Tag Archives: Islam

selections from The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark

“It’s only possible to betray where loyalty is due,” said Sandy. Continue reading

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notes from my phone

how do I create
how does one scrawl the thoughts incessantly knocking on the othe side of the glass
pika Continue reading

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SAS 1

Strength can be gentle
But you don’t see it that way

I saw a light in you
trying to grab it before it fades

Trying to grab it ‘fore
Trying to grab it ‘fore

Fades
The cold and the dark enter your heart
You’re afraid
The monsters inside you, cripple and blind you
and I know you are
and I know you are
The same

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the apes sat around scrawling their squishy mochi minds all over the table. the mochi would leap out their skulls and slam against the table in an explosion of colors, portraying different forms of flesh, perspective, landscape, language. there an avocado, an orange outta nowhere. there a woman steps out of the shadows w red wine bleeding from her right ear socket, watercolors streaming down her face. there voltages fired through a test tube, attempting to synthesize volcanic activity here in the comfort of our own home. here the voice of the prophet, inky and wet, dripping everywhere, staining everyone’s fingers, the same contagious fairy tales and riddles told for thousands and thousands of years. what does the future hold? the same fairy tales, riddles, prophets? can it be forecast in cheap blue ink? in the name of the gracious and glorious crime of poetic appropriation, may we all grow to be the most beautiful blooms of ourselves. Continue reading

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Show Me (the Hindu Art of) Love

photo(1)typically, thanks to the fact that i never board the metro near downtown, i get a seat. and, more often than note, i get a seat by a window, because nobody else wants to be locked in. i, with my 45m commute to and from work, do not give a fuck. so i usually crawl into my window seat, maybe prop my legs up, and bury myself in whatever book i want, even if that book be an illustrated copy of the Ananga-Ranga, an Indian sex manual written in the 15th or 16th century to save “foolish and unintelligent” from their “animal point of view” of women.

it’s interesting stuff, even for an unmarried 21st century man like myself, but not necessarily what you want to be caught reading in an aisle seat surrounded by restless commuters in the middle of rush hour. oh well…

It is true that no joy in the world of mortals can compare with that derived from the knowledge of the Creator. Second, however, and subordinate only to this, are the satisfaction and pleasure arising from the possession of a beautiful woman. (xv)

do i buy it? i’m fascinated by religion and often even consider myself a pretty spiritual person, but i’m not sure i’m quite yet on the level of putting something like “knowledge” above “pleasure.” why can’t we have it all and just admit that “knowledge of the Creator” is the same thing as “possession of a beautiful woman”? in all seriousness, i’ve found myself suggesting this very notion especially when discussing music. for sex is a kind of rhythm, despite Chris arguing it not being a very good song, and therefore maybe it’s the rhythm of the Creator. oh dang. also, yes, we’re all uncomfortable with the word “possession” when applied to “woman,” no matter how “beautiful.” moving along.

And thus all you who read this book shall know how delicious an instrument is woman, when artfully played upon; how capable she is of producing the most exquisite harmony; of executing the most complicated variations and of giving the divinest pleasures. (xvi)

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delicious indeed. no matter how true this selection might be, one can’t help but imagine it coming from the twisted mouth of a sleazy old monster hiding in some horrible saloon caught halfway between Middle Earth and the Tenderloin.

i thought it’d be helpful to see the illustrations i saw while reading this text. also, picture the guy sitting next to me on the metro thinking to myself, “oh jesus i’m sitting next to a fucking creep.”

Before proceeding to the various acts of congress, the symptoms of the orgasm in women must be laid down. As soon as she commences to enjoy pleasure, the eyes are half closed and watery; the body waxes cold; the breath after being hard and jerky, is expired in sobs or sighs; the lower limbs are limply stretched out after a period of rigidity; a rising and outflow of love and affection appear, with kisses and sportive gestures; and, finally, she seems as if about to swoon. At such time, a distaste for further embraces and blandishments becomes manifest: then the wise know that, the paroxysm having taken place, the woman has enjoyed plenary satisfaction; consequently, they refrain from further congress. (19)

the first thing that comes to mind for me while reading this is… how scientific! it all sounds about right, but i can’t in good faith verify any of it. if i compare this to what i see in porn, i’d be a laughing stock for believing porn to any degree. and if i go off of personal experience, well, let’s just say i’m not exactly in a studious mood while engaging with a women undergoing “paroxysm.”

photo(6)The following are the signs by which the wise know that woman is amorous:–She rubs and repeatedly smoothes her hair (so that it may look well). She scratches her head (that notice may be drawn to it). She strokes her own cheeks (so as to entice her husband). She draws her dress over her bosom, apparently to readjust it, but leaves her breasts partly exposed. She bites her lower lip, chewing it, as it were. At times she looks ashamed without a cause (the result of her own warm fancies), and she sits quietly in the corner (engrossed by concupiscence). She embraces her female friends, laughing loudly and speaking sweet words, with jokes and jests, to which she desires a return in kind. She kisses and hugs young children, especially boys. She smiles with one cheek, loiters in her gait, and unnecessarily stretches herself under some pretence or other. At times she looks at her shoulders and under her arms. She stammers, and does not speak clearly and distinctly. She sighs and sobs without reason, and she yawns whenever she wants tobacco, food, or sleep. She even throws herself in her husband’s way and will not readily get out of his path. (29)

if you think that sounded straightforward, then prepare yourself:

