2 centimeters

July 18, 2015

2 centimeters is sometimes all it takes to change your life, or not. 8:30 PM, I head down stairs, guitar in my left hand, music stand in the right hand and backpack on my back with tuner, pedals and songbook, I am going to play a gig with Simo and Faith at Atolye Kuledibi. Downstairs at the door Mr Tomcat, the lean black and white one, is hanging around.

“Psss, psss, psss”… I make with my mouth

“Miaow!” he answers and comes to meet me. He rubs himself energetically on my legs, guitar case. He’s such a cool dude.

“Gotta go baby.” I tell him as I pick up the guitar and head up towards the boulevard. I look at the street names, will I remember? Çatma Merdiven, I turn left and head up the hill. A car is coming down, the streets splits into a Y, I am not sure which way he will go, the wheels give me no indication yet, then, he goes left, a few seconds later I hear a weird bumpy sound, I turn around, he hit the speed bump a little too fast. The sound was a tin-like, hollow one, I imagine the exhaust having taken most of the hit. I go on,climb up the stairs, into the mini park, trees, shade, two guys sitting there chatting. “Slam!” my head turns quickly towards the sound: a bus driver closed the luggage compartment of the white touring bus. I walk on.

A whistle… I realize now I was very tuned in to sounds tonight… it was high pitched, flutey, somewhat screamy, and definitely wrong, there was a… like a rush. Quick reflex to see, no thinking, just turning my head very fast. What I saw… a white scooter, on its side, flying through the air, towards me. A guy tumbling, legs, arms all over the place, towards me fast, high velocity, both of them unstoppable.

NO!!! I think, I don’t want to be nailed by these projectiles, I take a quick step back out of reflex that slammed me against the metal railing that is about 4 feet high. I hear and feel my guitar case also slam on the same railing, the arm holding it stretched out. As if I moved so fast that the heavy case just flew into the railing. I have a thought for the guitar.

The scooter passes the boundary of the road and now is over the sidewalk, still coming towards me, the guy soon after hits the sidewalk too, I am pinned to the rail, trying to anticipate what to do, but it’s all happening so quick… the scooter slams on the sidewalk, keeps skidding , the guy rolls on the sidewalk, his brown arms and legs hit me, it is all so weird, I watch all of this coming, doing so little, my two hands full. The scooter hits the railing, the guy now comes to a stop in front of me.

There is a second of nothing.

He’s at my feet, I kneel down. His head raises, we stare at each other’s eyes, transfixed. His face shows shock, incomprehension, he has rashes on his forehead, some blood. We look at each other’s eyes for so long it seems. He tries to get up, I put my hands on his shoulders: “Wait.” I say in Turkish. his hair is black, short, shaved on the side, his eyes dark, I feel the fabric of the shirt under my fingers, the warmth of his shoulders, the energy of his shock. It is a very bizarre wordless intimacy. We profoundly share this disbelief, this foreigness. It is the microscopic instant before a psychological awareness, the in-betweeness found after a cause and before the effect. People start to arrive.

I don’t know what to say, “Call 911” is what pops in my head, but it’s in English, there is no such thing as 911 here, and it’s Turkey and people here don’t call emergency numbers so quickly. I look around… I am stunned. He gets up. He asks if he’s cut open, I say a little. He runs his hands on his face, looks at them to see blood. touches his body, arms, then back again his face. He asks again, “Am I open?” No, we say. Someone raised up the scooter, started to move it, and the front fender appears from in between the forks, broken. He heads for the scooter, the thing looks bent to me I wouldn’t ride it, he seems to want to ride it but he’s shaky… someone offers to get him a taxi, he doesn’t register the question. He walks to the mirror and touches his teeth, very white, nicely lined up teeth, something he is proud of it seems, he looks at himself, touches his wounds on his forehead amazed that he’s not split open. Someone asks if I have a kleenex, I spring into action look in my bag, there are maxi pads for menstruation.. I figure I should not give that… It would work well though (the things that run through my mind…) then I find the last Kleenex, alone in a pink wrapper, I think it’s been there since I went to Europe last winter. A man takes it and wipes the young man’s head with it, road rash in a circle around his skull, yeah, he wore no helmet, and only shorts and runners… no protection whatsoever. A woman comes and offers water from a pink bottle, they put water on the Kleenex and wipe his face again. I move. Someone asks me if I am OK. Yeah, yeah. I’m OK. “2 centimeters”I say. The man looks at me, concern on his face. There is nothing else I can do here. I walk on, shocked. About a 100 meters later it hits me:

“I am so fucking lucky.”

