Aziz Gökdemir's Archive | THTB Index | December 2000
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December 2000: 4 - 12 - 17-18 - 19 - 21 - 27 - 30

Man on the street, Istanbul, Oct. 26, 2000space December 4, 2000
Sister Act 2

It turns out I didn't know the half of it when it comes to the infamous "sister dynamic" [which I talked about on November 29]. We were supposed to hear from Miranda later that evening about going out to some club as a big group. Nobody called, which is no big deal, but it turns out there was a good reason. In the process of narrowing down club choices a fight ensued, and in its wake there was no time or desire to go out anymore. Takes a week to hear all this. My education on big families is short by quite a number of credits, obviously.

My cold is stuck in a holding pattern -- which, I believe is the definition of a holding pattern anyway, but I'm too sick to care. The funny thing is, I'm fine all day while I work at my desk, but when night has fallen and it's time for bed, that's when my lungs start playing Wagner. Frustrating.

Good feedback on an editing job. Well, good for me, it turns out I edited some guy's chapter out of existence. The client has decided that with all the concerns I've raised about inconsistencies the chapter is subpar and will be cut from the book. I wish I could quote from the unedited version, but unfortunately I can't mix business with this. Wouldn't be professional.

I think I'm going to sleep downstairs tonight. I hate to subject M to another night with a coughing bedmate. I just want to work on my stuff all night, stop coughing somehow and sleep like a log all day tomorrow. Not possible. Deadlines, sickness, bleah.

[The photo above: Man on the street, photographed in Istanbul on October 26, 2000.]

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Chrysler Building, New York, November 2000space December 12, 2000
The Sleeping Bag

At left, the Chrysler Building in New York City last month, and the bag, well, I'll get to that in a minute. First, we went to the 9:30 Club Thursday night for a Rickie Lee Jones concert.

The club, now there's a can of worms. Because, see, the biggest little club in the country, the place where big names go to play small venues, three levels yet intimate, good food, etc etc, and as a bonus, there was no smoking that night, my first time there, because Rickie Lee had said so... and yet, as previously mentioned by occasional DC visitor Scott Anderson, living here turns one into a de facto segregationist, and as more specifically written about by fellow area dweller Nancy Firedrake, the 9:30 Club sits in a zone where white people go as aliens, get their business done, and leave -- hence the wormy discomfort. [Bookmarked back in the day, links to Scott's article, and Nancy's article, for those who're interested.]

I'm no lily-white suburbanite who gets all atwitter at the thought of going "downtown," but no matter how many times I go to Shaw, Anacostia or Columbia Heights, I'm an observer, an outsider, I don't live there, and if I did, with all the racial history of this country I would be probably be, in effect, part of a gentrification effort. Seeing how I pass for white and all, even though it's much more complicated than that. Perception is what counts; more important, it's what counts for you, by virtue of the advantages it brings. [Recommended reading: How the Irish Became White, by Noel Ignatiev, 1995.] Might as well go live in Yerevan for maximum effect -- though I must say people in the city's most frequently stereotyped neighborhoods have always been nice to me, aside from that bare-torso'd guy who kept slicing the air with impressive karate kicks and invited me loudly to fight for my "woman" or "walk away like a yellow motherfucker." That, though, was such a long time ago. He's probably in the morgue by now.

So anyway, we were white people in the hood, once again, two couples on the "new U Street," looking for a place to eat. Songhai looked closed and the cozy place next door seemed, perhaps to spite Rickie Lee, having a particularly smoky night, so we headed toward the 9:30 to take care of dinner there.

It was cold, and the neighborhood northeast of U was deserted, though extremely well lit. The folks must have finally gotten fed up with living in fear -- the broken window/lamp theory and all that. The front yards were back in bloom (well, as much as winter allows) and trash was out of sight. Quite an improvement from Marion Barry days and a good sign for Tony Williams' future as mayor. Williams has by most indicators Barry's compassion for the city folk minus the crack problem and blatant nepotism -- but, unfortunately lacks the Barry trademark, a highly developed political savvy. Barry was a true genius. Barry, Sharpton, and Don King, no SNL skit will ever do them justice.

