From previous notes, which I bcc'd to you, looks like I'm "in business".
I've really appreciated your two recent e-mails (as I have all of them).
Had gone to the Tribune web site (something I'd done before, in order to
show my friends here your picture, and brag a bit) looking for info on
percepctive section, but probably due to my bad searches didn't unearth it.
You explanation was very important. Also important were your comments on
what struck you about what I've been writing. Those kind of comments are
the best kind. Often, when writing, its hard to know what works and what
Perhaps the most important thing, however, is that the article will be
published by "Tom Skilling's" brother. Though nothing's been published yet,
and I shouldn't write as if that's a certainty (afraid of bad luck), would
never had gotten close to this opportunity without you. I'm very grateful.
Love you and looking forward to both of us experiencing how this ol'
newspaper media machine works (something with which I guess you are all to
<To: "Mark Skilling" <email@example.com<
<Subject: IT'S FABULOUS!
<Date: Wed, 25 Aug 1999 13:25:22 -0500
< My read on this is that it's terrific. You personalize this
<a way only one familiar with the area and its people can. You take me
<the whole experience in a way I've not visited the subject before.
< I'm not an editor---but it strikes me that this is just the sort of
<insight into a calamatous event of our day that the Tribune seeks in its
< Editing is always a devil and I suspect you are a lot better at it
<am--knowing the subject as completely as you do. You probably are right
<introducing the reader right up front to the notion this is about the
<unimaginable tragedy about which we've been hearing for days now is a good
<But, my sense is that you've infused this piece with an "on the ground and
<there" feel which can only come from one uniquely familiar with this
<city and region.
< You're definitely on the right track, Mark. Congratulations. It will
<interesting to how the Perspective people feel. I think they're going to be
<pleased. What a job!!
< Thanks for sharing this with me, Mark. Look forward to hearing how
<proceeds. As I've said before, you're introducing me to a place and events
<which I have no personal familiarity. After reading your work, I feel a
<with the people and place and the misery that's been imposed on them and it
< Love you Mark. This is no easy assignment---yet you've done a
<in trying circumstances. Again, congratulations!
<______________________________ Reply Separator
<Subject: <no subject<
<Author: "Mark Skilling" <firstname.lastname@example.org< at Internet_TCO
<Date: 8/25/99 9:32 AM
<Hope all is well.
<The piece, which is cut and pasted in below, is a too long now, at some
<The first paragraph could go, I suppose, though I think it gets in some
<historical information that has not been in anything else I've been
< Also, I think it is important that Turkey has for many years been caught
<in a tremendous struggle accommodating its rich cultural heritage with the
<demands of the present. (It's fair to say that this struggle is one of the
<main reasons I first became interested in Turkey.) The "present" suffered
<huge setback with the quake, in that not only did the modern, secular
<government fail terribly, but so did the modern buildings. That the
<to the old city wall crumbled, but the not ancient wall itself, seems an
<symbol of this.
<Maybe the stuff on San Francisco can go, though I guess it is interesting
<that I lived through both experiences. Also, the paragraph about pre-quake
<hospitality is not really necessary.
<Perhaps a more general pruning job, rather than the crude removal of entire
<paragraphs, would do the job. Then again, you will probably have all
<together different ideas.
<I look forward to working with you all on this.
<* * *
<From my living room, I look down a hill, over a collection of red tiled
<rooftops, to the Golden Horn. This river, once beautiful and fast flowing,
<is now stalled and polluted. On the other side of the Golden Horn are the
<hills where the ancient city Byzantium -- later to be called
<later still Istanbul -- was founded some 2 1/2 thousand years ago. Above a
<cement colored smear of apartment buildings of much more recent vintage, I
<can make out the outlines of towers that were part of defensive walls first
<started in the sixth century, nearly 1 1/2 thousand years ago. They are
<rotten with age, though parts had recently been rebuilt for tourists. Some
<of these restored parts collapsed during last Tuesday's earthquake. The
<ancient parts were left untouched.
<Less than a block away is the minaret of our small, neighborhood mosque.
<From here you can hear, five times a day, its "ezan" or call to prayer.
<That call is now as if a lament. The muezzin's voice seems fuller, more
<emotional than usual. He sings in Arabic, which I don't understand, but
<I've read that his call reminds the believers that "God is most great" and
<tells them to "Come to prayer, come to prosperity." I listen carefully,
<signs of doubt about God's mercy and compassion. But I detect no doubt at
<all. Instead, it is simply beautiful and sad, and despite not
<what he sings, very moving.
<In the past few days I have heard many sad, tired people say automatically,
<and surprisingly without bitterness, that "Allah verir, Allah alir [God
<gives, God takes away]." And much has been taken away. The death toll
<last Tuesday's earthquake is likely to exceed 40,000, with an equal number
<injured. Up to 200,000 have been left homeless. Millions more in the days
<immediately following the quake chose to sleep outdoors, including me,
<afraid of the aftershocks. All over Istanbul, in the parks and squares,
<even on narrow medians between busy streets, entire families spent the days
<and nights on blankets spread out on the ground. In the grassy Hippodrome
<along side the spectacular Blue Mosque and in the gardens between that same
<mosque and the Sancta Sophia -- where you would normally expect hundreds of
<tourists to be milling about -- it was as if a great migration was taking
<place. Many of the women wore brightly colored headscarves. Other women,
<despite the heat, were dressed from head to toe in more somber black. Some
<families brought portable propane burners to make the their beloved tea.
