4

Teasing

I was teasing when I said my cupboard was stocked with cookies. Teasing, with an emphasis on the tea.

Before I left Istanbul, I shopped. Rather than bring home chicken shish, baklava, or semolina cookies, I chose tea. Ottoman tea, Sultan tea, Relax tea, Rose tea. Tea made from dried pomegranates, oranges, apples, rose petals. Bright red, yellow, dried herbs and flower tea. Organic tea and caffeine-free tea. Tea that smells divine, like roses, fruity.

I’ll survive. I know this with certain-tea.

4

Rude Awakenings

Things aren’t always what they seem.

On the same evening I had to deal with chicken shish inflation, I also had a confrontation with cookies that weren’t.

The cookies in question resided on a tray between baklava–to the left–and rice pudding–to the right. I thought they were cookies because they looked like cookies–small, round, resembling cookies I had in Istanbul. Those had almonds on top while these had walnuts, one per cookie. And the menu listed them under desserts: semolina cookies soaked in syrup. Since I had loved semolina cookies in Istanbul, I thought it was reasonable to assume I would love semolina cookies here.

Wrong! Their intense sweetness repelled me.
It is rare that I desert a dessert, so I told the waitress, “Too sweet for me. Is it possible to get the cookies without the syrup?”

She said, “These are not cookies. No. Most definitely not.” She went on to explain that the syrup soaked the semolina cookies from the inside, so they couldn’t be served without.

I wondered how she could say that they weren’t cookies in one sentence and then refer to them as cookies in the next.

Perhaps there’s something in the air.

A few days later I called the operator to find out if someone’s phone number was in my local calling area. Back in the winter, I had assumed another number was local, but when I got my phone bill, I was charged $16 for a 15 minute call. I had a long talk with my phone company about that, and the man said, “Next time, check with the operator.”

I was trying to do the right thing. But first I had the brutal discovery that the nice operator voice saying, “Hello, this is so and so, may I help you?” had been replaced by a recording to call my telephone company. When I called the phone company, the staff person said twice that she had entered the new number in her computer, which said it was indeed in my local calling area. I said, “Just out of curiosity, where is it? I don’t know that prefix.” She said, “I entered it in my computer, which said it is a long distance call for you.”

It was a lot to handle.

But I am managing.

Thankfully, my cupboard is stocked with cookies for such occasions.

Actually, they are not cookies.

No.

Most definitely not.

4

Travel Theme: Letters::Stamp of Approval

Here’s a repost from Red Room, in response to the weekly travel themes assignment: http://wheresmybackpack.com/2015/10/16/travel-theme-letters/

Stamp of Approval

Lying snugly in its padded envelope, labeled, able, and ready for take-off, my new chapbook prepared to wend and wind its way from the United States to my friend in Hong Kong.

First, I needed to paste postage on my package.

How much postage did one small package need?

I stuck on two stamps, one a huge Jackson Pollack squiggly wiggily, red and black lines, replica, the other a Mark Rothko double square of yellow and orange, both from the new “Abstract Expressionists” series. I put two “Forever” stamps in my pocket.

Just in case.

I slid them in between my bus pass and my BART ticket. I knew where they were.

At the post office, the clerk said his usual “Anything fragile, liquid, perishable, or potentially hazardous?” I said my usual “No.” He weighed the package, telling me, “You need $2.04 more.”

My package accompanied me to the high wooden counter. It waited, never once complaining, while I filled out the customs form. I contemplated the two “Forever” stamps. If I put them on the package, I would owe only $1.16, but then I’d hide my decorative “Via Airmail,” which I had written in fluorescent pink, orange, and green. What to do? It was a tough call, but someone had to do it, and that someone was me. Yes, I am happy to say I am capable of big decisions every now and then. After much careful thought, I decided to not use my stamps. I slid them back into my pocket, where they’d remain. Forever. Or till I got home and could put them safely away in my special, crinkly, wax paper envelope in my special, sturdy, wooden drawer.

I then proceeded to the grocery store, picking up a block of cheddar, soymilk, lettuce, and pita. I folded the credit card receipt into tiny rectangles, pushing it into my pocket, along with my stamps and customs’ receipt. Once at home, I emptied my pockets, pulling out crumpled tissues, wallet, keys, receipts for groceries and customs, bus pass, lip balm, and BART ticket.

The stamps were missing.

Their commitment to me was not forever, after all. Which meant they were lost. I had to find them. I hated the thought of losing two stamps. Eighty-eight cents of postage down the drain. I raced to the post office, paced around and around the red wooden counter, and retraced my steps to the grocery store. Where were my stamps? I was stumped, and stomped my feet in frustration. Where had I lost my stamps?

I walked home, thinking about my two Liberty Bell stamps. I wondered whether they missed me. Probably they had fallen and hit their heads. They were lost and confused. They had no sense of direction without an envelope to adhere to and an address to guide them. Why hadn’t I just put them where they belonged, on my envelope? Then they’d be flying off on an airmail adventure, instead of lost somewhere on the streets of Berkeley.

I felt in my pocket for my keys. They jingled hello in response. At least, I still had my keys. Still had my wallet, also, my lip balm, and bus pass. Still had my used tissues. I was still intact, as far as I could tell. I still had me.

When I told my Non-Marital Spouse what had transpired, he said, “It could have been worse. You could have lost three stamps.” I was glad to have him to put things so nicely into perspective. I still had him. He still had me. I felt grateful for us both.

P.S. I later found my two stamps, tucked within the folds of my customs’ receipt. I was so happy I kissed them.

6

Toto, I’ve A Feeling We’re Not In Istanbul Anymore

Toward the end of my Istanbul stay, I ate at a restaurant famous for its shish kebab. I ordered chicken. It came with rice, an overflowing plate of greens, bread, and ezme, a tomato and pepper salad. Total cost: $5.

Last night, craving Turkish food, I went to a nearby restaurant. I eyed the chicken shish on the menu, thinking of how in the not so recent past, long before I even planned my trip, that was my favorite menu item. As I recalled it came with a dollop of rice, tiny salad, and bread. Total cost: $13.

Granted, it was cheaper than a flight to Istanbul to eat at my new special place. But still not the same, so instead I had a chicken doner sandwich–roasted, sliced spiced chicken with lots of salad rolled up in a foot long lavash.

Delish, but…

Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.

I mean, Istanbul.