foodie

Adventures in Istanbul: Day 5

My last full day in Istanbul it rained. Not gentle summer droplets that cover the grass in National Geographic dew, but an all out assault on the pavement, alley cats, and umbrellas. The kind I’d been warned about in the opening pages of The Bastard of Istanbul, the eBook I’d read one chapter of on the plane. The sort of rain Californians have been praying for. Sigh.

I watched the clouds dump from the dining room. As long as it was warm outside, I didn’t really mind. Besides, my schedule was light – Dolmabache Palace, a hamam, and dinner with Andrew. I could have added a dozen more activities to my plate, but I felt about the same as the weather: pretty shitty. Apparently 12 hour days on one’s feet are not a prescription for Hungarian flu.

The commute to Dolmabache proved trying. Not because it was difficult to navigate (eight stops on a single train), but because the rain forced half of the city onto the subway. Which caused it to smell. HORRIBLY. I know people complain about Frenchmen, but let me tell you, Turkish men really take the cake. And by cake I mean cowpie. This ride was rank. I tried burying my nose in my sweater, but all this provided was comic relief for the local girls next to me. I am nothing if not transparent.

However, the rain did afford one major tourist advantage – no ticket line at Dolmabache. I’d heard horror stories of waiting over an hour, but I breezed right in through the insanely ostentatious gates. And like some sort of royal miracle, the clouds broke as soon as I did. Happy Sunday!

I wandered around the grounds for a bit, snapping photos of the fountain and palace with mouth agape. Whenever I see exorbitant displays of wealth like this, I can’t help but wonder how many people died during its construction. Less than the Pyramids, more than Little Hagia Sofia, I surmised.

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Satisfied with my iPhone shots, I ascended the stairs for the tour.

“Oh, I’m so sorry,” an adorable blond girl apologized for almost bumping into me.

“You’re totally fine,” I smiled, then took the opportunity to interrupt her conversation with her friend. “Where are you guys from?”

Presley, the blond, was from Canada, which explained her immense agreeability. Her friend Deema also hailed from Canada, but it was a bit more complicated.

“I’m from Syria originally, but I grew up in Saudi Arabia, then moved to Canada with my husband,” she explained.

“We can tell you that because you’re American, but it’s tricky here right now,” Presley said, giving me a knowing look. I felt instant sympathy for Deema. I wanted to ask her more questions about her feelings on the current situation, but I also didn’t want to be insensitive by prying.

“How long are you guys traveling?” I asked.

“Two weeks. We’re here with some of Nima’s family, then we head to Dubai. We’re staying with my friend’s family there,” Presley replied excitedly.

“Dubai?”

“I love Arab culture,” Presley said breezily, reading my mind. “I’m applying to jobs in Qatar.”

The tour started, but our conversation didn’t stop. I listened hungrily to Presley’s story, how she’d fallen in love with Arab culture after attending a school predominantly made up of Arabs and Somalians. I’d always been so appalled by the treatment of women in many Middle Eastern countries, particularly places like Pakistan and Iraq, that I couldn’t comprehend a Western woman being drawn to it. But I held an open-mind and passed no judgment. They were both bright, friendly, warm-hearted women.

I learned more about Presley’s conversion to Islam as we walked through room after room of decadence. Multi-ton chandeliers, sitting rooms larger than my childhood home, gold everything. The Sultan clearly had wanted to slap Versailles in the face. (And the Turkish economy – according to Wikipedia, the construction cost over a billion dollars in today’s currency, about a quarter of the country’s yearly tax revenue.)

Multi-ton chandelier

Multi-ton chandelier

When we got to the Ceremonial Hall, all I could do was laugh. It was, in a word, absurd. Presley tried to take photos secretly, but was quickly reprimanded and forced to delete them from her phone. I just stared in disgusted awe. It took one percent to a whole new level.

My secret photo was not seized...

My secret photo was not seized…

We toured the harem after, and while not as impressive as the Sultan’s residence, his women still lived lavishly if not oppressively. I tried to withhold my aversion, but I couldn’t help shuddering at the thought of being sequestered for a man. How fortunate to have been born a woman in the 80s in the United States…

Back at the entrance, I invited Presley and Deema to come out with Andrew and me later. Our random gathering had worked so well the previous night, I wanted to continue in the more the merrier tradition. Presley and I exchanged information, and we parted ways.

