The days started with the joy of having the SV start like a champ. New battery, fresh gas, turned the key and roar it did. I was so happy. I rode it up and down the street, all systems running fine. the next step was the plates.

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I had the “pleasure” to experience the California DMV. I had been told that I could easily get a plate and insurance here, which would have allowed me to ride around. I had ideas of going to Joshua Tree, to Felton, to the coast… it took three visits to realize that it wasn’t really a good option. Each visit had it’s “Huh?” moment and each visit left me dealing with people that couldn’t or wouldn’t explain to me what the whole process was.

First visit. Get inline, realize that I should have made an online appointment. Get to the desk, I am handed a form and told to go fill it and come back. I fill it. Line up again wondering if I should go directly to the desk or line up. A guy cuts the whole line, barges in at the counter, another does it… but good mannered Canadian that I am I line up again… I get to the counter. Here’s your number sit and we’ll call the number. I sit. For a long time. I feel my stomach tighten. For some reason I am stressed by this setting. I wonder if I am doing the right thing. My number is called after close to an hour.

“Where is the bike?”

“I’m supposed to have the bike?”

“You’ll have to come back with the bike, take an appointment and bring it for the inspection.”

“what kind of inspection? What is the process I must go through.”

“Just bring it.” I try to tell her that I have not a clue as to what we are doing and would like more information, she gives me a phone number to make an appointment and said it’s the VIN number inspection.

“All right, thanks.”

Second visit. This time I have an appointment. Steve gracefully helped me by loading the bike on a trailer and driving it to the DMV. He waits outside as I go in. I get to the counter fast with my little form filled from yesterday.

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“Here’s your number, have a seat we’ll call you.”

“All right thanks.”

I sit about 10 minutes this time. They call my number, I hand in the form. They ask me to unload the bike from the trailer and bring it to the inspection spot.

“All right, thanks.”

I go outside, tell Steve who was sitting in the truck. He comes out to unload the bike. He gets on the trailer, which is about a foot and a half from the ground. Undoes the ties. Then tells me:

“I swing the bike back and forth a bit to get it off the stand…” then, within an instant, the bike is suddenly lurching towards me on the ground, Steve desperately trying to straighten it. I am watching this thinking ‘my baby is not going to get hurt and I rush to hold it up, stop it from crashing on the trailer and possibly on the road. I get my left hand in there and I feel a crush, I push back as hard as I can… then impossibly… Steve is catapulted over the bike, which I am still holding the 500 and some pounds of, I see him pirouette in the air, I am horrified that he will smash his head on the pavement, I keep looking at his head… he hits the ground and… bounces… lightly, like a soft ball… his head safe from harm… and he springs to his feet. My attention turns back to the crushing pain I feel in my arm and the bike resting on it and on my body. A guy that witnessed the whole scene runs to us.

“You need a hand??”

Steve is now on the trailer with the guy and they pull the bike back up and roll it off the trailer, unburdening my body. The pain is incredibly intense, there is a small spot of skin that is lightly scuffed, but my hand is completely numb and I have pain from the wrist to the shoulder. But strangely I just breathe. “I need ice” I think to myself. There is a Denny’s restaurant right across the street. I head in there.

“Do you have ice? I just hurt myself.” I must be white as a sheet and I shake a bit holding my left arm with the right.

“Would you like it in a bag?” She asks.

“That would be great.” She hands me the ice.

“Do I owe you something?”

“No, that’s fine.”

“thank you so much.” and I head back to Steve and the bike.

After a while the inspector comes. She looks at all the numbers on the bike. We wonder why we had to take the bike off the trailer… but that is protocol I guess… I go back in the office, go back to the employee that had seen me. And then she nails me:

“That will be $746.”

“Uh?”

“For what? The inspection?” I realize I know NOTHING of this system and that I could be already over my head and sinking deeply in the dark waters of motor vehicle rules and bureaucracy.

“Well you have these penalties… you had the bike parked for all this time.” In California they have fees if you park a vehicle and do not renew the license. I tried to explain that this is a Canadian bike that was duly insured and plated in Canada so why should I pay California taxes? She just brushed me off.

“Your next step is to go for the CHP VIN inspection they can wave fees there…”

“I don’t have to pay this now?”

“No, when you come back with your CHP inspection you pay the fees.”

I walk back to the bike and Steve. We load it back up on the trailer and head home discussing this. I call a friend, get a few more information but all and all I feel this is not aligned. I felt the “mis-alignment” the minute I entered the DMV and this is proving to get more and more out of correct alignment. I get home and I cannot close a Ziploc bag with my left hand, it’s not good but I trust that it will be minor, I kept icing, then hot bath, then electro magnetic field machine. Then I ask Steve:

“Aren’t you hurt? Anywhere?”

“Nope. I’m good.”

I kept running the incident in my mind all night long. This was impossible… this was a massive disaster that morphed into a comedy scene in a film… and the other thing is that when it happened, we were laughing at the stupidity that can be found on some Youtube videos, guys trying to ride Harleys up a ramp in a truck only to realize there is nowhere to put their feet as they get to the top and then they crash to the ground pitifully… I mean, I saw Steve do a pirouette… over the bike, trailer, curb… landing softly, bouncing softly and going back to the bike as if nothing happened… and I… was holding 500 lbs of machine for… I don’t know how long!? a minute? I still don’t understand it..

