A new year, a new adventure, and a suicide bomber (part two of two)

Oregon – January 2015

In part one, I saw news of a suicide bomber striking Istanbul the night before I was to travel there.

Truth be told, I always thought I would be dead or in jail by the time I hit 25; I spent my teenage years hoping for police chases every weekend and then joined the military in the middle of two wars. I didn’t assume my future would be tough because I was going to war, the feeling stemmed from a weird combination of fatalism and thrill chasing. Deciding that a hurricane further down Florida’s Atlantic Coast would make for amazing ocean kayaking, while true, was not the height of rationality. I felt like I was playing with house money after I made it north of 25 with nothing but mild epilepsy and a possible brain tumor (unexplained mass, as the neurology department told me) which isn’t spreading.

I’d thought about this journey for a long time but had only started preparing for the 2015 leg a few weeks before I was scheduled to go. The first flights I searched for were quoted at $3,300. That itinerary that went from Oregon to Istanbul with four stops. I then searched for two separate itineraries, one from Oregon to New York and another from New York to Istanbul with a layover in Ukraine. The total cost went down by 80%. Flying with a Ukrainian company was much cheaper, probably because of that minor incident where a civilian flight was shot down over eastern Ukraine and no one was brought to justice over it. It’s similar to the discount I got for renting storage locker 666 in Tucson: In both cases the company needed to drop the prices enough that potential customers would accept the possibility of having a haunted tupperware set to get the discount. Well, I’ve had two exorcisms and had a guy who lived a block from me threaten to kill me if he ever saw me in his neighborhood again, so the threat of haunted furniture and the miniscule odds of getting shot out of the sky in 21st century Europe don’t put lumps in my throat.

It felt almost dirty to be packing without bringing my favorite shirt and backpack. I carried two backpacks with me for six months but I decided to go to one bag for 2015, meaning the smaller of the two is now left behind. This also meant that I had to leave behind some of the things that I had used throughout South America. This included my favorite shirt and the smaller of my backpacks.

Fare thee well old friends, we had some great times together

It felt wrong to retire both my favorite shirt and favorite backpack on the same day. I’d had both for ten years and absolutely loved each one, rips and faded fabric and all. The UC Santa Cruz Banana Slugs shirt will always be a favorite, but the fabric was tearing quickly and there are also those Quranic hadiths about throwing the imagemakers into the fire. All my Muslim friends growing up watched Duck Tales and made ceramic animals in art class with the rest of us, but IF, against the odds, someone during my journey through the Holy Land IS deeply offended and wants to act on their interpretation of throwing me into the fire I want it to be for something much more fun than wearing a ripped shirt with a peeling Banana Slug image on the front. Sorry UC Santa Cruz.

The gear for this trip, new backpack included.

In the 24 hours before traveling, I saw family, shoveled American food down my gullet, and watched mindless TV.

When I woke up in the morning, it was go time.

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