For a moment I considered walking the three miles back to my hotel now that the rain had stopped. But after about ten feet my body reminded me that it was sick, so I hopped back on the train, sleeve over nose. The longer I stood there, the more I wanted chicken soup, 7-Up and my mom.

I settled for mint tea and my hard hotel bed. I fell asleep almost immediately, and woke up nearly two hours later, giving me ten minutes to get ready for my hamam. Should I cancel it? I wondered. At 85 Euros, it was my biggest splurge on any activity of the trip, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to drop that cash if I couldn’t enjoy it… But how many opportunities would I have to visit a 500-year-old Turkish bath? And wasn’t hot water and steam exactly what I needed?

I got to the Ayasofia Hurrem Sultan Hamami right at 4. I’d chosen it after reading endless reviews comparing the types of hamams offered in the city: modern vs. traditional, functional vs. extravagant, budget vs. not-budget. Rather uncharacteristically, I’d opted for one of the most expensive bathhouses in the area, mostly because it was a sure bet. I usually go for the deal, but when cleanliness is a factor, I don’t want to cut corners.

And thank Allah I didn’t. The famous mosque’s hamam far exceeded my expectations. In fact, it was my favorite thing I did in Istanbul. Sensual, peaceful, restorative, it transported me to a whole different plane of being.

The experience began in the beautiful vaulted reception, where a large, maternal woman escorted me to a wooden changing room. She handed me a disposable thong, towel, lilac shower shoes, and a comb. I stripped down to nothing, slipped on the thong, and wrapped myself in the towel.

I waited on one of the cushioned benches in the reception, and a few minutes later a thin, young Turkish woman with a soft smile came and took my hand. She seemed to me a sort of angel, guiding me into a spiritual realm.

In the bath, afternoon sunlight flooded down from the top of the dome, bouncing off the white walls through the steam and infusing the space with an ethereal quality. It was surprisingly empty, with only a single girl, no more than eight years old, being rubbed down by an older woman.

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My attendant led me past them into the main room and up onto an elevated marble cubicle. She smiled sweetly as I wobbled on the wet stone, gripping my hand as if to say “don’t worry, I’ve got you.” Once situated, she disrobed me and sat me down next to a golden basin. She turned it on and began pouring hot water over me with a metal bowl. My body immediately surrendered to the heavenly liquid. Sometimes I forget the magic of water.

After a little while, she handed the bowl to me and indicated I should continue bathing myself. She left me to this, then returned a few minutes later, to take me to the next stage: the actual cleansing.

In my research, I’d read about people having their skin rubbed raw in hamams, new skin sloughing off alongside the dead. I experienced the exact opposite. My attendant firmly but carefully scrubbed at my limbs, under my arms, along my thigh.

At first I kept my eyes closed, flashing back to childhood baths with my brother. When was the last time I’d been bathed by another person? Four years old? Five? I opened my eyes and looked at the girl rubbing my naked body. We hadn’t spoken a single word, and yet I felt a profound connection with her. The intimacy of this moment will never leave me.

Once my skin had been turned into butter, we made our way onto the central marble platform for the final part of my treatment: the bubble bath massage. I am not exaggerating when I say this was one of the most incredible sensations I’ve ever felt. The scent of jasmine, the gentle weight of the bubbles, the press of her hands, the hypnotic echo of the soft murmurs unable to escape the dome. I had jumped into another dimension, or perhaps back to my mother’s womb. Time, space – nothing seemed to exist in this embryonic state.

And then it was over. My attendant took me back into the reception, where tea and Turkish delights greeted me. Never had anything tasted so sweet. It was like an infant being given ice cream for the first time.

“Thank you for this gift,” I heard a woman close to me graciously tell her attendant. I smiled. What a gift indeed.

Rejuvenated, I floated back to my hotel and got ready for my dinner with Andrew. We met at the train stop near his place, and walked to a neighborhood restaurant he’d been wanting to try – Naïf. Presley messaged me she would join us for a drink later.

Once again, Andrew did not lead me astray. I let him do all of the ordering, then relished in the shared plates of octopus, homemade pasta, and zucchini fritters. Sauvignon Blanc flowed, and so did the conversation. I learned about his Turkish girlfriend who was currently living in Paris, his passion for food, and the time he slept in a car in a garage that did not belong to his friend in Australia.

“’What are you doing, mate?’” Andrew reenacted the neighbor’s surprise. “’What are you doing in my car?’”

The drunken escapade had a happy ending – the man gave him a ride to his friend’s place – but we both agreed we’d entered a new phase in our life, one that no longer contained space for such wild, (un)memorable nights. Oh, the virtues of growing up.

