Istiklal Saturday night

July 28, 2013











































I took a short walk, pulled out the camera and shot at everything I saw, still walking, just going fast…  to get the feel of the street, it was much busier than it looks but here it is.  Hot weather, the vibe is so alive, so much going on…  Istiklal…




Steve wrote: “ the images leave me hungry for names, situations ..”


Yes indeed… I have been so busy, then not so well, then busy… I sit down at the Chill out and there is always someone to talk to, something going on, or I just have to go take a nap…


Last week… well, last week started normally, with me going to school but when it was time to leave, I tried to get out of my chair and fell back down… tried again, same thing.


I had to lie down, then had all sorts of symptoms… A good hour later I headed back to the hostel, a few blocks from home, I started to feel quite bad again… arrived at the hostel, then almost fainted… I ended up in a taxi with Yuksel (the guy with the bald head on the previous post’s pictures) and Bartin (the guy with the beard) heading to the hospital with all sorts of symptoms.


To make a long story short, I waited for a while, got a cursory doctor’s exam. The doctor wanted me to get a tomography and an MRI and blood tests. and waited some more then spent a bunch of time on the phone with the insurance company, first in France, then in Canada, then in California… yeah… multinationals at work… then, nothing happened. The insurance and the hospital chasing one another for forms, releases and approvals.


Nothing happened. As I was feeling a bit better we took a taxi back to the hostel. The next morning I did not go to class. I called the hospital, the insurance company… then I got mad… One person says one thing, then another says something else. In short they wanted me to be admitted in the hospital for 24 hours to send the consent forms…


I gave up. I’ll get better on my own.


The next day, it was “residency permit day.” with the tourist visa you have 90 days. That runs out August 26th. That was the topic of a whole post in itself… the short of it, I went to the police station (unnerving thing in itself after running away from police for the last two months..) but they were very nice boys… then I got lost confusing Şişli with Şişhane… I confused the two and went the wrong way and lost a couple hours and liras in the process but when it was all said and done, it was unlike all the comments I read on the internet about the process, I did not wait in long lines and the whole thing is done, I have now permission to stay for 11 months.


That was a wild thing to realize.


Since before I left I had no idea what was going to happen after the 3 months. Now I know.


Thursday, I went back to class. I had to take it easy but I made it. We had class at maçka park I brought the saz and played songs for the class, my teacher filmed some of it, I think she is going to put it on the school Facebook account.

The picture with the men lying on the grass… well, the park is gigantic… these workers came and set up their little camp a mere 20 feet from all of us! It was pretty funny!

Back to the Chill Out Friends were there smoking outside. Urs from Switzerland and Alimjan from China, and more precisely an Uygun Turk, in a part of China that used to be where the original Turks came from so many eons ago..


We went for lunch. Another moment of sheer beauty with so much humanity and the joy of sharing with other beings the simple things of life. After that I rested some, taking my potion, putting ice on my neck and going for a nap.


Later that night we decided to go to the Kara Kedi. A club I had heard about and had been invited to. Urs knew the way so Yüksel, Urs and I set out. When we arrived I had the really good surprise of seeing Marta and Mar, two Spanish girls I had met the night the Chillout was filled with tear gas. Mar was the one that was my “saviour” helping me breathe…


I ended up playing 3 songs during the band’s break, it was really cool. I started by myself then the drummer joined in and closely following him, the saxophone player joined in. It was quite magical, it felt good and energized me in a way no medicine can.



to school I went, then back to the hostel, again, friends are there when I arrive. We had been invited to a goodbye party as Marta is leaving Istanbul Saturday. As we head out the sun is setting (pictures of sunset..) The party took place in this flat up at the 6th floor so the view is impossibly magical.


We had really great food and the crowd kept getting bigger. The picture with all the shoes is what a Turkish home’s entrance looks like as we are all required to remove our shoes!


Later we headed out to another club where I might be able to play but fatigue got the best of me and I headed back to the Chillout.


