Due to some technical glitch, I cannot respond to individual comments.
This kept me from replying directly below the essay by Sam Guttenplan, an American philosopher long based in London (amd married to my accomplished cousin Jen.)
Sam's nuanced article suggests what I was thinking and trying to say,but he does it better.
This is Sam Guttenplan:
I also inadvertenly cut out a nice comment by Ed Martin -- gone, into the ozone. Maybe the hurricane is messing up the site.
And I cannot resist adding this comment from my friend George Mitrovich who worked for Robert F. Kennedy (Dem) and Charles Goodell (Rep.) George forwarded this comment by Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, once the chief of staff to Colin Powell, on MSNBC the other night, responding to the vile Sununu comments:
"My party is full of racists. And the real reason a considerable portion of my party wants President Obama out of the White House has nothing to do with the content of his character, nothing to do with his competence as Commander in Chief as President, and everything to do with the color of skin, and that is despicable!"
"That is not an uncommon view of what has happened to the party of Lincoln, but seldom had it been said with such candor and directness."
-- Sounds right to me. GV
In this long and ugly campaign, I am getting tired of the suggestion that President Obama should imitate Lyndon Baines Johnson.
By that theory, Obama should have long ago grabbed his opponents and saboteurs by some vulnerable part of their anatomy and squeezed until they cooperated.
This thoughtful and active president has been catching hell for four years for the crime of PWB – Presiding While Black. We all know that race is the subtext for this campaign. Obama has had to deal with congressional leaders with the smirks of southern sheriffs and South African apartheid enforcers back in the bad old days.
Just the other day, when that great American Colin Powell endorsed Obama, John Sununu made the despicable suggestion that Powell was only doing it for racial reasons. (Piers Morgan, an outsider currently working in American television, did not know the territory well enough to push Sununu on this.)
Obama would only have made it worse by morphing into LBJ. Lately I’ve been talking to veterans who watched their companions die in Vietnam, and when they lived long enough to read memoirs and histories they discovered Johnson and his pals had known the war was not working.
Yes, give credit to Johnson for pushing through civil-rights and anti-poverty legislation, for muscling the southern tier, his own constituency. He was also a bully who could not face his grotesque mistake.
Obama did fine in his second and third debates against a candidate who swerves all over the place, as Colin Powell said. Reason and record -- and dignity -- will win out.
We questioned friends who had visited Turkey and almost unanimously they said they loved the country. Then we asked about side trips out of Istanbul and almost unanimously they said – Ephesus and Cappadocia. We followed their advice.
When Paul visited Ephesus it was a Greek city occupied by Romans. His boat would have sailed right to the edge of the largest city in the region, at one point containing 200,000 inhabitants.
Through the power of silt and time, the former port is now a full five miles from the Aegean, but the marvels of Ephesus endure.
Greeks built the massive amphitheatre that holds 20,000 people. Elton John sang Rocket Man here. But who carved the menorah into stone in front of the library whose façade looms impressively along the main street? Nobody knows.
Our guide, a charming woman named Dilek Aydeniz, said there was a secluded passageway from the library to the brothel across the way. A man could tell his wife he was going to check out a book and slip into the brothel, coins in hand.
Dilek took us to the terrace homes that once housed elite Roman administrators -- high rises, state of the art, with setback floors that let in light to many of the chambers. We climbed what felt like six stories of hard stone steps. Each apartment had running water and stanchions for candles. In one secluded corner was a lavatory – a 40-seater.
In Ephesus, there are traces of Biblical figures – Paul and John, so intent on evangelizing that they became a threat to the silversmiths as well as Roman officials.
Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ, is said to have lived her final years here, perhaps in the modest home on Nightingale Hill that attracts so many pilgrims, including Muslims who honor her as Meryem. I thought about the elderly Jewish woman, protected by her dead son’s followers, safer here than she would have been in her homeland.
We drove to Selçuk, a pleasant town whose name originates from the Seljuk Turks who emigrated from the east. Men played a card game called okey in the cafes. We saw the basilica of St. John, named after the apostle who preached here.
In the center of town, we stopped below a rampart of the old Roman aqueduct, some of whose graceful arches are still standing. Atop this column is the large nest of a stork, now migrated southward. The storks are venerated because they are monogamous and industrious, our guide said; they also carry rats and snakes to the nest to feed their young, and sometimes drop their prey onto pedestrians in the bustling streets.
Selçuk was alive with commerce and Ephesus quivered with memories. What was missing was the salt air and glitter of the sea.
