Aziz Gökdemir's Archive | THTB Index | Rest of August, 2000
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August 8, 2000
New York: No deal on the screenplay

angry catspaceGrrrrrr. A film student from New York called me a couple weeks ago. I'd heard earlier from his Turkish relatives that he'd read my book and wanted to turn one of the stories in it into his graduation film.

Don't get too excited, I said to myself, but I was already wondering, Which one? and imagining scenes. Such is vanity's power.

I thought: Perhaps the elegiac funeral that I'd based on my cousin's murder. But surely that would be hard to do: how do you set up a shot involving thousands of chanting demonstrators on a student budget? Probably can't.

Or the one with the Greek mother and son driving across Thrace, I thought. The sunflowers scene, that would be very cool, the two of them disappearing into the field of elephant-ear leaves. A handful of cast members, lots of dialogue, no squibs or explosions. And thanks to the limit imposed on me by Voice of Germany it was exactly thirty minutes long, which is what the film school wanted.

The story I secretly pined for, of course, was the longest, bloodiest, baddest of them all, with a lot of knives slashing the air, and invectives being hurled at deserving and non-deserving characters indiscriminately. This is what Hong Kong movies do to your head.

Crystal Method was already playing in my head, Chow-Yun Fat was cutting across the screen ready to deliver some really bad news with his two über-phallic guns, emptying the clips, tossing them, turning this way and that while reaching for the backup guns, and now he was doing a full 180, his red tie swooshing and draping itself gently over his extended arm even as he squeezed off one tWO THREE FOUR...

The Replacement Killers

Chow Yun-Fat and Mira Sorvino in The Replacement Killers.

Arrgh. It wasn't to be. Turns out the kid can't figure out how to cull one story out of the book's fabric (they're interconnected episodes, but it's not that hard to turn them into individual plots), so he asked if I had anything else.

I thought right away of a story I wrote a couple years ago, something in the vein of Julio Cortazar: A "disappeared" prisoner and his torturers appear in each other's dreams; they move from dream to dream, and back to the flesh when they woke up at different points along the plot. I didn't have an ending for it, but right when I remembered the story an ending came to me--hit me--and I hit the wall in glee.

Setting work aside I cranked out a three-page, detailed synopsis and faxed it to him. But it now turns out that's not going to work either. He says now he wants something "younger" and do I have anything like that?

I don't. Well, I do, I have lots of things, but nothing complete. I can't be pulling stories out of a hat when commissioned out of the blue, coming up with endings just like that. Besides, I'd hurt my hand if I did that all the time. I told him to hit the bookstores or come up with a story of his own. And if all else failed, to ape the film "Go."

So. Celluloid fame will have to wait. Damn. All right.

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August 13, 2000
Over My Dead Body: Dodging Zealots in the Countryside

We went for a long drive today, to check out the new domain that is going to be M's new territory in her capacity as urban planner. She's finally ditching EMIC, the evil military-industrial corporation that employs her and possibly every tenth person you see around in this "capital of the free world."

Island in the mist

This is where I really wanted to be. (An island off Istanbul. Photo by my parents.)

Like most of Virginia, the place has plenty of properties going back to plantation days and the current inhabitants, as upstanding citizens today (be they descendants of slave owners or not), will not give up their God-given right to spread out on multi-thousand-acre lots all the way to China. They're determined to fight any sustainable growth policy with the tactfulness of a cornered, rabid pit bull. Let the whole East Coast choke in sprawl, we don't give a fuck.

I wouldn't have come up with this kind of language had I not picked up the local newspaper during our day trip. It's a little rag (the county is within the Washington Post's distribution area, so any real competition is doomed to be snuffed out by the determined, bulky mediocrity of the Post), and it contains phrases such as: "We note that [Ms. So-and-so], the [name of town] Town Council's resident witch, is up to her old hag tricks again, waging her own particular brand of hysterical environmentalist war..."

OK, so that's the editorial; the "news" section isn't much better. Some of the headlines:

[Ms. So-and-so] Mounts Her Broom for Assault on New Power Plant... New Attack on Smart Growth Angers Bubba the Hut... Bodyguard of Lies: [They] Spin Web of Deceit on [Land Purchase]... And so on.

