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Life in the big city


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Life moves fast in the big city. I mean, Istanbul has a pace of activity far removed from my old West Coast lifestyle. To illustrate:

Last Wednesday, I dined on the top floor of BJK Plaza, a prestigious office building near the Dolmabahçe palace, overlooking the Bosphorus. The restaurant, Vogue, is a trendy place which boasts a spectacular view of the sea, and we discussed business at length before retiring for the evening.

The following night I met some friends at Cezahir, near the Galatasaray Lisesi (high school), just off the famous Istiklal Avenue in Beyoğlu. This elegant bar-restaurant is housed in a magnificent old Italian school - high vaulted ceilings frame comfortable sofas, old Ottoman art and cold beers. My English friend Vanessa introduced me to a young fellow who is developing a 19th century building in the Galata district, where I was staying a few weeks ago. There we sat, drinking and chatting until we were interrupted by one of this gentleman's friends, Sal, a gregarious Turkish guy who had attended college in Connecticut. Eventually, the people I had initially arrived with had left, and I stayed on with Sal and his buddies:
  • The Iraqi, a CNN reporter who is trying to get the hell out of Baghdad to move to Istanbul permanently. The Iraqi's main attribute is that he is ubiquitous. Over the following weekend, I swear that he was everywhere. Every single party or bar I went to, the Iraqi would be there, coolly sipping a cocktail and having a damn good time.
  • BB, an AP reporter from Birmingham, AL. This fact is notable primarily because there seems to be an inordinantly large contingent of expats from this particular southern city. Odd, that.
  • The Soviet - A Wall St. Journal reporter who is originally from Russia. I discovered the latter only when the subject of hockey came up, which occasioned me to bring up the 1972 Summit Series.* More on him below.
  • Other various hangers-on.
Late that evening, we moved to one of the fashionable cafes in Cihangir, the neighborhood which I call home. It was past 3 AM when I finally crossed the threshold of my apartment.

Next afternoon, I found myself in Sal's office, discussing business at length with him and his partner, Mehmet. We spend considerable time discussing deals, and then sauntered over to the Intercontinental Hotel in Taksim square where we crashed a St. Patrick's Day party hosted by the Irish Consulate. This was a swank affair with catered food and, to my grateful joy, Guinness Pub Draft. In between swigs, I surveyed the odd crowd: there were Catholic priests, nuns, diplomats and drunks. If you are ever in need of good booze in a Muslim country, my advice is to seek out the Irish.

After hanging out a bit at Sal's place, I elected to leave at a reasonable hour, whereas rumor has it some others stayed out until past sunrise. There, but for the grace of God, go I.

Finishing up a leisurely late-afternoon breakfast in a quiet local café on Saturday, I looked up to find Alabama John, a dude I had just met for the first time the night before (and, as it happens, another fellow from Birmingham, AL).

"Hey, man," he addressed me, entering the establishment. "Did you know that Sal's in the back? They just called me to come over."

Coincidentally, Sal and an attractive young lady I had met a few nights before were lounging in a courtyard that had been converted to a greenhouse for the winter. So I had a few more cups of tea before we rented a DVD to watch at Sal's place. I was just getting interested in this movie when I realized I had to go to dinner.

High at the top of the Marmara Pera hotel, which is itself perched on one of Istanbul's ridges, is the restaurant Mikla, which enjoys a panoramic 360˚ view of the city. There, a friend's fiancé was celebrating his birthday dinner with 7 of his closest friends, and me. It was after a delicious meal of sautéed Jean-Doré that I elected to smoke one of the fine Cubans that the gentlemen had brought. My brain addled by this poisonous leaf, I decided to swing by Cezahir for one last drink.

Saturday night, the bar was fully packed with revelers, including, in time, many of the new friends I had met over the past few days. I asked where The Soviet was, since I had discovered one of those "small world" coincidences - a girl he knows in London happens to be one of my buddy Ace's innumerable cousins.

"The Soviet had to go back to Baghdad for a month. He was worried that the Iraqi Airlines flight would be cancelled, so he took a Royal Jordanian through Amman to make sure he didn't miss the trip. The whole world is trying to get out of that hellhole, and he is trying his best to get in!"

I reflected that I had, fortunately, not chosen such an exciting profession.

So, the next morning I woke up late and had to rush to my meditation class. Yes, you read that right. You can take the boy out of California, but you can't take the CA weirdness out of the boy.

*My buddy Ace was once kicked out of a taxi by a Russian cabdriver because of excessive taunting related to the 1972 summit victory by the Canadians. Da Da Canada, Nyet Nyet Soviet!


1 Responses to “Life in the big city”

  1. Anonymous Riko Swami 

    You ever see Sibel Kekilli walkin' around in Istan? She's sooo hot right now.

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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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