Mom…

February 28, 2014

Sun,

 

Cool air but sun.

 

It feels hopeful. Very much so.

 

My mom went under the knife yesterday… It is the wee morning hours over there now… Last night I suddenly had a fearful vision as I was falling asleep, hopefully it was just my worries and nothing serious.

I am very far away from her home in Quebec, so very far away. Yesterday I put a request for good thoughts and vibes on Facebook and the messages that came in were so beautiful, so moving. From all over the world, Greece, Turkey, USA, Canada, Holland all these good wishes, prayers and support came for my mother. I hope she sees these. All this good energy, nothing can go wrong…

 

So the sun shines now. The air is cold. It is a beautiful morning that followed a beautiful night. Yesterday I worked on that murale at Chillout. I am happy to report that it is getting done. For a while this was a wall of pain and doubt as all my attempts miserably failed with bad paint… I thought I would finish yesterday but not quite.  There are still some details to tend to, then varnish.

The turmoil at Chillout ended. Many changes are actually taking place there, like the end of an era as many will leave for Kabak, the new acquisition, a kind of retreat near the Aegean sea.  I have been living at Meron’s and going to work on this painting all week. Yesterday was so peaceful, when the work goes well, I find a real joy in just painting away and simply being. The events of the last week have taught me a lot about myself… I ask for knowledge and I get the lessons. Always. The room I am working on is booked for the next 6 days or so, so I will take this time off. I really need to rest, replenish, think and also organize some things, like the travel arrangements to Crete. Mehmet  Can asked me when I was moving back into Chillout…. I had just told my manager a few hours prior that I was likely not coming back, it felt like the end of an era… I dunno.  I need to first take the time off then see what my heart says.  

Yeah, Crete, I am going there for the first week of April for a week long bağlama workshop, then I might stay for a few more days. I saw photos of the place two days ago and I was speechless… it is incredibly beautiful. It will be like falling of the face of the earth going from Beyoğlu to this island… complete opposites…  It feels important to go there somehow… we will see. 

 

This week I’ve had no shows… and that meant that I ran out of cash. Yeah, been living from show to show… thankfully I’ve had food, friends and I trust that all will be well.  Yesterday, a friend took me for a meal in a restaurant… I had beefsteak… It was the middle of the day and I had been working for a few hours when he said:

“I’ll take you for lunch, I want to buy you lunch…”

“Why?”  I asked.

“Because you deserve it.” He replied.  Deserve.  I always thought this a funny concept.  Deserving…  It rarely has to do anything with life.  But right now it’s incredibly sweet.  

He had promised me to cook me liver because of my anemia but since he could not cook, he took me for lunch. I didn’t realize how hungry I was until I sat down and had the first bite of meat. It was so good. Life does that. It comes and gives you exactly what you need. Like a gift.  Then he got us sütlaç, a Turkish desert.  

 

Work wise I have been offered to paint a column at a bar. That would bring some money.  But I need to confirm that. If it goes ahead, that will be the money to go to Crete. The life of a bird. I trust.

 

Yesterday I had another bağlama lesson. So much finesse in the playing of this instrument. I love it.

 

Now is early, early for me that is: 10:13 AM. I had my coffee, my simit. All is well.   it is a fine day already.  

Bits.

February 21, 2014

Thoughts about wealth and poverty.

Walking from Tarlabaşi to Beyoğlu.

Hand-made rough-wood table, buildings rotting from the roofs down.

There was an incredible beauty here at one time, now the places are falling down, eaten by water, time and neglect. There is a big push by the Powers here to gentrify the area, it is so close to the tourist area, they are already catering to the well-to-do by remodeling the buildings at the edge of Beyoğlu.

An erasing of the people who have been living here,the gypsies, musicians, leftists..

The Western concepts of development running unleashed. It is ugly. I can see why so many people who care for Turkey hate the west with its ‘know it all’ ‘money is everything’ philosophies. The west is truly a conquering, imperialist force that will bulldoze everything in its path for profit. If you think I exaggerate, just look in your own neighborhoods, think of the cute little house, park, centenarian building that was erased from existence for the sake of money without regards for its cultural or community value.

And while you complain about the price of gas to run your car, here heating alone is a luxury.

***

I am staying at Meron’s home. He is as he is always… generous, whimsical and loving. The white walls in the room are soothing. The calm of the home feels like warm water running over my body. The sounds of Tarlabaşi flow around: children, cats, music, women talking, the sad song of Aygaz, and a Mozart’s piece rendered electronically rises and falls at unpredictable intervals.

