Another Monday night.

January 28, 2014

“Tonight was perfect.” Eren declared. Yes indeed. It was our last official show with Joris, he is going back to Holland. He was the perfect element with Eren and I. Every show was getting better and better as he got to know the songs and feel them more and more. So it is in Istanbul. Many come. Many go. I am starting to be more Zen thing about it. We have to be thankful for the gift of meeting such people.

Eren

Eren

Yula left on Sunday, Willy is leaving today, Joris leaves tomorrow. And many more ebb and flow, a human tide.

I practiced the baglama before leaving Chillout out for the gig. I was downstairs in the kitchen. I heard steps coming down, didn’t pay much attention, probably Mehmet Can… I look up… Rebecca. She landed that afternoon, she’s back. Oh my! Tears rise. I am half believing my eyes. I knew she was back, it just had not registered on a real level.

Joris, Christina, Rebecca

Joris, Christina, Rebecca

I was going to go to the gig with Rebecca and Kimberly but I decided to take a few minutes alone by myself. First I needed a battery for my guitar, then I stopped for espresso and took 15 selfish minutes. Center, regroup. That done, I headed to Karakedi. I walk in it is very quiet, just about no one here except for the staff. Hmm… I had worried that if we stopped playing regular Mondays, the crowds that we had started to build would evaporate, it looked that way. Oh well. It’s fine. What I really want is to play with Joris and give everything I have the rest, it doesn’t matter.

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We do soundcheck. Eren is now “sound manager” at Karakedi. He’s good at sound. I had noticed that when we used to play Leyla Teras. He would dial things in very quickly. We wait a little bit. I go sit by myself and close my eyes. Breathe. I want tonight to be special. I want to be centered, fully aware, fully ready.

“Are you OK?” Eren asked after I had re-opened my eyes.

“Oh yeah.”

Soon after we went to the stage. Sometimes, I feel that I approach a kind of mastery. Sometimes, there is such calm and confidence. A grown-up feeling. An owning of it all; the guitar, the voice, the band, the lights, the people. A “be ready for take-off” captain of the ship certainty. I will bring this vessel to port, cargo and all.

Magic drummer

Magic drummer

There are a few bodies in the room now. Some of the regulars appeared. Nice. We start to play. A group of people sit in the side room, which does not allow to see the stage and as we get into the music deeper, they started to file into the room to watch. Karakedi is usually a noisy place. Constant talk and conversation in the background so when you stop between songs you hear the rumble of voices. But tonight, everyone was staying right where they were. Riveted. I finish the song. Total silence. “Whoa!” I said. looks like we’re doing something right, lets continue on I think and we did.

the three of us

the three of us

“Tonight was so perfect… and we have video.” Eren said again. We give each other our “X” greeting. So yes, there will be video.

After, I chatted with friends and people. I decided to get a drink, raki, to be able to clink my glass with Joris’ I will miss him. Many good musicians there are, but, there is a thing that is somewhat ethereal and that has nothing to do with notes. When that is there, the communication can take off and go outside the boundaries of the maps. It’s interstellar. It’s magical.

new painting at Karakedi

new painting at Karakedi

“You bring the best out of me.” I tell Eren with much gratitude. He’s such a free spirit. A true spirit. A creative free agent, no boundaries, just existing in the moment.

We go sit down in a corner, there a few musicians sit. One of them pulls out a duduk. He starts to play it. The canned music is stopped. Someone starts to sing. Someone starts to clap a rhythm quietly. Voices join in, drop out. It’s so incredibly beautiful in simplicity. Melodies from what seems to me the dawn of time. I observe faces, feet, colors, the cigarette smoke rising in the rare rays of light. The glint in a eye. The ancient warrior like face of the singer.

It’s Monday night, the street is dead quiet. It’s about 2 in the morning. It’s perfect.

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I was watching the light go through the large glass of beer. It came from the stage, spreading itself through the yellow liquid and through the letters EFES stamped on the glass. The woman’s hand holding the glass is unsteady, so beer flies around, drops, filet, white froth. Wood floor, bodies dancing. The woman is laughing, head back, white dress with small red flowers, short curly hair. I am absolutely mesmerized by the play of light. The band is incredible; clarinet, electric guitar, keyboard, 8 string bass sitting in the back, three percussionists at the front on Cajon, darbuka, djembe & some electronic pad.

I must remember this moment. The colors, the woman, the pulse of the music prodding the bodies. My own body that cannot stop moving to the beats. I never drink at these events. I see everyone else getting under the influences. I watch and feel in silence. Maryam passes by, she works and works. She smiles her thousand moon and suns smiles, her skin is what I imagine the softness of a cloud would be. Sometimes she’ll dance with me for a few minutes of music and step away in the rhythm back to work.