We’ll do the CHP tomorrow and see, is the agreement. To soothe the stress of the day, we drove up 90th street in the middle of nowhere and had a most excellent meal of Mexican food.

Third appointment. Up early, my alarm does not ring and it is the sound of Steve getting the bike on the trailer again that wake me up. Urh… go go go … we head out. Meet with the CHP officer who is very courteous. I ask him about the fees.

“Oh they tell you that to get rid of you. We cannot wave any fees.

“All right, thank you so much…” we head to the DMV. I go in. No appointment. Get a number wait 45 minutes bored out of my skull. Finally it’s my turn. I explain to the desk person the situation, I was in Turkey for the last 17 months, the bike was parked.

“You have the customs forms?”

“Ugh?”

What is she talking about now??? I rode in as a tourist, you don’t get custom forms for a vehicle you own and drive when you cross a border. We discuss for a while.

“I’ll get the manager.”

The manager comes, she mumbles under her breath, does not make eye contact, looks super annoyed and I have to pull every answer out of her like trying to pull a worm out of an apple.

“I can wave these…” The total is over $500 dollars.

“We’ll have to send the documents to Sacramento and we still have to wait for the answers…” To me this sounds a bit of a nightmare. I’ve already spent 3 days and everyone’s time and efforts on this. And the feeling is not good. 500 bucks to ride two weeks is too much. I grabbed my papers and left.

The Gods spoke. I am not to ride Arkadaş this time. I have to figure out how I’ll get it to Seraphim’s where I was going to store it for at least the next 6 months. The plan was to make a beautiful ride up there hang out a few days and park it, then come back. I made a last ditch effort, to see that I really tried everything and called a number of insurance brokers in Ontario asking for a short duration policy but as usual the answer is a stiff “We can’t do that.” In an instinctive way, I think this is OK. I really wished to ride but all along something was not going to let me do this licensing process here. The bike is, like me, to remain Canadian.

***

IO, Remember IO, my Suzuki GS 750 ES that changed my life and took me all over the continent. Well, he too was parked at Steve and Sunny’s and I had to figure out what to do with it. I put an ad on Craigslist, a couple of days ago. A first buyer who wanted to turn it into an electric bike, came today to see it but suddenly he was not sure anymore when I told him about my DMV adventures and the fact that it may cost quite a few dollars to license since it is a Canadian vehicle…

“I need to think about it…” he pondered and he left.

A second guy had been emailing me for the last few days telling me he really wanted the bike… we finally managed to talk tonight.

“I really want it! I’ll give you a deposit on Paypal… I have one of these bikes that I’ve renovated and won awards …” I tell him about the Canadian papers, the DMV…

“I don’t care about that stuff. Not a problem for me. I work in a motorcycle salvage place, I fix these things… I want to take this bike and rebuild it. I have an engine with 15 000 miles on it waiting.”

That made me smile… this bike will not die yet… so cool. So I said OK. I’ll take the ad off of Craigslist. He will pick it up sometime next week. IO will get a rebirth.

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***

What else? Well, every object that was packed in those boxes is slowly finding a new home. Be it the trash or a new owner. I came to get this big job done and it’s getting done. Tomorrow and over the week end, I’ll have a bit of a break and I’ll go see friends. I saw Forrest yesterday and it was an intense meeting. They are all intense meetings. Friends… I am blessed.

I find myself looking at this continent with new eyes. There is a naivete in the way people live do politics on this continent… In Canada on the heels of the shooting on parliament hill, there is a big debate about what is terrorism. Many people are not seeing that they are taking the exact same stance that Bush’s America, America took… and the consequences of that stance still ring an ugly sound. Reading comments online and seeing many defining terrorism as “what terrorizes people”. If this is the case we can say that: any driver scaring someone by going too fast, any person getting angry, the tax department, school teachers are all in fact terrorists, since they terrorize someone…

A man with a gun is not a terrorist. He’s a criminal, but not a terrorist. Using the word terrorist allows our politicians to bring us to war where we have no business being. It also allows our politicians to diminish our rights and liberties. To abuse of their power over the citizens of this country. But we’ve be so conditioned by the fear mongering media that the majority is willing to lose their rights for the illusion of safety. Ah there is so much I could say…. I shake my head. Canada is sliding down a dangerous slope and its baby faced, comfortable, gullible citizenry has not the faintest idea about what it means to try to live under an abusive government, their rights abused and stomped. The majority still blindly believe that the powers in place are there to help them. I’ve been witnessing abusive government in Turkey for 1 and a half year. It’s not good. It destroys lives and dreams and just simple joy. And contrary to what I hear too often, it doesn’t just happen “over there” and is not only committed by “these people” it is being done by this very proper looking, all fatherly, prime minister. This is for real…

***

On the other side of this, there are friends. What I am experiencing here is the incredible goodness, generosity, endless heart of my friends over here. I am overwhelmed and I am not sure how I can really express my gratitude for all their support. I came here with nothing but this mission to accomplish, with no financial means at all, and very little else than my intention to solve all this the best I can. Thank you to all of you.. you know who you are… thank you so much.

I will be visiting some friends over in the Valley in the next few days, thanks to Sunny’s little blue Yamaha I will be able to move around nimbly and cheaply. I am looking forward to that

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Stage one, done.

October 26, 2014

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There was a knock on the door….

