Saturday, August 25, 2012

Good Beer. Fuck, Yeah!

This is what beer should look like.
Before I moved to Turkey, I liked beer a lot. I liked drinking beer, and I liked drinking a lot of it.

For awhile when I first arrived, I drank a lot of beer. It was hard to kill the beer habit.

Might as well have done it like this.
But there's a problem with beer in Turkey. It's all Efes and it all sucks. Carbonated beer-flavored rice water that tastes a bit like pee when it's warm.

No excuse for this beer.

Okay, there's also Tuborg, which also sucks. And there's Heineken, which is pretty bad. For years, the most tolerable beer to be found in Turkey has been Miller. Enough said with that one.

Recently, a beer called Leffe has appeared in major markets. Everyone is really happy about that. Leffe is all right. It has a sweet aftertaste I don't love, and I still can't bring myself to shell out 6 lira for a small bottle. But it's all right.

The Efes factory.
I'll still tolerate Efes when it's the only think around to drink, but just barely. It's hardly even worth the extra trips to the toilet to drink that shit. And sometimes it's nice on a really hot summer day, but only on tap.

All this just background to why yesterday was such a cool day. My dad, brothers, and I ditched the boy with my mom and loaded up in the car for a wee brewery tour. It was the best idea ever.

Not just because the company was good. Or the meat and cheese plate we had at one place. Or that we got to check out one of the micro-breweries and then the guy comped us the beer because my brothers' new job is going to be beer and they're wanting to do business with this guy.

No. It was the best idea ever because I drank 18 kinds of beer in one day and all of them were fabulous, even the ones I didn't like so much. You know why?

Because they weren't goddamn Efes.

Dear Efes: You suck.
Also, two of the places we went to were in converted warehouses. I love converted warehouses because they have exposed industrial pipes and ventilation tubes and old wooden beams. The brewing operation we saw was in a space that used to be a call center, making it the best possible use of a call center.

All of the beers came with lengthy, detailed descriptions that I pretty much lost the plot on halfway through. But I'm sure they were very interesting. I'll just never be the sort of person who goes on at length about an alcoholic beverage, except to talk about how it's great. Or how drunk it got me. Or the fact that it isn't Efes.

The first place, Hair of the Dog, had the best beer. There was also a meat plate with four kinds of cured salami-like meats and some cheese, plus dried fruit and giant capers.

We tried 4 beers there, plus my brother had a sour beer. It was weird and I didn't love it, but at least it wasn't Efes.
More very good beer

Very good beer
The other beers were like 10 million billion times better than Efes.

Pretty good beer
We made short work of that beer.

Interesting beer, but not my thing.
The next place was Cascade Brewing. Apparently sour beers are their specialty. One of them was made with ginger and lemon and my brother rightfully pointed out that it would have been better with vodka in it. The other one was kind of yucky but it was still way better than Efes.

12 very good beers.

The last brewery we went to was Coalition Brewing. That's the place where we got to see the beer tanks doing weird bubbly things and making interesting smells. Then the guy brought us a tray of 12 beers, cunningly arranged from lightest to darkest. The wheat beer was the lightest and I don't even like wheat beer but this one was great. So was the red beer. And one other one I forgot. The rest were good too, like 9.8 million billion times better than Efes, except for the porter because I don't like porter as much as other beer. But the porter was still 9.5 million billion times better than Efes.

Fuck you, Efes. Would it kill you to start making some good beer already?

Unless it's Efes.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Memory Dirty Back Alley: I Shot A Man In Reno Just To Watch Him Die

There was a day when I used to be ashamed to admit I'm from Reno. Mostly those were the days when I lived in California and people got snootish about stuff like that.

Now I don't give a shit. I also freely admit I never got over Bon Jovi. Just go ahead and shut the fuck up. I'm too old to care.

