The Landlord

March 5, 2015


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.

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