Friday, January 21, 2011

Pickle Juice

Before I came to Turkey, the only time I'd ever heard of pickle juice was in a movie called "The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T."

It was right after this scene that the bad guy, Dr. Terwilliger, offers the good guy, Mr. Zabladowski the plumber, a class of vintage pickle juice. I always figured pickle juice was some wacky made-up thing invented to amuse small kids who think things like insect sandwiches or artichoke cake are highly sophisticated humor.

Turns out pickle juice is real, and real people drink it. For real.

I've long gotten my head around şalgam, which is salty turnip juice. As long as you're expecting şalgam and not fruit juice when you drink it, it's not bad. Not anything I'd pour a big cold glass of on a hot day, or something I'd slug straight from the bottle, but it's not that horrible. Real men drink şalgam with rakı. I used to go around ordering rakı and şalgam just to flummox waiters, who would often check with my (male) friends before giving it to me. I told BE about this the other day and he got mad because he gets mad at every reference to my enjoying myself in my past life before I knew him.

Okay, so that's şalgam. Pickle juice is just pickling brine. In a cup. To drink. Like şalgam, you can have it spicy or not. There's a pickle shop near our house that I've become obsessed with because they always have interesting olives, fresh eggs, hot peppers with cheese inside, and pickled green garlic which is the yummiest pickled thing ever, after my mom's pickled onions. Whenever we go there, BE has himself a nice glass of şalgam.

On our most recent trip, however, we told the pickle man we'd been robbed and he offered us pickle juice to cool our sorrows. How could I say no to someone who's just trying to be nice, and who doesn't know about "The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T?" Plus, since the robbery I'm still engaging in some crazy thinking and pickle juice just seemed like a good idea at the time. The pickle juice in the pickle shop is stored in those juice fountain machine dispensers where the liquid is constantly cycled across the top and down the sides of the container. I chose spicy.

And honestly, it wasn't too bad. Like şalgam though, it wouldn't be my first choice. I'd take it over Fruko but not over sour cherry juice.

We had our garlic packed with the spicy pickle juice. Then we toddled off to find tonic water. Then we discovered maybe why the thief drank our tonic water-- there's none to be found in any shop in downtown Sarıyer. It still doesn't explain why the tonic water was all over the floor though.

So that night, I had a stroke of brilliance and mixed gin with spicy pickle juice. I thought maybe I'd hit on some thrilling fusion drink that would take the world by storm and someone else would take credit for it before I got any money.

It was okay. Interesting. Piquant. A bit like drinking tree sap, actually. The first few sips were fine though.

And then it wasn't good anymore, not at all.

Maybe it would have been better with vodka.

Crime Scene!

There are at least three Istanbul rites of passage or rather, the bad things things that eventually will happen to you when you live here: earthquakes, car accidents, and home robberies.

Last week, we got the last one.

This Is A Crime Scene
We came home to a couple of tossed bedrooms, two missing laptops, and most of my jewelry that was worth anything.

So that pretty much sucked.

When we came home and I saw the door open, I thought, "Oh crap, I left the door open. Oh well, it's a safe neighborhood..." because we really do live in the kind of place that seem like you could forget to lock the door and everything would turn out fine. And for the most part it does, except apparently some thief has cottoned on to this. Our house was the fourth in our neighborhood hit last week, and there have been three more since then, according to the cop BE ran into yesterday.

The police were lovely. The first two who came looked genuinely crestfallen, as though they couldn't believe such an awful thing happens in real life. And they seemed pleased LE found their guns so enthralling.

Then they called for the crime scene guys. We had to wait over an hour for them, and were told very sternly, "Don't touch anything." So that was fun, trying to keep LE from touching anything for an hour. We made the mistake of telling him, "Don't touch anything," at which point LE started touching everything he could because he tends to get oppositional around dinnertime. I touched some stuff and made him a peanut butter sandwich.

Then the CSI guys came and I was about as enthralled as LE because it was just like that show "CSI." They had intriguing metal cases full of fascinating items packed in foam. The guy with the camera was dour and started snapping away. The one carrying the cases was the young fellow who did most of the work. The tall, handsome one looked over our stuff for things that might hold a fingerprint. He was ever so patient with me and my junior sleuthing, and kindly explained why a sock and T-shirt from the laundry would be on the living room floor, and why it was probably my cleaner who had cracked the glass in a picture frame (wiping prints for the first one, the unlikelihood of a thief re-hanging a picture he'd knocked down for the second.)

