By: Marty Leipzig
Re: THe First Love Boat: S.S. Noah Count
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 the 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-de-
vivre. 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 form 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
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
... Noachian Deluge? Let me stop you. I've heard this all before.