Saturday, January 19, 2013

Moustache: Slight Return

The first time I really listened to Sparks a few years back, I figured I might as well toss half of my music collection into the trash because pretty much none of those bands would have ever existed without Sparks, and Sparks are like 1,000 times better.

If that weren't enough, they have a song extolling the virtues of the moustache.

Thursday, January 17, 2013


Here's a poem I like. I found it in a secondhand Charles Bukowski book.

Not been on one of these.
In college, I dated this Chilean poet for a very short time. "Dated" is more or less euphemistic here, though we did actually go out together a few times.

Jesus and I were in a Spanish lit class together, a mixed graduate and undergraduate class on Medieval morality tales. I fucking loved it, and wrote papers in Spanish with the word "demystification" in them a lot, because that word is pretty much the same in Spanish and English, and I love stories where the veil drops.

Most of the graduate students were Spanish native speakers, and most of the undergraduates weren't. In retrospect, I realize this must have been hell on the teacher. He was British and spoke with a Castilian accent I wouldn't have understood if he'd been a Spanish native speaker. Most of our Spanish teachers were from Latin America and I never learned Spain Spanish.

Jesus, in between talking too much in the lectures, made his interest in me clear with huge, brown, heavy-lashed eyes. He had a beard and thick lips and white, hairy skin. He was skinny. His hairline had begun to recede and he wore a thin ponytail.

Who am I kidding? I'm pretentious as shit.
We started talking, I don't remember how exactly. He made me feel something and I couldn't tell if it was attraction or revulsion. I decided to find out.

He banged on about poetry a lot. By instinct, I knew this kind of talk was pretentious bullshit but maybe because he was Chilean and a foreigner besides, I cut him some slack. Maybe also because I was in college and putting up with people's pretentious bullshit is just something I was used to doing.

Like many universities, my university often sponsored political dissidents out of whatever danger they were in at home, and gave them jobs as professors. Many of the South Americans and Eastern European professors of a certain age had lived through some sort of horror or other. One guy, who'd made it all the way to some Argentine death camp before the Red Cross was able to find him and smuggle him out somehow, went around campus every morning spreading wodges of peanut butter on the trees for the squirrels.

In the UK, they hate the non-native grey ones.

Because it was Eugene, a lot of students bitched loudly about this, claiming that feeding the squirrels was helping the destructive non-native brown squirrels push out the population of native grey squirrels. Like many things in Eugene, this was one of the stupidest things I'd ever heard. People there also bitched that non-native Canadian weed was putting our good local growers out of business.

Despite the protests, the peanut butter was there every morning.

But I get why dudes want to be him.
Other than a few clashes with police in university protests back home, Jesus wasn't a political dissident, though he liked to come off as one. He was neither the first nor last man in my life who fancied himself as some sort of Che Guevara. Or a Pablo Neruda. Or even a Trotsky.

It can be said that I have the worst taste in men ever.

The first time Jesus and I slept together, we were at his house and he was helping me find something on the Internet, which was brand new and I didn't have it at home. A teacher had assigned some readings online, but we couldn't find them. This was a common occurrence with early-days Internet, when it took like 5 minutes just to log on with the dial-up modem that made cool sounds. The search engine of choice was Web Crawler. At the time, I didn't see much of a future for the Internet except maybe to annoy me.
I resisted the Internet for years.

Jesus used some line about being cold and low blood pressure, and we went to bed from there. I knew it was a line. I couldn't decide if it was one of the stupidest lines I'd even heard, or if it was a little bit charming. The sex was okay, but all the different kinds of hair were off-putting. Or hot. I still hadn't figured out if he was hot or repulsive.

He came to my house a few times. I was living in the spare attic room of a house owned by this woman who looked like "Pat" on Saturday Night Live. Ironically, her name was Robin. She was a pain in the ass, quick to pass snarky judgement on all and sundry while being completely unaware of what an annoying pain in the ass she was. In my room, he would start a poem about me, "Como una paloma..." because I lived in the attic. I don't remember how the poems went, but I thought about them sometimes as I looked at the wooden slats of my attic ceiling.

