Reporter: "Mr. Gandhi, what do you think of western civilization?"
Mr. Gandhi: "I think it would be a good idea!"
I have another story about Turkey that I started writing at the same time I started this one. I finished the other story first and it's already on the page under the name, "Istanbul," and it's dated 1991. In the other story, I give a lot of background about where I stayed and what kind of stuff went on during both trips to Turkey, so you might want to read the other one first. Come back after you finish it. I'll wait…………………
God, you read slow.
Okay, so I went to Turkey to visit my dad and his new wife. I hadn't been to Turkey in a while, and had never been to Yalova before (see the other story for details on Yalova). What I didn't know at the time was that Turkey in '85 was a lot like Chicago in the 1920's. There was a Turkish Mafia, and in 1985, gunning people down in the street for crossing a mobster was not uncommon.
Anywho, I arrive at the villa with no idea what I was going to do for the next two months. I don't speak any Turkish aside from the basics: Hello, goodbye, fuck off, thank you, etc.
My father introduced me around to some of the people my age in the area, and I soon made (what I thought were) friends.
After the first two days of sitting around doing nothing my father asked me if I was enjoying myself. Compared to the beaches in New York, the beaches in Yalova are pretty nice. But compared to beaches anywhere else, they suck.
I told him I was bored. There really didn't seem to be too much to do in this town, and I couldn't figure out how I was going to stay sane for the next two months.
He told me, "Why don't you go to the gazino?"
"There's a casino around here?" I asked.
"Of course, just follow the beach, you can't miss it."
Wow. Cool. Of course, I was pretty sure I'd walked over every inch of the place and I didn't see anything that looked even remotely like a casino.
"Will I be able to get in?"
"Of course. Why wouldn't you?"
Well, I guess since there's no drinking age, why would there be a gambling age? I grabbed some money and headed out to break the bank.
After a half hour of walking I came to the end of the little town. Which was designated by a huge wall blocking travel from the beach, or from anywhere else for that matter. And…no casino.
I backtracked just in case my dad meant that it was near the beach, or maybe off the beach, but all I could find was a small stone amphitheater (empty) and an outdoor café. No casino.
I went back home and told my dad that all I found was the amphitheater and the café, and he replied, "Yes."
"The café." He answered.
"What about it?"
"That's the gazino."
"So, not a casino?"
"No, there are no casinos around here. Are you crazy?"
Apparently, gazino is a Turkish word for…you guessed it, outdoor café. Great. So I started spending a lot of time eating little tiny hamburgers, really greasy french-fries, and drinking colas while watching the water.
At the gazino I met this girl named Arzu. In Turkish, it means "Desire." Quite the cool name, eh? We sort of started dating. Dating in Turkey is not quite the same as it is here, especially when you're only fourteen. Of course, I was quite mature for a fourteen year old if I may say so myself.
After about a week or two of hanging out with her, I found out that she used to have a boyfriend, but they broke up while they were in school in Istanbul. I also found out that he was coming to town tonight to stay for the rest of the summer.
Great. Just what I needed, competition.
That night we all went to another gazino, but this one was further into the town, and not near the water. This one also had a little disco/nightclub attached to it.
Later that night, we were all sitting in the disco. Arzu was of course sitting between me and her ex. Her ex spent the entire night staring at me while laughing and joking with his friends. It was the only time I wished I spoke Turkish. I know he was talking about me.
Suddenly, the lights came on. After a few moments of shouting and yelling from the area of the front door, someone filled me in on what was going on.
By the Turkish Military.
That's right, guys with G-3 assault rifles were lining everyone up against the wall and checking for ID. Anyone without proper identification was taken to jail. Not a bad thing I figure, I've got an American passport. Who's going to mess with me? That's right, got my big blue passport right……on the nightstand next to my bed. Absolutely wonderful. I am not going to let them take me to jail. For a few reasons:
1. I've seen the movie Midnight Express.
And 2) I'm a dual citizen.
If I go to jail, they have a pretty good chance of finding out that I'm a Turk. If they do, I'll be put on the draft list.