He asked if anything was out of place in the living room.

This Is Not A Crime Scene
However, aside from the laptop that had been sitting out on the shelf, nothing had been disturbed in this room. This is just normal because putting toys away sucks and is completely pointless. "No," I told the cop. "It's always like this." He laughed and said he had a one-year-old, and that his living room always looks like this too. I assured him it would get worse.

By the way, my Turkish word of the week (I tend to get stuck on a new word every couple of weeks) is dandık. Dandık came in very handy for getting robbed.

And our thief isn't an asshole just because he's a thief. It's also because he stole my backpack to carry off the computers. He didn't even bring his own bag to come a-thieving.

One mystery we couldn't solve that was discussed at length was why a half-full bottle of tonic water had been emptied onto the floor. I also mention this because it's another way our thief is an asshole-- he left us the gin but no tonic. It was very frustrating, because gin and tonic isn't good without the tonic. I suggested to the police that perhaps the thief had drunk it expecting water, but had spit it out when it was a tonic surprise, and then dumped the rest because he was pissed off about it. They liked that idea, and decided to swab the bottle for DNA.

I thought that was going a bit far for petty thief catching. Then it occurred to me they could have been doing all of this for my benefit because I'm foreign. I felt like telling them they were way nicer and way less frighteningly armed and Robocoppish than American cops. The tall, handsome one even let LE push buttons on his radio, which beeped menacingly.

This Is A Mess
But, just as when any guys come into your house to do work here, the cops left a mess. That fingerprint dust is a bitch, I tell you. Black and dusty and slightly oily. It didn't wipe off cardboard well, so if you're ever playing Trivial Pursuit at my house and you get black shit all over your hands, I can say, "Oh, yeah. It's because that box was dusted for prints."

Sweet! At least some good has come of this.

The other thing that's good is that LE and I didn't walk in on the thief, and also that he didn't come when were were home because I probably would have opened the door for him. One reason I tend to be friendly in Turkish is because my language is too limited to be anything else.

Later we had to go to the station to give them the paperwork for the computer, and the cop in the front office was smoking. Cheeky, though I did notice there weren't any signs forbidding smoking, with their ever-variable fine amounts. Still, a cop breaking the no-smoking law in a state building is the sort of thing that might actually trouble a foreigner. BE just goes, "This is Turkey, what do you expect?" and I'm thinking it kind of calls into question the whole "Who's policing the police?" thing, but maybe in essence BE and I are talking about the same thing. Anyway.

BE's delayed reaction to the theft is to go all Homeland Security. He wants an alarm system, a steel door, and a gun. I told him he could have a gun so long as it wasn't big enough for LE to blow off his face or any other part of his body with it so that pretty much rules out the gun, which is fine with me.

My delayed reaction is to wonder why the universe keeps biting me in the ass with theft. Last year on the way home from the US, my suitcase got robbed either by airport workers or airport security-- jewelry mostly. It's not like I'm such a jewelry person and most of what they took was worthless, but there was also a nice pair of earrings I'd gotten for Christmas and my engagement ring. So now most of my wedding jewelry is gone too, plus LE's gold coins, and I just decided I'm just never going to have anything nice again. I feel like I should be more upset about this whole thing, but a lot of what I'm feeling is, "Oh, crap, this again?" I can't even bring myself to catalogue the loss too much. MIL is though. Not only does she know every single gold coin and piece of jewelry, she knows who gave it to us and when. It's a little creepy.

I've been in Turkey long enough to think that perhaps the Great Karmic Wheel of Nazar is getting me for successfully managing to be sort of happy here, and liking my job and stuff. I just hope we're even now. Also in the back of my mind I started concocting a paranoid theory in which the theft was just to distract us so the government could get my computer and fingerprints to use later in some cocked-up scheme to accuse me of something ourageous.

So as I've survived my first Istanbul rite of passage, I've apparently started to give in to some crazy thinking.

Stupid thieves. I wish they'd just give me my stuff back.