I keep looking around. Everyone, so beautiful in their mad creations. Karakedi. I know many here and many know me. Some I don’t know but they know me because I play here. These days I get many friend’s requests from such people on Facebook. Some faces I remember seeing, some I don’t.

The night stretched long. The band played 3 encores, the last one lasting a good 15 minutes, a wild gallop through Turkish songs, dance hits, jazz standard, by the end I wasn’t really doing much more but look at one player than the next in wonder.

Maryam is off, shift over. We leave together. If I was a man this girl would be in such big trouble with me. But I am just another woman, so I gaze at her and feel so lucky to know such a free soul. Maryam is from a Muslim country when she was just a child she had written on the wall next to her bed that “ One day I will be free.”

One day she escaped. The story is spellbinding. She wrote it with the rhythm and nerve of one of a racing Quarter Horse.

“Read more of your book to me…” I asked.

“I read all that I have written so far…” she said. Ah… too bad.

She is writing a book about her story. I want to write music to her story. On the baglama. Each time I’ve sat down with that on my mind, really great melodies came to me. I need to sit with her and talk, not with my voice but with the instrument’s voice.

All these moments, I try to keep remembering them. I hope my memory card will capture and retain those… not fail me. Everyday here has so many of these moments. I don’t know what I’ll do with them all… it’s like all those photos…

***

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Sarah… Sarah is leaving. She had a party last Saturday, I was weak, tired and could not find the courage to go. I have been in a sort of denial this last week or so about it. I knew the moment of separation was coming but I tried to harden myself, blind myself, silence myself so it would not scar me. I texted her and realized that she is leaving tomorrow she leaves in the wee morning hours. Sarah has been an island of green grasses and soft winds in the midst of this sea of otherness. A fresh breeze of understanding. Common ground. Another beautiful free spirited free spirit. She spent 2.5 years in Istanbul. A while back, one night she couldn’t sleep. She got online, bought a flight home and then was able to fall sleep. It was time. I love the way she came to this decision. So very organic. Today we met, quickly walked down to Galata tower area where she bought gifts for her sister and a soft leather reversible hand bag, dark green on one side, bright apple green on the other. We walked back up to Istiklal.

“I could eat soup…” She said.

“Yeah I could eat too.” I replied. I have to apply myself to eat these days. I just learned I am impossibly anemic, with a 5 for iron and very low B12…

We wandered our way towards Taksim, she had one idea, then another, then we ended up at Nizam anyways, her mind is jockeying two countries, two realities, past and future and right now, so who cares where we eat. I feel honored to have these last few minutes with her but somehow I end up getting into all sorts of personal things… emotions, talking about emotions… what the heck…

We walk back to her place, the studio is in shambles, deconstructed, a presence being erased here. She gives me her shampoo, face wash, paints, brushes, a level, gesso, a bucket and some natural dye. It’s not sad. I mean I will miss her so very much but I feel that it will be so right for her. We have tea. We talk, her mind wanders back to her task of wrapping all this up before the morning. I know this job of erasing a life. Done it 2 major times and some minor times. A major time being about liquidating everything because there will be no future whatsoever in a particular place. A minor one is knowing that you are coming back.

Sarah I will miss you. I did not lose it until I got to Chillout where I burst in tears for 4 seconds. I cannot cry, it’s stupid. It’s useless. It is not honoring her experience. It is a kind of selfish self absorption. Sarah is going to shine in that life of hers, and that, that is a beautiful thing.

***

What else? It’s late. I need to go sleep. Had a busy day. We had an 18 or so people dinner, friends from Neverland came down, for Ayna, her sister passed away. We have manti, 3 kinds of salads. Yuksel cooked. I go back to paint. Then a walk. Then practice. Got to learn that thing…

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a day or three

January 19, 2014

They were getting drunk all around me.

“Come on, 5 more minutes then we go to Karakedi, I wanna dance this is boring.” He said.

The planned jam session did not really turn out as the drummer didn’t show up. So much goes on. The place filled up. It’s Saturday night. There was protests, police, gas, fire crackers earlier, people running on the street down below, I could observe out of harm’s way up on the third floor balcony while I paint in the room. I was thinking how a few months ago I was amazed at the capacity the locals had to just keep on living their lives as mayhem hits the streets. Here I am. A girl is painting graffiti on the metal fence across, it’s a strange viewpoint to see her from up here. A photographer tells her something, it looks like some sort of movie or cartoon scene.

Now the protests are over and the party vibe is in the air. I’m not sure how I feel. I’m tired. But I’m always tired, so I ignore that. I get in the cafe downstairs after painting.

“Hey! Where’s the jam session?”

Actually I know how I feel. I want to go play downstairs, quietly. Go over the stuff I learned at my last baglama lesson. But I won’t get to. I got to do this.

