Aziz Gökdemir's Archive | THTB Index | November 2000
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November 2000: 10 - 15 - 17 - 22 - 28 - 29

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November 10, 2000
As They Grow


The Boondocks by Aaron McGruder

Aaron McGruder's Boondocks at its autumnal best. You can either read it or keep at your punkitude.

I could put up two more entries for the Waldo series, I thought, with photos from Istanbul and New York. But I have so many pictures that I'm not sure I can battle my laziness at this point. Hence the cop-out above (but I do so love that comic strip), when I have loads of negatives to scan.

If all goes well, I can scan the few I've set my heart on as picks from the fresh batch tomorrow and have something up by Sunday. We're supposed to build a fire and make two huge bowls of chili after biking 36 miles with friends in the cold, but that's not until noon.

Speaking of fall colors, a cousin sent me a picture of a maple my father planted just a few years ago. It's all red now, and it's doing amazingly well. Perhaps I'll use the leaves for the banner next month, when it's all bare and gray here in Virginia.

Most people don't realize that a tree can grow to a decent size in your own lifetime even if you plant it when you're middle-aged. I think we'd have a lot more trees if people knew. We're just not interested when the instant gratification factor is not there anymore. We'd rather go build a business or something...

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November 15, 2000
The Dead Squirrel, and Other Thoughts


Squirrel


That's it, no more promises. I might say I'll post tomorrow and I could have a lousy or hectic or busy or fun day, a freezing bike ride, a fireside chat (RIP, Robert Trout, who coined the term and died the other day), and before I know it another week begins. One in which I actually have to iron shirts and go to work this time, instead of ambling over to the adjacent room.

All of that happened and so, instead of new photos from Istanbul and New York, I once again have to go digging in the archive.

All of that happened and a squirrel died too. Not the one in the picture above, that one's from 1996, but come to think of it, that one's probably dead too. Squirrels can theoretically live into their late teens, but few last more than a year in an environment dominated by predators, the most dangerous of which is the automobile. It's probably what got the black squirrel on our street a couple days ago.

A short walk from our house is what we jokingly refer to as the "Turkish compound," a rather large, eclectic brick house with big trees and plenty of metal dotting its spacious front yard. It's an anomaly, tucked among newer townhomes. If it (the inhabitants) wanted to, it could pull away from its yuppified cousins by virtue of its grace, set-back serenity, flower beds nestled underneath its old growth trees, whatever. Instead, a broken window is replaced by a yellowed page from an old calendar, the wooden English fence turns into twisted pipes and sticks when you turn a corner, and old couches and busted washing machines jostle for room next to the stacked firewood around the garage.

Folks have enough money to buy the ugliest trucks and SUVs and put vanity plates on them saying Turk this or that, but the dough can't buy the taste to see and clean up the dreadful mess they live in. I won't go into the obnoxiously loud conversations that go on in the place.

It is said Jews can make fun of Jews, so I can write this about Turks even though this kind of spectacle is evident throughout this vast country, which the last time I checked did not have a significant Turkish minority or legacy. I believe we call it white trash (a term whose ubiquity is surprising given its racist origin) or, if non-white, Bama.

This goes to show you can't stereotype successfully be it positive or negative. The traditional Turkish house is somewhat closed to the outside, one doesn't see clutter, let alone trash. Behind a wall sits a string of alcoves, each more subdued than the other, and men sit and chat about coffee grounds while the women discuss penis sizes in the kitchen. Or at least that's what they say it was like a hundred years ago. Now you're liable to find them wearing jeans and chilling in a manner that cannot be found in any orientalist film, even if it was directed by and featured an all-star cast led by Peter Ustinov.

So the squirrel (you knew I would get around to it) is now lying in that front yard, face down on the grass, and I wonder how long it will take the family to notice it. It's been three days now. It's not squished or anything, it was probably in mid-flight when a non-wheel part of a passing car hit it, sending it zooming over the sidewalk and the jagged fence fashioned out of twisted iron pipes and aluminum sticks. Dead before it hit the grass, probably. Just lying there for days.

I want to walk up one day when they're outside, and say, "Paisanos! There's a decomposing animal on your property. You folks got an eye or nose among the posse of you?" But I never will, of course. Let's see how long this lasts.

Before the squirrel, I think, was the bike ride. I need to get better winter gear. I never needed it before, as I would normally just bunk the bike after October, but I'm turning into a different type of person now, I suppose. Everything is changing. There's happy days at home, sandwiched between gloom and sadness, naturally, and then friends... I'm not a person to make friends quickly, a condition that is easily exacerbated by the culture of the East Coast in this country, and that seems to be changing. Work fumblings diminishing and all that, so I don't quite know what to make of this turn of the tide, other than that it sounds like a Roger Waters song.

So in any event, a bunch of us rode our bikes along the Potomac Sunday, toward Mount Vernon. The cold enabled a pleasant ride, actually (normally that scenic trail is packed), but at some point it got too cold. We passed this point in the picture below right around the time the light was failing, just like it'd happened four years ago.