But that didn’t mean we couldn’t go enjoy a cocktail on a rooftop overlooking the city. Presley met us at the restaurant, and we made our way up winding streets to Balkon.

The bar was incredible. Sure, the drinks were awful (Presley’s dirty martini contained neither olives nor vodka and my sauv blanc tasted like it’d been fermented in my grandmother’s closet), but the view was spectacular.* The first twenty minutes, I hardly said a word – I just stared at the blood orange crescent moon hanging right over Suleymanye. How could this even exist? For the second time that day, I had entered another realm.

The arrival of Toby, Andrew’s journalist friend, brought me back to the rooftop (along with a resident stray cat – so cute!!). Toby had lived in Istanbul off and on for a decade, working for the UN, and was currently staying at Andrew’s for a month.

“And how do you guys know each other?” he asked, swigging from a pint.

“Well, I met Andrew last night at dinner through our mutual friend, and Presley this morning at Dolmabache Palace.”

Toby stared at us in disbelief, then started laughing. “That is…”

Random? Synchronistic? Awesome?

“What happens when you travel,” I smiled.

“Touche.”

Although guarded at first, by the end of the evening Toby was part of my traveling crew. We laughed, we cried, we braved the grungy after-hours streets together. As we walked Presley to her hotel off Taksim Square, he slung his arm around me like an older brother.

“You know, you’re alright, Amy. You’re really cool. I hope we can be friends,” he said, his accent thick with beer. “Can we be actual friends?”

“Of course,” I grinned. “I’ll add you on Facebook as soon as I get home.”

We dropped Presley off, and then walked the mile back to Andrew’s, where the boys knew of a reliable taxi service. (If that sentence concerns you, trust me, I was concerned too.) Toby spoke to a driver in Turkish, and arranged my safe return home. I hugged them both goodbye, and got into the cab.

As we sped through the empty streets, I thought about all of the wonderful, diverse people I’d met over the last eleven days in Budapest and Istanbul. Steve, Heather, Brandon, Leifennie, Ren, Toby… Could we be actual friends?

The reality was, I probably wouldn’t see most of them again. There was a chance our paths would cross, like the Ketchup customers I had lunch with in Paris, or the friend I hadn’t seen since middle school in Phnom Penh. But most likely, this would be the extent of our time shared together. And while this made me cry in the taxi that night, I knew that there was a certain beauty to it. Because the point was not whether we would see each other down the road, but that we had met on it at all. What a gift.

*I didn’t take a photo of it because my iPhone would never have done it justice. Sorry Apple, I still love you!

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Adventures in Istanbul: Day 3

Hagia Sofia

Hagia Sofia

With only one full day together to hit all of the major sites, Amanda and I started out early, planning our attack over coffee at my hotel. We wanted to be efficient, but also not so efficient that we rushed through everything and appreciated nothing. There’s little more frustrating than being pressured to move on from a view, a work of art, or a peaceful moment by a fellow travel companion, a guide, or a pushy tourist (I’m looking at you, Ms. Elbows at the Qin warrior exhibit.)

We kicked the day off at Topkaki Palace, arriving ten minutes before the doors opened to purchase a Museum Pass.* Things could have gotten off to a rough start when Amanda’s machine produced a receipt sans ticket, but thankfully a helpful employee resolved the situation by breaking into the back and handing her the pass. We proceeded to the entrance and breezed right in.

If you love Islamic architecture (who doesn’t??), you will love Topkaki Palace. The mosaics, the arches, the gorgeous Arabic calligraphy, the 86 carat diamonds. (Okay, so there’s only one 86 carat diamond, in the treasury, and it’s awesome.) Crazy Kimye bling aside, though, the palace evokes a certain serenity, demands a quiet appreciation of its beauty, unlike other opulent royal European residences, say, Versailles.

We meandered about the grounds slowly, commenting here and there on door designs we liked and things we couldn’t believe. (I’m sorry, but there’s no way that stick was Moses’ staff in the relic room. It’s clearly very old and an important symbol, but just no.) We paused to enjoy the views across the river, and tried to imagine it centuries ago, similar but different. In the massive kitchens and confectionary, I pictured the trays of sweets and the smells of spiced meats. I allowed myself to be transported back in time, to experience the Palace as it once was.

Welcome to my humble abode.

Welcome to my humble abode.