I still think about that sometimes. I was nothing like a dove, ever.

One day, Jesus suggested we go on a road trip to San Francisco to interview Lawrence Ferlinghetti. It sounded like a good idea so I went. Pretty much the whole reason I'd moved to Eugene in the first place was to hang out with Ken Kesey, but that totally didn't happen.

Early on in the road trip, like before we were all the way out of Eugene, it occurred to me that I disliked Jesus intensely. He didn't understand American road markings, and kept getting off on exits by accident. If I'd liked him, it would have been an amusing adventure. But it was pissing me off, and I had already started being put off by the smell of him.

Have I written about this before? It seems like I have. Oh well. I guess I need to make it go away again.

Somewhere in the middle of California, we stopped for gas and he didn't know how to pump gas. I've never even learned to drive, let alone pump gas. It was after dark and the Vietnamese attendant refused to come out of his bullet-proof glass hut to show us how. I figured the gas pump out while Jesus watched uselessly and I only squirted a little bit of gas on the ground.

He had a friend in Sonoma, a Chilean dissident professor who'd been rescued by Sonoma State. This guy's apartment was full of grad students and professors and everyone was speaking Spanish that I mostly didn't understand. Sitting around the kitchen table, Jesus wanted to talk about poetry. He started going on about how he wrote his poems in coa, a Chilean argot. His friend didn't give a shit and tried to shut him up. Then he looked at me just as I rolled my eyes, and smiled at me. He made us some herbal tea that was the best I'd ever had, but he refused to share the recipe. That was weird.

I wanted to feel like I was in this song.
Later that night, when most people had left, we all sat around on the floor drinking wine and getting high and discussing lofty subjects. What else do you expect people would do at night in the apartment of a Chilean dissident professor? The professor told a story of how he'd narrowly escaped some soldiers with dogs, hiding in some brambles trying not to breathe while the dogs snorted around him and somehow the soldiers didn't find him. Jesus tried to talk about poetry again-- the professor was a published poet, after all. Another guy showed us some translations he'd done of an English poem about angels and alien abductions. Somehow the words worked together and it was a very good poem that made sense about how people can easily confuse these two things.

Jesus and I slept under some blankets on the floor. He wanted to have sex and so we did. I used every trick I knew to make it finish faster and closed my eyes and swore I would never have sex with Jesus again and I didn't after that.

The next place we went was Oakland. Jesus had a friend there who lived in one of the newly-renovated industrial lofts that are now super expensive, but at the time pretty much all of Oakland was less than savory. When we neared Oakland, Jesus mentioned that this friend didn't know we were coming. It was late. He said that in Chile you can just drop in unannounced to stay with friends whenever you want. I told him that in the US people didn't really do that, and suggested we call the guy to make sure he was home. We found a pay phone to tell the guy we were coming. He was a bit put out, but gave us directions to his house.

Fucking scary.
Jesus got lost in a scary neighborhood. Guys were out on every stoop drinking 40s, staring at the car and slowly standing up as we passed. I'd lived in San Francisco long enough to know that no good can come of being in such a neighborhood at night. It was the kind of neighborhood a taxi would refuse to enter. Even in Istanbul I can recognize the sort of neighborhood I probably shouldn't be in.

Through clenched teeth, I started telling Jesus to turn around and get the fuck out of there. The guys were coming towards the car, reaching at their backs and sides and carrying empty bottles. Jesus was making fun of me for being scared. I told him I'd discuss it with him as soon as we got out of that neighborhood.
LE thinks Chile is too thin to be a country.

Back on the main road, Jesus accused me of being afraid of black people. I assured him it was more drunk people in projects swearing at us with empty bottles and reaching for guns, real or pretend, that I was afraid of. Jesus wondered why there would be a dangerous neighborhood in the middle of the city, because in Chile it was only on the outskirts that you had to be careful.