“It’s a little past 7…”

Ugh… get up, get up… I’m so warm and cozy, it’s not tempting at all but duty calls. I’ve been working all week to get to this point: The Garage Sale. I spent the week sorting out boxes upon boxes of stuff from what now seems like too many past lives… Stuff from childhood, teens, Quebec, early Vancouver, the band days with the guys, a wedding-a separation, bicycle racing days, the sculpture studio with Alberto, I digitized hundreds, if not more photos, documents, CDs, then each item took either of three directions: in the recycling bin, the garbage bin or ready for the Garage Sale.

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One day I started to just cry a river… In my hands were the letters from my first love, which he painstakingly wrote to me with a fountain pen with all his love. I tried to follow the protocol I’d been applying, I pulled one letter out of one envelope laid it on the scanner bed and … stopped. Then I read some of it… then put it on the scanner bed and … stopped, then scanned one page. The next move was to throw it in the recycling bin. I extended my arm but could not let the fingers open and let the paper fall. I broke down like a child.

“I can’t, I can’t, I can’t …” He was my first love, Alain, a gentle name, a gentle man he was, a man who loved me so much and that I loved so much. We were too young and stupid to figure it all out, then he went and died of an asthma attack, his head fell on the steering wheel of his red work van, the horn blaring until someone showed up, too late. Alone. He died alone on a winter day in a work van. He had taken too much of the inhaler… Life can take brutally. To throw those letters away just could not be done. I held them. Gently put them in a safe place… I guess I’ll have to carry these.

Then I looked around, at all this stuff, all this living, all these links to people, events, times, emotions and it just felt all so senseless, all the living we do… all the things we hang on to. The inevitability of this decay, loss, impermanence. I cried a bit more.

“Ah fuck…” The weight of it all… but there is a deadline, there’s the game of “reality” we play. There are self imposed rules for getting things done in order to honor the friends who so generously, so often helped me so impossibly much without ever demanding a shred of anything. So I persevered.

I had gotten to bed late the night before. I had gotten into an email exchange with this Michael guy, he wanted to buy some things, he had seen my ads on Craigslist. He offered to come up Friday night or Saturday morning, but I thought it might be better if I did this now, Saturday morning would be too hectic to try to deal with him and set up the sale. It was getting late… I painted “G-Sale” signs on 6 pieces of cardboard cut out from the boxes that had carried all these belongings from Vancouver to what I thought was going to be my new home; Southern California. Blue, red, green, black.. nice to put a brush in the paint… When that was done I freaked myself out finding three more computer hard drives to inspect, explore, back up, blah, blah, blah… I kind of hate digital media… this maze of endless files that are never quite up to date. I can’t afford the online automatic back up systems so it’s all up in the air, and now the fatigue making me do everything twice it’s turning into an exercise in frustration.

Thunderbird made it’s little music telling me an email had come in, Michael messaged that he was 5 minutes away. Phew. I brought everything he had listed in the driveway and waited in the desert night.

I keep being told to beware of Craigslist, but again I must say I keep meeting the most interesting people. I believe there is a natural affinity. You sell something someone else loves or wants. You meet them, there is a connection. From the voice on the phone I thought Michael was an old man, but no, he was a vibrant guy, he was thoughtful, looked at everything and was fair. He had listed a number of things from the ad which we had gone through when he asked about another piece that was left in the garage, I said:

“Just come with me.” We walked in the garage, turns out he is a musician, he worked as A&R for a big record company, plays music, helps musicians, he is now setting up this business of buying and selling, we chat, the talk veers towards the sculptures, his dad was an art teacher so he is genuinely interested. He wants to see the stones but they’re crated, so I show him the photos and he likes them. Then he asks: “What is your favorite song you’ve written?

“Uh…” well it depends on the day… you want to hear something?”

“Yeah”

so I look into the last album tracks and play “Sweet night for a ride”. We are in this garage around one AM in the high desert, it’s so quiet, he commented on that. Get out of the big cities and suddenly calm is a most rare commodity that awes the mind. I am bone tired with this week of labor and concern. The music starts, I’m standing up, holding both my elbows. The song starts, oh… it takes me away. Earlier that day I had listened to music I had written, “the war suite” I had gotten a grant from Canada Council for the Arts and had created this epic… Which never got produced in any form as I didn’t manage to get financial support to record it, but what I had written, put down with just vocals, guitar and a few keyboard bits had blown my mind. I did this? Now I was listening again, to something else I did and once more I was kind of blown away. These things, all these things I made with all my heart and put so much love, passion in them. One of them now is resonating for two sets of ears in a big shop somewhere in the California high desert in the middle of the night when everyone is tucked in bed.

“Wow… this kind of singing… it can’t be taught.”

“Thank you.”

We talked some more, it was quite an amazing moment. Since I’ve been on North American soil, I get glimpses of how I have grown over the last 17 months. Life has a different meaning. People mean everything. And I’ve abandoned pretense, or stupid hopefulness and mostly this sick obsession thinking we have to try to please everyone. I believe I am just digging into the moments more than I ever have. So when I meet beings, I really get experiences, everyone is a gift.

We loaded the stuff in his truck and I finally went to sleep but feeling completely elevated. I realized how few people I’m seeing for the last 10 days, in Istanbul I kept meeting new faces everyday. I realize how special it is to meet people truly.

So back to this morning… I immediately hopped in the blue Hector mobile, (Hector lent me his blue Toyota) went to the north end of the block, then the south then the middle to put my G-Sale signs up. I wasn’t back to the house that there were already early birds…

“How much is this?”

