A36

It was a black cat, in the spring night. All pitch black with yellow eyes and a tiny white spot on his chest cutting through that blackness. He sat on the freshly rained on green grass, an Egyptian drawing brought to life. Me and a friend stood on the paved path a little bit away. .

“Oh! He’s beautiful…”

I called him the way Turks call the cats, with a soft “psss, psss, psss” He looked. Evaluated. Stood up. Stretched and miawed, his mouth opening widely, red bit with white teeth amidst the black. He approached and smartly kept watching for my body language, was I about to do something nasty? Was I to be trusted? OK, looks good he seemed to decide. He came next to me. Putting himself sideways, offering his back, then seeing that all was cool, offered his head. He was so very beautiful. Suddenly, like a dog would, he closed his eyes and abandoned his head on my thigh. I was moved with this trust, this peace.

I asked: Why is it that they need love from us? Or is it just the knowledge that friendliness with humans can possibly yield food, water? Or is it a definite need for sharing warmth, affection, connection?

My friend asked in return: Why is it that cats don’t build planes and crash them into mountain sides? And following, why is it that humans build planes and crash them into mountain sides? In my mind images of flying cats, goggled arrogant pilots flying around, building planes and other such human things.. the absurdity of it, and the absurdity of what we humans qualify as intelligent acts. Like manufacturing weapons designed to shoot one another. My head started racing with images of all the vile things humans do to each other. I shuddered and decided to let it go… I had just seen earlier that night on the internet images of a girl in Quebec who was shot point blank in the face, by a policeman carrying a tear gas gun. Thankfully for her, in Quebec they use a different tear gas gun system than they use here in Turkey. What is used in Turkey, releases the whole metal canister, in Quebec it is “only” a cardboard cap… If she had found herself in Turkey she’d probably be dead now, or would have lost her jaw… but the case is, a man in uniform whose job is to serve and protect, shot a student point blank in the face and felt justified for doing so. I guess one could argue that the person or entity being served is actually not defined in that statement so the shooting might indeed have been in line with the job description and duties. But I digress.

Later, more cats. By this time I am alone. There is a park in this wealthy neighborhood where the cats are fed massive amounts of food, have fresh water and little shelters built for them. Contrary to the Tarlabaşı cats, they see humans as generally friendly fellows to be trusted. There were 3 of them. I kneeled. “Psss, psss, psss…” They were looking at me, the same way the black cat did, evaluating my intentions. A mainly white cat came to me, I touched her back, she put both her paws on my leg, stretching her body up tremulously, planting her claws in my jacket, and staying there in this stretched position as if trying to absorb everything out of the moment, taking in every bit of the petting as a thirsty desert dweller drinks water. Then she put her head directly in my hand, closing her eyes. Her face perfectly cradled by my hand. Oh… Such emotion in the vulnerability of this trust and need. A powerful, quiet moment. Both our sensitivities connected in this Istanbul Friday night, where all the madness roams crazily not far away in Beyoğlu. On this deserted sidewalk, a human and a cat, both our fates uncertain, in the hands of life, trusting, sharing together. It lasted a few beautiful instants. I took a deep breath while taxis rush by and the thump of a discotheque not far away pumps lustfully in the night that surrounds us.

I said goodbye and resumed my walk back towards Taksim. On the large space that lays in front of Gezi park vendors, street musicians, peddlers offer their wares in the growing din coming from all the bars and establishments. Umbrella sellers, a South American Indian band wearing Geronimo like headdress and a South American girl selling hand made tuques. (she knits them and is with the band, I’ve seen them around Istiklal before) there are late night simit sellers, flower sellers, kids with flower head dresses for the girls… Groups of mostly men dressed in black, navigate along, small squadrons of pure virility. One must slalom between them. On Istiklal, the pavement is still wet from the rain and the little girl I saw there in that same spot two days before there again, sits on a scrap of cardboard. Her skin is very dark, likely a Gypsy girl from Tarlabaşı, her long hair cascading, she must be 9 years old or so. She sings with a high pitched voice, that voice… there was a band in the 90’s that played world music and there was such a voice… I can’t remember the name… She has that same voice, a voice that sold so many albums… but there she is, 8, 9 years old, it is 2 AM on Friday night and she is begging in the midst of the crowded thrill seeking, alcohol soaked, Istiklal street. Her voice pierces the air with a slight touch of anguish, cuts through the disco beats, conversations, noises… and we walk by ignoring her. Maybe 100 feet down the street I see a man setting up another child on another piece of cardboard on the still wet pavement on the opposite side of the street. Yeah.