Earlier today, she came to me, she mentioned the confusion she feels about her duties..

“they want me to have schedule… I don’t really have a schedule.”

I can relate. For her it’s about telling the truth. Not what her interlocutor wants to hear. I realized that we, Westerners, are professional bullshitters. We mostly tell people what they want to hear. I have had my honesty lessons since I’ve been here. She is getting hers now.

“When I used to talk to my manager, I used to try to think about what I thought she wanted to hear.”

She is 21 and she is learning these lessons. I am humbled by her. She sees that some see her as a privileged kid, an American. We can’t change who we are, where we came from. We can only be honest, true to our own realities, beliefs and truth. And we can only do the best we can and that is all that is needed.

Tonight the cleaning lady’s sister died. And it hit me. We were in the middle of playing and the news came on the phone. He pointed to the phone, made a gesture with his right hand across his neck. I thought he meant that we had to stop the music. No, it wasn’t the music that had to stop. It was a life. I didn’t know the sister. But I had been seeing the cleaning woman upset.

“Life is hard.” she had said.

In my world, I strive to not create a hard world. In my world I want to see all this as an option. Pick the viewpoint and that is what will materialize. But in most people’s lives, it seems the materiality of it all is just all too strong. Too real.

It’s January 19th 2014. What’s the plan man?

I am an energy junkie. An adrenaline junkie I said to Forrest a year ago. Sometimes I catch my reflexion and I cringe, who’s that old woman?

“He found a girl. She is beautiful, his energy has changed, he’s happy.” I told my friend about this other friend.

“That would be great… Love.” he responds with a look between pain and longing.

“Well, it depends…” I replied then walked up the stairs to the 6th floor thinking of all the failed love things I know. About the immense momentous joy and the bottomless pit of pain this love has inflicted to me. To believe in love. I remember such days.

Now it’s quiet. Finally. 3:33 AM. I looked at my phone at 2:22. The angels are watching over me. I’ve just been handed a green tea and a Tadelle (chocolate bar) while I am writing this. Yes, the angels are around for sure. I get a few minutes to spill out some words, speak my mind. Exist with you my friends for a few lines of text. The weather has been warm, like spring. Talks of water shortage in the summer if this goes on. I don’t want to imagine Istanbul with a water shortage. But then again people talk so much.

So, yeah, quiet. I’ve been watching moments. I’ve been leaving Facebook aside this last week. I’ve been weak to the point of scaring myself into a blood test. I am dramatically anemic. I was anemic in 2011 and now I’m even lower. OK.

“I’ve been just running from thing to thing, I cannot stop, I don’t wanna stop, I am an energy junkie and this place is my pusher.”

“Yes, I know. I’ve been watching you.” he said. I wonder how much he saw that I need to know about. I’m as hard to read as a billboard on an American freeway. I wonder if I am a kind of joke. This old woman living this strange life. Excited about learning a new instrument. Playing concerts in bars and clubs. Last night it was a private party at an actress’s house. She was every bit what you would expect an actress to be. Dramatic, over the top, gorgeous and crazy. The apartment had a glorious view of the Bosphorus, the mosques, the palace across… the moon was full. As the night progressed, very swanky guys and girls came in. I had been told I was to play my songs all night quietly in a corner. Not what happened.

“jazz! Play jazz!” She flew to us afflutter.

Hmm. Yeah OK. Girl from Ipanema.. Tall and tanned and young and lovely… We stretched that for a good 11 minutes or so. Summertime…

“Blues! Play Blues!!”

Ah, yeah… I started with one of my songs but Can corrected the trajectory with one of his songs. It is one of the more disorganized gigs I’ve done in a long time. A guy comes on the microphone and recitates something in Turkish. No one listens. We sit there. Can turns to me and says:

“It’s the same money anyways.”

“Yep.” It is indeed.

There is amazing food. Barbeque.

“Play Turkish songs!”

“…Uzun ince bir yoldayim…” Wow, who could have known a few years ago I could have done requests in Turkish.

“Play French songs!”

“Quand il me prend dans ses bras…”

The crowd gets thicker and drunker, a rapper comes and wants to do a number, he tells me:

“Run on the guitar!” Run? Hmm. Ah, uh…

“What is the tempo?”

“Around 80 bpm.”

He starts singing and its more like 200 bpm.

“Run, run!!”

“OK…” I am not quite versed in high speed rap music. But it kind of works but no one listens. He’s actually amazing. A girl takes the microphone. I don’t have a clue to what these songs are… I sit there. It’s humbling. It’s OK.

While this takes place, Kimberly has been zoomed in by a young Turk. I look at her from time to time, after a while I can see that she has had enough… She said he told her he loved her and drew a heart with two stick figures in it, a girl and a guy…

We play from 6 to almost midnight, it was supposed to be 6 to 10.