It's right up there with some of the worst Turkish newspapers (but minus the page 3 nudity -- not to mention the page 1 nudity, and the sports page nudity, and... well, you get the picture).

M knew she was in for a little bit of a fight and controversy, but I don't think she'd gauged the level of vitriol; she was gloomy through most of our lunch (we chose a certifiably quaint restaurant with its Southern charm tempered somewhat by a streamlined caravanserai attitude.)

She brightened considerably when a couple with two cute kids showed up with bike helmets and took the adjoining table.

Of course, with just a couple words out of the parents I'd pegged them as Turkish. (Turkish is a bit like Italian in that all but a few letters correspond to exactly one sound, leaving a native Turkish speaker with a dearth of appropriate sounds -- phonemes, I guess they're called -- when attempting to speak in English.) The kids were mono-lingual, so the parents had to speak to them in their accented English. Then they (the parents) would end up talking to each other in English or use some sort of improvised pidgin.

It made me a little sad even as I found it amusing. This is common with Turkish (and other immigrant) families with small children in the US. They spend little or no effort to pass on any of the "old country" culture.

Well, a lot of times the parents are shallow individuals with no culture other than a nasty nationalistic streak, so they raise kids that way -- with a strong dose of empty ethnic pride that somehow manages to combine knee-jerk anti-Americanism ("They have no culture, their history is only 200 years, but don't ask me why or how they've produced more writers, composers, artists, and scientists than we'll ever have") with a worship-like adoration of American icons (McDonald's, stupid Hollywood movies, whatever's on the cover of People, etc.)

Of course, I have no idea whether this was such a family because I didn't stick around to find out. It's not that I never say hello in these situations; I may have been put off by some vibe or my survival instinct.

As we were driving toward the greener pastures of a neighboring, poorer state, M dug up an old favorite in the glove compartment and fed it to the tape deck. I've listened to a lot of attempts to fuse traditional Turkish forms with jazz over the years, and I think "Ölü Deniz" (The Dead Sea; the title comes from a Nazim Hikmet poem about Hiroshima) by Ezginin Günlüğü (Melody's Diary, what a strange name) is particularly successful.

It started raining, appropriately, and I marveled once again at the song they fashioned out of that short Lorca poem about the dead man lying on the street after having been shot. That high-adrenaline opening, the disturbing cackle buried deep in the mix, the haunting melody... the thing gets me every time. I'll be forever grateful for this music.

And I thought of those two kids again -- how in all likelihood they would never get to hear this tape. The way they were growing up in Disney's wonderful world, they would perhaps happen across a CD with a belly dancer and bad typography on the cover at some point and think that was Turkish music.

But back to the place, that genteel, charming county capital, that wonderful home to a tiny jail and mightily tacky antiques. I might be willing to cut the town and the county some slack had they actually demonstrated some caring for the land they live on. The highway cutting through the county has some of the ugliest strip malls I've ever seen; maximum destruction obviously has been welcomed by these folks, willingly and possibly gleefully.

Then there's the elementary school, built right next to the highway. It's surrounded by all kinds of gates and security measures so the kids don't run out and get hit by cars. Meanwhile, somewhere near the town center some beautiful old school building is probably sitting boarded up, getting eaten by weeds (you see that a lot in American cities, big and small; somehow the new, uglier-than-sin flattop buildings are "better").

The whole thing reminded me of the West Bank's Jewish settlements and how most conservative Israeli governments' idea of a solution to the problem there so far has been more barbed wire and suspended highways to link them. The residents of this county, zooming around in their SUVs, exhibit a similar detachment from the land they claim to love.

And I bet some of them have Uzis at home, too, even though there's no impending guerilla ambush they need to worry about -- just a city planner with a smile on her face and big ideas in her head. Who's going to be in the position of an "outsider telling the good, honest, tax-paying citizens of this proud county of the Old South" what to do.

I'm a little worried about M.

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August 15, 2000

Nevada, a desert storm's aftermath

Nevada, a desert storm's aftermath.

