Monday, December 12, 2011


This isn't it.

Give your seat to old people, women with children, and veterans.

Our gentlemen passengers carrying children, should they exist, are kindly requested to stand. Or better yet, they can cease to exist and thereby help us maintain the status quo, through polite signage.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

A Big Day Out: Let's Never Speak Of It To The MIL

So today I packed off the boy to Taksim. It's been ages since we've gone there together. Just to add to the challenge of the whole thing I took us to the Şişhane metro station which I hate because it's way too far underground for my tastes. By the time we reached the third escalator, we were already in a heated argument as to whether it was the second or the third. LE didn't count the second one because he'd wanted to take the stairs. By the time we got to the fifth escalator, we were arguing about whether an uphill moving walkway counted as an escalator.

He was in a mood. So was I.

Last time I was in Şişhane metro station I almost died because a cleaner at the top of the longest escalator suddenly decided to pick something up off the floor with his mop crossing the top of the escalator just as I was about to get off. I did some super quick Bruce Lee move to get around the cleaner and under the mop in a split second and lived to tell the tale.

I told this story to LE and he patiently explained to me that it wasn't a Bruce Lee move at all because Bruce Lee would have jumped over the mop.

So we went to meet our friend outside the metro station and, hooray! A demonstration was just getting ready to march off.

Lucky for us, it was a peace demonstration. Or a gay peace demonstration, judging by the flags. The marchers may or may not have known about the gay rainbow thing, it's hard to say. Much of the language on the peace signs wasn't Turkish, and in fact was in a language I couldn't figure out at all. Maybe it was Basque or something? So some of the subtleties of the demonstration may have been lost on me.

The US Consulate is forever sending out these terrifying emails about how US citizens should avoid demonstrations because they can turn on you at any second. Eminent danger is ongoing. Aside from the embassy warnings, which my MIL would never know about, we were definitely heading into the sort of day she would have a shitfit about. Commoners! Germs! Public transportation! Demonstrations! Taksim is the most dangerous place on earth because once like10 years ago some guys tried to rob FIL but then his cousin showed up and chased them off.

LE didn't give a shit because he'd found a pile of sand on the street.

Don't tell the MIL. Also don't tell her that, after playing in the sand, he gave me his gum to throw away and I said "Put that back in your mouth right now." There are a lot more garbage cans in Taksim than there used to be. That's because there are a lot fewer bombs. But I couldn't see a garbage can around the demonstration and I'll be damned if my kid is the sort of person to throw his trash onto the street.

The demonstration was followed by a parade of peaceful police officers, in full riot gear and carrying all manner of weapons. LE was impressed enough to leave the sand for a few seconds.

Although the cops were kind of scary, the scariest thing is that that's me saying "Yeah," in that video, because LE wanted me to check out a particularly large gun. Yes, it's true. Apparently I've developed a man voice. I had no idea until I saw it on You Tube. Oh well. It was bound to happen.

Thanks to a tip from A Seasonal Cook In Turkey, we were off to the DOBAG carpet sale in the Crimean church down the street. The carpets were astounding. They caused me all manner of stress and consternation because I wanted to be the sort of person who just buys a fucking gorgeous carpet because it's gorgeous and would really bring the room together, but instead I was the sort of person with a kid, an unpaid phone bill, and 173 lira in my bank account. Fortunately, the co-op that made the little carpets that really had me dribbling didn't take credit cards. The credit card is more of a future problem that takes care of current problems, but not all of them. I remember the days when credit cards were for fun.

Even more distracting than my envy and money issues was the fact that this was the first time LE has set foot in a church.

Good thing it was a cool church.
Probably the MIL wouldn't have objected to the church that much. She would have had a good laugh because things like churches and silly yabancı holidays are funny for her. Seriously, one day I would like to walk into a mosque and behave the way I see a lot of young Turkish tourists acting in a church-- being noisy, making jokes about the silly religion, taking pictures of each other pretending to pray... I don't even have any religious feelings to back this up, but there are some things that are just fucking rude. And that might get you beat up if you did them in a mosque.

But the MIL wouldn't have been happy about the big fuzzy cat that lived outside of the church. Or the giant ducks in the garden. I love ducks because they're so hopelessly undignified and they always say the same hilarious thing no matter how they're feeling. LE chased them everywhere and they patiently got away, calmly muttering and sticking together but never panicking.

So it was a good day. Our hands got dirty, we touched animals, and breathed the same air as people we don't know. Then we ate Chinese food. Somehow we all survived, but I think we'll not be talking about the specifics to the MIL. It could kill her. Or make her talk really a lot about boring things.

Either way wouldn't be so good.

Friday, November 25, 2011

It's Boza Season: A Passing Moment of Fleeting Beauty

Boza, in and of itself is something interesting.

Just follow the link, it's worth it.

