in charge of the amusingly miserable little nation has renamed all the days of the month and the week after his family and friends. 

Then, on to Bangalore.  All those jobs that left America?  They landed in Bangalore.  I'm sure you have all gotten your share of  calls from "Larry" or "Steve" whose accent was so thick, you weren't sure whether you just ordered a new shirt or sold your twenty shares of Apple stock. 

Maybe you were peeved enough to demand that next time they hand you off to a native speaker of English.Well, "Larry" and "Steve" are on to that little trick.  They've been practicing their American accents  and they know how to sound just like your cousin in Ashtabula.

I'm sorry if this news ruins your week.  If so, you might comfort yourself with a helping of  Ravioli with Sausage.

I'm stuffed in a middle seat on the plane now, not headed for Istanbul.  Just gonna have to make do with Denver.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Shallow Beauty

I want to cut my hair in a bob and get myself a diaphanous dress. That's what I get for reading Somerset Maugham's The Painted Veil. Set in the 1920s among British colonials off doing their job in Hong Kong, Veil tells the story of Kitty Fane, who marries in haste, then takes comfort in the arms of a dashing colonial officer.

Midway through the story, Kitty risks becoming a decent person. This slim tale, told in a spare and serious tone, is actually more fun when Kitty is shallow.

No cow patties, which is amazing, given the subject.

And speaking of shallow things, I know people pay tribute to true beauty and deep beauty but, face it, shallow beauty makes for much better stories. And let's not blame our culture for shallow beauty's grip on our eyes. Nope, it is bred right into our genes. A certain little boy I know possessed an eye for beauty long before he tasted his first solid food. He could pick out the prettiest girl in the room and flash her his biggest smile. If his studio-shot pictures came back with a particularly happy face, I knew the photographer must have been quite a looker.

And speaking of the shallow versus the deep and the true, we feature a dessert that tastes like a granola bar, except that it's redeemed by a whole lot of chocolate.

In fact, in the last granola bar commercial I saw, the voice-over preached the bars' virtues--the fiber, the nutrients--while the camera came in close on its vices--thick scoops of peanut butter, slow-mo shots of a stream of dripping chocolate. This, my friends, was food porn.

Those granola bars couldn't be much worse than Chocolate Oatmeal Bars

I suppose any candy bar will do. I'd better make them again soon, with Butterfingers, just to make sure. :-)