We went to Cappadocia the easy way – by flying from Izmir to Istanbul, resting overnight, and flying to Kayseri the next day. (Turkish Airlines is very good, and serves cherry juice on domestic flights.) I know people who have taken the 10-hour bus ride between Ephesus and Cappadocia; but we were not up for that.
Cappadocia is a region carved by wind and rain and snow and ancient volcanoes; amazing natural obelisks point toward the sky, with top-heavy caps of volcanic ash teetering above them. I cannot describe the fantasy landscape; please check out sites and photos on the web.
Time and humans have created and enlarged caves into the porous hills. Our guide, Gökhan Yaramis, told us how ancient Christians spent much of their lives underground, cooking and surviving and witnessing their faith with rudimentary paint on the cave walls.
One day Gökhan took us to a charming restaurant, Kavi, in Avanos, under a canopy alongside the Red River, with its thick layer of shade trees, with a view of a bridge and a mosque. The next day he took us to the university town of Mustafapaşa, a Greek city until the changes of the 1920’s. A traveler could spend a lot of time around Cappadocia. October is brilliant.
We went high-end, I admit it, with a guide and driver, expertly arranged by Karin Paquay, a multilingual Belgian executive, and her helpful colleagues at Destination Management Turkey (DMT) based in Istanbul, In Cappadocia we splurged for a view from the expensive CCR Hotel in Uchisar, dug into ancient mountainside caves. (Oddly enough, cave hotels have very dark rooms.) Other tourists were backpacking it. The main thing is to go in your own fashion. Our friends who gushed about Ephesus and Cappadocia were absolutely right.
How could we have waited so long to visit Turkey?
My overall impression of Istanbul was of overlapping cultures and tastes, centuries of civilizations.
We were touched by amplified prayers wafting through this huge city, summoning worshippers to the mosques at mid-day.The windowsill in our hotel had a tiny sticker with an arrow pointing toward Mecca, making it easier for travelers to pray.
At the same time, life went on, with people dressing and apparently living their varied fashions.
We love cities. We took trams and ferries the way we take the subway or commuter train in New York. We found succulent small plates of appetizers -- mezze -- everywhere, but I have to say, our best meal was at the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art, a great airy space alongside the Bosphorus, with stimulating contemporary exhibitions. And I found a great bookstore near the ferry in Kadikoy, with soccer books by Franklin Foer and Simon Kuper, translated into Turkish.
One thing I did not do was take an anotated walk around the neighborhood featured in My Name Is Red, the compelling novel by Orhan Pamuk (please enjoy the Updike review from 2001), which takes place near the Galata Tower. Next time.
For sheer reading pleasure, please enjoy the current essay by Pamuk on the drying-up of the Bosphorus.
We went to the Istanbul Archaeological Museum, expecting history and we encountered something close to literature.
One stele, or marker, contained a tribute to a Roman captain, Iulius Callineicos, from the third century, C.E.
“Greetings passerby! Callineicos, you have set sail to the limits of Lethe (the mythical river of forgetfulness), having survived many fierce tempests. Still the sea did not swallow you in its depths, [but] the earth has wiped you from the face of the earth, you who wanted to take after your brother Calligonos, who left long ago from the face of the earth. The decision of the Fates (Moirae) was thus: Here lies Iulius Callineicos, captain.”
Callineicos was sent by one great civilization; his service is still noted in the heart of another great civilization.
My wife once flew over Istanbul and ever since then she has yearned to go there. Last week we did.
There are dozens of wonderful things to say about Turkey (and I probably will) but first I need to talk about the frustration for a soccer freak of looking down from a hotel window directly into a soccer stadium -- with no game going on.
Hundreds of ferries and freighters and tugs were moving up and down the Bosphorus as we stared into the beginnings of Asia, but in seven days and seven nights I never spotted a single person moving on the lush lawn of Beşiktaş, one of three Super-division teams in Turkey.
One Sunday there was an Istanbul derby at Fenerbahçe, a main rival, based across the Bosphorus, essentially on another continent.
As a foreigner, you could try going there, somebody advised me, but nobody from Beşiktaş is allowed to travel to Fenerbahçe, and nobody from Fenerbahçe is allowed to attend a match at Beşiktaş. The trip involved a 20-minute ferry ride and a 40-minute walk, but there was too much else to do in this amazing city of mosques and museums, ferries and restaurants, hills and water views.
Soccer was in the news. Fenerbahçe was firing its star Brazilian, Alex, for unknown offenses. He had been there seven years, a long stay for any international import, but the owner wanted him gone, and now he was.