When I was pregnant, I was crazy for boza and went through like a bottle a day. In subsequent winters, the madness waned, but I still love the stuff. It reminds me of applesauce, especially with the cinnamon on top. Mind you, there's no applesauce in Turkey, except that which I make myself. Applesauce is something you don't really miss until you have to make it yourself, which isn't that hard, but still. As such, I can't think of boza as a drink, like something you chug from a cup. Instead, I put it in a cup and eat it with a spoon.

I'll pass on the roasted chick peas, but thanks for offering.
It's fucking yummy.

Though I would never eat it with leblebi, with a spoon or otherwise. Leblebi suck. No really, they do. They literally suck all traces of moisture from your mouth and get stuck on the way down when you swallow them. Quite why anyone eats these, I'll never know. I trace it to an old-days lack of Doritos, and I don't even like Doritos. Too fucking orange. And they smell orange but not-orange and I associate them with rooms full of boys and video games and that tube-sock freshness that accumulates.

Posing problems that would cross a rabbi's eyes!
Anyway, one perk of our neighborhood is that there are street vendor folk. They have a proper milkman out here, by which I mean the guy who's like Tevye in Fiddler On The Roof with the big pail and the scoop. I wouldn't ever get milk from that guy because I'm too entrenched in my American food safety issues, but still. It's cool. Just agree with me.

Actually, the other reason I wouldn't ever get milk from that guy is because I'm not sure of the protocol. I don't have the basket on a string to dangle off the balcony, and I gather one is expected to provide one's own milk receptacle. What sort of container might that be? I'm sure mine would be all wrong. And then, how do you know how much it costs? How do you know if he's ripping you off because you're foreign? And anyway, do foreigners often shout off the balcony when the milkman passes by?

So many questions, such deep confusion.

Okay, the street vendors. Tonight I'd just got off the phone with my friend and a sound vibrated through the living room. It was all wrong for ezan and not the right time. But there was something to it. Piercing and haunting. It didn't sound like guys fighting or neighbors keening over some tragedy, as they do sometimes. I swear there were some harmonics being hit there. My spine tingled in a good way and I ran outside to check it out.

Turns out it was the bozacı.

Best sound ever. And for a fleeting moment, life was sweet and beautiful.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Fucking Bunion: A Foray Into Foot Ailments

Bunion rhymes with onion. It's one of my favorite words in the English language. It's both evocative and hilarious.

Not only does my toe hair sparkle in this light, I've got fucking bunions.
Yet, until today, I didn't know exactly what a bunion is. Of all the billions of things I've looked up on Google, bunion has never been one of them. It's hard to say why that is.

The bunion thing started thus: One of my co-workers just had a minor foot surgery. She's been padding around in one slipper and one shoe. The slipper is pink and a little bit fuzzy. It's really cute, trust me. So I overheard her telling someone it was a corn.

It wasn't that I was trying so hard to listen-- it's this crap open-plan office we've been poured into. The open-plan office (a nice way of saying "fucking cubicle corral") is just one of the many injustices my job has recently foisted upon us, things that have started to make me hate my job a little bit because one of the things I've always liked about my job is that they they don't treat the prep teachers like crap in the hierarchy of shit that everyone clings to so desperately.

Robots don't need air or toilets.
We've suddenly gone from "respected professionals" to inhuman English teach-bots who don't need boring shit like more than two toilets for 50 people or books or planning time or air in their classrooms. I don't mean A/C. I mean air. The kind you breathe and makes you sick in certain forms. The air thing is a boring story involving Turkish construction and fake ventilation systems and 20 people in a tiny room.

Not this kind of corn.
Anyway, I didn't know what a corn is either. All I know is that the knobs on the sides of my feet have been growing and they remind me of corn. So I asked this co-worker about whatever was on her feet and she described it and it sounded all right, bumpy and sore and that was enough for me. Then I asked her if their removal was covered by insurance and she said it was. Then today she wasn't limping anymore, and I was all, "Wow, amazing recovery time! I should be able to fit that minor surgery into my life, which I no longer have because I have to work all the fucking time because the administration just took a big old dump all over us!"

This kind. Fucking ew.
So tonight I looked up "corn" on Google. Turns out a corn is just a really big callous. I have loads of those. If really big callouses are corns, my pinky toes are like 85% corn. If I had them removed, I wouldn't have pinkie toes anymore. I'd have pinkie sprouts.

Then I looked up "bunion." Then I giggled a bit because bunions are funny and rhyme with onions. Then I found out bunions are weird bony growths and not a snap to have off. Since I don't wear high-heeled or crampy shoes, it means my bunions are genetic.

It's cool. My grandma had wonderfully knobby feet. I got her feet. And her weird hands that can do the weird finger locking thing. LE has her creepy thumb that bends all the way backwards. So does my brother. Genetics are cool.