Within a few months of moving to California, I'd made my Reno accent go away. And then I moved to Oregon where it's a dirty taboo to be from California, so I put the Reno accent back on. This was when I was working at the food bank and directing people to their nearest food box agency. Most of them didn't take kindly to having their desperate food needs being seen to by a poncy over-educated California type.  Speaking the Reno way was like putting on an old, dirty paint-stained pair of sweat pants that fit just right around the waist.

Now I don't know how I speak. I'm sure it's kind of weird, though. Too many years of proper enunciation and not using phrasal verbs for the non-native speakers. A few words from British English and I always hesitate before mentioning anything to do with pants. Language strangely locked into whatever was contemporary 10 years ago and I can't bring myself to start saying "awesome" again. Plus I talk to a kid a lot.

$4.99 breakfast special, oh yeah. It came with Keno and a fortune cookie.
Sometimes I accidentally go all Reno and my dad gives me dirty looks for dropping the 'g's at the end of gerunds.

Anyway, part of this trip home has involved a trip to Reno. I have family there, some of whom I haven't seen in years and some of them even longer than that. My cousins have kids that are grown up or growing up, with opinions and social lives and jobs and cell phones and stuff like that. Most of them have never seen my son.

This is what happens when you leave. And you just try to carry on like it's not such a big thing.

In Reno, it's cool if kids sit at the bar to watch baseball, so long as they're not actually at the bar. And actually, I don't think they would have cared at Louie's Basque Corner, the second choice Basque restaurant because Santa Fe is closed on Mondays. The food was way better than I remembered, and they've redone the interior so it's not creepy at all. Plus I'm grown-up enough to know ox tails are yummy.

But it kind of matters. When we were all little and my grandparents were still alive, we hung out all the time, all the cousins and aunts and uncles. Eventually, people moved away and started doing other stuff and we didn't see everyone so much. One thing that always strikes me when we get together with that side of the family is how their faces and voices resonate so much with me, a weird kid feeling that just says, "Good! Comfort! Something fun is gonna happen!" and it feels fine, having everything back to an odd sort of normal that hasn't existed for over 30 years. To me, everyone looks and sounds exactly the same and it doesn't matter about the time and other stuff that has passed in between.

And then I got to see them having the same effect on my kid and that was cool.

I debauched plenty here. When I was 8. It was cool.
Upon arrival in Reno, amid the flashing signs and sexy billboards and fading gaudiness, I felt a rush of pure debauchery. I suddenly wanted nothing more than to go out and get rip-roaring drunk and, I don't know. Go to a strip club or something. Find some sort of seamy underbelly and go wallow in it for a few days' blackout. Our hotel had an ad out for some sort of titillating hypnotist and I wanted to go to that. I wanted to see some showgirls in giant feathered hats and use my teeth to drop dollar bills between their sweating silicon breasts.

The radio in the rental car wasn't helping. Apparently, they haven't changed the radio music in Reno since I left there 25 years ago. It was all Whitesnake and Aerosmith and Bonnie Tyler and Air Supply and Ah-Ha. I was completely cool with that, believe you me.

But it didn't take long for all that to wear off. Reno has even less spirit left than I do. The depression has hit Nevada a lot harder than most places, and apparently all the cool people are taking their gambling business to the Indian casinos elsewhere. On the strip, there were quite a few boarded-up retro-looking casinos, lots of grubby liquor stores, a bunch of pawnshops and places that buy gold, and one scabby, shuffling meth addict after another.

Those bright lights are a pho restaurant.

It was grim.
A simple "No Loitering" would not cover the problem, apparently.
 Awhile back, the casinos started using slot machines that worked on credit, which means that even when the casinos are crowded, there's no constant jolly tinkle of coins along with the Atari music and mind-boggling lights and mirrors.

Retro, and sort of chic but also not because it's pay-by-the-week.

 But all the casinos we went into were desolate. Few things in the world are sadder than a desolate casino.

This hotel is retro sad. It's not feeling the love anymore for sure.

