I’m back in Africa.
But let’s go back just a few days.
Hey, there’s a guy balancing four wine glasses, full, on top of each other, on his head. Everyone laughs. And cheers. That is one enormous and flat head.
This, on an old cobblestone road in front of the Hotel Sultana, an otherwise non-descript street corner where I’m enjoying my last night in Istanbul, this place of culture clashes and intrigue.
Okay, let me backtrack more.
A couple of weeks ago I flew Africa to Canada, specially to Hamilton, to talk about it all, journalism, and my surprise at how, one day so many years ago, it grabbed and captured me and brought me to places I never imagined.
“Surprised by the Joy of Journalism” is what I called this particular address, a sharing of encouragement, I hope, as I simply shared my story to a group of 50 or so writers who invited me over the ocean to do just this: tell my story.
“We are a story. We have a story. And, for better or worse, we all know our own stories.” And so it went. “Today, I’d like to share some of mine.”
I had been in my Canadian home for Christmas a couple of times, (remember Jon’s involvement in the Ice Storm of 2013?), but this was the first time in, gulp, 14 years, that I was in Canada at this precise time of year with those remarkable fall colours blowing around.
I also happened to be home in time to exercise my Canadian right, and duty, and joy, really, to vote, something never to be taken for granted. (And then, like everyone else, see the winds of change blow into power Mister Trudeau II.
Then, after sharing how I got into this old trade of spilling ink (remember ink?) on newsprint, I got on another plane and headed back to Africa, but not without first stopping in Istanbul for a few days to look and listen, especially during Turkey’s own election.
This time I happened to see how Turkey is fighting for its very soul.
(More on all that soon.)
For now, what I can tell you is that here on this Istanbul street corner, in my hands, I have magic genie lamp and it’s worth 50 Turkish Liras. This is the cost of seven Turkish beers. This shows you just how expensive magic lamps are, or how cheap Turkish beer is.
It’s for the children, of course, and for all of us, really, a trinket for our home, and this is what I share while talking to Caroline and Gavin, who I happen to be sitting beside me here on this street corner.
“It’s beautiful!” Caroline says, of the lamp. “It’s just really something.”
They are from Cambridge, that is the Cambridge in the UK, and we talk about many things – the high cost of living, especially in the UK … today’s ease of travel … peace … THE KIDS.
I can’t help myself. I put the lamp down and pull out a family photo.
“Are your kids very different from each other?”
“Uhuh. So much that I sometimes question their lineage.”
I can’t help myself with this one, either.
On the flight the other way, the first flight going west over the Atlantic, I had watched a movie. A love story of sorts. A story of discovery, too.
The guy had the world by the tail, so to speak. He found he had reached all his goals, that is his one life-defining goal in particular.
And they applauded. All of them. Too many of those clapping hands to count. And he looked over the clapping crowd and he looked, and he looked more, and all the faces blurred, but what he could see is that she wasn’t there.
He had it all, but he didn’t have much, really. Not in that way. He didn’t have what any of us need, that is a real connection, real vulnerability, real sharing with someone else.
Of course, you can make an idol out anything, even a relationship, and that is done often enough. But as this guy – he was a bull fighter, a real cowboy – scanned the cheering and blurring crowd, he realized something. He realized that he was all alone.
This is why I can’t help myself.
Yes, I’ve been surprised by the joy of it all, the joy of journalism and all that it’s entailed for so many years now, not the least of which is making the most of speaking and air travel and these opportunities when they happen to come up.
But, truth be told, thinking of that scene of the cowboy while flying over the Atlantic, I realized one thing; that I just want to go home. And kiss my wife. And give my kids that magic genie lamp.
And see what happens when they rub it.