Friday, December 30, 2005
Maybe this is good. I know I spend way too much time online. I'll have to meet guys the old fashioned way. In person.
[represses a shudder]
I'm at a computer cafe right now, clearing my gaydar inbox. I'm trying to keep the open windows small so that the innocent boys around me don't freak.
Been fighting the blues all day. Not sure why. There's nothing specific. Well, except for the complete lack of romance or sex since I left New York, the fact that I'm smoking and drinking and eating lots of sweets [damn holidays] , the mess that my studio is, the energy I'm spending trying to help a friend who's going through a very rough period, and that I'm turning 40 tomorrow.
40. Shit. Most of the time I forget that I've had a birthday until days afterwards. Not tomorrow. 40 doesn't bother me per se - it's that the next milestone is 50. And that freaks the shit out of me. Sure, it's ten years away. But I just took a state job that will take ten years to get vested, and it pretty much ties me to the islands until then. I can't really walk away from state retirement benefits. I've entered the gilded cage of my own free will, but I've lost some of the freedom that I've always guarded so jealously.
And there's my buddy. I've had friends go through worse and stood by them. And I've been through my own rough patches, and can empathize. So this is a road I know. What's new is the reaction of my other friends. I'm getting mini lectures from random sources on enabling and codependency. I might pop next time someone says either of those words in my presence.
Because what pop culture calls enabling, I call unrequited love. What they call co-dependency, I call brotherhood. And what they call self-empowerment I call being cold hearted.
The benefit of having a Catholic background - and of having lived in other cultures - is that I know there are alternatives to this puritanical self-help 12-step bullshit. I refuse to buy into it.
Don't know if I'll be online until Tuesday. I'll try and have lots of good adventures so that I'll have things to write about. Cheers, and Happy New Year.
Thursday, December 29, 2005
But damn if they don't have cojones. Two of their boats have been trailing and harassing the Japanese whalers that are slaughtering minke and fin whales for 'scientific research' [read: sushi]. When one boat tried harpooned and tried to haul aboard this minke, activist Mikey Resto lept onto the whale's back - in gale force winds - to stop them.
I'm in complete awe.
More info at Mirror.co.uk and The Sydney Morning Herald.
Wednesday, December 28, 2005
The bartenders at a friend's bar - a very cool neighborhood hangout - didn't even know what vermouth was.
Last week I was at a party. The food was devine, the liquor premium, and the crowd hella cool. The hosts were mixing martinis in the kitchen. I offered to help, but couldn't find the vermouth. And sure enough ... they didn't have any.
This past weekend Roy and I went to Cirque Hawai`i [it was completely amateurish - don't go unless your tickets are free]. We stopped at a bar in International Marketplace en route, figuring we'd have a final drink before the whole place is torn down and replaced by Armani Exchange clones. I ordered a Manhattan, and hell if the guy wasn't sure how to make it. "There's ... vermouth in that, right?"
I don't understand this contempt for vermouth one bit. With the looks I was getting you'd have thought I was asking for Mad Dog or Boone's Farm. This is getting ridiculous.
Ready for the rant?
1. Vermouth is a fine drink. It is an essential ingredient to the classic American cocktails. Sweet Vermouth is an excellent digestif. If your bar doesn't stock it, your bar isn't stocked ... and I don't care how expensive your other grain spirits are.
2. Cheap vermouth tastes cheap. There's no reason to stock it.
3. A martini has vermouth in it. The dry in dry martini does not mean no vermouth. It means the martini is made with dry vermouth [as opposed to the classic martini, made with both sweet and dry vermouth]. Waving the vermouth bottle over the top of the glass is stupid and doesn't count. Some wanker did it once, other wankers copied him, and soon the sheep figured that that was the cool thing to do. Don't be a sheep. Pour the vermouth into the frikkin' gin.
4. Oh. It's a dry vodka martini. My bad. Grow some cajones and call it what it is, then - a shot of vodka.
off topic: Vodka is basically neutral grain spirits with water added. Unlike almost every other liquor, vodka makers don't actually brew their product. They buy the grain spirit from a distributor, and add water. The only difference between Grey Goose, Finlandia, and Russian Rotgut is the source of the water. It's the biggest scam since ... oh. Bottled water.
I'm liking the new state job. I'm part bureaucrat [boring] and part eco-police [cool]. Hopefully I'll find a way to work some environmental planning into the mix.
The problem is, I can't really write about things except in the vaguest sense - it would be a quick path to a lawsuit. It's too bad; you meet some characters on the job [the starlet who wants to build her dream home, the politician illegally poisoning trees in his neighborhood, and the mainlanders sending us rocks they took, hoping to alleviate Pele's curse].
Thursday, December 22, 2005
And that is all you need to know for now ...
She's filling all those up so you only
get stuck once
The shot you got into your iv was
the Ativan. When Dr. comes, I'm going
to ask for more.
they need doctor consent and I the jerk
at the Waikiki Health Center didn't give it.
So I think they're going to change your provider
to someone who will consent.
BA low below .10 but she says
that's why DT's so bad. And usually
they're worse after 72 hours, so that's the concern.
She's admitting you and getting you
more Ativan. Whether I can stay is up
to the nurse and floor where you go to stay.
They're going to send you for a brain scan
and send you to a room.
She also said they will give you little
pushes of Ativan if you feel you need it.
It sounds like is no limit as long as you
have evidence of symptoms.
She's also going to have someone meet w/ you
to give you info. On long-term detoxing
If they think you don't want to stop
drinking they're sending you home today with
can drink. They will only help if they think
you want to stop drinking-so say you do!
you will get dinner.
I'm starving, can I use your card to get
- 2 or more days
- I'm going to tell them you're insistent
that I stay with you and that you may
refuse to be here if I can't.
- Ativan by IV. An hour after you get
it, you need to complain that it's not
helping much and can they give you more.
time he comes in, I'm going to say
the Ativan didn't work.
I realise you must be very frustrated right
now and the nurse care really sucks! But I'm
doing my best and would appreciate if you'd stop
being mean to me.
I'm so pissed off at the nurses. I'm doing
their jobs. They're lousy. What's going to happen
when I have to go to my Dr. tomorrow?
while I'm gone, ask them if they can come back
after 1:00 so I can be here to help communicate
communication anymore. It's not your hearing
you just act like you don't care what I have to
say. Just read these pages and see how many times
I've had to write the same thing to you.
Now - what I said was what about the tent you
(and not because you needed care) and I have hardly eaten
in 2 days and I haven't had any meds of my own or to
counter the fact that I'm not drinking. I'm tired & hungry.
My Dr. took emergency leave and
won't be back until Monday. They won't
be able to see me until Monday.
few pills from your mom's $ ok?
Secret word Amis (What's the Dog's name?)
now, I should go and will be back ASAP.
Now's a good time, right?
at least. That way you can shower and rest-up.
I think it may be better today to avoid the
social svcs. people. But I want you here
for your health until tomorrow.
you promised you would pay for. Otherwise, you'll get
at all. Don't you trust me?
if we stop drinking alcohol, we'll save about $400.00
per month or more - But you
honest. Then go ahead and check-out today but
later. Rest as much as you can or will you feel
for you to get out of here. We should tell them
now so they can get started.