We came across our friends' car a few blocks from the club. By now the residential part of the area had tapered off, and the little red thing was sitting all by itself in the middle of an eeire moonscape. With the mesmerizing orange glow, and the crumbling slabs of poured concrete and tossed brick around us from here to god knows where, it felt like a scene from Edward P. Jones' excellent book of Washington stories, Lost in the City. [Sadly, the book is now out of print and can only be had for about $40 through rare book dealers unless you want to browse second-hand bookstores. What kind of shit is this when DVDs of grade-Z movies are readily available but an eight-year-old book that won the Pen/Hemingway and was shortlisted for the National Book Award is MIA? Purgatory.]

9:30 Club, A.F. DoylespaceRealizing the car might not make it (at least in part) through the evening without a support group, we drove it to the club's parking lot, paying for the privilege. Here's what the 9:30 looks like, courtesy of a promo photograph. I believe it's from, by A. F. Doyle. [Hello there, blame me, not Google.]

Rickie Lee Jones was pretty good, though the concert was marred by quite a few people who seemed to think that the night was some sort of pivotal event in their lives and they had to signal this fact to everyone. One guy apparently thought he was at a Baptist revival, the way he kept interjecting with Million Man March-style comments. "Yeah." "Oh yeah." "Thas right baby." A woman kept yelling that it was her birthday, finally prompting a "Good for you" retort from the performer. Other than that, it was enjoyable. I liked the song about the heroin days, and the song for the little kid who would grow up to become a murderer, "because every murderer was a kid once." She sings somewhere between Edie Brickell and Joni Mitchell. Doesn't need to strain her voice and wail so much, really, but I guess that's her style.

And then we went home. Rickie Lee probably went to a hotel. Someone forced a home-made CD into her hand at the end, she kind of sat on it during the encore and then left it on the squat little stool. As the crowd chanted for more she was led away, like a lost child that her voice brings to mind when she sings quietly, by a club guy who showed the way using a thin flashlight.

I enjoy myself quite a bit when I go to club performances like this, probably because I rarely do, and as we rode the late metro home I thought of the November night in New York when a friend and I impulsively inquired at the Blue Note whether they had any seats left for Earl Klugh who was playing that night, and why yes, they did. This was after drinking at that famous Village pub with beer from all around the world, and subsequently and tipsily ogling the rows upon rows of bootleg CDs at the nearby record store. It's amazing that place survives, given how any day in that neighborhood someone might walk in and spot recordings selling under his or her name.

I pretty much enjoy New York every time too, especially since I made it to the Cloisters north of Harlem this time around. The hotel situation, though, was a pain; the lodging crisis in the city thanks to the annual marathon meant I had to sleep on the floor a few nights.

Back home, of course, you might think I would get to sleep in a comfortable bed, but this long, annoying cough-burdened cold made me get out the sleeping bag for days in a row so I wouldn't wake up M in the middle of the night. (We used to have a futon in the loft, but now that that's our couch in the living room, I don't want to sleep on it; it's too cold downstairs at night).

After a week I thought I was getting better and ventured back to the warm territory of the bed, but then, a few stifled, rocking coughs, and it was back to the bag for me, carrying my pillow, climbing the ladder up to the loft sleepy-eyed, cursing my luck, trying not to fall in the dark. A second week went by and it felt like Bob Dole moving into his own basement after things didn't go so well with his first wife.

The bag was cozy and our loft has a nice feel to it overall, but every night before I fell asleep I would prop myself up on one shoulder and look around in the blue twilight and think, this happens a lot around here and you don't even have to get sick.

