Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Bardo in Bodrum

For two weeks now, we have been looking at boats.

We spend hours every day on websites. Every morning with coffee. Then dragging ourselves away from the screen because it somehow has become one or two in the afternoon and time to get something to eat.

We’ll sit at a restaurant and order, and Jennifer will pull out her iPad and hunch over it again.

Back in our room, the first thing we both do is glue our eyes back to the screens, clicking away through listing after listing.

While I have been narrowing my search to my acquired prejudices, it turns out Jennifer hasn’t been randomly clicking through boats. She will find one and begin to research its provenance.

Every now and then, she looks up and asks,

“What’s a fin keel?” or “What’s a cutter rig?”

Within days of our searching, she knew as much about the lineage of various boat lines as I did. And within another few days, I dare say, she began to know more about their history.”

To my surprise, Jennifer has been finding beautiful yachts. She showed me photos of gorgeous interiors with fine woodwork below and bristol fashion teak on deck.

“How did you find this?”

“I searched for antique and classic,” she said. Or she had searched for boats manufactured between 1970 to 1989, because she had read that the quality was great for certain lines during those decades.

Her fresh approach to searching forced me to widen my perspective. In the past, I had never considered a steel hull. Mostly out of prejudice. I had heard that they are loud down below when the waves slap against the hull. I worried about electrolysis. And I guess it’s an emotional issue too. I just feel steel is cold.

And who wants to say their boat is made of Ferro cement? I don’t even know what that stuff is, but talk about a cold-sounding material. Wood is warm, but not practical unless you are a carpenter if not a full-fledged shipwright.

We have spent days wandering among some of the largest yacht harbors in the Mediterranean.

Three different brokers gave us tours of boats. We stood in front of dozens of others posted by their owners as “For Sale.”

Between looking for boats, we searched for an apartment. We couldn’t afford to continue staying in a hotel. We met a man who showed us his apartment building. Terrible, dark, barren holes. While we were being shown the apartment a tenant came out and asked in English, “Um, the hot water is not working yet. Oh and, you said you were going to bring me a plug for the washbasin.”

The boat broker connected us with a colleague who had a flat for rent. But it was overpriced and appointed in a style than can only be described as Ottoman meets disco. Glass table next to Empire bed, next to 60-inch TV, next to velvet curtains.

In a small alley in town we found an office with handwritten postings of apartments. With limited words and writing numbers down on paper, we tried to work with him while he browsed through his online listings.

Trying to express numbers in English is hard for Turks. Their system must be similar enough in terms, but different in meaning. So we were shown an apartment and told the monthly rent was, “Twelve hundred thousand.” And then after a half-second pause, he throws in “million” as if some sort of insurance that we aren’t talking about $120 a month, but $1,200.

And to be fair, English is tricky. We say, one thousand  two hundred. But we also say, twelve hundred for the very same amount.

Anyway, we weren’t going to pay twelve hundred thousand million for what he was showing us. Nor even twelve.

We left, and stepped back onto what I thought would be the sidewalk of a beautiful, sea-side Mediterranean village on a sunny day.

Turns out, I had stepped into the quicksand of depression. I tried grasping at anything to prevent myself from sinking, but it was too late.

We couldn’t find a decent apartment. And the type of boat we wanted just wasn’t to be found here in the area.

At times, we discussed going back home.

“Home?” Jennifer said. “Where’s home?”

It was meant as an encouragement to stick with our adventure, even though it was challenging right now. But in my edgy depression, I jumped on her even before she could make her point.

“Exactly! We have no home. And I need a place where we can finally be. We have been on the run for two months now. And we can’t find a boat or a place. We tried. Maybe it’s time to start over again someplace new.”

We talked about changing directions. About renting a house in Turkey for a winter. I could write and Jennifer could ... “What? What am I supposed to do?”

We talked about renting or buying a camper van and traveling through Europe. But in the winter? No head. No shower. No room for guests to visit.

That night, I talked to Joel via Skype.

“You, my friend, are in Bardo.”


“You can read about it in the Tibetan Book of the Dead. It’s an intermediate phase of existence after death where your soul floats around seeking purpose. It’s a confusing time. It ends when you have gone through all kinds of dimensions of time, space and emotional turmoil, and understood the dreams of rocks and were forced to simultaneously hear every bad joke being told in the world, until you find some couple fucking who are in the exact quandary that you understand and you are reborn to them. It’s scary place, Bardo. While you’re in this state, you’re not sure if you’re a toaster in some suburban, split-level ranch in Kansas, or if you in fact are the Turkish shepherd boy who’s going to grow up and unify all of Europe and make CEOs of companies who sold water in plastic bottles dig up landfills by hand and sort out compostables from plastic.”

Joel often goes on fascinating, semi-relevant spirals of improvised thought.

“Give yourself permission just to be in Bardo,” he said.

We talked for an hour or so, and when I hung up, I didn’t feel much better. But I felt better about feeling bad.

1 comment:

abbot said...

in Bodrum a man from Vermont
went Bardo for lack of his want
but soon again he'll be cruising
and whilst writing be musing
at his despair in choosing a font