So now, it’s 10 PM. I did my homework this morning… almost 4 hours of it… its very intense… but I’m learning a lot. Then I took it easy.


I am starting to think about the bike again… now that I have my residency permit (I’ll have the document this coming Wednesday) I had thoughts of going hiking but with my neck and health the way they are, unless things change for me, I would not be able to carry a backpack… my laptop is kind of too much to carry as it is… but on the bike I could get to places… then explore the areas.

Things have been a little bit unsettling to say the least with this health thing. It puts a bit of a large unknown factor in the picture. I am still searching step by step, trying to stay in tune with me, my truth. The cultural change is big and it makes me look at many things with new elements to analyse with.


Music wise, I am supposed to meet with a music professor this week who might be able to direct me to a teacher and with whom I can ask questions about what I am trying to learn.


Yavaş, yavaş as they say here… slowly, slowly, that is one of the “cultural differences..”



July 27, 2013





































































July 24, 2013

friends at the Chill Out

friends at the Chill Out


Turkish class

Turkish class


yeah, we work hard!

yeah, we work hard!


the second floor at Turkuaz language school

the second floor at Turkuaz language school







the school from the outside

the school from the outside


Galata Tower

Galata Tower


the sultan's palace where Ataturk lived, on my way to Besiktas Saturday

the sultan’s palace where Ataturk lived, on my way to Besiktas Saturday


Ataturk exhibition of photos along the way

Ataturk exhibition of photos along the way


Sarah, my new friend from school

Sarah, my new friend from school


the Iranian musicians

the Iranian musicians




more sunset

more sunset



more new friends

more new friends




and finally almost gone

and finally almost gone













Yours truly hanging out at the Chill Out hostel in Istanbul

Oh I am not doing a good job of writing this blog…


I am on week two of the Turkish language class. It has gotten a little bit easier, schedule wise and work load wise. The vocabulary is what crushes me! So many words to remember… I remember the names better if I am using the objects.. But I must say, I am starting to understand quite a bit more. Still very clumsy with talking but I think that doing this class for a month, talking with friends at the hostel at night every night will bring me to a point where I can do more than ask for where the toilet is and say thank you!


So many things in my mind.


This journey has been very much about discovering things about myself that were hiding in plain sight. The people I am meeting seem to bring mirrors with them…


What to say…


I am tired… it’s been hard to change my schedule and it’s been hard to lose my nights as it is always the time where my mind and creative spark is sharpest… I’ve had to be patient with myself as I sit in class and cannot compute anything as if my brain was frozen… Asbjorn knows this blank early morning look on my face… Then, at night, trying to fall asleep before 2 AM is proving to be quite the challenge…


So after this week, two more weeks of self sacrifice for the sake of knowledge and communication and I’ll be free… I’m already getting antsy contemplating the possibilities… take the road… see a bit of the country. I’m thinking Konya first, the place where Rumi lived…


The big thing looming in front of me is the residency permit, I need to put together a number of documents, photocopies, photos, money etc. for July 24th, yeah, next week. I need to pull my head out of the books and get this done… That permit will determine a number of things. What I do with my time.


Right now, after talking to a few people I am thinking of traveling in Turkey for the first half of August, possibly do a walking trip… then come back to Istanbul to then fly to Athens and from there I would go to Crete via ferry and do the baglama seminar from the 19th to the 25th. After that head to Carcassonne to visit friends there. I would also like to find a motorcycle in France, for one, I’ll be able to get something with more cc’s for the same money I would spend in Istanbul for a 250cc machine, which I think will not be enough for highway riding… From Carcassonne I would return to Turkey to really get into the baglama studies through the winter… of course all of this can change with the blink of an eye… but so far I’m thinking that.


I really want to ride a motorcycle on this continent… see this part of the world from two wheels. The money? Well , we’ll see… usually it materializes… After meeting all these musicians from Spain, Iran among others, I realize how much there is to absorb from all over music wise…. yeah… so much to see… so much to hear and share.