Except for the Harem. We did not allow ourselves to experience the Harem. Not of out some feminist protest, although we are both feminists. No, sadly we skipped the Harem because we’d been told not to spend the extra six bucks on it. If only we’d have gone over to the queue, we would have realized that it was included with the Museum Pass. Sigh. Live and learn to once again do better research.

After Topkaki, we made a quick stop into the Hagia Irene (free on the Museum Pass, takes five minutes tops), then visited the Hagia Sofia, every Istanbul tourist’s top priority. For good reason. Even with extensive scaffolding on one side for restorations, the church turned mosque confounds the senses. Like the mosque at Cordoba, one can simply not get over the blending of the two religions. It’s fire and ice, but it works. After all, they are both elements from the same body.

We spent some time on the ground floor, looking up through the hanging light fixtures at the Christian mosaics and black and gold calligraphic disks. On the upper gallery we pondered the sacred building’s various incarnations. I tried to recall the things I’d learned in my Islamic Art History course several years ago, but then, that hardly mattered as much as the experience of it in the flesh. One doesn’t have to know the whole history to understand the meaning of it.

Inside the Hagia Sofia

Inside the Hagia Sofia

From the Hagia Sofia, we debated whether to break for lunch before or after the Archeology Museum, and decided on the latter. To tide me over, I opted for one of the bagels sold by the ubiquitous street vendors. Word of advice: avoid them if you care about carbs and freshness. I took a few bites in the name of blood sugar, tossed it, then trekked on through the damp streets, careful not to unintentionally perform the electric slide.

Aside from the sarcophagus of Alexander the Great not being on display, we enjoyed the museum. There were plenty of other gorgeous carved stones to house dead folk, and even some of the remains of said folk. One wing held sections of the Gates of Ishtar, another statues and coins and pottery of Ancient Istanbul, and an exhibit was dedicated entirely to a single archivist named Mandel. Such displays always impress me. Even though we only spent ten minutes observing his work in cataloguing, I felt a tremendous respect for the level of commitment and amount of time it obviously required. Some day I’ll find that in my own work, I promised myself.

Sarcophagi from the Archaeology Museum

Sarcophagi from the Archaeology Museum

Remains of Said Folk

Remains of Said Folk

After the bummer dinner the previous night, I made sure to find us a kebap restaurant worth eating at. TripAdvisor did not steer us wrong. We got a table at Buhara Kebab House, and what it lacked in air conditioning it made up for in tender lamb and eggplant skewers.

Our stomachs placated, we traversed our way back to Sultanhamet. Along the way, I spotted a guy I knew.

“Hi!” the guy waved.

“Hi!” I smiled back, in those seconds between registering a familiar face and placing it. It was the Turkish gentleman who had wanted to “change my life.” My cheeks went red and I sped up, afraid I’d given him some sort of invitation. I felt a bit embarrassed, but also pleasure in the synchronicity of bumping into someone in a foreign country. Even a would-be Lothario.

We made it to the Blue Mosque, and shuddered at the sight of the line. As an active place of worship, they only let a select number of visitors in at any given time. But the queue turned out to be a blessing – that’s where we met Göktuğ.

A tour guide, Göktuğ started speaking to Amanda in Turkish. When she broke the bad news she only spoke English, he apologized, having mistaken her for a native. (“That happens to me everywhere I travel,” she told me later.) We asked him a question about the wait, he informed us it would take no more than 15 minutes, we asked him a few more questions, and then he started giving us a free tour.

“My clients aren’t that interested in me,” he explained. “They are very successful architects from San Francisco. Very sophisticated.” He gave us a knowing smile. We were more than happy to be interested in him, and quickly formed a rapport.

Inside the mosque, Göktuğ gave us a brief history, from the attempt to build a more beautiful building than the Hagia Sofia to the sourcing of the materials to the actual construction itself. We listened attentively, and for a moment I wished we’d hired a guide for the day. Not that this information wasn’t a Wikipedia click away, but there was something about the actual transfer of knowledge from one person to another. At the end, we thanked Göktuğ, and wished him well with his sophisticated clients.

Ceiling of Sultanhamet

Ceiling of Sultanhamet

Our final stop for the day was the Basilica Cistern. I’d say we saved the best for last, but I’d be lying, because everything was pretty much amazing. But the cistern was… otherworldly.

“This is going to sound weird, but I feel like I’m on a film set,” I whispered to Amanda. Not that it felt like Universal Studios or the Fox Lot. Actually, the exact opposite. I felt so swept back in time that the only way I could make sense of it was through the lens of cinema. (Perhaps that’s a sad reflection on my imagination, or maybe it just means I’m an actor.)

