Monday, January 30, 2012

A Quick Jaunt South

Yesterday, LE and I returned from a short trip to Bodrum. He went to his Babaanne's and I came home to a catbox brimming with shit and a house so frigid I went to bed at 8 because I couldn't stand it anymore. This is how I rock and roll when I'm kid-free for a few days. Some other plan is clearly in order.

Walk for me, Johnny.

At least Johnny Walker Red was on sale at the liquor store. So coming back to a snowy mess wasn't a complete bust.

It really looks like this.

 Bodrum rocks in the winter. It's a good thing few people realize this, otherwise the plane tickets wouldn't have been so damn cheap. A dear friend of mine from Istanbul moved down there a few months back, so the main reason for going was to see her and let our kids (both around LE's age) raise hell for awhile. Raise hell they did. As soon as we started glowing about how nicely they were getting along, they immediately started bickering and crying a lot.

Cuter in Calvin & Hobbes.

Kids argue about really dumb stuff, seriously.

Mommy's friend.
Nonetheless, we managed to get in plenty of wine and enough grown-up talk to make our jaws seize up, if that sort of thing happened. Which it doesn't except in metaphors and cases of tetanus.

Anyway, their house is gorgeous and cozy, and I totally would have moved in, if they let me. Some houses are pretty because they're pretty. Other houses aren't so pretty but they're nice because they're full of love and good food. This house was both pretty and full of love and good food. So that alone made the visit worth it.

But then there were some things that were just icing on the cake.

Best Things About Bodrum, From Least Best To Most Best:

1) There's no one there except for nice Bodrum people, and our kids could play outside and on the beach. The beach was almost entirely free of broken glass. My kid, predictably, didn't quite get why it's not such a good idea to go in the water when it's 55 degrees outside, but was happy enough with some pants-free beach time. Only one teyze bawled me out for this, kidneys you know, but she was satisfied with my promise that I would give him a bath as soon as we got home.

When the kids got suspiciously quiet for a long time, this is what they were doing.

I was completely amazed!
Normally, when your kid says, "Mama, come see the surprise!" you die inside a little, but sometimes it's actually a great surprise. Just as kids can become more obnoxious when there's more than one kid, they also become cooler in groups and get really great ideas. If only this power could be harnessed somehow. The most important part of this wall in LE's mind was all the little stones buried in holes around the base. I have to point that out, obviously, because how else would you know?

2) Bergamot.
It's not an ugly lemon.
I mean, I know about bergamot from essential oils but I've never had the pleasure of coming into contact with one. Bergamot alone is reason enough to move to the Aegean. I couldn't stop picking them up and smelling them. My friend must have suspected I have a disorder of some sort. I had some of the juice alone and it tasted like grapefruit and sweet lemon and sunshine. Then my friend mixed it with mandarin orange juice and it tasted like sunshine and happiness. Then she served it warm for breakfast and I wanted to cry it was so good.

3) Meeting, in person, Jack Scott and Liam of Perking the Pansies fame. They're just dear. Several times I regretted bringing the kid along because I could have hung out with them over drinks until the sun went down and came back up again. They're way more interesting in person than on the blog, which is saying something because they manage to come off as pretty interesting on the blog too.

I got a signed copy. Hooray!
I'd originally planned to interview Jack and further plug his book for him, but that didn't work out because I suck at asking people questions. It's weird because I always want to know stuff about people but I feel funny asking questions. Also because the kids had some issue or other that needed dealing with every 10 minutes or so. Every 30 seconds if you count LE's repeated fits about not getting to have Sprite with his lunch. Then he broke his glass on accident and got to have Sprite after all, which I should have done in the first place because there was nary a peep from him after that.