His friend was a painter, more a friend of a friend, really, who put us up nicely even though it was almost midnight. He made some instant Trader Joe's rice or beans for us and it was good. The renovated loft was enormous and gorgeous and this guy had clearly had a lot of fun defining spaces and levels in what was little more than an enormous square with 20-foot ceilings and exposed pipes and ventilation. It was one of the coolest houses I've ever seen in my life.

On the way to see Lawrence Ferlinghetti the next morning, I asked what time we were supposed to meet him. Jesus didn't have an appointment. In Chile, poets are, of course, happy to grant each other interviews at any old time. At this point, I was sick to death of Chile and pretty much reconciled to the fact that I wasn't going to meet Lawrence Ferlinghetti, but at least we were heading into the city. I hadn't been there for awhile. The smell of it was good.

At City Lights, I was in charge of doing the speaking. I asked the woman there if this Chilean poet I was with could please interview Lawrence Ferlinghetti. She asked if we had an appointment. I said we didn't, but that this guy had come all the way from Chile. She didn't care. I understood.

I don't remember the rest of the trip, except for like an hour of watching the night black road ahead of us, thinking about death or something while Jesus kept interrupting my thoughts to share lines of poetry he was making up about the black road.

I also don't remember how, exactly, the thing with Jesus ended after that, or even if it was awkward somehow continuing to be in the same Spanish lit class with him. I still don't much like poetry, except sometimes I do. I thought about going to Chile, but I never did. I never met Lawrence Ferlinghetti. I don't even like his writing all that much, but still. It would have been cool.

There are lots of things I've never done.

I regret those things a lot more than the things I have done.

Sunday, January 13, 2013


The last two times I've gone somewhere on the metrobus, there have been tinerci. I haven't seen a tinerci in ages.

Tinerci is one of those Turkish words I like. Tiner is the Turkish word for "thinner," as in paint thinner, and without looking it up, it's clearly a strange borrowing from English. Strange because most borrowings from English have to do with late 20th century technology and stuff in music and films.

The ending "-ci" is one of my favorite endings in Turkish. It makes things into jobs. "Demir" (iron) becomes "demirci" (someone who deals professionally with metal in some way). It makes some job names into people. "Tamir" (repair) becomes "tamirci" (repairman). No need for PC gendering it in English because I've never seen a repairwoman and anyway, and there's no gender on it in Turkish. "-ci" also makes some adjectives into adverbs, like "hızlıca." It makes nationalities into languages like "Türkçe."

Here's a cheap thrill I adore.
It can make people be really into stuff. And for some things, "-ci" makes you an addict. A tinerci is a huffer. There are quite a lot of them about. A friend once told me they do it because it makes them not feel anything. Not cold, not hungry, not anything else.

I wouldn't know. That's one cheap thrill I never decided to look into, if you can believe it.

I like tinerci as a word in Turkish. As an actual person, well. They're either incredibly sad or a little bit scary. Sometimes both.

These orphans all turned out okay because a supermodel visited them.
In Bakırköy, the place I lived when I first came here, there were tinerci all over. Plus a lot of other kinds of bad kids not so numbed up. Plus a lot of really sad kids who hadn't gone bad yet. And a few who were walking the line between bad and sad. For the most part, tinerci minded their own business. Sometimes they got surly. There's an orphanage in Bakırköy. Apparently once some of those orphanage kids reach 10 or so, they start to find street stuff to do, and kind of float back and forth between the street and the orphanage and jail until they turn 18, at which point the orphanage isn't part of the cycle anymore.

I'm often sorry I spent my formative years in Turkey in Bakırköy. It's taken a long time to un-form that shit.

Today, I saw the tinerci before I smelled him. I mention this because usually you smell the tinerci first. The smell of whatever solvent he has fills the air around him, and it's pretty much always a him. The gender-word people should be glad about this, but not really.

