There is a tide in the affairs of men,
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune



Pre-Blog: Afif The Thief

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From a June, 2005 email:

Question put to me recently: How is the food?

Thus far, I have contented myself with leisurely meals, in cafés and little tavernas, of lamb kebaps, rice, salad, yogurt, aubergines and lots of Turkish tea.

Last night, however, I went to dinner with Afif, a friend of my buddy TDC's. Afif is a stockbroker, and possesses the keen regard for self-interest characteristic of that species. In a city that straddles two continents, Afif trades on whether he is a Westerner or Easterner nimbly and shamelessly.

But I like him a lot, and not just because I understand the mentality of a broker far better than I understand the average Californian nutjob. I like Afif mainly because he's an unapologetic elitist.

Regarding recent economic reforms: "I am from an old, established family. In the old days, you needed to be someone to do things. These days, people think just because they have money they can accomplish difficult things."

"But surely," I asserted, "meritocracy is a good thing."

He laughed this statement off as the idle babble of a slow-witted child.

Earlier on, Afif had received me warmly, driving me around Istanbul, showing me where Mehmet breached the city wall here, where the head of Orthodox Church lives there. "TDC is more than a client to me," he declared, "he is a friend!"

He is your meal ticket, you mean.

That night, he and his wife (a gracious, sweet concert pianist who struggled a bit with her English) hosted me for dinner at Ulus 29, a fashionable restaurant perched high on the banks of the Bosphorus. The modernist décor of the large main room, dimly lit so that one can absorb the vista through the floor-to-ceiling windows, evokes the ambience of a trendy LA eatery. The cuisine is internationally-inspired Turkish nouvelle.

I began with roast duck rolled in filo pastry, moved on to grilled milk-fed veal cutlet and finished with strawberry carpaccio with pistachio ice cream. The veal was very good, but the duck and desert were heavenly. This little repast was washed down by a serviceable red from the Ankara region and seasoned by Afif's views on Life.

On compulsory national service: "It is important for enforcing discipline on the younger people, though not, of course, for the educated class."

On religion (as he's digging into his Parma ham): "If you read The Book, it says you can eat pork if you're facing starvation. Well, strangely, I find myself under conditions of starvation on a daily basis!"

Responding to my question about the businesses undertaken by the well-heeled patrons of the restaurant: "In Turkey we have a saying: don't ask the grape, just drink the wine."

On the Prime Minister: "He is an arsehole. I am a Nationalist, you see. His is not the Turkey I know – we are Westerners, modern."

Well, as I have described above, the meal was excellent; moreover, the company was both charming and entertaining. Ever the host, Afif dismissed my feeble protestations, insisted on paying and then dropped me back at the hotel. Before leaving, he turned to me and thanked me for the flowers I had brought his wife.

I sensed an opportunity to respond in kind with a quote. "There is an old Indian saying, which my grandmother always repeated. If you can't bring a flower, bring a flower petal. But you must bring something."

He thought about this, nodded, grinned. "We have lived in Western countries, you and I, but we are still Easterners!"

Whatever, dude.


About me

  • I'm Sunset Shazz
  • Living the dream in Istanbul, Turkey
  • I grew up in the hardscrabble streets of suburban Ottawa, Ontario, committing petty crime, insulting the elderly - basically the classic misspent youth. When I was 19, I moved to West Philly, where I put myself through the Wharton School by dealing crack and hustling. After stints in Paris and London, I eventually graduated and moved to San Francisco, where I put in eight years hard labor working for The Man. But now I pop bottles with models, deciding cracked crab or lobster - who says mobsters don't prosper?
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