“I’m not ready yet, sale starts at 10 AM. I’m not talking about anything until I’m set up. You can come back later.” Another thing I learned in Istanbul: How to say no with full conviction and inner peace.

“I come from a loooong ways away, I traveled far…”

“I’m not ready.” there were only a couple of boxes out, he was eyeing the set of stage monitors. Then another guy showed up.

“How much is…”

“I’m not ready, I’m not talking about anything until 10 am. Sale starts at ten.” in the mean time Steve had written on a 3 x 3 feet square box : SALE STARTS 10 AM. But no one is looking, the hunger for a deal is too strong. Stuff, stuff, stuff… here I am unloading just about everything that is left of my stuff, down to my childhood teddy bear, stripping everything while the hungry shoppers line up to obtain more. Perfection I guess…

I finally get ready. The guy is trying to low ball but I hang on. This is probably the most valuable piece in the sale and I’m not letting it go at 70% off.

“You know, if you go to 11th street, there’s DJ stuff aaaaaall the way down the street, you can get these for $100 a pair. You’ll never be able to sell this.”

“hmm hmm”

“No one is going to buy this you know… it’s the wrong time of the year to sell this, there are sales everywhere… I’ll give you $75 each!…”

“Nope. There is someone out there who can really use this and can see the value in them.”

it goes on like this and I just don’t budge so he finally decides to leave empty handed.

“I’ll give you my number, if you don’t sell them call me. I’ll give you $100 a piece…”

The traffic to the sale is sparse, but made of interesting characters.

I hear a familiar sound. Turn to look, a motorcycle… Asbjorn. He said he would visit, and there he was. My soul big brother is here. He pulls in the driveway on his red machine. I look at him. I’ve missed him but at the same time I feel just this big peace, I smile, I’m happy just to see him there. What a gift. We hug. Sunny Steve and Asbjorn end up going inside the house, I have to stay out but I feel very content. Perfection again.

“Are you selling all this because you got divorced or someone died? Usually that is the case when someone sells music equipment like this.”

this was Sam. Songwriter. He only bought one tiny item. But he chatted with me. Nice human being, obviously Christian, he played me a couple of songs he wrote and it all sounds very good.

“Turkey? Why Turkey?” I explain.

“I always wanted to go on top of Mount Ararat… where Noah’s ark was… To go up and see the world from there, get inspired and write a song.” I can see the dream in his eyes. He means this.

“…You know it’s about not pulling the trigger. I always wanted to write a song about ‘not pulling the trigger’…” he went on to explain that we all come from Noah after all and we are all brothers and sisters and we should not pull the trigger. If we all refused to pull the trigger, there would be peace, no more big wars business… “you know even when people die at war, they make money with the body bags…”

“We have the power you know, but people don’t believe in that… the bankers had this great idea with the Federal Reserve… make this money, use this paper that was just copies, then make the interest on nothing, on an idea…” We talked for a good while. Then Amanda arrived.

“Where are the horses?” she asked.

“The sculptures?”

“Yes, I came for them… I came just for them.”

“Ah uh… they are… well hang in there I will go get them.” I never expected that. I had put the pictures of the sculptures in the ad but ‘knew’ no one would ask… but I was wrong. I pulled this gigantic box out of the garage… I had not even opened it since I had packed all this in 2010… they could be all smashed up for all I knew. I started to pull them out…

“Ooohhh!!” she said when she saw “Emerging” she was genuinely moved.

“I am buying one. I am collecting art… I am new but I am collecting art and I am buying one.” We talk a bit, she is from New York, went to University at Mc Gill University in Montreal, she spoke some French. More affinity.

“Well… I gotta go, I’m with my mom, but I’ll come back… I will buy one!”

“All right, see you later.”

She did come back later, she bought “Dash” one of my top two favorites… I thought I’d never let that one go away… I did. She is a soul on her journey of discovery and aware of it. I sense that will, that energy in her, the sculpture is an affirmation, tears come to her eyes. Oh the beauty of the human experience.

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The sale traffic slows down. When I went to pick up the signs they were all down on the ground. I guess the wind took them and the traffic stopped. We all sit and hang in the driveway, it’s a funny kind of setup with stuff everywhere around us, the wind blowing as we sit under this portable awning. We laugh a lot. Talk about all sorts of things.

My friends how I love you.

Finally the magic ends, time to move. Asbjorn rides away. We pack everything, most of it will go to goodwill. I still have a few valuable things that I can sell, the volume of what I have to dispose is now at least half of what it was and that feels really good. Huge relief, last Monday I just didn’t know how it was going to be done. Michael offered to store my sculptures if I cannot find a place or a buyer by mid November, the items I sold went to good homes, that makes me smile thinking of it. The material traces of my past reduced to next to nothing.

This last week with this forced Look at all the music, all the art work, all the living I had, I realized that the mission is to keep creating. Move on ahead. Baris is waiting for me in Istanbul to make music. I will take my red Gibson with me to Istanbul to honor the music with a full on instrument. At this very moment my body is exhausted but my heart brims with a sort of challenge and desire to move into the future with as much enthusiasm as I’ve done in the past. If anything this week of unwilling digging into the past made me realize that all I dared doing, all that I did passionately all of that it is after all not for naught.

