I should have been home half a day ago ... but par for the course it took much longer to get here than I intended. The flight home is always so hellacious that it makes everything before seem like a distant and hazy dream. It was only thirty hours ago that I left İstanbul, and though it seems as if I should be able to wake up tomorrow and walk İstiklal Caddesi again I won't be able to, not for a long time.
The City remains my favorite, and even though we only got to do a fraction of what was on my agenda we kept running for three days solid. Billy and I walked Topkapı Palace, which ... was a bit disappointing. I was more interested in the architecture and design of the palace, but - unlike the Louvre, where every room was a piece of art in and of itself - Topkapı has been subdivided into smaller rooms, the walls plastered over, and the floors covered with hideious institutional carpeting. There was no flow to the design, so you were constanctly jostled by crowds moving in and out of the dead-end rooms. And we missed the main peices of art ... after our sixth or seventh room filled with pottery I was burned out.
Hagia Sophia, however, was magnificent. My camera's busted, so I'll have to use Billy's photos when I get a chance.
Overall, though, it was just the experience of being in İstanbul that wins me over. I love the nightlife, I love the food, the language is fun, and the men are hot. I didn't make it to the big hammam (next time!), but did run through the checklist of my favorite street foods - lentil çorba, a lamb & brain soup (shush, it's good and you wouldn't know it's brains if they didn't tell you), iskender döner, and pide. I picked up some spices in the Egyptian spice market, and so am ready to try some more of them at home (and the price for dinner is: you need to watch my slide show).
It was nice seeing the guys at Eklektik again. It was an older crowd this round, probably because of Easter, so we didn't have the crowds to go bar-hopping with. Too bad - a more interesting looking crowd started to arrive the last Sunday. I did go out with Can to the neest club, a disco built out of an old theater with a massive chandelier hanging over the dance floor and a boxing ring in the center. The DJ was from Amsterdam, so we got hard modern European music. The men were suitable butch for the arena. The night went on long after Can left, and I finally stumbled home around 8:30 am.
I managed to catch the Passion Friday night, and though it was in Turkish it was still pretty easy to follow. The acoustics - the Beyoğlu church is Venetian, I believe - were incredible. I'm still not sure who all the old men on the altar were. Sunday we went to a Mevlevi sema. This was truly beautiful. We were given a printout explaining some of the rituals beforehad to make it easy to follow. The service - it was in the local Monastery, but geared for visitors - started with a short documentary outlining the intiation process for the sect. It's 1001 days, one day for each of the names of Allah, and more rigourous than anything I'm familiar with. Certainly nothing in modern Europe compares - I think you'd have to look to the Buddhists in Asia to find a process that so completely destroys the ego in order to replace it with, for the Mevlevi, divine love.
So it was a bit of a shock to see how young the dervishes were. A couple had thick black-framed glasses, and looked more like scholars than initiates into a mystical tradition. The ritual started with a piece on an Anatolian flute, which represented the voice of god prior to creation. And it was a lonely, haunting sound - you could close your eyes and imagine this solitary voice wandering and searching through a vast and empty wilderness. The next piece brought in drums, representing the act of creation. The third introduced human voices, two dervishes breathing rhythmically into the microphone. The flute, the voice of god, grew stronger and more confident - and you could see the two dervishes waver between consciousness and the beginnings of a trance state.
And for the final pieces they shrugged off their black cloaks (representing death, and that which seperates the soul from god), and spun. They'd start with their arms crossed in front, and then slowly lift them up, one hand open to recieve god's mercy, one hand closed in fear of god's wrath.
And now mysticism is about experiential knowledge rather than intellectual knowledge, and I'm not sure where to go from here. They spun, while other's sang. That's it, that's the sema. And yet it was powerful and beautiful beyond words.
And what else? Billy and I had a nice round of mezzes in Flower Alley, which was being renovated when I was here last. Now it's a pedestrian alley so full of fine restaurants and sidewalk cafes that you can berealy walk. Later I took him to a Turkish music bar and we listened to some more traditional music and drank raki. I could've spent hours there, but was pretty sleep deprived by then & still needed to pack.
And now, home. I haven't showered in 48 hours, yet twice (the cab driver and my neighbor) people have told me I smell nice. Go figure. Grasshopper, my girl kitty, is curled up in my lap. Judas is behind me on the bed, and Mouse is on the couch. The garden looks healthy, and I think the fish are still alive. I work tomorrow, and then head to practice. It'll be brutal, but I need to jump in.
And yet ... not everything is right. My computer is full of viruses, and it looks like someone ... on of the guys watching my place ... must have rebooted it and deleted all my old files. I looked at the internet history ... and ... it's full of sites like twinks for cash, black stud society, papi thugz, gay college sex parties ... it shouldn't be too hard to narrow this one down. My tequila is all gone, there's no more beer in the fridge, I can't find any mail from the last two weeks, someone refurnished my bed with butt-ugly sheet that only an Amish grandmother could love, my bags (and cell phone) are still somewhere in the air, I'm late with the rent and my landlady is pissed, and Yoshi, my big muscled boy kitty, is missing.
Home sweet home. Lucky I love Hawai`i.