I get off Istiklal to take the back streets. Oh the dirt. After the rain, the streets are muddy. There are thousands of people peopling all the bars, it is as if every crevice in every wall is set up in an attempt to pull money from anything that moves around. At Rock & Rolla, a rock bar, the cool crowd of “rockers” fill the patio and the other side of the street. A couple motorcycles are parked there and their too cool riders pose next to them. The hipsters, tourists, revelers and hustlers all together talking and laughing too loud. A tall skinny man looking like a man from some far away village carries in his right hand a large beer bock out on the street, the light from the establishments behind him shine through the yellow liquid making it a gold jewel in the night. The small Renault truck transformed into a kitchen releases big clouds of spicy smoke, a man inside in the small crowded space sells köfte party night after party night. Girls in tight pants and too much make up, guys in black short leather jackets and acid washed jeans strolling down the street, cafes, tea houses, bars, restaurants all full. I stream my way back to the hostel, passing through all this almost invisibly.

It is fascinating and repulsive all at once this grand, never ending party. Why do people have to drink so much? I wonder. Why? Why? Why? Why everything? I find less and less answers, instead a thought that I don’t like keeps surfacing… The thought: there are so many stupid people… oh what an ugly thought. It’s a such a judgmental thought But it is what I see… A blindness, insensitivity, a greed and selfishness beyond comprehension. But I am stupid too. Too stupid to pull myself out of this. This world is stupid. All the agreements we make that keep this madness alive, day in and day out… Rain starts to come down. All is absurdity. And the question: “Why don’t cats build airplanes?” Lends the answer that cats are way smarter than we humans are. I feel a stiff pull on my clothes, I turn around, a man was holding on to my hoodie.

“Oh pardon!!” he apologizes, likely he thought I was someone else. I continue. Near the London Büyük Otel, a couple, they stand face to face, both bodies taut in an aggressive stance. He pushes her hard. She screams. I stop.

“What the f…” I watch. Three men are approaching in the other direction. I wait some more. She then violently pushes him hitting him on the chest and starts yelling hysterically at him a long litany I don’t understand, she is drunk. He stands there, an indescribable expression in his eyes. I think it will be OK, He doesn’t look like he will strike her. I resume my walk. It actually looks exactly like a scene pulled out of most of the music videos for Turkish pop music… boyfriend-girlfriend breaking up with much tears and drama. As I approach the Peak Hotel I see the little dog. He lives in this neighborhood, one of the street dogs. He is lying down on the thick plastic mat in front of the door. I approach him, pet him on the head. His eyes soften into a sort of thankful look, I scratch his ears, head, neck. Around it’s all this drunkenness, madness, aggressiveness. I get up after giving a few soft words to the dog and head to the market to buy a chocolate bar I’ll end up not eating. I see the couple who was fighting walking by. The man’s face is pale, his eyes looking ahead blankly, the woman’s face looks down as she walks with a bit of a stumble. I trace my steps back. The dog now is looking up, panting stressfully, looking up with a strange expression and that finally slays me. It’s just all too much sometimes, all this emotion, all of this life, all of the need, the acuteness of it all. Tears rush to my eyes as I walk up Balyoz Sokak back to Chillout. But I won’t cry. I swallow it all up. I walk inside, smile to everyone. I go make sage tea, sit down, breathe deeply, check messages on the internet then go back up to the 5th floor where my temporary room awaits me for another night.

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A walk

March 25, 2015

A09

I stepped out from the warm space into the night and I was surprised by bitter cold. Orçun was standing against the wall smoking a cigarette.

“Where are you going?” He asks. This question is always asked when you live in Turkey and people care about you. They always want to know. I don’t always want to answer, but I learned to give just enough information to make everyone happy.

“Taskim. Woah, it’s so cold!” I said. I looked up at the sky, it was crisp and clear, with visible stars.

“We’ll have sun tomorrow… I gotta go…” I kissed both his cheeks and headed in the night. The white cat with the blue and yellow eyes was sitting right in the middle of the entrance of the hotel next door on a piece of cardboard. He looked at me. I continue down Balyoz towards the Marmara Pera Hotel, people come up, two men, a woman, I look at their silhouettes against the dark night and the city lights I catch the eyes of one of the men. There was so much life in those eyes. I wonder about all the life in all the eyes of all the humans of all the world… how is it that we manage to feel alone? All of us… How is it when there is all this life around?