The Potomac at dusk, north of Mount Vernon, Virginia

We all of us then shifted the scene to our house and sat around the fire drinking rum cider and eating chicken and chili. Rare, cheap, and delicious Santorini wine was had and admired by all. The only thing that went wrong the entire night was that half of the couple we're trying to set up did not show owing to circumstances beyond his control.

That and also tomorrow happened to be Monday.

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I had to take a thesaurus to work this week and when I grabbed it Monday morning I saw that it still had the strange bookmark in it that had prompted me to pay 25 cents for the thing in the first place. It hangs from the top of the page, just like here. After finding it I decided to keep it with the rest of my bookmarks and actually use it. Now it sits inside Ali and Nino, a surprisingly blatant orientalist novel set in pre-WWI Baku.
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November 22, 2000
Communion


Dead squirrelspace
It took the oblivious neighbors several more days, but finally the dead squirrel's gone. Did they give the critter a proper sendoff? Or did it end up in the garbage grinder, like what happened with the geniuses at KLM's animal control department a few years ago? Those were pulverized alive, though. Still, dead or alive, one hopes for a dignified exit -- and lying face down with your butt sticking out to whole wide world was not a great start for that.

Calvin and the dying raccoon he found in the woods behind the house, now that was a decent way of handling things. The shoebox, dying warm and all that. I had some time to kill today, so I started looking through Bill Watterson's Tenth Anniversary book of Calvin and Hobbes. And came across those panels again. I was happy to find myself getting a little misty over some imagined creature that wasn't even drawn, merely suggested (you know, unlike those warm and fuzzy pet pictures that are meant to get you). I was happy because I have a hard time showing sadness like that. I don't like being withdrawn like this, but I can't help it. Something I have to deal with, sometime. The last time I cried was, I believe, in 1988.

I've tried to change this, to break the pattern. Tried thinking of my cousin, for example, whom I didn't even get to know all that well because I was nine years old when he was killed in his 20s. It just doesn't work. Darkened house, alcohol, fishing in my childhood for awful moments, whatever, nothing works.

I get misty a lot -- even a film will do it, but that's it. Mystifying indeed.

So anyway, I called this epilogue on the squirrel affair Communion because it's a term I remember from a mob series. It's when someone disappears completely.

Death, bleakness, cold. Dickens got a lot of mileage out of this kind of thing, didn't he? It's getting cold here. Feeling like England with all the gray days we've been having. And tomorrow's Thanksgiving in America, which is traditionally the time of the year when it's supposed to get cold around these parts. Miserable weather aside, some moron of the cloth wrote in the Post the other day that Thanksgiving was losing its religious tone, service attendance was plummeting, wasn't the holiday about giving thanks to God, blah blah blah. What nonsense. Thanksgiving is rooted in the appreciation European settlers had for the natives of this land (except for that Kennewick man affair, now isn't that an uncomfortable issue?) and the amazing bounty the land itself offered. It's thanks for being fed and clothed and treated like guests. And then, as we all know... well, let's not get into what we all know. Suffice to say a gathering of Native Americans has organized a Thanksgiving celebration on the National Mall this year and Father Doofus should stroll over; maybe he'd learn something.

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Squirrel munching on food atop Halloween pumpkinspace[And good luck to you, little one. May you live long into your teens before you depart for that big barrel of nuts in the sky. Watch out for those hungry SUVs, now.]

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November 28, 2000
In Sickness and in Frustration...


Grr, I hate being sick. Another day without any writing. If I let tomorrow go by that'd be a whole week... How about a photo I'm thinking of using for a banner later on?

My father takes in an archipelago

My mother took this one a few years ago. The man is my father. No, he can't fly.

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November 29, 2000
Unbreakable


Car with storm approaching behind

This is an image from the Web site put up by an emic to publicize the film Unbreakable. It adds nothing to the movie.

I am, it turns out, highly breakable. There seems to be an emerging post-Thanksgiving tradition called the Cranberry Crawl. What it is, you go out a day or two after the gluttonous holiday and do a 5 or 10K run. Shouldna been enough to break me, but it was.

Oddly enough, Americans are the last industrial nation in the world to stubbornly cling to the imperial system of measurements, but there are all these races based on kilometers. Another strange thing about is that you pay to run in these. Sometimes you get a T-shirt. Why someone should pay to run when one can run for free anywhere would be an obvious deal-breaker of a question, but somehow it works.

A common theme among participants Saturday morning was that the organizers ought to pay us just for showing up at 7:30 am in the freezing cold. I honestly don't know why I do these things. The idea behind the Cranberry Crawl is that you will have eaten like an ass-bursting pig some 20 hours straight, and that aforementioned ass of yours will have taken the shape of a couch because while eating you were also watching football on TV. Except I ate reasonably and watched no football owing to the fact that I dislike the American version of the game. The ball is not even round; it's not a ball in my book. Whatever.

That the 5K was starting and ending at Hains Point helped me get out of bed, I'm sure. That's my favorite place in the entire Washington area. It's a flat tongue of a peninsula that sits where the Potomac meets the Anacostia. It's a place that -- not to get corny about it, but -- reminds me of home. That it has a western as well as an eastern shore means it can be quiet on one side but choppy on the other. It's practically in the middle of the city but it's away from all the foolishness -- except, that is, for the regular loonies who show up at the crack of dawn to play golf on the center green of the peninsula. (And, I should add, the irregular loonies who turn out for the frikkin 5K.)