Soccer always makes friends. Turks reminded me that Brad Friedel, the durable American keeper, spent a formative time with Galatasaray, the other Istanbul powerhouse. I told Turkish fans how I had covered the 2002 World Cup, when Turkey made its best showing ever, finishing third. People nodded reverently when I praised the great act of sportsmanship, after beating the spirited Reds of South Korea, 3-2, in the consolation match, how the Turkish players invited the Koreans to take a victory lap with them.
But that was a long time ago. Now Turkey is in danger of not qualifying for the 2014 World Cup.
One day in the amazing Cappadocia Region (with its unique geological formations and cave dwellings) we were eating in the celebrated Old Greek House in Mustafapaşa, where the popular soap opera Asmali Konak was filmed. Our guide, Gökhan Yaramis, a tall former college basketball player – and a Fenerbahçe man – was joined by his fellow guide Emre Ardik, a Trabzonspor man.
Gökhan and Emre are buddies, who once spent nearly 24 hours driving in a snowstorm to watch their teams in Trabzon, alongside the Black Sea.
“We want our cup!” Emre told me with passion. A year ago Fenerbahçe was implicated in a game-fixing scandal and was bounced from the Champions League. Sounds like Juventus, the perennial king of the 89th-minute penalty kick, amazing coincidences Sunday after Sunday, decade after decade.
Gökhan never argued. Apparently, the punishment stood on its own. He’s a great guy, an educated guide who could respectfully tell us the history of Christians who lived in caves to avoid the Romans, and could also tell us of the Muslim faith that reached the region centuries later. Later he invited us to his lovely apartment in a pleasant town, so we would know more about Turkish life.
Gökhan put on his yellow and navy blue vertical striped jersey – and displayed his matching yellow sneakers – his gamer outfit, for watching matches. On Tuesday he would watch the qualifying match on the huge screen in the town square, as Turkey would score first against Hungary, but then lose, 3-1. By that time, my wife and were flying home. There is so much to remember about Turkey; I will always check the soccer scores.
I’ll miss the baseball season – the regular season, I mean.
Of course, the impending post-season is what gives the electricity to these desparate hours, like the Yankees' and Orioles' 162nd games.
I’m not crazy about the one-game format looming for two wild-card teams. This means a team could win over 90 games, be in division contention all year, and have to throw a weary or marginal starter in a one-game shootout.
As Ken Singleton was saying on the Yankee broadcast Tuesday night, an entire season could depend on circumstance – a ball lost in the sun, something like that
What’s your opinion?
Then again, seasons end abruptly anyway. On Tuesday I was with a group of Red Sox fans called the Blohards, who hold occasional meetings in New York to celebrate or mourn. Funny how the names Dent and Boone keep coming up.
I told them, hey, my team went away. And my childhood was spent watching Richie Ashburn throwing Cal Abrams out at home and Bobby Thomson hitting that home run, exactly 61 years ago on Wednesday, but who’s keeping track?
Yes, I can remember exactly where I was. Where were you for Thomson or Dent or Boone or some other autumnal event?
I also remember Red Barber talking Dodger fans off the ledge a year earlier, in 1950, after Dick Sisler’s home run put us into deep misery. His words were like those of a speaker at a funeral service, finding hope. We cannot always win; things come to an end, The Old Redhead said in his eulogy. I think of him every time a season ends the way the Mets’ season is ending.
I told the Blohards: remember what Brooklyn fans said: Wait til next year. But they seem to suspect next year has come and gone for a while.
I will miss the regularity of baseball, the prosaic daily quality.
Whenever I got frustrated with the yakkers and the commercials on television, I could flick to the ball game and find good old Derek Jeter, inside-outing a double to right, or good old David Wright, paddling against the tide.
On Tuesday night, there was a late-season cameo, the appearance of Adam Greenberg, who was hit in the head by a pitch seven years ago and got to swing for Miami – against R.A. Dickey. The scene of the Marlins pummeling him in the dugout after his three-pitch strikeout made me choke up. My guess is that every one of those guys understood the fragility of a career.
How did you react to the gesture by the Marlins?
I hate the idea of a season going away, even another wretched Met season. It is foggy in New York Wednesday morning. The regular season is going away, to be replaced by the post-season, plus the short debate season that signals the end of the American silly season, the long and expensive march to elections.
I’m looking forward to the result, to moving on, but I could do without a lot of the foolishness. The regular baseball season – the Orioles and the Reds, Trout and Dickey – is much better than the campaign season.
David Vecsey's sweet tale of distant love before the Web, now NYT Podcast, narrated by Griffin Dunne. Please see:
George Vecsey is Hofstra University's Alumnus of the Month! Read a Q&A with George here.