Writing, age, maturity, and companionship. Lately I've been thinking of how those things come together, and how they don't.

Age doesn't necessarily translate into maturity, but it's been demonstrated, hasn't it, that it usually helps. And though we're in the era of the young, hip genius with a silver tongue, a killer vocabulary and a fat pile of freelance contracts from trendy magazines, there's still a lot of timeless stuff coming mainly from men and women who are getting old -- even frail, in some cases.

What does companionship have to do with this? Well, the disconnect between writers and the people who are close to them is a problem often remarked on -- and I believe this may have to do with how slowly maturity comes to a person's way of thinking and expressing oneself. Ideally, you will meet your close friends and companion(s) once you've settled into who you are and made your mark in the world, so to speak. But of course by then you're 40 or 50, and nobody waits that long, naturally... and they end up with people they're seemingly "close" to but not really.

Cue the misunderstandings, the dreaded "I need some space," the resentment, fights, and so on and so forth.

If at 18 people suddenly found themselves marveling at the beauty of a Georgia O'Keefe painting instead of a "Wazzuuuuup" commercial we might do away with a lot of the funk out there. Marvin and Mariam fell in love over a keg of Budweiser when they were 20; now one has moved on to more refined modes of expression while the other's still big on chugging the Bud and belching out words in reverse. They have two kids. Discuss.

There are a few individuals who bloom early and can thus increase their odds of hooking up with the "right" people without having to mount a determined search. One such person was Alexander Pope, whose poems written while he was barely a teenager are still read today. (Not by me, but they're read.) For English Lit class even. Sadly, Pope was badly deformed physically, so he no doubt missed out on a lot of social interaction. Such is the cruel way of God, if indeed there is one.

Wilfred Owen's tragedy, of course, was/is much bigger. Having penned some of the best war poetry ever, he died a week before the Armistice in 1918; he was 25 years old. Then there's John Keats, dead at 26.

All these somewhat disjointed musings swarmed around my gray matter because August 12th was the tenth anniversary of my emigrating to this country. Coming to America, now, it's not so easy as Eddie Murphy will have you believe.

Back then, of course, I didn't know that I was "emigrating." (Some years later, somebody was trying to determine who in my family had come here first to settle. "None of your folks are here? Who's the immigrant?" "Nobody," I said, before realizing that I was the immigrant.)

The way it started, I was simply running away from a life that had stalled, but even more important, I was running to save that life, such as it was, from possibly ending in a war that had gripped Turkey with no sign of letting up.

A lot of people did what I did, and our lives took unexpected turns after that. Others who lacked the means (and some who went willingly, of course) donned uniforms and dove into the war.

Had I joined them I may have died, or worse, I may have killed to avoid getting killed myself. I didn't want either to happen to me, and at the time (naively absolving myself of all responsibility) I thought I had the right not to go since I wasn't the one whose policies had paved the way for this numbing violence.

I believed that responding to violence with violence would ultimately push us away from dealing with what brought the conflict on in the first place.

Of course, this is the kind of epiphany that comes after years and years of fighting, and in this interim period it's up to people with guns to play their parts assigned by history.

I just wasn't going to play. Back then, the "futility of war" viewpoint was much less popular than it is today and I wasn't "man" enough to either fight or go to jail for a long time for refusing to fight.

I was also reluctant to risk my life for one other reason. The way our understanding of human rights has evolved over time means that, simply put, if you've picked up a gun, you have no human rights other than those specified by the Geneva Convention.

Russian soldier, drowned in subspaceAnd so, for example, to a young man or woman breathing fire from a lectern (who most likely has never had to make a choice between risking one's life and cutting oneself off from one's roots), trying to draw the attention of geographically and polically illiterate students to some atrocity going on in the world, a 17-year-old Russian conscript whose right of conscientious objection has been denied is no different from the Russian general whose orders result in the deaths of thousands (unless perhaps if the conscript's suffocating to death in an incapacitated submarine). And of course, if at all possible, there's no mention of anything unsavory the party on the other side of the war does. No, that would somehow be wrong and not in keeping with solidarity. Subtlety and fairness are first casualties of such seat-of-the-pants advocacy, and I didn't want to be part of the monolith of simplistically lumped evil.