The following are the eight signs of indifference to be noted in womankind:–When worldly passion begins to subside, the wife does not look straight between her husband’s eyes. If anything be asked of her, she shows unwillingness to reply. If the man draw near her, and looks happy, she feels pained. If he departs from her she shows symptoms of satisfaction. When seated upon the bedstead, she avoids amatory blandishments and lies down quietly to sleep. When kissed or toyed with she jerks away her face or her form. She cherishes malicious feelings towards her husband’s friends; and finally, she has no respect nor reverence for his family. When these signs are seen, let it be known that the wife is already weaned from conjugal desires. (29)

photo(5)“i swear to god she was making no clear signs whatsoever. all she ever did was JERK HER FACE AWAY anytime i tried to toy with her… how the hell was i supposed to know she didn’t want sex?” part of me wants to give the author a break because this was written in the 15th century, but then other times he proves that he’s actually somewhat ahead of his time:

And, moreover, let it be noted that the desires of the woman being colder, and slower to rouse than those of the man, she is not easily satisfied by a single act of congress; her lower powers of excitement demand prolonged embraces, and if these be denied her, she feels aggrieved. At the second act, however, her passions being thoroughly aroused, she finds the orgasm more violent, and then she is thoroughly contented. This state of things is clean reversed in the case of the man, who approaches the first act burning with love-heat, which cools during the second, and which leaves him languid and disinclined for a third. But the wise do not argue therefrom, that the desires of the woman, as long as she is young and strong, are not the full as real and urgent as those of the man. The custom of society and the shame of the sex may compel her to conceal them and even to boast that they do not exist; yet the man who has studied the Art of Love is never deceived by this cunning. (32)

basically, only an idiot believes a woman who plays along with society, pretending to be less interested sex than men. even the first part feels pretty spot on. guys just want to put it in, jackhammer, come across the world, and sleep. women need time to get worked up. and how do you take your time? well there are SEVEN different places you can kiss her!

And understand at once that there are seven places highly proper for osculation, in fact, where all the world kisses. These are–First, the lower lip. Second, both the eyes. Third, both the cheeks. Fourth, the head. Fifth, the mouth. Sixth, both breasts; and seventh, the shoulders. (100)

photo(3)and those are only the “highly proper” places ;)

really, i could be copying so many more massive chunks of the text to this blog, so i’d better stop there. but before i go, let me leave you with the footnote on the term “Purushayitabandha,” which “is the reverse of what men usually practice. In this case, the man lies upon his back, draws his wife upon him and enjoys her.” (125) the footnote reads:

This position is held in great horror by Muslims who commonly say, “Cursed be he who makes himself earth and woman heaven!”

so she can be on her back, on her side, standing up, sitting on you (if you’re sitting), and on her belly (or all fours), but Allah forbid! she catch you on your back? please, you should try being earth every once in awhile. it’s quite humbling. Continue reading

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twelve-bar blues

i’m in a really good mood right now, and it feels like a comet. that is, this ain’t no flash in the pan but rather something with a tail extending many, many days into the past. here are reasons why:

— i am.
— i am currently listening to the nearly 30 minute version of “Dazed and Confused” found on Led Zeppelin’s The Song Remains the Same.
— i’ve been playing music regularly, be it drum, bass, or vinyl.
— Chris and i can cook a damn good breakfast.
— i’ve been reading a little bit, splitting my time between Joseph Conrad’s Lord Jim and the Qur’an.
— i experienced Thee Oh Sees live twice this weekend.
— girls seem to like me.
— i love Tina.
— work isn’t getting me down.
— American rye whiskey and bourbon.
— Big Sur, specifically Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park and the Pacific Ocean it kisses.
— 100 MPH on the PCH. Continue reading

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Qur’an verses, Sura III, 26-27

Say: “O God!
Lord of Power (and Rule),
Thou givest Power
To whom Thou pleasest,
And Thou strippest off Power
From whom Thou pleasest :
Thou enduest with honour
Whom Thou pleasest,
And Thou bringest low
Whom Thou pleasest :
In Thy hand is all Good.
Verily, over all things
Thou hast power.

“Thou causest the Night
To gain on the Day,
And Thou causest the Day
To gain on the Night ;
Thou bringest the Living
Out of the Dead,
And Thou bringest the Dead
Out of the Living ;
And Thou givest sustenance
To whom Thou pleasest,
Without measure.” Continue reading

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notes from 2012: The Return of Quetzacoatl by Daniel Pinchbeck

“Love never faileth; but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.” — 1 Corinthians 13:8 Continue reading

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happy birthday Aliana [archive]

Aliana is this super cute sweetie that i threw a birthday for last night.

basically, i left table manners with a bunch of friends, but sort of rabidly didn’t leave with them but rather ahead of them. and when i turned around to see if the creatures were following, i instead saw the birthday girl, who came back to the afterparty and was merry. tainted! taken on! shared! singled! romanced! phantomed! consented! planet rocked? disco balled in the face.

and then i went for a drive and got a fucking nail in my tire.

you think you’re cruising, cruising, cruising, and then BAM! you’re drinking to joe biden’s mug. either way, i already know i’m on the wrong side:

Of the people there are some who say:
“We believe in God and the Last Day,
But they do not (really) believe.

Fain would they deceive
God and those who believe,
But they only deceive themselves,
And realize (it) not!

In their hearts is a disease;
And God has increased their disease:
And grievous is the penalty they (incur)
Because they are false (to themselves).

When it is said to them: “Make not mischief on the earth,”
They say: “Why, we only
Want to make peace!”

“Of a surety, they are the ones
Who make mischief,
But they realize (it) not.

When it is said to them:
“Believe as the others believe:”
They say: “Shall we believe
As the fools believe?”–
Nay, of a surety they are the fools,
But they do not know.

When they meet those who believe,
They say: “We believe;”
But when they are alone
With their evil ones,
They say: “We are really with you:
We (were) only jesting.”

God will throw back
Their mockery on them,
And give them rope in their trespasses;
So they will wander like blind ones
(To and fro),

These are they who have bartered
Guidance for error:
But their traffic is profitless,
And they have lost true direction,

Their similitude is that of a man
Who kindled a fire;
When it lighted all around him,
God took away their light
And left them in utter darkness.
So they could not see.