It is Tuesday night, so it’s quiet, but there are more tourists now than there was a month ago, it will become so crowded with them, with their greedy cameras, wants, desires of excitement. The broken sidewalk, a sleek new black Mercedes, on its hood the little circular emblem, erect gleams haughtily. Headlights on, door ajar, the driver wears a definitely upscale suit, one foot out of the door, cell phone on his ear, again eyes that meet but the read in unclear due to the smoky film on the car window. A few steps from there the Syrian women and their children are lined against the cold stone walls beg… such poverty is an affront to the heart, it’s unacceptable… yet… There they are. Sitting on the frigid pavement, with them 2, 3, 4, children, babies. these women, girls really, some not much older than their offspring. All I have in my pocket is a little over 5 lira, that is what I have left until Sunday, I cannot give it to them… or maybe I should? I see their need. I feel their need. And I feel really bad. I feel a pain that can eat me if I let it. Such injustice… Mercedes and Armani suits right next to this destitution. Barefoot kids on the dirty, dirty Istanbul pavement,the war refugees no one wants to see or handle. In the dark eyes of these girls all the unfairness of the world. Troubled, I continue.

Yellow taxis their headlights creating glowing orbs of light coursing the night. The small barber shop has been emptied overnight, now a barren space, a cavity, its open face gated with a dirty, rusty white wrought iron shutter. Something-nothing. We do that, humans, we make and undo, put life in, retrieve it. Magicians.

I keep walking, I hear a clumsy drum like sound, a woman has an empty box on her knees, she sits on the steps of a closed business, she has a long skirt, gypsy like, she looks so sad, so empty, her head bowed down, momentarily beaten. She is trying to play for money.

At Nevizade Sokak, the restaurants are quite empty and the hustlers that usually leave me alone try to incite me in their establishments. “Buyrun!” “Welcome!” I walk on, then I find myself stuck behind two women, tourists, walking slowly, with the stiff hips and knees of ones not used to moving their bodies much, trying to decide where to go, where to spend their money. They are heavy, they have nice clothes, look clueless, touristing their way in this seeming exotic-ness forging their momentous memories. I hurry on.

Turning right on the next street, approaching prostitute row, in the brisk air, the exhaust pipe from a hotel spews warm steam, likely from a drying machine, a child of about 8, her eyes shining, her light yellow shirt a patch of brightness in the night, attempts to catch the elusive warmth contained in the white steam. She extends her arms and embraces the billowing fog, her body making a graceful motion… and from behind the fog, silhouettes of two men walking in the night, approaching. Nearing the corner, the sound of an engine, bright headlights now cut the night with their cold white LED power. A white sport Mercedes, rounds the turn, morphing everyone into shadows. This white sparkling Cinderella carriage rolls into the decrepit street of filthy walls, lifting ancient paint, cracked walls, rusting grates barring hopeless windows where painted whores sell their wares. This is Istanbul, where the sublime sides with the despicable. Where all the lusts can be satiated side by side with the ultra conservative asceticism. Where those who’have’ignore loftily, even trample those who don’t. Where life isn’t so easy, where dreams aren’t so graspable, or dream-able for that matter.

I make the turn in the other direction, I see the gated windows where usually girls and she-men hang out. Only a few are habited on this slow night. A couple of young men look up to those patches of warm light with greedy eyes. An older man, possibly their father stands there with them. O man the animal.

I turn the last corner to destination. I see a friendly face illuminated with an impossibly beautiful smile. Life like a movie.

c27

The quietness. I am in Sarıyer, north of Beyoğlu, by the magnificent Bosphorus. The bus wound its way rebounding between the sharp curves and narrow streets, I thought I would throw up. A woman plops herself next to me, there are a bunch of empty seats but here, women go sit with women. Out the window, it’s more like a village. There is a steep hill facing the Bosphorus and the houses hang on there tooth and nail, the old type of houses, wooden, high, with balconies and fancy woodwork, I think they are called “Yalı”

I get to the prescribed bus stop. Get out. Fresh air. Sea like air that should right my stomach. I stop for a moment to reorganize my load: guitar, bağlama and small backpack. I look at the directions on the phone message, the street is right in front of me. I slowly walk up. “In 100 meters you will see a big wooden house…” I see one but it seems too good to be true and the door numbers on the street don’t match the one written in the directions.

“Dani!” I look up, Elvan is there, on one of the balconies of the house. It is true, İ have arrived.