Deep breath. I am amazed at the amount of pressure I have put on myself lately. It’s astounding really. I need to learn to not flog myself that hard.

***

Horse running… Fight or flight. Panic. It is dark, the grassy field hides treacherous holes that could break a foot or a bone in an instant.

The smell of sweat, nostrils open wide, the snapping sound of the hooves hitting the ground. The burn of acid as the muscles fire up. Fear. Wide open eyes showing too much white, tense neck holding the head too high. Any logic obliterated by the thick flow of the tar of fear covering all in a dirty, unstoppable spill.

***

I write. The heater is chattering loudly, shaking the heavy metal doors. Later today I’ve been invited to come and eat fish at Neverland. “Come around 6 or 7.” Outside a collection of tourists from all over the world take poses in front of an endless stream of cameras with the tower as background. Where do all the photos end up? All the devices, 35 mm cameras, digital cameras, phone cameras, ipad cameras, one group of head-scarved women right next to an obviously Western family freeze smiles, hide an embarrassing wide hip for posterity. “Click”. The waiters circulate, arms behind their backs, motorcycles parked in a neat line await their riders.

***

It’s late night, deep night on Tarlabasi boulevard, where the transsexuals, the prostitutes, the drug dealers commune. On the right, there is vomit on the pavement. A dirty cat looks up, all his sense and nerves on, ready to run. All sorts of stores, holes in the walls are open for business, food, drinks. The cheap hotels ready to swallow in the men and women and everything in-between. I had been walking with my head down and my hood on, not looking at eyes, feeling the stares. My booted steps confidently taking myself out of this tense bit of street. Down the stairwell to Ömer Hayyam, my head is filled with misunderstanding, denial and questions. As I turn to the right a man stares at me. I made eye contact. I should not make eye contact. That is when the phone buzzed in my hand deep in my pockets.

“…I feel that by calling I fixed something…”

You did.

But I also need to fix things… What is it that makes me so blind at times. What is it that just makes me a blind, deaf, lost being?

“Can you come back?”
“Yes, but you’ll have to meet me half-way, this street is not the best.”
“Yes.”

I circled back. Up the stairs, back up on Tarlabaşi, the vomit now to my left.

His eyes are looking back at me. How to tell him what I actually think without losing myself. I feel undeserving, I always feel undeserving.

***

“Jesus is my savior…”

Her lips tremble. Her eyes are red. She is so worried. I could have never guessed what she was now telling me. As much as we think we know, we usually cannot fathom what one really thinks or feels. We must listen. Gently open the door on the darkness and let the warm light embrace all.

“I had put you on a marble pedestal…”

Yes, and I personally took a sledgehammer to that pedestal last week. But now I am at peace. My bare feet rest on the brown earth.

There are so many paths…

No. Not paths. Calling it a path assumes that a line, however faint, has actually been drawn. That a line can be followed just by looking. In the water of life, no lines can be drawn. And looking with the eyes usually gets us lost. There are many ways to find one’s direction, one’s truth. What matters in the end is the intentions in your heart.

We talk.

“There is only one way…”

How can there possibly only be one path? How could one thing fit all? Muhammad, Jesus, LR Hubbard, the Great Spirit, Buddha? I read this quote a while back:

“To declare yourself “insert religion” is to make a declaration of war.

I agree. Why? Because by doing so, you have separated, individuated yourself from your brother. You have decided on a difference between you and the others. Made a right and a wrong.

But I digress… the beautiful thing here is that peace was made.

***

I thought of California. I thought of my bike. I thought of Crystal, Forrest, Steve and Sunny, Asbjorn and Lynn… I wondered what my place could be there. if there still was a place… I longed for the California sweetness as my body is sick and my mind so worn out.

“What do I really want? …

But it suddenly hit me at high velocity: “What is it that I really want?” is the wrong question to pose.

I cannot possibly know! It has to come from an higher inner source, not from me… because usually what I know is a poor twisted reflection of my limited human perceptions.

I put my fears in your hands. I give you my worries. I free myself of the weight and arrogance of knowing.

May all be new, unknown, pure, un-judged so that I can see and hear the answers flow to me.

***

Mirrors, images.

February 19, 2014

A97

What keeps you in a state of war is not truth. Fight, defense is separation from the oneness, which is where the truth lies.

“You cannot leave the front during a battle.” He said. One of his friends had read that in a book..