I'm thankful I got my grandmother's feet, bunions and all. There are a lot of other things I'm thankful for, too numerous to mention and anyway, it's my bedtime. I have to get up fucking early to go to work.

Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Teachers' Day.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Dear Universe: An Open Letter

Dear Universe,

Fuck you. It's not enough you took my cousin, but now you have to burn up the town where I was born?

Look, I know I've not been perfect, but seriously?

Complete lack of love at the moment,


P.S. The least you could could do is give a swift kick in the neck to whoever robbed Wayne's car. Because I'm pretty fucking sure you owe me one.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Curses! A Visit To A Bureaucratic Hellhole That Wasn't So Bad

You can tell from the outside that nothing good will happen in here.
Remember a couple of weeks ago how I was all sucking at life and stuff? Well, the shots in the ass kind of did their job and life went on, apparently not caring whether I sucked at it or not.

Does this cancel out somehow?
In general, I try not to be superstitious, though I avoid obviously dangerous superstition thingies, like walking under ladders (shit really does drop from up there) and opening umbrellas in the house. Okay, the umbrella thing isn't really dangerous, but once when I was about six, I was attempting to demonstrate to my mom how it doesn't bring bad luck to open an umbrella in the house and I opened one and it broke something semi-valuable and I got in trouble so if that isn't bad luck I don't know what is.

But when I was sucking at life I made fun of both the muhtar and SSK and you know what? It has become necessary to go to both of those places. LE's school needs some bit of paper from the muhtar, and this goddamned SSK aktivasiyon business turns out to be real and has to be sorted out in person. So maybe there's something to this overwhelming Turkish belief that our thoughts and words have the power to draw the universe's attention to you, and bring down a load of shit on you if it's about bad things. I'm pretty sure this belief accounts for the lack of public education about earthquake safety and why no one does anything about these shit buildings that keep going up.

Anyway, the muhtar was painless, once I found it. There was a really nice receptionist who looked us up in her computer and discovered we weren't registered. Since the steps required to do that are in my husband's hands, I washed my own hands of the muhtar and LE and I went on our merry way.

As for SSK, it's became some sort of Holy Grail of a thing I got bent on, nay, called upon to Deal With.

Don't ask me why SSK needs to be activated. I pay them money and they do their thing and I thought we were getting along fine until I actually tried to use it a couple of weeks ago. I'm fairly certain this whole aktivasiyon business is just a wee scheme to create work for the good folks down at SSK. I mentioned it to some friends and they were all, "Your school is the one who should to deal with that," so I marched myself down to Human Resources only to be told I have to do it myself. I was told nicely, in any case, which always pleases me in the face of any bad news. They rolled their eyes and started asking each other, "Did you have to do this aktivasiyon thing?" and some said yes and some said no, making me think the random fist of Turkish bureaucracy came crashing down on some people but not on others. And they told me where I have to go to do it, which, as it turns out, is right near a tramway stop so I just thought, "Fuck it. I'm tired of sucking at life, and I'm going to go on down there and activate the hell out of my SSK."

Here's one thing about my life in Turkey. Before I got married, I either a) didn't deal with anything, or b) dealt with it, but it was so horrifyingly problematic I swore never to deal with it again, or c) got a Turkish person to come along with me to tell me what I needed to do. The school where I first worked even had some guys who would come along with us to deal with stuff. We called them the little men, because not one of them was over 5' 3". These guys were security guards or cleaners or something, just the all-around fellows who worked at the school and sometimes cleaned stuff or fixed stuff. Seyfettin Bey was the best of them. He was always kind to us, he wore a charming cap and vest, and he could kick bureaucratic ass like no one's business.

I don't like the look of it.

On a bad day you'd get Creepy Salih or Handy Kemal.

Pink is for girls!
In fact, the little men, aside from their creepiness or handiness, just made the bureaucracy situation even more uncomfortable, because neither the little men nor the people we had to deal with spoke English, so instead of one person barking Turkish at you, there were two. It's not like I ever expected everyone to speak English, but instead of feeling grateful for having some help in whatever nightmare you were dealing with, you felt as though you were making your little man look bad because you couldn't figure out what the hell anyone wanted from you. Plus they would do stuff like propel their foreigner ahead in the line in ways I wasn't quite comfortable with at the time. Nonetheless, it all worked out because I have a tax number, a SSK card, and well before I was married, I had a legal residence/work permit so I could be called upon to turn up for work when the Ministry of Education inspectors came. It took an awful lot more stroking of my ass by Creepy Salih and Handy Kemal than I'm comfortable with, but by golly, it's done.

Then I got married and BE dealt with everything so I was completely off the hook, which is just one reason why my Turkish is so piss poor after almost 10 years here. It's ended up that I'm completely lame at doing anything grown-up here. BE, while quite good at dealing with things that need dealing with is not, shall we say, on the ball about taking care of things and sometimes I want things to get taken care of before next year.

