Saturday, March 22, 2014


So it's finally happened. It's been more than a month since I blogged about anything, but then Twitter got banned (sort of), and there was nothing for me to do but open a Twitter account.

Like all techno-thingies, I've resisted Twitter for a long time, despite extensive peer pressure. I resisted the Internet at first as some sort of newfangled distraction that would never catch on (this was, mind you, when Webcrawler was the best browser option and dial-up made the Internet super boring). I regarded email as pointless until I had to set up an account for work. The only reason I opened a Facebook account in the first place was to apply for a freelance gig that never panned out, and which turned out to be lame anyway.

No. No, you were never lightning fast.
I don't suppose I need to elaborate on the details of why all my anxiety and hesitation turned out to be stupid and completely wrong. Now I'm the one on the Istanbul Women's Facebook page all coolly advising everyone how the world isn't coming to an end just yet, just Google how to change your DNS number and VPNs aren't scary because I learned all this stuff when You Tube was banned for two years. I hardly know exactly what all these acronyms and numbers are, but I know how to make them work to get me the things on the Internet I want to have.

And there are a lot of things on the Internet that Turkey doesn't want me to have. There are also a lot of things the US doesn't want me to have. To that I say, "Fuck all y'all." I have like 8 CDs downloading on my work computer right now. I figure I've paid enough money to the entertainment industry in my life. They pretty much owe me at this point.

Keytar? Technology is awesome. 
So now I'm on Twitter and I feel like someone's grandma on Twitter because I don't get how it works with all the hashtags schmashtags and whatever, but I'll figure it out.

Today at LE's school, I overheard some dads and a grampa talking about Twitter. Amca was all "What is this Twitter business I keep hearing about? Twitter is closed falan... what is this Twitter and why did they close it?" and a younger fellow told him it's this thing where you can post stuff and other people read it and also you can send free messages. Amca was all, "Oh, so it's like Whatsapp or whatever? Free messages are great-- why would they want to close that?" and the younger guy was like, "Well, that's part of it but there are also articles and pictures and stuff."

And Amca nodded and rubbed his chin and said, "So it's like this Facebook where you send your pictures and other people talk about them?" and the younger guy said, "Yeah, it's kind of like that, but different." And Amca said, "Well, of course I don't do Facebook because I don't understand any of that anyway. I don't get why they bother closing this and that and the other thing." The younger guy shuffled his feet a bit and went for a non-committal, "Well, you know how it is işte, burası Türkiye..."

Amca winked at me. I was doing a crappy job being sneaky about eavesdropping, all with my phone out trying to read a few articles in the remaining minutes before the kids came out of school; the Twitter ban, the Syria crisis, the everything else crisis. Every day it seems a little bit worse that I brought a kid into this world.

Amca slapped his hands on his thighs before standing and making his final pronouncement on the Twitter issue. "I guess so long as we can still drink tea. If they don't ban tea, everything will be fine." The other two men nodded in somber agreement and Amca smiled my way.

And then they went on to talk about the weather, which is changeable these days, and the huge flock of birds that flies over our heads around the same time each evening, and the crazy things our kids get up to, like punching each other in the mouth, which maybe I won't be writing anything about but maybe I will. Maybe it won't even matter if I do or don't.

I'll probably be too busy reading stuff on Twitter.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Valentine's Day My Ass, It's Turkiversary Day!

I haven't done anything to celebrate Valentine's Day since I was in grade school and we had those Valentine's Day parties in class where everyone has a shoebox with a hole cut in the front and everyone else in the class had to stick those crappy cards with crappy puns into everyone else's shoebox. You had to sign all the cards the night before with your mom watching over your shoulder to make sure you didn't write something shitty to the kids who were assholes.

Lucky for me, 14 February is also my anniversary of the day I came to Turkey. So this is not a bitter Valentine's Day post. It's just a post wherein I extoll my gladness for having come to Turkey 12 years ago.

At the time I came here, I believed I was coming to Istanbul for love. In retrospect that whole thing was a delicious delusion but it turned out very well indeed because it wasn't love at all, though in the end it ended up being something like that.

And so I've decided to grace you with one of these damned lists that the Internet keeps churning out. In honor of my 12 years in Istanbul, here's a list of 12 things that tell me I've been in Istanbul for 12 years.

Please note that I will not mention tea or people's hospitality because yawn. I'm bored to death of those newbie lists.

