For Orkun’s birthday Harriet and I took him to the breakfast place TaaVan in Yeldegirmeni and Orkun taught me that Taa is old turkish for “way over there,” as in, “My mom lives taa in Canada”. The last time we were there they had butter-fried golden mulberries, and I was crushed to learn it was out of season, so we opted for the regular basket breakfast, modestly priced at 20 lira, and a few menemen. TaaVan gives you the standard Turkish Breakfast portfolio of tomatoes and cukes and cheeses and bal and kaymak, but also a few odd sweet things that we couldn’t figure out, like a sandy honey paste and mashed-up walnuts with sugar and semolina, which is less good than it may sound.

We took the Marmaray to Kazlıçeşme (“goosey fountain”) and there was a guard with an AK-fucking-47 just chilling in the train station by the metal detectors. I mean at this point we were used to Polis with smaller guns just hanging out in public areas and giving everyone the willies, but yeeeesh. We skedaddled. Our destination was Yedikule castle, the fortress with seven towers. It was super close to the station so we walked through an old Islamic graveyard arguing about brains and personal identity until we got to the old city walls.

 Yedikule was closed. We peered in between the towering iron doors and saw two ticket offices built against the stone, deserted and dusty. A marble plaque identifying the site and containing necessary municipal text sat sideways and unused on the ground. The castle grounds were enormous, stone-green, and empty. It looked like it hadn’t been open in ten years. Harriet said that one of her friends had been let in for a photography class only six months ago, so we kept circling the castle walls.

We got to a gypsy encampment near a highway and a man walked all the way to the end of the road where we were standing and told us to buzz off. He looked both very accustomed to telling people that you couldn’t get into Yedikule this way, and stupid. We walked across the highway and wound up at an abandoned train station. The guard at first told us it was yasak to go in, but Orkun told him he was showing his friends around, and the guard saw that we were harmless and so let us in. “He told us that there’s dogs and to be careful,” Orkun said.

“I love that about Turkey,” Harriet said. “A No turns into a Yes after you talk to them for two minutes.”

Heaps of asphalt were piled around the shells of two brick buildings, and twin iron towers rose from the middle. A massive cylindrical cage, perhaps the skeleton of a forgotten chemicals tank, stood nearby. The air smelled like industry. The barking of hundreds of dogs could be heard echoing in the distance. We got close and the ceiling-less and window-less brick buildings were filled with broken car detritus. On a torn parcel of red bumper we saw the I.E.T.T. logo of Istanbul’s public transit.
We got closer to the towers. Three trash-picking gypsies were hanging out nearby and staring at the towers too. One guy was smoking and looking up at it.

“It’s really interesting,” he said. “It’s really old. What’s written on the side?” he asked Orkun.

“Dortmund, 1898. I guess that’s where it was made.”

“It’s really interesting,” he said, and fell silent. Later, when we were wandering in one of the other cathedral-like ceilingless brick shell buildings, we caught sight of the trash-picking gypsies using a fire hose to rappel up the side of the Dortmund towers. Orkun mentioned that he’d love to live that kind of explorer’s life — just exploring all the time. The gypsy paused halfway up the tower to put a cigarette in his mouth and take a pull.

We wandered around some more and eventually left, thanking the guard for his kindness. Orkun found a beveled gear in a pile of rubble and I carried it for him as a birthday souvenir. We followed the sound of the barking dogs and it was a dog shelter, but it was a too sad because a lot of them were underfed or sick or injured, so we had to leave.

We popped down to Sultanahmet because Orkun had never been to see the Basilica Cistern so we negotiated with the ticket office for lower locals’ prices and looked at the fat carp and listened to the weird broadcast flute music and admired the goofy pink lighting at the base of the columns and took a picture of the derpy medusa. It was all full of garbage misinformation, Harriet said. “Like there’s all sorts of conspiracy theories as to why the medusa’s head is upside down underneath the column when it’s just because it fit best that way. Everything was made out of recycled materials back then. If you walk a hundred meters down the street to the archaeological museum they’ve got a column on a medusa head on display exactly the same.”