Fast forward to now. I packed up LE, telling him we had to go to one of the worst, most boring places on Earth, worse than the bank even, but that afterwards we'd go somewhere super-cool. He wasn't too keen, having decided his day was was going to be spent watching A Nightmare Before Christmas over and over. He's really into the opening song, and as a result it's been the only earworm I've had for days now. Watching LE dance to it or burst into song from time to time is totally worth it, though, so I'm not really against repeated viewings of this particular film.

But once LE found out all the forms of transportation we'd be enjoying, he warmed up to the idea. Minibus-metro-funicular-tram sounds pretty fucking good when you're four. When we arrived at our desired location an hour and a half later, LE was completely convinced it was all a wonderful adventure. His favorite part was the little red and green lights on the metro sign telling you which stops you've been to. He also likes the signs telling you which things are forbidden, and the metro doors have two-- one telling you not to lean on the doors (lots of naughty people doing that too, by the way) and another with a crossed out hand which I took to mean you shouldn't try to pull the doors open with your hand. LE really wanted to know whose hand it was.

We're orange.
The tramway was even better, with a color-coded sign showing the people you should give your seats to. LE liked the orange one best because it was about him. And because none of these forms of transportation was full of snot-nosed students from my university, there was always someone who gave us a seat.

Guess when the numbers slowed down.
The SSK place had a number system, which was much nicer than the pushing mob scene I had envisioned. We got number 493. The sign said 310. Fuck. I'm never sure what to do in these situations because sometimes a group of numbers flies by really fast and sometimes they take 20 minutes to change. There was a room with nice tables and chairs labeled something like "Employers and SSK holders waiting room." Since it looked ever so much nicer than the other waiting room with no label, I went on in and found us a spot. There wasn't anything on the sign about un-activated SSK-holders being forbidden to enter.

Really, it was the best place to wait.
LE played with his car and I eavesdropped on our fellow waiting room denizens and peeked at the papers they had with them, suddenly worried I should also have a sheaf of papers with me. In an effort to not suck at life, I had actually phoned, yes PHONED on the telephone the SSK place to check what I should bring. I never quite trust information I get on the phone from such places though, so I had brought every form of official document we have, just in case.

The three things that saved us.

Just then, things in the SSK office started going insanely contrary to my expectations. A security guard walked in and started throwing candy around. No, seriously. That actually happened. It's like he could read LE's constant, intense, thrumming  "I want candy" brainwave. He made sure LE got extra candy. I gave LE one and saved the rest for emergencies, as I'm wont to do.

So after the car had been broken and repaired a few times, LE moved on to his iPhone games. He found some games in there I didn't even know I have that were pretty fun, but he totally wouldn't share. So that kind of sucked.

Eventually, we had to pee. The security guards directed us to the elevator to get to the toilets upstairs. The elevators only held three people, though, and there were like twelve waiting, so much to LE's tremendous disappointment, we used the stairs. It was one flight so we handled it okay. Upstairs, there were some offices but nothing that looked like a toilet. We wandered around and LE spotted a toilet-y looking place. We went in slowly and suddenly a man materialized saying, "This is the men's room!"

Saw  really scared me, because it's real.
There are few things I hate more than walking into the wrong bathroom. But this bathroom didn't even have a bathroom sign, let alone a gender label. I asked if it was written anywhere and the man said "no," so I guess my mistake was cool. He directed us to the correct toilets and it was every bit as awful as I expected, the kind of place where I'm glad there are only squatters because then I don't have to touch anything. LE was delighted because peeing in a squatter is like peeing on the floor. Plus we got to ride the elevator back downstairs so that was another crisis averted.

Back behind the SSK windows was a dank-smelling, closed-up array of businesses I wished were still open-- a bakery, an Internet cafe, and a drycleaner, among other things. If only I could have smashed all those other errands into my SSK visit! But apparently the Turkish economy had other ideas.

I mock your sucky institutions!
So we went outside for awhile. For luck, there was a man out front selling bananas and nuts. I bought some of each. LE raced around and played with his car. Then we started playing football with his car and some other folks joined in. In LE's world, it was shaping up to be an okay day. Despite my freaking out that we might be required to have a sheaf of papers like everyone else, I wasn't minding the day so much either.

Eventually, our number came up. The woman in the office behind the little hole in the window I had to bend down to talk into was looking me up before I even explained our boring problem. She was being really nice, which threw me for a loop. I passed her my phone, where I had my official yabancı number written. That's a number BE came home with and gave me one day, and I was never sure why, but it's really long and it seemed easier just to hand her the phone than to attempt shouting the number through the little hole. She had a smiling and joyful face.

But all she could find was some stuff that ended in 2008. I had no idea what that was all about, because of all the money SSK is getting out of my paycheck every month.