“I don’t want to fight.” I answered, but clearly, by being a victim means that I am in a state of separation, of conflict hence a state of war, so want it or not, I am already fighting.

So what is it that one must do? Recognize the divine in the other… yeah, I know. I see the picture very clearly, the behavior, the actions, all the things that define someone who lives in a state of fear, feeling attacked and having to wage war to survive. An enemy has to be created and fought against in order for that man to feel that he has some sort of control over his environment. And for some reason, I am the enemy to be fought. So… how do I overcome my fears and forgive, let go? Right now it is all much more than I can do, I am failing.

I have been at Chillout quite a while, I know this person. I know how he always had to criticize, vilify, ridicule someone in the environment. From his mouth I have heard negativity about every single person working in the hostel pretty much on a daily basis. I was “a friend” you see… but now for some reason or another the tide has turned. I have become his “enemy”, someone to make wrong. Why? I am not certain. A few events that took place in the last month might have triggered his fears, his judgments, but whatever the cause is, suddenly he could not look at me in the eyes, would not talk to me at all. He would deliberately be really friendly with everyone else around but me. I confronted him about it. with the help of a friend who could translate my words, I asked: “What have I done? Why don’t you talk to me anymore? What is wrong?” his answer was that nothing was wrong, that we really are like siblings, forever…

But not long after that the negativity grew and grew. Soon it was not only bad vibes I would feel, but I started to hear stories and lies about what I did or did not do. I witnessed the twisting of facts to make me look careless or worst. The straw that broke the camel’s back, was to hear that last week I barely worked, after I had spent the whole week working every possible minute despite my being so sick, weak, pushing myself as hard as I could. That week I worked in the room daily. For two days of that week I worked from the mid-afternoon to the wee hours in the morning… I worked through my sickness trying to make the deadline with the room… Then that failed because of paint issues… So it did look like I didn’t work as the painting did not advance… The grossness of the allegation was just too much for me, I lost my cool, this was absolutely unfair.

But worst than that is to live daily with someone who hates you, tries to trap you, spies on you, willfully tells lies about you and fakes his friendship and helpfulness. Life now like walking in a minefield… can’t do no right. From my standpoint, I saw the his manipulative process, people about whom he was so critical moments ago are now best of friends. He is a master at weaving this fine web of deceit and control. So finely woven. I saw friends abandon me, turn their backs on me so swiftly, it was astounding. Masterful.

I’ve been so sick and weak, so tired. The truth is that two weeks ago, I should have stopped. Stopped and taken a week off to rest and heal.

I am doing that now. Yesterday I left.

It is amazing the toll exacted by mental stress. You can push the body so very hard without any problems but the moment you add mental pressure, suddenly the whole system collapses and cannot deal with life.

I slept all afternoon, woke up in the evening, practiced and read and slept some more. My roommates are amazing, Meron gave his bed and blankets to me. I am a bit embarrassed to be creating this situation for them all. I was given tea, an extra blankets, brought dinner… then more tea. When Meron came back later that night he brought in some candles, making the room look as if in a fairy tale. I am safe. I need to get better.

This morning, Meron knocked at my door and brought espresso. They are singing, smiling, this house is a joyful one. I got a message from Chillout telling me that tonight will be a dinner to try and talk things over. I should go I guess. I can try. Try to open heart and mind. To listen and see the reflection of my own soul. To learn something.

I want to do what I promised I would do, finish the painting, honor my friends there who have been like family to me. It is important to me. At the same time, change is in the air. This time, era, is coming to a close. I hope to be able to hear the answers I asked for.

A96

Moving on

February 17, 2014

12:21
numbers facing each other, symmetry.

Well, if the internet connection comes on you’ll be the first to know… I just decided to leave Chillout. Things have become untenable. Too much politics. I’ll leave it at that. Like the inquisition… Spyings, lyings, stress, mistrust… who needs this shit?

In the midst of this, I have been so sick… relentlessly sick. First this anemia that took me to the doctor,then a cold, then something akin to pneumonia that left me like an asthmatic and now this transformed into a flu that has left my head, teeth sinuses, muscles just aching… It’s been hard to work. Last week I spent every minute I had trying to do this painting in the room and failed… then there is my shoulder that just hurts, it looks like my collarbone has moved…

Suddenly all of this makes no sense at all.
Sometimes the real art is to know when to stop.