For dinner, I made a Dad Food classic — chicken marinated in soy sauce and scallions, and veggie lo mein. We were in a food coma by seven pm and ready for bed by nine.

These kinds of days are my favorite days in Istanbul. The neighborhood around Yedikule is utterly different from the kinds of things you’d see in Kadikoy and it was a fifteen-minute train ride away. I don’t have these days often much anymore because I’m always doing something — either going to a private lesson to hustle, or to the theatre for rehearsal, or to meet some friends for beers. I get a huge kick out of just wandering around a place with friends, picking up trash, making jokes, climbing stuff, taking some pictures.


On Saturday morning I felt like someone had tipped over a dumpster, scotch-taped the garbage together in the shape of a man, and used some fell necromancy to animate it into a trash golem. I felt like a trash golem. I was trash. We’d gone out to Lars and Amanda’s birthday/going-away party at Leman Kultur in Taksim and gotten far, far too drunk far too quickly on the Ukrainian Birch vodka Jari’d brought back from the Kiev airport. Harriet had purchased some apple juice at a tekel and we’d surreptitiously poured the vodka and apple juice into a beer stein purloined from an empty table while the waiter wasn’t looking. It seemed like a good idea, but it was actually a terrible idea, because it meant we had to leave really early and it wrecked my brain for Saturday. Which was bad, because rehearsal is on Saturday morning. When the alarm went off I actually did not know what alarms were or why there was sound, or whether life was real or not. “What is this?” I thought to myself. “I am sleeping right now. Why are there things other than sleep??” We shambled out of bed and, after a brief stop at the metro office near the docks to get Harriet a mavi kart, hopped on metrobus to get ourselves over to Etiler.


I’d missed the actual first rehearsal on Wednesday so this one was the real first rehearsal for me, and we ran the first few scenes of the panto. A pantomime, for my american readers, is a style of British theatre where men dress like women and the audience is incited to boo and cheer for the bad/good guys. It’s a traditional kids’ Christmas play which usually takes a fairy or folk tale as its plot, and then adds in lots of political/sexual innuendo for the adults. Because this is of course in Turkey, where politics is, oh, kind of a sensitive subject (even in English), we’ll be eliminating any timely references. We’re doing the tale of “Dick Whittington and his Cat” so rest assured all the sex jokes will still be there. Chris Wall is Chris the Cat. I am a woman named Sally the Cook.

After rehearsal we jetted off to Bomonti, a part of town which after three years I’ve still never visited before, and went to the annual Korean Charity Bazaar. I had no idea there were enough Koreans in Istanbul to throw a charity bazaar, but oh maaaaaan when Taylor clued us into it, we had to make it a priority. I mean, KIMCHI. KIMCHI ALL DAY EVERY DAY. AAAHHHH MORE PLEASE. So we went up into Bomonti into what looked like an empty university building, but as soon as we got in, we heard the loud echoes of korean opera, and we saw a bustling flea market on the bottom floor. We got a weird delicious pancake of vegetables, a weird delicious pastry filled with nuts, cinnamon, and honey, and chap chae and kimchi and rice and UGH. When I die please make my body into kimchi. Or if that’s gross you can fill my coffin with kimchi and push me out to sea. Whatever. Korean grandmas pushed kimchi on us, and Chris pulled me and Harriet into the bazaar to check out the fanciest Korean bidet. It had robot settings to blast water at your anus at different speeds and patterns; it had an air-dryer. Inside the demo toilet, beneath the bidet’s robot arm, someone had placed a pot of plastic roses. The ambient music changed from Korean Opera to Aerosmith.

That night, still wretched and demolished and hung, Harriet and I decided to stay home and chill. Jari’s French lutist friend Valerie had invited him to another musician’s house for Renaissance music and dinner — apparently the guy had a museum-y house covered in antique turkish instruments from the middle ages and Ottoman times, and could also apparently play all of them.

