from way back in a notebook from Nov. 2014.


table of contents


Two men went to draw water from the well. One man said,
“My pot is broken, let me share yours.” But the other man was greedy, and dashed his pot upon the ground.
“You idiot!” The first cried. “We will have to go back empty-handed!”
“No,” said the second, “you will. I will carry the shards of my pot.”
He carried them home and planted them, and come summer
They had grown into a beautiful flowering bush.

Often while commuting from place to place in this tumultuous mess of a city I’m forced to screen the whole thing out for sanity. Even popping in headphones doesn’t fully kill the noise. BUT, I had some time today and took the scenic route. There’s no “look” to the monster. My flat (Orkun’s flat) is in General Hasan, and it is between a ritzy boulevard of banks and covered garden restaurants. Just down the slope past our building is an open rotting pit with a collapsed rusty factory, slowly and agonizingly being converted into a parking lot. The corrugated steel around the site has been there ever since I moved to Istanbul in 2013. So you walk from Bitter Almond Avenue (the ritzy one) through the seedier General Hasan (my sketchy hood near the pit) and across the river into the ramshackle, filthy, desperately poor Idea Hill, where I get the bus. Idea Hill is a discombobulation of dirt mounds and car shops next to an open gutter canal, full of sewage, also in agonizing slow reconstruction. It smells curiously of burning plastic. On the road to the bus stop, I found a fenced-off garden hemmed in by the highway and my side street. I saw Atatürk’s face on a man-sized flag hanging from a dead winter branch. I saw maybe 20 ragged damp Turkish flags strung up in this fenced-off garden. It was perhaps a homeless camp, or a shrine. It had furniture, a tent, a mirror nailed to a tree underneath a portrait (again, of Atatürk) also nailed to a tree. The sidewalk was no one material, a composite of brick, cobblestone, open earth, cement.

So I cross the bosphorus on the bridge. It’s spectacular. You know this. The sprawl and linger of the grey clouds drifting above the overgrown peninsulas of the city, the churning dark boil of the water below.

At Well-And-Chain I popped out of the bus and decided to walk to rehearsal in Etiler. Well-And-Chain is a wealthy banking district with tall skyscrapers. The one right next to the metro is Tat Towers, a completely unnocupied piece of prime real estate. It was purchased and constructed by a Turkish mafia don who got caught with bad building permits, and so it exists in legal limbo, unable to be rented or sold or destroyed. It is called Tat Towers because the building’s shape is literally two towers separated by a smaller structure. TaT.

And while walking through the flashy European neighborhood of Etiler, I found a delightful park in the middle of the avenue. There was an ugly cubist ogre sculpture leering at the passing traffic. Then, for Valentine’s day, the municipality had strung up hearts all around from the branches. But also, because the municipality is lazy, their Christmas decorations were still up.


And then, a man walked by pushing a shopping cart full of electrical cords. It is his job to hook up the lights. His name is Murat.


Here is Murat.

My cousin wrote a folk tale. Text: "Once upon a time there was poop. They pooped on poop, so they pooped on the poop. Then after everyone pooped on the poop, the poop died. The poop's eggs hatched and made new poop. THE END. I didn't want to say poop."



Super weird. Last year there was this whole fish bazaar here, under a motley panolply of tarps. Vibrant. Whole thing got bulldozed into oblivion one morning when nobody could protect it. Had some of my favorite restaurants, too. At the time, the government said it was an illegal market and this was their justification for destroying it on the sly. Over the last year or so a few of the balık ekmek guys set up their operations again, careful to creep in and position their mangal grills on short towers of Styrofoam packing crates. I haven’t been back here in awhile. Now there’s a cheap wood tourist “historical fish market” glitz mall. It looks more like the remade mercantile facades on the galata bridge, or in the grand bazaar, or spice market. I asked one of the fish sellers, can I ask you something? Of course, he said, ne demek. What happened, I said, I haven’t been here in a while. We made a new çarşı, he said. I asked, was the last market illegal? No, it’s the same fish sellers, just a new çarşı, he said, and flicked his cigarette into the gutter. A new historic karakoy balik pazar, standing where the old one stood. There’s never an easy answer in this town.

A few months ago, of course, the government took over the leases of about 80 shopkeeps in the grand bazaar and turned them out into the street, and then installed its own partyline friendly shopkeep buddies inside the old covered market.

Starting a poem over again

So I tried to write a poem to a howling gypsy woman in my bathrobe
sitting on orkun’s couch on a sunny weird morning
we had bulgur pilav for breakfast
jari made it with allspice, two fried ehhs, pepper, onion garlic,
two friend ahds

but anyways I want to be more a writer again
because I write sometimes
and this is what I am a writer
a writer who writes with both feet pointed down
a writer who is afraid of the whole world collapsing
and with my own two words (which are my hands in this metaphor within a metaphor)
I get to hold the construction up withont falling down myself

and then I thought about editing this piece of work and

so the world fell down


I have been back in Istanbul for six days now–I landed the evening of the 13th, and it is now the evening of the 19th. It feels like waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay longer has gone by.