Like 3-5 hours.
I told your nurse that I need a time frame as to
when you can be discharged because you're ready
to leave and I'm hoping to get a prescription and
referral first. He's calling the Dr.
call the dr. to get discharge instructions so we
could get you taken care of before you leave.
meds. Since you won't wait for Dr.
This woman is going to yell at us. If we don't
need to stay near Matt I'd tell both of them to
important than your life.
birthday is tomorrow AND I need to get pills.
I don't want to take the risk. If you want to,
I'll help, but I don't want to go down with
you tonight. I CAN'T. Either we stay in
Waikiki a few more nights or the burden is on you. You choose
Simone's B-Day / 1 year ago!
I am sorry about giving Tom some what of an
attitude. and the money isn't most important, but
you must understand also where I was coming
from. I told the guy I would pay him Tuesday
and it wasn't able to happen and I didn't
want the guy thinking my word is "crap."
I could care less about the stupid money
I was just wanting to pay off the money
I owe. o.k.
Let's check the tent first!
wanted to look
at on the way
to Times -
bus to Times
We need to meet
at Ala Moana
If you want me
to do it.
leave, then grab
the beer. Also
put everything in
your pocket and
Like I said, random. But I googled Angle of Repose [which turns out to be the angle that an aggregate forms while resting on a slope] and Crossing to Safety. And I found a wonderful poem by Robert Frost, one that I'm not sure I knew before, but that seemed quite appropriate for the day.
To Time it never seems that he is brave
To set himself against the peaks of snow
To lay them level with the running wave,
Nor is he overjoyed when they lie low,
But only grave, contemplative and grave.
What now is inland shall be ocean isle,
Then eddies playing around a sunken reef
Like the curl at the corner of a smile;
And I could share Time's lack of joy or grief
At such a planetary change of style.
I could give all to Time except - except
What I myself have held. But why declare
The things forbidden that while the Customs slept
I have crossed to Safety with? For I am There,
And what I wouldnot part with I have kept.
Tuesday, December 20, 2005
So Christmas is going to be coming late this year. Even if I mail things out this evening, nothing will arrive until January. Oh well. Late holidays are a bit of a tradition in my family. My friends will just have to adjust.
I hung lights, so haven’t been totally lame. And I did go to quite a few parties already. Haulani had hers last night, went to Dolan’s [new workmate] with Dawn Friday and hung with the Punahou crowd, and cooked for Ron’s birthday last Tuesday. Did the North Shore weekend with the guys, and the surf was amazing and the Waimea Lifeguard’s party full of the world’s buff and beautiful. Before that it was the big party hosted by the Hawai`i Kai trio full of the gay world’s buff and beautiful [and invisible – where do these boys hide out the rest of the year?]
All good. And I’m amazingly alright being single. I’ve only spent two of the last ten holiday seasons as part of a real couple. Add two years where I was in ambiguous situations, two with lovers, and one where I was dumped half-way through, and that still leaves almost half of them starring me, flying solo and keeping a stiff upper lip about the whole thing.
But last Christmas was so, so full of ugly incidents that I have no nostalgia at all for married life.
Although midnight New Years eve –when everyone falls into the arms of their lover for a kiss – will be as rough as always. I’ll have to scope out the bachelors’ corner ahead of time.
What else? I restocked the pond [two blue gouramis, two angelfish, one peacock eel, two golden algae eaters, and six shark – 2 bala, 2 red tail, and 2 albino]. The only survivors of the massacre were the goldfish, five electric yellow cichlid fry, and the two albino cichlids. The nocturnal pleco, eel, and shovelmouths are still unaccounted for.
Been to Max’s twice since I’ve been back. And it was horrifying both times - truly and utterly horrifying. There is nothing left to redeem that place. Nightlife is suffering with Big Tom gone. I went to Angles for the first time in a year, but it still sucked. Hula’s has been a bit better – they finally opened up the dancefloor. R. has been spending plenty of time there. But, basically – gay life in this town is just not happening this year outside of private and one-off events.And – as of last Monday – I am an official state worker. I’m still adjusting to the idea.
Thursday, December 08, 2005
The next day the reamining three sharks died. That hurt - I liked my curious little sharks. They were already up to six inches - only half their full size - and I was looking forward to seeing them full grown. I figured there was some mysterious shark disease going around.
Day three, and lots of fish were acting funny. The fat goldfish was swimming upside down. The yellow cichlids were bumping into things. No one was eating. I didn't know what to do. In the next two days the two clown loaches, both adult yellow cichlids, and one of the juveniles went KO. I couldn't figure out what the problem was, and was worried that I'd lose them all.
I finally changed all the water. That seemed to help - the survivors started eating again. Then yesterday I found the culprit: a new brand of fertilizer spikes I had used for the taro.
So now I need to restock. The survivors: four Ryukin, one adult and one spawn albino cichlid, a striped cichlid, one shovelmouth, and a few [not sure how many] yellow cichlid spawn.
Still missing in action: my eel [who I never see unless I clean], the pleco [who I rarely see], the golden algae eater, the juvenile red shark, the blue cichlid, one of the striped cichlids, and the four remaining juvie yellow cichlids.
That just hurts.
Heading to the North Shore after work for the Hale Aikane weekend. Ken rented out the beach house, Dirk is cooking, I've got a load of wine from Fujioka's - I'm ready to go. This is my last day with Forestry, and I'm itching to get out of here and laze for two days on the beach. Waves are big, and the Eddie Aikau might happen. Here's hoping ...
Tuesday, December 06, 2005
Met Dawn pau hana Friday and went to Indigo's. We missed the pupus, so it only took two martinis for me to get a bit trashed. We met some guys from Istanbul, and talked with them most of the early evening. They were very handsome [I thought: Dawn said their eyes were too close together], and very straight. And I was a bad fag. A friend came over, and his eyes just lit up when he saw them. I didn't feel like being outed, and I definitely didn't feel like watching my friend slime all over these guys.
So I blocked access. The friend was all guttural noises, all hmmm and ohhh and oooh, as he tried to make eye contact with the Turks. And I pulled the butch act: yo, how you been? and all that, and made sure I kept my body between them.
Later hooked up with Kevin and Garret, hit a couple galleries, ate Vietnamese with Dawn, then headed home.
Saturday was surf, then my first Civil Defense activation for the City Lights festival. I told my friends I was working security. Hah. My job? Checking to make sure folks parking in the handicap lot really were handicapped.
It was excruciatingly boring. I was stuck in the parking garage for three hours. I was wondering how I got into this. Civil Defense Volunteer sounds sexy. And here it turns out we're nothing more than glorified crossing guards. I tried to tell myself that every roll is important, that we're all part of one system, that England expects every man to do his duty and that I was fulfilling my civic responsibilities and that this was a good thing - but honestly: I wasn't feeling it. It didn't help that there was a Scotsman playing bagpipes in the garage. And when he was joined by a friend life became downright painful.