"So?"I asked? "What do I have to do?"

"So?" she said happily, "What do you have to do?"

If Sesame Street had an episode called, "A Visit To SSK," this woman would have been the star. She was that lovely and cheerful, seriously.
The world has a lot to learn from Sesame Street, but the SSK lady already learned it.

"I don't know," I said. "Where is my money going?"

"Look, I'll show you!" and she cheerfully waved me around to the office door to come on in to the sanctified SSK office so I could see her computer. She showed me where I left my old school to have LE, and where my SSK payments had stopped.

"Interesting," I said.

Who could be happy after a day's work here?
"Yes!" she said, like it was the best day ever at 4pm on what must have been a long, hard day for her. "Isn't it?" Then she thought for a moment, and went to punch in the foreigner ID number that was on my phone. Just then, my friend phoned me and the woman was perplexed and horrified. I pushed the red button because that seems to solve most problems and my friend would understand. My foreigner number came right back up because iPhones are fucking cool.

And there on her computer was all the money the government has been taking from me. Turns out I have two SSK accounts. Turns out my school went and set up another one for me without asking if I already had one. Turns out the whole computer revolution in government offices has somehow failed in terms of the whole cross- referencing thing, because you'd think my old account would have come up when they were trying to make the new one.

I kept mum about how this whole thing could be related to the fact that I have two or three official names here, depending on who you ask. The nice Sesame Street lady didn't notice anyway, and I figured it wasn't a good time to bring it up. LE decided now was a good time to play "Hide From Mama At An Inopportune, Stressful Moment," and even though none of his his usual spots (behind the sofa, in the nook behind the table) were available, I could hear him giggling evilly from behind an empty desk. The nice lady directed us to an office upstairs where someone might be able to do something, and LE popped up when he heard the word "elevator." She waved us back to the little hole in the window while she punched more stuff into her computer. When we got the hole, a young man was yelling at her on behalf of a friend who, after waiting a couple of hours had, quite justifiably in this man's mind, nipped out for a pack of cigarettes at the last minute and missed his number.

"Terbiyesizlik yapmayın!" she was saying cheerfully to him as we collected our papers.

Seriously, where ever this woman finds her source of joy and patience, I need me some of that.

"Gray-faced bureaucrat" on Google images gives us Wayne Newton
So we went upstairs to the other office, nicely veneered compared to the place downstairs and I noticed the toilets were labelled, for gender and otherwise, and waited patiently for a gray-faced elderly bureaucrat to finish doing some bureaucratic thing. While we waited, a man on the phone behind him was engaged in a delicious conversation.

"Madam, if you'd just stop speaking so I can.... yes madam, if you'd just... yes, madam, I understand your name was written as Çetin but it should be Çelik... Madam, if you would just stop speaking now so I can... Look, it's not a problem (tap tap tap on the computer), I've just changed your name to Çelik... Please, madam, stop talking..." I could hear the woman on the phone screeching from where we were standing.

I didn't envy that fellow's job at all. And I realized that perhaps the SSK thing has become decidedly less horrible than it has been in the past, despite everyone's expectations. The gray-faced man sorted out his problem and waved us off to a younger woman over yonder, another Sesame Street cheerful person who wrote out all my SSK numbers on a sheet of paper, totally unfazed by what I feared would be a most confounding problem. "It will take about 2 months to join the accounts. Check the website then, and make sure it's okay."

"Will I have to activate it again?" I wondered.

She looked relieved that I knew what the Internet was. "Most probably!" she said, with a smile.

And with that, we got the fuck out of there.

And since we were on the tram line, I decided to make the most of our day, and let LE learn about his heritage and shit. So we went on down to Sultanahmet and checked out the Yerebatan Sarayı, which is much improved for four-year-olds since I saw it eleven years ago because they've eliminated the colored light show and new-age music but added safety railings along the water's edge. I scored a teacher discount. Since LE doesn't know any better, I acted as the tour guide and pointed out all the fish and made up a whole bunch of crap about battles in regards to the Medusa heads because that's what I imagine about them.

The Romans lost, by the way, because it was about fucking time the Romans lost. Snooty pricks.

Then we had some köfte and soup, and later a sahlep at a tourist tea garden near the mosque. The village tea boys were unable to hide their shock at my half-breed Turkish boy, and they were awfully sweet because it isn't summer and not much is going on for them these days. I let LE run around the courtyard in Sultanahmet mosque and showed him about the chain at one of the entrances, plus there were lots of cats. I stressed the numbers about how old it all was, and it warmed my chilly heart later when I heard him telling his dad and Babaanne how we went to see all the *really old things*. He thought the cats and teaboys were also old, which confused his dad and Babaanne, but whatever.