Since I arrived, I have done the following things:

forgotten the turkish words for "yesterday" and "seven"

tasted homemade cider

was given a nice new jacket by Adair because he had a spare which someone had left in Turkey with him (and I had tragically forgotten my leather jacket in Boston)

walked home in a storm, got soaked

sang a song about crawdads with Fatih, the melancholy cider-maker and professional translator (both french and english to turkish) ("My mom teaches turkish and when she has a question about turkish, she comes to me. I’m word crazy.")
woken up to snowy istanbul
ate syrian food with orkun and jari
convinced orkun to try improv for the first time–he and jari went up together and they had the funniest scene of the night, a speed retelling of cinderella

got convinced to go to an audition, and got the part of Leo in "The Producers"

was offered freelance work at my old job when I saw my old boss at the pub

taught two private lessons to a nine-year old rich kid who doesn’t want to do his homework, and my job is to make him write adverbs in cursive and then we play soccer in his tiny room

ran into some french musicians whom jari knew and who were throwing a cultural convention at a hostel, and we offered to cater their first night’s event

schemed up a menu for 50 people with jari

negotiated with a cashier at BIM for the temporary use of a shopping cart to push ten kilos of vegetables around the street

got taught the Kurdish words for bread, almonds, cheese, apricots and olives by an old man in the cheese shop

forgotten the Kurdish words for almonds, cheese, apricots and olives (bread is naan, so that one was easy to remember)

made a curry in a giant vat in a hostel kitchen

helped jari make like 200 lime crab harissa briks (I was in charge of frying them, he in charge of folding the filling into phyllo dough)

met 40 people from all over the balkans and europe

played music with jari for 40 people all over the balkans and europe

spoken french, bosnian, turkish, and a little spanish with new people

It’s addictive, you know? This city. I’m glad I came back.

"Have you ever spoken up when you saw something going wrong that was wrong? Were you scared? What ended up happening?"

Curiously enough the only thing I can think of off the top of my head is when I was sitting on a high windowsill near the gym with Anthea Carns during lunchtime at Steller, and a bunch of tenth graders picked up a sevie and tried to trash can him. Can him? Shit, the lingo is fading. Put him in a trash can. Steller usually had a low bullying quotient because 1) it was a lottery school, so you had to want to be there, and 2) there was no coercion from the staff to do anything in particular, least of all go to class. Canning had been described to me as one of the school’s offbeat traditions, a long list which included the overnighter*, the SDLs**, the murals***, or the all-school-hug.**** I don’t remember the sevie’s***** face, only the glee with which Sam was depositing him into the trash can. It was a waist-high cylindrical number, not of tin but gray plastic. Probably because it had been included in the list of things that make Steller the special school it was, and because I thought Sam and his bunch were particularly cool, I encouraged the operation. "Yeah, do it!" Can’t even remember exactly what I said.

Anthea spoke up. "Hey, c’mon guys, if he doesn’t want to do that don’t can him."

I was speechless. Sam and the boys stopped, set the kid down and walked away without acknowledging the telling-off they’d gotten.

At the time I had the kind of crush upon Anthea Carns which only an eighth-grader can have–heavier than cosmic bodies and faster than the trucking speed of visible light. What she said was so obviously the right thing to do — sticking up for someone being stuffed into a trash can — and I was mortified. Not only did it not even occur to me, it had not even occurred to me in front of her.

I remember nothing else from that afternoon, nor do I remember any other lunchtime conversations with her (and I think we ate together most days), except for the time when I built up the tidal wave of courage it required to pull her aside into the airlock and tell her I liked her, which of course went nowhere because I hadn’t really planned as to what would happen after that moment. There were a lot of missed romantic moments in Steller airlocks.

*;**;***;****;***** the overnighter was an all-night party at the school where each classroom was a screening room for different movies/videogames; the SDL was a period where everyone in class was doing their own course of learning, I did Norse Mythology, creative writing, and chess, for instance (stands for Self Directed Learning); the murals decorated almost every wall of the school and were done entirely by students, and the few designs I remember include a skiier going downhill, a rising Japanese sun thing, a sci-fi robot woman; the all-school-hug was a periodically-instituted game where some people in some class would stand up, link arms, and then form a massive human chain, going in and out of every room in the school to collect people before going out onto the field and looping in a giant spiral and collapsing in giggles (the school only had 13 classrooms and 300 students, so this was not so difficult; sevie is of course a seventh grader. Steller is named for Georg Wilhelm Steller, the naturalist.

As a bonus, here is an essay about Kierkegaard. Happy birthday!