Deaf, dumb, and blind,
They will not return (to the path).
Or (another similitude)
Is that of a rain-laden cloud
From the sky: in it are zones
Of darkness, and thunder and lightning:
They press their fingers in their ears
To keep out the stunning thunder-clap,
The while they are in terror of death.
But God is ever round
The rejecters of Faith!

The lightning all but snatches away
Their sight; every time the light
Helps them, they walk therein,
And when the darkness grows on them,
They stand still.
And if God willed, He could take away
Their faculty of hearing and seeing;
For God hath power over all things.

see? they’re saying the same things about us that we’re saying about them! see:

last night i went to this place where all the people (of some arbitrary institution) could dance, all the people (of some arbitrary age limit) could drink, where all the people could have a real good time together. down in the velvet underground.

but tonight i went to the place next door, where only some people could dance, only some people could drink, and only a sad minority could have a real good time together. up in the silk heaven.

putrid blasphemous fiends, they terrorize this planet. demons obsessed with the corrosive sting of power, an ever-growing, ever-distant thing of desire. shunning freedom, these brazen hunters scour their crippled reality for the dirtiest of work, clawing through fields, seeking out shackleless beings.

but they’re saying the same things about us, see?

see! Continue reading

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Türkiye [archive]

~ ~ ~ DAY 0 ~ ~ ~

i woke up early to spend my last few moments in Athens hustling towards a train station, with a backpack full of computers rocks and a suitcase full of clothes and other junk, all the necessities of four months in a foreign land. at 9am, the train’s engines chugged before i even had time to think “goodbye.”

apparently i originally took the wrong seat, because somebody claimed it at the second or third stop. i had to get up, sling my backpack on, and bring myself and my 75lb. suitcase a few cars forward, to my actually assigned seat. once i got there, some lady sat there adamant on not giving up her precious seat. but i knew it was mine. people noticed i wasn’t actually an expert of the Greek language, so 2 or 3 people snatched my ticket away, eyeing it closely, and then proceeded to yell at the lady in my seat. as they bickered, i just looked around for an empty seat, taking one (with my dramatic ticket with me) in the middle of the car, facing backwards and sharing a tiny table with two seats facing forwards. i managed to keep this seat, facing two continuously talking old men, for the rest of the journey. the train only stopped a few times on the way to Thessaloniki, as we slugged for six hours across the rocky valleys of northern Greece. great music got me through it. and the whole way, i stared at the old men on the right, window-side, playing with his worry beads. made me wish i didn’t pack mine layers deep in the massive roller suitcase.

after freaking out a couple times that i missed my stop, i arrived in beautiful Thessaloniki, the Santa Barbara of Greece (yeah, i made that up). i say that because, after rolling my suitcase the ten blocks from the train station to my hotel for the night, i saw the sites of the town: beautiful churches next to bumping clubs, skater kids grinding up the beach, hippies and hipsters rolling in the grass, munching on ice cream and each other. i really liked the city. felt like a drunk stoner party college town compared to Athens. this image was reinforced when i hung out with this 30 year old dude named Daniel from Australia who, also booked in the atlantis hotel, was traveling throughout all of Europe. as we exchanged iphones to judge each other’s music collections, we talked about drugs and Europe and girls and all kinds of things. he appreciated the little metal i had on my phone.

earlier, immediately upon checking into the hotel, i called up the bus company, ulusoy, that i had made plans with to travel on to Turkey in the morning. thank god i did. when i called, thinking i was just confirming the time and place, they informed me that the bus schedule had changed and they weren’t leaving for Turkey until three days later, on thursday. fucking bastards. i had the hotel’s reception guy helping me out with all this, talking to them on the phone. once he got off the phone, he started writing where i was supposed to go to meet the bus, while i muttered how pissed i was, that i was supposed to be leaving tomorrow morning not in three days. when he realized, he turned to me and said, “have you paid for these tickets yet?” i said “no” and he crumpled up the paper he was writing on, throwing it into the trash. he said, “listen, you don’t need to take that bus. i’m pretty sure there’s a bus that leaves every night around 10pm a few blocks from here. go check it out,” as he took a map out and circled where the office and lot was. i checked it out and he was right! i came back, thanked him profusely, paid my night’s reservation (even though i wasn’t staying the night), and went out to explore Thessaloniki in the 3 hours or so that i had.

at 10pm, seated in the darkness on the bottom floor of a double bus, i set out for Turkey. five minutes after departing, i nearly got kicked off for not having enough fare. i converted all my euro to Turkish lira except just the right amount that the lady told me earlier i had to pay. i was now short 10 euro. i guess the guy felt sympathy after staring into my puppy dog eyes, or he probably just didn’t feel like stopping the bus.

such a fancy bus. the driver and the money-collecting, tea-serving, passport-dealing dude practically wore tuxedos. we stopped a couple times here and there to pick up other passengers or to take a break on what ended up being another 6-hour trip for me. although, like the beginning of the bus trip, the end of the bus trip almost looked like i wasn’t going anywhere. at the Greece-Turkey border, everything went smoothly on the Greek side. as we crossed the border from the blue and white flag with a cross to the red and white flag with a crescent and star, so early in the morning, i felt so nervous and excited, i had no idea where i was headed. almost nowhere, because on the Turkey side, i found out i had to pay 15 euro for the entrance visa. and that’s 15 euro. not 20 dollars, not 30 Turkish lira. 15 euro. no atms anywhere. nothing but Turkish lira in my pocket. i begged the man in the window to take Turkish lira, he said 15 euro, brushed me away, and turned to watch tv. i almost felt like crying. i walked outside, thinking i don’t know what, i’ll be stuck at the Greece-Turkey border forever. i saw my fellow bus passengers crossing to the other side and got a pretty desperate idea. i intercepted one girl, asked her if she knew English (she did), and rapidly (and probably incomprehensibly explained my situation, begging her to exchange some money with me. i guess she didn’t have it, or something. i asked the next guy, coming after her. he was happy to, thank god. so in the middle of the border, i exchanged with some man at some unofficial but honest rate, ran inside, got my visa from the asshole, and got back on the bus.