The last week had it’s share of sleepless nights. Dormitory life has its issues. Two nights with a thoughtless girl who made so much noise, was totally unaware of her surroundings… then last night or should I say this morning, there were two new travelers. They got up at 6 AM, I had gone to bed at 3AM, so that didn’t make for an easy room-share. They proceeded to rearrange their suitcases in the early morning and redesign the metal locker’s layout. Then they left, only to come back twice, waking me up every time. I am starting to wish for male dormitory mates. Guys are simple. They come in the room and go to bed. Granted many snore, but earplugs take care of that (well usually) Then they wake up and get out of the room. Done. Girls on the other hand, are into vast rituals of clothing, nail polishing, fragrances spraying, hair spraying, deodorant spraying, hair drying, make up applicating, multiple clothes changing and bags and suitcase re-organization, and a thing I have come to have to admit too, incredible messyness with trinkets, bottles, socks, shirts ALL OVER the room… Which means that more than likely you will not have any peace. And then, the smells… all these chemicals floating in the stuffy overheated air of a tiny room. I started to wonder if maybe I am the one who is really, really weird by abhoring taking parts in these rituals of femininity… set me free baby…

Why do I go to bed that late? you ask, If I’d get to bed earlier the “safe sleep hours” would augment dramatically… I think I’m trying to find peace and quiet. By staying up, usually crowds thin out, disappear, then I can just hang in the quietness. But lately it hasn’t worked. The tourists are coming back and with them the massive amount of drinking and partying and loud rowdy kids enjoying new found freedom in the land of “all is permitted”. So I am a wandering soul looking for a bubble to slip in. The espresso habit I think at this point is more about finding this “solitude in the crowd” than anything. I can disappear.

I look out. A freighter slides silently on the water, ghost in the night. My body is tense in expectation of blows from sound waves, in this quiet place I realize this, I feel as if muscles and skin are taut like Saran Wrap, in order to allow anything that might hit me to bounce off. Things like a sudden scream, a horn blowing next to your head, a heavy piece of metal falling on cobble stones. I wonder when they will let go.

You ask how I’m doing? As strong as I felt when I came back from the Amsterdam-Porto journey, as enervated I feel now when it comes to getting myself tracking into anything close to a plan of action. I kind of stumble in stupefied torpor. It’s a greasy brew of unclear thoughts with the occasional loud yelp of worry: You got no money! Your clothes have turned to rags! You need glasses! These rising above a thick low hum of mumbled questionning about what I wish to accomplish and if it can be done, where should I live, thinking of finding work, irritation with the ruthlessness of the place, annoyance with being ripped off, lied to, cheated regularly, will I ever learn this language, and the primal protestations of the body that requires rest and is not getting it.

Another freighter slides by, its lights reflecting on the blackness of the sea. Its pumping pistons in the night. It looks slow but it’s gone in an instant.

Could I possibly settle myself into something and glide like this for a while? In six weeks time, a friend said that I can move in his studio flat, all by myself.. May. This is 6 weeks away. 4 weeks later it will be the time to learn if my residence permit application will be successful or not. 6 weeks can be a long time. A lifetime of amazingness, of things to remember forever. or I can just flounder.

And what if the residence permit renewal process is not successful? I think I know what I will do… pack the big backpack and walk towards Bulgaria, aim for Milano and go see Meron if he is still there that is. If I get to stay, I need find my motivation, make it count, make it work either to create a peaceful space around myself. find some sort of income. Or set out on the earth, do something. Step out of this torpor.

One of the bright points lately has been this philosophy class I took online with Coursera. Wow. About a year ago I thought I would enjoy studying… I do. I enrolled in a second one now after completing this first one with a 10/10 on my paper. I could really plunge into this philosphy-metaphysical stuff. It does suit my mind. Especially the ancient Greek stuff. I just now started on a second one, “Les problèmes métaphysiques à l’épreuve de la politique” Metaphysical issues encountering politics in times of conflict and violence, this from the first world war and French revolution perspective, with Sartre, Weil and others… after that I want to go back to the classics of ancient Greece. Searching, always searching… man the brute, man the sublime.

And the world turns, with its pendulum swinging ever so strongly. Terry Pratchett died and that made me sad. His books, 70 of them, about the Discworld rocked my world, at one point I had them all read, always awaiting the next one.

And my country is facing a very serious series of challenges to its basic definition with a right wing, fundamentalist mad man at its helm while people watch TV and eat the Bush era like propaganda like spaghetti.

And the Turkish parliament came down to fist fights when a law to allow the police the right to fire live ammunition on people during demonstrations was debated. Oh the blood in this earth.

So I sit here. Thanks to the hospitality of a beautiful friend. The quietness a blessing. Still in suspension I am. Somehow though, despite the seeming madness and dwindling of my means and situation, I tend to think that it is the right course of action (or inaction) to wait for the answer a bit longer. Maybe I`m a fool and maybe I`m just buying time on borrowed money before it all comes crashing down. But then again crashing would effectively end suspension and that in itself is motion. Big-Bang myself into the next chapter.

Hi mom. Love you. Thinking of you. Don’t worry.

Suspension

March 6, 2015

Suspension: the state of a substance when its particles are mixed with but undissolved in a fluid or solid.

