Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Home again!

 the old: Aspendos  aqueduct

East, West, home’s best.  That’s what I was taught in my childhood and am still inclined to believe, even if the belief is less certain than it once was in my schooldays, when we had to memorize Emma Lazarus’s sonnet “The New Collosus”, the poem now adorning the Statue of Liberty in New York harbor: 

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

            I know a good deal more about “Greek fame” than I did when I set out three weeks ago.  The archaeological sites of Anatolia are stupendous.  In fact I found Turkey so remarkable in so many ways that it will take some serious rumination before I would ever attempt to write anything very serious about it.  But I do have a few reflections concerning the homecoming itself.

            There was a certain amount of grumbling among the Delta SkyMiles Medallion Program members (Gold, Platinum, and now even a Diamond division) jockeying for position around the gate for Flight 25 (Istanbul’s Atatürk to New York’s JFK) when the first passengers allowed to board were a gaggle of swarthy nondescripts, including several startled-looking children who seemed unlikely to be so much as Pewter-Card holders.  The word “allowed” is actually inappropriate.  These people were being herded.  They were, we were told, “an immigration group,” none of whom had ever before been on an airplane and as a consequence needed a brief introduction to seat belts, tray-tables, and seat backs in their original upright position.

            Most of the rest of us were returning after sun-drenched days or weeks among Turkish delights—cultural, topographic, gastronomic, commercial, or sybaritic.  I very much hope that those bright-eyed strangers will find a light held high beside the golden door.  However, finding a door of any kind at the Delta terminal at JFK is no easy thing.  The place is under construction, though the affect is much more of a place under siege.  Large signs promise wonders beginning in May, 2013.  At the moment you have to be bused about a quarter of a mile just to get to the entrance of the plywood tunnels that debouch into what might be a large air-raid shelter or abandoned bowling alley.  The terminal looks more ruinous than many of the fantastic archaeological sites we visited in Turkey—only far less evocative and romantic.  Passport control is expeditious enough, at least for those in the American citizens line—I lost sight of the “immigration group”.  Baggage claim, on the other hand, is nightmarish for all.  Is there any other country in the world where it costs five dollars to get a luggage trolley?  The little carts are held captive by a mechanical device that yields only to cold cash.  They actually have a coin slot on the wretched thing, apparently assuming that arriving visitors will have their twenty quarters at the ready.

            The Lares and Penates of your wretched refuse may be so meager as to render irrelevant any question of baggage trolleys, but your average native-born or naturalized septuagenarian, even when traveling light, might legitimately hope for some fixed-axle relief after a ten-hour flight.  Never mind.  There was one customs agent, tacitly encouraged by three uniformed but neutral onlookers, to “examine” the baggage of a couple of hundred passengers.  He demonstrated that it is perfectly possible to be perfunctory without in any way compromising ponderousness.

            Yet despite such ambiguities, we were soon enough at our daughter’s Greenwich Village apartment hanging out with our delightful granddaughters.  Thus refreshed, your bloguiste proposes to return to his regular pattern of postings next week.

and the new: Delta terminal at JFK
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!