I will look at it as a nudge from the universe. I am not angry or sad or victimized. It’s time to move on. I think I’ll take two weeks off… Heck, maybe I’ll even do the tourist attractions…

Next? Well, I have this baglama workshop in Houdetsi Greece, coming up the first week of April. I had promised a friend in the South of France to visit them… maybe I’ll do that. I don’t know. I don’t need to know.

I ‘ve been thinking about walking. Needing to walk. Go with minimal stuff and just walk. Another pilgrimage. That will likely yield the answers I need.

Amazing how things can get clear sometimes.

Love you all

Near missing

February 13, 2014

A94

Days and days, they run, they trip, spill, splatter, get up and run faster…
Days that rise out of the dawn with claws
Days that rise out of the dawn so softly
Days that skip the day altogether to blend into the night and go on endlessly
Days and hours
Days and faces,
Melting,
life a foundry where the heat keeps all shapes constantly shifting.

Was it a week ago?
Yeah,
it was

I play, I paint, drink a cafe, eat a simit.
All these beings, my friends
I love.

Last night I reunited with my bağlama
and I had missed it so.
It fed me, elixir, potion, healing drink

Missing…
Missing is interesting, these days
I don’t know I am missing something or someone until I am reunited.
So is this about missing or not?
Missing should be a longing that goes on and on, nudging over and over; sticking a foot out and making you fall.
“Hey, hey, don’t you feel sad?
Hey, hey, so and so is not close by… so and so is gone from you
Hey, hey, an emotional limb is missing…”

Have I learned to not miss?
Or
Is it that nothing is ever lost?
Can anything ever be lost?
A good question.

Parallel, horizontal, vertical. Geometric and predictable.
Torn, mixed, curved, lace like and unpredictable.
The patchwork of this whole interconnected thing that is our oneness, all of you’s and I’s oneness
This warm blanket of life.

Finished another espresso.
I study my thoughts.
How am I today?
How are you today?

It could be anything we decide, is it not?
A choice of feeling good or feeling off.

The sun shines, it’s spring like.
I have no plans beyond the next 24 hours.
All is good.

A99

Oh the magic

at around 2 AM after cleaning the kitchen and folding a mountain of bed sheets ( I decided to do this after trying and not being able to focus at all on my bağlama practice) My head was too full. I decided to go out for a walk. The day had its share of emotional punches.

I headed out for the back streets, Mehmet Can said : “ be careful.”

“Of what?” I asked because the night before I had had an encounter running into riot police unintentionally as I was coming back from the gig.

“It’s Sunday night.”

“Right, true. Yes, I will be.”

Sunday night in Beyoğlu features the unlucky bastards who could not get laid or find the love of their lives in the local bars over the week end. So this late, some of them will resort to desperate measures and harass you quite readily.

Most of all the noise is now gone, a couple of places still have live music. I walk in front of Karakedi, super quiet. I decide to head towards Galata, I veered towards my old apartment I shared with Michelangelo, there was still light in his room. I kept walking. Turned back up towards Tünel, and as I looked towards the left, I saw my dog. Yeah. My baby. He was running around with his usual two companions. I whistled. They didn’t stop. I accelerated towards Kahve Dunyasi where they were heading and I joined them.

“Hey baby.” He looked up at me and I saw recognition in his face. His eyes softened, his head tilted down just a little.

“How’s my baby? I’ve missed you it’s been a while… Life is good?” He approached and let me pet his head, ears, face. I am crouching down and he comes closer and lays at my feet as I caress him. Then, in a heartbreakingly beautiful, gentle gesture, he rested his chin on my leg, the weight of his head resting on my thigh. It made me cry. As if we melded both our wearinesses together. Here in this night, light rain falling down, the death of the week end. My head so full of all that took place during the day, during the last few days.

“Oh baby, I know I shouldn’t cry…” I told him.
“Too many emotions… but… this… how can I cry? The impossible beauty of this very moment?

Can you imagine? The old buildings, the rain, its feeling its sound, the yellow taxi parked across the way with his head lights on… it’s the middle of the night, Sunday night at 2:30 in the morning, Istanbul is as quiet as it is going to be. And here, on the marble walkway near the Şişane metro wıth the 3 street dogs, a chocolate brown one, a light blond one and my very own baby, gold colored, lying at my feet, me a black spot with a red scarf,here we are as the wind blows a bit. My life a poem.