I'm finally back to being bed-worthy now, but I remember the bag fondly still. There's something about how you can bury yourself in it and dream, dream that everything in your life is perfectly comfortable, getting up doesn't seem like a chore at all, your desk is tidy and is just waiting for you to indulge in your creations because there's absolutely nothing else to worry about, at noon someone brings you a warm lunch and asks in a butler's accent how your day has been going, and by the time it gets dark you've accomplished so much that you actually want to make dinner and you can't wait to go to bed and wake up the next morning and experience that rushing feeling all over again.

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December 17-18, 2000
Concessions at Dawn

Melancholy by Edvard Munchspace
This is not about Al Gore or even politics, though history will record that he conceded the election to George W. Bush right about the time this was written, so to insert context for a second, I voted for Ralph Nader back in November. It was one of those "safe" states (where voting for Nader was not going to change the outcome), and though it turned out to be not so safe for Democrats after all, all the Nader votes going to Gore instead wouldn't have stopped Bush from carrying the state. (This is, after all, Virginia.) But having said that, I probably would still have voted for Nader in an "unsafe" state because I'm sick of this ridiculous two-party system. If it takes a White House occupied by a couple of robber barons for four or even eight years to start to bring about change, so be it.

Anyway, our friend FireGirl, formerly of DC, was in town this weekend, and so Friday night, along with soon-to-be L.A. resident Annie we went to a party, the likes of which I hadn't quite been to since college days back in freewheeling Iowa City. (And I do realize I'm starting to refer to more friends, so I'll update the cast list shortly after I'm done with this entry -- if only to help me keep pseudonyms straight, since I don't reveal very many details about them to avoid infringing on their privacy. Annie, by the way, doesn't need a pseudonym; she's trying to break into acting. So.)

The party host was one of the four guys who lived in a medium-sized house tucked toward the end of a cul-de-sac a stone's throw from the interstate; when we arrived we found him in the throes of ecstasy -- only it turned out I should have spelled that with a capital X. The marijuana smell concentrated around the back rooms was also overpowering. This is just not my scene anymore, so I kept an eye out for flashing blue and red lights outside the window as I sampled the beers and made small talk. The host didn't stop moving for a second the whole night; he was gyrating energetically even as he tried to cop a feel for FireGirl's snug leather pants two minutes after meeting her. At some point he tried to sample her abundantly blond hair as well, spilling beer all over the floor in the process. He "mopped," using his shoe, bu we all stopped dancing shortly thereafter when it got too sticky.

In the middle of the night there was a detour involving a bar in Clarendon -- Dave's? Dance floor crowded with frat boys and their pouty dates. Back to the party.

I couldn't believe it was nearly 4 am when I finally made it to bed. I don't do this kind of thing anymore, which is one of the concessions that comes with the contract of getting older. Also wiser, which means not putting a lot of thought into the parade of women one meets at parties and in other environments that are packed with the fish-eyed faces of purring youth. Who needs the complications? So I slept at dawn, my thoughts held in place by friendly curves hugging me.

[And now I've been summoned to bed. Will finish this tomorrow at lunch.]

I could've slept until noon, easy, but I remembered, just in time, that I'd promised to meet a friend at Union Station in DC. I rolled out of bed, got dressed, and walked briskly to the metro. A fine mist was descending, and it reminded me of the time I had to walk from Windermere to Grasmere one morning to catch a boat. Years and years ago. Or was it Buttermere, who can keep these Lake District names straight? I should unearth my England maps one of these days. Much more picturesque morning, that was, by the way. An unflappable brown rabbit munching on grass right outside the hostel door, which was oak and perhaps several hundred years old. OK, I'll just get depressed about my house if I keep at this tangent, so, moving on.

Union Station, for those who don't know, is the working train station for Washington, DC; I believe it was supposed to be demolished at some point but they restored it and now it's a highly successful shopping mall, slash train station. Quick tip: No tourist hub ever has good food, particularly when the restaurant calls itself "America," laminates its menus, and has a flag doing double duty as a menu cover. Skip it.