I moved out of the flat yesterday. The previous night I had not slept much, I woke up looked around and could not quite confront the job ahead of me so I went for coffee. There I sat down, studied philosophy a bit acting as if there was nothing special going on. A couple hours later, emboldened by caffeine and finally being awake it was time to return home. I stopped at Chilloutto drop off my heavy backpack. There I saw Bartın and Talat they were on their way out on the motorcycle,I walked in. Mustapha was there, Mustapha has been around for a long time. He’s from Iran, waiting for a visa to America.

“How are you?” he asked, I told him about the impending move, told him about my plan: to make as many trips as necessary to get my stuff moved back at Chillout.

“Where are your friends? This is the time when you see who are your friends, if they are just there to say hello and chit chat or be there for you.” There are nowhere to be found but in all honesty, I didn’t really ask anyone to help, my flatmate had offered to help but I politely refused. It feels like it’s my problem and mine to deal with why burden anyone? And it’s always so hard for me to ask for help. I figured I could handle it.

“I will help you.” he said. We designed a plan; we will take the stuff out of the flat then get a taxi to the door and head to Chillout. It seems obvious, but in Tarlabaşı, it’s not something easily done alone. If you are to leave things unattended for even a short period of time you might lose everything, or part of it, and pretty much everything I have I could not really afford to lose. Sometimes I think of my home growing up… we left the doors unlocked a lot of the time, things could stay outside unattended, cars unlocked… not here.

“let me have one cigarette then we go… do you have one?”

“No, I don’t smoke.”

“uh…” he asked around for a cigarette,but was unsuccessful so we left. It is evening, the darkness is coming, over the horizon towards the Halıç, there is a kind of fog graying everything and there is a chill in the air, as if it is going to rain. The traffic is thick, people come out of the office buildings, we quickly make it under the bridge into Tarlabaşı

Into my flat, I survey the stuff. I zip up the suitcases, stuff a few things in a bag, it’s pretty much all ready. We take all of that stuff outside the door. The neighbors are out, kids, teenagers, men, the noisy life going on its busy course.

“I will go get a cab.” Said Mustafa. He walks down the street towards Omer Hayyam, I stay by my stuff, my main concern being the Gibson. A few moments later a cab rolls down the street. Its bright yellow color contrasting violently with the impending darkness, the red bricks of the building across the street and the gray dirt everywhere. We load up as fast as we can, Taxi drivers are very ornery here, you don’t want to piss them off. I am hoping he’s not going to get angry. Inside the flat there is only a few things left, the Go guitar, baglama, and one more bag with the last items inside.

“I’ll come back for these later.” I said. I don’t want to pile the fragile instruments in there with all this stuff, just to make sure they don’t get damaged. And I want to come back and do a last survey by myself, one last “dummy check” so I don’t leave anything important behind.

We hop in the taxi. Roll down the narrow crowded streets. it’s so tight at one point the driver has to fold the mirror to get by between the dilapidated buildings stretching up to the sky. We quickly get on the boulevard, then to Chillout, it’s painless, I am grateful. We manage to drive up the street to Chillout, unload fast.

“Ne kadar?” I ask (how much)

“Sekiz lira.” He says. 8 lira. Wow. He’s not trying to rip me off. For that, I give him 10. And there I am. Back at the perennial Chillout Hostel. Everyone is happy to see me. I have made family here and it’s pretty much impossible to deny this and it warms the heart. I get help and quickly everything is piled up in the hostel’s kitchen. I take the instruments to safety and sit down. Wow.

Relief. Letting go of this room now is a relief. Being out of this neighborhood is a relief. Not having to think about rent is a relief. I feel lighter. I spent so much time looking at rooms for rent ads this last week, all the shitty places, shitty beds, shitty compressed wood dirt furniture with shitty wood picture fake finish, moldy walls and windows…

Istanbul has an equal amount of infinitely negative and infinitely positive energies side by side. It is like a roller coaster ride. You surf these waves being at the mercy of this gigantic ocean of souls who generate these waves.

I need to connect with the positive energy, the positive people. I think one cannot, should not be alone in this place. In Canada you can be alone, the earth still speaks loud and grounds you. Here I must meditate daily or else I become debris pushed around by the wind. Here I must ground myself, the earth is not right underfoot, it is often far under layers upon layers of the remnants of old buildings, previous civilizations, lost dreams and yes, blood, lots of blood.

Red earth soaked in blood, history filled with wars, soldiers under orders, wealthy Sultans ordering life and death. And the un-rich? They suffer the tyranny of their leaders… same thing going on right now. There is a I see these visions in my mind. We are walking mindlessly down Istiklal street, what is under our feet? How much history is embedded in these walls?