Shots on parliament hill

October 23, 2014

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I watched the video. I know the color of the light, the scent of the air, the way people move, I recognize how the officer said: “please back off.” They showed live images of the parliament, the surrounding streets. I know this place inside out, I lived right there for a year. Right in my neighborhood.

Shots fired. All cameras on. Everywhere, everyone knows. Gun shots on parliament hill. The very core of Canadian values and way of life disintegrating right there on live TV. The ensuing flood of Facebook comments going from racist to incredibly naive, to vengeful, to grief sticken…

I wonder, I wonder…

I couldn’t help thinking that this fits perfectly into a scheme to give people a good scare then give them a good reason to support a militaristic government in the next election. I could not help but wonder if this was all engineered. No, I really don’t trust any story or what anyone is saying in the media, everything is bought and manipulated. And I could not help thinking how this also fits so perfectly in the current fear mongering campaign going on all over the planet to make us all hate each other. We are diving ourselves from each other more and more, we justify our intolerance with our fears and this sort of event just feeds the fire. Wars and participation in wars are much easier to accept and go along with when one feels slighted or when revenge must be exacted.

I hope… That this will not justify another slash at our human rights and liberties like what took place after 9/11 (which was indeed engineered by the USA not “terrorists”). After seeing first hand what kind of brutality police can inflict onto the people they are supposed to protect (In Turkey) I really hope that we will not imbue the said police with too much power because we are scared. We must still trust in the goodness of man. I do believe the vast majority of us have good hearts. And I hope we can all see beyond the “bogey man of the day”.

I guess we can say now to Canada and Canadians: “Welcome to the world.” Yes, as we now play the international political field game, it comes with the territory that sometimes the match does take place on home turf. This government has hands in more fires than we like to know.

For this nation, suddenly it’s time to grow up and hopefully as a nation we’ll do it with grace. With strength and confidence. Hopefully we’ll not just listen to the barking of the nervous dogs but also to the calming, inspiring voice of reason.

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Oh there is much more on my mind but I will not say more. I will just watch the stories unfold and see what will happen.

All my love.

We landed.

October 20, 2014

Sunday October 19th

Lancaster. Highway 14 North, I am driving an aged Toyota, she’s willing but doesn’t like bumps (no shocks) up and up the mountains we went. The views are gorgeous, the mountains in the distance looking like a photoshopped image with a a soft blur added. I have not driven a car for … almost a year and a half, not that I was driving 4 wheeled vehicles much before that, I was always on a motorcycle. The last time I drove one I was going to the same destination I am heading for today. Lancaster. To Steve and Sunny’s place.

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I left Istanbul Wednesday morning… Arrived in Los Angeles on what I thought was going to be Thursday evening. As we were about to land, I looked outside, the unmistakable landscape of city lights laid out in a grid in the flat desert against the blackness of the Mountains. I felt a whiff of apprehension. Out of the plane, into the airport gangway it was the smell of deep fried chicken that greeted us and somehow that smell sent a chill through me along with a involuntary: “what am I doing here”. I know what I am doing here, it’s clear and it has to be done. But being here brings a clear realization that I am not done with Istanbul, with Turkey. This fact is immensely clear at that very moment.

Contrary to some past experience, the passport check is painless, no questions, and interrogations and fingerprints and all that stuff. They now have automated machines for the declaration form… and the machine stares back at you and takes your picture; biometrics I gather, along with an eye scan. It’s a bit chilly, “welcome to Big Brother” it seems to say. The man at the passport counter asked me only one question:

“What is the purpose of your trip”, to which I answered with

“Visiting my friends.” to which he replied

“Oh, you have friends?” I laughed and was on my way.

Once outside I waited and waited for my ride, yes a ride, Mona was going to come and pick me up on the motorcycle but the hours went by and she didn’t show up. I started to worry that the worst could have happened to her, motorcycles are motorcycles and there is a risk… I didn’t have a phone, or phone numbers for anyone, my phone with the numbers had been stolen Istanbul a year ago. I asked at the information desk about WIFI, so I could message people and imagine that, there is no reliable WIFI at LAX. One of the most traveled airports in the world has no WIFI. But it being America and the nice people from here, she offered me to use her laptop to contact people. I send a few messages then the lady gave me her phone number so Mona could call me if I reached her. I thanked her warmly. Next, I had to wait. So I sat down on the chairs in the waiting area. They purposefully put arm rests between the seats so you can’t lie down. I put my arms in and around my bags and closed my eyes. I sleep a little.

A while later the lady called me to say that they will leave in a few minutes. She lends me her laptop again and I send more messages. This is all at Terminal B which is under renovations, I ask her if there are any Starbucks at the airport as they always have WIFI. In the ext terminal she informs me, number 4. So I go there. Get online… then it comes, Acalya, then Forrest, then Hector, then Mona

“You were supposed to arrive tomorrow?”

“well it is tomorrow… I left yesterday…” I check the calendar and go slightly screwy when I see the date. It’s still the 15th… but I’ve been up for 26 hours at this point… it should be tomorrow… then I realize that the flight made me gain a day… Oh… wow. So sorry guys, this is all my mistake…

We make arrangements, Hector is coming. I am so fried. Crispy fried. I feel the ground wavering under my feet and the inside of my head is crackling with static. I wait. As I look around I feel I am in such a strange place. People look strange. Cars look strange. The moon is in the wrong place. I keep wanting to answer in Turkish, but no one looks right, they all have white, soft faces. Their bodies speak a different language too…

Hector arrives as I was attempting to get back online, the Starbucks WIFI bucking off my attempts to ride it. He’s there, we head for the parking lot, both making apologies, no it’s my fault and that sort of conversation goes on and I try to smile and I cry instead.