we approached my stop. i could feel it. and it was approaching only 4am. the bus mess in Thessaloniki, the money mess on the bus, the money mess at the border, all those were unexpected confusions. the next was the expected one. though taking a Thessaloniki-Istanbul bus, i had to get off in Keşan because from there i had to take another bus to Çanakkale, the small city where Meryl’s father grew up, where Meryl and her sister spent every summer for nearly ten years, and where we were to spend the next week vacationing. the confusion came from my not knowing where this bus was going to let me out in Keşan and where in Keşan i was supposed to catch the next bus. they answered the first question, when at 4am i was let out at a large highway intersection, in the middle of a concrete island with my both bags, not knowing where the hell i was, as the bus sped away towards Istanbul. i walked towards lights, a gas station and a hotel, the linda hotel. after weighing my options with my mom (i’m surprised she did such a good job of sounding calm over the phone, because even i was a little bit freaked out), i decided to check-in to the hotel for a few hours’ sleep.

~ ~ ~ DAY 1 ~ ~ ~

woke up around 7, took a quick shower, and went down for breakfast: cucumbers, green pepper, tea, bread, beyaz peynir, and tomatoes. a delicious sign of things to come. contented, i lugged my massive bag down the one flight of stairs, and started walking. but where to? i went to the gas station, asking the few guys if they knew English. one sort of did. i said “bus??? Çanakkale?” i think he understood, and sort of pointed me in a direction down one of the four branches of the highway. so i started walking that way. i wondered then and i wonder now how ridiculous i must have looked. out of control hair, out of control beard, stupid classic rock backpack filled with rocks, giant bursting purple roller suitcase, deer’s head on my haight shirt, hemp nike’s, walking down a road that sometimes lost its sidewalk and turned to dirt, looking for a station, looking for a bus, looking for a girl. eventually, after asking a couple more locals along the way, i found it. rather, it found me. a guy ran out and asked me where i was going. “Çanakkale!” he motioned me over, grabbed my massive suitcase, pulling it over this short fence with one arm, i followed over, jumping with excitement, and soon enough i had my ticket purchased. ten minutes later, my treat arrived via bus from Istanbul…

…with her mom and sister…

they loaded up my baggage and i got on the bus, unfortunately half the bus away from the girls. no problem, after a little while, we were on the ferry to the final destination. i think the ferry ride was the one that starts in the upper left:
View Larger Map

and the eleven-day triforce was formed:

first notable thing we did in our new home, after Nancy got a rental car, after lugging up all the bags, was EAT. Meryl and Elise made fun of me so much for this, but while in Turkey, i consistently logged nearly every meal, no matter how large nor small. well the first meal in Çanakkale, at the grandparents’ house, proved to be a feast, a noon feast that would be repeated everyday in Çanakkale: rose jam, cherry jam, simit, green olives, black olives, tomatoes, beyaz peynir, mozzarella, tea, ün kurabiye (this powdery shortbread shown above being nibbled by Meryl), some bready sweet sticks, and pastrami. basically, while rounds of tea spin around, you eat your simit with cheese or with jam or both or with jam or with pastrami or both or with pastrami or with cheese or both, and so on, and so on. a circle of delicious. the only thing that can happen after a day of traveling and an hour of feasting is a nap.

and nothing follows a nap like ice cream! the twins, their mom, and i went out for ice cream, called dondurma in Turkey, and it’s actually weirdly chewier than regular ice cream. just as delicious, of course. we all got a bunch of flavors on a little cone, dipping the scoops into a pile of powdery pistachio. with dondurma in hand, the four of us walked towards “downtown” Çanakkale, a neighborhood consisting of three or four blocks of shops, bars, and little restaurants. we stopped at the Han, where Nancy ran into an old, old friend (this happened all over the place). after some brief crying, we sat in the small open courtyard for a round of beers. on the way back home for dinner, we walked along the straits on the kordon, which seemed particularly busy. apparently May 19 is a holiday in Turkey: Commemoration of Atatürk, Youth and Sports Day. so kids danced, music blasted, and fireworks grew like flowers from the well-tilled sea. i’m going to have to express this eventually, so i’m going to explain it now. Turkey is obsessed with this man:


Mustafa Kemal Atatürk

literally obsessed. 90% of businesses in the country have a photograph of him lavishly framed and lovingly hanging on prominent wall space. you can’t eat a meal or have a tea or sip a beer without looking at old Atatürk, signing a law or shaking hands with a politician or leading a group of important men briskly off to do important things or simply staring off into the distance, contemplating high ideals like democracy and independence. Nancy says that all the old clocks at ancient sites now turned museums have all their broken hands turned to the exact time of Atatürk’s death. literally obsessed. you see, Atatürk pretty much made Turkey what it is today: a modern and secular democracy, an exception in the roughs of the Muslim world. that’s pretty much the extent to what i know about this founding father. one guy i met in Istanbul, a week later, likened him to our George Washington or Thomas Jefferson.

except you’re allowed to say bad things about George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. can’t say the same for Atatürk. YouTube is banned in Turkey for “content regarded as ‘insulting’ to Atatürk.” well, in the spirit of Atatürk and in the spirit of freedom of speech, FUCK YOU ATATÜRK. unfortunately, he can do nothing about it. he’s dead and now the very alive corrupt and/or inept politicians can easily use his name to pass laws like this in the hopes of influencing the people, abusing their love of their great leader. the country’s doing pretty alright as far as basic rights are concerned, but they clearly have a lot to change. i just don’t know how much the obsessive love of their founding father is helping or hurting the country.

anyway, thank you Atatürk for those sweet fireworks. and thank you Turkey for lahmacun (this wonderful pizza-like thing), ayran (a really simple drink basically consisting of yogurt and water), and peynirlik (cheese melted on bread). what a dinner. hello Turkey.