Apologies for not writing much… it’s a bit intense to be going to school right now. But I believe it will pay off… I should be taking more pictures too… I will get back to it… Hugs to you all.



These photos were taken by Thanh from Germany, they are on his blog:  

early mornings

July 11, 2013



Oh… those who know me, know how hard mornings are for me.

This week I have been going to school, I signed up for Turkish language school, for a month. They had morning and afternoon classes. I was hoping for an afternoon class but no… it was only possible in the morning at 9:30 until 1:30 PM

I’ve been hurting… yeah… I know, I know… it’s just not normal for me. Never really has been. I have done it, I do it when I need to and this is one of those times… starting on the heels of a few very eventful and short on sleep days.

I get up at 10 to 8 and I am truly in pain. Brain freeze, body just so, ever so, slow. I am hoping that things get better because right now it’s totally “zor, zor, zor…” (difficult) The good news, I am learning much. The curve is very steep. I never did much Turkish speaking, so all that I learned I never really used except on paper where you can take all the time in the world to construct, find words, look at definitions… At times I feel totally overwhelmed, then I have a big victory understanding an actual “real” conversation.

I am very curious to see what I will be able to understand and use in a month. So far, the homework keeps me busy until around 5 PM. My ideas of doing “this and that after class” have all but evaporated.

I had a couple of neat emails, one from a publisher I had contacted regarding my book. He is interested in reading more, the other, a notification that I am on the “Top 40” Reverb Nation Ottawa chart… in the scheme of the music industry it probably means next to nothing but it was kind of cool to get that.

I have now been here for 7 weeks. With this course underway July will basically be just that: Study and play at the hostel at night. Maybe some interesting things on week ends but mostly staying put. I have the seminar in Houdetsi Greece (on the island of Crete) from August 19th to 24th that is organized so far. I heard of a few things around here that I could do and want to do, like free saz and percussion classes in Kadikoy. I yet have to find the place and see what is available but hopefully that will work.

A couple of days ago a guy who happened to be at the hostel showed me two tunings and the makams (scales) that go along the tunings, I was fast enough to get my camera and film this. I transcribed the information in notes that I can practice now. Sam, a percussionist from the USA who has been travelling in different countries to learn “world music” percussion was sharing his experience and I am starting to see that maybe the way for me to learn is to learn on the street. Word of mouth… Academic studies do not really interest me.

What I have been doing lately is to play along with musicians. We sit, jam and share. Much is being absorbed… I’ll play either guitar or saz and let the things I hear inspire me and that has led me to many new places. Very interesting. Living music as it is (I believe) meant to exist : in a shared creative wave instead of in the solitude of a studio or room. I am seeing more and more this difference between the “me” way of making music in the West and the “we” way of making music here.

I see more and more that this is not just a matter of learning techniques and going home but truly a process of loosening the cultural preconceived notions so that new concepts can enter and new roads can be found. I really hope I can stay long enough to be able to do this.

I think of you all often. All my love.


A long, long day

July 8, 2013

OK, made a cup of coffee, I’m getting ready to write. It’s 4:05 PM, Sunday, Istanbul. I am so tired, my head pulses, my body is weary. Sleep is important but sometimes you just don’t happen to get it.


Lets rewind. Friday night. I am in my room, with a purpose. I made lists and plans and I am ready to execute some of those things. First, upload the songs for Beat It To Pieces to BandCamp and CD Baby, get all the music ready to actually finally release this CD.


I have been getting ready to play on the street and there is a list of things for this too. I need a microphone and a cable, I looked into that and the prices here are exhorbitant… Crystal came to the rescue… I will also make CDs to sell on the street, just burn them as I go… Today I also made the appointment for my residency permit…


I worked until I heard the morning call to prayer… yeah, that means 4:30 AM or so… Then I meditated, by the time I’m in bed it’s 5 AM. I feel good because I have a sense of things getting some sort of direction. I fall asleep.


