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Leaving Tucson by bayripley
21/05/2013, 00:00
Filed under: life, the city | Tags: , , , , , ,

Loft and Rocky horror

I have so much to do before I leave but I will take a moment to list some things I want to remember about Tucson. Let me tell you what Tucson did to me.

I grew up a lot in Tucson. Especially professionally. I had a certain plan about my future, and nothing turned out as planned. So, besides everything else, I once again realized the inconsistency hidden inside every plan. I came here to spend five years and get a PhD. I rather spent three years, got a master’s, and now I am moving to New York City for my PhD.


I paired up with mind-blowing professors and thinkers. I translated a novel with one of them, while I learnt a lot about my research with the other. I started learning how to research, analyze, argue, and write from scratch. They were amazing guides all along. I cannot think of a professional future without any one of the two.

I experienced the harshest of work politics, as well as friends’ support, and past-friends’ treason. Again. I have learnt how to turn everything into a learning experience, not to hold grudge, and get things done no matter what. Again. I thought Galatasaray University’s academic and social environment had taught me all. Apparently, they had only prepared me for worse.


I discovered friendship and its various forms. I made two BFFs at first sight; I saw how a high school friend turned into a partner in crime; I became a colorful figure on a multinational canvas with big words written on it. I also sadly witnessed how past-friends jumped off the ship when I was out of sight. My new life was full of such wonderful people or their wonderful versions, I really didn’t care a second as bad things happened. Life was hashtagging snapshots of my life with “#zerof*cksgiven.”

I fell in and out of love; broke some hearts and bones. I loved, left, returned, left again, but mostly wandered in the grey area between heart-shaped boxes and bed. I got addicted to the excitement of not knowing what will happen in the end. My love life in Tucson was a Tucsonan July. You knew it would rain, but you never know when and how much it would.


I became someone else. If you don’t believe in that, look at my left arm. You’ll know what I mean.

Now Tucson’s time is up. I know I will return one day for a brief visit. I’ll collect memories from the rapidly gentrifying downtown, and reflect on them whilst walking on 4th avenue. I’ll probably stop by Plush. You know I don’t like Sky Bar. I actually hate it.


Tucson, rain, and love. by bayripley
09/11/2012, 04:40
Filed under: the city | Tags: , , , , , ,

I wrote before what can happen when rain falls on this city. Today, the day that started with a great promise, it happened again. It rained in Tucson, and I found something else in life.

I have been reading Susan Miller, a famous astrologist, for the last three years. I knew she was great in describing which signs match well with each other, but I had no idea how foreseeing her monthly forecasts were. Many times, I found myself in awe at the end of a month as I reread her forecast. She knew exactly what would happen that month. When I shared my experiences of Miller with friends in Turkey, I recruited a great deal of fans. In America, the reaction was different, though. Although most of my American friends didn’t really know what “Enlightenment” or “Cartesian thought” meant, they were perfect examples of them, in a way. At least when they encountered Astrology, their smirk signaled their latent ridicule.

This month, Susan wrote that I would find the long expected love today, on November 8. Because Saturn was in the house of love for my sign, the last two years have been hell for my heart. She called this period, the time of learning. I will say she was right. I don’t remember an undisturbed moment of love for the last three years. There were moments when I said, “Yes, this is it! This is the love I have been waiting for all my life” And they were immediately followed by a disenchanting moment. (The zenith was waking up from an evening full of love in Istanbul, feeling how much I was loved, and before having my coffee, receiving an email of acceptance to the University of Arizona.) I learned a lot in the last three years, with lots of mistakes, and tears.

But November 8 was supposed to be the end of it, she said. Miller had written that October was the month in which love reemerged in my life. But she precisely said November 8 was the date I would find the love for which I have been shivering with anticipation.

I went to school. No sign of love. I went to classes. No sign, again. I came home, nothing on the road. I went to bed alone and fell asleep around 4pm in the afternoon, instead of falling in love and going to bed with my “lover.” (Please read the last word with Carrie Bradshaw’s tone when she described Petrovsky to others for the first time.) I woke up, totally devastated, and went for a run.