Oddly enough, many of them seem to have opted for natural lighting during the day, and you could actually hear the piped-in Elton John and Erasure. "They're pandering to your age group," my dad told me as we passed an empty beer pong display. Apparently, my age group has way better things to do. Most of the scattered gamblers weren't a day under 75. The few that were younger were either scabby junkies getting cautiously eyed up by lurking security guards, or people who looked like their lives would be a lot more enjoyable if they'd gone the scabby junkie route.

"WTF is beer pong?" asked my dad.

I wondered how they could even afford the electricity to run these places.

It's 10pm on the strip. Uh-oh.
Not much better by day.

When I was a kid in the 70s, there used to always be a few bedraggled, sleepy-looking children sitting out front of most casinos at night. Their parents would just leave them there while they went to gamble. It was like some sort of fucked-up cautionary tale my parents never told us. In the 80s, the video arcade was invented so parents left their kids there instead, with a handful of quarters. I think we went into one of those arcades just once and it was absolutely terrifying, way scarier than Lord Of The Flies. We had no chance against those hardened casino kids.
We'll try to get you here by offering to let you win something useful!

Remember the glory days? When FRANK SINATRA Jr. played here?
This is Reno-ese for "Early Bird Special." Because you can be sure there was no fun going on after dinner.
You're welcome.

And honestly, I'm having trouble writing about this whole visit because now I know exactly how many of my family members read the blog. It's not like there's anything bad to say about anyone that I can't be honest about. It's more that I have a lot of gushing that I want to do about how nice it was to catch up with everyone, and to talk about my cousin that died last winter, and I'm afraid I'll leave someone out and make them feel bad. So I'll just have to leave it at that. There were a great many things that affected me so much I can't bring myself to splash them all over the Internet. And despite my fixation on every depressing Reno image, it was a really good trip and I'm glad we went.

Had no idea what a depressing place we went to because all the people we visited were so loving.

I just don't know how to say it is all.

Friday, August 10, 2012

My Hat's Off...

... to whoever wrote this description of PBR, spotted in a hotel elevator in Seattle.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

300th Post: Dear Brain: Shut The Fuck Up

In honor of my 300th post on this blog, my brain and I are not really very good friends these days.

My brain does this to me all the time. It's why I don't remember your name. When I get introduced to new people, I get all caught up in the handshaking and eye contact and smiling but not too much and good posture and don't-act-like-the-fucking-idiot-I-am that I pretty much never remember the person's name. Social interactions are extremely challenging, okay? It's just one of a thousand billion reasons I like the Internet and booze so much.

Anyway, in honor of my 300th post, I cobbled together this piece of shit video of what it sounds like in my brain these days.

Making the video has only made my brain think what it's saying is important. It didn't help things at all, but at least it was proactive somehow.

Please, brain. Will you just shut the fuck up already?

Saturday, August 4, 2012


You know what? Gin tonic is a surprisingly inspirational drink.

You know what else? Tequila shots invite a surprising variety of activities...

Which I'm not gonna elaborate on. Hah!

Hell yeah.
You know what else? Now that I'm home I don't have to drink gin tonic anymore, yerli or otherwise, because the beer is good enough to drink in the middle of the day and the wine is mis gibi, not to mention all the other good stuff to drink. Like Manhattans.

No matter. I'm back home. And for the first time in all of these trips home, I keep saying "home" and I'm not always talking about here.

Except sometimes, I am talking about here. It's very confusing.

In the 10 years I've lived abroad, coming home has been the major event of the year. It's been the thing that the rest of the year has revolved around. About three months before the actual flight, I've started getting restless and cranky and very much in need of the recharge of normal that coming home is all about. I have all these dreams about air travel, some unrealistically good and some unpleasantly realistically bad, like getting to the airport and realizing I've forgotten the passports.

Remember this song?

Except this year coming home wasn't the major event. Which isn't to say I wasn't looking forward to it. All year, there are these moments when I imagine the comforting goodness of sitting in my parents' house, awaiting whatever delicious foods are coming, and just being my goddamn worthless self because I'm the blessed sort of person who can be myself with my mom and dad, the cool parts and the shit parts and we all get along somehow.