Washington and Oslo are sister cities, and every year around this time, the center court is taken up by a Norwegian extravaganza. Music, travel brochures, an enormous miniature mountain, food, books, the works. I looked through (and passed on because they were too expensive) two books on Edvard Munch; I hadn't realized that the famous Scream had sister paintings titled Anxiety and Despair, and that Munch had painted in such a variety of tones over the course of his career. I think I may have found the cover painting for my second, unfinished book. [The one above is titled Melancholy, by the way.]

After lunch there was the obligatory detour into Brookstone, the store that sells expensive stuff no one needs. A bunch of kids were having a great time riding Razor scooters in the store. I thought one was a dead ringer for the Boondocks' Riley. I wonder if Aaron McGruder will ever introduce a story line involving the Razor; it fits Riley's personality much better than a PlayStation 2.

On the way back I also stopped at the bookstore and read a little bit of Robert Kaplan's latest book on his travels through the Caucasus and beyond. He's the second person to point out (after David Rieff) how the Karabagh issue has been getting rather disingenuously bundled with the 1915 holocaust. It's impossible to excuse the former, but in the matter of the latter, both parties have a lot to be ashamed of, as Kaplan deftly summarizes.

Back on the train, I thought of how considerably less complicated it would be to have been born Norwegian into this life. And you get all those cool fjords as a bonus.

Postscript, Dec. 21: Norway's prime minister just announced plans to turn Quisling's -- he who led the Nazi puppet government during WWII -- headquarters into a center for Holocaust and minority studies. Doing better and better, Norway...

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December 19, 2000
Snow and Separation

Big tree swaying in snowstorm
It started snowing this afternoon, quite heavily for Virginia roads and drivers -- which means there'll be a lot of accidents and stranded cars as rush hour drags into the night.

I took the photograph above during a snowstorm four years ago in Iowa. It's a two-second time exposure, with the tree branches blurring where the giant swayed the hardest.

A lot can change in two seconds. I picked up the mail this afternoon and sifted out a bunch of holiday cards, opened one from a good friend (never discussed here before, so don't go looking) and when I glanced at the second page before turning it over I realized she was talking about having separated from her husband.

If this were a movie there'd be soundtrack segue right about now.

My radio says tonight it's going to freeze
People driving home from the factories
There's six lanes of traffic
Three lanes moving slow...
You know I'd sooner forget but I remember those nights
When life was just a bet on a race between the lights
You had your head on my shoulder you had your hand in my hair
Now you act a little colder like you don't seem to care...

It'd be too trite, though, wouldn't it? Even Paul Simon had a hard time conveying this at his best, let alone Mark Knopfler (quoted above from Telegraph Road).

It's snowing hard. I want to watch Frasier tonight and believe in a make-believe world where even two people who've nothing in common can fall in love and make it through the years. They've been dropping hints lately (Daphne snores at the opera, Niles is prissy as always), so things aren't looking up even inside the idiot box.

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December 21, 2000
Attica II

Just what the world needed, another Attica....

Soldiers carry injured inmate from an ambulance. AP/BBC photo

Soldiers carry an injured inmate from an ambulance (AP/BBC photo).

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December 27, 2000
The Necropolitan Differential

Tomb in Parisspace
One doesn't typically go to a cemetery to collect kindling wood, but the hiking trail we'd set our sights on earlier seemed too far as the day wore on and the sun sank perilously low. Besides, I rather like cemeteries (as long as I'm not the one being carried, I suppose), so off we went, M and I.

We've had it bitterly cold here lately, and Christmas Eve was no exception. There were few other people there, with the graver purpose of paying visits to the dead.

Since the dead are long past the threshold of noticing, these excursions are mainly for the benefit of the well-dressed interlopers nursing their sunken hearts, and that's OK. The bond between the living and the dead, even though it exists solely in the mind of the former, is not something I'd dismiss.