This is surely one of the rings, if not of hell, then at least of purgatory: being stuck in an underground parking garage with perfect acoustics while two mad Scotsmen play Good King Wencelas on the bagpipe. You wonder if these people have any friends, or if they're like Trekkies - the only people who can handle them are others with the same fetish.
After our dinner break it was time to head outside and do some crowd control. This is more like it, I thought. We broke up into teams .. and I was assigned to the parking garage. Again. Only difference was this time I had a radio. I got to listen to all the excitement. We need back up on Alapa`i! We can't control the crowd on King Street! Get those chicos off of Kapi`olani! And there was trouble with the police, and there was trouble with the Department of Transportation. And everyone got an adrenalin rush but me.
Finally, at 8:15 - five hours after I arrived - I was summoned by radio to the surface. Oh joy. It was crowd controlling time! I finally got to have some fun! I didn't get to bust open any heads - I was more excuse me sir can you step back onto the sidewalk? than the more macho cops who just yelled at folks. I did get to help a lost child find his uncle, and that felt good. And I decided that I really did like this gig after all.
Saturday, December 03, 2005
I decided my fear was there for a good reason.
Another surfer, Malik Joyeux from Tahiti, died at Pipeline yesterday. I heard in the water this morning that another kid from Kalihi had broken his neck, but his story wasn't in the papers. The news had a video of Malik disappearing. It looked insane - 60 guys in the water, all chasing the tube at Pipes. The sport has gotten way too popular. It was already crowded ten years ago. Now it's insane.
This morning I went to Canoes at ten - close to the time the old Surf Club used to go. There were a couple beginners online at the yahoo site who were talking about going, but I never heard back from any of 'em. It was a moderately decent day - good enough for someone who hasn't been out in three months. Waves were hip high, and fun enough. I caught a few early on, and then it got crowded. Soon you couldn't catch a wave without someone crashing into you. Good thing things were slow. And by 10:30 the break had closed out, with a solid line of beginners blocking everyone's way. That was a bit early - close out time used to be noon.
Friday, December 02, 2005
And I'm looking a bit ragged, too. I don't know if it's real, or that I'm projecting. Either way, it's par for the course. I'll look [or think I look] rough for two weeks, and then when the nicotine has drained out of my system I'll suddenly notice that my skin has cleared up a bit and that some of the lines have decreased and I'll look [or think I look] ten years younger. Just got to make it to that point.
I'm meeting Dawn in a few minutes for First Friday. I want to wake up early tomorrow and hit the surf - some chicks online wanted to learn - so probably won't stay up late. Pupus, wine, and bed.
Tomorrow is the big Hawai`i Kai Party. I'm not sure if I'll make it, which is rough - this is one of the major gay parties of the year. If not The Party. At least ... it's The Party of the ones I actually get invited to. Not that I get invited to this one. I crash it. As do a couple hundred other guys. There's a pool, plenty of liquor, go go boys, lots of men - toutes le monde.
... sans moi. I volunteered to work security at the Christmas Parade. Yesterday I was wondering why more gay men don't volunteer in the wider community, why it's always either AIDS or art that seems to get most of our attention.
And now I know. It's because we would miss all the fabulous parties.
Thursday, December 01, 2005
Status check: a little hyper and speedy, but still focused. Appetite is solid - I'm more or less permanently hungry. I cut my workout short yesterday because I needed to grind. Energy level is good, though - I've had really solid sessions at the gym. I'm not feeling social at all, though. Roy wanted to talk last night. I wanted to read & not deal with him or anybody. Weight is good, skin is good. Lungs are starting to clear out, and I woke up this morning with a nasty taste in my mouth. I tossed and turned a lot last night. I have minor cravings, but nothing too bad.
Wednesday, November 30, 2005
And the theme for the night is: Why did Marlon Brando fall so hard? Was he always mad, and we just didn't know it for his beauty? Or did his beauty destroy him? Or maybe beauty like that is never long for this world.
Roy and I finished watching Reflections in a Golden Eye a few nights ago. It's hard to find, and I was excited to stumble across a copy on e-bay. It sounded like a lost masterpiece - directed by John Huston based on a novel by Carson McCullers, and starring Brando as a repressed gay military commander of a southern army base and Elizabeth Taylor as his out of control nymphomaniac wife. Julie Harris cuts off her nipples with a pair of garden sheers, Zorro David plays an embarrassingly campy Filipino house boy, Taylor whips Brando during a garden party, and Robert Forster rides his horse bareback and bare ass naked through the woods.
All that, yet all the movie does is bore you. It tries to scandalize us, as if that would be enough. It doesn't even work as camp - it's too slow moving. Brando is hot in middle-age but mumbles his lines. He's more of a caricature of Brando than the actual man.
And now, for the second time in a week, Brando supplies the craptastic. His posthumous novel has been nominated for Britain's Literary Review Bad Sex in Fiction award. The Guardian has the long list of nominees, and while Brando is awful my vote still goes to Giles Coren. Like Zorro indeed.
This is going to be painful. You have been warned.
from Fan Tan
by Marlon Brando and Donald Cammell
In a moment Annie was on his side, Madame Lai was like a plant growing over him, and her little fist (holding the biggest black pearl) was up his asshole planting the pearl in the most appreciated place.
"Oh, Lord," he cried out. "I'm a-comin'!"
She could not answer. It is the one drawback of fellatio as conscientious as hers that it eliminates the chance for small talk and poetry alike. But nothing is exactly perfect in this life, and for Annie Doultry the delicate but firm pressure on his rear parts was in perfect harmony with the eruption of his cock. He came and he came - we are dealing with a hero here. At one point his lover backed away to inspect the unaltered gush of it, like a plumber saying to a customer, "Don't blame me. This water supply will stop when the dam's empty."
The bed creaked and its old springs twanged as he levered into action with his hungry stomach and his big slippery mouth. Annie was at work again. With a practiced flick of the wrist designed for heavier work, he eased the cheongsam's slit wider to expose the entire butterball thigh. Without perceptible movement, her legs were now definitely farther apart, and their musculature was unresistant and frothy, as if they were no longer bearing her weight. In a sense, she seemed to float upon the musty air like an arrangement of balloons. Evidently the dexterous licking of the inside of her left knee was contributing to her support, as it would soon to her downfall.
When it came, it was a float rather than a fall. Annie's left hand was completely occupied, each finger playing a separate tune upon the delicate complexities of her pussy, so it must have been the right one that slid under her ass and elevated her and floated her onto the bed - or more precisely, onto Annie, onto his broad stomach, the sturdy muscles beneath expressly relaxed to provide the comfort of a mattress of familiar Celtic flesh. An unintelligible muttering sound came from Yummee as she subsided on top of him. It could have been a prayer to one of her goddesses, or a threat. ...
The problem is, my favorite bloggers either document their adventures in foreign lands or detail step by step accounts of complete mental breakdowns some even set to music.
Since I can't travel for a few months, and I haven't figured out how to upload my mixes, I'll settle for psychosis. I quit smoking again 3 days ago, so this should be fun. Maybe if I put all this in writing I'll be less likely to relapse. It's not as chic as heroin withdrawal [see the music link above], but I'm sure I'll get in some good mania, depression, and GI distress before it's over.