Our trip to the SSK ended up being a fine day after all, which is about 1,000 times more than I ever expected. So without being overly optimistic, it's possible that I just kicked life in the ass a little bit...

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Goodbye, My Cousin

A couple of days ago, my cousin J.K. got hit by a car and died.

I can think of a lot of things to say about this but I'm not going to because I'm not going to. But I'm definitely thinking them, over and over and over and in different ways. I can't stop thinking about him.

Me and J.K., circa 1976
Goodbye, sweet cousin.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Kurban Bayram: A Bad Day For Some Animals

Look, I like animals. I like to anthropomorphize them and give them names and chat with them. For the most part, I try to be their friend.


 On the other hand, I eat meat, and lots of it. I like meat. I like red meat barely cooked and running with blood, slightly purple in the middle. I even like the grosser bits, like fat and gristle and the papery bits on the tops of ribs. I'm an inveterate bone-gnawer.

Yummy, neatly sliced and cooked.
Decidedly un-yummy.
I've sampled Turkish offal like brains and tripe soup and tongue. The brains and tongue were surprisingly delicious, though I was awfully drunk at the time. The soup, well, not my favorite. I was once in an işkembe restaurant and LE needed the toilet and as we were walking back there a toilet-y poo smell hit me and I was thinking, "Oh no, these bathrooms are going to be so gross," already imagining the annoying anxious Mom-gymnastics I was going to have to go through to keep LE or his clothes from touching anything wet or mysteriously colored. It was a fairly decent restaurant and I was wondering why they appeared to have open-pit non-flushing squat toilets. But when we got to the bathroom, they were sparkling clean and on the way down I realized the smell wasn't coming from the toilets. It was coming from the massive, steaming pot of tripe soup under the stairs.

But still. Most meat products I'm cool with, even the yucky ones. I don't even care what must be in hot dogs or sucuk. Whatever, as long as it's yummy. I feel like I'm a complete meat hypocrite because I've never watched the meat get killed, let alone killed some myself and I strongly feel I ought to do that someday, seriously.

Imagine this, but with animal parts and blood.
So last year, I mentioned how my neighbors sacrificed a cow in their garden. Fine. It seemed to make them all so very happy, and it's their business. I was even a little glad the city-wide ban on home animal sacrifices didn't seem to extend to out here. I mentioned it to my in-laws yesterday, and my father in-law started talking about what it used to be like. I suggested that there are far too many people in close quarters for them to all be killing their animals all over. According to him, that wasn't the problem. The problem was that a lot of those people didn't know fuck-all about killing an animal, and they were doing it all wrong, with dull knives or whatever, and there was a problem of sheep and cows with half-cut jugulars running amok spraying gore all over. Plus, you think it's bad how so many idiots leave their trash all over? Imagine those same people with all kinds of animal gore-waste they can't be bothered to dispose of properly. Apparently people used to just leave rivers of blood and piles of steaming guts lying around in the streets for someone else to clean up. When my father-in-law got to the flies in summer, he kind of trailed off and got lost in his memories.

Must witter on about germs!
While he was doing that, the MIL picked up her cue, which was to talk about dirt and germs and sickness. It's pretty much all she thinks about, it would seem. She mentioned the dirt and the sickness. Then she said something like, "Those piles of guts must have had germs or something like that on them because they smelled really bad." Which proves my theory she doesn't have a goddamned idea in the world what a germ is. In MIL's world, germs most certainly lurk in the following places:

1) Air
Fucking deadly in all its forms.

2) Coins and paper money
Filthy lucre! Wash your hands! She really makes LE do this!

3) Places where unpleasant commoners might congregate, like public transportation and public offices
People we don't know carry all manner of filth and illness.

4) Gypsy children
Cute? Hell no! Not even human! They'll kill you for sure!

5) Animals, especially ones in the house
Call me superstitious, but I'm getting a cat soon to keep witches away.

There could be germs here
But piles of offal steaming in the summer sun and crawling with flies? Maybe there might be some germs in that, or something akin to germs, those mystical jinn with no rhyme or reason who wait for us to let our guard down and leave something un-ironed or sweaty so they can kill us all with stuffy noses.

I live in your underpants. Iron me or I'll make your nose run.
Stupid fucking woman.

I just read over my last year's Kurban Bayram post. This year was nothing like it, especially the part where we had a nice, family holiday. This year I tried to have a nice family holiday but that stupid woman's endless under-the-breath carping at me, coupled with my son's endless, embarrassing tantrums he has in their presence, drove me off by 7pm and I came home. I decided I couldn't take it anymore when I was attempting to discipline the boy for not apologizing after accidentally hurting another kid, and stupid MIL just started talking over me in Turkish, telling him that tomorrow they would take him to Bakırköy and buy him toys and candy and I was just all, "Fuck this shit. Fuck you Let you deal with him because this sucks and you're a stupid cow."
Persecuted much?