After we stop, one guy gets me a glass of raki, nice. I get drunk within 3 sips. I don’t finish it. There is birthday cake. I go over there to get some but we’re handed forks and told to just go in directly, there are no plates left. I do. It’s good. A swanky guy sitting there goes:

“You are eating a lot of cake.”

“I am. I didn’t eat all day.”

He keeps going on about it. What is it to you I think. But this is an actor’s party. Weight is everything. They invite us to go to a club. I can’t quite imagine. Me and Kimberly with these Turkish Hollywood types. They’re too keen. I know the look. I’m tired. I’m thinking that I want to see Maryam, I miss her. Have not seen her for a few days. She is working tonight at Karakedi… but this was all yesterday.

Today I sit here, well in all truth, this is tomorrow now. So yesterday someone close to us died. Time went. The sun coursed above us. Riots happened in the streets. We sang, some got very drunk, some danced. I painted a bit more of that Day of The Dead room. I’ll be done soon with this one. I’m dreaming about the other one… the Ottoman riders I want to paint.

The phone rings…

“Chillout Hostel.. Kaç kişi… yüz lira…

I should go sleep. They will wake me at 8 am to go to the wake.

I wish to stay here all night. See the sun rise. Do all that I shouldn’t do. Pull out the baglama and play until I cry my head off. Who cares? Maybe it’s just because it’s so quiet at this time. Because it’s as if the clock stopped ticking, the expectations died with all the souls who went to sleep, leaving me here free. They will be reborn tomorrow. I’ll have to make some things… fulfill some of these expectations. Or else, not have a gig, a few liras to buy me a morning simit and an espresso… oh and also some iron and B12 that I need to ingest now if I am to stop being so tired. 6 months the doctor said. I have to take supplements for 6 months. At least the iron is affordable, in Ottawa it was 35 dollars for a 6 day supply, here it’s $4.50 for 15 days.

Cold Play on the sound system. Green tea is down to a third. Chocolate bar in my stomach. I’m thinking that I might want to stay here for another year. I’m just getting started… This whole thing is deep, profound, crazy, pushing me to test the ceiling again.

2014 has started

January 7, 2014

Ahhhh….

Nice and warm, sunny.

This new year shines a beautiful light. I have been playing a lot… Last night was Karakedi, with Joris and Eren and a special guest on trumpet, Jan Dekker who is also from Holland and who is just an amazing musician.

at Atolye Kuledibi last Friday

at Atolye Kuledibi last Friday

the Chillout gang came out in force

the Chillout gang came out in force

Jan joined us on stage

Jan joined us on stage

There is a vortex of things happening, more music, more everything and daily signs that I am more and more part of the fabric of this place. There are so many tourists, people who come and go that I believe there is a bit of a mechanism where the newcomer is welcome but not part of. One of the first questions a Turk in Istanbul will ask you is: “How long are you staying?”

I have been very “un-proactive” about pushing things, about trying to make things happen. I have just let things come to me. Partly because culturally the interactions between people are quite different than they are in the West and I didn’t want to miss the realities by pushing an agenda that might not even be real or logical.

Baglama teacher

Baglama teacher

It is very much about who you know and since I knew no one I took the time to do so. I am starting to see the results of this. First good news: I finally have a baglama teacher. Yes. Last week I had my first lesson and this feels like it might just work. My friend Sam the percussionist had introduced me to the folks at Akoustik Saz Evi. I went back there when I needed strings for my saz. While there I asked if they knew anyone who had a recording studio as I needed to record a voice over, Oktay said “I have a studio..” Then I visited as I was walking around one night, I had some questions about my baglama method, Oktay said: “we have a teacher…” so I decided to plunge and booked a lesson.

Karakedi on Monday night

Karakedi on Monday night

With the gigs, same sort of process, I went to an open stage at Karakedi, they liked it, booked me. From there now, I was introduced to the guy at the club across the street and he wants to book me. Yavas, yavas (slowly, slowly) things are materializing. I was thinking this last week how I’ve always been a late bloomer. I am not one to arrive somewhere and revolutionize things. It takes time. It’s my way.

friends

friends


on a device

on a device

Maryam and Nessa

Maryam and Nessa

on a device 02

on a device 02

on a device 03

on a device 03

kimberley and joris

kimberley and joris

playing

playing

And so it goes these days. I feel at home at Chillout, I’ve found a groove.

And before I forget, Happy New Year to all of you. May you shut off your TV, stop reading and watching the news. May you see your brother’s and sister’s eyes and smile along with them. May you see this life that is right there in your hands, amazing, beautiful. May you trust that all is perfect as it happens. May you know that you are loved.

beautiful Sarah

beautiful Sarah

Joris ve ben

Joris ve ben

yours truly

yours truly