“I don’t want to be here!!!” I cry.

I am completely undone. Exhausted. I tell myself to shut up. That is the lack of sleep talking. The nerves and the reactive mind. We get to the car. A guy is backing up an SUV so slowly, it seems the strangest thing to me… you’d never see such a thing in Istanbul…

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I get in the car, we get on the freeway. Am I dreaming? The scent of LA. The lights of LA. We talk about Istanbul. We get to destination, in North Hollywood. The street names are familiar but I have no idea where the cardinal points are located. I walk in a house, Mona is there, we talk… until we fall apart with fatigue…

I wake up to the sound of a lawn mower. Then, an airplane. The house is cold. Desert nights are cold. But outside it is balmy, sunny. And so, so, so, quiet. There is this typical hush of cars on the freeways in the distance but there are no voices… nobody on the sidewalks. Few cars down the street. Birds are chirping. I take a short walk and find a fruit store and a bakery, the fruit store is obviously owned by a middle eastern person, this feels right, even the way the merchandise is laid out. There’s even tahin, dates, this is good. Next door is a Chinese bakery. He tries to sell me Chinese cookies, “with half butter half margarine” he says…. ugh…

Next day we head east. Mona teaches until 11:30 in Monrovia, a few miles from San Dimas, so we organize a meeting with Crystal and Heather. There, nothing has changed. Same smell in the air. It seems I could resume the life I had here before leaving, it is like a dream. Same everything and my bike will appear any moment now in the parking lot and I’ll drive back down the short hill to Asbjorn’s place…

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I meet a lot of people there, Klatch customers I made friends with back then. Again, it’s as if I have never left. But I did leave and my mind, ideas have changed. And the good thing is that I am starting to see the shape of the outline of what I must do. Things are clarifying. So it’s good to be here. But I know I’m not done in Istanbul. There are things to do there and people and music to make.

So now I sit in this Starbucks.. I had sat at this very table two years ago or was it 3? … writing my blog, about desert flowers, about a Suzuki 750 GS that I adored. About the future, oh, how we don’t know anything, and it’s just fine that way.

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16 hours to the New World

October 14, 2014

In 16 hours I will leave for Los Angeles,
I have packed the smallest bag ever, one change of clothes, underwear, toothbrush and laptop. I realized that I will sit the 11.5 hour flight in a middle seat… maybe I can make myself sleep most of the way… The last two days have been so uneventful, I found myself bored, floating, waiting.

I had a last concert on Saturday at Atölye. Mesut made an announcement about my leaving before we started to play, it was quite moving. I am very much loved and it is something that means so much to me. Love is really all we have, all that has any value. We played 3 sets, until 3 in the morning that is until they stopped us because of late night noise restrictions with the neighbors. We played to a few different sets of customers who would flow in and out from hour to hour. I cannot say enough how much I enjoy playing with Barış and his cello. The more we play, the deeper we dig into the music. He has a way to really make my songs come to life. I was also very lucky, my new friend Uğr filmed most of the performance, so I have footage, for which, again I am so thankful for. I learned lately that the really cool footage that had been taken of Eren and I has been lost. So for Eren and I, it is but a memory, but for this I’ll have video.

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Before the show started as we were eating, the good people at Atölye always feed us when we get there, I was telling Barış about my trip. I had been wondering if I would play with him again. In true Istanbul fashion things can change so very fast and as wonderful as the music we make is, it could just be a memory too, my temporary leaving as an ending. But as we chatted he said to me:

“I will wait for you.” That too moved me deeply. While I am away we will put a set list together and he will looking into arranging this music for concert performances and to organize such concerts. Something to really look forward too upon my return.

At the end of the show, we packed our stuff and again headed out to hang out at Ekrem’s workshop. I got to play this incredible handmade classical guitar again, then, bone tired, I returned to Chillout and went to sleep.

Sunday night we had decided Barış and I to play at Chillout, a sort of rehearsal, no pressure thing. The audience was sparse but very appreciative. All friends.

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Then Monday, then Tuesday… I am pretty much watching the sand glide through the hourglass until departure.

Los Angeles… I bought all these tickets, now I am almost penniless. But I do trust in the process. The business at hand is to relieve Steve and Sunny of all my belongings sitting in their garage. They have been so incredibly generous with me, they will sell the house in a near future and I must take care of all this, unburden them. The big question on my mind is how am I going to dispose of all this stuff? What should I do with the motorcycle, do I keep it, do I sell it? My heart wants to keep it but again, it becomes a responsibility for someone else while I am away. The sculptures… tools, childhood souvenirs? Music equipment. I was keeping some of this with the idea that one day I would resume life in these parts and that stuff would be the basis of my home. But my relationship to things has changed so much. I need so little now. Keeping this makes no sense. I trust that the answers will present themselves.

I wonder how North America will feel now after being here that long? My stay here so far has taught me so much, has given me so much. How will the old stomping grounds will look to my eyes now? One thing sure, is that I cannot wait to see my friends. Those will be incredible moments.

For the rest, Inşallah.

I was sitting outside Chillout, playing guitar. They started to walk down Balyoz Sokak, many people, of all types. Unusual. I wondered for a second, then I saw the spray.