I look up at the sky and say thank you. This was a matter of centimeters and fractions of seconds. One more step forward, and one more step to the left and I would have been hit by the flying scooter. One step could have changed everything. I feel so shocked. The guy’s face, his expression stays in my mind. Both man and scooter in their fall drew a V shape trajectory and I happened to be right in the middle. In the safe spot.

“I’m so fucking lucky.” I think over and over feeling breathless.

A hollow sort of hitting noise rings behind me and I jump with fear. Every sound jars my nerves. I walk the rest of the way to the gig completely out of it. I walk in there, I see Simo putting strings on his guitar before the gig and I tell him:

I am so fucking lucky…

It took me a bit to de-stress. Then we started to play and it was crazy, fun, I forgot all about the incident. Hours later, after all the lights, music, laughter have faded out, as I walk back home passing by the spot of the accident, I thought of all of the things that take place in this world at every instant. All the love, lovers, all the violence, the pain, all the accidents and incidents, no traces of anything left for anyone to ever find out or know.

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II – V – I

July 16, 2015

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These days I’ve been studying some jazz theory all over again… I have been thinking about when I got the “Most Promising Guitarist” award at King Edward College in Vancouver so long ago and how many times I felt like I let them down on that… I never rose up to that promise. Last night I played a gig at Atölye, playing my red Gibson jazz guitar, and after the show I sat down with some friends, we’re just chatting… there is a friend there who keeps telling me that I should play an acoustic guitar, that this guitar is just for jazz only or that I should change the pickup and strings, when I had the Go Guitar he complained about the sound too. At some point we were talking about the 10 000 times rule, the so called magic number that makes one competent. I wondered out loud how many times I had repeated some of those scales… that is when my friend said that I would probably need to play them 5000 more times. Yeah. That means I am not so good. Just average. I felt a heaviness.

I walked back home defeated. How can I love an instrument so much and not manage to be any better? I grew up flirting between the horses and the guitar. Summers were especially hard for music as I could not get myself to sit down indoors in a room and practice when the sun shone so bright. I did practice lots but not so well, I realize now. I stayed in the safety of what I knew, repeating over and over and over the same things and didn’t have the guts or courage to explore more and discover new things, I had a great ear that allowed me to cheat my way out of most everything so I cheated… I was OK but never great.

I always did many things… I drew, I wrote, I played, I rode horses, I spent summers camping outside… I followed my heart, but that doesn’t always lead to great achievements. I was a wild child dreaming of running into adventures, parallel universes and undiscovered worlds. A dreamer that had the chance to live in a country where you can pretty much wish for anything and reach it if you put some time, your head and heart into it. Here I would have never made it, musicians here have no gear but they are accomplished.

Walking back home, on Tarlabaşi boulevard towards Kasımpasa around 1 AM, empty taxi cabs honk their horns incessantly, hungry for fares, and this even if they are heading in the opposite direction than you are going In the space of 3 minutes I get honked about 7 times as I cross the boulevard. The guitar is so heavy, well it’s not the guitar that’s heavy it’s the case… It reminds me of being 17 and heading to school with that Guild jazz my professional guitarist of a neighbor lent to me, it was just like George Benson’s guitar on “the other side of Abbey Road” album cover, it too, had an impossibly heavy plywood case that tore my shoulders to bits… My friends words spin in my mind, I question the actual intention behind them. I think about the conversation and realize how we just say words wearing masks; bla, bla, blah. Yeah, communication. My failure to speak Turkish, the awkwardness of English as a second language, it makes us like islands and we try to reach each other sitting in leaky canoes.

I get to my street, and there he is; Scooby. That is how the neighbors call him, the street dog who lives here. I heard the kids call him: “Skubi, Skubi…” He stands on the pavement, it’s made of the fake cobblestones, a sort of cement where they draw the squares on, there he stands, the street lights making him appear as a shadow, except for his rear end that is in the light, his tail wags. He saw me, recognized me and he is almost smiling. I talk to him, pet him. I am grateful for those street animals… they are my friends, there is also a black and white male cat, he’s very lean and athletic looking, he has the look of the Tomcats who would not care for humans but this guy is always happy to get petted, a practical kind of fellow. There is also an orange one who will, a bit more nervously, approach for a bit of human contact. Maybe I like them so much because we are kind of the same, foreign, uprooted beings in this world of strong family ties and almost tribal group instinct. Them and I are accidents here, we are tolerated, sometimes with affection, sometimes with antagonistic vibes.