But this year, I don't know. Maybe it was because my school cut the travel allowance in our contracts from "a round trip ticket to your country of origin" to "1,500 TRY, which will land many of you in the middle of the Atlantic, if you're lucky," and we had to wait six weeks for dear Rektör Bey to grant us his exalted approval to get what we'd always been entitled to. I hate feeling entitled to anything, so the fact that he eventually approved it was a surprise. In that 6 weeks, I started thinking about what it would be like to spend a whole summer in Istanbul, which I've never done. I imagined maybe growing some vegetables and interesting flowers on the balcony. I considered how cheap it would be to go visit our dear friends in Bodrum over Ramazan.

But then, after the price for LE's ticket had gone up about $300 from when I originally went to Human Resources to plead our case, in Turkish no less goddammit, Rektör Bey signed the thingy with his precious golden pen. I actually balked even after that, telling my folks that even though my ticket was paid for, there was no way I could afford LE's. And my folks came through for me because what the hell else could they do? So now I owe them 2 months' salary for the divorce lawyer and another 2 months' salary for the kid's plane ticket.

And I really hope to pay them back someday. The good thing about owing your parents money, though, is that most parents won't break your kneecaps if you don't pay them back.

But perhaps there's something else about this year. I don't know what. Maybe it's because I now deal with Everything. Okay, I failed at getting the kid registered for school but that's not entirely my fault. But I go out and get our food and other crap and haul it home and survive scary trips to scary places. I make phone calls and they go okay. I go to work and manage everything there mostly and then come home and I know which minibus drivers make LE motion carsick. I deal with neighbors and all the incomprehensibilities therein, few of them language related. My kid speaks more Turkish than English much of the time, and both of us say "fuck" all we want. When something really strange happens, I almost always have a good guess as to what that was all about.

Somehow, I got sucked into my life. Goodness knows how that happened.

So when it came time to go home, my head just wasn't in it like it usually is. I was dreading the plane trip way more than usual, though I needn't have because the kid was a heartbreaking champ the whole way. He's been bugging me for months about when are we going to go to America? I absolutely couldn't get my head around the idea of being at home. Of course, there was the usual pre-going-home meltdown, and of course I missed my folks and my brothers, but I just couldn't get my head around what was coming. I was barely thinking about it, to be honest. No long lists of stuff to take home, and no more or less checking out of life for 2 or 3 months to become completely consumed with the idea of going home.

Slowly turning...
I'll be honest. I still haven't gotten my head around it. I've been eating like a pig and drinking more than usual if you can believe that, and smoking way less because it's damn hard to smoke here. I'm happy to be home, but I also feel homesick. It's obvious my headspace needed a big kick in the ass, but the headspace thing just isn't quite cooperating. I heard it rained in Istanbul after we left and I was sorry I missed it. I keep being afraid I left something wrong with the house or with my job or whatever. I don't really have friends here anymore. And let's be honest-- normal people don't just leave everything there is for a month and expect it all to be cool. My phone doesn't even work here, except for wi-fi. It's freaking me out, even though there's nothing to freak out about.
Which one is it?

It occurs to me that maybe all these years, I've been thinking of life in Istanbul as Not Real Life, like it was just something I was doing until I came back here to get on with Real Life.

And somehow that has switched, and I feel like I'm on a big huge freaking long vacation from Real Life, which is carrying on without me and I'm going to have a hell of a lot of catching up to do when I get back.

It's weird. Or nice. Or something. Honestly, I can't tell.

Whatever. It's beef jerky time.

It should always be beef jerky time.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Notes From The Plane: Written Yesterday On The Plane

I wish it were this jolly.

We're on the goddamn airplane to the States. A brochure in the front pocket advertises free Wi-Fi, but apparently it's not free free. The airplane completely sucks. Free Wi-Fi would just make it slightly less sucky. I'm looking forward to the day when we all say, “Hey, remember when there used to be no Internet on the airplane?”

