I haven't said anything about this, because I've been waiting for the dear officials at the Turkish embassy to send me a document promising they'll allow me into their country, but I'm going abroad on June 2.
My job is not heavy with perks, but when they do come along they're big. I'm being sent on a tour with a bunch of the university's high rollers, which happens roughly once a year. I have to smile and make chitchat, provide an arm to lean on as we walk across cobblestones, host a cocktail party, and make sure all the ladies get to dance. All these things are, for me, quite a pleasure.
I've seen my list of 11 travelers and it's a comparatively youthful crowd, average age somewhere in the early seventies. That's nice, because it means that chances are we all listen to the same kind of music, and there are usually at least two other knitters.
It's not exactly a vacation. Although there are travel directors and guides to do the heavy lifting, as it were, on these trips I'm expected to be always "on" and usually find that by the return flight my face hurts from looking pleasantly interested in everything being said to me.
We leave Chicago and fly to Istanbul by way of Munich. Munich is always fun because even when changing planes you get a full pat-down by a burly Teutonic security guard in tall boots.
After two days in Istanbul, we embark on the Minerva II for a two-week tour entitled "Islands of Antiquity." These will be our ports-of-call:
- Crete (Ághios Nikólaos)
- Sicily (Catania and Palermo)
- Minorca (Mahón)
This paramount question is already settled. Susan's Maine stole, for the rare moments when I'm alone and can concentrate. And a Koigu vest (just begun) for the rest of the time. The Koigu was a rather stunning birthday gift from Kathy Merrick, the lady who changed my mind about crochet. (She'll change yours, too, if you check out her designs in Interweave Crochet.)
Except for my very first university tour, when my brother-in-law assisted as able co-host in the English Lakes, I've always been solo. Not this time.
I've finally faced facts. It's easier to drag her fleece-covered butt along than try to deal with the City of Chicago Police Department via ship-to-shore lines. Besides, her game of bridge is better than mine, which will take some of the pressure off me.
When I extended the invitation, instead of gratitude I got a startled gasp and a poke in the chest with a sharp hoof.
"Shit," she said. "You're giving me two lousy weeks to get ready for this?"
"What exactly do you need to do?"
"I have absolutely nothing to wear, shortcake. Zilch. One Diane von Furstenberg isn't gonna get a girl through two weeks on a lah-dee-dah cruise. Where's my purse? I need to get to Barneys."
"It's almost midnight."
"And I have to call my girlfriend Menekshe and let her know I'm coming through Istanbul–"
"That wasn't funny the first time. And if we're going to be in Greece, I want to look up some old Navy buddies."
"I was in the Greek navy for a couple of weeks back in the seventies. Or should I say vice vers–"
"I can't hear you I can't hear you I can't hear you."
But she was already burrowing through the pile of clothes on the floor of her closet.
"I know I still have that Dolce and Gabbana thong in here somewhere. It was a big hit at Cannes a couple years ago. You think the Minerva has a topless sunbathing deck?"
"I rather doubt it."
She paused in her rummaging and frowned. "Cannes. Goddamn. You don't think Catherine Deneuve might be on the ship, do you?"
"I have no idea. Should I even ask why you're concerned?"
"Nah. It's ancient history. But of course she's got a memory like a elephant, that one. With hips to match."
Ms. Deneuve, I thought you were wonderul in Belle de jour. On the off chance that you might be joining us, will you please accept my apology in advance?