Feyzi, the chef at Cooking Alaturka, hoists a 5-liter can of olive oil over a pan of small eggplants stuffed heavy with a mixture of paper-thin sliced onions, tomatoes, garlic, and fresh dill, [...]
The jackhammer strafes the eighth hour into bits as it begins gutting another section of the apartment building two doors down. By the time I write the second Morning Page and coffee, an electronic snippet of Für Elise launches Friday at the school on the street’s opposite end.
On Sadri Alisik mopeds toot to warn of their approach. Conversations in the strange language ebb over me, never flowing. I start upon hearing a Hungarian-sounding umlaut but it’s just my mind’s foolish craving for familiarity.
Water carboys bounce on dollies meandering among the speeding delivery vans on Istiklal Caddesi, a shopping avenue. Clothing stores commence the day’s pop-chart music contest.
Lunch hour approaching, apron-clad men holler “Buyurym! Buyurum!“ (Welcome, or, Yes, please) from entrances of hole-in-the-wall eateries; touts from sit-down restaurants shove menus in my path with the English, “Yes, please…” At Köfteci Hüseyin, silverware clanks against the metal plates brimming with juicy meatballs and onion.
The midday ezan (call to prayer) bounces from loudspeakers through narrow Beyoğlu sokaks (streets); on carpets covering a street’s width save for narrow sideline passages men line up to kneel and bow for their holy day’s main worship. Cameras click as tourists document.
Freighters blast their horns as they trudge through the Bosphorus Strait.
Ferries roar in and out of the Kabataş dock; seagulls squeal and squawk in their wake waiting for passengers to toss them some simit (sesame ring pretzels). Water slaps old tires attached to the pier. In a nearby park parrots shriek as a cat climbs their tree.
The clamor of cars, busses, motorcycles, and trams on Meclisi Mebusan Caddesi boulevard floods me with another persistent layer of din.
On the Galata Bridge, anglers swish their lines into the Golden Horn. One reels in without a hint of excitement about the spectacle of his daily grind.
A vacuum cleaner in the restricted prayer area of the Blue Mosque overpowers visitors hushed in awe of the tiled domes. The fountain in Sultanahmet Park splashes. Three “Yes, please…” pitches for guidebooks intercept my way to the tram stop.
Back on the Beyoğlu end of Galata Bridge, Karaköy Fish Market vendors shout offers over vats of hamsi (anchovies) and other catch of the day. Mackerels for balik ekmek (grilled fish sandwich) sizzle on wood stoves. Leaving behind the gasoline generators pumping the market’s water I snake through shoppers haggling and restaurateurs yes-pleasing. At Osman’s, a cafe in a broken-down truck on a vacant lot abutting the water-taxi dock, tiny spoons clink against the tulip-shaped glasses as they stir sugar cubes into çay (Turkish tea).
The surrounding minarets issue late-afternoon ezans, all different and none starting at precisely the same time. The Arabic calls mingle into a melodic soup sloshing over the water among the city’s hills. Boat taxis and ferries rumble crisscrossing the bay. The sun that tumbles behind old Istanbul’s fourth hill would too like to have a say.
Outside Galatasaray Lycée, grandmothers wearing white scarves encircle a speaker mobbed by reporters. Behind a caged bus parked around the corner policemen in white helmets rattle gas masks, tear-gas guns, and transparent plastic shields. The historic red tram car drowns the commotion with its warning bell.
Enjoying a flavor of a Portland coffee shop at Holy Coffee I discover new music (Half Moon Run). At outdoor bar tables around our neighborhood children hawk gum and tissue packets. Later a woman with a small accordion follows, then an elderly man with a clarinet. Cats meow for morsels of beer snacks.
Back on Istiklal, a man wails an odd chant luring passersby to weigh themselves on a personal scale. English, German, and French words whirl through the mass of Turkish. A teen donning an embroidered vest behind a dondurma (thick orchid ice cream) cart calls out while slamming a long metal spatula against a cluster of cowbells, then against the box. Spaced out every few buildings, buskers play music and sing and dance and perform magic tricks.
A yellow Fiat taxicab blasts a folk-music lament as it wedges into a side street. Scrap metal collected from deconstruction sites jangles on a three-wheeled cart a man weaves through the ruckus. A grandfatherly man carrying a tray of simit on his head yells, “Simit! Simit!” pausing to sell a couple to a woman dashing out of a building. He who is heard above the city’s din makes the sale.
A stray lab with a tagged ear barks at a passing truck. The wall clock at Babel Cafe splits a Zaz track with the half-hour chime.
Home again I put on the Sounds of Istanbul mix to drown out the voices rising from the dingy cafe across the alley.
In bed early. I rustle the pages of In Search of Lost Time over halk mezigi (folk music) spilling through the back doors of Toprak and Yösum, two Kurdish-owned music bars located on a parallel street.
Eyes fluttering shut, I insert my earplugs. Silence. Yes, please.
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