Thursday, January 7, 2010

Can't Go Back to Constantinople

And I'm back on the road, baby! Here we go again - ready for the unknown, the unmapped, and the unclear. I got on a Nesher taxi to Ben Gurion airport this morning at 6:45 am after a wonderful, much-needed two-week stay in Israel (many many thanks to my friends and family for hosting and caring for me! Shoutouts go to first, Shira M-H who opened her home, then, of course, to Livia, and finally to Leah, my fabulous cousin).

And now I'm a 3 minute walk from the Blue Mosque in a hostel called "Agora" that has free internet...AND computers, for those of us who have had ours stolen.

I got to the airport and of course ran into someone I knew, had too much time to kill at the mall - I mean gate - and boarded one of the more sumptuous and international flights I have ever been on. Turkish airlines knows how to feed its customers. I think there are something like 20 options for your meal -- which you get, along with free alcohol, even on the 2 1/2 hour flight from Tel Aviv to Istanbul. I ordered the raw vegetarian meal. It is my expereince that Kosher meals are always - and without exception - a) bad, and b) meat-filled. So there we go. And it was nice -- lots of vegtetables, as you might imagine, but tastefully arranged. And with lemon to "dress". Which made all the difference, let me tell you.

When I said that the flight was international, I meant the following: Imagine the following is a diagram of people on the plane -- the white space is the isle:


It was cool to understand the majority of what was going on there.

Anyway, when I got to Istanbul I got money, a SIM card for my cellphone, a friend who gave me a t-shirt, got on a metro car with Moroccans (they were speaking Darija), transfered to a tram, walked past some of the coolest arcitecture I've ever beheld, and made it to my hostel safe and sound.

Istanbul deserves a moment of reflection. Its astonding. Bizarre. And totally eclectic. And it seems to me that the Turkish language is the same way. It sounds almost Russian (its influenced by more Germanic languages in actuality, I think), it is in no way Semtitic but involves the use of all sort of Arabic-sounding words, some of which are direct transpositions from Arabic (the way you say hello, the way you say thank you)

I went to a cozy, homey place overlooking a hipstery street for dinner with this woman I've somehow managed to contact who is doing doctoral research here on Sephardi music. Lets call her Mandy. So I had another raw salad with lemon with Mandy -- and my first taste of Turkish tea. More like the Lipton of Egypt than the Na'ana of Morocco. But served in tiny, shapely glasses with single-wrapped sugar cubes. Afterwards Mandy and I headed over to a sort of posh underground cave-like restaurant where she smoothly talked (in Turkish!) our way in even though there is a set menu. I ordered us banana in honey. Yes, that was on the menu. The banana came in pieces drizzled with honey and walnuts. It had a lively taste. Just like our conversation, the music, and all of the Turks sitting around us singing along with the music. Every time they began to play new song I would start and sit up and listen -- thinking, dumbly, that it was some song the Seattle Sephardim sing, always to realize how its really just the mode of music I associate with SBH back home and not the songs themsevles of which there are thousands. It was beautiful.

On the way home I bought chestnuts. They had been roasting over a (sort of) open fire. Or probably the closest thing you can get to that. And I've never had a chestnut. They're more like figs than like nuts, it seems to me. Who knew? Then Mandy bought me orange-pomegranate juice. So good. And then I got back to the hostel and here I am, at 1am, wriiting to you, dear reader. Just to you. Since everyone as left this rooftop lounge in favor of their beds. I join them now and bid you adieu. Chok Sow for your attention (that's Turkish slang for "thanks"). And again - since there's no music this time I suggest imagining the Sephardi maqam of your choice (that one's for you, Mo!).


  1. Chestnuts are not at all like figs. I guess this will fall under the 'probably factually inaccurate' category your email warned of.

  2. God Hates Chestnuts just doesn't have the same ring to it, y'know?

  3. Thank you Shev... Helene was checking your blog tonight and clued me in to your maqam comment. Let's go with Ne'havent... its the maqam that goes with the pizmon "La'ner ve'livsamim" perfect for motzei shabbat. All our love... Helene and Mo.

  4. I totally agree, chestnuts are more like figs than anything... something about the surprising amount of substance to them and bright flavor... anyways, I get what you mean and I like it.