Argh… Ak! Ak! Damn… Smoke. I wake up all messed up. What time is it? I look at my phone… Man.. it’s 6 AM… I cough a bit more. I’m tired, angry and feeling a bit freaked… The smoke does that. Especially when you are asleep. I realized that it triggers a “flight” response. Like a panic, where is the air? It’s as if you are being put under siege in your sleep and when you wake up all those instincts: fight/flight are right there ready to react.


I get up and get out of my room. Yes, someone is smoking… we had this agreement… but as I expected it wouldn’t work. It keeps happening and I wake up like this… I keep running away from the house to get out of that… And right then and there, I decided, as I know full well that despite the best intentions things are not going to change, I decided to leave. Yeah, I just paid a full month’s rent, but I can’t deal with this. I am fed up with trying to reason myself into passivity. Fuck it. I’m going. With that decision made, I slept a fitful sleep until 8 AM. At 8 I got up, went out, up the hill, into the morning sun and walked to the hostel. I am so tired, I was already tired from the last few days, I make it to the hostel. Bartin is at the desk.


“You have rooms?”


“Something is going on?”




“Yes we have rooms.” And then he takes a funny accommodating tourism industry tone of voice, I play along.”


“What would you like? We have the single rooms, the 4 bed dorm, 6 and 10… How long will you stay with us?…


“Would you like for me to pay this now?”


“No that’s fine, you can pay when you check out.”


OK, step one… I have a room. In the Chillout cafe is this Canadian girl I met yesterday. She is a student in ethno musicology at a Texas university. Very bright, intelligent girl. The day before we had had a long conversation, she showed me her çumbuş (djumbush) an instrument that is a cross between a banjo and an oud (a fretless stringed instrument with a metal body) which I got to try, then we had gone for some food. It was a great meeting. So there she was in the cafe, I said hi, she is still struggling with jetlag.


We chatted for a while and then Bartin said I could go have a nap (it was all before check in time) so I went up and slept a bit. It’s hot. There is major constructions all around the hostel. The jackhammers pound incessantly so I close the window, it gets hot really quickly I put in ear plugs and fall slowly into a sort of sleep.


When I wake up, its time to go get my things. I have more than I did a month ago. I have acquired a few things, like a cushion to meditate, which I hesitated to get as it is big and it is one of those sort of possessions that speaks of settling… I had taken a chance in buying it and now I have to lug that around, along with the amplifier, the envelopes, the coat hangers I had gotten… how fast we accumulate stuff…


I get to the apartment, gather everything, write a note to Hakan as they are all sleeping, leave it on my bed with the keys and head out. Guitar, baglama, amplifier, bag with cushion and massive, massively heavy suitcase down the five flights of marble stairs. Outside, Omer Hayyam is busltling with traffic. It is mid day, there are many taxis going by, all full, finally one pulls over for me.


“Pera Musesi lütfen.”


the Museum is quite close to the hostel.


“Ne Kadar?”


“Beş lira.”


I get the backpack the guitar and the saz on my back. The cushion in my right hand. The amp on the suitcase and pull up the last block up to Chill Out. A few more stairs and I’m home. I have a 4 bed dorm room to myself for the moment. I pick the double bed against the window as there is room to stow the instruments there. Phew. Home. I don’t know what it is about this place but I am home here. I read a bit and fall asleep for about 40 minutes.


When I wake up, I take a shower. I am heading to the Turkuaz language school for a level test. I will start Turkish classes next week. I dress up head out, walk down Istiklal, it is very crowded, Saturdays are always busy, bursting with life. There is also a demonstration planned for tonight. Political groups are out with handing out flyers, yelling on the street about the events, meetings. There is a febrility in the air, I sense that it will be intense tonight.


I manage to find the school, which is in itself a bit of a feat. I am pretty happy about that. On Google Maps it looked like a “street, in reality it is a tiny passage behind a building and back there a tree, birds singing, so quiet, a little heaven. I go up the steps, the door is open, I can see a classroom where all the windows are open, I hear Turkish, laughter, a nice breeze blows through, it’s beautiful.


