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Istanbul-Boats
Istanbul's passenger ferries waiting for the fog to lift.
(Aziz Gökdemir, February 1990.)


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Taking the Boy Out of the Country, Taking the Country Out of the Turk

This is one of those photographs I use to remind myself that no matter how much home sweet home throws me into dismay, I have to keep going back. Turkish comedian Metin Akpinar once said, "The country is beautiful -- it's just that the people suck!"
spaceWhich is of course the sort of thing that only we could say without worrying about being accused of having uttered one of those sweeping comments that lump oppressors and the oppressed among a people under a monolithic label.
spaceWhen I talk of dismay, I'm not necessarily referring to the REALLY BAD things that litter history or hit the front pages of Turkish media day after day. [And overlooking those is no small feat: It was in November, for example, three years ago that a traffic accident caught a pro-government (and Turkish MP) Kurdish warlord, a Turkish police chief, and a convicted ultra-nationalist Turkish killer with a VIP passport in the same car -- and ever since, it's been one death squad scandal after another.] More the mundane annoyances: traffic, people parking in the left lane of a busy street and other such silliness you can read about in a hilarious U.S. State Department Advisory.
spaceThen, OK, the not-so-mundane -- I think about how any minute your building could collapse even in a minor earthquake (I was in one a couple weeks ago), or how some jerk could dig a hole as part of a construction project without putting up a proper barricade and it could rain and your kid could fall in and drown because there are no standards (perhaps because the Head of the Turkish Standards Institute is instead focusing on writing his racist books?), and on and on. I guess it's all connected.
spaceI go back every November because that's when they have the Book Fair and I get to see and meet nice people -- people who read books, anyway. OK, so you got your share of dicks reading books (which sounds like a late-night HBO special), but maybe their kids will turn out better.
spaceThe picture appeals to me, I think, because I like those boats with their fat bottoms and everything they call up -- the hours of commuting, the guy with the tea, the parade of salespeople, the odd juxtapositions like film school students with black jackets and the old peasant women sitting next to them, the boat's resident cat, the craggy captain and his row of plants, and the blare of foghorns. I like the little boats in front on the right too; those are the ones fishermen go out in before dawn, and come back full later and they sell you grilled fish in a half loaf of bread right there on the quay.
spaceThere's nobody in the frame, but that's a coincidence, I swear. It has nothing to do with what Akpinar said.

November 30, 1999
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