Impressions

January 20, 2016

Walking on Istiklal, got a heavy backpack with pedals and guitar cables, the guitar is heavy… stupid plywood case weights 40 lbs. Dreaming of a lightweight case for this baby one day. Twice, heavily made up Arab tourist girls run right into me. They are fat with bonbons. Americans are fat with grease, Arabs are fat with bonbons. They don’t apologize, they carry many shopping bags, their eyes scanning for opportunities, the mustard color pants stick in my memory.

It snowed for two days straight but it didn’t stick on the ground. The only thing that got stuck to the ground for those two days were 325 planes at Ataturk airport. f

I get to Jurnal but the gig isn’t going to happen. I didn’t want to go to tell you the truth… I had this really huge “Naaaaahhhhhh don’t wanna gooooooooooooooo” feeling. I almost messaged that I wasn’t coming but I kicked my but and went. Erkan is sick, the place is cold and empty and we just agreed that I could just go home. Yay. I actually wanted to take photos so…. I went.

I walk down the road, cars honk. Mostly taxi drivers. It’s aggravating. I am taking photos “honk!” “beep beep!” a constant flow of honking, greedy, taxi drivers, and it’s pretty damn obvious that I am not even looking for a cab, I’m not even paying any attention at the road. Then the driver of a regular car slows down, pulls over, he cranes his neck trying to look at me, rolls the window down. They do that. Men in cars, when you walk along the sidewalk, just stop and expect you are just going to smile and jump right into their cars…. Sometimes they follow you for a while, in case you change your mind. As if… I pay attention to their plates, 34 means Istanbul, other numbers; they’re from out of town and sometimes that means that they have some strange ideas about women.

a09

Karaköy. It’s dark and deserted. Tuesday night is a good night for empty streets. I don’t like taking photos when there are too many people. I don’t like sticking the camera in people’s faces… seems… rude. I walk down the deserted off ramp for the bridge, there is a fenced area, kind of open field. Puppies are eating, someone fed them. These someones are amazing. So generous and caring.

a09

a11

a13

Walking in the dark emptiness further on, 3 more dogs appear, one is quite young. They come close to me. The little one is very nervous, he looks like he’s had bad encounters with humans before, a kind of brown lab. An older one approaches me, big, brown with a white patch on the chest, a large square muzzle, noble looking. I gently touch him, talk to him, he looks so grave. A third one hangs off to the back. Suddenly the serious one launches full speed, barking and running, the other two follow him. The disappear in the night but I can hear them bark.

a12

a17

a19

a20

My eyes get excited, angles, colors, unexpected things. It’s cool to be in an empty Istanbu. It’s cold tonight, for locals I mean, I think that might be the main reason why it’s so empty, it’s below zero, no one’s out but the crazy Canadian. My roommate rode his motorcycle today, “maniac” he called himself. He has a wool jacket, I hope his leather jacket is underneath… I know how cold it gets on a motorcycle when you get around zero C.

a21

a23

a25

a28

a31

Work at the school. Everyone is working so very hard. Everyone is doing too many hours. Everyone is paid a little too little. Everyone is given the short end of the stick by the management. It’s always about money. I wish people would get this… Money is not the goal. Money is an energy that happens and that should be shared. This week I’ve had reduced hours because of the end of some of the classes that started in October. Not good for finances but spirit-wise it’s good because it makes me feel free as the work load is not so damn heavy. I work 3 days a week now. 10 classes on Saturdays and Sundays. It’s too much for one day. Those days start at 7 AM, then ten lessons in a row with 10 different set of faces, 10 different programs, I still don’t know anyone’s names… I am a full on zombie when I get home after those days. Then I need two days to recover. But it’s not all bad, there have been days where some really great moments occur, human things, community things, it’s for real. I also learn to be more resilient and support my colleagues instead of whining. This week I was able to set aglow a few “light bulb moments” in my student’s faces and that was priceless.