Jack broke the ice by asking why BE and I split up. I totally like it when people don't hold back on the good stuff and when they're better at asking questions than I am. But LE was next to me and, though I've been pretty honest with him about the whole divorce thing, he doesn't need to know everything just yet, especially not the stuff about his dad that would either confuse him or that he would report back to BE and Babaanne. So I was pretty reticent about explaining, which isn't like me at all because pretty much anyone who will listen knows every gritty, excruciating detail about the failure of my marriage.

And after a few moments of obligatory shyness and hiding between my legs, LE took to Jack and Liam immediately. The kids even started fighting over them for piggy-back rides. LE's liking strangers on the first meeting hardly ever happens, though I do notice a trend of him having a big soft spot for gay men. Or maybe he just really likes men. Or misses them. Men are definitely more fun, in both of our humble opinions, but for different reasons entirely.

So maybe I feel a little guilty for removing the man in LE's life from our house, okay? Also for enjoying it so damn much.

Yesterday, we left Bodrum with plans to come back during Ramazan when it's cheap, empty, and hot. I can't imagine how it could be a better trip, but I bet it will be.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


Well, it happened.

I like the two sad faces on the sidewalk behind.
On the other hand, yesterday there was a firetruck on the street with the crane up, and a crowd of gawpers. I looked all over for a fire and couldn't smell smoke...

Turns out, they were rescuing a cat from a tree. Holy shit! Does that actually happen? Did it ever actually happen outside of Norman Rockwell paintings?

Apparently, it does happen. And for a lousy old street cat, at that. Hooray!

The world seems just a little bit different to me now.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

A Fine Day Out: It Was Büyük Ve Güzel

And temiz. Very, very temiz.

It's super old and cool inside.
So I got in a plan with some friends at work to go to the Çemberlitaş Hamam once the break started. I've never gone because I'd always assumed Çemberlitaş was a tourist trap hamam but my Turkish friend assured me it wasn't and I definitely don't go to the hamam as often as I would like. Hamams rock, seriously. The first time is a little bit scary but you get over it quickly, and then find yourself wondering, "When did I achieve this status in life that I can pay someone to wash the hell out of me?" But even that passes quickly because paying someone to wash the hell of you also rocks.

A good Anatolian woman.
Anyway, the hamam ladies make it less scary because it becomes quickly obvious that the cleaning of a woman's flesh is just a job. They're always built as good Anatolian woman should be, and there's a motherly kindness in the way they touch you or press your skin or pat you when they they want you to turn over. Whatever American body issues I might have quickly turn into worrying that the hamam lady thinks I'm too thin and not nearly enough of a woman. They always smell faintly of onions, which, after 10 years here, is a wonderfully comforting human smell I've come to associate with warm homes and good food and love.

Seriously cool.
And instead of being disgusted with the rolls of grey flesh that come off you, they seem pleased that you're coming out so clean, and even with the work it takes to get you that way. "Güle güle kirlet," is what my cleaner wishes me on her way out the door. "Get it dirty in happiness." It's an approach to cleaning and cleanliness that causes me a bit of cognitive dissonance, but makes me so much happier having other people do my cleaning for me, whether it's my house or my body.

Büyük, güzel, ve temiz. One of my friends is studying from the same beginning Turkish book I started with, and at first, everything is büyük, güzel, ve temiz.

"Nasıl bir restoran?" (How is the restaurant?)
"Büyük bir restoran." (It's a big restaurant.)
"Temiz mi?" (Is it clean?)
"Evet, çok temiz." (Yes, it's very clean.)

Then you get a little more advanced.

"Restoran güzel mi? (Is the restaurant nice?)
"Evet, çok güzel." (Yes, it's very nice.)
"Büyük mü?" (Is it big?)
"Çok büyük değil. Ama çok temiz." (It's not very big. But it's clean.)

Seriously, it wasn't until like Unit 25 anything started being small or dirty or ugly. Which, as much as Istanbul has to offer, left me with a serious handicap for describing my surroundings.

But, Istanbul. Best stay-cation city ever. After the hamam we went to the Kapalı Çarşı to find the guy selling really nice peştemal that I'd found with my folks a couple of weeks ago.