I have two 21mg patches left over from my last failed attempt. Which wasn't even an attempt - I wore the patches on the plane so I wouldn't be a total spaz. And even then, I would rip them off at every transfer point so that I could run outside and smoke. This time I've been cutting them in half so that they will last longer.
So far so good. I'm a bit hyper, but I also feel my lungs starting to clear. I'll be hitting the gym hard, so hopefully I'll bulk up instead of chunking up. I'm back to 190 [versus 180 after Istanbul]. Not sure how high I'll go this round.
Had my first internet date in a long time last night. Or 'date.' Darin [his real name, of course] and I agreed to meet at a Starbucks near his house. He never showed. Lucky for him, I think, because I called Madame L. while I was waiting ... and I learned a few things about my date.
One of the good things about having a slut for a friend is that you can get the dirty scoop on a lot of folks. And what I learned is that Darin does not quite have the athletic body he advertised. The baggy shirt in his photo was hiding pointy little man boobs, a pot belly, and skinny arms. Like one of those aliens from Roswell, says Madame L.
Oh silly man. Don't ever lie to a man with a blog, much less lie and then stand him up. I have no shame in naming names, Darin who works at Cost-Co. I waited thirty minutes for formalities sake, and when there was no sign of him I took off.
Monday, November 28, 2005
... which will be in exactly 88 days. I found tickets to Honolulu-Sydney tickets for $610 roundtrip. Mardi Gras here I come!
Monday, November 21, 2005
Massacre in Fallujah
Pass it along.
The first half is alright, but doesn't offer much concrete evidence to back the producer's claims that the military used white phosphorus and napalm [MK-77, technically it's not Napalm. It's a 500 lb fire bomb that spreads a burning gel that is only similar to Napalm. Because Napalm is banned].
The second half makes up for that with the testimony of former US Marines who fought at Fallujah; photos of men, women, and children who's skin has melted off; and a horrifying video of a helicopter fire-bombing a neighborhood.
I cleaned up some old links, and added this one:
I'm too pissed right now to write much. Life is pretty good outside what I see in the news. I started another emergency-hire stint at DLNR, and it was good to see everyone again. I got the runt office, though! We moved into new offices while I was gone, and all the good furniture was picked over. I have the squeaky chair, the mis-matched file cabinets, the smaller than normal cubicle, no computer, and ... no more window. Ah well. The permanent guy will have to fight for what he needs. I've had one interview for a full time position ... and really hoping I get it.
Friday, November 18, 2005
So, if you Yahoo and have emailed me in the past month and a half, I'm not ignoring you. I haven't got your mails. If it's important, drop a line here.
Thursday, November 17, 2005
Iraq probes US phosphorus weapons
An Iraqi human rights team has gone to the city of Falluja to investigate the use of white phosphorus as a weapon by US forces, a minister has told the BBC.
Acting Human Rights Minister Narmin Uthman said her staff would examine the possible effects on civilians.
The US has now admitted using white phosphorus as a weapon in Falluja last year, after earlier denying it.
The substance can cause burning of the flesh but is not illegal and is not classified as a chemical weapon.
The BBC's Caroline Hawley in Baghdad says it will be some time before the human rights team reports back.
In other developments in Iraq:
- Sunni parties demand an international inquiry into the alleged abuse of more than 170 detainees by Iraqi forces in Baghdad.
- Three US soldiers are killed in a roadside bomb near Baghdad
- A car bomb kills a US marine in Karmah, 80km (50 miles) west of Baghdad.
Italian TV station Rai alleged last week that the US had used phosphorus against built-up areas, and that civilians were killed.
The report sparked fury among Italian anti-war protesters, who demonstrated outside the US embassy in Rome.
The US initially said white phosphorus had been used only to illuminate enemy positions, but now admits it was used as a weapon.
BBC defence correspondent Paul Wood says having to retract that denial is a public relations disaster for the US.
A Pentagon spokesman, Lt Col Barry Venable, confirmed to the BBC the US had used white phosphorus "as an incendiary weapon against enemy combatants" - though not against civilians, he said.
He said earlier denials had been based on "poor information".
Washington is not a signatory to an international treaty restricting the use of the substance against civilians.
The US-led assault in November 2004 on Falluja - a stronghold of the Sunni insurgency west of Baghdad - displaced most of the city's 300,000 population and left many of its buildings destroyed.
San Diego journalist Darrin Mortenson, who was embedded with US marines during the assault on Falluja, told the BBC's Today radio programme he had seen white phosphorous used "as an incendiary weapon" against insurgents.
However, he "never saw anybody intentionally use any weapon against civilians", he said.
White phosphorus is highly flammable and ignites on contact with oxygen. If the substance hits a person's body, it will burn until deprived of oxygen.
Globalsecurity.org, a defence website, says: "Phosphorus burns on the skin are deep and painful... These weapons are particularly nasty because white phosphorus continues to burn until it disappears... it could burn right down to the bone."
Britain's Defence Secretary John Reid said UK forces had used white phosphorus in Iraq, but not as "anything other than a smokescreen to protect our troops when in action".
The UK Ministry of Defence said its use was permitted in battle in cases where there were no civilians near the target area.
But Professor Paul Rogers, of the University of Bradford's department of peace studies, said white phosphorus could be considered a chemical weapon if deliberately aimed at civilians.He told the BBC: "It is not counted under the chemical weapons convention in its normal use but, although it is a matter of legal niceties, it probably does fall into the category of chemical weapons if it is used for this kind of purpose directly against people."
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
I hate our president. I hate what he has done to our country. His team has violated all the basic values that we were founded upon.
I don't see any way out short of giving Bush up to the Hague. Try him for war crimes. Hang him for treason. Tie him to a horse and drag his ass across Texas. I don't care. I just want my country back.
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
The wedding was beautiful, and for the first time in years the whole family was together. It was nice to see everyone, and I got my first look at my new nephew [ho refused to play with me]. My Dad's pocketbook must have taken a hit - he took us all out to dinner quite a bit ... we had the Rehearsal Dinner at Cottage Inn, the Wedding Reception at Webers, a few lunches at Knights, a dinner at Argerio's, and a final Indian feast for 10 at Shalimar. And somehow I still lost weight. It must be all the wine. I'm gonna test this diet and patent it.
I didn't take many pictures, but got some nice ones after the ceremony that I'll post in a few days [as well as the last of the Istanbul pics]. I choked up a bit during the Blessing of the Hands. I googled it, but couldn't find the exact version they used. This one is close ...
These are the hands of your best friend, young and strong and full of love for you, that are holding yours on your wedding day, as you promise to love each other today, tomorrow, and forever.
These are the hands that will work alongside yours, as together you build your future.
These are the hands that will passionately love you and cherish you through the years, and with the slightest touch, will comfort you like no other.
These are the hands that will hold you when fear or grief fills your mind.
These are the hands that will countless times wipe the tears from your eyes; tears of sorrow, and as in today, tears of joy.