So I left, and pretty much ever since, I wonder about how differently my life would have turned out if I hadn't, assuming I made it to this age. If life hadn't forced my hand, who would I have met and befriended? Would I have turned out to be better reader and writer if I hadn't drifted into engineering as my "safety net"?

I have serious concerns that the choices I made in my twenties were really those of a stunted teen's mind under pressure.

After all, I thought Bud was a good beer when I first tried it at 24.

If I could turn back time, I would like to be from Iceland, I think, because it's never had war in its history, and it has all that cool ancient literature, though of course there is the inconvenient connection to those gentle Vikings.

I can picture myself as the kid I never was. In the picture I'm sowing the seeds of my later life into my brain with slow, sure steps. My early school education has a strong democracy and civil rights background. I am encouraged to speak my mind not only at home but everywhere. I can see the ocean every day.

And there are so many blue storms that I go broke on my allowance trying to photograph them all.

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August 17, 2000
The House That Jack Built

The house that Jack built... is no more 'cause Jack used shoddy materials. I don't know how a nursery rhyme works for a somber anniversary, but that's what I was thinking of today.

memorial candlespaceThis is the candle
That was lit in memory of people
Who died in the earthquake

memorial wallspace Which shook the ground and toppled buildings
That had not been built to code
Which was in the books
Which were written by engineers
Who saw the codes being ignored by builders
Who wanted to make a fast buck
Which for all its worth was unable to save them
When the ground shook at 3:02 a.m. on August 17, 1999.

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August 19, 2000
I Want My Trenchcoat

Finally managed to see Mission: Impossible 2 the other night. (We were badly in need of some brainless entertainment.) I was expecting Hong Kong chic -- you know, impossible pirouettes in the air, gunbattles while pigeons scattered in slo-mo... There was some of that, but it was second banana to quite a few scenes of Mel Gibsonesque violence: neck-twisting, brutal fistfights, etc. I thought the whole thing looked as ridiculous as Tom Cruise's sewer rat mane. I went to see John Woo redo The Matrix, only better, instead it turned out to be Lethal Woopon 5.

The MatrixspaceI don't usually care how good or bad mindless movies are, but I have this thing for the "hip gunslinger/hero in a natty suit" image. Long, long before The Matrix came out, I'd read how fuzzy-cheeked rock PR man Andrew Loog Oldham, even before he signed the Rolling Stones, envisioned himself as some sort of Maurice Chevalier type striding into rooms, mansions, clubs -- doors opening before him like he was the king of London. The picture stuck with me and I admit I haven't been able to outgrow it. It could be something as simple as a techno song coming on the radio while driving on a dark road, or running to the car just as it starts to pour -- and suddenly I have trenchcoats and choppers and explosions running through my head.

Understand, please, that I'm opposed to actual violence. These visions, though, and characters with such things floating in their heads populate my stories and people seem to like that.

That's why I feel John Woo has let me down. Also, the quite dashing Dougray Scott should have played the romantic lead and Ratface should have tried his hand at being the villain. And while I'm at it, I want Chow-Yun Fat to team up with John Woo again. They both can use a decent, non-schlocky hit right now.

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August 22, 2000
Looking for Booze in America

Up in the studio, by Andrew Wyeth
The unbelievably cool weather Saturday night enticed M and me to take a long walk. We've been having the coldest summer in Virginia in something like the last 80 years, and it's been good, having the opportunity to step outside -- without being assaulted by suffocating humidity -- and release one's toxicity built up owing to a week's worth of Dilbertesque crap.

We headed north, away from our up-and-coming neighborhood, and passed through several zones in various stages of the famed "American dream." There was "come and gone," of course, then "the highway cut through my belly and destroyed me," "you look like you make less than $200 thou a year, so this Neighborhood Watch sign is for you," and finally, "Ellis Island revisited," where hopes are still fresh and the storefronts are without fuss or style or much ado about anything.