Makes me want to buy stuff.
We had a good wander in there, and got lost on purpose, then we found ourselves, and then we had Turkish coffee. After that, we started hiking, through Mahmutpaşa to the Spice Bazar to Eminönü...

and across Galata Bridge...

... to Pera where we caught the old funicular to Tünel and kept walking.

A very old sage plant. I ate some and it was yummy and sweet.

A very nice church. I broke down and lit a candle for my cousin's family.
A very sad saint.
Along the way we stopped to buy cool stuff.

Some very cool stuff.
Rest assured there's lots of cool stuff to buy. Those wooden spoons are handmade. I fell in love with the ladle first, and then it occurred to me LE would probably eat healthy food he doesn't like with cool wooden spoons, but then I thought I might also like some cool wooden spoons to eat healthy food I don't like, or at least soup, so I got some for me too. The lot of them cost 10 lira. Hooray! It's almost like having a servant spoon carver to go along with my cleaner and the lady who washed the hell out of me.

Rounded off by one more tea on top of the Goethe Institute (too dark by then for photos of the almost redundantly breathtaking view of the place we'd just left), and a big fat dinner at a place that takes Setcards.

Really, does a regular day get much better?

Not often enough, I'd say.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Oh No! Best Snowguy Ever! And A Lamentation!

So apparently I jumped the gun on the snow post, because a couple of days after it snowed even more snow. For real. This morning everywhere looked like it was covered in frosting and there was no noise and the snow hadn't turned the world to complete shit yet. Unless you were the sort of person that had to be somewhere. Then it it sucked. But not for me. Hah!

Still, I did have to go and buy some bread this morning. And that's when I came upon just about the most delightful thing ever.

I think it's the eyebrows that are killing me.
He's just about curb height, which is still very tiny given the abnormally high curbs around here. I just love love love that someone took the trouble to make this little guy.

Though I'll be sad to see him melting over the next few days. I hope an animal comes to eat his nose before I have to see it wilting in the street for very long.

Welcome to Pessimism Street. I've been Mommy Impatient Face Grouchy Pants the last couple of weeks. And while I don't know why, I know exactly why but I'm not sharing. Still, as soon as I saw the snow last night, I decided I'd be Cool Mom and let LE play hooky from school and instead spend the day playing in the snow.

But of course it didn't work out exactly like that. First, we were super-slow getting out of the house. Next, all the nearby snow was either dirty or otherwise defiled by 9am today. I was thinking of trying to bat my (and LE's) eyelids at whoever is in charge of the fake-grass football pitch nearby and getting him to let us play in their pristine fenced-in snow, but then decided I'm not ready to face up to my waning charms, or worse, there could be a woman there, so I decided to take LE up to campus where there's way more snow, way fewer people, and a lovely friend with two little kids.

Not a fan.
That's right. Because in some cities you have to travel through the snow to find some nice snow for your kid to play in.

Which is just stupid, really. LE is happy with any old snow, even the greyish-brown soggy kind. He doesn't give a shit. But I still felt I needed to overcompensate for my grouchiness and be a Cool Mom, Plus, there are some newly obscured potholes filled with ice water around here I'm just not happy with.

So, I bundled LE the fuck up so much he started pretending he was that kid in Christmas Story  who couldn't put his arms down. Then rush rush rush I scurried LE to the minibus, then sit sit sit I got up us to campus, then rush rush rush I walked us up to the lojman, all the while actually STOPPING the child from playing in the fresh, untouched miles of snow so I could get us to our friend's house for the pre-planned Snow Play Time. And getting impatient and grouchy with the poor fellow to boot.

At least ten times on the journey I found myself thinking, "Fuck you, Stranger! When the fuck did you become this fucking person who doesn't let the child just fucking play in the gorgeous perfect snow?" And then I would think, well, I don't want him to get too wet because he'll be cold in 10 minutes and start whining. And I don't want him to get his gloves too wet because once his hands start hurting it's game over. And when did I become this boring, mind-numbingly practical person? If I were four, I'd want to punch me in the face. So all this thinking just made me madder.

