Friday, January 16, 2015

Still finding confetti

Today is Friday. I came home with confetti in my hair on Sunday evening and I’ve cleaned up bits of the stuff every day since then. I thought yesterday might be the last day, but I’ve already found four more pieces today and the day’s not half over. I wasn’t planning to bring home any confetti in the first place.

It all started out innocently enough. My friend Zarina called to ask if I’d take her to some sort of a concert. She was vague about what kind of a concert, but she can’t see well enough to go places on her own and I didn’t have enough advance notice to round up somebody else to escort her. I’m still trying to establish a formal network of guides to help the local visually-challenged community, but that’s a different story. In today’s story, there is no such network and the one friend I could ask such a favor on a moment’s notice already had other plans.

Actually, Alla and I had other plans too, so I asked for her advice. She agreed that I really couldn’t say no and we adjusted our plans. Zarina was overjoyed when I called back to say yes, and then she asked me if she could bring along her boyfriend too. “Sure,” I said. “Why not?” And then I thought why not: Why the heck couldn’t the boyfriend just take her to the concert and leave me to my plans at home?

I tried to be delicate. I thanked Zarina for the invitation to a concert. I wished I had better command of the Russian language to tell her just how touched I was that she wanted to include me, but if her boyfriend was going couldn’t he just lead her there himself? No, it turns out that he can’t see well enough to do that so they really needed a guide for two people.

So we formed a train. I led Zarina, who led Zhenya. Zhenya could tell when we approached staircases and whatnot, so he was safe at the end of the train and even helpful. (I kept forgetting that the English word “step” maps to two different Russian words, one about what we do with our feet and the other about the elements of a staircase.)

The concert was at a rock club. It was mostly a recital from an institution called Discovery Rock School, but it included a performance by Zarina’s favorite group, Litesound. When Litesound came onto the stage, we started to smell smoke. I looked back from our first-row position and saw a LOT of Roman candles burning behind us. I looked for fire exits, and decided we only had two ways out. We could go through a huge crowd of Litesound fans to the main entrance far behind us, or we could go out to the back garden. I wasn’t sure I could even get to that garden door by myself in event of an emergency, and shuddered at the idea of guiding Zarina and Zhenya in the midst of a panic.

I looked at the ceiling and didn’t see anything that appeared to be catching fire or even loose enough to catch fire quickly. At that moment, the Roman candles started blasting out what I thought at first were sparks. Stuff came showering down onto us. I looked at our clothes to see if I could brush off anything before it burned big holes, and discovered that the stuff raining down on us was little bits of colorful Mylar. The Roman candles burned out and nobody went up in flames.

I enjoyed the concert a lot. I’d forgotten how much I enjoy rock music. Finally we decided to go home. After getting Zarina and Zhenya onto their bus, I walked home and went straight to bed. Alla didn’t even wake up.

In the morning, I saw all the sparkly stuff in the bed and elsewhere, so I went into the bathroom and brushed my hair over the toilet. Then I took a shower and vacuumed my path from the front door to the bed. While I vacuumed, Alla walked into the bathroom and saw all that sparkly stuff in the toilet. She likes to worry, so she imagined I’d eaten something disastrous and it had a really strange effect on my digestive system.

That was Monday morning. Every day since then, as I said, I’ve found more sparkly stuff. One day I’ll find the last piece, but I wonder if Zarina will EVER get rid of all of her confetti. It could be a long-lasting souvenir that she doesn’t even know she has.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015


I am sitting in a little neighborhood café in Istanbul, listening to three guys play Turkish music. It’s the right way to finish off an excellent Turkish day.

We spent most of the day on Turkish Airlines flight 82 from Boston. Although it was already daytime here when we left Boston, it was nighttime for us and we slept much of the trip, at least when we weren’t eating. The guy next to me squirmed around a lot, but I still slept pretty well. Alla apparently did not sleep as much, worrying about the airplane, the weather and the flight. If there was any excitement, I missed it. I liked the legroom and the food and didn’t care much that the in-flight entertainment system wasn’t completely working.

I wanted to take a long walk across the bridge to the Asian part of Istanbul and buy baklava from a famous confectionary. Alla had a closer baklava place in mind, so we walked there first, through wind-driven sleet. By the time we reached her chosen place we had gotten cold and wet enough that I didn’t press to extend our walk to the other side of the bridge. Anyway, we’ll pass through again on our way back to Boston in April.

After we bought baklava to bring to Minsk, we discovered another confectionary we had not noticed last time, so we stopped in to sample some of their treats and buy some Turkish delights to bring home. Alla didn’t think she could eat dinner after all that, but since we’d come downtown more or less specifically to eat at Amedros we went over to pick out a couple of light dishes. Mmm, am I glad! We already knew the menu pretty well from our visit two years ago, and we ordered brilliantly. Or maybe they cooked brilliantly. In any event, we had a great time and a great meal. Ibrahim, our server, took really good care of us too.

When we walked home after dinner we had to go slowly because by now it’s snowing and the soles of Alla’s shoes are pretty slippery. In any event, as we approached our hotel we noticed these three guys playing in front of a little fish house. While Alla wanted nothing more than to stay in our cozy room, I came across the street to hear the music. They’re pretty much playing only for me, though the maître d’ keeps running out to invite people in as they pass by.

We’re happy to see Istanbul in winter. Even at night it’s beautiful. And even more than in summer, we find Turks to be warm and hospitable. We’re very glad that Turkish Airlines lured us to stop on our way back to Minsk.