1) The other day I marched into the eczane and requested yeast infection medication. Then I asked for some cream for the itching, and the guy asked where it itched, and I said, "My vagina." The eczane crowd of gawkers wasn't as big as usual, but it was all male. What can I do sometimes?

2) I remember when there were trees on Istiklal.
Now they've paved the cobbles along the tracks to make it easier for TOMAs to pass.
3) When my kid has friends over and I bring them a snack, he asks if it's haram before letting his friends eat it. He seems to think all we eat is haram.

4) I've started telling people off for stuff like cutting in line or polishing their nails in restaurants.

5) Forgetting my wallet at home is no reason not to do the grocery shopping. You can always pay it back later.

This, for example, is not traffic.
6) I can tell how long we'll be sitting in traffic based on who is begging or what's being sold. Water, flowers, or simit-- not long. Toys or balloons arranged on a long stick-- longer. Small child beggars in between lanes-- pretty long. Legless beggars in between lanes on the freeway-- screwed.

7) I went to the dentist last week for a filling and he offered to do it without anesthetic and I accepted. He didn't even charge me for the filling.

8) I can sometimes tell what people really mean in Turkish by how and when they say it.

9) I have never bought terlik in my life, yet I have a healthy supply of terlik.

10) An empty water bottle makes an excellent football. All the kids in the schoolyard are doing it.

11) When going to have a meal or a drink outside any time that's not summer with a group friends that has Turkish people in it, I check with the Turks if they have issues about getting cold. If they do (and this is a thing), then we sit inside.

12) Even before the trees started blossoming, I knew it was going to be an early spring because the cats started fucking a few weeks ago. Still, I'll find someone to confirm the cemre are falling right this year, and I'll hold out for the leylek to be sure.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Celebrity Death Triad: Complete

Is nine days too long since the last Celebrity Death to count today's death as part of the Triad?

Oh, you'd better believe I made a meme.
I'll be honest. I thought Shirley Temple had died like 20 years ago. So naturally I got to wondering, "What did Shirley Temple look like as a grownup?" Thanks to Google images, there's an answer to that question.

Yup, she looks just like a grownup.
I wonder if she knew her real age when they took this picture?
I want red lipstick to make a comeback.

The 40s were awesome, seriously.

The first non-Shirley-Temple pic that Google images turned up.

When I was a kid, Shirley Temples were the best thing ever. Grenadine and soda with a maraschino cherry. We mostly only got to have them in restaurants. A heavy grenadine pour was like kid crack.

That's what I think of when I think of Shirley Temple-- going to restaurants with my family.

And also this:

The olden days were seriously fucked up.

By the way, it's possible the last two celebrity deaths didn't hail a Triad, and this most recent death is the start of a new Celebrity Death Triad.

One can never say for sure. Celebrity Death Triads are slippery things indeed.

Ba da ching!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Jinx Post: Celebrity Death Triad

I had a spam comment on this post recently, and I got to thinking about superstition.

I think by now you're fairly clear on my religious views and whatever else, but the thing is, there are a few things I'm superstitious about. One of them is the Celebrity Death Triad.

And the reason I bring this up is that given recent circumstances...
... we could be in for a bad Celebrity Death Triad. As in, someone very cool is due to die soon. I base this near-groundless premise on the fact that because Pete Seeger and Philip Seymour Hoffman were for-real talented people, another for-real talented celebrity is due to die next.
And this bums me out.

I see dead people.
If you don't believe me about Celebrity Death Triads, just check the Internet because the Internet knows everything. If that doesn't convince you, check your Facebook feed for the last year or two. You'll find the Celebrity Death Triads once you're looking for them.

Thomas Kincade-Mike Wallace-Dick Clark. What does it mean?

What's worse about the Celebrity Death Triad superstition is knowing that (according to what be my own superstition) if a lesser and somewhat anti-climactic celebrity dies first, that will complete the Triad, thus saving a more beloved celebrity from death.

For now.

But if this happens, a less-important celebrity is sacrificing him or herself to prevent a really awful Triad, you're left wondering why, for example, Jonathan Winters had to be in the same Triad as Margaret Thatcher. And where did Annette Funicello figure in? But sometimes that's just the way it happens.

The worst thing of all is how completely unpredictable the superstition is.