These are the hands that will tenderly hold your children, the hands that will help you to hold your family as one.
These are the hands that will give you strength when you need it.
And lastly, these are the hands that even when wrinkled and aged, will still be reaching for yours, still giving you the same unspoken tenderness with just a touch.
Wednesday, November 09, 2005
THERE WAS NO TRAIN STATION THERE WAS NO DOWNTOWN
SOUTH HOWARD HAD DISAPPEARED ALL MY FAVORITE PLACES
MY CITY HAD BEEN PULLED DOWN REDUCED TO PARKING SPACES
A, O, WAY TO GO OHIO
WELL I WENT BACK TO OHIO BUT MY FAMILY WAS GONE
I STOOD ON THE BACK PORCH THERE WAS NOBODY HOME
I WAS STUNNED AND AMAZED MY CHILDHOOD MEMORIES
SLOWLY SWIRLED PAST LIKE THE WIND THROUGH THE TREES
A, O, OH WAY TO GO OHIO
I WENT BACK TO OHIO BUT MY PRETTY COUNTRYSIDE
HAD BEEN PAVED DOWN THE MIDDLE BY A GOVERNMENT THAT HAD NO PRIDE
THE FARMS OF OHIO HAD BEEN REPLACED BY SHOPPING MALLS
AND MUZAK FILLED THE AIR FROM SENECA TO CUYAHOGA FALLS
SAID, A, O, OH WAY TO GO OHIO
- The Pretenders
That song used to haunt me in the 80's - it seemed to capture Saline, the farming and factory town where I grew up. There were a couple thousand people, and a one-stoplight downtown with more than half the shops boarded up. I was sure the town was dying, that suburban shopping malls and Reaganomics would combine to destroy it. The factory would close, and one hot summer a strong wind would come and blow the remnants of Saline away.
I wasn't totally opposed to the idea. The place could be small minded. We had Klan sympathizers in town and Survivalists in the woods. There are still rumors that some of them were involved in the Oklahoma bombing. Mexican immigrants would come up in the summer to work the strawberry and pickle farms, but we never, ever saw them. I never even knew they were there until I was 20, and danced one night with a girl at the bar who turned out to be a migrant worker on the farm next to our house.
There were good things too. There were small town, Frank Capra style liberals - the kind that seem to have disappeared everywhere else. A few friends were Mennonites [Amish without the buggies], and their home-life fascinated me. The countryside - rolling hills and old farm houses - really was pretty. Our school would empty out the first three days of deer season, as all the boys headed up into the north woods to hunt with their fathers. And I did have some good friends, even if we felt ourselves outcasts. But for the most part, I thought: Let the wind blow, and take this town with it.
Ann Arbor was my oasis - five miles down the road, and a world away. It was all aging hippies and leftists and freaks. And even though its main street was also half boarded-up, the bars that remained were full of musicians and artists. Everyone shopped at the food co-ops, and the churches offered Sanctuary to people fleeing Reagan's wars in El Salvador and Guatemala and Nicaragua. Marijuana was semi-legal [a $5 ticket per joint]. At the time, it seemed like paradise.
But life is change, and even before I left both places were starting to transform into something new. Saline's farms were closing, and being replaced by golf courses and gated communities. And Ann Arbor was gentrifying, the old leftists being replaced by limousine liberals. And now, what? Saline is rich. The dirt roads have been paved, and are now lined with mansions instead of farm houses. The new high school is huge. And Ann Arbor is even richer - instead of empty shops with newspaper-covered windows, Main Street is all cafes and brew pubs and ethnic restaurants.
And my cities are gone, and I'm not sure what to think of either.
Monday, November 07, 2005
Back to NYC - Roxy was a disappointment. The music was just thud thud thud without much variety or creativity. The club space was cool enough, and the men were alright [although Hollis didn't think so], but something didn't connect with me at all. I was like an outsider watching the party. I danced a bit with Ed and Bruce, who were as hot as ever, and looked around but never found Jean. We left pretty early.
Sunday I went to the Virgin Megastore and listened to happy music for a bit, and felt better. Met another friend, Ariel, for a pint in Chelsea [he has an Irish boyfriend and the lingo must be rubbing off]. We watched the Chelsea muscle boys walk around, then I headed back to Jersey to get ready for Sunday night.
Yeah. Umm, technically I'm staying in Jersey City, not Manhattan. I'm Bridge and Tunnel, but without big hair. I might have left that out last time I posted.
Met up with Drew. We had met in Montreal a few years back, and stayed in touch. Our plan was to hit a few newer parties: The Ramble (at a place whose name I've forgotten) and Spirit, which took over the space Junior Vasquez used for Twilo.
The Rambles party was alright. It was a good space, but a young crowd and there was nothing to keep us there for longer than a drink. Spirit, though, was unreal. It was pure New York after-hours madness. The club was dark, with one big black dancefloor and lots of side rooms and passages. The crowd was beyond eclectic - it was a random mix of homo-thugs, Harlem queens, tweakers, twinks, angels, punks, and circuit boys.
Mike Cruz [Movin' Up] was spinning, and - as Drew put it - he didn't seem to have an agenda. He changed the music as the crowd evolved throughout the night. I probably heard more variety in the first five minutes than I did in three hours at Roxy. Early on [midnight?] the crowd skewed younger, and his beats were fast and discordant and with a constantly shifting rhythm. I liked it, but it was so fast that it was hard to find a solid groove and then oh, why hello astral plane. This was unexpected. Now I get the music. I didn't think I'd find a portal here. Greetings from the West Coast. It's been such a long time since I visited. Things are a bit different from a New York City perspective. No angels. Things are darker and more twisted. But it's not such a bad place, not at all.
So we lost ourselves in the music, and watched the drama unfold around us. At one point a punk decked out in a mohawk, bad facial hair, and a death metal t shirt, approached, glowering at us with dead eyes. He was pretty drunk, and at first I thought he was looking for a fight. Then he stepped out of the shadows and into the light and damn he looked about twelve. I can take him, I thought. But turns out he didn't want to fight. Little Satan just wanted a kiss. Fine. Too bad he was too drunk too dance; in the end I had to shake him off. Later, it looked like there would be a dance off between two houses. Cool - I've never seen one of those outside of South Park. Even Drew seemed to be getting excited. I couldn't make out who was who. Drew thought it was between two groups of guys. I thought the target was a big-haired Jersey girl.
Poor thing. She never had a chance. At one point this skinny little queen was breaking on the floor and twisting himself into all kinds of contortions. She was down low too - who knows why - when he arched his legs over behind his head, wrapped them around her neck, pinned her to the floor, and vogued some Psycho-style Norman Bates stabs onto the top of her head. Round one goes to Harlem.
Later I saw her hugging her boyfriend, who was giving the queens the finger. I don't know what he was thinking. Not even Mike Tyson would take on these boys. I missed what happened next, but ten minutes later I look over and she is being dragged off the dancefloor by her hair. Literally. It was awesome. Her fat little legs were kicking in the air, the rest of the Harlem boys were vogueing and throwing poses around her, the muscled Chelsea boys kept on dancing, and her boyfriend was nowhere in sight.