I got out of my apartment, ran towards the campus, and then took a northbound turn on my favorite street in Tucson, Mountain Avenue. I was in my usual pace, thinking how Tucson hell has been cooling down lately, and what a great running companion Santigold is. I had forgotten about the failed prophecy of Miller, and another day without me finding love. Then, bam. It started raining.

All of a sudden, the amazing scent of the rain and soil’s love filled my nostrils. In every step, I was getting a different scent. With one step, I remembered how I used to wander in the garden of my grandmother’s summerhouse after she watered the geraniums and four o’clocks. With another, I remembered how my best childhood friend went frantic after I articulated my love for the smell of earth after rain. She was so alarmed that she immediately warned me that I was never supposed to say that, as it could mean one’s desire to die, given the ritual of watering the grave after burial. With one more step, I remembered all those rainy Istanbul afternoons where I found myself at the stairs of Galatasaray University, looking at the Bosporus, with a similar scent around and myriad of thoughts about love and friendship, or both, in my mind. The last chunk of memories was a complicated –and drunk- one, covering our outings at a bar, which played Turkish Pop from the 1970s and 1980s. All those moments were pure happiness, though very heterogeneous in nature.

The rain got faster, and I ran home faster than usual. As I ran, I thought maybe the rain was supposed to me the love of my life. It connected me with my past life, it made me very happy, and it is actually rare in Tucson. What would one look for more in a love?

When I arrived home, I realized that I didn’t need to fall in love with my Proustian madeleine to prove an astrologist correct in life. I know one day I will find love, either while running apace or lazily laying on my couch. If it is real love, it won’t matter.

“You can forget the words, not the eyes.” by bayripley
05/07/2012, 22:48
Filed under: music, the city | Tags: , , , , , ,

As you would remember from some previous entries, I take music as a conveyer of my personal past. Due to my shark-like nature, my past does not only consist of time periods but also different cities. A la recherche de mon temps perdu, music defines eras, therefore geographies. That’s why a song can take me to the museums of Paris, humid mornings of Augusta, beautiful campus of Middlebury College or a drunken festival night on the Bosporus.

In a day or two, I will publish three entries about my visit to Istanbul in December 2011. There, with awe, you will see how Istanbul and the meanings it encompasses in my life are in constant change with time. Although I no longer live in Istanbul, this city still holds such a potent and influential place in my life that, it can change meaning even if I only visit it now.

Me in Istanbul, December 2011. During “the horrible experience”

Due to my horrible experience back in December 2011, I had removed Istanbul from my life for the last four months. I barely thought about the city, had only a couple of Sykpe conversations with my dear friends still residing in that behemoth, and did not listen to a single song that is directly related to the imperial city in my personal universe of signifiers. It was tough, and full of remorse. I had spoken big when I talked about “never leaving Istanbul/Istanbul never leaving me”. My relation with the city came to a point where one side had to sacrifice a lot to reduce the pain resulting from this relationship. Of course, I was the one who had to sacrifice. And I had taken Istanbul out, maybe not completely out, but to an extent never explored before.

But on the day before my trip, on my way back from my first proper camping experience with the spiritual purification bestowed upon me by Mount Lemmon, I inadvertently played “Siyah Gozler” by Ezginin Gunlugu. A song from the very heart of Istanbul, dedicated to my quintessential pain felt for this city. Listen to the song; you will know what I mean.

It started as an “innocent” move to expose my friend some Turkish music. As I was imposing my patch-worked taste in music, I stumbled upon Ezginin Gunlugu and said, “Oh, you will love them. They are quite interesting.” I hit the play button unconsciously, and it took only five seconds to hit me back. All of a sudden, due to the amazing clarinet solo, as we were driving down the mountain, and the fauna was changing from pine trees to cacti, I was surrounded by Istanbul, the city I had removed from my life. I, there, realized I had been successful in exiling Istanbul away, and it was emotionally safe to recall it on such a moment.