The picture below doesn't do the place justice, except to convey its solitude a bit. Also, they cut the trees down for some reason after I took this photo four years ago. M's standing in the middle, looking toward National Airport on the other side of the water.

Hains Point, 2 trees

M, of course, would be the other reason I forced myself to go run. I like walking in the cold -- if I'm walking to the coffee shop. I like to hike, but only if there's scenery to go with it. I could rollerblade or bike around the inverted Hains Point triangle route endlessly, coming up with stories while looking at the waves and the gulls. But if I'm set to run with a bunch of people early on a Saturday morning I'll likely stretch too little and end up with a pulled back muscle and/or a maddeningly ambivalent cold. Both of which I did.

Moaning like an unfulfilled dog. Dammit.

For Thanksgiving we were over at our friends Miranda and Manigault's house. Pseudonyms as always. We went early. I worked on organizing our photos from the Greek trip into an album and sipped red wine while the native-born Americans debated the finer points of stuffing and mashed potaters. Later, I was roped into wrapping up the cooking of a Turkish dish. I refrained, however, from joining the discussion on the "higher power" debate Manigault was having with Miranda's grandfather, who's not strictly the religious type, but you know how these debates go. (As it happened, earlier I'd actually had a nice and agreeable conversation on the cultural richness of religious and mythological traditions with people of similarly agnostic if not atheistic leanings in the room.)

Manigault and I are two Middle Eastern men who ended up with women from Iowa. That is, pretty much, how we know each other. Someday I'll perhaps go into the kind of culture clash that swims beneath the surface of these pairings. It's not exactly what you would expect, though. None of the Iowans and Middle Easterners in this group is a walking stereotype.

An obvious trend reversal, for instance, is that even though Turks are supposed to have large families and Americans small, my family is really small, a handful of people, most of them without any brothers or sisters, while M and Miranda could have easily influenced the famously close US 2000 presidential election if all their cousins voted for the same candidate.

Miranda has three sisters, close in age, and this forms a zappy dynamic that I as an only child know only from movies or sitcoms. At one point it came out that when I met M oh so many years ago, I was actually dating S, who happened to live across the street from her. The truth of the matter is, I'd just started dating S, I felt a pull toward M, and while there was that one night in there when I left one house (party) to go to the other (to deliver promised help with the computer), there was nothing but confusion during this period, no sleeping around or even kissing. (Indeed, S and I never slept together, even though we were on a college campus. Yes, Bill Bennett, it is possible.) So I pulled away from both while I examined my head. Then one day I kissed M, then I went and said to S, "Well, I've been weird for the past week, and this is why, I'm sorry." We said our goodbyes. There was no S&M simultaneously, even though I'm still not pleased with what I did. One should still share this kind of information early on even though technically nothing is going on. It's the right thing to do.

Anyway, I try to explain this while facing a smiling, slightly tipsy four-woman chorus singing "Asshole!" It doesn't work. You might as well do battle with the Magnificent Four or whatever that comic is called. Four sisters, that's a strong team.

Speaking of comics, the day after Thanksgiving we went to see the superhero-influenced Unbreakable, the latest film from Sixth Sense writer/director M. Night Shyamalan. I wanted to talk about the movie here a little bit, but I've already said pretty much everything I had to say on a 3WA discussion board.

Here, though, let me add to the spookiness. Here's another image from the film's Web site:

Train, telegraph pole

And here's one of my THTB banners:

No train, but telegraph poles

Coincidence? I think not. Manoj, I'm sure the check's already in the mail, thank you.

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I need to run a correction before I go. On November 22 I wrote about a "man of the cloth," a certain Father Doofus who complained about Thanksgiving losing its religion. It turns out Father Doofus is a presbyterian so I believe the correct term should be Reverend. And his name is not Doofus at all, it's Henry Brinton. My sincere apologies. For the record, his op-ed appeared in the Washington Post on November 19, 2000, page B4. Interestingly enough, two days later the Style section ran a feature story on the mournful Native American Thanksgiving on the grounds of the National Mall in Washington -- which I'd briefly mentioned. And finally, for those who've never been to these parts, the National Mall is a strip of grass surrounded by museums, memorials and government buildings; it's not a bunch of stores. That would be Potomac Mills you're looking for. It's about 25 miles away and it's the biggest tourist attraction in the entire state of Virginia. You just go down 95 South. Can't miss it. The day after Thanksgiving was when they had the best sales, but they still have great deals in there, I hear. So run don't walk, folks. I wanna hear some calories burning.

But make sure you stretch before you run. And always (you knew this was coming), always use sunscreen.

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All text and images © Aziz Gökdemir's Archive unless otherwise indicated or credited.
This month's banner photo by Oryal Gökdemir, taken last month at Franco's Bar on the island of Santorini (and I do have a couple words to say about Franco, the best bar in the world my ass...).
The Boondocks by Aaron McGruder.


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