A little excursion last night to report on and an up-date. Last night after the hammam (Turkish car wash) we went out to shoot some pictures of some Detroit Iron we saw the day before along side the main highway near the posh hotel where we’ve been staying. We wanted to do that because the guy who got the car for us and put us up while we were waiting for the car is, as you may remember, a 50’s and 60’s American car gear-head.

So we went to this really dusty side-of-the-road-in-the-weeds place and found a lot of cars to shoot for ?etin. And here are a few of those shots. And while we were out, we saw these new apartment houses on the hill near the old car place, all standing uncompleted and (therefore) empty. There were over 40 of them, and could hold thousands of families when they’re done, but with the lowering of the economy, they are all pretty forlorn.

And the update goes like this:

When we were in the market in Karacasu, we shared that a prayer call had an unusual effect: everyone stopped shopping, turned toward the minaret, and held their hands out, palms up, fingers cupped, and got really silent. It was a death notice, and began with the usual marketing sell-the-eternity-product about omnipotence and omniscience and beneficence and all that business, and ended with the name of person who’d died. Today (Thursday, 4/23) we had breakfast at the hotel, a nice visit with the owner, Kim finished packing, and we headed back to Sel?uk to purchase some last-minute loot for her. She also wanted to visit with a couple of musician (she’s a double—bass player in several symphony orchestras back home) so while I was getting some directed (“Get this in Turkey for me”) loot, she was visiting and saying goodbye. We headed up the back way to Izmir (about 60 Km north) as she still had some images to shoot—a shepherd, a burro, and other end-of-the-run transportation options.

No luck on that.

And just as the rule for roundabouts is “You can always go around again,” we did the same thing as we hit Izmir— almost 2 million people— almost all of whom were out driving as we got to town . . . . and because of No Left Turn signs and one-way streets we drove the ring-road one full lap and then tacked our careful way to the old historic market (not unlike the one I was in when I went to Fez, Morocco).

We parked the car on the street, got a business card from a company right on the sidewalk, took a picture of the gate we went through (both of those were for finding the car when (if) we ever came out again, and plunged in. There are about six or eight main entry gates— virtually no motor-vehicles allowed inside— certainly none larger than motor scooters— and the whole place is maybe two-thirds of a kilometer on a side, so it’s about 250 acres inside there. Tens of thousands of shops, miles and miles of walkways, and lots of cul-de-sacs.

I was looking for two specific things: a lens cap for my new lens, and some Sudoku books. Got the books, but not the cap. Kim was looking for some small gifts for people still on her gift list, and even with some local ad-hoc guides (mostly to camera stores) she didn’t see anything she wanted.

I found some more gifts for friends, and then Kim scored some as well— so she perked up and got some energy back— we both pretty much hate shopping— and I dropped her at the airport about 5:00 for an 8:00 flight. The best part of the shopping was the pinball machine-type wandering—random walking through lots of little lanes like these

full of shops of all kinds—the green powder is henna.

But both times we popped out of the market we hit the car right on the button. We are the pro’s from Dover. And all over Izmir, and to a lesser extent in Selcuk, there were triple or quadruple the number of Turkish flags out. There are normally lots of such patriotic displays; one reason is that the country is only about 86 years old. But today was special: lots and lots of flags hanging from apartment balconies, wreaths out in front of Ataturk statues on city hall steps, kids out of school. Well, it’s not only Shakespeare’s birthday (also the day he died: same with Ingrid Bergman and Cassius, in Julies Caesar) it’s Sovereignty Day (and Children’s Day) here in Turkey. Children’s Day. I remember when I was about 7 or 8. I had figured out that there was a Mother’s Day and a Father’s Day— but something was missing!!!!So I asked my mother about this obvious mis-alignment of the universe, and she had the temerity, the absolute insolence, to tell me that every day was Children’s Day.

What nonsense!!!! Absolute rot!!!

Until on a February day in 1971, when some nurse handed me a kid and there was a subtle change in the universe. There are three stages in a person’s life:

They believe in Santa Claus.

They don’t believe in Santa Claus.

They become Santa Claus.

So today, here in Turkey, it’s Children’s Day. There is an odd thing here, though. Children are venerated, acceded to, honored in the family—-

But they stand in cars in front of mom on the passenger side of the front seat. In Turkish city traffic!!!

Finally, on the way back from the airport (Kim lasted 1835 Km with me) I stopped in Sel?uk at the Temple of Artemis site— one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. And this kid of about 30 wants to sell me some old coins— that he said his father dug up right there or about a Km away in Efes.

And they are (reputed by the seller) Greek, Roman, and Byzantine. I’m surprised one doesn’t say “24 BC” on it. And he wants 90 Lira ($55) for 3 of them. And then he wants 150 Lira ($90) for 8 of them.And now, after a lot of feigned (and real) indifference, we’re at 50 Lira ($30) for all 8. He told me his child needs to go to the hospital tomorrow and he has no money to pay the MD. And that’s when I drove away. I’m thinking 40 Lira ($25) tomorrow when I go back though the site will be about right— the story plus the reduction is worth that, and it will give him and his father time to make more.

Originally written for Two Minutes in Turkey

posts by Robert