<Many more had lugged along pillows and mattresses, others string and rope
<which they strung between trees and posts and hung sheets for a bit of
<On the nights immediately after the quake, I was grateful to receive an
<invitation to join my friend Ismail's family, and the family of a friend of
<his, to spend the night in a little park in the hills above the Bosphorus
<Bridge. The Bosphorus Bridge is a huge, modern suspension bridge
<Europe and Asia that looks like a gray version of the Golden Gate Bridge in
<San Francisco. With the bridge's hulk looming seemingly helplessly below
<us, I shared a corner of a colorful Turkish blanket covering the ground.
<drank tea, smoked cigarettes and joked about being "gocebe [nomads]", and
<about the Turks finally returning to their forgotten nomadic roots. I
<practiced my Turkish with the children, who, unlike most older Turks, were
<able to correct me in English. During the night, while I slept, someone
<a jacket over me.
<Now that the rains and cooler weather have come, and the experts have given
<an all-clear sign, most of us have returned to our homes. Back in my
<apartment, I glance at my walls, at my ceilings, find it impossible not to
<think of all those still buried underneath theirs. Last night, at our
<favorite tea garden, I joined Ismail and his wife, Dilek, who had just
<learned that three of her cousins had died in Adapazari. We talked about
<whether people here will ever be able to forget, return to something of a
<normal life. It hadn't started raining yet, so we stayed late, admitted to
<being a bit nervous about returning home.
<The government and the army are being severely criticized in the local
<and on the streets, as are the construction contractors. There have been
<other problems as well. In an open area near the caf? I mentioned above,
<where dozens of families had come to spend the night, an old man had his
<shoes stolen. I was told the story of a Turk in Yalova, one of the hardest
<hit areas, selling bottled water for 1.5 million TL ($4 dollars), ten times
<the normal price. (That profiteer, however, was apparently beaten
<subsequently by the storyteller himself, while a nearby policeman did
<nothing to intervene.)
<Yet notwithstanding the widespread and no doubt legitimate anger at the
<official response, that of ordinary Turks has been overwhelming and
<impressive. A large truck from my relatively poor, working class
<neighborhood was quickly filled with needed supplies -- water, bread,
<medicine -- and sent to one disaster site. The company of one of my
<student's sent along a similar truckload of supplies, and has now set up a
<fund to collect money for the homeless. The same is true of business group
<to which the company of a dear friend of mine, Sukran, belongs. Efforts
<like these have been going on everywhere. In addition, thousands of people
<from all over Turkey have gone to the stricken areas to help, including
<Kurds who want to prove their commitment to the Turkish State.
<I recall the criticism I heard after the 1989 San Francisco "World Series"
<Earthquake, which I unfortunately experienced as well. Though admittedly a
<much less serious affair, the cries about lax enforcement of building codes
<were similar. Everyone promised to do better, and I hope they have. I
<recall my own pathetic plans, never implemented, to prepare for the next
<"big one". I had cut an article out of the paper, which listed the
<emergency supplies that should be kept close on hand. Though I kept that
<list near to the top of my pile of important papers, over the years it
<simply grew yellow and torn. I finally threw it away at the time I packed
<up for my move to Istanbul. Significantly, before I left San Francisco
<fall, damage from that quake was still being repaired, some ten years
<and complaints could still be heard about the government's continuing
<failure to enforce building codes rigorously enough.
<My experience since coming to Istanbul has been one of almost unending
<Turkish hospitality. I could have been left alone, but was not. When I
<first came here, on vacation, some two years ago, I meet a fine man, Ilyas,
<who makes Saz (a stringed musical instrument that is as important here as
<the guitar is in America) and bought a beautiful one from him. When I
<returned to Istanbul, this time to live, I visited Ilyas again, to say
<and talk about possible Saz lessons. When he learned I was looking for an
<apartment, he took most of the next day off and showed me around his
<neighborhood, eventually helping me to find the place I now live. The
<lessons he eventually gave me were free. My friend Ismail has spent
<countless hours with me, roaming the city, looking for deals on used
<furniture. He and his wife have also lent me a beautiful rug, a blanket,
<and several other very useful items in my apartment. I occasionally get
<gifts from my students, and never an unkind word from anyone. After the
<earthquake itself, several of my Turkish friends kept in constant touch
<Several days ago, on the television, I saw and heard a crowd burst into
<applause. A young boy had just been rescued from one of the many collapsed
<buildings. Except for being dusty, he appeared unscathed. As they carried
<him to an ambulance a reporter followed, asking him questions. Were you
<scared? "Cok korktum [very scared]!" He response was perky. He was
<clearly delighted to be back in the world, by the attention he was getting.
<Then he was asked about his family. His eyes grew wide, his face long.
<"Annem [my mother], kardesim [my sister/brother], sesleri duydum [I heard
<their voices]. Duydum!" By the time they reached the ambulance, he was
<screaming. "Sesleri duydum! Sesleri duydum!"
<I hope the rest of the world hears Turkey's cries for help. "Insallah,
<iyi olacak [With God's help, things will be better]." Insallah. Turkiye,
<iyi sanslar. From all of us, good luck.
<August 25, 1999
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