I am dangerously addicted to this new coffee shop: Ministry of Coffee. Australian roasters… the rush is undescribable. I’m in trouble… I shouldn’t spend money in the coffee shop with reduced work hours… that is food money. But it’s sooooooo good….

a34

a42

a44

a45

a46

a51

Shelley, my beautiful new friend left Istanbul yesterday. She is from China, she did a thing for me… how to describe… maybe what explains it is that because she is an artist she can create things… she made me see something in me I wasn’t able to see, and she did this with a sort of visual-apparition magic, holographic thing… images came to me. It was something I needed to see on this journey of mine. Then that vision allowed me to free some other considerations in my mind. One must always leave the door open for discoveries, for love, for connection. How amazing are all the meetings we make upon our road. All those are gifts. I am so thankful.

a0

I have a heater. I can eat. I can take photos, write and play. I have many streams of friendships that make my heart happy. I have a fuzzy blanket that Berna gave me, books to read, courses I take. Coffee. Hot showers. An incredible guitar and a camera. I have a love for the world and its wondrous creatures. All that is required at this point is to stop watching the news. All the news. Life then will be idyllic as it will be mine, as my spirit seeks and not the reflection of some other entity’s agenda.

a57

DSC01978

Advertisements

January 12th blast, part 2

A95

After absorbing the news of the terrorist attack, I spent too much time all over the internet looking for something; news, details, redemptive words, absolution of fears. Friends reached out on FB. I was kind of in a stupefied trance, time ticking by, my ears tuning to any unfamiliar sounds that arose as if to try to prevent something. Then I saw the time, 9:21 PM, Damn! I was late, I was to play that night at Jurnal. I got up, got dressed, raced out of the house with the guitar and the heavy backpack.

Outside, a few drops of rain. Hmm I hope it’s not going to pour… Up the hill in the dark night. At the top of the hill there is a traffic light I must wait. The buses race by, a street light has died, so it’s very dark, the light changes and I cross and walk into Beyoğlu. The guitar seem to weigh 100 pounds right now. The rain increases a bit then a bit more, I regret not taking an umbrella. On Istiklal I have a thought of “What if someone blew themselves up here?” that always elicits a strange feeling of the skin recoiling from the outside-in. With these acts of violence you cannot be cowed into hiding, but going out is not such a carefree affair. I slalom in and out of the heavy pedestrian traffic to finally get to Jurnal.

It’s very quiet. Two tables with customers who leave soon after I arrive and a few lone guys at the bar.

“How are you?”

“Oh I’m OK, it’s just this bomb thing… it messes my head.”

“Ah, you have to get used to it.”

“We should not have to get used to such things, I don’t want to get used to such things…”

“… well, yeah… but…”

I set up as I start, there are maybe 6 people in the place. I feel I should play anything I want. No trying to please anyone here, just play what my mind,heart, soul wishes to hear. I chose to play “Regrets” a song that speaks of a plane crashing and rain so intense the land gets covered and disappears under it. As I do that, the rain outside crescendoes into a deluge, the water makes a white wall and makes the silhouettes of the old grim buildings become gray shadows in the night. The sound is very strong. And it goes on and on and on. I keep looking outside, it is eerie, magical and foreboding. We are surrounded by this downpour, incarcerated between those water walls, isolated, purged and purified. And I play 2, 3 more songs and it continues…

“The Gods are cleaning the blood and the desecration of life that took place today…” I think to myself.

Yes out there in Sultan Ahmet, all the blood, the DNA, the shreds of flesh the bad air and the worries and the tears get washed away. All the screams, the crying, the mourning, the anger and the despair drowned in the droning sound of the rain, tapping, hitting, impacting, plinking, patting all that lies below. The place expurgated of all offensive particles be it biological or spiritual by this flood-like absolution. Maybe they will (the Gods) engulf us in anger for the atrocities we keep committing.