It's a little slice of heaven.
He got on the bus with another man, with his hand held loosely over his mouth and nose like he was coughing, except he never coughed. He and the man found seats and sat down. This in and of itself was a small metrobus miracle, because there is never a place to sit down on the metrobus, let alone for two people. I'd elbowed an obnoxiously pushy woman in the face to get my seat. If you've seen how especially obnoxiously and needlessly pushy some people are on the metrobus, you'd understand why it wasn't bad at all, what I did with my elbow.

An old couple got on with suitcases and sat in the first seats they found, the woman next to the tinerci and the man across the aisle. The woman talked a lot and handed her husband an umbrella. He rolled his eyes and looked pissed off and took the umbrella and shoved it into an outside suitcase pocket.

The tinerci called across the woman to the man and offered to switch seats with him, so the man could sit next to his wife. They swapped, and both the people thanked him, and the tinerci sat down and refilled his rag from a solvent-filled water bottle in one of his pockets.

He was small and young, maybe 18 or 20. His eyes were big and dark and they kept rolling around beyond his control. He had thick, long lashes and his hands were weathered and cracked with white. He had thick fingers and palms that could only be called square. He just sat and minded his own business and everyone pretended not to see him. He was close enough to me that the smell of the thinner started to make me feel good and I was inhaling probably a little more deeply than I needed to because I was listening to the Doors and anything you can do to make the metrobus more interesting, you should probably do it.

I like the smell of gasoline, too. Also skunks.

Across the aisle, the old man secretly held his wife's hand, with hers on the suitcase and his next to it, his pinky and ring finger over the back of her hand. She sat quietly and smiled inside. He smiled and looked at her and took his hand away but they were still smiling.

Another old woman got on the bus and the tinerci jumped up to give her his seat. He squatted on the floor next to me.

It's not easy, believe me.

Say whatever you want about this kid, someone had taught him manners. And there was something about him that seemed to make everyone else around us sad, too.

The old lady he'd given his seat to was sitting just in front of me, also near where the tinerci was squatting. She leaned to the man across from her and whispered something that, even through the Doors (which I'd quickly turned down so I could eavesdrop), I knew was about the tinerci. The man offered her the seat and they switched. His hands-free phone conversation continued.

When he got off the phone, he leaned over to the tinerci and asked him to not do that on the bus because the smell was disturbing people, like the old woman nearby. The tinerci said something I couldn't understand because it was so slurred. They talked a bit and I could tell, at least, that the man was being kind and the tinerci was being kind.

The tinerci's back was leaned up against my legs at this point.
Goes down good.

I wanted to grab him by the shoulders and shake him and tell him I loved him and that he was a human person with worth in the world and to please stop doing that to his brain.

I felt like buying him soup.

Between wondering where the hell all that came from and watching the tinerci drama unfold on the metrobus, I almost missed my stop. The tinerci and the phone guy had gotten off together a few stops earlier, so it was mostly wondering where the hell all that had come from that fucked me soundly in the head.

Trust me, my head is... Well, you know. And it wasn't because of the secondhand huffing either.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Edit: A First Time For Everything

So. For what it's worth, I never go back and change my posts, except for maybe a preposition or something here or there. But I wrote some mean stuff in the previous post about the owner of the school where I used to work, and then I was all, "Hah, I'm gonna send him a friend request on FB, maybe get my $2,000 back."

Only he accepted the friend request right away. We've been having a nice IM chat. Even though I owned up to my online bitchfest to him as soon as he accepted the request, I still felt bad because indeed life hasn't been great to him and it was just too shitty of me to further wish ill upon him using his name and stuff. The $2,000 wasn't personal, after all. Well, it sort of was, but it wasn't personal from him. There are other people to be mad at for that. But this guy got royally fucked by the world and he's still putting the pieces back together. And I always liked him pretty well, despite everything.

So I took out the thing about him in the previous post.

I still feel bad, but it was all I could do.

Bad Stranger.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013


He's saying "Ottoman-ist," trust me.

 Several years back, BE instructed me on the semiotics of the Turkish mustache. One sort of mustache means this, another means this. It explained why there were so few mustaches about. Guy were just unwilling to say what mustaches say here.