Years ago (mid-August 1988, to be precise, if you must) I spent half a day wandering the streets of what is perhaps the most famous cemetery in the world, Paris' Père Lachaise (which is where the above photo was taken; note that the stained glass is on the back side of the enormous tomb and you're seeing it through a cross-shaped hole in the facade). I'd made a point of going there (I wasn't certain I would, before) after reading Cees Nooteboom's ruminations on the place, and it did not disappoint. Here's Nooteboom, talking about how we interact with the dead:

As I walk through the rain I reflect that there is something desperate about commemorating the dead. What is it exactly? Who are these flowers for? The living who put them there are the only ones who see them -- and they know it. And yet they have to put them there, on top of nothing. I watch an old man walking toward the wall, placing a bouquet, arranging it. He cannot have known any of those people, so why does he bring them flowers? Because of their courage, their tragic fate, for himself, his beliefs? I think it is different -- whatever we think with our heads, inside us, deep down in long forgotten mines, there live people who believe that death does not exist. Nonsense, I will deny I ever wrote this, I do not believe it myself. And yet, at many funerals I have made these same pointless gestures, and always with the feeling that I was doing something. But what was I doing? Mourning and remembering, says the voice of reason. But why then always that terrible feeling of betrayal when you step outside the cemetery gate and leave the dead person in his hole among the other dead?

The excerpt's from the inaugural issue of Flying Dutchman International, KLM's in-flight magazine, September/October 1987. Yes, can you believe the stuff I save? But you would save it too if you liked good travel writing. Nooteboom is not a hack who cooks up fluff for your enjoyment in the business class crapper, by the way; he's a famous poet, novelist and travel writer whose books you will find available in many languages. (And I believe Cees is actually "Claus," it's a Dutch thing with the names or something; I never quite grasped that.) The article, "Parisian Days," is full of great nuggets. Did you know, for example, that never mind Balzac, Proust, Eluard, Jim Morrison et al., "the most beautiful grave at Perè Lachaise is that of Victor Noir," a French journalist killed at the age of 22 in a political feud he was not really even a part of? His grave has his statue on top, and I would have completely missed it if not for CN, who wrote (and here's why you shouldn't miss it either):

It is a fine piece of sculpture; the dead man lies flung on the ground, in bronze. As a result of countless pagan touches he gleams with a bright brassy gloss in three places: the toes of his shoes and the very naturalistic bump in his trousers... [After his murder] there was an outrage, the people were angry, Victor Hugo attended the funeral, but Noir was dead and now lies here forever, the image of slain manhood in bronze, with his dead hat and his dead walking stick, perished before the flowering of his youth. Sometimes in sultry summer nights he is mounted by exalted Bacchantes, but when you're dead that isn't much use.

[Emphasis mine]

After all that, Arlington's Columbia Gardens cemetery is sort of a letdown, but it did provide us with enough fallen branches to make building a fire easier on Christmas Eve. (The fireplace, to insert a gratiutous aside, is the sole redeeming feature of the crappy townhouse we live in, other than the central location. On second thought, I shouldn't say that. It's a house. It's a roof over our heads -- which is more than hundreds of millions of people could ever hope to have.)


Whenever I go to a European or American cemetery I'm struck all over again by the friendly openness of it, compared to Turkish ones.

Turkish cemeteries are full of those dark, tall cypress trees throwing their intimidating shadows on the entire place; and the wind swishing through them hurries you along out of there, especially at dusk. The marble everywhere is turning gray and mossy, some of the lettering is in a script you can't read, and there are all those different sculpted or carved bulbous outbursts perching atop older tombstones. Notice how grass, not trees, rules the scene at a Western cemetery and there are all kinds of little, finely polished touches -- knobby ornaments, tiny bouquets, embedded photographs.