Elif Shafak always compares and insistently contrasts Istanbul and Arizona, she calls them “two places on earth that could not be more different.” One time, she however noted, Arizona and Istanbul resemble each other in terms of “huzun”, the concept that is at the same time possible and impossible be translated to “la tristesse” in French, or “melancholia” in English, according to Orhan Pamuk. I agree, in both geographies, a sense of melancholia is omnipresent. Istanbul’s huzun is more consecrated to human interaction and its imperial past, while Arizona’s melancholia is more limited to contrasts, such as sun and shade, different definitions of border, and city’s eclectic architecture juxtaposing a skyscraper and a Mexican cathedral together.

Huzun is both similar and different in Arizona and Istanbul. The Oaks on Ciragan Caddesi and theSaguaro cacti on UA Campus share a common feeling not only in the habitants of Tucson form Istanbul but in a larger sense: just like paradise and hell, they share human.

As I am typing this entry on my way to Istanbul, not back, I am thinking how long will I have to individually struggle to tell people the commonalities of different geographies are much more than their differences. Since the beginning of humankind, some people may not be changing where they live from cradle to grave. But their fixed residual habits are miniscule, especially once compared to the traveling human element in every city’s content. The words we use can be forgotten, or ignored; but the eyes we see cannot be forgotten, or ignored. Especially when their universal humanity is considered.

For me, Ezginin Gunlugu also belongs to Arizona now. And Istanbul does not seem so vicious any more. Especially out of the plane’s window, when the Bosporus’ waters are shining like gold.

Rain and Tucson, and my father. by bayripley
14/11/2011, 15:43
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , ,

A very hot Izmir afternoon, I came home and found my father dead. After 58 years, which he had spent mostly working, he passed away due to a heart failure—leaving all of his loved ones in a state of shock. I remember that day had started just like another Friday, he had woke up really early, went to work, came home, and had a shower afterwards. My mother found him, and when I came home, the doctor chose to give “the news” to me rather than my mother. The reminder of 2009 passed with other unfortunate events. A friend’s father passed away, a friend had a stroke and almost died, and a schoolmate was killed in a car accident.

A poem about leaving suddenly in Turkish.

Back then, I thought that pain in my life would never cease. My father always missed Istanbul, the city where he spent most of his childhood, and I had to live in “his city” to finish my degree. Things in my life, like inadvertently moving to one of the neighborhoods he had lived or walking everyday by the elementary school he had attended for a year, were keeping his memory alive, with a grave pain accompanying it. Izmir also became a city where I hated spending time. I remember, before moving to Tucson, my visits to my hometown were compact: I would visit my dentist, meet some friends, see some family, and in a day or two, I would be back to Istanbul, where pain had become somehow less evident. 13 months after my father passed away, I moved to Tucson. And, I unexpectedly loved this city. I loved Tucson although it wasn’t, at all, similar to the previous cities I had lived.

A hazy Paris night

Tucson was smaller population-wise but geographically wider. Its weather was dominated by an ardent desert climate with almost no rain. It was very remote to my previous life, which took place in Amsterdam, Istanbul, Paris, and Izmir. And everyone, including me, found my immediate admiration to Tucson inexplicable. But Tucson revealed its meaning in a moment which is very unlike any Tucson moments. It revealed its meaning under the rain.

For the last week, Tucson gets probably more rain than its monsoon season. Last Monday, my roommate and I couldn’t bike to school because of the rain. Last night, we came home from our Saturday dinner by bike, under the rain again. This morning, I am writing this piece in our front yard while rain is unusually watering all our plants, and a couple of drops are splashed onto my computer screen. (By the time I proofread this entry, in the afternoon, it is still raining!) Tucson weather is definitely not acting as it should.My roommate and I make jokes about being in London or Istanbul when we drink coffee in our front yard. And this unusually moist Tucson days made me realize why I love this city that much.