~ ~ ~ DAY 2 ~ ~ ~

ah, noon feast repeat. like i said, the noon feast we had yesterday happened every day and pleased the hell out of me. this time we had bread instead of simit, however, as Meryl’s grandfather angrily bitched to himself about the simit guy not showing up on time. whatever, delicious anyway.

the fantastic four left the house to take care of some business. Nancy got copies of keys made for the girls, we stopped by a friend’s business to say hi, the other three got signed up for some Turkcell slug phones (where the picture of Elise above was taken), and stopped by another friend’s business for frape.

then it was kale time. kale means castle, thus Çanakkale. i think the first part means “ceramics,” because this town was famous for the craft. seated on the narrowest entrance into the sea of marmara on the dardanelles, Çanakkale has been a highly strategic point since humans learned how to sail ships. thus, the presence of two castles on opposite sides of the narrowest part of the straits, to swiftly take down any unwelcome travelers. we were welcome. here’s the ferry that took us across to the other castle:

the castle on the Çanakkale side, from which we departed:

the castle on the side where we departed to:

immediately outside:

immediately inside:

the guy who took our entrance fees warned us about these staircases. he told us not to climb one in particular because a couple years ago a French guy fell off and died. with the huge cylindrical guts of the castle perfectly charging the gusts of winds into our faces, i expected the same to happen to any of us any minute.

we survived. i can’t imagine living in the barracks here, hundreds of years ago, getting woken up in the middle of the night to alarms, jumping out of bed, scrambling up the stairs with your gun and making it alive to fire at enemy ships. can’t imagine. leaving the castle, we walked along a series of bunkers with no real direction, but got a couple good nationalist photos along these lines:

then we got tost and çay. tost is pretty much just toast, with melted cheese. delicious. çay is tea. tost and çay is one of the best snacks ever. then we took the ferry home, looking for jellyfish all the while.

for dinner, we ate rice + meat, kava + yogurt, bread + water. simple and marvelous. the twins and i capped the night with an intellectual discussion at the Han. when a group of people agree on many things and only talk amongst themselves, egos and self-confidence skyrocket because agreeing with somebody else essentially only means agreeing with yourself. the three of us, i think because we were so isolated by the language, rode this high for much of our trip. our past psychedelic experiences, shared, added to the fact that Elise and i were at the time simultaneously reading a Richard Dawkins book she brought entitled, Climbing Mount Improbable, amounted to conversations over beer that skipped over the mountains like a child over anthills. we talked about Turkey and the United States and food and music and love and patterns and sex and technology and the future and the past and art, but mostly we just talked about fractals, the easiest way to visualize everything in this universe:

that picture explains why The Knife’s “Heartbeats” is such a good song. it explains why the year is 2009 and not 2008. it explains where babies come from. it explains the difference between a scientific theory and how a layperson uses the word. it explains how to play the drums and it explains why you’ll never date that guy you’ve been eyeing all afternoon. it doesn’t really explain a thing, but it explains everything. every curve represents the course of a frog’s life and every circle represents a tooth. every squiggle stands for something you don’t understand and never will understand and every pixel goes to infinity because not an atom in this world doesn’t.

phew. good luck, Elise, on actually explaining fractals rationally.

~ ~ ~ DAY 3 ~ ~ ~

after the noon feast threepeat, the fantastic four journeyed to a family friend’s daycare center. after the kids ate their lunch, they flopped on the ground, listening to classical music. at one point, they showed off by singing a couple songs in English for us. adorable. here i also met Doruk, a really cool friend of the family who had just a day or two before returned from (here Turkey fucks up again) mandatory military conscription. that’s just the phrase, here are the gritty details, from Wikipedia:

The Turkish Armed Forces is the second largest standing armed force in NATO, after the U.S. Armed Forces, with a combined strength of 1,043,550 uniformed personnel serving in its five branches. Every fit male Turkish citizen otherwise not barred is required to serve in the military for a time period ranging from three weeks to fifteen months, dependent on education and job location. Turkey does not recognise conscientious objection and does not offer a civilian alternative to military service.

In Turkey, compulsory military service applies to all male citizens from twenty to forty one years of age. Those who are engaged in higher education or vocational training programs prior to their military drafting are allowed to delay service until they have completed the programs or reach a certain age. The duration of the basic military service varies. As of July 2003, the reduced durations are as follows: for those without 4 year university degrees fifteen months as privates; for those with 4 year university degrees or higher either twelve months as reserve officers or six months as short-term privates.

For Turkish citizens who have worked outside Turkey for at least three consecutive years, on condition that they pay a certain fee (currently 5,112 EUR), a basic military training option of twenty-one days (previously twenty-eight days) is offered instead of the full-term military service of 15 months.

The Turkish military openly discriminates against homosexuals and bisexuals by barring them from serving in the military. At the same time, Turkey – in violation of its obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights – withholds any recognition of conscientious objection to military service. Some objectors must instead identify themselves as “sick” – and are forced to undergo what Human Rights Watch calls “humiliating and degrading” examinations to “prove” their homosexuality.

Women are not conscripted. However, they are permitted to become officers.

discrimination, corruption, and backwardness all over the fucking place. and beyond all the Wikipedia facts, what’s most important is what the actual people who have to go say about it. according to Doruk, it’s a living hell. he said, if offered $1,000,000 to go back for just one day, he would refuse. i cannot imagine. count your blessings, American boys and girls.

at last, the most hallucinatory portion of the trip (for the twins).

