I went to the Feriköy Antique Bazaar yesterday, which is like Les Puces (The Fleas) in Paris, but smaller, and somehow better.
I posted a little video on Instagram and my friend Ben in Seattle messaged me when he saw it.
“That open air market looks like it’s full of treasure.”
It’s my new favorite place in Istanbul, and it’s full of the craziest stuff.
You can find records, vintage textiles, leather goods, hundreds and hundreds of enamel pins, sewing findings and old kolonya bottles and knives and even some Nazi memorabilia which I didn’t know how to handle seeing and hurried past.
You could dig through things at this place for hours, but it only took me one to find the only thing I bought: a single 1000 Lira bill from 90s Italy.
Now, I didn’t make it to Italy until 2000, but the currency still looked the same. This was a handful of years before they adopted the Euro, and I remember thinking the denominations were crazy: 1000 was the smallest bill? It was only worth half a dollar.
I’ve been thinking about that trip to Italy so much this year. It doesn’t exactly seem like it was 20 years ago, yet I also feel like I’ve lived several lifetimes between my first time overseas – when I flew from Seattle and landed in Milan with little more than a prayer to my name – and now – when I flew from Johannesburg to Istanbul to try and make a life in a city I’d never been to before.
In some ways, so much has changed between then and now.
9/11, the anniversary of which was last week, changed the way we fly forever, and the Euro stripped Italy, and so many other European countries, of their own currencies.
And fuck me, you can’t get pages added to a US passport anymore. I wish I would have known that before I renewed my skinny 26-pager only two years ago because it’s already half-full.
But corona has now left flight attendants dressed like intensive care nurses, so I probably wont need those pages anyway because my passport has been rendered virtually worthless.
But some things are exactly the same.
In this strange-as-hell 20 years I’ve maintained the exact same drive to see everything that I had when I was a kid. I’ve given everything else up for it – jobs, cars, apartments, any kind of legitimate financial stability – and yet even the times when I’m eating a banana out of a garbage can (Miami) or getting kidnapped (Paris) or even when I’m forging documents to get on a flight (many times, but literally less than a month ago in Johannesburg, too) the idea that I just have to keep going has simply never left me.
No matter how bad it gets, how poor I become, nor how many places I end up I still just seem to keep on going.
I remember coming home from that two weeks in Italy and immediately wanting to turn around and go back. I had merely criss-crossed a single European country, but most people I met along the way were, at the very least, on their way to a handful of countries in Europe, and I wanted to be just like them.
It took me about a year, but when I landed back in Rome, a month seemed like an eternity to be away from the States, but by the time I had made it to Madrid to catch my flight, I still wasn’t ready to leave.
But I got on that flight, and on it I watched an absolute treasure of a movie, the just-turned-20 Almost Famous, and I remember getting home wondering how I could write and travel, too. Did people do that but just write about…traveling? The only travel writing I knew of at the time was in National Geographic, where I assumed the authors were, like, very serious anthropologists and biologists and stuff, and I was then midway through a shitty college education at a private Fine Arts school populated by privileged white children, so I thought that was out of the question.
Watching that movie, back then, made me feel like the first time I saw the video for Pavement’s Spit on a Stranger, where you see an inordinately baby-faced Stephen Malkmus amble around Paris and London for seemingly the first time.
And you know, if I could have one wish today it would be to have a chat with some of the ladies that inspired the character of Penny Lane.
Bebe Buell – otherwise known as Liv Tyler’s mom – is 67.
And Pennie “Lane” Trumbull – for whom the name of the character was taken – is 66.
And much like them, I’m not trying to live another 25 years only to look back with any regrets, so I’m trying to stay as wild as possible for as long as possible.
And I suppose, also like them, I swear like a goddamned sailor.
But all joking aside, if I had my way, I’d happily stack another 20 years on top of this one spent digging through this big-ass world, looking for all the little things that I always inevitably find along the way. And if I’m very, very lucky, I’ll never lose that sense of anxiety and wonder and fear and awe when I arrive somewhere I’ve never been and feel 19 all over again.
Zai’s been gone a week now. He’s catching up with his family in Amman and composing new things in his home studio. My birthday is next month, and if I had my perfect wish for what to do on it, it would be to join him in Jordan so we could go together to the Treasury in Petra. I remember seeing it in a Nat Geo when I was a kid, but back then, I thought only, like, archeologists and stuff could go.
But as it turns out, any scrappy soul with a plane ticket and a prayer is welcome.
As long as your passport isn’t worthless.
[up next: So WTF, Miao got chicaned on the train?!?!]