The teacher comes to me and sets me up with my language test.


She says in Turkish,

“There are 100 questions, if you do 100 you have the diploma..”


“I won’t make the diploma! That’s for sure!”


I sit there by myself, by question 25 it’s starting to be waaay waay over my head… by question 50 I have no clue.


When it’s all said and done she says I can start at level 2 and if it’s too hard then I’d go back to level one. Classes start on monday at 9:30 Argh… that will be a shift in schedule…


I walk back to the hostel. My head is full of all the stuff I’ve been looking at. I’m excited at the prospect of learning more. I feel I will be able to get along quite well if I learn just a little bit more. I suddenly think of how fast I’m walking as I see a woman, obviously a tourist, looking all self important and walking really fast and almost hitting me. It makes me think of my own way of going so fast all the time. As I think that I look up and I see the back of a man’s T-shirt that says : “Go Slow”


I burst out laughing. OK, I get the message! Then the next person walking towards me wears a T-shirt that says : “ Speeding” and something else… OK, OK, I really get it! I slow down. Look around. Yes. It’s still incredible. The vibe, the energy, the color of the light. The sky, that wind… I look at the faces around me and I see so much beauty. Oh life. Oh life…


IAt the hostel I drop off my bag and just grab a bit of money to go get some pilav. My friend Sam is coming, he is a percussionist we played on the street together. We eat our dinner and hang out.


“You wanna play” he says


For a while we’ve been hearing the crowds outside, heavy chanting, banging, the energy is revving up and starting to get on the harder side. Inside the hostel there are lots of faces I don’t know.


“Yeah, I think so. Let me go get my guitar.”


I go upstairs and get the guitar, the amplifier and come back down. We start playing a bit. In the midst of people, without a pretense, simply. Outside waves of people start to run. Police is coming. We can see just out the door, 20 feet away, people rushing wearing gas masks, scarves and goggles mixed with startled if not scared tourists. Bang! Psh.. Gas. A few rush in we close the door as the cloud of gas rises up in the evening sky.


“Move back…”


we move to the back of the cafe, let the wave go by, Sam and I set up in the upper section of the cafe and resume playing. And so the evening starts. We play as waved after wave of running demonstrators rush up and down the street here, running away from police, then back up, with chants, bands, fists up back to protest. The mood inside is interesting. There is definitely a stress, Sam is nervous, I feel quite safe here. At one point a tear gas bomb explodes very close to the hostel. He stops playing. I said:


“Keep playing… don’t stop. When we play we keep people cheered up. It makes everyone feel that everything is OK. They used to do this in the wild west.. ”


So we keep playing as night comes. Waves of gas. We can feel it increase, tingling eyes, throat, noses. I put my scarf over my mouth and keep playing. It is mystical. A sort of circle of energy has formed in the room. A sort of solidarity, of joyfulness in the face of this madness. It is truly madness…


Outside it’s very intense. It is the most intense I’ve seen this so far. On Istiklal I hear, they have built a barricade. Now they are banging on the metal wall circling the construction site across from us. The din is indescribable and that makes the police very angry.


Suddenly outside it’s mayhem. A group of protesters rushed in, the first guy falls on his knees, and as he does, following a loud bang, gas rises, right in front of our door, another bang and a cannister of gas lands inside, someone throws it back out. A thick white cloud of fresh gas engulfs the cafe.


“UP! UP! GO UP THE STAIRS!!!” Yells Bartin, about 15 people rush up. I was way in the back, I unplugged my guitar and follow in the back and get a serious dose of gas. My eyes burn intensely. I can open them. I am at the bottom of the stairs sitting on the ground hugging my guitar and not really wanting to move. Someone grabs me.


“come up, come up…” I feel their arms on my shoulders. My eyes are closed, I’m trying not to breathe. The world turned into a dark room filled with strange sensations. Gas gives your body a strange high composed of pain, stupor and adrenaline. Someone tries to take the guitar from me..




