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

Exam day


Tomorrow I will be taking the exam which will allow me to move on to the next level of Turkish classes. If one excludes that farcical charade at the California Department of Motor Vehicles, the last exam I took was almost precisely nine years ago. But I'm not worried. This is an easy test and I've always been rather good at taking these things (far better at tests than at real life, as it happens). But, I keep reminding myself, the objective is not so much to pass the test as to learn Turkish.

Complicating matters somewhat is the fact that at 2 AM Turkish time the puck drops on Game 4 of the Ottawa Senators' Stanley Cup playoff conference quarter-final series. So it's not much of a decision, is it? Naturally, I will stay up until 5 AM listening to the game, snatch a couple hours of sleep, then go to the exam. But, just to let you all know I've matured since college, I shall refrain from going out tonight. Or, if I do, I shall limit myself to a few beers. Maximum.

Stanley'nin Kupası çok güzel!

The Playoffs Are Here


Can you feel that in the air? The NHL playoffs begin at 2 AM Istanbul time, and I will be up, listening to internet radio, and rooting for the perennially-underachieving Ottawa Senators. As Dr. Diamond said today, "They're always the bridegrooms, never the brides." My sentiments exactly (well, not exactly, but I understand what he was attempting to articulate).

This last week, by the way, has been rather entertaining with Captain Malaprop unleashed upon the city. In addition to my daily Turkish class, we have been dining like sultans and visiting hotspots and monuments alike. One of the more interesting days included a field trip with my Turkish class, upon which Dr. Diamond tagged along, engaging in his customary antics. This included regaling my bemused Turkish teacher with his advanced theories of etymology and historical linguistics. And in the prior sentence, by "advanced" I mean "half-baked".

But all in all, it has been immensely satisfying to see Dr. Diamond and my mother understand why this is city is so unique and fascinating. And we got a couple of decent pictures.

The Bosphorus viewed from Anadolu Kavağı, a northern suburb of the city.

Knappy in da house


My buddy Knappy and his friend Barb showed up in Istanbul yesterday. Knappy is an avid reader of the blog and insists that I have carte blanche to publish any and all of his exploits, however he doesn't want his real name being used. Pretty much everyone knows him as Knappy anyway, so I don't believe this subterfuge achieves a great deal.

Knappy, for those of you who don't know, is a legend. He and my buddy Clanger jointly formed the most competent administration at my old college fraternity (rather akin to a "tallest midget" designation). Knappy was the man who organized some of the most ridiculous mixers and parties I've ever seen, including a memorable one where he stood on the DJ's mixing table and sang the entire lyrics to Young MC's immortal "Busta Move". Many of his more entertaining exploits are unsuitable for the exceedingly high "family blog" editorial standards that we at Taken At The Flood seek to espouse.

But I will keep you up to date as to his adventures.

There is a fellow of Korean persuasion in my Turkish class who is proving to be a serious contender for the title of "undisputed king of unintentional comedy". He always shows up with his hair disheveled and a grass stain on his jeans. He has an extremely thick accent, and tries his best to pronounce sounds like "z" or "sh", but is unable to do so, despite his persistent attempts. He will sit in his seat trying to say a word with "z" in it, repeating it in vain, then throwing his hands up in despair. At break time, he will occasionally begin stretching, followed by very loud groans and grunts. Then, the Korean girl will begin dutifully punching him in the back and shoulders with her little fists, providing some sort of relief to his aching muscles. All the while, he will moan and grunt, completely oblivious to the fact that anybody else is in the room. Today he decided to practice his English on me, requiring me to answer a series of inane questions. After every answer, he would pause, think a bit, then toss his head back, nod vigorously, and yell "aaaaaaah". The guy is absolutely killing me, and every day he adds some new business or routine to his repertoire, such that I plan on giving him a standing ovation on the last day of class.

Then, there are the Belgians. They're not really that remarkable, except for the fact that they are Belgian. I have an entire slew of Belgian jokes that I'm just aching to tell, but cannot for fear of starting an international incident.

The Istanbul Hash


Last Sunday, after a night of carousing, I woke up to a beautiful, sunny day and climbed aboard a ferry to the Asian side of the city. There, I intended to go running with the Istanbul chapter of the Hash House Harriers, an international organization that has been around since 1938 and is frequently described as "a drinking club with a running problem". My buddy Iceman is an enthusiastic Hasher in San Francisco, and Double-Barrel and I once joined him for what proved to be an energetic hour through the streets and hills of that fair city. The SF chapter was full of fit, athletic Bay Area types.

The first clue that Istanbul would be different was when I noticed that most people had shown up in jeans. One guy (who, incidentally, was still drunk from the night before) wore flip flops. The second clue that athleticism was not of paramount concern became apparent when a girl pulled out her first cigarette.

While most of the crowd walked, a few of us actually ran the course, which like all Hashes, was planned beforehand by a "hare", with the remaining runners having no foreknowledge of its path. It was very beautiful, passing various obscure monuments and mosques near the Asian banks of the Bosphorus. At one point, we stopped on a cliff overlooking the water in order to, as tradition requires, sing a peculiar Hash song. It seems that this lookout was the preferred location for local teenage couples to escape from watchful parental eyes and enjoy a little privacy. I felt rather bad for the fellows who had their romantic trysts ruined by our loud and boisterous antics. Tough break, gentlemen.

During the course of the run, I got to know the Istanbul crowd, most of whom are a fun bunch. The fellow in flip-flops, it turns out, had run into me briefly in a bar last October, when I was on my reconnaissance trip to Istanbul. Others were either expats from various nations or Turkish people who had lived internationally and had learnt to appreciate the Hash.

At the end of the run, we returned to the European side where we engaged in a drinking ritual, honored a member who had completed his five hundredth run, and then went out for fresh fish on the Galata bridge. Much later, we headed to a bar in Beyoglu, where I ran into The Ubiquitous Iraqi. Another girl who joined us late turned out to be part of the Alabama Crew, and knows many of my friends. I'm only mentioning this to point out how astonishingly small the expat circle sometimes feels.

By the end of the evening I had consumed a fair portion of beer and had accomplished very little in terms of getting back into shape. But that's just how this town rolls.

Why I have not been posting


I suspect that over the next few weeks the frequency of posts will experience somewhat of a lull. This Turkish class is kicking my ass. Although I am making rapid progress with the material, it is requiring at least two or three hours of study per day, outside of class. Those of you who were at college with me can imagine how difficult this is proving. At my most conscientious, I never, ever applied myself with such alacrity at the old school.

And all of this is occurring with Istanbul as a backdrop, where it is not uncommon to stay out until the wee hours.

Tough town to study in.

Turkish classes


Today I started my first Turkish class. Due to the exigencies of my social calendar, I didn't manage to get to sleep until about 4:30 AM, which resulted in a challenging day. This is the problem with living in Istanbul - you're minding your own business, planning on a spot of dinner followed by an early night, and the next thing you know it's 3:00 AM and The Iraqi has just bet you a vodka shot that he can't make friends with the bar manager.

Anyway, I realized this morning that "mistakes were made". Further distracting me from my studies is a grey-eyed German girl, splendidly built in statuesque Teutonic fashion. Pretty girls have long been the bane of my academic career. So that's why my Turkish is so poor.

One funny coincidence from last night involved my being introduced to a Turkish girl who was visiting from NYC where she works in the hospitality industry. We were discussing various hoteliers and projects in Manhattan, and she says "actually, the leading hotelier of the moment is . . . " and she names my buddy JK, from the P Hilt story. So I emailed him today and he's tickled pink that he's internationally known.

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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