At home, I check messages, then spend too much time on Facebook, I need to stop that… it has become an addiction. Truly. I troll from one piece of news to the other… feeding my mind with horrors and unfairnesses, inequalities and the brutal blindness and uncaring that most of the richer countries have for the less fortunate ones. 60 million displaced people at this point in time, and Europe only received 40 thousand of them when Lebanon took in 1.5 million… Lebanon is poor!!! where is compassion??? I read about Greece and the oh so ugly face of the Euro group, an entity that seems to be above the law… Then I clicked all that off and grabbed my red guitar. Figured out a cool chord progression for a song I just learned, the Ezan rings in the sky, it’s 3 something AM. I play a little longer, vacillating between a feeling of inadequacy and a desire to not give a shit.

***

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Wednesday night, I had a show tonight. These last few days I have practiced and studied for hours on end. 4 to 8 hours a day. I am digging through the cycle of fourths (can you believe I had never learned it?) scale positions all over the neck, reaching out of safe, known zones, learning new songs and just keep on. I could feel it at the show, some progress, I dared quite a few things, dove in the instrument and the songs. My aim has been for a long time now to write new songs… I always had a hard time with covers, but these last few days another thing I have done is that when I stop to eat, I go on youtube and listen to really great musicians. Jazz. Yes, how ironic, here I am half a world away studying jazz alone in my room and missing out on this place. So yeah, Wes Montgomery, Charlie Christian, the Alain Caron band, oh and my so beloved Joe Pass ( I had four, five of his albums) Just be immersed. And my ears are waking up anew. So tonight at the gig, flying on all this I played a huge amount of covers but I put my heart in them. When you listen to the really good musicians, they go find the heart of a song, bring it to life in their own way.

I am still waiting for my residence permit’s application results. There was a mess up with the paperwork two weeks ago. I had signed in blue… my papers were returned to me, I sent them back signed in black… this uncertainty hovers above me. I’m OK whichever way it goes but it makes me really want to seize this moment and play and learn because this doesn’t happens much and could be gone in an instant. My poverty is allowing me to do this. My anonymity allows me this, to disappear while the world goes its mad course and study II-V-I progressions in 12 keys.

These days what I keep hearing is how great my voice is… funny… we’re never happy. I wanted to be Jimi Hendrix on the guitar. I discovered I was a singer way into my third album! But the truth is that I need both. The voice, the guitar. So don’t look for me around town these days, I sit by myself quite content, sweating in the summer heat, slowly facing all sorts of things and rules and formulas I couldn’t confront before. To make it perfect today I thought I should give the bağlama a couple hours early in the day, then give a bunch of hours to the guitar, pretend I am in music school and that I have a world-music class. Good things will come of this, new songs I’m sure. If anything else, I will have finally faced some stuff with courage and not just leave things there as an unfulfilled promise.

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And yes… all the photos are from my window, same window…

from my window

July 9, 2015

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I have been trying to write a post for a while. I wrote a few that never got published, they were too invested, too inflamed. All and all I am well, I am OK.

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One day I made a clear request, looking up the sky and asking “Teach me. Learning is all I want.” Some of the lessons came with great pain, some with great joy, some with great agony; the agony of realizing my own ego, selfishness, my own complete lack of understanding while grandstanding with lofty concepts. Humble one must be.

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After I removed myself from my white, western, privileged existence, I started to see what I could not see before. my overblown sense of importance. My unshakable beliefs in what was “right”, which was dictated by my own limited experience of the world, my white north american experience, after all I had been told incessantly by L’Oreal that : “I was worth it” no?

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Who is worth it? Me? You? The Syrian refugee running for their lives?

I sit now, on the other side of the globe, in a place where there is much less varnish laid on the daily life. The dirt, cracks, violence, fears, anger, they are not pushed under the rug. There are far less sparkles and glitter to lead us to believe in charming princes, frogs and beautiful princesses. I am not sure that I can say or that I should say anything anymore because most of everything we are made to believe and support as a society comes from some false propaganda. Something that was written by some “creative” in a think tank for us to dig in with all our hearts.

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Right now I have elected to be a bit of a recluse, I find joy in playing my guitar, making kefir, and playing just enough gigs to pay the rent. I don’t know if that is right or wrong, good or bad. I am waiting for the response regarding my residence permit, there is still the possibility that they say no. I am so keenly aware of the absurdity of this world these days, and so very aware of my own ignorance. I wish I could drop all judgement from my mind, my heart. I wish I could never complain again about anything, there is always beauty right there and now. I can be so small minded sometimes, that horrifies me… I am on a minute by minute work these days. Be present. Feel. Love. Stay in the faith that all is perfect as it is.

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Oh it’s a tricky walk, mirrors never tell the truth, the ladders we climb get us going, always going, reaching.. never arriving anywhere. Maybe that is why I stopped here and now. Trying to sense what is real, what is not just a mask or a reflection. The same window offers never the same view if one is willing to look.

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