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Virtual Rakı Sofrası by bayripley
07/05/2011, 23:36
Filed under: event | Tags: , , , , ,

How do I overcome homesickness?

One day, a close friend’s mom, Güniz Teyze, read my fortune from coffee grounds in my cup. She said: “You will always be on road. When you are here, you will have a bag ready to depart anytime. When you are there, you will always miss here. You don’t belong here, or there. You belong to both.”

She had known me since I was 14. I was 23 years old when she told me this. I believed in her with the whole of my heart.

In one month, I will be celebrating my 26th birthday in Arizona, and not on an island for the first time in 7 years. This year has been the year of change, and I can’t say I don’t enjoy it. I am leaving some habits behind, just like some expressions, or a couple of favorite dishes and fortunately many obsessions. I am building up a new life in America in general, and in Tucson in particular. I have a bag ready to depart here, too. But for a long time, I plan to stay on this part of the world.


However, this does not mean that I don’t miss my life back in Turkey in general, and in Istanbul in particular. Looking at a crowded street from the second floor of a building, and feeling the noise rather than hearing it is at the top of my list. I miss people filling streets up and me looking at them from Oyuncular Kahvesi or somewhere in Nevizade. Or I miss sitting under the pergola in a quiet summer afternoon, drinking tea and looking at Galata Tower. I miss the chilly spring mornings of Gülhane Parkı or taking a taxi from Taksim to Kuzguncuk, my last neighborhood in Istanbul, and not realizing how we crossed the Bosphorus bridge as I am already sleeping because of that last drink. I miss live clarinet, buying a simit and running to a bus with it, or getting soaked under the rain on my way to Ortaköy and cursing myself for not taking the bus. I miss things unique to Istanbul, unique to life there, and mostly individual moments rather than collective ones.

Why individual rather than collective? Why personal rather than communal? The answer is hidden in “Virtual Rakı Sofrası”.


I don’t miss collective moments because my friends are creative enough to organize a virtual gathering on Skype, around a Raki table, with all rituals completed. They turn on their Skype, raise their Raki glasses with me, and stay up until 4am just to talk with me around the table, something very different than any gathering including alcohol. They have time for keeping my spirit up with such an event on particularly May, the best month of Istanbul, full of festivals around the city. They are so sweet that they read me passages from my yearbook, which recently came out and is so heavy and emotionally valuable to be shipped. They keep me updated, they keep me happy, they keep me belonging to two without sacrificing one or other. Their kindness, and valuable friendship, and considerable efforts leave me with my yearning to only individual moments.

I can’t thank them enough, so I just raise my glass.


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.

Dear Facebook Person by bayripley
09/11/2010, 07:19
Filed under: web | Tags: , , , ,

Dear Christian Hernandez,

I have noticed that you have listed the assumed reasons of Turkish people’s love of Facebook. I wish I had the whole transcript of your speech. However, I have to use this lousy portal page to analyze your words.

According to this news report, you have indicated that the reason behind Facebook’s popularity in Turkey is “Turks are warm people who love sharing”. The average “Friends” number of the world is 130, which is quite below the Turkish average. The reason, according to you, for that is “Turks have strong friendships”. And more conceptual interpretation of Facebook’s popularity according to your speech “may be the coffeehouse and conversation culture”.

You may be at the top of your career, but you are wrong, man. Totally wrong.

First of all, let’s put something straight: Generalizations are only valid in marketing and politics. You are making a generalization, and I am going to reply with another. However, all the readers of this post, please keep in mind that I am totally against generalizations and I am basing my arguments on the patterns I have detected during my Facebook experience. There are of course exceptions to what I state.