On Sunday Jari and I discussed the menu for our pop-up restaurant at Circuit for next Saturday. Harriet and I escaped from the city and went to Kilyos on the Black Sea. It was one of the last nice days of the summer before winter shits all over us, so we wanted to exploit it for beach day. We took the metro to the end of the line and then took the bus all the way to Demircikoy, a tiny village beyond the more touristy Kilyos. We walked down a hill for half an hour past a bunch of gated communities and got to a cute beach with sand and kite-flying dudes and dogs. We barely did anything other than walk around and explore the coast, with its rugged rocks and powder-blue whitecap waves. We stood on the edge of the rocky cliffs and felt heroic. Out in the Black Sea, a herd of ships waited their turn to go through the Bosphorus.

It was a nice weekend after a week destitute of actual work. This week I start work at a children’s theatre doing shows for $$$ and helping kids learn English. We’ll rehearse a show to transmute it into entertainment, and then tour around Istanbul schools, doing one, two, maybe three performances a day. There are tours, too — last year they went to Iskenderun, Kayseri, Antalya. It doesn’t pay loads (but crucially, it does pay a living wage) so I’m supplementing my income with the usual run of private lessons, including the kid whose arm I broke.

Normally I’d linger a bit on all these stories — I don’t like rushing through everything so quickly, narratively speaking, but I just haven’t written anything in so long that I had to catch up. As usual, life in this city charges along like a rhinoceros.

IMG_20160115_163003018.jpgWhen I was in the late single-digits—sometime during third grade—I developed an intense fear of choking. We had brought home some excellent sandwiches from Carrs’ deli and I was really excited to eat, because at that point I loved plain turkey with shredded lettuce and mayo and black pepper on white or wheat bread, and Carrs’ deli made excellent turkey with shredded lettuce and mayo with black pepper on white or wheat bread. And I remember taking a bite and just not knowing what to do. Where does it go? What do I do with it? Where do I put my tongue, how do I push the food back? What if I do it wrong, and I choke? Was I choking? How could I tell I was choking?

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  • I know why poor whites chant trump trump trump The author connects her experience working in a shitty bar in Arkansas and living in a trailer park to today’s politics, and outlines the history of American wealth inequality from slavery to the civil rights era to Bush. I learned that many of the descendants of white indentured servants ended up in Appalachia, and also that a bunch of people camped out on the Washington lawn after King’s assassination in order to draw attention to ending poverty. It’s timely, in the wake of the reporting on the Panama papers, to revisit the history of how wealthy people in their bid to stay on top (or just plain greed) shaped the lives of millions of people. Was that sentence structured strangely? I’m rereading that last sentence and it was structured strangely. Maybe? Anyways side note where does the impulse to blame poor people and foreigners for problems come from?????


  • TARANTA  epic drums/violin/choral/guitar jam from southern Italy made by a generation band and a composer
  • The Ballad of George Collins ballad with funky beat and a trippy modern dance video. the singer, sam lee, is an english folk singer who travels around to roma and ‘travellers’ communities to learn their songs, and then arranges them with modern and international instrumentation. has a background in burlesque and wilderness survival. probably a druid. read the article about him in the guardian. also check out his song blackbird
  • Stye albanian spooky poem set to sparse accompaniment of piano, drums and voice
  • All Star but everyone is playing at different tempos why would someone make this


when you wake up hungover and want to write about destiny:

every word, so slow to come, is destiny to say

nothing can be unsaid until you scrap out the worst

parts but stop the cart keep rolling,

the only form, sounded out by tenzing the throat-singer, can

be a starstretched poem emptied out pouring quiet:

whether it’s good or bad it’s still your destiny and you’re still hungover.

go and find.


If you could not see me for seven years more

would you pop off facebook and leave me alone

would I have to seek you in the sage hollow fair

or would you just text me later


confront the ugly-faced gremlin who says everything you do is stupid

and wave your genitals at him in the crudest way


A half-eaten greyfut

it wasn’t very good

but then again, what did you expect? a grapefruit?











This gallery contains 14 photos.

Our first day in Bulgaristan we took the night bus up from Istanbul. It took us four visits and one phone call (conducted on our behalf a native speaker, no less) to make reservations with the bus company, find out the reservations had disappeared, figure out where they were picking us up, and pay for the …

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