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Date:Tue, 4 Jan 2000 01:03:00 -0800 (PST)

January 1, 2000

Earlier, with some trepidation, I turned on my laptop, opened up Word
(Microsoft's word processing program) and, once there, my journal. I typed
in "January". Before I could go on, however, Mr. Gates' program proudly
displayed the fact it knew where I was going, anticipating a date. The
program guessed the date would be "January 1, 2000". It was right. I
smiled to myself at what seemed, at the moment, a bit of bravado. I was
also pleased that I had apparently been left unbitten by the dreaded Y2K
bug, as had (I understood from the news reports) most of the rest of the

I am happily settling down to a quiet Saturday night alone, after a
(slightly) booze-soaked Friday night of saying a great big "hey" to the new
millenium. Last night my girlfriend Sukran and I had gone to my friend
Ismail's, joining his family and a dozen or so of his friends. We drank
wine and raki (the Turkish version of the anise-based liquor that is
reported to have helped kill, among others, Turkey's founding father Mustafa
Kemal Ataturk). We listened to and sang (here, I have to admit, I was still
mostly listening) Turkish songs, as well as a few by Bob Dylan (with me
privately concluding that "Blowing in the Wind", after hearing it again
after so many years, was the song of the century).

Closer to midnight we turned on the television, watched the view from the
air of Istanbul's magnificent Blue Mosque, set ablaze by its powerful
floodlights. A smallish crowd, reported to be about 1,000, would later
watch a modest fireworks display there. The TV switched to another aerial
view, this time of Istanbul's Taksim Square. Though the square can fairly
described as Istanbul's Times Square, the crowd there, which I later learned
was overwhelmingly male, could not have numbered more than a few tens of
thousands. At midnight the TV was shut off and we gathered around Ismail's
seventh floor windows. From there we watched his neighbors, apparently
observing an age-old New Year's tradition in his neighborhood (Kurtulus),
dropped empty bottles from their windows into the street below. The roof of
a Mercedes was dented. Taxies wove their way between exploded bottles,
which on the pavement below -- from my somewhat alcohol-laced, seven-story
high perspective -- looked like giant snowflakes. People hung from windows
along both sides of the street, some waving sparklers and shouting. Passing
cars, ignoring the threat from above, tooted their horns merrily. In the
distance was the sound of fireworks coming from Taksim and the sky, already
hazy from the ubiquitous smog, became spotted with clouds of drifting
gunpowder smoke.

As the night went on (and delightfully on) I learned that every one of the
couples at Ismail's, including Sukran and me, had had a serious fight
earlier in what was now the previous day. I was surprised by this and
wondered (without reaching any conclusions) what it might have been about
the day that triggered such behavior. Yet despite the troubling things
inspired by the final few moments of the last particularly wonderful and
terrible century, all were forgotten in the first few moments of the next
(and still undescribable) one -- replaced for the time being by smiles,
songs and much laughter.

And indeed it appears the night passed in a similarly positive fashion
worldwide. Threats here in Turkey of attacks on millenium celebrations by
Islamic radicals -- apparently offended by both the booze and the brouhaha
over the passing of a date on the Christian calendar -- proved empty (or
perhaps frustrated by the conspicuous number of police). Nothing else of
that kind, or of any other kind of awfulness, appeared to have occurred
anywhere in the world. Even the Y2K bug seems to have been born without a
stinger. What a nice way to start the new year/decade/century/millenium.

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