So I am suspending myself between the earth and the skies, for a few days, I need to ask myself some questions. Find a peaceful state. Do I need to find a new home? Do I go wander the coast for a couple of weeks? Do I just dig into the studies, the practice? Let things come? I miss the sun and the earth. I saw a tiny cherry tree in a large pot. It had blooms all over, pink and vibrant, alive, fragile and triumphant. I choked and cried. I feel so much these days…

a63

The Landlord

March 5, 2015

DSC04388

Well, the guy did call back, Monday morning, this is the landlord who had messaged me that I had to move out in five days. I was in bed still, foggy and he tells me he will be here in 15 minutes. I said no. then he offered to call back in two hours, he didn’t. What was he going to say? That he was going to give me a few more days.. that he was sorry?

I’ve spent a lot of time these last few days on Craigslist. Today I went to see 3 places. One was decent, but in the basement, no light, grim brown everything, that made me feel claustrophobic in 2.2 seconds. The guy was very nice. Kurdish, he studied journalism and now he is studying English, his dream is to be a reporter for the BBC. I liked his energy very much. He said the neighbor upstairs is an 80 year old woman who is deaf, so practicing music was not going to be a problem. We chatted a bit and then I had to go meet this other landlord for two different suites. We meet at Galatasaray high school. He says he’s Kurdish, too. He’s in the textile business and he is also obviously in the “charge too much for a shit hole for foreign students” business. But I’m jumping ahead here…

We go down the street, the place is actually 2 doors down from Neverland, a sister hostel to Chillout. He opens the door, a motion sensor light comes on, revealing this gray, dirty granite stairwell. Smell of mold and sewer. Istanbul smell. A few steps up there are baby blue garbage bags lying there with women clothing in them, they look so out of place sitting there.

“Ah this belongs to the girl who just left… I will get rid of it.

We climb up flights of stairs, under those yellow lights, a main door on each floor, some with metal gates in front, the paint is yellowed too, everything is dirty in the way of 50 years without a cleaning makes a patina on the walls, floors, everything. On the second floor he tells me that this is Toby’s room. He tells me how much he helped Toby. He tells me a lot of things, I mostly acknowledge with a yes or uhum.

At the fourth floor, he opens a black metal door in the wall, Chillout has the same type of metal doors down the stairwell that opens to an inner court, but here, it opens on a another stairwell, this time narrow and made of metal up to another floor. At the top: one final door. He opens it. We walk in and I cannot help but cringe. Everything has been covered with some shitty, ugly, plastic based covering. The narrow entrance hallway that opens onto a micro kitchen for which all the cupboards have been covered in some weird thick plastic wallpaper crossed with melanin sporting a color photographed gray stone pebble motif on the right side cupboards and some kids buttons design on the other side. The sink has one tap: that means no hot water. There is no hot plate. The floor is covered in poorly installed linoleum of a doubtful yellowish white. The bathroom has water stains and other indefinite provenance stains in every corner, on every wall, it’s the kind of shower where you take a shower practically in the toilet it’s so small. There is a tiny hot water heater in there. There are two bedrooms. The first one creeped me out, the second one with a window on the street was better, but one window is broken, meaning no glass in the window frame, the left corner ceiling has lost all it’s paint and shows moldy, old planks and there are water stains all over the ceiling surrounding this. I asked about water coming in and he says no water comes in… and I remember immediately my guitar and baglama and books getting soaked in another leaky ceiling flat. The bed is theoretically OK yet I feel grossed out. The floor, is covered in wood picture linoleum and the whole length of every panel that covers the floor from side to side, thing lifts to the point of tripping in it, I’m talking 6 inches, 8 inches lift for the whole length of the floor.

It could be nice. It’s awful the way it is. I was looking around thinking that maybe I could re-paint, re-floor, get rugs, change the bed, curtains, everything… I could live in there, if it was redone… maybe. But there is this typical unheated apartment feel in there, I feel pneumonia stalking in the walls for the next human to come in. I ponder. He talks some more then I ask:

“How much do you want for this?” The ads on Craigslist mentioned 650 and 700 lira for studios…

“Well I had to Erasmus students, for this room one paid 1200 lira and for the other 900. But money is not everything, I want to help you. You told me about your situation (being evicted) so I want to help you. Make me an offer.”

“The offer I can make is not even going to cover half of what you are getting for this so there is no point.”

“But I like you, I like Canadians, I have Canadian friends… Money is not everything… You know if you need something we’ll buy it.” and he continued. And talked. And talked as I was absorbing the whole thing. Part of me wants a home. Part of me wants to run. Part of me wonders if this is the right direction for me; finding a stable place, settling. I have not been able to make any money to speak of which is usually for me a sign that I’m not heading in the right direction.