Security finally rescued her, and I thought the party might be over, but the DJ switched into a hard and perfect circuit set, and the party stayed strong until dawn.
Saturday, November 05, 2005
I've tried to explain to people what İstanbul was like, but I think I write stories better than I tell them. I figure I'll put together an article in the next week or two and then shop it out to various magazines. İstanbul has been in the papers a lot the past month [Newsweek, NY Times, Condé Naste, National Geographic Traveler], but my version of the city is a bit different ... I'll give them ageing gigolos, rent boys and circuit boys, melancholic Kurds, Western sexual imperialists and heart-broken ex-pats, working class Gypsy boys looking for a nice transvestite to marry, Englishmen on the skids, an unsolved mystery, the Russian mafia, gay Anatolian farmboys trying to make it in the city, and high-society Turks discretely entertaining guests in their walled Ottoman gardens.
Condé Naste it ain't.
Tonight we are off to the Roxy. All the times I've been to NYC, and I've never been to the big clubs.
Thursday, November 03, 2005
This town does not stop. I just checked out of the hotel, but don't leave until 5am this morning. I was hoping to go to Hagia Sophia - I have been trying for days, but I keep getting distracted en route. This town does not stop, and it's been one strange and exciting adventure after the other.
Now I hear Hagia Sophia is closed for Bayram, the holiday that marks the end of Ramazan. I can't believe I've been here a week and missed this. I've barely even explored Sultanahmet, the historic district with all the mosques and markets and ruins. On the other hand, I got to know Taksim and Beyoğlu quite well. Sultanahmet and Nişıntaşi (the high end yuppie district) are the places most tourists see. They are missing out - Beyoğlu is the beating heart of the new İstanbul. There are miles of pedestrian walkways winding their way around the cafes and embassies and clubs and stores. I've seen so much, and have met a novel's worth of characters. I really do think I can get a killer story out of this for the Advocate. İstanbul is better than hip - it's pre-hip. One day Beyoğlu will be known and the beautiful people will all flock here again.
So I missed the Hagia Sophia and the museums. The only other regret is that I lost Duwane's number - the American I met earlier. I clicked with him in that rare way that sometimes happens. We hung out a lot, and I got to see the city through an ex-pat's eyes. It was all good, until I went to call him yesterday ... and couldn't find his number. And he doesn't have mine. I knew his address, and went out to his neighborhood yesterday to leave a mesage on his apartment's front door, but got chased off by the apartment manager. And now I'm stuck - how do you find someone in a city of 15 million?
Monday, October 31, 2005
I recovered pretty quickly from yesterday's long morning. I poked around the neighborhood to get my bearings, took a couple naps, and headed out to the clubs at midnight with Ekrem, the hotel manager, and a French guy.
The club was Standard Urban Gay, but with Turkish House. It was dark and crowded; everyone was pretty butch except for a few token twinks, a handful of guys were rolling but most were getting smashed on rakı and beer, and there couldn't have been more than three or four foreigners in the place. It was interesting to watch for awhile, then I got bored. I don't always do well in bars, but didn't want to go home early my only weekend here.
At some point I had had enough beers (two - it doesn't take much) & I decided to work it and see what happened. I stripped down to my tank and moved to the dance floor, and what a difference that made. The offers came pretty fast. Real fast: it was Hello, How are you? Where are you from? and Ok so we go have sex now? The first offer was from a 21 year old kid from Syria. I passed. Second was from a bigger older man. He blew it when he bit me. I now have teeth marks on my deltoids. I'm not really sure what that was about. I saw a straight (well, 'straight') Dutch guy I had met earlier, and moved in tight with him to get some breathing room.
So I was checking out the crowd, noticed a handsome guy looking back, and we stumbled through a few Turkish niceties. He tried some German, but no go. I tried some English ... and it turns out that he's American. He's been here five years, and he introduced me to some if his gang, and pretty soon it was 4am and time to go.
We hung out most of the day. He showed me aroud his neighborhood, then we crossed the Golden Horn to look for Camii Büçük Aya Sofia. Bob: This is the Church of Sts. Sergius and Bacchus that you were looking for. It was converted to a mosque, and is actually quite well known (it was the model for the Hagia Sofya). It was just named a World Heritage Site and was undergoing renovations, so we could only look at the outside. I'll post some pictures tomorrow.
Afterwards we wandered around Sultahnmet, peeking inside the Blue Mosque and at the Gardens of Topkapı Palace. It was rainy and cold, and it's giving the city a moody air. I kind of like it. There are discoveries around every corner, and streets will open up to sudden and beautiful views of the Bosphorus, or the palaces, or the grand mosques. People I met who live here love this city completely, in the same way that others love New York or Mexico City or San Francisco. Yesterday I thought that a week was perhaps too long to spend here. Now I think it's not nearly long enough.
I haven't taken many photos. I met set aside a day later this week just to be a shutterbug.
Saturday, October 29, 2005
I knew a bad day had to come. That's just life on the road. Blue skies don't last forever.
The trip to İstanbul wasn't so bad (thanks, ambien!). It was raining when the bus crossed the Bosphorus into Europe, but it wasn't into any Europe that I recognized. The city has a large, forested greenbelt around it, but inside the forest was a seemingly endless plain of five-story cement walk ups. Trouble started at the otogar, the vast bus station on the outskirts of the city. 300 bus companies are based here, and hell (oops) if I could find a pattern to the chaos. You could lose the plot here, mate by seat mate commented. The connecting service intot he city had been cancelled, so we were left to our own devices. After eleven hours by bus I wanted to take the easy way out and charter a minivan. I coralled some Aussies and Japanese from the same bus and tried to bargain a group rate for us. The opening bid: 50 lira, or ten lira each. All of 7.50 US dollars for door to door service. Ten Lira! the lead Japanese exclaimed. Absolutely not! Then she marched off ... and the group followed.
There is safety in numbers, I wanted to explain, but it was too late. They disappeared into the madness, and were gone. I was on my own. I got the single fare bid down to twenty lira, and was on my way - into the surliest traffic I have ever seen. People drove like Romans on crystal meth. There seemed to be no rules. We drove the wrong way down freeway exits, jumped curbs, and cut other cars off (and were cut off in turn), all the while everyone honking and shouting at each other. I found the tension overwhelming, and soon it had worked it's way into the very fiber of my being. I really missed our little old ladies driving with aloha. Hell, I missed yellow lines on the road.
But twenty minutes and I'll be safe in my hotel, I thought. Relax. As if it could be that easy. Many of the routes into the city were closed, blocked by police and military vehicles. Bayram'a problem militair var, the driver explained, cussing and throwing up his hands. There are problems with the military. I wasn't sure how to translate Bayram - he either meant the Bayrampaşa neighborhood (a peasant uprising?) or the Bayram holiday (a coup to mark the end of Ramazan?).
What an ugly day for a coup, I thought. İstanbul was muddy and grey and there were soldiers on the streets and men in dirty ghetto lanes burning trash for warmth. I've read that even in Byzantine times, during the glory days of Justinian, visitors to this city were shocked at how the poor lived. The aristocracy had their palaces gilded with gold; the poor had rivers of mud and filth flowing through their streets.