Why do Turks love Facebook? It is not because they “love sharing” but it is because they love dominating. Facebook is a great remedy to some people’s unstoppable desire to culturally and politically dominate. “You are not listening to quality music, listen to this.” “You are not voting correct, hear what I brag” For example, they love sharing a video on the upcoming elections while they are at the beach with their laptops. This year, the Headquarters of “No” campaign for the referendum was Cesme, a holiday paradise in Turkey. People asked for a “No” from the “educated” ones on Facebook. The “Yes” campaign also utilized Facebook—along with other, more realistic and effective media like talking to people, knocking on their doors, proposing concrete solutions. Turkish people do not share to multiply their joy, they aspire to influence, and preferably to dominate.

Secondly, yes, Facebook is popular because people like talking—but not with each other, behind others’ back! The main reason for Facebook’s popularity is the joy of gossiping. Facebook pages are not viewed alone, they are like TV shows, watched with friends and family. True story: A 50 year-old woman based her comments on another’s kids Morocco travel from the information her daughters acquired for her on Facebook. “We have seen on Facebook that you bought a new car.” “My daughter Pelin showed me that your son has a new girlfriend.” The list goes on not to a direction of that genuine coffeehouse culture—but rather to a gossip-crowded public sphere.

Also that number of friends… With this urge to dominate and gossip, people just friend you. They, at least in my case, attempt to friend me despite my continuous social and electronic rejections. There are also those who show off with the number of their friends. Some family bonds are induced to “friendship” in Facebook realm. Connected to the previous paragraph, people friend you not because they want to keep in touch but to gossip about you. Indeed, this interest is usually mutual. Therefore, we are under the inflation of friends. (Remember the Green Inflation Monster in 90s? It just came to my mind, it was a prominent figure, I miss him.)

Anyway Mr. Hernandez, now that you have seen the real reasons, you can modify this speech of yours. But never stop greasing the Turkish users. They will be your defenders when your site gets banned along with thousands of other web sites.

Very sincerely.


Travelling the face of the globe: Istanbul by bayripley
13/09/2010, 05:23
Filed under: music, the city, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , ,

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”.

Every city is important. Some cities are more important. by bayripley
09/04/2010, 00:47
Filed under: the city | Tags:

I am a thief and George Orwell would not mind. The problem is I don’t know how to start if not like above. This article is about the cities, the cities that are a little bit more important than others.

As a Smyrnian, I know the consequences of such an article, but here I come with all the experiences of a privileged city, under the disturbing shadow of betrayal. Why is Istanbul better than Izmir? And why do I admit that at that age of my life?

Magnificent landscape, mind-blowing historical cluster, an imperial city culture are side by side the moribund infrastructure, endless traffic jams, and coarse way of life. “This is Istanbul, welcome honey, enjoy, but admit it”: This beauty and mutual understanding are not for free, you have to pay for it—financially and emotionally. On the other hand, Izmir is the self-regenerating story of a wonderful climate, politically unified habitants, and mostly 2-hours ride to best touristic spots of Southeastern Europe. As a plus, infrastructure is better, traffic jams are more humane, and life is easy and slow and less crowded. The city is not ugly, unbearably hot in summers but very friendly in winters, and Kordon always promises a very romantic sunset. Your money is still at your pocket, and the girls are always very beautiful as boys are always very self-confident.  So, what makes Istanbul better, especially according to a Smyrnan?

Well, one thing: it is the capacity of not-letting-go. You can always run away from Izmir, it does not mind. It always makes fun of you, it kinda mocks you for your thirst for difference, but it never calls you back. It is materialistic. If you leave the city, you leave it for sure. You think about it for a very short time, and you find it not drastically modified after your long runaways. It is always there, not insisting, minding its own business.

However, although Istanbul has that cool attitude of indifference, Istanbul knows black magic. Istanbul does not collapse because you leave it. You personally collapse because you chose another city over Istanbul. Your urge to return and soak yourself in Rakı across the view never stops haunting you when you are away. You think about the city all the time, you leave it to come back. You know that it will change a lot when you are away, and your reintegration will not be easy at all. You will bear the results of your betrayal.

Izmir is nice, Istanbul is just the best!