Whatever goes through her head I wish I knew, because if I could see it I think I would want to shoot it dead and make it shut the fuck up so she would quit driving everyone crazy, especially me.

Here marks the end of a whole lot of charitableness I've been trying to have towards my husband's family.

Their primary goal in life seems to be making me crazy and turning my son into a spoiled idiot with no sense of consequences, honesty, responsibility, or personal accountability. You'd think they would see the error of their ways when they look at their own eldest son lying around on his jobless ass, getting drunk, playing video games and yelling at everyone all the time blaming them for his dumbass problems, but no such luck.
I've been doing this really a lot lately.

Easy, Stranger.

Whoa, there.

Anyway, as for last year's garden sacrifice, I remembered it as a sheep for some reason, but as it turns out, it was also a cow. Interesting how memory does that you.

Let this be a lesson in how completely unreliable my storytelling is. So starting on Saturday, I decided I needed to quit being a meat hypocrite and that I would watch the damn sacrifice this year. I was all geared up. I got up early and everything.

Only I remembered it was a sheep last year. A sheep I could have dealt with. Sheep are stupid and somewhat uninteresting. So I got myself all geared up for a sheep.

May you return to this place, cow.
But instead, when I looked over the balcony in the morning, there was a cow. A wee black and white yearling, shuffling around on a short rope and mooing sadly. He had a little blue halter and he kept licking the railing.

Nope. Couldn't watch. I stayed inside and had breakfast with LE while the neighbors were all shouting down there. Then I did go out for a peek, and saw a river of frothy blood that looked almost fake, and the little cow lying on the ground with his head a few feet away. I was going to take a picture for you but I didn't because I remember exactly what that little cow looked like.

Later, after he was skinned and the butchering had started, I felt a little better because it looked more like meat than a cow. And I have to say, I'm totally impressed my neighbors are able to cleanly slaughter, neatly skin, and butcher a cow with nothing more than the brawn of a few men and some sharp knives. Today, not a trace of it remains.

Still, I had steak for dinner, cooked bloody with lots of salt and fat, and I cleaned my plate.

And I have a whole year now to gear myself up for next year's cutting time. As long as the animal isn't cuter than a cow, like an elephant or a goat, I'll be fine.

If your urge to kill is also failing you this year, allow me to plug an alternative, Heifer Project International.
I went with the flock of geese.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Versatile Blogger: Some Quirky Shit

So as you know, last week was a pretty bad week as far as weeks go, and I haven't yet mentioned the one good thing that happened, which is that Jack over at Perking The Pansies passed on the Versatile Blogger Award to me. Since I rarely get more than a nod because I've turned up on time, I was pleased as punch! My face was hurting, I smiled so much.

Here's what I'm supposed to do: reveal seven things about myself that make me quirky, then nominate at least five other bloggers for the award.


As for the quirky thing, I've never considered myself quirky. Maybe other people do, but I doubt it.  Quirky is for people you want to have sex with, like Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally or Ramona Flowers in Scott Pilgrim or Seth Rogan all the time or the Band Camp girl. Quirky is what you say for someone who has issues but their issues are really cute on them.

Adorably quirky.
I'm pretty sure my issues are just issues. I'm pretty sure I'm what a lot of people would call "neurotic." If they were being nice, they might say "intense," but intense is just neurotic with wire-frame glasses and a sense of humor.

Anyway, quirky? No. Quirks? In spades. But they're probably the annoying kind.

Fuck you, Milk. All of you.
1) Milk. I fucking hate it. I hate milk so much it upsets me when I get some on my skin. I don't even like touching a container of cold milk that has condensation on the outside, because the wetness might be milk. The smell makes me gag. As I child, I couldn't even stand any cheese that was white or vanilla ice cream and I can still barely stomach milkshakes and they have to be chocolate with almost no milk in them. Thinking about milk when I'm queasy is an easier way to clear my stomach than sticking two fingers down my throat. I can't even drink anything that looks like milk, or that is called "milk," including coconut milk even though it looks like water. Rakı even takes a bit of psyching myself out until I've had enough that I don't give a shit what it is, as long as there's more.

Having a child that freaking loves milk is either some kind of test or some kind of curse, and he's either extremely good or I'm extremely lucky he's never spilled any in some difficult place, like the sofa. As for breast milk, it tastes like melon and was only horrifying after it had sat in the fridge or freezer and got the milky smell. Otherwise, I was pretty pleased with it most of the time because it was free "Stop Crying" juice. And I like things that are free.

Kind of gross.
2) I can do this with my hand. When I do this, the lower joints are locked this way and I can only bend them by relaxing my hand. When locked, I can wiggle the upper joints. The only use of this skill is impressing people in bars, so yeah. No one's all that impressed, really, but I keep trying because it's all I've got. The locking thing made it almost impossible for me to play the guitar because when I stretched my pinkie finger to the lower strings, it would lock in place and the only way I could undo it was to let go of the neck. Sometimes I could force it to unlock by bending it really hard, but it would hurt a lot and pluck all the strings on the way back.