We finally found a way into the city proper, and as we passed through the stone walls of one of the fallen empires the world went from dull and grey to pretty and light. Suddenly there were tree lined boulevards and smart shops and white and yellow lines on the street that the cars actually followed. I started to see hope for my week in İstanbul.
The taxi let me off by the side of the road, telling me that the main road was closed and that all I had to do was go up the hill and there was my hotel. I believed him. Bad mistake. I paid him, he headed off, and I trudged a road that was more mud than road. See İstanbul Pic 1, and begin inserting two cuss words per sentence.
I was a kilometer from the hotel. It rudged up to İstiklal Cadessi, the main pedestrian thoroughfare, and worked my way through the mud to the Galata Tower. See Pic 2. It wasn't pretty. But at Galata I couldn't find the hotel. I asked directions, and got different responses each time. I went up hill and down hill and in and out of every alley in the neighborhood. I finally bagged it and hailed a taxi to take me the rest of the way.
You are all cussing with me, right? Just making sure. The taxi drove a loop around Beyoğlu, and I knew he was driving in a big circle to drive the meter up but what could I do? Thirteen lira later he drops me off around the corner from the hotel (the main street was closed).
Only the hotel wasn't around the corner, and I was even further away than from when I started. I asked a nice man with a machine gun for directions, and he pointed in the exact same direction I had just walked an hour before. I wanted to cry. I wondered what would happen if I just sat down in the mud, right there in the middle of the street, and gave up. I was wet, tired, and hungry, and far from comfort.
I trudged on. I got back tot he Galata Tower. I began asking for directions. And everyone was very nice and helpful and completely useless. They would take me by the hand, point down a street, and assure me the hotel was right there. Down the hill. Or up around the bend. Or just behind that building there. And it had now been hours that I'd been walking, and I knew I was close, and yet I could not find the address. Mind you, I did have the address - it's ust that no one recognized the street name.
Since the 'avenue' turned out to be about 10 meters long I can't blame them. I finally went into a bakery and asked to use the phone. They were kind, and said they knew right where the hotel was, but before they could send me over the river and through the woods I started begging: Dignity exit, stage left.
So they called, and the hotel sent a kid to find me and walk me the rest of the way. And I would have never found it from their directions (most guests come from the airport and are picked up by the hotel). I was feeling pretty pathetic by then, and all I wanted was a hug. I had talked to the manager a few times online, and I built up a delightful little scenario on how I would walk into the hotel and I would be greated like lost family. And it was a nice fantasy, but a fantasy nonetheless. I walked into the lobby, mud splattered and tired and probably with a slightly crazy look in my eye. Translation: no hug. I was lucky to get a handshake.
They did feed me though, and that made me feel better. I'm easy that way. I walked around a bit after, and this city might not be so bad afterall. The sun came out for a bit, folks are crowding the streets, and I can start to picture how a week here could be alright. First, though, I'm going to take a long nap and then start this day over.
Oh - and there was no problem militaire. They had blocked the streets for a parade. In the words of the hotel manager: the taxi drivers here are all full of sh*t.
Friday, October 28, 2005
I've just been putzing around town wasting time; it really is to cold to wander very far. I went to the music store for awhile and picked up some cd's. I could've bought a dozen - there is some great music here. I enjoy the folk music enough, but can't imagine I'd listen to it much. Some of the modern Sufi and Anatolian jazz, however, is stunning - it's completely haunting and melancholic, and I am sure I will be subjecting all of you to it when I get home. A guy at the restaurant burned me some cd's, and I bought two more this morning.
Dawn / Ron / et al: Here are my travel basics for the next couple weeks:
- İstanbul Oc.t 29 - Nov. 3
- New York Nov. 4-7. I'll call from there.
- Michigan Nov. 8 - 15
- Nov. 16 Home!
Thursday, October 27, 2005
rather, Heaven is the place where we store our memories.
- Orhan Pamuk, Snow
I'm paraphrasing the line - I don't have the book on me. It was the first thing I read this morning. It was a great message to start the day with.
I posted more pics, but scaled down in size. I'm slowly learning the details of this camera.
Last night was a bit warmer than normal (I only needed two blankets), and the morning was bordering on hot. I got some good news from Hawai'i - I finally made the State Planner List, as a Level III and IV. The translation: I'm employable! It will still take me some months to score full time permanent work, but I'm one step closer.
Since it was shaping up to be such a beautiful day I decided to pamper myself, and headed to the barber for the full treatment: haircut, a shave, shampoo, and a massage. Now men: If you've never had an old-fashioned shave with a straight razor, you are missing out on one of life's true pleasures. I love every minute of it, from the feel of the razor against my skin to the burn of the cologne afterwards. And it's more then just sensual - it's also an act of faith, a test of our belief in brotherhood, to allow another man to handle an open blade that close to our neck. I know that our fathers and grandfathers enjoyed shaves; I'm not sure when the practice died out in the States. I used to get them in Indonesia, and even ten years down the road I can remember the luxury of spending a morning at the barbers. I was happy to see that the tradition is still alive in Turkey.
The barber, Mehmet, was a big bear of a man. He had blue eyes, close cropped hair, and a short beard that was redder than mine, but with thick Turkish features. And his hands were huge. When he applied the lotions, or held my head to crack my neck, his palms almost covered my entire face. Combine that with furry Popeye-sized forearms, and the guy would have been King at IML.
Except that the ladies at IML would be screaming for unscented oils, and would probably melt if splashed with cologne. Ah well. We all have our own ideas of masculinity.
So, my brothers, if you ever find yourself in one of the old countries, you need to go. End of argument. I've asked around in the states, but fear of lawsuits, government regulation, and impossible insurance rates have KO'd the practice. A schoolmate from Nepal, Sagar, once told me that he thought that our endless regulations made it very difficult for the poor to survive in the US.
He had a solid point. Our health laws and licensing do help keep the middle class safe, and I know that that is good, but it's not until you travel outside the West that you see what was lost. We aren't taught that there was a tradeoff. Our professionals are all licensed, our cafes all DOH inspected, our apartments theoretically meet minimum standards - all things I agree with. But progress has destroyed the working class economy & we haven't really mitigated for that.
Enough of that. I had lunch with a Kiwi couple that I have been running into all over the place. After I tried to walk through Pigeon Valley to Uchisar, a small town about 3 km down the road. The directions were easy - follow the canal into the valley - and I set off ...
And anybody who has been reading this knows what happened. Yes, I lost the trail. Yes, I headed down many dead ends. Yes, I tried repeatedly to scale the cliffs and although I came close ... oh so close ... I did not make it to the top. But I saw some great sights. And the fall colors were brilliant. I haven't managed to time it right to see autumn in the states in years; I wasn't expecting to find it here.
I never did make it to Uchisar. By late afternoon I turned tail and headed back to Göreme, telling myself the journey is more important than the destination, the journey is more important than the destination, the journey is more important than the destination ...