The magic was broken when he suddenly looked for his friends, got up and started looking around. I rose from my position, followed them a bit and they followed me a bit. We separated ways. I looked at the skies and thanked the Gods then I walked back to Chillout, walked in and told Mehmet Can : Ah the Magic of Istanbul…

Last night we were treated to a premiere of Michaelangelo Severgnini and Güvenç Özgur’s documentary “The Rhythms of Gezi”

It took us back to the events at Gezi Park that took place last summer. The first date on the screen: May 28th 2013, that is the day I arrived here. As I watch the screen I can feel, recall everything that I lived then so vividly, the color of the light, the feeling in the streets… Back then I didn’t know any of the members of Sambistanbul but now I know a large number of them first hand.

I was so glad to hear the message conveyed by this film. So many times I wished to explain to my friends overseas what was going on here but I would be stopped by the already formed opinions generated by media and really, I could not find words other than “you’d have to have been here…”

I am so grateful, proud and happy for my two friends who created this. I will share it, as soon as there is some sort of link available… and I hope you watch it to get inside the minds, inside the spirit of what this was about for a large amount of people as it is such a different picture than what was painted by the media, this is what I felt, what I lived, the truth was on the streets, not in the medias.

***

Other than that, well…
to start, I have not used my computer at all much in these last two weeks, that means no blog, no email, no Facebook, so right now I have a bit of a back log of communications and “life” things to handle. I have been playing many shows and they have been really going well. Three venues now on a somewhat regular if unpredictable schedule. I am so grateful for Eren’s music. There are moments where instinct and exploration bring us to such exciting places musically, I end up with this big grin on my face or even burst out laughing on stage. There is much excitement in the air.

Last Monday at Karakedi I was asked if I would be interested in doing a performance video. Ibrahim, one of the owners of the place is a film maker. He has a song, shots and concept in mind. So, Sunday morning we are on.

a59

***

At Chillout things have been tense. I am not sure what I should do. I now am sick with a chest flu, was sick last week and that is always a sign that there is too much stress going on. Sometimes it’s just too much. Too many people, zero privacy, mind games and flaring tempers. Right now I am carrying on with what I promised to do, namely painting rooms, I started on room 12 yesterday. I need to resume my meditations… I have stopped a few weeks back… not finding the space or time to do it and without fail, if I stop those, my life turns into chaos, especially emotional chaos.

A105

***

I have had news of the Labyrinth, the music center in Greece where I was planning to go last summer for a baglama workshop but had postponed it. In April there will be another workshop. I will go. I am actually so very glad I did postpone this last year. It was wise. Right now I am taking weekly lessons and learning so much. I have been very disciplined and have practiced many hours daily. I think that since January I missed two days of practice. I am learning a technique called selpe, using the two hands on the neck, without pick, it is an ancient technique, Eddy Van Halen didn’t invent anything… I am also learning some fragments of Alevi music, I feel that my sound is getting stronger, my feel more convincing. It is interesting in the lessons how for some techniques I blaze through and then suddenly I will be a complete beginner with another technique as it is so foreign to what I know. Undoing habits is a tough thing.

***

Lately, many of my friends have written to me, telling me how much they miss me. “When are you coming back… You have roots here too… Miss you…” well my friends, I miss you all too. Forrest, Mona, Aaron, Asbjorn, Crystal, Chris, Madeleine, Hector, Erika, Steve, Sunny, Lynn, Liz, all of you I do miss. I do not know how long I will stay here. I came here to study baglama and it took that long to get things underway. Now I realize that this is correct. The time I took to get to the right teacher allowed me to feel and integrate this culture, the rhythms, the soul of this place. In turn this shows in the music I play. I never intended to perform my own music as much as I have. I actually debated before leaving if I should take my guitar with me at all… Now I am playing shows more than I have in years… it is taking a life of its own and I am following this development with curiosity. My songs are morphing into new forms and feels. My stage presence has also morphed into something new. So I am going along with these discoveries. I am starting to think that I should maybe look into studying more aspects of the music. If I can get my life together, maybe I can take some classes in rhythm, makams and such things. This makes me think that maybe I should stay longer. We will see. I want to organize a tour with Eren… in Europe… I need to find someone to book us a tour… anyone knows such a person? If so let me know.

***

OK, enough of this… I must go work then tonight there is a show. I hope I have a voice, I became sick with a cough two days ago, a flu that went directly in my lungs. It was astounding to me that I was able to sing Monday… When I am done here I’ll go buy some ginger and make my “voice potion” that I’ll drink before the show.

Love you all. Truly. The voyage continues. I am grateful.