Thursday, July 19, 2012


Cows here have horns.

I. Today I saw a couple of young cows gently bashing each other's horns on the grassy patch outside the Atatürk Oto Sanayi metro station. It's not the first time I've seen cattle in that spot, but it's the first time I've seen them argue. I wanted to take a movie but then another guy started taking a movie and I felt unoriginal and foreign (of course it's different when a yabancı starts taking a movie, right?), plus it's kind of a pain in the ass to load movies onto the blog.

I still call them movies. Heh.

Normal for me, really.
Still, it seems like an odd place for cattle. And I grew up in Reno which had some interestingly archaic grazing laws at the time-- maybe they still do-- where horses and sheep and cattle were pretty much allowed to hang out on any brushy patch. Cattle under flyways are strangely normal for me. It's just that you have to take stairs or an elevator up or down to the Oto Sanayi metro station grassy patch, which is really no larger than 10 by 14 feet. How the hell did they get the cattle there? Can you make a small herd use stairs?

II. Today at lunch, my co-worker's phone rang with a ringtone that begged for dancing and everyone at the table started chair-dancing between bites in our not-at-all-right yabancı dancing to Turkish music way, without even checking if everyone else was doing that. My co-worker waited awhile to answer the phone, but then apologized that it was his fiancee. Everyone just kept eating and making fun of students like it had never happened. And maybe it didn't. Maybe I just wanted to be in on something.

III. The other day, not today actually, I realized that those noticeably pretty pigeons near my house, the ones that flap more loudly than the others, in fact belong to a guy down in the minibus yard our balcony overlooks. The minibus yard is an ethnographic study all its own, a place where men go to be men and scratch themselves extravagantly. It's a no-girls-allowed sort of place. On the road, the Beşiktaş guys and Sarıyer guys are sometimes the best of friends, cheerfully bipping their horns at each other or stopping short in the middle of the road when they pass in opposite directions to have a chat or make change.

But sometimes they're the direst of enemies, blaring their horns at each other and getting into road rage races where you're kind of rooting for your guy and afraid to ask him to drop you off somewhere because he stopped picking up passengers like 10 minutes ago, gunning his engine in anger and making his bus go surprisingly fast with all those people in it, wishing the other passengers would stop bitching at him and making him madder. I'm remembering the Beylikdüzü driver fights, which involved the muavvin and tire irons and sudden stops in the middle of a 4-lane freeway.

I've never seen them fight in the yard, though. In the yard, it's all happy shouting and amazing jostling of what appear to be unmaneuverable vehicles into narrow parking places, and guys rushing for a pee in a toilet with an entrance that's so black smudged all around from top to bottom with handprints I can see the filth from here. And in there amongst all the body hair, and greasy mysterious engine parts large and small, and power washers, and hydraulic lifts, and water bottles constantly popping under backwards rolling wheels, there is a thin fellow in an oily once-pinkish shirt with no hem that rides up his belly. He has a tiny dovecote on wheels and the most perfect white gray pigeons whose wings clap in joy when he rolls them out and sets them free. He claps his cupped hands together at them, and waves a plastic bag on a long stick at them, to what end I don't know. Sometimes a small twisted-up man in a wheelchair comes out to watch. Other drivers stop their arm waving and yelling to look up at the doves, and even the guys who drive in with custom Audis and BMWs from goodness-knows-where stop fooling with the sound systems to have a look.

It's like grace. Or something. How can such things be?

So glad I'm not you.
IV. Today I saw a young girl about 11, dancing to no music and whipping her waist-long sunstreaked hair in the wind. The women with her, maybe her mother and aunt, were both fully covered. I was glad I wasn't them.

But I was still sad for that girl. I don't care how long I've been here. How would you feel if you were an 11-year-old girl whipping your hair in the wind and the covered women watching you were your future?

On Friday is the first day of Ramazan. I'm looking forward to watching my neighbors break their fasts, and that cozy quiet comfort that isn't mine.

Okay, not this bad but sorta.
V. Today on the minibus it was so crowded the door was open like we were on a minibus in India, except without the livestock and the folks on the roof. Armpits were in my face and my armpits were in others' faces because I'm tall compared to most people here. Elbows were everywhere. A guy's ass was rubbing mine and he didn't politely try to stop that from happening. Nor did I and he wasn't gross or anything. It's a fucking mad world. And I'm not even that desperate, believe me. Also that's not even close to the most erotic anonymous crowded public transport experience I've had here. As long as things don't get handy, I don't give a shit.

Sometimes there's nothing you can do but suck up all the pleasure and beauty there is to be had in the world, in the most miserable of situations, no matter where you can find it.

Cheesy ending.


Nomad said...

One time years ago, at about this time of year, we had this freak thunderstorm- I say, freak because unlike the Midwest, where I come from, it hardly ever rains in Izmir in the summer. In fact you can tell when summer is ending by the first long slow rain.
Anyway, I was sitting on my balcony, watching the skies open up. The smell of well cement and the feeling of collective exhilaration and relief. I looked down upon the flat roof of a nearby building and there was a young girl about 11 or 12 maybe, dancing in the rain. Sheer happiness at the feeling of the rain on her face. It was one of those memories that has stuck with me, though it only lasted a minute or less.

Anonymous said...


I'm back in my home country for summer break, and this post resonated... I can't wait to get back to Istanbul, for better and for worse. Your post made me laugh out loud and miss the city furiously. Thank you!

Stranger said...

Thank you too! Glad it didn't make you hate it here. I'm off for home next week, and I know I'll be missing the old girl...

Anonymous said...

There are 11 year olds in this world who are facing poverty, sexual exploitation and you feel sad because this girl will cover up when she is an adult. What an ignorant, prejudiced comment to make.

Stranger said...

What a bullshit comment to make.

Under your reasoning, I shouldn't have any feelings at all about anything, because there's always something worse to have bigger, more real, un-ignorant feelings about.

Women with bound hair. Women being poor. Women being exploited. Women who will never feel the sun or the wind on their skin. It's all different sides of the same fucking problem, isn't it?