Tony Soprano with ducklingspaceWe were hoping to score some interesting cheese as a side benefit of the walk and this we did, shortly before the wine store closed for the night. The aroma in the shop reminded us that we were hungry and that our fridge was empty as usual. We decided to discover an Italian (run by as-yet un-Americanized, actual Italians) restaurant that was sitting at a busy intersection in a quiet, unassuming way. An hour and a carafe of Chianti later, mm, the portions, the heaping of seafood on pasta -- no wonder Tony Soprano has girth issues.

Before we hit the restaurant, though, we took a necessary detour to visit the "ABC store," a government-mandated Virginia institution with uniformly seedy storefronts whose job it is to control alcohol consumption in the good ol' state, in near-Saudi style. And that's what I really feel like talking about.

In Virginia you can buy beer and wine at your local grocery superstore, provided you show the cashier either a valid ID or a reasonably good-looking counterfeit stand-in. For anything stronger, you must either go to a bar, a restaurant, or (you want to purchase a bottle, yes?) an ABC store.

The name stands for "alcoholic beverage control," and that pretty much says it all.

The stores are usually found in the worst strip malls, are easily spotted by a complete lack of finesse, style or... really anything other than assembly-line-style shelving stacked with bottles of "hard liquor." You won't see any eye-popping posters of Chivas Regal or Absolut Vodka. And you might be there to buy one of those, and so you might think you're hot shit and your Mercedes is even hotter, but you still have to be handed your purchase in a shapeless brown paper bag as if you're a malt-chugging addict with bloodshot eyes set clumsily across your face, a week's body odor on your gaunt frame, and society's merciless contempt slapped on your forehead like a scarlet letter. Not that there's anything more wrong with being an addict than a fat-ass blue blood.

But really, how do the blue blood score booze in this state? They must send their domestics. I can't imagine Ted Kennedy standing in line at the ABC sandwiched between Mr. Crack Addict and Ms. Drinking Problem, see... (But perhaps Uncle Ted's a bad example, since his family has quite the bootlegging past, not to mention the senator's own drinking problem, and the drinking with the nephew who wants to pick up that chick at the bar problem, and of course the drinking and going scuba-diving in your car and killing your passenger problem.)

Virginia is my second "home state" in my adopted country, the first one being Iowa. In Iowa you can buy all kinds of alcohol at your local grocery store; you don't have to slink to an armed robber's favorite target establishment to be able to enjoy a gin-and-tonic to go with the kind of great sunset the Little Prince would have appreciated.

It took me a while -- months, in fact -- after I moved here to notice something was amiss at the grocery store. You see, I'm not a big drinker at all, which is why I find this straitjacket policy mightily ridiculous.

Here, see how uninformed I was about America. During the summer of 1988, I stayed at a college dorm in London; the building had a bar (a pub) in the basement and I thought, "Well, I'll be studying at a US university in a couple of years; I hope the dorms there have nice bars like this." People in Europe will not see anything wrong with what I just wrote; people here in the States are laughing their asses off right now.

In America, see, you're in big trouble if you're found in the possession of alcohol (what I mean is "if alcohol is found in your possession" but the cop will interpret it the other way around) outside carefully defined parameters. You have to show an ID to enter a bar (you have to be 21, too; I mean really). Outdoor events that involve alcohol have to have roped-off areas, you can't just stray from marked territory while holding a wine glass, you'll get mowed down by an Uzi-toting Charlton Heston. OK, not really, but you'll likely be approached by either (a) a very nervous event organizer who's scared shitless he or she won't be able to obtain permission for the next event, or (b) an off-duty police officer or sheriff's deputy with a buzz cut moonlighting to put food on his family's table.

An actual bar in a dormitory? The parents would torch the university's president. And I don't mean burn in effigy.

The one good thing that this anti-alcohol hysteria has produced is the indelible stigma attached to drunk driving here, an issue that the rest of the world is seriously in need of catching up on.

But what about the forbidden fruit effect? The "first legal drink" is a big deal in this culture. And it's all too common to have someone (usually a young man) go at it with the elegance of a bull in heat and, having liquefied his brain on this "controlled substance," end up with a bar stool wrapped around his neck or his car wrapped around a tree.