But we got up for the Play, and it was nice. And the friend and I talked and bitched and that was also nice. But then, there wasn't even time for goddamned cocoa at the end of it all because I had to change LE's clothes and rush rush rush back home in time to pay the cleaner and let her get out before the roads froze up again.

No cocoa for you! Or anyone!
Not that I even like cocoa, but still. It's the principle. About how I've turned into someone who kind of sucks. Someone who, if I met me 10 years ago I would have wanted to punch in the face. And then I would have said something snarky about how much better of a mommy I would be. Only I wouldn't have said "Mommy" because I didn't suck yet, 10 years ago. Or rather, I did, but it was different.

And I even managed to get us home before the cleaner was finished, giving me the chance to dump the boy at the house and rush rush rush to the market because we'd run out of fruit, and also to the liquor store for a bottle of gin because I'd assumed correctly I'd be unable to live with myself for the rest of the night.

Guess which expensive one I didn't buy?
And even the gin is a matter of boring ass practicality-- it's the cheapest booze available given all the torturous prices AKP has inflicted on us. I no longer bother with wine once I figured out the day by day cost of gin is cheaper. Not drinking, or drinking less aren't options, naturally, so don't even try it.

How fucking lame is that?

The only thing that makes me feel better is imagining my future life as Miss Hannigan, thus excusing both the impatient grouchiness and the gin. I just couldn't manage to find the scene of her actually bathing in the gin.

Still, it's something to look forward to, you know?

Saturday, January 14, 2012

It's Snowing Real Snow! For Real!

Especially since I don't have to leave the house today.  
 It's fucking cold, but it's kind of pretty.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Perking the Pansies: He's Written A Book, Folks!

Today I am most pleased to have a guest post from fellow Turkey blogger Jack Scott over at Perking The Pansies, and it's not just because I can't think of anything of my own to write at the moment. Or maybe I have too much and it's just clogged at the gates, who knows?

The book.
I've been hooked on Jack's blog for several months now. It's my first-thing-in-the-morning pleasure, or just-before-sacking-out thrill to read his musings every day, always posted at midnight our time. For a guy who hasn't been here super-long, his perceptions of Turkey and the folks therein are incisive yet loving, with none of the Western imperialism nor the jaded expat-ness one often comes across in yabancı friends. The man can turn a phrase, seriously.

I very much look forward to reading the book, which is getting the kind of sincere and intriguing reviews that make me willing to throw my money at the the Internet.

Though what I really want to know is if I'm more of a semigrey or a VOMIT. Somewhere in the middle I suppose. I never fit into boxes very well.

Anyway, the guest post. It's just about the nicest thing I've seen a Brit ever say about my homeland, and he captures DC spot-on without being snarky:

A youthful Jack. I'd totally do him.
Yankee Tales

I was really pleased when Istanbul's Stranger asked me to guest on her blog as part of my virtual book tour. She’s deliciously witty, calls a spade a spade and her sharp observations about her life in Old Constantinople are a joy to read. She’s American but I think her writing style has a distinctive British, ironic twist. Maybe she was a Brit in a former life. I’m here to plug my book but, as this isn’t Oprah’s Book Club, I thought I’d regale you with tales of my first visit to the good old US of A.

I’ve been to the States four times – to New York, Boston, LA and my first visit was to the District of Columbia at the tender age of 20. I had dallied with a travelling Yank who worked for the Federal Government and was attending a conference in London. He invited me to stay with him in the US, so I did. I had tired of a dull, dead end job as chief pound counter for Habitat in Chelsea and fancied emulating the millions of others who had sought their fortune in the land of opportunity. I saved my pennies, quit my job, booked a one way ticket on Freddy Laker’s Skytrain to New York and off I went. I flew out of the Big Apple and down to Washington DC.