“You know money comes and goes, we have a saying… Money is like dirt on hands.” I thought for a second and saw what he meant, it washes off easily. To which I then answered:

“Well right now I have very clean hands.” He laughed out loud and thought that was really clever and high-fived me. We got out of the room, walked in the kitchen, I looked some more, trying to imagine living here.

“I would need a hot plate…”

“Oh yeah, we would buy that for you. We would buy anything you need. What would you need?”

He’s either a real nice guy or a professional liar and I don’t want to judge but I cannot trust either. We leave. Down the stairs, he shows me another suite, the layout makes more sense, but the living room walls have on one side wallpaper with a gigantic black palm tree on orange background, on the right hand side are sexy girl drawings wallpaper and on the other side, something ugly of green and blue, in front of which is a huge hide a bed in red velvet. The kitchen is pink, the bathroom is the same sort of yellow stained affair but a little larger than the one upstairs. But this one is already given to somebody. We leave. Go one flight of stairs down.

“Lets see Toby, he’s British. He knocks on the door and Toby’s eyes lose their happiness when they focus on the landlord.

“What do you want?”

“Oh we are here just to say hi”.

Awkward moment. Toby looks at me, looks at the landlord, trying to assess which side I’m on.

“Oh and this is Danielle, she is Canadian.” Toby looks at me warily shakes my hand.

“So when will you fix the electric in the kitchen?” Toby asks

“Ah uh, we need a… “uc uclu fiche” …

“Three prong “ I translated

“But you’re never here! Every time I call you you’re busy or not here!”

Toby looked like an angry bear. Gray hair, blue eyes he was wearing a brown acrylic turtleneck and cut off gray sweat pants. He hung in the doorway, kind of grinding his emotions… holding. I was trying to read him. He gradually realized that I wasn’t with the landlord, that I was like him… yabanci. I attempted to send him vibes, unspoken messages :”tell me something about this landlord.. tell me something I should know. I thought his eyes were saying that he got me. He was obviously lightly cornering the landlord with questions, saying something about loud neighbors, repairs not done… The conversation continued, I was hearing food frying in the background and said:

“I hope your dinner is not getting burned there…” he ran to the kitchen, the frying sound stopped. He came back and resumed this conversation that was just going round in circles, I looked at my phone, and saw a message.

“I really should get home.” We finally said our goodbyes. As headed down the stairs, I was behind the landlord, Toby threw at me:

“Watch him!” His eyes met mine full of will. “Watch him!” he repeated.

“What did he say?” Asked the landlord.

“Watch him.”

“What did he mean?”

“I dunno.” I lied.

We walked back up the street towards Galatasaray. He says he has another building close and we could check it.. I agreed. We got there, up another set of stairs but not so dank or smelly, up to a nice, newer door. He fumbled with the key then said:

“Don’t be scared, there is no electricity… it’s not always going to be like this… you have a light on your phone?

“No I don’t.”

We walk in. there is a tiny room with two bunk beds. It’s pitch black. I light the way with the screen on my phone.

“New linen, I like this color! I really like this color!” He says enthusiastically. It was two tone wide striped blue.

“Would that be enough for you?” He asks about this room. The room is the length of the beds, so something like 2 meters long and maybe 2 meters wide. the size of a stall for a pony. There is a window. But it feels so damn cramped. I try to imagine writing, playing in there. Next was the kitchen, about a meter wide triangle of floor space that diminishes as you approach the back wall and about 3 meters long. One tiny sink, no hot water, no space for much more than one hot plate… But still decent… then the front room, that was nice. Could I live there? I’m trying to think. But how much is he going to want? And how much trouble am I going to get into?

“All right, I need think about all this.” I declare. We leave the place, and I tell him:

“Actually, you know, I know what you ask for these places and I cannot even come close. I don’t want to waste your time.”

“You’re not wasting my time! You know it’s not all about money… I like you. You know I travel a lot I can read people, I would rather keep you, the money is not everything.. I have to come here every few days and hand keys … I would prefer having you there, less money up front…”

and it went on and on. And I remember how for some of the people here, money really truly isn’t everything, actually for some talking money is insulting them. But I also know that the repercussions of perceived slights on my part and the mis-reading of the words could land me in more that I wish to be involved with. We spoke a bit more. I don’t think he’s a bad guy, he’s doing business and here business is swift, foreigners are stupid and these guys are way more business savvy than I’ll ever be.