“Hey it’s good ol’ TOMA.” I said to Ufuk as if I had seen an old friend… he looked up saw the spray and the white vehicl, yeah.. the police is at it again. A TOMA being one of these water cannon vehicles. I remained seated but kept watching the progress. If they are just passing by it’s one thing. But if there is gas it’s another. We keep an eye down the street to see what will follow or not. A group of people, well dressed, mostly tourists, turned the corner and started to almost run, hmm… not good. Then we saw it and breathed it, it was there: Gas.

“Gas!! Get inside!” As I gather my things among the group coming down, I see this woman, all dressed in black, visibly very upset, her face contorted in stress and fear. I start to cough, with the gas, for me it’s almost immediate I have no tolerance. Hostel customers and passerbys rush inside. I put down my guitar, then I hear;

“NO, NO, NO!!! How can they do that!!! WHY!!! WHY!!!

It’s the woman in black. Her mascara all run down her face looking like a sad clown , she is frantically rubbing her eyes.

“MY EYES!!!! I CAN’T SEE!!!”

I know exactly what she is going through. She is standing up gesticulating in a panic, rubbing her eyes, getting up sitting down a cluster of people handing he wet toilet paper, a cup of water, as if following the lopsided flight of a wounded butterfly. First thing, I think, is that she needs to calm down.

“What’s your name?” I ask

“Marta!!”

“All right Marta, you have to sit down…” She sits for a second then gets up frantic.

“NO! NO! NO NO!!”

“I know how this feels, you have to stop rubbing your eyes, it will make it worse.” I tell her. She sits down, she is in shock. Asking over and over “WHY??” I put an hand on her back, and gently rub her back, “breathe” I say. “all right, that’s good… don’t rub… close your eyes… try to relax…” on the speakers plays Yanıyorum with Kardeş Turkuler and Neşet Ertaş. I tell her it’s one of my favorite songs and I sing softly. She begins to breathe a bit. She says it’s the worst thing that ever happened in her life. I respond that in a way it’s good, as it’s now behind her. Rebeca says:

“Welcome to reality.” We all laugh as it is so true… I say:

“There is no logic to these actions, there is this ugliness but there is also a beautiful humanity, all these people here willing and trying to help you now. You have friends here…” she looks up at me, a flicker of thankfulness in her eyes.

Her clothes are wet. She was right in the line of fire got soaked by the water cannon and the water of course is laced with pepper gas… Just standing next to her, I can feel the gas’ fumes, it makes me cough, my lips burn. Nasty shit. Slowly she calms down. She asked to take a shower. Giulia took her up. She came back a few moments later in a doubled up panic, in her underwear, her legs are bright red, from the pepper gas. Likely, the soap, hot water made it worse. Yeliz starts to rub milk on her legs. Yeliz went through Gezi she knows what to do to help, but Marta is in a massive panic, She yells:

“NO, NO, NO, NO!!!” Her arms flailing wildly, as if trying to stop a collision with an incoming express train. She starts to take more clothes off, many male guests around ogling the free show as we’re in the middle of the cafe, I say:

“Lets get her in a room…” we go to number 3. She goes from panic to calm to panic again, she shakes, whimpers, almost cries, almost laughs. I know from experience that the gas will cause the body to release massive amount of adrenaline. Combine that to the psychological shock of not being able to deal with the events, the mind refusing to accept what happened then multiply with the person’s tolerance to pain and hardship, it can get pretty dramatic.

“IT BURNS!!! IT BURNS!!!”

“I know… I know” I say. “time will make it better… it takes time.” But she fights.

With Marta was another woman, her friend Sandra. Sandra had been gassed too, but Sandra suffers in silence. I went to see if she needed anything, her legs were soaked too, so I got her a towel and wrapped her legs with it. I talked to her. Later, Sandra said she wanted to go to her hotel. She wanted a taxi. I’ll get you one I said. I went down to Pera Taxi and rode back up with the driver. In the mean time, someone had called an ambulance and Marta was in there. They couldn’t do much more other than wait. The recommendation was cold water and ice over the affected skin. They got in the cab, Marta in her underwear and wrapped in a Chillout blanket, Sandra stoically taking it all in. They left.

Western lives. Most of us live undisturbed routines, the most upsetting thing being someone cutting you off on the highway or some clerk being rude. We feel entitled, we feel we have all these rights, all this clout. We think we’re safe. We get incredibly upset when we don’t get what we want. We feel protected by insurance policies, lawyers and government rules.

Here, it is not so, you can be walking on the street minding your own business and be caught in the middle of something that looks more like warfare with police squads looking like an army regiment, you can be shot at with plastic bullets, tear gas canisters, water cannons, paint bullets, without any cause or reason. A coal mine can engulf 700 workers because of gross neglect of safety rules and the powers that are will tell you it was the will of Allah, too bad you were in harm’s way.

Seeing her experience the police brutality reminded me of my own experiences since I live here. How shocked I was a year and a half ago while Gezi Park took place and how I now just look at the events and stay grounded, able, undisturbed. Now I am actually able to help.

Istanbul is a gigantic school of life. Spend some time here, a few years and I believe you can deal with anything, anyone, emotions, events life throws at you… your senses sharpen, your awareness, your people instinct, your appreciation for the good moments and your ability to absorb the hard ones. It’s a kind of removing of the marshmallow coating we have in the West.

They left, we cleaned up. Sat down and chatted, it’s all in an Istanbul day or night.