Wednesday, October 26, 2005
I spent the afternoon exploring Derinkuyu, a 4000 year old underground city. Hittite villages started building down as a defense against invaders. Later kingdoms kept up the practice, and soon the dwellings became massive underground cities, complete with granaries, wineries, corals for animals, and schools. Giant stone wheels could be rolled to block the entry to each deeper level. There are 36 underground cities known, and rumors of countless others. From the top they look like nothing more than a hole in the ground. Below, they could shelter thousands for up to six months. Seven stories have been excavated at Derinkuyu so far, to a depth of 60 meters.
It took awhile to get there. I got brave and left with no guidebook or phrasebook - I wanted to blend, and I wanted to test myself. I did alright. Outside the tourist areas people are very patient with my stumbling Turkish. Word order is my current problem - you throw all your nouns up front, tag on the proper ending, and save the verb for last. Any sentence longer than four or five words throws me completely.
The bus passed through some areas I want to explore later. I transferred in Nevşehir, which looked as non-descript as provincial capitals everywhere. Then we headed across the countryside to Derinkuyu. There were farms stretching to the horizon, which surprised me. The soil does not look capable of supporting life. It is all sand and dust, and I can't imagine it holding any water. There is not a trace of the rich humus we had in the Midwest. And yet the soil is rich - these farms produce eggplant, chiles, potatoes, corn, tomatoes, olives, beans, lentils, cucumbers, and citrus in abundance. Turkey is one of the few countries self-supporting in agriculture. And somewhere there must be miles of wheat. I've been eating about a loaf of bread a day.
Derinkuyu itself was a small desert town, hot, dry, and poor. The plazas were full of unemployed men in dusty sport coats fingering their prayer beads and watching the world pass by. I walked around for five minutes, then headed underground.
I spent about two hours exploring the city. There were plenty of unmarked and unlit passages heading off into the darkness. For once I followed the correct path.
Other, random notes:
- I have been emailing you all! I swear!
- What we call Korean Bars the Turks call Bars American. No one can explain to me why this is. The hostesses are all Russian; I say we petition for a name change.
- Turkey is far more secular than the US. People I've met are quite adamant that religion and politics don't mix, and that horrors always result when they are mixed. The threat here is not from Political Islam. It is from the Deep State - reactionary forces in the government that threaten openness and modernization.
- By the same reasoning, the conflict between Israel and Palestine is inevitable, as both are states based upon religion and ethnicity. There are a lot of Israeli tourists here, and everyone seems to welcome them quite openly.
- There are 37 Muslim sects in Turkey, all co-existing. In Ottoman times there were also many Armenians, Greeks, Jews, Italians, Russians, and English here. When our history books mention the Ottoman Empire - if they mention it at all - they always refer to it as the 'sick man of Europe.' People here remember it differently - for them the Ottoman times were a 700 year era of peace. This ended, as so much else in the world did, with the First World War. Nationalism reared it's ugly head, and Turkey was the scene of the century's first genocide.
- It was the Deep State that tried to prosecute a gay and lesbian group earlier this year for 'promoting immorality' (there are no anti-gay laws on the books). I'm not sure how the political system here works: the elected government in Ankara opposed the prosecutor. The judge just threw out the case, declaring that homosexuality was neither a disorder nor immoral.
- A more serious threat to modernization is a prosecutor's case against the novelist Orhan Pamuk for 'insulting the state' for discussing crimes against Armenians and Kurds. Again, the government opposes the prosecution. Jailing the country's premier novelist would, I am sure, completely KO Turkey's chances of joining the EU this round.
- I have never eaten so many tomatoes in my life - they are part of every meal. I might go into withdrawal back in Hawaii.
- The kids here all have cell phones, and send each other dirty pictures. The young guys fill the internet cafes every night, playing multi-player video games and talking in the chat rooms. The online generation is truly international.
- In Marmaris, on the coast, it is common for English widows marry young Turkish men. The men get a visa for the UK. You know what the widows get.
Tuesday, October 25, 2005
I've decided to stay at Tabiat Pension for the rest of the week. Big breakfasts won in the end. That, and I like the folks that run in. I found out how to work the hot water, so I can survive the cold nights. I did have a pretty rude experience with the toilet, though. Turkish toilets have this hose (I don't know the proper name) that shoots out water to clean you when you are finished. Fine - I kind of like how clean you feel after. But Göreme must pump it's water in from some hidden glacier - I turned the knob and went into shock as a blast of icy alpine freshness shot up my ass at 7am. I didn't jump, I didn't scream; I just sat there in shock. I think I might have stopped breathing for a minute, I can't remember. Then I got up, went to my room, and crawled back under the covers.
I spent the day wandering the valleys around Göreme. I didn't have a destination in mind, which was good because I also didn't have a map that was worth a cent (I think there's a grant waiting to be written to produce some good hiking maps of the area). I packed my bag with water, Sultanı crackers, and Turkish chocolate (dark, rich, and slightly bitter, it's been one of surprises of Turkey) & headed out into the wilderness.
I had some vague directions from İbrahim at the Pension: start at the UFO Museum, head into Kılıclar, the Valley of Swords, cross this, then climb out and over into Rose Valley and Güllüdere; follow this to the small town of Cavuşin. Ten minutes past the road and I saw my first abandonned city. I left the path to explore. I wouldn't find it again for four hours. I had lots of chocolate - I wasn't worried. That, and one of the beauties of the high desert (we are at 1200 meters) is that you can climb any peak and see to the horizon. I was always oriented, even when I didn't know where I was.
I just posted sixty pics from the hike (Cappadocia / Day 2 Valley of Swords). These are out of the hundreds I took. When you look at them, remember that these were all places I stumbled upon; none were marked and I was rarely on the path. This land really is full of the kind of wonders that it doesn't matter which way you turn - you will see something. And the beauty of ıt was it was all mine to explore. It was just me and the birds for most of the day.
I followed the ridge up past the first town, and saw a doorway that for all the world looked like an entrance to a hobbıt's house. I crawled in, and the other end of the house opened up onto a fabulous valley. I sat to admire the view, and was thinking silly thoughts about hobbits and rings of power and wouldn't it be pleasant if Bilbo stopped by for a smoke. That's when I noticed a cross carved into the alcove to my left. I looked at it more closely, and realized that the bottom of the alcove had been hollowed out. I had seen this before at Saint Barbara's Church. I was looking at a child's grave. And that's when it hit me that this was a real place, not a fantasy for my enjoyment; that another generation had been born here, were loved, died, and then mourned.
I crawled out in a more sober mood, and went down into what I assumed was the Valley of the Swords. I thought that if I could just scale the other side I would come out onto the path to Güllünder and Cavşin. I tried many times, and discovered many wonders, but I couldn't find my way up and over. I would near the top and find an unclimbabe cliff, or head down a promising side valley only to have it dead end.
I decided to take the long way out, down the valley instead of up and over. And then stumbled upon the path. Cool. I told myself that I would stick to it the rest of the way. And I did. For ten minutes.
Well, more like five. There was just so much temptation outside the path, so many fantastic places to explore. The pictures can show you the rest.