I bought my first bottle of beer when I was five years old, in Izmir, Turkey. My parents would give me money and send me to the little store on the ground floor of our apartment building; it was just like buying milk or bread. When I was seven or so, I was allowed to sip from my mother's wine glass when they were having some -- when they could afford it, that is (doctors on government salaries made little money, which is still largely the case).

I'm not saying alcoholism and offshoots such as domestic abuse and drunk driving are not problems in Turkey. (Of course, what is not a problem in Turkey? "They asked the camel, 'Why's your back crooked?'" a popular Middle Eastern proverb goes, "and the camel said, 'Show me a part of my body that's not crooked.'")

I'm just saying that when a country's supposedly best and brightest equate alcohol with "cheap beer" as opposed to somewhat more refined varieties of poison; that when drinking gallons of the vile stuff from a keg and subsequently getting blitzed and barfing and crapping and forgetting to flush the toilet and passing out is considered "fun"; I'm left in a state of bewilderment that this is the same nation that came up with Phillip Marlowe.

I'm also pissed that in the dominion of King Jim Gilmore ibn-Saud a bottle of my beloved Bailey's costs 42 dollars plus tax.

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August 25, 2000
"The Mexican"

Here's a clip from the Washington Post today:
Fox headline
Fox news leadFox and Clinton pic
He's not much taller; are we happy now? (That's just me talking.)

The "Mexican," eh? Somebody at the copyediting desk decided to use that word instead of saying "Fox" or "Vicente Fox." The poor dears, see, they have to fit the words into the space reserved for the headline. The full name wouldn't fit, and "Fox" comes up short apparently (and we can't have that, can we, we must avoid white space so more of the Post's breathtaking prose can rush in.)

It's a good thing Fox is not from Trinidad & Tobago.

It's getting on my nerves lately, this irreverent style, calling (Gore's running mate for the U.S. vice presidency) Lieberman "Jew," for example. Since when is something jarring or impolite in conversation OK for a headline?

Sure it's kind of a minor point, but it goes back to my irritation over newspapers' use of peoples synonymously with the individuals who govern them.

"The Chinese should let Harry Wu speak his mind..." Which Chinese are we talking about, the ones in power, or the ones in jail?

When we say "Serbs," do we mean snipers killing children in Sarajevo or peace activists? Judy Mann of the Post, for example, wrote on July 28 this year: "Fighting or attack dogs are favorites of Turks, skinheads, young toughs, drug dealers and pimps in Germany" -- and a few paragraphs earlier: " incident in Hamburg on June 26 in which a 6 year-old Turkish child was killed by two dogs." I wonder if the dogs were a favorite of the child too; according to Mann, she would have to be a pit bull fan, by definition. How about: "Fighting or attack dogs are favorites of African Americans, skinheads, young toughs, drug dealers and pimps in Washington, D.C."? We won't see this in the Post, and with good reason.

The insult is doubled when the issue is political; lumping oppressors together with the oppressed because they share the same label is simplistic, wrong, clumsy, and racist -- even though it's mostly inadvertent and it flows easily from your brain through your fingertips and onto your copy.

Two nations get a break, usually. The Americans: we say "U.S." when we mean the government, so you don't often see "Americans jail and execute blacks disproportionately," for example. And Germans, of course: hanging the Holocaust on an entire people would be a disservice to German contributions to the world's cultural heritage, so we carefully use the term "Nazis."

Everybody else seems to be fair game.


Rene FavalorospaceIn other news from the front page, the man who invented bypass surgery in 1967, Rene Favaloro of Argentina, killed himself yesterday. After becoming justifiably famous at the Cleveland Clinic here in the US, Favaloro had returned to Argentina to start a clinic where the poor could receive proper care. Favaloro was reportedly depressed that his heart foundation had failed to survive in the dog-eat-dog world of globalized, "managed" health care -- and that only the wealthy had access to what he called "the right to live."

A moment of silence please.

And no, I'm not going to say anything about the stupid TV show called "Survivor." OK, I'll say this. Under pressure, I watched the finale, at some point during which M turned to me and said, "I hope people around the world don't think this is what Americans are all about -- greedy, conniving, assholey behavior all around." "I suspect that's exactly what they're thinking," I said.