Or maybe the day will come when we can just get cheaply beamed already, and airplanes will be the 8-tracks of our nostalgic imaginations.

LE came home fine. Great, in fact. Happy as a clam and full of cuddles and not at all miserably spoiled like I was expecting. The lymph node is nothing-- typical overreaction on everyone's part. He's got some sort of allergy all over his body and I'm wondering why no one made the connection.

You're a fucking dick!
No matter. BE charged me the 100tl for the doctor's visit out of my child support. Every time I think he couldn't possibly be more of dick, he finds a way to be more of a dick. I phoned his mother to say goodbye before we left and she was bitchy. The words were nice but the voice was evil. Wonderful. They bought LE some new shoes, but didn't send him back home in them. So I guess stuff like shoes and doctors visits and those little things they used to help me with are a thing of the past.

Perhaps it was wrong of me to feel like BE maybe owes me something for the whole fucking year he didn't pay me anything for child support, or that the care of the child has always been shared somewhat more than the minimal child support he gives. From a decent salary. Living with his parents so he has no expenses. I'm not sure if this apparent punishment is coming from the whole House of Ex, or if it's a unilateral decision by the Ex.

BE smirked the whole time he dropped off LE. I guess he was pleased with himself for having thought of a new way to piss me off. He smirked at me while LE was crying as he hugged him goodbye, as if to say, “Look, he cries when he leaves me because he loves me so much.” Healthy, you big asswipe. Fucking healthy.

The child was their Weimaraner.
The people in the row in front of us are a model of another kind of scary health. They're those kind of upper class stress cases who've read too many parenting books. They have an adopted 3 year girl who's going completely batshit. My knees are bruised from her banging on the seat, and no one seems to expect her to shut the fuck up.The woman keeps hissing between clenched teeth at the man to do something and he keeps doing what he's told. They're trying to make the kid sleep. Whatever the fuck they're doing to make the kid sleep involves everyone putting a blanket over their heads and the mother saying between clenched teeth that people are starting to stare. I don't give a fuck what they're doing, but her fear that people are staring (they're not) makes me wonder, for sure, so I'm kind of staring.

I hate you all.
I have no patience for other people's shitty kids. Not anywhere, but especially on the airplane. Crying babies, okay, no one can do anything about that and I know how much it sucks to be on the mama end of that one. But a shit kid three or older being shit for 6 straight fucking hours? Bite me. I go to a great deal of trouble to make my kid be quiet and as considerate as he can manage and not annoy other people who maybe don't love him as much as I do. So the people in front of me are annoying the hell out of me, both for their over-read inability to deal with the child and the fact that they're letting her shout and the fact that she won't sit down and shut up. I'm finding the fissures in their relationship really embarrassing to look at.

Life bar, dwindling.
The night before we left, fucking Spider fell off the balcony. I'm sick to fucking death of cats. When the neighbor came up to tell me Spider had fallen, she said the cat wasn't moving. When I went down to see, Spider was surrounded by a circle of upset kids each describing his or her experience with seeing the cat fall. But she was moving. Even though Spider is the cat I like, I admit I was a little disappointed. One more fucking cat drama and I'd frankly just rather be one cat down. Also it turns out Spider may be the clothes chewer. I've told my friend who's looking after my cats that if anything happens to the cats in my absence, she can just leave them to die in peace. Of course, she won't do that, but that's where I am with the cats.

So my lovely neighbors came through for me and took the cat up to the vet. This was astoundingly great because one reason I was just hoping the cat was dead was because there was just no way I could deal with her right then. LE was in bed just about asleep. I still had packing to do. We needed to be up at 5am. Oh, and I have No Fucking Money until payday.

But the neighbors had a friend who's a vet and they all loaded up the cat in their and went there. Spider is fine, apparently. Nothing broken, just in shock. For the second time this month. She wasn't totally off the sedatives when we left this morning, but had at least ventured out of the bathroom.

And that's where we're at. Away from home for a month to come back home. It's doing my head in.