Hakkan joins me, he is a saxophonist. The first time I heard this man play two years ago I was flabbergasted by his brilliance. But he drinks to stupor all the time and he is slowly but surely destroying himself and his music with the alcohol. He starts really sparsely, slowly, the rain’s sounds and his long notes sometimes cut by rasping air coming out of the embouchure made an aural nest into which I settled. I continued non-stop until it felt like there was no point anymore in singing another note.

I joined Eren, he was sitting there, plunged in the depths of his phone.

“Today was horrible.”

“Yes”

“I can’t stop looking at my phone…”

“I know, I did the same, I was late getting here because of this.”

“This rain, it’s good.”

“Yes, The Gods are angry… Maybe they will swallow us.”

At the bar 5 men sitting there. No women. They all drink slowly. The voices are quiet, subdued. Hakkan came and sat with me.

“Your music is great, you have a big heart but…” (There always has to be a but) “You should play major… you play minor everything.. Everyone in Turkey plays minor, you should play major, make people happy, they would come, the place would be full… hmm my English really bad… I mean…”

“No, I get your point. You do have a point. I struggle with writing in major keys. (they make me feel madness…) You are right.”

When I left there was still a bit of a light rain shower. The streets quite empty, washed, the water runs in wide streams on the broken pavement. An ambulance rushes by, I wonder… men stand by the entrances of deserted dance clubs looking for people to hustle in. It is quiet.

Istanbul hurts quietly, in silence as it always does, no screams of victimhood or revenge or unfairness. Istanbul braces and takes the hit, as it has been doing way too many times in its history.

a03

To walk around Istanbul today you could not tell the horror that had happened. The sun was out in a glorious tenderness of warm, gentle gold, the breeze sweet and unthreatening, the splendors of the city set aglow by this light, stand tall in the distance. The difference is in the heart. It’s in the way that any rumbling sound in the distance make you uneasy. In the awareness that a terminal explosion could take place anytime, anywhere. It is the fact that you cannot, will not be unaware, blissfully unconcerned by any fear or doubt or dreadful imaginings of blood and flesh and “body parts” as a witness recounted.

I heard the blast. I was sleeping, I stood up in the bed, confused, still dreaming, then went back to sleep with a blurred thought that this was likely only some sort of structural event, electrical or construction related or a dream. After getting up, I suddenly remembered the blast. I asked my friend: “did you hear a blast? I heard something but I can’t remember if it was last night or the night before or a dream.” It was all a vague thing in my mind. Then I got an email from Italy: “ are you OK? I heard about the detonation.”

Detonation… ah, yes. I head it too. For real, first person singular. I checked the news. And there it was: “breaking news”

“Fuck.”

The event was followed immediately by a media blackout and a statement from the authorities that it was to be blamed on a “Syrian terrorist” 10 people died, 15 injured and no one knows who these people are, foreigners, Turks?

I am OK. No harm done to me or anyone I know. Sultan Ahmet is usually filled with tourists, not so much with Istanbulites.

The gulls fly in the sky, unaffected, the light is gorgeous and the beauty of the place; breathtaking. This indifference has always hit me deeply, how incongruous it seems when humans tear their neighbors, hearts and souls to shreds, the world just keeps on going its unstoppable course.

A few nights ago, I was at school teaching, we were in a classroom that faces the back of the building, when suddenly about 8 dry, loud, shots were heard in a very quick successive discharge. TAT! TAT! TAT! TAT! TAT! TAT! TAT! TAT! The window was open. We were on the 5th floor, it sounded so close, so ominous, terminal. The class fell silent. We all looked at each other. My nerves rang as if a brass bell had just been hit. A weird sort of surface queasy headache formed on my forehead and between my eyes.

“Holy shit. That wasn’t firecrackers…” I said.

“No it wasn’t.” said a student

“That was so close.”

“yeah, that is normal in this neighborhood.” the same student said. Life easily lost or changed forever. I couldn’t go on. I gave them an early recess. I walked in the teacher’s room, told the story, no one really reacted. My queasy headache still on.

I will play tonight and life will go on.

Sending my love.

Humans are crazy.