I roamed around the bazaars and stopped to chat with some locals about the trade in Arkonauts.I will post some of the funnier comments and diversions if there is anyone out there with a mote of interest.
And Shelby Sherman pleaded:
One request right here. Please tell us about the ark. You did see it, didn't you?
So Marty Leipzig answered with:
Nope. Saw the snark, the park, the lark, but no ark.
Actually, (if for nothing else than to waste a few minutes on a ridiculously hot Sunday afternoon and fulfill jonny vee's request), what I did see and to whom I did talk is good for a yuk or two.
I had some R& R time coming (speaking of which, next time I go there, I'm going to load up on Pink Floyd, ELP, Tull and such. Those tapes sell for major rubles over there...), so in the spirit of interdimensional amity (fundies, IMNSHO, exist in another parallel, although bent, dimension), I decided to catch an Airbus to Ankara, rent a Zhugli and overland to the Agri Dagi area for a bit of sightseeing, shopping and science.
I arrived in Turkey with a near death dealing hangover (1st class on Aeroflot is something that must be experienced...) and a desire to kill it off as soon as possible. I gathered up my bags and went schmoozing towards the nearest bar, opium den or cocaine parlor (*ahem*). I ended up in the airport duty free bar and pro station. I had just ordered up a round for myself when this rather swarthy looking sort of individual saunters up and asks me for a light.
Wondering how he knew that I smoked (not realizing I was puffing away on a rather largish Turkmenistanish hand- rolled), I handed over a pack of "Ruth Chris' Steak House" matches. He thanked me and asked if I was from America. I affirmed that thought and he immediately says "You must either be working the oilfields of Russia or you want to find the Ark!"
I asserted that I was doing both.
He introduced himself as Sali (pronounced "Solly"). He was university educated as an interpreter and spoke English, Uzbek, Russian and Turkish; unfortunately for this half-deaf geologist, sometimes simultaneously. Sali was a slight character, in the Peter Lorre sort of mold; but jovial, convivial and able to tank away the most improbable amounts of alcohol. I knew right then I had found a soul brother. He also did not object to my cigars. A true find, indeed.
I asked Sali if he was seeking meaningful employment, and told him the tale of the great Ark search, fried synapses and general geological HolySmokian mayhem. He said that yes, his services were available and also muttered something about someday being able to buy a computer and getting on the "Information Superhighway" (No worries, mates. I sent him my old laptop and 14,400 modem upon my return. The power conversion problem from 220 VAC to 120 VAC is his problem).
So, I requisitioned Sali for a weeks' employ (at the princely sum of $20 per deim!) and we were off on The Road to Mt. Ararat. Sali could never afford a car of his own, even for hire, so I ended up with all the stick and rudder work. It worked out best that way as Sali was indeed a very capable tour guide, confidant and knew seemingly everyone from Ankara to Dogabayuazit. I told him that I was interested in the geology of the area (his brother in law was a geologist for the Turkish Government...surprise, surprise...) and the quest for the Ark. (He never could stop snickering every time I mentioned tha Ark... I found out later why...).
We left Ankara in a blinding sandstorm (he thought I was nuts for leaving then, he found out later how correct he had been) and made our way east. All the time, Sali was chattering away in either English or Uzbek (I made the fatal flaw of telling him I wanted to learn the language) about the historical significance of this particular area or what great person had trodden upon the soil there or what great booze was available over the next rise. We continued overland, past the great camel salt caravans, past the great expanses of the "lonely", past tiny, little hamlets whose names I cannot possibly remember. About mid-afternoon of day two, Sali noted that our provisions were running low (we started with a case each of vodka and cognac, 3 cases of beer and a bag of what can only be described as the Turkish equivalent of Doritos [what we were going to do with all that food remains a mystery]).
Of course, Sali came to the rescue. He knew of an oasis (where his sister and Brother in law [not the geologist, but a traditional] lived) where we could tank up both the car and ourselves. Best of all, it was only 25 km from Mt. Ararat. We rolled in about 5 pm to the only green area in 500 km circumference. The car had not stopped rolling when great hoards of swart individuals descended upon us. At that point, I was wishing I had not left my Kalasnikov 9.72mm back in Alma-Ata. But, these proved to be quite friendly, to the point of homicide, folks. They were also relatives of Sali's.
I do not know if it was the cases of hootch, the return of Sali, the infiltration of the Ugly American or combinations of the above that started all the ruckus; but I had a night that I shall not soon forget. Betwixt the dancing, eating and boozing; I was feted by some of the most congenial people I have ever met and witnessed to such an bacchanalia of back-slapping, drinking, eating and general joie-devivre. After I broke down and broke out the cigars did the locals really pull out all the stops.
So here I am. 13,500 miles frm home, supposedly on a business trip and drinking elbow to elbow with some folks who can trace their lineage all the way back to Adam's father. It was under a starry sky, the likes of which most urbanites can only dream of and the likes of which I doubt again I'll ever see. Suddenly, things got quiet...
A matriarch came out of one of the damned if I'm not in Albequerque adobe houses with a piece of wood and braided twine. She, with great fanfare and alcoholical approval, presents it to me and proclaims (in Turkish, which I understood... Thanks, Sali) me to be the keeper of the one, true (Goat-damn me if I lie...) anchor rope and piece of the "True Ark".
The crowd was devoutly silent.
I was profoundly vexed.
The laughter immediately thereafter was uproarious.
Seems that the cast and crew of this little fiesta kept themselves in beer and skittles quatloos by providing weary travelers with momentos of their "Ark Quest". Seems, of late, they've made a fortune creating and pawning off "Ark Bits" to unsuspecting passer-bys.
The hangover I reaped after toasting them all night was well worth it...