Anyway, this Celebrity Death Triad had better lay off Dawn Wells.
So I wrote this post to jinx it and arrest the Triad at two.

We'll see if that works.

Friday, January 31, 2014

About Love

Look, I'm not even going to start this post with a snarky comment justifying why I'm taking on a cheesy subject.
I did not Instagram this.

I've been thinking about love a lot lately. And by "lately," I mean over the last several years. I had a lot of time to deconstruct BE's and my relationship. It's entirely possible he and I weren't even having the same relationship. That's not unusual, I think, in people's relationships.

Problems between  BE and I were going on well before I kicked him out. I talked to my parents a lot about it, because we talk about stuff like that and there were also practical considerations involved in the possibility of ending the relationship. We needed to brainstorm, especially after LE was born. One time my mom asked me if I was still in love with BE.

The length of my hesitation before answering was probably the real answer. I was thinking about a lot of stuff at once. I answered something like that I didn't dislike him and I knew we were still okay in a way because I still liked how he smelled.

Because part of love is that, isn't it? Liking a lot how someone smells. It's maybe more on the biological or hormonal side of things, but it's still part of it. I also didn't specifically wish any ill upon BE. That was a kind of love too, feeling loyal to someone.

It's not enough, but it's not nothing.

My mom and dad were also struggling at that time, as people do when confronted with massive life changes. If they were questioning whether or not they were in love with each other, they were keeping it from us. But I bet if you asked either one of them, even after the worst fight, whether they were in love with the other, I bet neither of them would have hesitated for a second.

And my parents aren't the sort of people who give knee-jerk answers with the thing they think we want to hear.

Love and in love and biology and hormones. All of this has been gone over so much in the course of human history that there's hardly any reason to go over it here. People really do like thinking about love a lot and finding extraordinary and mundane ways of expressing it. It's one of the good things about people, good enough that they can be forgiven for all the awful poetry and music.

I remember a scene from the Jimi Hendrix movie Rainbow Bridge where a couple of hippies are making out and the girl goes, "I want you to make love to me," and the guy answers, "You can't make love. Love is." That answer is so appallingly mundane and stupid and unnecessary it's actually one of the things that makes me not want to talk about love.

It's safe to say my love life is a shambles. Or kind of great. Or a hot mess. I've always sucked at romantic love. I'm really good at falling in love. And nursing unrequited love. And finding bad love.

Aren't there ever so many names for the different types of love?

But here's the thing. No matter what happens, I keep believing in love. You know why? It's because I know what love looks like because I grew up in a house where I saw what love looked like every day. I love my parents. My parents love me. They love each other. I love both my brothers and they both love me. They both love each other. They love our parents and our parents love them. All these loves have different faces, but they're all still the good kind.

This kind of thing is rare among expats. There is a small tribe of us who have the privilege of experiencing mutual good love with family, especially parents. We know that home is people that aren't going away no matter how gross or mean or screamy we are, or how far away they are, or how much people change. We are still loved despite our greatest efforts to push it away.

And I'm so lucky to have LE, someone I can shower with love every day. Loving your kids is easy. You don't really have to think about it. But sometimes I think parent love is all the kinds of love rolled into one. It can be in love, or unrequited, or bad love, or love-hate. It can be that weird, huge outside-power love that I'm uncomfortable admitting to feeling because religious people have pretty much taken over all the words about that kind. I'm more comfortable admitting to something like romantic love for my kid, even though people's minds may jump to some sort of creepy incest thing. Don't be an idiot, if that's what you're thinking. I think about LE all the time and imagine holding him and kissing his neck and squeezing his little feet and I fret a little when he's mad at me or when we're not getting along. I take pleasure in finding new things to love about LE, and finding new ways to show him I love him, and to make love an almost-palpable thing that he'll believe in too, no matter what.

Today is my parents' anniversary. Or maybe it was yesterday. I always fuck up the day, but they once told me not to worry about it because their anniversary is their thing, not ours. I expect my parents are often dismayed with my brothers' and my love lives, and they probably think it's their fault somehow because they're parents and that's the sort of thing you blame on yourself. Perhaps also it's easy to overlook all the other really excellent relationships my brothers and I have because there's this one kind of love we're not so good at that sticks out more.

But who knows? Maybe it is their fault for creating such a high standard of love, and for showing us every day how to love well. We believe in it because it is a thing they made and we make and we all know what it is. It's perhaps what love isn't that I'm not so astute at identifying. But I figure it out eventually, and then find new ways to love and be loved and not be loved.