(After all, don't "their" copyeditors cast the same narrow look upon others?)

(And of course now I have to wonder, how many times a day do I it myself?)

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August 29, 2000
Fletcher's Boathouse: Enter the Urinator--Exit Future Customers

My little numbers have traveled across the Atlantic and found a home in the starkly cool Reality Asylum. A must-see if you've never been there. Mucho thanks back, Rien.


M and I and another friend went paddling in a canoe on the Potomac Saturday. It was a calm, beautiful day -- the water's glassy surface bracing before the rain, elegant birds flying and wading about. No clue or warning as to the imminent emergence of the Urinator, in short.
Bird wading in the Potomac
Fletcher's Boathouse is well known among canoeists in the Washington DC area even though it's not an odd landmark the way Jack is (further downstream, in Georgetown). People like Fletcher's because once there you can really lose sight of the city, which is just minutes away by car or bike, and paddle for a while without seeing any buildings.

(Jack's Boats and Thompson's Boat Center will only let you travel up and down the short portion of the river around the monuments even though the river is canoeable in either direction for a good hour or two depending on your Muscle Beach quotient.)

I also have a soft spot for the place (had, until Saturday) because it evokes that Roger Waters song (from Pink Floyd's Final Cut) about the "Fletcher Memorial Home... for incurable tyrants and kings..." You all know this, right? Or was it before your time? Maybe you think Dave Gilmour (mour money mour mour) is Pink.

Anyway, we rented the canoe rather late in the afternoon, endured the infamous crusty, gravel-voiced "Dock Lady"s launching instructions, and took off downstream.

We didn't quite make it to Key Bridge (because of the sudden burst of rain, which forced us to seek shelter under the canopy of trees on the Maryland side for several minutes) and thus were unable to fulfill our fantasy of ordering food via megaphone from the pub-like restaurant that sits a ways back from the water's edge in Georgetown.

The fun started on the way back, when we encountered a small-engine-propelled two-person boat, with one guy handling the rudder and the other looking... dead. He was slumped at such an impossible angle that he could've performed vasectomy on himself using his teeth if he wanted to (and after seeing his subsequent performance I think he should for the sake of the gene pool).

We hauled ass toward Fletcher's, managing to keep the put-putting boat in sight all the way; they didn't seem to be in any particular hurry. The "dead" guy didn't move at all during the trip. Nor did he show any signs of life as the boat was going through the motions of being docked and secured. At this point he was so folded up that he looked like a lawn chair on the verge of collapse.

As we approached the dock he suddenly came to, promptly climbed off the boat and after a feeble attempt to stand up, crashed head-on against the shed that houses the paddles and the life-jackets. The "dock lady" and the sober friend didn't seem to mind, and they didn't flinch either when the man simply moved around the corner of the shed and urinated leisurely and in full view of people on the water, around the boat-rental area, and at picnic tables scattered by the canal.

When we pulled up the three of them were deep in conversation about whatever it is that people with beer guts and uninhibited urination habits talk about. Had this been the Gus writing he might have theorized that the trio was from deep Redneckistan, but that would be stereotyping so we won't go there.

Where we did go was a surprisingly successful (surprising, I say, because they make you work for your food) new restaurant that enables you to put together your own stir-fry combination and have the chefs prepare it on a huge hot-plate. As I added mussels to my second helping I watched the wildly gesticulating chefs skillfully handle a growing pile of orders and I tried to shoo away the thought that at some point in the past some other boathouse hanger-on must have added his juice to the flow of dirt my future dish had then filtered off the sea.

Foolishly having drunk Coke during dinner I ended up with one of those nights of insomnia, stressing out over the logistics of our upcoming trip to Amsterdam and Greece. I got up and went into the study, tried to finish the really old John LeCarre book (an early Smiley gem called "Call for the Dead," much better than his substandard overblown crap exemplified by "The Little Drummer Girl"), couldn't concentrate, so I ended up pretty much staring at the photographs on my walls, the spines of books, and the piles of stuff that's my life lying about the room.