/p>

/p>

these photos are on-site in dardanos, the old stomping grounds for the Cokers for so many summers so many summers ago. the bench was key. Meryl started crying upon sitting on it, thinking about all the childhood trips she shared with her sister there. the playground, all the same, felt like it was crumbling with age. the house was worse. fungus and creepy spiders lurking everywhere. pretty interesting seeing that side of Meryl and Elise.

afterwards, we chilled out on the water for some tost. i drank a sour cherry juice and brag-texted my mom all about it.

that night we went out for drinks and rock & roll music, followed by some spectacular drunk and spicy kebap. i might have drooled all over myself.

~ ~ ~ DAY 4 ~ ~ ~

noon feast quadpeat! sausage replaces pastrami! tongue, tied, twisted, trained, and tailored. it’s sunk in that i am on vacation and just pleased everywhere i go.

we head to the friday pazar to see the madness and get some shopping done. shirts, olives, shoes, glasses, dresses, tomatoes, cherries, strawberries, everything everywhere. i don’t know if you have to be friends with Elise to see her photos, but if you can, check out the first 14 pictures of this album. it’s epic.

then we went to Troy. did i mention that archaeologists’ best guess for the ancient site of Troy is a half hour drive from Çanakkale? it is.

besides the stupid cheesy horse they have on site there, the ruins actually pleased me quite a bit. nothing like Epidauros or Delphi, it still brought me back to Greece and made me miss all my friends in Athens. it also made me miss Diamant. i felt so confused walking around stones without commentary.

Meryl makes another offering to Athena:

the sea used to be much closer:

on the way back home, we stopped in these fire-ravaged hills that host two massive German artillery bunkers leftover from WWI. now, instead of longing for Athens, i thought about old Battery Davis in the bay. there’s not much time to long, though, when you’re doing a photo shoot:

i bet you’re wondering what i had for dinner: seafood mezes! on a small restaurant on the second floor, right at the window overlooking the straits. gorgeous and delicious, two things Turkey consistently is. we tried to replicate the raging party of the night before, especially since Elise had met a Turkish Romeo named Yusuf. when we found out that the bar he worked at had an entrance fee, we skipped over to the Han for a round of beer and fractals. then we went back by the time the cover had been erased, in time for a band that, like the band the night before, rocked the house by covering Seven Nation Army. awesome. all in all, a good night of Yusuf.

~ ~ ~ DAY 5 ~ ~ ~

noon feast pentpeat improved by apricots, strawberries, and cherries acquired at the pazar from yesterday! wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. with no solid plans, we lazed around, listening to Concierto de Aranjuez a couple times while reading Dawkins and Nabokov.

eventually we left the house for an evening stroll along the kordon, eyeing the spooky jellyfish all the way.

not even out of the house for 5 minutes, a couple with a little girl recognizes the twins as long lost friends. after a difficult conversation in broken Turkish, we’re told to go sit right on the kordon and have some çay while we wait for an old friend of the girls to come. after a half hour passes and our çay is long gone, the girl finally comes. her and her sister (?) sit down and we order another çay.

five, ten, fifteen minutes pass, i’m not sure exactly how long, of some more semi-less broken Turish and English conversing, when my iPhone rings. it’s my mom. oh cool, she’s probably seeing how i’m doing. we hadn’t talked for a few days now, just minimal texting. well here’s an attempt to reconstruct the conversation:

“hey what’s up.”
“hey ronny, do you know who Robert Sheridan is?”
“uh, Rob Sheridan, yes, nine inch nails photographer and other stuff, why?”
“how about Robin Fink? or Michael Reznor?”
“haha what the hell of course, Trent Reznor, his guitarist, yes, why.”
“i have them here at the counter, i’m checking them in for the flight.”

holy mother of god mohammed the saints the angels the demons the devil the buddha and his rolls the yin and yang the starry heaven the burning hells the spinning fractals and all the furry creatures that dwell in the forest of my mind, my mom was talking to Trent Reznor.

“what the hell?! holy crap!! can i talk to him?”

*she’s actually asking them questions about their bags and shit*

“mom! mom!”

“hold on, ronny, i’ll have to call you back.”

if you forget that i was enjoying a nice evening tea with Meryl, Elise, and their old friends from days now gone, then you’re with me. because i had forgotten too. i hung up the phone, sort of in disbelief, with Meryl and Elise mirroring my confusion. i explained the situation to them, receiving a few “holy shit!” responses. unfortunately, i think it was going over our friends’ heads. i felt so dumb. Elise pointed out that i was even wearing the SIN shirt that Adam had given to me a couple years ago, because that morning i was pissed that all my shirts had animals on them. my mom called me back.

“hey”
“hey”
“so can i talk to him?”
“”
“i mean, i don’t want you to bug him, but if he seems open to it, can i talk to him?”
“hold on”
“mom!”
“okay, hold on”
“Hey, this is Trent Reznor from Nine Inch Nails” (you fucking dork i know who you are)

i can’t reconstruct this part. i might have told him my name. i told him i was wearing his shirt. i said i was obsessed. i said i was drinking tea on the water in a small-ass town in Turkey. i said his twitter contests were brutal. he offered to hook me up with tickets in Athens, then in Istanbul, but neither worked. so he said he would hook me up somehow. i said thank you so much. that was it. i spent one minute of my life talking to Trent fucking Reznor on the phone.


Çrent Reznor + mom

nothing else happened that day. well, things happened, but come now. nothing else happened. we had chicken for dinner with two styles of rice, one made by the grandma and one made by the grandpa. rice contest. both were great, i thought. we went out on the town, but were pretty much over the Çanakkale night scene. it consists of about 3 bars, so don’t blame me. like i gave a shit. nothing else happened that day.