I do not want to go into the Turkish Army. I'll lose my American citizenship if I do.
Now I need to formulate a plan that will get me out of this disco without getting me shot or arrested.
So, I've got my back against the wall (literally). I'm in a small alcove, and to my right is a whole long line of people. At the front of that line are two soldiers. To my left is the rest of the line of people. About ten feet away from me to the left is a wall that turns at a 90 degree angle and leads to the windows in front of me. So I shift myself one person to the left. Then another person. And another, leap-frogging the whole way. Soon, my back is to the wall that used to be to my left. Now the soldiers are in front of me, and to my right are more people and then the row of windows. So I swap places with another person, and another until my back is to a window.
And out I go, running like the wind.
All my "friends" made fun of me the next day for being a big American coward, but what did I care. A few days later, I came to the conclusion that Arzu and I were not seeing each other anymore. I used the most extensive means of scientific research to formulate my hypothesis. (i.e., I caught her making out with her ex in the disco.)
Oh well. All's fair and all that nonsense. I guess it was never meant to be.
One day I decided to take the ferry into Istanbul and get a haircut. A simple enough procedure, except for the fact that I can't say the word "trim" in Turkish. I tried to explain it as best I could, and the Barber nodded profusely in acknowledgment. I sat down in his chair. Behind my back, without my noticing, he placed a very large straight razor alongside a comb. He slid it through my hair on the right side of my head, and a moment later I could see my scalp in the mirror. I freaked. I had always kept my hair long back then, and was not interested in a crewcut. My first reaction was to run out of there as fast as I could.
What choice did I have? I had to let him do the other side. Now I have what amounts to a really, really bad mohawk.
I wasn't about to let him continue shaving the rest of my head, so I just left it.
When I got to the gazino there were a bunch of guys I knew having a snack. When I walked in, they all turned around.
One guy looked at me and said, "Nice haircut."
To which I replied, "Fuck you."
This other guy at the table jumps up and starts yelling, "If you say fuck you to him, you must say it to me also!"
Meaning basically that if I insult jerk number one, I'm insulting jerk number two in the process. But I was in the mood to be rude, so I said, "Well then, fuck you too."
And he jumped me.
We got pulled apart almost instantly by the gazino owner. He started screaming about how he didn't want that kind of thing going on in his place. I'm thinking, "So what? It's just a couple of kids fighting. What's the big deal?"
After I left, this one guy, that I could actually call a friend, came up and told me what a mistake I just made.
It seems that jerk number two's father is some big crime boss in the Turkish mob. Jerk number two also has two older brothers (twins), and last summer they were shooting off fireworks in town when a seventy-something year old security guard came over and asked them to stop. I've seen these twins, and they work out. A lot. Anyway, they jumped the security guard, and the poor guard beat the living crap out of both of them.
The next day, the father had six of his construction workers come to town and put the security guard in traction.
This is not a family that you want to mess with, I was told.
So for the next week I feared for my life. I fully expected that at any moment some big hairy guy with his knuckles dragging on the ground was going to pound my little head into a soft tapioca-like substance.
I truly feared for my life. One day, another actual friend, named Vulcan (yes, like Spock) came up to me. He told me that I no longer had to worry. He said that he liked me, thought I was funny, so he had a word with HIS father.
"So?" I asked.
"So, my father is (jerk number two)'s father's boss. You're safe."
As soon as he said that, I thanked him and walked right into the gazino with my head held high. They all gave me nasty looks, but no one ever bothered me.
By the end of my first month in Yalova, I was getting really, really bored. And then as if to save me, my Uncle Charlie showed up to visit. I was so happy. Finally, someone to talk to…in English.
The first thing he asked me when we had finally settled him in was, "What is there to do for fun around here?"
"Fun?" I answered, "There's lots of fun stuff. Like the gazino for example."
"There's a casino in this little town?"
"Yup, it's right down the beach. You can't miss it"
When I finally got off the plane back in New York, I all but kissed the ground. It's scary how much you miss this place when you're gone for too long.
-Spat - 8/28/97
If you have any questions, E-Mail me. Spat@spat-nospam-cave.com