43 years is a damn long time to be married and still sneak kisses and butt pats when they think we aren't looking. But we were always looking.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Kid Art

I found this drawing while I was futzing around cleaning stuff yesterday. I don't know if it's LE's handiwork or some other kid's, but I think we might be due for a talk about stuff.

I love that guy's mustache.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Bookserf: A Bit Of Awesome

Yeah, yeah, I know. It seems like I've quit the blog. I haven't, really. It's just that when things are going relatively well, there's not much to write about. Not that I'm sulking around and looking for bad things to write about. More that I feel like an insufferable dick when I write about good things. It's too much like image-crafting, and it's hard work.

As though I'm not image-crafting when I write about bad things. It's just that the bad-things image comes more naturally.

One thing is the word "awesome." It's beyond back (back from the 80s, I mean) and it's sunk its claws into me. After the 80s, "awesome" became pretty much limited to the realm of skaters and surfers and tanned adventure people. But then everyone started saying it again. I resisted at first. I tried to affect curmudgeonly annoyance with the return of the word.

But then a friend from high school came to visit with his fiancee. I was kind of nervous about them staying with me because I hadn't seen this guy since around the time he graduated high school 20 years ago. People can change in unpleasant ways. They grow up into other people. The fiancee I'd never met at all.

I've known this guy since we were around 10, and I always liked him well enough even though he was more my younger brother's friend than mine. But we all hung out together in high school, and I'll tell you what, we had some serious life-learning adventures.
He undraped for the picture.

I'm getting to the Bookserf thing, I promise.

And it was great, their visit I mean, and my friend and his fiancee were also great. It was like picking up where we left off only without all the adolescent hangups to tiptoe around. They were the best houseguests ever because it was just normal having them around, like family. Even LE, who's normally pretty shy of strangers, was punching my friend's arm within a minute of meeting them at the bus stop, and already saying, "Look what I can do!" before we'd even gotten through the doors of the ice cream place I'd bribed him with for staying up really late to come meet our friends at the bus stop. The next morning I awoke to find my friend and LE on the floor watching cartoons with LE draped languidly like a cat over his shoulders.

Also they said "awesome" a lot. And it stuck. I can't stop saying it. I can't stop thinking it. But you know what? As the economy is collapsing and the world is maybe coming to an end and each day brings a new dose of uncertainty in ironic, literary proportions (you can choose your author each day-- Orwell? Kafka? Camus? Palahnuik? McCarthy?), believing everything is awesome makes the experience of being alive in Istanbul at this moment, well... awesome.

Whether it's a delusion or a coping strategy or whatever, I don't care. It's working for me.

So, speaking of awesome, I finally met the Bookserf guys. One of them contacted me on FB last year about getting the word out about them on my blog and around my university. I didn't really have time to follow up, though I wanted to, and then there was Gezi, and then I was busy again with work. I haven't had a chance till this week to finally sit down with these guys, borrow a book, and find ways to get the word out.

Bookserf is essentially a book exchange, but with some good twists. You choose the book you want from
their website and leave your contact info under it. Then you arrange to meet the owner of the book (their profiles are on the site), borrow the book, which you give back two weeks later. If you want, you can talk about the book and literature and all the other great stuff there is in the world to talk about.

Most of the books are in English, by the way. And they have for-real good books, not shitty romance novels abandoned by couch-surfers.

If the other book owners are anything like Kerem and Erbil, it's probably worth it to hang out and talk about the book or whatever else. Sometimes I'm completely awed at the people Istanbul unlocks.

Did you see how I just used "awed" there instead of "awesome?" Don't think for a second I don't know what "awesome" meant before it became an overused tool in my quest to make my life a cooler place to live. It's probably part of the reason it works, feeling awed several times a week.

Midday beers, smart guys bursting with ideas, and Kerem lent me a really good book.
I'm pretty sure I need that cool fisheye attachment.
It's things like this, books and talking and all the other good stuff that goes on that I don't write about that make me think the revolution or whatever is going to be okay so long as there are real people and these small acts of subversion. The way things are now, sharing and kindness are subversive. It's awesome.

It's also worth pointing out that these two guys are rocking the mustaches.

And anything that reminds me of this song is good.