~ ~ ~ DAY 6 ~ ~ ~

noon feast… at a different house! simit, bread, cheese, cheese, cheese, sausage, çay, jam, olives, olives, cherries, strawberries. heavenly:

after having digested thoroughly, a bunch of us walked the five minutes to the shore for some beach action. unfortunately, a hundred (mostly) dead jelly fish like the one in the photograph above lingered too close for comfort. Doruk promised they wouldn’t kill, that at most it would just hurt a lot. well, fuck that. so we just flopped around on the sand, scooping up little rocks and digging holes, sitting in the sun. by the time we went back to the house a couple hours later, a whole ‘nother feast was being prepared for the evening. we munched on salad, a whole plethora of different meats, barbecued, bread, macaroni, and beer. just when i thought the triforce was slipping back into the standard isolationist fractalicious conversations that had dominated the week, a statement i made about Roger Waters sucking made Doruk speak up for once. i kept forgetting he knew pretty good English because he seemed so reserved all the time, likely a result of his recent completion of army conscription. we had a good talk about music, until Meryl and Elise dissed the hell out of jazz. maybe not dissed, but demonstrated complete lack of appreciation. it sucks when other people don’t love what you love, it hurts when people don’t even like what you love.

leaving jazz behind, the triforce reunited musically once again later by watching disc 2 of No Direction Home. this documentary should be required viewing for all Bob Dylan fans and highly recommended for any rock & roll fans.

with midnight approaching, Meryl and i took a little walk for some dondurma to eat while walking on the calm kordon. so nice and dark, pretty and pleasant, we could feel the awesome time we’d been having in Çanakkale coming to a close. Meryl clearly didn’t want to go back yet, so we stopped for some çay and tost as well, talking, tripping. back at home, we dozed and tripped some more on my bed while listening to opera. life is good.

~ ~ ~ DAY 7 ~ ~ ~

jam look out! honey has joined your ranks in the noon feast! slow, sneaky, silky, and fresh, wonderful, heavy honey.

then the fantastic four went on a walk through town. i finally snapped pictures of the ridiculous wooden horse from Brad Pitt’s “Troy” that we had been walking past everyday.

i also finally snapped pictures of the girls whose dress, new to Turkey, is, according to Nancy, demonstrating evidence that a brand of extremist and un-Turkish Islam is creeping into the country. i don’t know.

then we walked to the other castle, which was closed. no big deal.

while Elise (i think inspired by Bob Dylan) tries to write poetry, Meryl poses with more weapons:

back at home, we lazed around some more on our computers, listening to music and other random non-internet shit. Meryl stole the rest of my Richard D. James that she was missing.

though we made plans to go out our last night in Çanakkale, the triforce got stuck at Julia’s watching a horribly terrifying exorcism movie. that really wasn’t the highlight. the highlight was the cake and çay.

~ ~ ~ DAY 8 ~ ~ ~

my 8th day in Turkey began with the final Çanakkale noon feast, before making our glam gull exit.

our bus ride wasn’t very long nor hard, what with music, Meryl, and much to see along the countryside. in just a few hours we reached our destination… Istanbul! Byzantium, the city of King Byzas, the center of the Eastern Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire! Constantinople, the city of Constantine! Stamboul! the second Rome, Eastern Rome! the fourth largest city in the world! center of every great empire since the beginning of time! Istanbul!

just a huge city. a huge, huge city with tiny, tiny streets. your taxi’d be weaving through little streets up and down hills steeper than the steepest in San Francisco and windier than Lombard and you’d forget you were in such a big city and you might suddenly remember and you’ll feel like an ant and you might feel claustrophobic or maybe you’ll just love it, sinking into its folds. i tried that.

the apartment Nancy originally made reservations for didn’t turn out how she (or anybody else, for that matter) expected. we found ourselves on a one-lane street barely wide enough for all the kids playing on it:

i stopped worrying pretty quickly, Meryl soon followed. flopping on the bed with ourselves and our computers, we decided we’d be happy to stay right there. but Nancy wasn’t happy. what’s worse, Elise went from 0 to -1 in 60 seconds. it’s like the two rooms shrunk to a circumference an inch less than that of her neck, choking her into a rage that made her spew nonsense like wishing she had never come Istanbul, saying she was going back to Prague the next day. nonsense, nonsense. Meryl and i just shook our heads, hoping she’d calm down soon because she was going to explode the already exasperated Nancy. once she got online and skyped her boyfriend, she came back to Earth. oh, love.

about a million phone calls later, Nancy had another place for us to stay, a nice hotel not too far away. so with plans to get out of the ghetto by the next day, we went out for a nice dinner with one of her old friends. in celebration of my birthday, we made the friend be a little generous with the raki, which later quietly rocked us to sleep after a big day of moving.

~ ~ ~ DAY 9 ~ ~ ~

in the morning, we scrambled with all our suitcases into two waiting taxis to our very nice hotel for the next couple days. then we metro’d over to the old historical district of the city, where (though we didn’t make it in time to get in) we saw the two most famous mosques from the outside. first, the blue mosque:

and then call to prayer started. i’m so glad i finally visited a non-Christian country. everywhere we went, instead of seeing churches, we saw mosques. mosques have varying numbers of minarets

…from which the muezzin/loudspeaker, five times a day, loudly recites the key beliefs of Islam. in Çanakkale, i always noticed it in the background, but didn’t really take much note of it (except for one time, when Elise thought it was going well with the Ghosts song playing from my iphone). this time, caught between two massive mosques, with a third and a fourth and a fifth and more not far off, i had no choice but to focus on the booming, poetic, singing voice:

  1. God is the greatest
  2. I testify that there is no god but God
  3. I testify that Muhammad is God’s messenger
  4. Hasten to prayers
  5. Hasten to deliverance
  6. Prayer is better than sleep
  7. God is the greatest
  8. There is no god but God

epic. are you getting tired of reading this? i’m feeling myself wearying of writing. i guess i could split up the work across a couple days, but eff that. THEN WE WENT TO THE SPICE PAZAR. ELISE WAS RUSHED INTO BUYING A BACKGAMMON SET THAT SHE WANTED TO GET FOR PHILIP. SHE WAS PISSED BUT IT WAS OKAY IN THE END. IT’S ALWAYS OKAY IN THE END. THEN WE WENT TO IKEA FOR DINNER. DAY 10 NEXT.