The approach to death overall is more elaborate, I suppose. I remember going to an Armenian (Catholic it was, I believe, though I could be wrong) funeral in Istanbul when I was a kid and I was amazed at how lovingly built and varnished the coffin was. After the ceremony it was lowered into the ground by elegantly attired men slowly letting go of a bright red band.

In Turkish Muslim tradition, by contrast, the coffins are simple boxes made out of the cheapest wood, and a couple of stubbly guys dressed in workers' overalls take the coffin down to the hole they've just dug. At that point (I'm unclear about my "own" tradition, but from what I've gathered over the years), the family usually requests the coffin to be opened (that is, its lid to be cracked open and kind of set over the coffin lopsidedly so it wouldn't seal shut. The dead body at this point is covered by a cotton body bag; it looks just like a white bedsheet wrapped around a person who's sleeping in Sunday morning. A bit of dirt is thrown into the coffin, and the hole is then filled one spadeful at a time. I'm not sure a bulldozer is ever involved.

There's no open casket or anything of the sort, once a body is taken away (from a home, hospital bed, etc.), usually the only people laying eyes on it are the professionals tasked with putting it in the ground. Sometimes, when the lid is opened right before the dirt-filling (a next-of-kin may jump in to assist the workers in this, and traditionalists may insist on adjusting the body for maximum comfort before the "ultimate voyage") the gap in the sheet shifts just so and the face of the deceased is glimpsed one last time before it's time for everyone but the gravediggers to go home.

In closing this tangent I should note that I prefer to say my goodbyes by myself and I favor cremation to save space. I bet I couldn't bear most of what I've just described, even if it were my own funeral.


Yet another cross-cultural difference asserted itself in Arlington when we glimpsed a couple of visitors taking a picture of the wreath they had just placed on a grave. I don't think one would happen upon that particular ritual in a too many other countries. M thought there was nothing weird about it.

The day at the necropolis made me think of Gallipoli, as visits to cemeteries always do. There was something weird about that front, as there was about the entire World War I (they simply called it The Great War back then, because nobody could imagine that such madness, pain, dispossession, trauma, slaughter and genocide could ever strike again at such magnitude).

A strip of land so thin that you could see the water on both sides sometimes, the Gallipoli peninsula became the end of days for nearly half a million people (split evenly between the Ottomans and the Allies) over the course of a year or so. At certain points the armies would call cease-fires at the front lines to bury their dead, even exchange cigarettes and such. Then it was back to the same thing, trenches mere feet apart.

You have to stand on one of those ridges (looking oh so pastoral today) and contemplate how terrifying it was trying to scale it, or to be dug in a hole behind it a ways back, with nowhere to run to while endless waves of soldiers came at you. Then the cemeteries, long long lines of crosses and other tombstones as far as the eye can see. You can drive for half an hour and not see a single stretch of road that isn't dotted by graves, bunkers, or a sign recording this or that trench fight. A visit to the battlefields and cemeteries of Gallipoli (or perhaps Passchendale or the beaches of Normandy) should be required of anyone running for office, anyone who could ever end up with his or her hand hovering over the switch to send the troops in or the bombs away. It should be done, if necessary in the Burgess-Kubrick fashion (A Clockwork Orange), your eyelids pulled open by metal claws, making you watch until you comprehend.

People are buried pretty much side by side in Gallipoli (more commonly known in Turkish as Çanakkale, by the way; Gelibolu is just a geographic designation without the historical connotation). The winning leader (then named Mustafa Kemal) encouraged this in an oft-publicized and moving statement about how those who came to conquer and ended up dying on these desolate wind-swept hills are in the hearts of the mothers whose sons died trying to defend it. But even in death you need some distance, it seems: every country has its own cemetery and monument, and in the little cluster of graves near Anzac Cove, for example, the three Asians who fought for the Union Jack are set off to the side, with the Anglos sticking together. The British cemetery is the most meticulously maintained, as I recall, with a lovely solid-oak door. Some of the draftees who fought in the war are (amazingly, still) alive today, and a few, from Turkish villages, Australian towns, New Zealand cities, congregate for the annual commemoration. Then they go back to wherever they normally live and continue perpetuating whatever it is that enabled them to try to kill each other in the first place.