My host got a shock when I called. It seemed his invitation hadn't been entirely genuine; still, he was good enough to let me stay for a few weeks in return for occasional sexual favours. Springtime in Washington is very agreeable - a riot of cherry blossom. The federal heart of the city is laid out in imperial style and built in monumental neo-classical majesty as befits the capital of the most powerful nation in history. The grand design is best appreciated from the top of the Monument, the world’s tallest true obelisk. I did the obligatory tour of the White House and the Capitol and strolled along the Mall popping in and out of the various museums along the way. It struck me how everything was described in the definite article – The White House, The Monument, The Capitol as if no others exist. It’s a sign of a confident young nation with a touch of teenage arrogance.

Gay life in Washington was a world away from recession-ravaged buttoned up Britain with its grubby backstreet gay bars. It's taken London thirty years to catch up. I loved it and it loved me. I was young and handsome with cheekbones that could slice cheese. My hosts lapped me up and I let them. I wowed the randy scamps in Rascals, a popular watering hole and pick up joint for federal employees near Dupont Circle. They seemed to love my accent, along with my uncut assets.

Eventually, I sensed I was overstaying my welcome and my reluctant landlord feared I might claim squatters rights. After several weeks living the American dream, I pined for the old country and flew home on BA. I often wonder what would have become of me if I‘d stayed Stateside?

So now you’ve read about my Yankee tales, why not read about my Turkish tales in my book, Perking the Pansies – Jack and Liam move to Turkey? It’s available in paperback and Kindle on and If you buy it via my website I’ll make a few extra pennies. No pressure.

Thanks for popping by, Jack! It's been my pleasure. Take care, and my very best to you and Liam.


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Unloading a Whole Bunch of Shit: It's Like A Cheesy TV Show Where I Learn Important Stuff About Life Or Whatever

I can't decide if I love or hate writing. Sometimes I make writing my bitch and sometimes she makes me her bitch. Sometimes we're each others' bitches and things seem to go okay. Since I don't keep a journal or anything and most of what I write gets published for my dear handful of readers, I try to avoid the writing that's like taking a big huge fucking dump-- that boring, overly personal shit detailing all of my stupid issues.

No, I mean that other boring shit I keep to myself.

But, like a big huge fucking dump, writing doesn't let one alone until one lets it out.

Minus the stomach cramps. Mostly. There has been some stomach cramping lately that's not related to periods or eggs or big huge fucking dumps, making me thing there's something in my head fucking with my stomach.

And no, it's not that either. Concern trolls, kindly piss off please. Because unless I'm the Virgin fucking Mary, it's definitely not that. As much as I might find that cool, getting stricken by the hand of God, or whatever he strikes the abstinent with. I'd rather not know, quite frankly. Explaining the inexplicable baby seems related to my other big hopefear, which is having the Shaolin monks turn up at my doorstep telling me LE is the Chosen One or whatever and the inner turmoil that might ensue when they want to take him away to some temple in the mountains to teach him how to fly and smash bricks with his head. Do you suppose the monks would let me come and hang out near the temple? Would they let me send presents from time to time? It's quite a dilemma.

The way the Virgin Mary thing relates to the Shaolin monks thing is if it were the Catholics on my doorstep instead of the Shaolin monks, that would be totally fucking scary and way worse. The only thing worse than Catholics would be Adnan Oktar minions.

This business about virgin birth and Shaolin monks and the chosen one and Adnan Oktar also goes a long way to explaining why religion doesn't quite work for me.

You see what happens when I start writing shit?