There's nothing more I can say about Hitler that hasn't already been said.
And then the AKP/Fettulahçı/religious guy mustache started to abound. It wasn't just the ties or the shirts or the un-calloused hands that told you it was a religious guy place. It was the mustache.

Way back when, I had a job at an English course called Interlang. Over the course of a year, they were slowly going out of business, and more and more often they weren't paying us on time, or in full. After awhile, they weren't paying us at all. I went for 3 months not getting paid, knowing my chances of getting paid were slightly better than the teachers who left town with promises that they would get paid. Pretty soon, it came to be known Interlang was about to be taken over by English Time, the local McSchool of English. For the two weeks preceding the buyout or takeover or whatever, I was in the director's and accoutant's office trying to squeeze whatever few lira I could get out of them, just enough for food and rent or whatever.

The accountant was slightly more honest than the director (also the owner), and then he quit turning up altogether. The owner/director kept assuring us we would get our money after Interlang was sold. And then it was sold. Overnight, the interior underwent some renovations with a lot of frosted glass and shiny bits and the owner had run off to San Francisco.

In the office were a bunch of busy-looking guys in pressed white shirts with those ties and the wispy mustaches that sang "Fetullahçı!" They briskly assured us there was no chance of getting our money and then more or less shooed us out of there.

Moral of the story 1: I still believe I'll get my $2,000.

Moral of the story 2: I knew exactly what those mustaches meant. Also I knew there was fuck-all chance of getting my money unless I whored myself to English time. No thanks. There were plenty of other places to whore myself, and I did.

There's no arguing with the mustache.
The things BE told me about Turkish mustaches are confirmed by this cartoon.

Cartoon shamelessly stolen from She's brilliant. You should check her out.
Nonetheless, despite, or perhaps because of, the semiotics of the Turkish mustache, mustaches are suddenly all over the place, even on grown-up guys in jobs that are supposed to be "clean-shaven" by the old rules. By "old rules," I mean the rules from around a year a ago. Even some working class fellows are sporting "the Communist." Or maybe it's "the Nationalist."

I honestly don't care what your mustache is saying.
I admit there's quite a lot of blurring of the meaning of Istanbul mustaches. I also admit I go a bit weak at the knees and find myself unable to do much but dribble.

That's right. Turkish men are rocking the mustache. Or should I say "rawking?" These are guys who can grow a whole face of hair in 2 days, and change the style every 8 hours or so. When a Turkish man decides to grow a beard, it's done by then end of the week and he's already bored of trimming it. But the thing about the Turkish mustache is, when a Turkish fellow has a mustache, it still looks hot even after his 11am shadow has fully taken hold.

I've hated mustaches for a long time. To me, they represent the icky part of the 70s.
The cheesy.

 And the sleazy.

 Or they represent "hot, but hopelessly gay." By "hopeless," I mean, "hopeless for me."

Just fuck off already, please.
But I'm definitely coming around on the mustache thing. In spades.

I've noticed a resurgence of interesting facial hair or Portland hipsters the last few times I've been home. While I applaud the re-emergence of muttonchops in theory, in practice on a fair, ginger-gened, otherwise hairless fellow that needs 6 months to grow proper muttonchops... well, ew. Same goes for their patchy goatees and frail beards.

I wasn't the least bit impressed with any of the mustaches I saw on this last trip back to the States. Bringing back the mustache pleases me in theory, much like the attempts to bring back the hat and the pipe. But again, in practice, I'm kind of like, "You dick. Quit trying so hard."

I know. I'm a judgmental bastard.

Even this guy earns a few hawt points.
But the Turkish mustache. Damn. It's cool. And pretty bad-ass when done right.

Maybe I'm overly optimistic, but in addition to the hot-ness of the Turkish mustache, I'm also hoping those guys are quietly sporting a revolution of sorts. The semiotics haven't changed, after all.

Dear Turkish men,

Thanks for making my day a little brighter, every day.


Where do I sign up for your revolution? I wanna change the world.