Gallipoli did a lot of things, including killing a lot of boys who were not even 18, it also cemented in Turkish national mythology the ascent of a political leader who at the time was simply a brilliant military commander. That he took a bullet in the chest during that year-long battle (a pocket watch stopped it from moving on to his heart) ensured that no matter how suicidal (he literally ordered his troops "to die" at one point) or controversial his actions might be, he would always hold a certain degree of cachet. Something about ruthlessness; plebeians love it to death...

Churchill never had that kind of thing to fall back on, and as a result of that (and because Brits in comparison to Turks are a lot more openly deconstructive when it comes to their idols), we can have songs like this today:

Have You Ever Been Away?

Your "fight them on the beaches" speeches make me despair
'Cause if there's one thing we can guarantee is you will not be there
Tidying your room, making up your bed
And if diary's full that week you'll send us lot instead

Send us lot instead, put a poppy by my lover's bed
We believe you when you say you've hurt your back

Have you ever been away?
Where were you when we took Calais?

I don't know, I don't care
I'm just glad that I wasn't there

You don't know, you don't care
You're just glad that you wasn't there

I'm afraid your Rule Brittania mania doesn't ring so true
If I was captain of the waves I'd turn the gun on you
Any last requests before you join the dead?
I'll crap into your Union Jack and wrap it round your head

Wrap it round your head, take a look at all the blood we've shed
We'll believe you when you say it was worth it

Liberate the streets of Europe, give our kids a chance
Give them Beaujolais by tap and cheap day trips to France
But you have never seen or smelt this ungodly death
It's like the stench of roasted lamb upon your father's breath

[A Beautiful South tune by the amazing Paul Heaton and David Rotheray]

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December 30, 2000
The Cemeterial Coda

bordercemetery and treesborder

Aet, a reader who, happily for me, always has something interesting to say, sent me links to photographs of Estonian cemeteries on the Web in response to my last entry on necropolitan (I know, I'm retiring that particular word game after today, promise) differences. I'd implicitly argued in favor of the openness of some tree-starved American and European cemeteries as opposed to the dark, tree-smothered Eastern look -- portraying the contrast (more or less) as serenity versus gloom. I'd mentioned war graves too, with their endless rows laid out as if the dead were still part of a regiment -- ordered to lie still, almost -- though I didn't quite know how to categorize them. How did they manage to evoke such sadness (rage if you're a pacifist, and I hope you are) and calm at the same time?

Aet assigned a different function to the trees:

People are buried under trees as a rule, I think. It is quite hard for me to imagine a graveyard without lots of big trees and lots of crows (or anything else that lives in trees -- squirrels or whatever). Only the mass graves, where it gets too crowded for trees are left bare. Intentionally so, I guess. The bareness just cries out -- keep us in mind, do not let it happen again...

Her classification of mass graves would apply equally well to military cemeteries and scenes of wartime atrocity, of course. The latter is the territory of bulldozers and mudfields, and you can imagine why the area would be bare. It takes years, sometimes decades, for anything to grow, and it's usually grass or wildflowers. You dig in a little bit, though, and you'll unearth a few bones. You can still do that today in Gallipoli -- or Normandy, Harput, Cambodia... it's a long list.

One of the photos Aet pointed out for me (below) has a military cluster in the foreground, and the civilian cemetery is situated right behind it, where the dead and their mourners are surrounded by trees. The trees feed us, and we feed the trees in turn. It's a cycle.

borderbordercemetery (war graves in front of civilian section) and treesborder


Another year down. Reset. Upload. Shutdown. Good night.

Thank you all for reading and writing.

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