I tried to resolve a few things in my head, utterly failed, finally went to bed around 4 am. Another sleepless night before a big-ass bike ride (my longest-ever, it turns out -- 46 miles/ 73 km); this is becoming a bad habit.

I woke up to the buzz of the alarm clock at 8:30, looked out the window, saw that it wasn't raining and sighed. The ride was on.

I lazed around in bed enough to rule out eating breakfast (tired, sleepless, and hungry; that's the pattern, in greater detail, preceding my big bike rides). After a madly hurried shower, M and I piled the bikes on top of the car and headed for Manigault and Miranda's place, the starting point for the ride.

Some people hadn't showed up yet, so there was time to munch on something, but I had that "booked" feeling so I didn't go for any of the beckoning snacks.

Luckily our five-nation mini-UN group chose to stop at the legendary "knish" deli in Silver Spring for a hearty breakfast. We then rode all the way up to Lake Needwood, and after getting drenched on the way back, threw an impromptu barbecue marked by ungodly quantities of wine being consumed.

We were clearly in no shape to drive so we crashed in the guest room and hustled out of there at 7 Monday morning.

And so that was the weekend. Need I say there were no groceries in our house, the place was a mess, with four loads of laundry and a sinkful of dishes waiting to be washed?

That's... well, that's pretty much a given in our little corner of the American non-dream. We're either to busy to live; or if we choose to live, then "civilized" life as we know it crumbles.

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August 31, 2000
The Obnoxious Laws of the Poisoning Beautifier

Nevada road, storm clouds

The photo above looks like that stupid "Jerry Bruckheimer Productions" logo, doesn't it? I'm using it for the storm clouds; thus endeth the month in the same angry mood it started out with.

With apologies to Willie "Tax Cheat" Nelson: Mama don't let your boys and girls grow up to be people who set forth and implement stupid "by-laws" governing homeowners associations.

In fact, don't let them end up anywhere near anything so pretentious, pompous and ill-conceived as said homeowners associations.

People don't call them (sure, inappropriately, but nevertheless) "nazi boards" for nothing.

They'll be sorry, mama, so don't...

We sent the following letter to our board president today:


We've noticed lately that some plants around YYYYYYYY in general and in our yard in particular have shriveled up and died. They look like they've been treated with herbicide, probably in the process of "weed control" activity.

As you know, there's no biological difference between a weed and a wildflower or plant; it's a term based on desirability. And that's the criterion by which we would like to manage our yard. In addition, we don't want to be near unnecessary chemical use; you've had a baby for a while so I think you can relate. What we deem to be a weed is pulled out; what we like stays put. The wild plants we choose to keep around are not overgrown monstrosities, they're small and they add variety to a dull garden. Furthermore, this weeding has killed our small azalea bush and the bulbs and ground cover that we planted earlier this spring. If the concern is preserving beauty in the area, the yellowed post-napalm look is a lot uglier than a thin, harmless plant with little green leaves.

So in short, no more herbicide use for our yard please. (Likewise with pesticides and fertilizers). The contracted mowing and pruning is all that's needed. If the [Anal Congregation... backspace backspace backspace] Architectural Committee develops a problem with how the property looks at any time, they should come and talk to us first.

Please pass this on to whoever else does work on the community's yards. Thanks for helping out.

We'll see how it goes. This is how the neighbors had started complaining about baffling, invasive and abusive "board action" targeting their garden. It ended with police cars zooming toward their house to break up a fight. I'd feel so ashamed if, with all the real problems the world has, we managed to turn something as trivial as this into an "issue." The stupid yard in question is only about as big as two cars parked side by side, it's not like we're talking about abusing Tibet. But we can't have weird people heaping us with poison, I'm sorry...

Nevada field, storm clouds

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All text and images © Aziz Gökdemir's Archive unless otherwise indicated or credited.
The Replacement Killers and The Matrix still images are © whichever member(s) of the military-industrial complex it was that produced them. The quake memorial and Russian soldier photos were distributed by the usual wire conglomerates. Detail from "Up at the Studio" by Andrew Wyeth. "The Sopranos" © HBO. August 25 photos from the Washington Post, Fox-Clinton pic by AFP, Rene Favaloro pic by AP.

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