london town, sort of

So I'm walking on your streets again
Feeling now as I did then
I've since become a different man

--James Taylor, London Town

in fact i was in london this week, on this my second round the world (eastward) trip of 2017. but the message is i think placeless as well as timeless. tonight i'm leaving istanbul after a 30 hour layover between bologna and beijing. i had one dead day between europe and asia and i got to choose where to spend it and i naturally chose to spend it here.

on my first trip to istanbul several years ago, i stayed in a hotel just off taksim square and on my free day i walked all the way down through the beyoglu area and across the galata bridge to sirkeci where i visited the grand bazaar but completely missed the blue mosque out of ignorance. the people, the weather, and the food really grabbed my attention. i've dabbled since then in the history of the place going all the way back to the rise and fall of constantinople.

so when ataturk airport was attacked, and when the beyoglu area was bombed, i had very specific memories of those places and some of the people i met and the things i did there, just as i did when madrid's atocha train station was bombed, and when the world trade center was destroyed in new york city, and when the domdedovo airport was attacked. as a younger man this kind of death and destruction was abstract to me. now, it feels personal.

I can remember lots of time and space
If I lose the name, still I know the faces
Time has come and left its traces

today was not my first trip back to istanbul since the beyoglu bombing, but it was the first time i walked back through that area. i wasn't ready, the last few times i was here. today i felt i could do it, and so i walked from my hotel in sirkeci all the way back up to taksim square, the reverse loop from my first trip to istanbul. i stopped for a long time at the site of the bombing, thinking about that day, what those deaths and those injuries might have been like. not so young any more, i don't owe anybody a stoic exterior, so there were some tears.

the city continues. that whole street has been ripped up, and i'm sad to see that the streetcar that used to ply the center of the pedestrian way has been taken out -- perhaps to return, i hope so, it was a charming reminder of the city's past, and the 1920-era streetcars reminded me of the older streetcars in san francisco where and when i was in primary school. the tourists are there. starbucks has put in an outpost, as has mcdonalds. burger king was there before, but now there are three of them. i don't patronize american brands when traveling abroad, but i do notice them.

tomorrow this country will vote on changes to its constitution to give their authoritarian conservative president more power. i wish them wisdom. i will return, whatever they decide. the spirit of the people here is hundreds of years older than the country itself, and must transcend all events.

and so, i'm out, or will be at 01:25 when the IST-PEK flight takes off.

And when my fires have all burned out
I'd like to think I can still think about
The things I used to sing about
When I was spending all my time alone
By myself and on my own
Seldom seen and quite unknown


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