It’s almost too good to be true. But it is… unless I’m dreaming. How weird it would be to wake up suddenly and be in a Canadian life, home, bed and sheets… all of this a dream… But no,I’m really here in İstanbul. The music just kept rolling, swinging, swelling, shivering, hollering. I am sandwiched between to master musicians. A cellist and a percusionist playing darbuka.

We played two great sets at Atöye Kuledibi last night. It was like the slow heavy unstopppable lift of a zeppelin, a gentle victory over gravity. All faces turned towards the three of us. I had come to the gig with a discombobulated state of mind, frail and frazzled and I kept telling myself that I could not fuck anything up, because these guys were here with me. The minute my voice rose, all the static electricity of my physical and emotional state vanished to make way for a bigger sort of thing. An “electronicity” a sort of large flow that engulfed us all.

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the place was filled to the rafters, all seats taken, it’s a first, never seen it like this before. In the music industry they have a term: “a buzz” they like an artist that can create “a buzz”. Since I play with Barış, there is that thing, that “buzz” growing. And last night with Volga the buzz got to grow even bigger. People show up. Want to come, come back. I am showered with compliments, a Canadian audience member called me the “new Joni Mitchell” Volga called me the song god. Barış said there was no difference between me an Aşik Veysel (two very large compliments) Mario said I play the best music he’s heard in his life.. and it goes on and it’s strange and I don’t believe it because when you start believing in this shit, you start losing your way. I’m nobody. I just channeled the right inspiration to pick the right song at the right moment and played it. Songs have their time to shine. You pick the right one and you are a magician. Everyone loves you. You pick the wrong one and everyone is face down in their smart phones pondering the next move.

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Tonight I walk in the dark night. Istanbul is busting at the seams with visitors. It’s Bayram. The equivalent of Christmas for a westerner. Every boy that could get in a car and run away from the villages is here. You can tell by their get ups. The acid washed jeans, usually new, the short bomber jacket a half sheared half longish hair cut and hunger in the eyes. They are lean, short, they hang in groups, sitting or walking around. Then there are the tourists, many very drunk, the families from all over the world, so many arabs, there is so much perfume in the air, it’s sickening. They all came to the big city for the weekend.

I slalom amongst them and escape to my quiet spot. It overlooks the Haliç. Below, on Tarlabası boulevard, the cars race up and down incessantly. I sit down. There is no one around. This is likely the only place where there is no one around. Especially this weekend. Here I have the chance to breathe, cry if I need to, or just sit and let all the feelings, thoughts and emotions, fears, hopes and wishes wash off of me, or at least just be still for a moment, just there with no one in front of whom to pretend all is well.

So I sit.

The headlights from the car make fake fireflies running diagonally off of the metal fence, play of light. In the distance there are so many mosques. Silent now. So many lives around here. So many stories. I am unimportant. It’s good to remember that. Puts things in perspective. I am but a cell in the organism.

I got up.

Walked down the street next to this park. A few months ago that street, these walls had witnessed some blissful bits of my life. As I now walk on the same street I can imagine those times, moments, as holograms, like translucent movies; me walking in the sun in this very spot, laughing, yes I was laughing blessed with an immense happiness, fulfillment in the midst of serious people rushing to work on a weekday morning, I remember the smell on my hands, the lightness of my steps and how aware I was that I must absolutely live, feel, enjoy every micro second of that moment as it was so special, so amazing. Right now it’s a dark night, there is no one around but a scrawny white an black kitten skittering away in fear and me and these holographic memories to shine on this silent lonesome night.

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Volga last night talked about the power of the unseen. How he gets anything he asks for… he told the hilarious story of asking for a specific girl, he said: I had been having girlfriends but they always lived far from my home, I always had to travel a long ways.. and they always were in to humanities, I am a math guy… so I asked for a girl who would look like a model, named Olga because my name is Volga and that would be funny, she would be into math and live close to where I live… so a bit later, he was sitting in a bar when a woman came and asked if she could put her purse on his chair. She was tall and gorgeous, model like, “everyone was looking at her” her name was Olga, and she was a math teacher living in the city his parents lived, two blocks away from their house… we laughed and laughed.

Yeah. It made me thing of wanting. That concept. What I want, it seems often that it is not organic. It is a sort of desperate reach. I have been practicing enjoying and be grateful for what appears in my life and not want or ask for anything. Much magic has taken place this way. But I thought that maybe, just maybe… there are things I am entitled to want?

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Los Angeles. 10 days before I find myself in LA. It feels unreal. wild. I have no idea how I will achieve any of what I will need to achieve when I get there. By the way, I’ll need to find homes for a bunch of my stone sculptures… you want one? I will gladly let it go to your home.. or maybe I should go to the closest marina and give them away as free anchors. Or drop them in the desert and make a shrine to the wind so he can in time reduce them all to dust.

The bike… my Arkadaş I hope I can ride. I started to research who would sell me insurance for 5 weeks? Ontario has this weird thing… you can only ride about 4 months out of the year but they sell you this policy for the 12 months, ride or not… it’s expensive… I’ll have to make calls this week. See what is what. I hope I can ride. I think I need to ride.

My friends… will they still be there? or have I been gone too long? people start to resent you when you leave them the grief changes to indifference. To blot the hurt of your leaving they start to actively forget you. Push you away. I leave and leave and leave… so I end up forgotten. I know this now. I understand it.

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