A view on the way to Tucson

When I was in Istanbul, or in Izmir, landmarks, avenues, streets, a random elementary school at the corner, knickknacks in my mother’s apartment, in less words anything reminded me my father, which is not a bad thing. However, they also reminded me the pain I had to cope with after his sudden death. I could not remember my father’s jokes or wise words, because the shock, and the following sorrow, was constantly with me, dominating everything about him. My father’s memory was by no means stripped from the pain of his death. However, Tucson, with no physical reminiscent of him around, gave me a new life where I was alone with the memory of my father, not the pain. Tucson was the city where I reconciled with that bitter aspect of life, the death of a loved one. It does not mean that I will not miss him when something good happens in my life. I already foresee some hidden tears at an important event, like a graduation or a birth; but this time I will be armed with the cleansing Tucson granted me.

There may not be many art galleries in this city, or the nightlife can be a joke considering other places on earth. Public transportation may be weak, and the rain may be a rarity in our lives. But Tucson will always remain the city that healed me. So, if still, anyone is wondering why I love this city so much, you have just read why.

Why am I still moving? by bayripley
24/05/2011, 01:26
Filed under: the city | Tags: , , ,

I came to USA for a reason: I was sick of moving around, and I wanted a home. However, the outcome has been… more moving!

American graduate programs’ undisputable quality was not the sole reason for deciding to live here. I wanted a stable home for the rest of my twenties. It could be far from “home” but I wanted to build up a new life in a city, and basically live there for a long time. I wanted to become a local in another part of the world. Given that the programs here are longer than the European ones, USA seemed a perfect place to do settle down and do graduate work. If you are a graduate student at a US institution, you have to really live wherever your school is. You can’t enjoy that European freedom of pursuing a PhD in France, working in a Turkish university, and taking your vacations in Italy. In USA, you have to be on campus 10 months a year, and summers are really not times to relax. All of your classmates are learning another language or doing some awesome internships around the world, so you just can’t buy your ticket home and do nothing for three months. You have to do something, and that’s what brought more moving to me.

When I moved from Beyoglu to Uskudar in the beginning of my second year at college, I already knew I would be moving out at the end of the year to do exchange in Europe. When I arrived in Paris and entered my room, I remember telling myself this was my home only for 10 months. I came back to Turkey, got an apartment in Kadikoy this time, and said again: “Well, this is a great place to spend only one year since I’ll be heading somewhere else next year.” I did, I came all the way to Tucson, Arizona to make here my home. I did it, but it does not mean that I am no longer moving. In fact, I am moving more. Here is how:

Today, I left my second apartment in Tucson. I had to leave the first one because I was constantly ill due to my roommate’s obsession of 65°F as indoor temperature. I moved in with an awesome Chilean geologist, who was always cool about my messiness or Glee songs. Then I got accepted to a language program in Vermont for the summer, so I had to leave my apartment for a cheaper one, in which I will spend only one month before my language program starts. Today, I am writing this entry in my third home, and I will be packing again in one month, to head up north, and seven weeks later, I will be returning to my new home—somewhere I should find during June before I leave. So, this August, I will be moving into my fifth room in 12 months. Is this how you settle down, or is it just life telling me the harder I try, the worse it gets?

Only half of my stuff...

I really don’t know the answer, and I am freaking out if the response to my question will be something like that: “Well, honey, you are already a nomad. Deal with it.” No, I am not that 18 year-old romantic who went to “the New World” but was called back “the fairy tale city”. I don’t buy that kind of stuff anymore.

As a pragmatist academic, all I think now is I should find such a great place to move in this August that I will never want to get out until I am done here with Tucson.

Wish me luck; I will need it so bad when I am trying to stop this four-year long habit.

Where does Club Congress Crowd live? by bayripley
04/04/2011, 18:53
Filed under: the city | Tags: , , , ,

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.