|Aziz Gökdemir's Archive | THTB Index | January 2000|
Mark Twain's coldest winter was the summer he spent in San Francisco.
(Aziz Gökdemir, August 1994.)
Yes, But Try Finding an Apartment
It's not because the people are "cool," and it's not the knick-knacks one can buy at Ghirardelli Square. I like San Francisco because in most other American cities the weather sucks too often (it's too hot, too humid, or too cold) and there are no hills to break the inevitable monotony of the grid-based, mall-lined, SUV-clogged, high-density-phobic "Europe can kiss my Yankee ass" zoning culture.
I like the city's sunny days with crisp, sweater-worthy (sorry Elaine) wind, it's ocean views, and how it reminds me of my hometown.
I'm not alone in making the connection -- John C. Fremont was reportedly inspired by a resemblance to Istanbul's Golden Horn and the whole crossroads concept he'd gleaned from studying Byzantium in naming San Francisco's strait the Golden Gate, and a number of people have since commented on the similarities between the two cities: seven major hills in the city core, two suspension span bridges, historic buildings, stunning views, and so on.
Unfortunately the older cousin took a wrong turn a while back. San Francisco managed to set aside a big chunk of land overlooking the Bay as parkland; Istanbul foolishly filled the Bosphorus with ugly buildings, gobbling up park after park and irresponsibly and cavalierly destroying a piece of the world's common heritage.
San Francisco learned from its big earthquake; Istanbul pushed on with shoddy construction after several, and is now waiting for the mother of all big ones, which may make the temblors of 1999 seem like harmless jitters and bury the Constantinople of fairy tale and legend for good.
There's nothing more I can write on this sad state of affairs that hasn't been already written. Words: in Turkey they're all single hands clapping furiously. Essayist Murat Belge once wrote (I'm paraphrasing because I'm too lazy to flip through his book right now), "People come here and marvel at how much more we can freely say and publish than they thought we were able to. It doesn't fit in with the picture they've formed. They then swing to the other extreme and assume there is total freedom of expression here, which is also wrong. Here's the heart of the matter, though: The problem is not so much anymore that we can't write and publish things -- it's that we do but nothing ever changes."
Exit left to bang head repeatedly on tenement wall.
January 5, 2000