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December 19, 2001
Far, Far from the Lake...


Well, December hasn't done squat to save me yet; that much should be obvious.

Quicksand, as most everyone knows, pulls you in the more you try to extricate yourself. I honestly believed that I could take my month-long "working sabbatical" at the end of November, but then I'd believed that about August back in July -- and tonight I find myself lining up the documents for a phone call to Uruguay at 7:30 in the morning, a call that I probably don't need to add is for business. Tomorrow is truly the end, though; I've already billed for the year and these are the last, dying gasps of the ambitious project as my friends and I struggle to put it to bed. Should I complain about the countless logistical hiccups and technical difficulties (among other things, I took my computer in for repair for the second time in three months and finally succumbed and put myself through the nauseating process of picking a backup laptop) when some of them are losing their jobs? Probably not, so that's enough of that.

And on the heels of all this, of course, there comes something we call the "holiday season" in this country of ours for the criminally jolly and insane -- and along with it, family visits.

But I will not be defeated: I've moved my "sabbatical" to January. So there. Oh sure, another book or two for the Saroyan translation project, and neglected sections of this Web site, but that's fun.

I don't like to talk about things I intend to put up here (because when I do, they invariably take a few months to appear), but I have to say the more I look at little gems I've amassed over the years, like the sliverish photo above, I'm filled with tremendous satisfaction; I'm not all that proud but I'm truly elated. This goes hand in hand with a wholly unjustified dread that something bad will come along to make sure none of this survives. And so it goes. What I need is a hopping kettle on the stove and a window with a view of the water and the sky. I can come up with the rest.

For the past couple days, in the middle of this fog-like frenzy, I've thought often of the Buttermere rabbit. I looked it up today and realized that I'd briefly mentioned it almost exactly a year ago (users of some browsers may need to scroll down a bit to find December 17-18, 2000).

Lake District, England, September 1988

Thirteen years and I remember it like yesterday, the bend in the road, the mist in the valley, the brisk hike around the loaf-like hill to make it to the boat going across the lake. I can sit here and watch everything pile up inside my head. The girls from Liverpool at the hostel. Trying to find a place to sleep in Brighton at 2 am, the bobbies sweeping the beaches for vagrants and other suspicious undesirables ahead of Lady Thatcher's visit, this not much later than the IRA bomb that'd narrowly missed her. Wrapping the sleeping bag around your father's camera and lenses, trying to make sure the guys walking around with glass shard cuts in their arms don't notice you and come and grab everything you have.

Learning to take pictures, thinking sunsets were it.

Brighton, England, September 1988

Brighton, England, September 1988

And above all, that ferocious icy wind on the promenade, strong enough to knock the camera off your hand as it gets dark and you turn around and the whole town's booked for conventions and James at the hostel (the one who was going crazy over the Turkish Pocket Hercules' Olympic victories the night before) doesn't remember you and even if he did, this isn't the Lake District, where some hostels let you sleep on the floor. It starts raining and the little information booth on the beach is dark and empty; you can almost hear the stern-faced Armenian woman (who offered that simple declaration by way of explaning how she knew where you were from) telling you the cops don't start looking behind abandoned storefronts until later in the night. Except it's not her, it's the friendly professor on the beach who seems like a nice enough guy and says you can crash on his hotel room floor. Well. Maybe it's not too late to catch the last train back to London, after all...

So the moral of the story being... there's the age of rabbits in the morning and crumbling piers at dusk -- and there's today, with its daily walk to the mailbox and the 20-second gaze up at the sky before heading back to work. What is one supposed to do about that?

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