My living room?
Speaking of holidays, ours were grand. Seriously. My mom and dad came here on Christmas Eve day and we had a proper Christmas the way Christmas is meant to be. For me, I mean. Making Christmas in Turkey is challenging, at best, requiring a monumental effort of imagination and tinsel and deliberate self-delusion because Christmas in my atheist planet is way more important than it should be. If it weren't for LE, I wouldn't bother, but making Christmas through his eyes makes the whole thing super cool and totally worth it. And you can believe our house looked like freaking Vegas for a month. If the damn kittens hadn't started chewing through the cords, I'd have left the lights up forever because Christmas lights are great and a fine addition to any decor. Especially ones that do the alternate-y flashing thing.

The damn kittens are another story. They're fucking cute, let me tell you. I'm thinking of making a movie about their antics. You know, because there aren't nearly enough kitten antics on You Tube. But I might not get around to the movie. Just so you know.

It's going a little bit this way from here on out.
Last year, I made the hell out of Christmas. Starting the first week of December, I began going out of my way to thrill LE with Christmas stuff. Decorations, hauled from the US and bought here. Christmas songs. Christmas stories. Incredible lies about Santa, who I swore I'd never lie to LE about but it's way too much fun. Christmas cookies. A digital animated advent calendar. A special night of Christmas tree decoration (sabotaged by BE, who just couldn't manage to leave his tea drinking buddies in time to bring LE home early enough). A special Christmas gift I had made LE wait for since summer to receive (sabotaged by BE's parents, who bought him the same gift a week before Christmas, claiming they'd forgotten I'd asked them several times not to buy it for him but apparently he'd cried in the toy store and goodness knows a child must never cry).

Hooray! Christmas!
All of this, of course, building up to Christmas day itself (sabotaged by BE, who after numerous promises he'd be home for the day, suddenly left for work shortly after the presents had been opened, claiming the whole family would be at the factory that day filling a big order-- he sent me pictures in case I didn't believe him, just sealing my deep-down belief they were all going out of their way to sabotage my one fucking yabancı holiday I care about, oh, and by the way, did you know Christmas is our anniversary?). All this in the face of everyone in Turkey carrying on like Christmas is on New Year's Day and BE's endless comments about how silly it is to make a such fuss over one day.

Nevertheless, I made the hell out of Christmas and I fucking liked it even with all that. Remember the gecekondu gingerbread house?

I remember it.
But BE's leaving for work on Christmas Day kind of killed it for me. It was rather a crushing blow, actually. It's not the reason we're separated now (Hah! See how I just threw that in there?), though obviously it's a brick in the wall. In fact, I just pushed that particular Big Hurt out of my mind, along with a bunch of other ones, and had almost forgotten about it until my mom asked me something a few moths ago that made me remember. It's just that the other Big Hurts were far more significant and pressing.

So this year when I started making Christmas, I was kind of pretending at first. It was a lot of extra work I didn't need because of the crap going on at my job, but I did it nonetheless. By the third week of December I started getting into it, because by then I knew my parents were coming. LE, of course, was completely batshit by December 3rd and Santa is the best disciplinary tool ever. I'll miss it, and might just save it for a big gun if I can trust myself not to abuse it. Then Christmas Eve involved fondue and Christmas morning involved side pork my folks had brought from the States and it was great and normal and easy to feel the way you're supposed to feel on Christmas.

*cue sentimental piano music, or something like at the end of Doogie Howser, M.D.*

By about 10am on Christmas Day, two things had occurred to me. One, was that my parents being here at a time I really needed them and hadn't even realized how much, more or less erased whatever sad black Christmas clouds I had because of last year. Second, because I know my parents can't come here every year to make Christmas normal for me means I'm the fucking grown-up who has to make Christmas normal for LE. In fact, it's all some fucking atheist parable reminding me I'm the one who has to make the whole world normal for LE. Which means, for Christmas at least, I can make it however suits us and we'll do just fine. The possibilities are endless in kind of a fun way. His Christmas will never be my Christmas because of all these damn choices I've made in my life, some of them cool and some of them less so and some of them hardly thought-out at all.

As for the world, I think we'll have to work together on that one. And it's working out okay with us. So far. He's only four, after all.