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25 July 2015

Bob Amca the Suisse Tourist with camcorder & Bermuda shorts finally gets to Istanbul (not Constantinople no you can't go back to Constantinople why did Constantinople get the works? That's nobody's business but the Turks!

 Click to enlarge.
Dear ****,

In apartments / flats, people trying to fall asleep are tormented by the person in the upstairs apartment who drops one shoe ... but an hour goes by, and the other shoe never drops.

So Bob Amca apologizes for dropping his Amca shoe without a sufficient explanation. I will now drop the other shoe.
My Turkish chat friends call me Bob Amca because most of them are young -- uni age -- but they know I am old (... well, older ...) and they chat respectfully to the older gentleman who asks them if they like Erdogan or his recent challenge to Ataturk's secular vision for modern Turkey. From the other side of Earth, Bob Amca has come to the conclusion that the more uni education you have in the big cities, the less you like Erdogan. (But obviously there are lots of Turks who do not live in Istanbul or Ankara.)

I will only admit now that I was born in the previous millennium, and enjoyed the crime movie "Topkapi" when it first appeared in theaters. ("Topkapi" is most of my personal knowledge of Istanbul and stadium wrestling competitions -- my understanding of Istanbul is worse than the understanding of the Swiss Tourist with a feather in his hat, in Bermuda shorts carrying a videocam.)

I love to travel, and I think there is a kind of Beauty to a tourist's ignorance about the things that are going on all around him, that all the locals understand perfectly. I always desire to know More and Truer about far places, but I am also very proud of my profound ignorances and the crazy ways I have got Everything All Wrong. Especially with lingos that are not part of the Indo-European lingo family. It's like the Many-World theory of physics ... there is Istanbul, and then there is an entirely different Istanbul inside the Swiss tourist's mind. And then the Istanbul in the Korean lady's mind. (There is a controversy among linguists, some believe Korean is a Finno-Ugrik lingo, like Turkish, Hungarian and Finnish/Suomi. I think Estonian, too.)

But I never misunderstand the food. I grok* the local food completely, accurately and very often.

My delay in responding has been because of unimportant but complicated and neurotically stressful circumstances. I refer to episodes like this as :"being pecked to death around my ankles by ducks." Perhaps someday I will write a Horror Movie about an invasion of angry barnyard poultry that pecks teenage boys and girls around their ankles. (I am getting very tired of Zombies and Sharknadoes.)

Oh yes, some of the neurotic duck-ankle-pecking are the inevitable handmaidens of Growing Older -- pains of the skeleton, and ambulating in a much less competent way than the Army taught me when they got their hands on me in 1969. After the sergeant was done with me, I ambulated very well, and often for very long distances with very heavy backpacks. (I liked their boots, though. Army makes the Best Boots.)

In our Revolution of 1776 , most of our soldiers were illiterate farmers. Their drillmaster, the Prussian Baron von Steuben, could not teach dozens of them the nuances of Left and Right.

But they all knew the difference between Hay and Straw. So von Steuben tied Hay to their Left Boot, and Straw to their Right Boot, and he would yell: HAY FOOT, STRAW FOOT, HAY FOOT! and our Army learned to march fairly well. Maybe not as good as the British soldiers who lost the Revolution. We fought them again in 1812, they marched south from Canada and burned Washington DC (my boyhood home town). The White House is white because we painted it to cover up the burned walls. (The year before, we marched north and burned Toronto.)

One of my proudest Army medals was Worst Soldier Ever, I was presented it by one of my sergeants. It looks like the kind of ornament you buy at the travelling amusement show or circus for $1, for a 6-year-old child.)

What, if anything, is left architecturally of the Constantinople hippodrome where they staged the chariot races? Do you know about the long war in Constantinople between the fans of the Blue Chariot Team, versus the fans of the Red Chariot Team? Hundreds of people were murdered and the Emperor and Mrs. Emperor almost had to flee Byzantium. (As they tried to put her on the escape boat, she suddenly announced: "I'm not leaving." She stayed and murdered a few thousand citizens who bothered her, to teach them to behave with more respect.)

Thanks for letting me explain why they call me Amca. It's nearly 07:00 and ducks are pecking my ankles and preventing me from finishing my sleep. Did you see the Jules Verne movie "Journey to the Center of the Earth"? The evil Count Saknussem never slept. "I hate those little slices of death," he explained. Everyone hated him, and (Spoiler Alert!) finally a giant prehistoric lizard ate him. The kids in the audiences all applauded and cheered.

From the Leiden train/bus station, take Local Bus No. 2 to Rijnsburg. Ask the driver to let you off at Spinozalaan. Then you walk through a reasonably pretty university housing neighborhood for 2 blocks, and Spinoza's old cottage, where he polished glass lenses in his upstairs rooms, is at the corner of Spinozalaan and Camphuysenstraat. There's a very handsome statue of Young Spinoza (he never got old, he died young, probably of breathing glass dust) in the beautiful little garden. He looks more like a Pirate than a Philosophy Nerd.

The clue that you've found Spinoza's cottage is this poem engraved to the left of the front door:

Click to enlarge.

Eid Mubarak -- I know I am terribly late, please excuse me -- and I wish you lots of Spinoza and species tulips.

Bob Amca
Chesterfield Massachusetts USA

* grok is a 1960s word from the science fiction novel "Stranger in a Strange Land." It's like understanding, but in 1000 more dimensions, colors, flavors and sounds than mere understanding. Spinoza certainly would have grokked a lot.

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