“Are you OK? Can you breathe?”




I cough once, twice, more gas comes in the hostel. We are now on the first landing and people start to rush upstairs. I cough some more and that triggers pain in my throat. A girl comes to me and splashes the “milk” the concoction people use around here to fight the burning, but to me it seems to make things worse. My eyes are running, my nose is running… I cough some more. That is not good. The more I cough the more it seems that my capacity to breathe diminishes. The stairwell is now getting loaded with gas.


“Come! Come!”


My legs are getting rubbery. As we go up the stairs I realize that I can’t breathe. as I am being rushed up the steps the exertion is too much for my capacity to take in oxygen. In mere moments, I can’t breathe. I am gasping with ugly wheezes. I manage to say


“I … can’t .. breathe..”


I almost black out. I want to stop. Curl. I feel arms around me. They get me to the top of the stairs as I struggle to take in air and it’s not working. Bartin grabs me, I feel so weak, strange how fast that all took place, a few minutes… he takes me a few steps down in front of an emergency door.


People yell


“close that door! Gas is coming in!”


“Air… air…” I manage to say…


We sit there for a few moments and the air brings me back…


“Thank you…”


“I’ll take you to my room”


On the fifth floor we get in a room. I”m still wheezing but I’m “here”. Three girls come in with me. They are wearing gas masks. One of them, I can see her beautiful dark brown eyes looking at me with concern. She grabs a magazine and fans air towards me. This gesture, simple, felt to me as if someone threw a life jacket at me as I was drowning. I am so grateful.


We sit there for a while. My body feels as if I had done some sort of violent interval training. I get these deep sighs raking me from time to time. We chat a bit. Relax. Laugh a little. Wow…


After a while we decide to go out. We open the door and then hear music from the top floor. We go up and there the rest of the escapees have gathered they are playing music, laughing.


The whole things turns into the warmest, most human gathering one can imagine. Outside the gas keeps being blown in the air. We see clouds of it rise at regular intervals. But we are here, out of time out of place in a bubble of humanity… how to describe? People from Turkey, Spain, England, Germany, Canada, USA… joined together with music and a common experience. At one point Sam got a hold of a penny whistle and started to play, Ali had my guitar and played along with Sam. There was a harmonica.. voices…


At some point the guitar came back to me. One thing leading to another, we played a blues and then someone said “Istiklal blues..” and I started improvising a song about us, about the night and the tear gas bombs… it was crazy, Sam said I looked high, a gas high! I was laughing. Someone taped the “Istiklal blues” and so we turned this nightmare into an unforgettable moment… The spirit of humans…


Finally we went back downstairs. Hung out. I feel exhausted physically. In my mind I am so amazed by the moment. By everyone. Yeah. Adrenaline junkie… We are hungry… someone pulls out beers, I end up with one. I drink. The girls tried to find food, we find some scraps of bread, olives, I had some tomato sauce, we are starving. Tan, one of the two German motorcyclists goes out on a hunt for food. He comes back with pide and bread. It’s a celebration. We laugh, talk. Then Tugba learns that her friend has been arrested by police. Oh… She is worried. We comfort her.


At some point Hakan arrives… Oh yeah, this morning… when was that??? I move out of the flat! I hadn’t talked to him about it. We talk a bit. He is disappointed… not about me but about the fact that his roommates would not keep their word.. he said Ilhan thought it was a shame… I understand that but I also know the nature of the cigarette addiction, it so consumes the addicted person… I sort of thought it was going to be pretty much impossible for all the smokers to change their habits of smoking inside just for me….



But so it goes… I think the hostel will be the place to be for now…


The night advances on. I go to bed, try to sleep but cannot. I went back downstairs and sat outside with one German friend and we chat for a while, enjoying the cool breeze. Finally I sense that I will be able to sleep. He climb the stairs back up, take a deep breath and go to sleep.