I am him and he is me.
3) I played violin for about 15 years, off and on but mostly on. I never got very good at it, or at least, not as good as one should be after playing that much. One of my favorite movies is Amadeus because I'm Salieri-- a sullen nobody who deeply appreciates good music and who's possessed with a yearning to make beautiful music, but completely lacks talent and soul. That's me. Listening to me play the violin is an uncomfortable situation for most people at best, because bowed instruments are as unforgiving as the human voice. When someone fucks up on a violin or singing, it rubs you the wrong way painfully and you either feel angry with them for making you listen, or sorry for them for trying so hard and failing. Like singing, the only time I've been good at the violin was when no one was listening, and it was only for a few bars, and once or twice, a whole page. The locking pinkie finger thing was less of a problem on violin, except for certain double stops, but I was never much good at those either, so it was the least of my violin problems.
A girl can dream.

4) Speaking of bad singing singing, after watching a few too many episodes of Glee, I've decided my goal in life before I turn 40 is to be a rock star, preferably in a punk cover band. So if you know of a crappy 80s punk garage band looking for a female lead who can carry a tune but can't sing for shit when people are listening, send them my way so we can make my dream come true. The clock is ticking. It shouldn't take more than quite a bit of Jack Daniels and some false praise to make me a star. I'll swear a lot and even wear fishnets.

They forgot me.
5) My first serious crush was on Peter Pan. The Disney one. It was when I was about LE's age, which I remember because I kept taking my Peter Pan soundtrack record to nursery school for show and tell.  Once I realized I wasn't going to wake up as a boy just from hoping really hard, I turned my focus to Peter Pan. More than anything I wanted him to fly into my window with those little green tights and take me off to Never Never Land, a place apparently filled with young boys requiring little more than regular baths and a bit of affection. I fucking hated Wendy. What was did she have that I didn't have, I wondered? Wendy might have been the first girly girl who got the whole being-a-girl thing and really pissed me off because of it. I find the Peter Pan crush significant now not only because it means LE is having secret and intensely real alone feelings I know nothing about, but also because it could explain a lot of serious failures in the course of my love life.

I forgave Mrs. Brisby.
Oh, Watts. Was I jealous of you or Eric Stoltz?
You little tease, I cried when you died.
Getting better with age.
6) My other creepy crushes include Justin, the leader of the revolutionary rats from the cartoon Secret Of N.I.M.H, Oscar Wilde, Dustin Hoffman at any age, Tony Curtis at any age, Mary Stuart Masterson in Some Kind Of Wonderful, Adam Sandler, this one ugly, swarthy minibus driver we have out here, and River Phoenix at any age which isn't creepy, I don't think, except I fell head over heels for him when he was about 10 in The Explorers. Only I was like 12 so it's a little bit creepy. Pam Grier makes my jaw drop, and just Tim Curry's voice turns me to jelly. My abiding adoration for Robert Downey Jr. (even LE goes "mm-mm-mm" and shimmies at the sound of his name and you can be sure we watch a lot of Iron Man around here) continues unabated since my tweens and I'm pretty sure isn't creepy. And if Juliette Lewis would just quit being a Scientologist, she could kick my face in any day.

7) I'm scared of the dark. And driving, which I've never learned how to do. Also long black cords and telephone wires that are thinking about electrocuting me (good thing for fiber optics, most of those fuckers have all moved underground), certain minor keys, ghosts (they could appear out of the dark at any moment and start screaming, all right?), people at parties wearing masks who won't talk, certain small dogs, and dead things. Birds make me really uncomfortable when they look at me.

So I'm supposed to pass this award along to five other bloggers. The blogs I regularly read are, like my friendships, very few but well-loved. And my circle of blogs is, like my friendships, quite narrow. So here goes:

Nomad at A Nomadic View, the most versatile blogger I know and I miss his posts a lot these days. Hope all's well, Joe.

A Seasonal Cook In Turkey, who's saved my sorry ass for dinner more times than I can count. Also, she makes me want to grow up here even more than I already have because life in Turkey looks beautiful from her side of the world (the Asia side, to be exact).

Emre at The Istanbulian, partly because his view of the world is both confounding and interesting, but also because I just want to know what his quirks are.

The Pretzel King, who I love dearly and miss every day, even though (t)he(y) only has two posts and will you just make some more pretzels already? Please?

Turkish Muse, who has a much more interesting life than I do, plus she takes great pictures.

Maryanne at A Totally Impractical Guide To Living In Shanghai, who used to be here but had the big-ass balls to go over there and seems to be getting along just fine.

Thanks for spending time with me today.