The Trip (Part 1)

At the time of my last post, I was in Houston having just secured a spot in a clinical trial. I was two weeks in to my Three Week, Three Four Trip, Three Continent adventure. This begins an account of the past week. There is much ground to cover, so it will be presented in installments. 

The first step in determining whether or not we will proceed with the clinical trial was a scan to see if my condition is actually worsening. If is not, then we stick with chemo and forgo the trial. If so, then we’re in the trial. The folks in Houston did a fantastic job scheduling a scan on very short notice. The timing of the scan, however, was not ideal. It was scheduled just before my flight home on Tuesday. If I missed that flight, that would set off a chain reaction of missed flights and layovers that would put The Trip in peril.

Waiting for medical procedures is never easy. I did my best to take my own advice and let go of the things I can’t control (which we all know is easier said than done). I made sure to mention my predicament to every person who worked there, and  “You’re going to miss your flight” was the inevitable response. After a couple of hours of waiting, the scan took about fifteen minutes. As the nurse removed my IV, I bounced from the table, ran to the dressing room, summoned an Uber, bolted outside while still pulling clothes on, and dove into the waiting car. I urged the driver to move as quickly as he felt comfortable doing, and we scrambled to Houston Hobby. I jumped from the car as it was rolling to a stop, bolted through the terminal, thanked the Lord for TSA Pre-Check, pulled an O.J. Simpson (the running kind, not the stabby kind) through the concourse, and arrived at the gate just before the door closed. The Trip was still alive.

The flights home were uneventful, and I arrived in time to kiss D and the boys good night. As soon as my head hit the pillow, it was time to get up. Back to CHA, back to ATL (for the third time in three days), and on to JFK. Next stop:


Istanbul has been high on my list of places to visit for some time. In addition to being one of civilization’s great cities, it has a couple of buildings that are on my architectural bucket list. For the past few years I’ve been trying to figure out a way to get there, and I was very happy to finally have my chance.

In the days leading up to The Trip, an ISIS suicide bomber killed thirty-two people in southern Turkey. In retaliation, the Turks bombed ISIS (and used the excuse to bomb the Kurds as well), and arrested hundreds of suspected terrorists in Istanbul (a few dozen ISIS and a few hundred Kurds). The fallout from that was an expectation of violent backlash. There were credible threats against the transit system and public gathering places. These threats were credible enough for the British to advise against all non-essential travel and the Germans and to issue advisories against traveling via transit. In fact, residents of the city were even opting to steer clear. I took the situation seriously, but in the end did not let it deter me.

While the flight to Turkey was lengthy, it wasn’t all that bad (but I probably shouldn’t have watched Argo before I went to sleep.) After landing I found my driver and headed in to town. (D implored me not to take the subway.) I stayed in a small boutique in Sultanhamet- nice enough, but nothing swanky. It did, however, have outstanding views of a couple of my targets- Ayasofya and the Sultan Ahmed Mosque (aka the Blue Mosque).

My master, mentor, and friend made this sketch of Ayasofya
52 years ago. I saved it from the bin during one of his infamous
studio purges. It occupies a position of honor in our home.

Ayasofya, a major trophy building on my architectural bucket list, was a mere five-minute walk away. The building, which has been at various points a church, a mosque and a museum, is big, and old, and beautiful. It is an agglomeration of shapes with seemingly no right angles. This contributes to the impression that the building is even older that it’s 1,478 years. That the building has survived this long in an earthquake-prone place is impressive indeed. The disappointment of The Trip is that the building is undergoing restoration, and there is a massive scaffold under a portion of the dome. While I was disappointed not to experience the full glory of the interior, the scaffolding was useful as a scale. The scaffold was aboiut fifteen stories tall, but still did not reach the top of the dome. The Volunteer Building would fit inside Ayasofya.

Everything inside the building is well worn. The floors are rolling mounds of marble that have been worn away by 1,478 years worth of footsteps. The walls and columns have hunched and settled into an aged stability- the strain of fighting earthquakes and gravity apparent in their posture. The plaster and mosaics display their age- whether they are very old or just simply old. Sadly, the building feels exactly like what it is: a museum. “Come and see what Ayasofya used to be”. While this is truly one of the great architectural achievements of man, and still one of my favorite buildings, I felt a bit melancholy after the experience (but that may have just been jet lag). In fairness, no other building in the world could support the weight of my expectations for Ayasofya. With another great building checked off my list, I was ready to experience the rest of the city.

To be continued…

There were four correct guesses in our little game. Those lucky winners have prizes headed their way. And because I'm a big softie, I got a little something for everyone who ventured a guess. Thanks for playing!

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