We parted ways. This whole interaction tired me out. I have to get home and start packing. Tonight is my last night in “My Room”. Oh how we Westerners don’t realize the luck we have with “our space, our cars, our homes, our everything” … our hot water, our central heating, our building codes…

I now sit at the table, surrounded by belongings. If I had a home back home I would ship back a large quantity of this stuff. I have two suitcases, a big and a small one, two backpacks; a big and a small one. Two guitars; a big and a small one. One baglama. Kitchen stuff, and that is pretty much it. 2 thirds of what I carry at this point is kind of memories, the small suitcase is mostly filled with notebooks and books and such things…

Tomorrow I will probably make 3 trips up Tarlabasi Boulevard pulling, carrying, bringing this stuff back to Chillout. Yes, I end up there again. They generously tell me I”m welcome. I wonder what I should do. I feel a flattening of my hopes and excitement. it seems I cannot achieve the things I keep re-affirming I want to achieve. Maybe I’m fooling myself about that. It could also be that I am just too poor to do anything. Lessons and that sort of stuff takes money. My jeans burst through, worn thin and I cannot replace them.. that sort of thing can make you think twice. Last week I applied for a grant to study and compose music. Writing my project description, I felt quite focused, purposeful. Actually it was like imagining a fairy tale. But this is life. But I think there may be a ditch here. As long as you can be milked, ever so slowly, you stay out of the ditch. Maybe I am coming to the point where I cannot be milked anymore and the grass and the clay are wet by the side of this ditch and every once in a while I slide, or stumble. Likely that it’s my own ditch. No one is doing this to me. I think… Maybe?

Everyone tells me to relax. Enjoy. As I realize, right now there is an underlying feeling of not enjoying. Maybe I need more sun… I have been in this cave here with no sunlight for a month, been sleeping during the day and up at night, vitamin D right? Maybe things are not so fun anymore because of my own physical state, late winter all that stuff. But actually fun is the wrong word. Meaningful should be the word. And what makes things meaningful? People usually or beauty or purity, truth. The philosophy class I’m doing online is a great source of meaningfulness. Writing the grant felt meaningful. Mixing the track was really cool… back into music software and my head full of sounds… that was meaningful.

I had this plan when I came back from Porto… a plan to go walk in Turkey, out of Istanbul, see the real country here… maybe I should go before summer, before it’s too hot and before my residence permit expires. I have this plan… to write new music… Money is pretty much non-existent. I looked at jobs on Craigslist, no one answered. Gotta wait I guess.

Evicted

March 1, 2015

Yesterday I got this message in the middle of the day:

“Hello How are u, my girl friend and me was seperate last day I ll turn back 5 march there sorry u need find a new room.”

I first saw the words as I was on my way out heading to Atolye Kuledibi to shoot a video of one song. I wasn’t sure who it was… hopefully I thought, that was a joke… I arrived at Atolye early so I sat on the front steps and looked at the phone again, read the words one more time:

“Hello How are u, my girl friend and me was seperate last day I ll turn back 5 march there sorry u need find a new room.” I sent a reply:

“Who is this?” Maybe this is all a mistake or a joke… better make sure. The answer came very quickly:

“Bora“. Bora is the landlord of this room I rent and had moved in not quite a month ago. I replied:

“Wow… And when do I have to leave?” to which he confirmed:

“5 March”

at that point I pondered the letters on the screen. Many things came to mind, like: this is actually illegal… but legalities here are not necessary formalities. And come to think of it, I wouldn’t want to find out the wrong way that I have antagonized someone in this ghetto I live in… I might be in a deeper bucket of trouble than I am now. I answered:

“!”

This deadline gives me 5 days to find a new place. I had no words. To the exclamation point he answered :

“Sorry”

I thought I ought to tell him that he was not sorry, that this was not quite the right use of this word, that very likely he was not sorry at all but just bulldozing his way through with complete disregard to the effects of his actions. But what is the point? I left his last word unanswered. What else could I say? Very true, I didn’t wish to stay in this apartment too long, but I would have picked my own time… especially because at that moment, I was in the middle of an intense process of writing a grant proposal for a deadline that was coming in two days. I had been up all night dealing with long winded uploads that aborted at the last second, with software issues, with attempting to mix a song and with finishing the draft of my project description… all concerns that were pressing and very real. I took a breath and put this new worry in my back pocket… later, I thought.

At this point, the application is sent, at least I succeeded in completing that. But there`s been a rift in my universe and I am questioning many things. I wrote paragraphs and paragraphs more, but I`m not going to post them. Lets just say… I`m tired. Of many things. Yet I have no answers. No solutions. I wish for silence. A warm human embrace. A hot bath would also go a long,long way but that is not to be.