As we slowly zigzagged through the maze of 7th century columns, breathing in the musky underground air, I had to keep myself from bursting into laugher. The sensations elicited by the ancient atmosphere were making me giddy. Sort of like being in love.**

Join me as we step back in time...

Join me as we step back in time…

We finished our sightseeing around 5, giving us plenty of time to rest up before our “fancy” dinner. I returned to my hotel and researched restaurants, landing on Lokanta Maya. We made a reservation for 9:30, and I met Amanda at hers at 8:45 to walk the waterfront before.

While the views from the boardwalk below the Galata bridge were delightful, the aggressive servers were not. We were glad we hadn’t chosen one of the numerous Baliks: even the best fish in the world could not justify that sort of haranguing.

The service at Lokanta Maya, on the other hand, was exactly the opposite. Our server could have cared less if we ate there or at McDonald’s. But the food and the atmosphere proved more than enough to counter the lack of attentiveness. We loved every bite of our spicy shrimp, beet salad, salmon with pink peppercorns, and leg of lamb.

Go to Lokanta Maya!!

Go to Lokanta Maya!!

And the conversation? Forget it. Sometimes it’s difficult to see just how connected we all are, how shared the human experience truly is. But then you meet an Amanda, and you both speak freely from your hearts, and you can tell the other person is listening – truly listening – and you realize that this is what it’s all about. This moment, this perfect vulnerable moment, discussing identity and writing and body image and dad bods and-

“Did you just say dad bods?” the good looking guy at the table next to us interrupted. “Because I have one.” He smiled and turned to his beautiful wife, who wore her pregnancy so well I didn’t even notice until the end of the evening when we hugged good night.

I confirmed that I had indeed said dad bods, in the context of gender and body politics, and thus began an enthusiastic conversation with our San Franciscoan neighbors. So enthusiastic, in fact, that we exchanged numbers before they hopped in their uber, and tentatively scheduled a lunch the next day (just me, Amanda would be off day-tripping in Ephesus.) Again, so much for traveling alone.

Amanda and I ended the night on a high note. A sugary one. Although stuffed from our delicious dinner, we couldn’t resist trying next door Karaköy Güllüoğlu, the spot that had been recommended on the river cruise. Kids in a Turkish candy store, we ordered a little bit of everything. They were small, so we thought we could handle it.

Wrong. One bite of the baklava and I felt a rush not unlike cocaine. It was THAT sweet. And-

“It almost tastes like… cheese?” I said, clearly dazed from the crack sugar.

“Whoaaa,” Amanda’s face contorted. “That is straight butter. Like, a pound of it.”

We started laughing uncontrollably. Out of happiness, out of delirium, out of developing Type 3 Diabetes. We took a few more bites, then threw in the napkin.

“How are people eating plates filled with these?!” Amanda glanced around. Sure enough, the tables of locals were gobbling down three, four, even six baklavas a piece.

“I have NO idea!” I said, still cackling. “I guess it’s a Turkish delight!”

Crack sugar.

Crack sugar.

* If you are questioning whether or not to get a pass while visiting Istanbul – DO IT. Even if you only hit a few of the sites on it, you’ll still break even and get the benefit of skipping the lines.

**I’ve actually been feeling this a lot lately. A lot a lot. Thank you, Daniel Diaz 🙂

I Found My Heart in San Francisco

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We drove because he liked me. It wouldn’t have been a problem to fly – a little more expensive, a little less travel time, both essentially non-issues – but he insisted on a road trip. I didn’t argue. You learn a lot about a person when you’re trapped in a hunk of speeding metal with them for six hours. And I wanted to learn a lot about him.

The trip was impromptu- “This might be the last weekend I can really have fun for awhile. Want to go somewhere?” He texted me on Thursday. We’d only been dating for a month, but it seemed like a lot longer. It just felt right. Friday morning we hoisted our bags into the trunk of his car and took off up the I5, San Francisco bound.

It’d been over three years since I’d made the trek up to the Bay Area, and I’d forgotten just how much I love California. “There’s a reason we pay such high taxes here,” he said as we cut through snow-kissed mountain ranges, past geometrical rows of orange trees, through rolling hills as fluorescent as an exit sign. “People have figured out where they can finally have it all.”

