Wednesday, October 19, 2005


Damn - the computer just ate my entıre post. That hurts. Basics - I made ıt to Antalya, still can't post pıcs, and have already had some adventures.

All the backpackers told me not to come here, that Antalya was all about the partying and was not the real Turkey. So they are all - ever last one of them - heading to Olympos because it ıs more authentic. They are exactly like those folks who take one look at Waikiki, declare that all of O'ahu is ruined, and head to the real Hawai'i - in Kihei.

They are wrong ın Hawai'i, and they are wrong here. Antalya has 500,000 resıdents, and enough dıversity for anyoneç It does have the big resorts on the shore. It also has an Kaleiçi, the old Ottoman district on the clıffs above the beach. It's a walled medıeval town that is all narrow lanes, stone and plaster houses, small pensions, and hidden gardens. I,m staying ın a Kurdish run pension in the heart of it all. The streets are a maze, and it's very easy to get lost. And the landscape is - as usual - stunning. If anything the land gets more rugged and dramatic as I head south and east.

I went to the Ramazan nıght bazaar last night. It was fun, but I wish I had someone to share it with. That's the price of leaving the backpacker trail. If I had gone to Olympos I would have had plenty of folks to drink and hike and explore with. Here I get the experience I want, but do it alone. I guess that's lıfe in the big city.

Of course, just when I had accepted that I was on my own I started meeting guys. There's Reza, an Iranian exile working in a cafe along the cliffs. I've agreed to have coffee with him later. At fırst I thought his invite was standard business practice, but then he followed it with I get lonely here and need people to talk to. Way to bust through all my defenses. Across the street is a bar run by Kimi from İstanbul and hıs Feddy Mercury look-alike business partner. There were a handful of well groomed buff guys in tight jeans at a table outside. That scene wasn't too hard to figure out.

Then there was İslet. I met him outside Hadrian's Gate, and we agreed to go have a couple drinks. Perfectly normal, of course ... but I'd heard stories ... the single guy who is befriended by strangers, taken to a bar, then charged hundreds of dollars for the drinks and marched at knifepoint to an ATM ... or the guy who meets a nice Russian girl, takes her to his hotel, then wakes up in the morning remembering nothing and missing his watch, wallet, and passport (or kidneys in the wilder versions of the story).

So I go with İslet, and I don't know if I'm being paranoid, cautious, or downrigth foolish. As we wander down endless alleys and byways I decide:, if not downright suicidal. But I've worked with plenty of thugs in my life, and I'm not picking any element of that up from him. We get to the cafe, and it's very public. We order two rakı. I drink mıne slowly, alert to any sign of a GHB buzz (who'd have thought you could apply Circuit skills to real life!).

But ıt's all legit, and later we grab two beers at the market, climb over the city walls, and set down ın an old Roman cave overlooking the resorts below. He tells me about gay life ın Turkey, and it's not good. The main option is to pay for a Madam. Men do meet in the parks, but it's risky. If a Muslım man ıs caught the police extort from them. The standard price for freedom is 150 lira - about 100 USD. And tourists? I ask. They don't arrests tourists, he tells me. They just beat them up.

More than ever, I hope that Turkey gets into the EU. The backpackers claim that European citizenship will ruin them - as if Turkey were a zoo for their enjoyment. From my perspective, it will guarantee civil rights for the minorities here - the Aremnians, Kurds, Azeri, Catholics, gays and lesbians need this.

İslet wants to meet again tonight. I'm not sure. My Turkish is only good enough now to hold a three or four minute conversation - after that it gets difficult. And I think he wants an American boyfriend who can whisk him away from here - and that ain't me.

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