~ ~ ~ DAY 10 ~ ~ ~

on the tenth day in Turkey, we did the fourth largest city in the world in less than ten hours. after a quick and satisfying hotel brunch, we departed for Topkapi Palace, the home of the famous Ottoman Sultans for half a millennium.

beautiful designs everywhere:

imagine being the sultan, walking around your palace, your home, your harem, and see these infinitely intricate designs, tiled fractals in the ceilings, the walls, the doors, the windows, the chandeliers, the clocks, the seats, the floor, everywhere, everywhere you turned your eyes; would your eyes even register it anymore? would you get numb to it? would you go outside, stare at the solid blue sky and see pentagons grinding up against diamonds?

we left the secular world of fractals for the sacred world of fractals. first, Hagia Sophia. i don’t know what those giant symbols mean, but i bet it’s something like GOD or ETERNITY or SOMETHING, maybe even FRACTAL:

too bad a massive amount of scaffolding occupied the center of the mosque. fucking restorations, always messing up my tourism.

what i found most peculiar were the juxtapositions of Christian and Islamic art, in a building that for over 1000 years has served as a mosque, a church, and a mosque again:

crossing the street outside, i was surprised to find myself much more impressed by the Blue Mosque than by Hagia Sophia. it definitely had much to do with the fact that it’s actually still a functioning mosque and not just a museum. before you could enter and step on the beautiful carpet inside, you had to remove your shoes and carry them in a plastic bag. Elise even had to wrap her indecently dressed body.

as Meryl pointed out to me a couple days earlier, it’s fascinating comparing these places of worship with churches because, in Islam, images of people and figures are completely shunned. therefore, their architects and artists have no choice but to fall back on the most foundational visual expressions of beauty and divinity: geometry. Nancy sensed i could have stayed in that mosque all day, but thank god she didn’t let me. i might still be there right now, maybe even praying to the only god.

stopping in the touristy district very near to the mosques for a quick lunch and wacky dondurma, we made our way to the water for a bosphorus ferry ride. Meryl hilariously freaked herself out on the first boat that she was getting sick / that the boat was going to tip over, so we bailed and got our money back. she did better on the second boat we chose. it wasn’t a particularly long ride. just an exceedingly pleasant skim up and down the waters of Istanbul, perfect for seeing the whole picture.

skyscrapers:

minarets:

that night, we finally managed to go out in the city life, and it fucking sucked. that’s not true, it started out fine. we met up with a good friend of Doruk’s and went out for beers in this really happening alleyway, where we talked Turkey and Pink Floyd. after beer, we tried to go find various clubs, but they all disappointed by being closed. finally we found a cool one open, and sat down for more drinks. Meryl and i got sucked into our own little world. we all got drunker than we knew. i took advantage of honesty and said things that i should have saved for a better time, putting Meryl in a terrible mood. Elise, for the second time, playfully tried to take Meryl’s beer away. Meryl threw the bottle at Elise, soaking her in beer. Elise took the bottle and threw it at Meryl’s face, bruising her right below the eye. i wanted to destroy Elise, but i couldn’t for so many reasons. because they are sisters, and that relationship is impenetrable. because i was partly responsible for the conflict. because she’s a girl. so i held it inside and just couldn’t wait to get home.

~ ~ ~ DAY 11 ~ ~ ~

but a good night’s sleep didn’t help me get over this:

at brunch with the fantastic four, i felt like killing, but it was even more frustrating because i didn’t feel entitled to say anything. it wasn’t my battle. so i just shoved food down my voice box and punched invisible walls behind my eyes.

for my last attraction in Istanbul, i saw the grand pazar, where i bought a measly suitcase for my last travels back to the states. the place was gorgeous though:

one of the vendors there managed to pull me out of my hate-swirling mind for a second with his generosity. as the other three squabbled over more junk to buy, i wandered over to a staircase to sit on. the man sitting on a stool next to me, next to his shop, soon handed me a little squishy pad to sit on, silently. i thanked him. a couple minutes later, in very poor English, he asked me where i was from. “ah, California.” a few minutes pass, and he turns to me to say the almighty, international word, “Obama?” with his thumb up, “good. good?” i nod eagerly, “yeah, yeah! good!” giving him the thumbs up. that sums up our interaction. when i left, i again thanked him for the pad to sit on, and that was that.

my last dinner in Turkey might have been my favorite meal there, or maybe even just about anywhere: iskender. it’s basically just fucking ambrosial strips of lamb or beef laid with some veggies, best served with a fantastic sunset view:

i wanted to get some baklava for my family right before my flight home, so we stopped at this dessert place and ordered some dessert to eat right there. as i munched on my chicken dessert greedily, Elise kept looking at me like she was on the point of bursting. all day, i noticed, she had increasingly read straight through me. and i realized now that she saw through straight through me like glass. so after purchasing my box of baklava and walking out of the store, Elise stared at me for not even for a second before shouting, “ronny, don’t hate me!” and she came and sort of headbutted me a couple times softly in my chest, like she didn’t know what to do with herself. i put my arms around her to hug her, tried to sort of explain myself, and my hate washed away in a few seconds. i knew from the instant that morning when i made the conscious decision to hate that it was a bad decision, but it was unavoidable. it is true that every time i looked into Meryl’s pretty face, i wanted to hurt Elise. but everything was better now. we went out for a big round of beer, talked and tripped like we should for our last night together in Istanbul.

like most nights before leaving Meryl, we never wanted to fall asleep, but we did. goodbye, beautiful turkey.

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