Having it all. I thought about this as I stared at him, my fingers running through his hair, my nails dragging gently along his broad shoulders. He reminded me of Joaquin Phoenix in this moment, his slight crooked smile, the way his Ray-Bans perched on his nose, the rust color of his close-cut beard. What did that even mean, to have it all?

“Oh my God, yessss!” I squealed as he put on Peter, Paul and Mary’s Puff the Magic Dragon. I pulled out my phone and hit record, holding it close to Harry the Seal, a dash ornament he’d had since he was in high school. Behind Harry rays of amber  broke through huge thunder clouds, the remnants of the worst storm in years. “Could this be any more perfect?” I laughed at the sublime blend of beauty and the absurd.

* * * * * *

We checked in around 6:30 and got ready for the evening. “You can wear something more casual,” he informed me as I shifted through my embarrassingly large suitcase. I hadn’t travelled with more than a carry-on for years, but I hadn’t been sure what to pack. He’d made all of the plans, and I was delighted to have it be a surprise. I threw on a cotton dress, tights, heeled boots, and a leather jacket. With make up and hair it took 15 minutes. “That’s one thing you’ll like about me,” I smiled, “I never take long to get ready.”

Our first stop was Union Square. He held me close as we watched the ice skaters, my breath finally visible. I loved my solitary sports bra runs on Christmas day in Palm Springs where my parents live, but it felt good to be experiencing the season in Hallmark fashion: warmed up by a guy next to the brightly lit Macy’s tree. “Ohhh,” he cringed and laughed as a teen in a backwards cap and hoodie hit the ice. Hard. “Yeah, I’ve definitely been there,” I admitted. “Oh, I know,” he nodded, kissing me on the forehead. That was one of the things he liked best about me- my adorable clumsiness.

We stopped at a wine bar on our way to Chinatown, where we proceeded to fatten up on pork fried rice, Peking duck, lettuce cups, and a sort of tempura crab, one of his favorite dishes in the city. In fact, it was the whole reason we’d come to the hole in the wall, empty save two other tables. And I understood why. Salty fried goodness, a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc, a wonderful guy – what more could a girl ask for?

Well, an awesome Saturday for one. After dinner Friday we had a night cap at a local pub, soaking in the festive pre-Santacon cheer, before retiring around midnight. Which meant that I got up early feeling rested and ready for a six mile run. “It’s the only thing I absolutely require when I’m traveling,” I’d told him before we left. “Whatever you need, babe, just as long as you do it in the morning.”

After my run to the wharf, we showered and headed to Haight-Ashbury for brunch at Zazie. We enjoyed boysenberry bellinis, crab benedicts, and cornmeal pancakes with lemon curd and strawberry that rivaled my dad’s best morning efforts. “You’re going to love that about him,” my girlfriend had told me before our first date, “he’s a huge foodie. He will totally wine and dine you.”

And he did. And I did love it. We rounded out our meals in San Fran with seafood and Bay Bridge views at Waterbar and some of the best dim sum I’ve had at Yank Sing. But what I loved even more was the Keith Haring exhibit he took me to Saturday afternoon. He knew how important art was to me, and so we strolled over to the De Young Museum after Zazie to soak in some culture. As we floated through rooms of luminous American art, I wished I could somehow squeeze him tighter than I already was. I mean, I knew he couldn’t tell the difference between a Martin Johnson Heade and a Winslow Homer, but did that really matter?

The short answer: no. Because that’s what I was learning the more time I spent with him. No, he hadn’t heard of Inherent Vice, the latest film from the director of his favorite movie of all time, Boogie Nights. No, he didn’t enjoy reading fiction for fun, although he loved obtaining knowledge. No, he wasn’t going to join me on my morning runs because his asthma wouldn’t let him. But so what? It’s not like I could name a single NHL player from the Kings game we’d gone to the week before, even though I’d had fun. Nor could I tell you anything about tort reform beyond what I saw in Hot Coffee (he’s a lawyer). Or even begin to comprehend how to put together a business proposal (he’s also an entrepreneur).

But what we can do is laugh for hours with each other. And talk freely about anything and everything, from politics to religion to family to Family Guy. And we can also get super competitive about bowling and Scrabble and a game of horse. You know, the things that matter. And we can show up for each other in pretty much any circumstance, whether it’s NFL Sundays or a three hour film about a 19th century artist, even if it may not be totally our thing. And finally, we can spend 12 full hours in a car together and one romantic weekend in San Francisco and still want to know more about each other. So much more. And you know what? I think that might just be what it means to have it all.