Filed under: the city | Tags: asmalimescit, club congress, istanbul, tucson, urban life
Moving to Tucson after Istanbul and Paris was a huge change for me. They were “world cities”,with a “cosmopolite” life. Although Paris sometimes does, Istanbul never stops. There is always another place to go, another bar to get drunk, another venue to meet people. The crowd may change according to the venue: Find more tourists around St Germain than you can around Bastille. Asmalimescit is the celebration of posh life, and “Raki sofrasi” in Kumkapi is technically not a “night out” but more of a catharsis with people from all the parts of the society. I am sure you can multiply those contrasts for other cities such as New York, San Fransisco, or London.
But Tucson is a bit dry. Tucson does have diversity, but not on a neighborhood basis. Asmalimescit is the combination of at least 20 different places, or Bastille has more to offer than two streets full of different venues with hidden, smaller places adding to them. There is a reason why rents are so high in those cities: You don’t pay for the food, you pay for the menu.
After I moved here, the first place I visited for a night out in Tucson was Hotel Congress. I fell in love with it the moment I stepped in because it was sort of Art Deco, heavily Mexican, definitely not “American”. I almost thought I was in Europe. Such a dreamy moment for a European exilé. With Cup Café,and Club Congress, this venue has became my favorite one after I visited many bars and clubs in Tucson. They even hosted DeVotchKa, what else can I ask for in Tucson, especially during the boycott because of our lovely (!) immigration law?
However, last time I was there with my friends, I finally popped up the question to those who have been living in Tucson for a long time now. It was bugging me for months. Before stating the question, I should explain another issue.
Americans are known for their diversity in many areas such as religion or race. I should tell you they are also very diverse in political or social issues, although it is not very well observed when you are not living among them. However, they are also very diverse in their fashion choices. It is a span of fashion conception raging from Sex and the City level to an eternal devotion to the divine combination of jeans and white sneakers. And Tucson, in general, is close to the latter end for many reasons such as climate and lack of multiple, fashion-aware shops. However, the crowd in Club Congress is an exception.
As you can see from the picture, those regulars of Club Congress dress great. Girls are never overdressed; boys are always cool. Makeup stays in limits, supported by well-crafted tattoos and complementary piercings. They are rarely loud, seldom extravagant but the “coolness” is always transcending. They seem to live within limits of Hotel Congress establishment, and they make this place another world, somewhere I always feel like never arrived but teleported.
Therefore, as a nomad with his heart left in Europe, I have been wondering the answer of this question for a long time: In real life, in the morning or during work hours, where the hell are those members of Hotel Congress crowd? Where do they live? Where do they shop? Where else do they transcend their coolness to others? I have noticed a couple of them in cafes, but this is not enough. I want to find the source; I have to get to their fountain.
When I popped this question to my friends, their answer did not satisfy me completely. Best response was my friend’s comments accusing me being so trapped in campus. She basically claimed that was the reason why I could not profit from their coolness. She might be right, but I consider another answer to that:
That’s me in Hotel Congress. After looking at this picture over and over, I actually feel it is normal that I had never met that inspiring style in the city, during my normal life. Those clothes may be comfortable, but they are more than enough for being cast out of the coolness I am chasing. Carrying a jacket in Tucson is a total fail considering its climate, whereas this smile is too warm for the venue and the crowd. (Yes, a little self-credit is needed here.) So, although the question on whereabouts of this crowd still needs an answer, I have a reason for my failure, and that is me. I should stop by Paris longer on my way to Turkey next time to do some shopping that would give me the chance to integrate to that cool community. Or, I should think about online shopping. We’ll see. I will write a blog entry at the end of my first after-party, describing insides of the coolness I have been talking about.
Beware Congress Crowd, Turks are coming.
Filed under: music, the city, Uncategorized | Tags: asmalimescit, istanbul, leaving, music, oi va voi, urban life, video
This year I am again away from Istanbul. This time, I am in USA, on a desert, at a university campus, unlike my Paris experience when I was soaked up with an imperial, cosmopolitan, and artistic city. This is Tucson, AZ, and it has definitely a different story.
However, you never know what you will face in an American university. I was aware of the fact that I was going to “do Turkish studies” but I did not expect such revelation. This semester, I am taking a course on Istanbul and its cosmopolitan characteristic, and I am doing its readings while I am listening to Oi Va Voi, a British group who is making “simply put” Jewish music. I have first heard of them out of Babylon’s posters. Then I had the chance to listen to them, and to adore them, and to never quit listening.
Tonight, I have to finish a book on Renaissance Humanists’ view of the Ottomans, but I had to write this entry despite my schedule. Firstly, let’s listen to this moving piece:
OK, what do we see and/or hear here? Like those experiences where you mix your sight with your sense of smell, or where you see a touch, I have heard a view, a view from Istanbul, especially from Beyoglu, more specifically from Asmalimescit. This posh feeling of that particular quartier, this promoted lifestyle, this eclectically pictured image of Asmalimescit are very well imbued in Oi Va Voi’s music. When you listen to them, you travel to Istanbul, hang out with your best friends, have the most fun at the best clubs at town, get drunk, dance, kiss, don’t mind, shout “whatever”, walk clumsily, and have your soup at the end of the night before your taxi picks you up. This song is where I grew up to be a human, this song is what almost all my friends have left for some years abroad, it is our past, it is the subject of our daydreams, it is the soul of our yearn to Istanbul.
On this very day, September 13, 2010, I feel like a Greek Humanist émigré in Italy, holding an ancient text saved from the fall of Constantinople while I am listening to this song. I don’t belong here but people want to learn from me, I am surrounded by stuff constantly reminding me my fallen city, I am reading my own city at a very distant location.
This is sad, I noted, therefore I continued, cried Ilker at the end “Oi Va Voi”.