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To:robdbogey@aol.com, cp253w16@aol.com, oldenlaw@sirius.com,majalinda@hotmail.com, ksbiehl@hotmail.com, dlmackler@worldnet.att.net, cjones@cityofnapa.org, hazerfen@hotmail.com, tomskilljr@aol.com, c.combs@intershop.com, mshachat@aol.com, clowes@email.m
Date:Wed, 23 Jun 1999 02:01:00 -0700 (PDT)

June 23, 1999

A sort of honor, not a building site,
Wherever we are, when, if we chose, we might,
Be somewhere else, but trust that we have chosen right.

W.H. Auden

The view from my living room, a southern view, begins with a mess of red
tiled rooftops tumbling down to the Halic (Golden Horn). On the other side
of the Halic (a river-harbor, once beautiful and fast flowing, now stalled
and polluted) are the hills where the ancient city Byzantium (later to be
called Constantinople, later still Istanbul) was founded nearly six
centuries before the birth of Christ. 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 500's AD.
I can also see the massive Selimiye and Mihrimah Mosques, built in the
1500's during the reign of perhaps the greatest Ottoman, Suleyman the
Magnificent. Otherwise, the hillsides of Eski (Old) Istanbul are covered by
the before mentioned apartment buildings, relatively new but already
appearing weary from overuse and ready for replacement. They are, I
suppose, full of people who for the most part work far too much for far too
little and who must wonder, more and more, with each passing day, about the
relevance of their muezzins' cries. Incongruously, hundreds, maybe
thousands, of sea gulls, screeching a bit like Halloween pranksters, dip and
rise in the air space between me and all of that.

I recently bought a cheap guitar (I left a better one back in the States)
from my friend Ilyas, and from time to time I sit looking out my window
while playing sad songs from America's south (the easiest kind to play --
slow, with three chords and, as Bono [pretentiously] said, the truth). This
evening, I did just that, singing and playing, among others, a song by Steve
Earle, in which he laments having forgotten to say goodbye to some long ago
love ("Was I off somewhere, or maybe just too high?") and one by Lucinda
Williams, who sings about hitting the road in order to forget ("When I get
to Baton Rouge, I won't cry a tear for you"). A pile of clouds staacked up
on the horizon prevents me from seeing the sunset, but the invisible sun
still makes its presence know, bordering them crimson. I watch the
neddle-like vapor trail of a jet crawl west -- until it too disappears
behind the clouds -- all the time wondering about when I too will be heading
in that same direction.

What will it be like to be in America again? I don't think I've ever
developed particularly deep psychic connections with places, though that is
not to say I haven't loved the places I've lived. I truly adore San
Francisco and I always come to Dallas's defense. I appreciate Aurora
(Illinois) and miss Westfield (New Jersey), often wondering what it would
have been like to have finished my growing up there. But because, perhaps,
I ultimately value experience more than comfort -- and, don't get me wrong,
I value comfort a great deal -- maybe I haven't been able to convince
myself, at some critical, fundamental level, to believe that settling down
in one place (or, come to think of it, with one person) for the rest of my
life is an ultimate goal. Of course, I worry about where this all might
lead, with the specter of absolute -- and perhaps, God forbid, unbearable --
loneliness sometimes seeming a real possibility. But, then again, maybe I'm
just looking for the ultimate home, and will burrow in deeply once I've
found it.

My great buddy Misha and his wife Nina just returned to their home after
what was, for me at least, a wonderful ten-day visit. They weren't so sure
about the Boza (a sweet, slightly fermented drink made from millet) I
accosted them with at a tiny caf? in the center of Eski Istanbul, but they
tried it anyway. Later, forgetting about how scared I had been the first
time I was there, I think I spooked them a bit when I lead them on a
post-dusk walk through the "working class" Kucuk Pazar neighborhood (on our
way to the breathtaking interior and exterior views at the Suleymaniye
Mosque). While passing through Kucuk Pazar, we turned into one particularly
poorly lit street and came upon a crowd of men talking and smoking in near
total darkness. (I could only tell they were smoking by the occasional
flare of the embers at the end of their cigarettes.) After first not
knowing what in the world we'd stumbled onto, I realized we were passing
near a hamam (Turkish public bath) -- no doubt an immensely important
institution in Kucuk Pazar, as many of the apartments there (I have been
told) have no showers.

Notwithstanding these, and a few other nonstarters, I still think Misha and
Nina's trip was a success. We did and saw a lot, albiet while suffering
through the hot, humid beginnings of an Istanbul summer. Probably of most
significance, to me, was checking in with Misha after nearly nine months
apart. We had much to talk about, or at least to allude to vaguely. During
one of our more memorable (i.e. ridiculous) jaunts into these wordy
never-never lands (which occurred on the roof porch of my building and
lasted until four in the morning), Misha was patient and courteous when I
suggested that maybe our lives are played out in the barely understood space
between an incomprehensible universe and an equally incomprehensible self.
Misha wanted to give ourselves more credit in the ability to understand
department. In response, I referred to some of the books I've read.

This summer I will not be taking formal Turkish lessons, though I plan on
studying Turkish a lot; for example, translating newspaper articles and
writing and, with the help of Ismail and Sukran, trying to absorb more
deeply all that I have learned to date. And I have learned a lot, including
an incredible amount of grammar and vocabulary. Still, I wonder if this old
dog brain of mine is thinking less about the next meal than about where to
lay down afterwards. My biggest problem -- among many, I know -- is
"hearing" Turkish. (My two most used sentences are "Ne dediniz [What did
you say]?" and "Tekrar soyleyebilir misiniz [Can you say that again]?".) I
will be buying a television (ugh!), as I've concluded that a television is
an important way to learn how to "hear" Turkish.

Most importantly, this summer I will finally be beginning a regular writing
program, writing for a least three hours a day, five days a week.
("Insallah [With god's help].") That, coupled with work and Turkish (and my
reading), should keep me pretty busy and, hopefully, productive. At least I
should be sending a few more e-mails.

More later.


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