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    August 2nd, 2011adminIstanbul

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    June 28th, 2011adminActivism, Istanbul, Parties & Night Life

    Gay Pride Parade, passing a Catholic cathedral on Istiklal. Quite a sight!

    It is remarkable to attend a Gay Pride Parade in a majority-Muslim country. I believe Turkey is the only country that can claim such a thing… Though “gay pride” is certainly NOT widely accepted.

    Hell yes!

    For many years, I attended San Francisco Pride, perhaps the most famous Pride event in the world. But Istanbul Pride felt very different. The biggest contract was the audience/non-participants. Whereas, in San Francisco, the audience members are a wild, effusive and diverse crowd, the crowd in Istanbul looked generally confused… many  people did not know what to make of the radically queer gay men and brazen, unapologetic lesbians…

    Interviewing an out Turkish gay man, in English and Turkish

    The message and “feeling” of Istanbul Pride was also different — in a sense, more basic. Rather than the highly commercialized bacchanalia of San Francisco Pride, Istanbul Pride was a demand for acknowledgment (and a celebration of sexual identity, being queer and having fun!).

    My friend

    My fabulous former flatmate, Angela, from Barri, Italy. I miss her lasagna with all my heart.

    As I mentioned, the public reaction interested me the most, so here are some photos I took of confused, “every day” Turks:

    Looking down at the parade, in amusement

    Disapproving glares from the mosque

    I wonder what is going through his head...

    Shoppers at the mall

    And, here are some more general PRIDE PHOTOS — enjoy!

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    May 30th, 2011adminIstanbul

    I found this adorable cat, enjoying a lazy Monday afternoon, in Cihangir. The neighborhood (which is my 'hood, by the way), is famous for its beloved street cats. And, as you can see, people really do love them.

    A close-up of the cuteness.

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    May 25th, 2011adminIstanbul

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    February 20th, 2011adminIslam, Istanbul, Touristy Stuff

    Young German tourists and women in headscarves at Topkapi Palace.

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    January 24th, 2011adminIstanbul, Parties & Night Life

    Jihane in Nişantaşı, New Year's Eve 2011

    I know it’s a bit late. But I never acknowledged it. So, I will now: Happy New Year everyone!

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    January 24th, 2011adminFood, Istanbul

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    January 19th, 2011adminFood, Istanbul

    My first real Turkish breakfast overlooked the Black Sea. It was June and I was still totally disoriented in Istanbul. But that first real breakfast, with Osman, marked the beginning of my Istanbul experience. Since then, I’ve always loved Turkish breakfasts …the layers of oregano, pepper and mint, the cheeses and the honey and the sheer leisure it inspires… Here are some photos from a really nice (note: this is not average for me or most people!) Turkish breakfast. These photos were taken in November, right before I left for Greece.

    You can see the olives and eggs (the “menemen” dish, made of egg, onion, tomato, green pepper and spices). There’s also the meat (“sucuk,” a spiced Turkish sausage)  and various cheeses (especially “beyaz peynir,” or white cheese and “kaşar peyniri,” a soft, unpasteurized goat’s milk cheese that’s popular in Turkey and Greece). This breakfast also included dolmas, which are not always in the Turkish breakfast. But my breakfast companion, Cevdet, is a dolma addict. It’s rare that we go to a restaurant without a dolma order.

    That flat, circular thing is lahmacun — dough with minced meat — originally from Syrian cuisine of the Levant. And there’s also the ubiquitous Turkish tea (or “çay,” pronounced as “chai”), a black tea that people drink all day. You can also see the vegetables — tomatoes, cucumber — a common element in Middle Eastern breakfasts.

    Next to the lahmacun, you can see the pide (the long thing), which is “pita” in Turkish. Usually, people get cheap, greasy pide on the street with egg and/or cheese inside. When I was in a hurry, I used to grab them a lot. But they grew old quickly. Now, I just like the fancy ones, like this particularly beautiful pide!

    This is me being incredibly happy.

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    October 18th, 2010adminCrafts, Folk Culture, Gypsies, History, Imagination, Istanbul

    A photo taken, near my friend's flat, in the slum district of Tarlabaşı -- a mixed neighborhood, including families, petty thieves, prostitutes, small businessmen, Kurds, expatriates and an assortment of Turks.

    As I’ve written in the past, history is plainly different here. In America, I fantasized about the rollicking saloon past of San Francisco and Portland. I wondered what New York City and Washington D.C. looked like 200 years ago. I imagined the old factories of Chicago, the blues joints and robust German immigrants and newly arrived Greeks and Irishmen. But did I feel the history? Could I really conjure it? No.

    In the United States, economic progress was so fast — and so great — that cities barely resemble their past, barely have remnants of even 150 years beforehand.

    Drying clothes in Tarlabaşı in the last days of summer.

    In Istanbul, I sense history. I don’t “feel” it completely — so much has been expanded or redeveloped. But history is also very much alive. Because it never completely went away.

    A man, hand-sewing blankets, in his shop, which overlooks hip art galleries, featuring political art work. The juxtaposition can be fascinating or, if you see it every day, totally average.

    For example, I live in Mecidiyekoy, a very modern district. My bedroom window overlooks the new Trump Towers, glossy and boastful elements of the modern age. But what’s directly below the towers?  Burnt, charred homes, with cardboard roofs, occupied by gypsy families, living (more or less) like they did a century ago. I pass some of the gypsy families every day. They smoke cigarettes, play cards, and keep an assortment of animals — chickens, roosters, dogs, cats. They are a part of the neighborhood — just as much as the corner store, mosque or police station.

    Of course, there is a huge textile industry in Istanbul and most people here just use factory-made, mass-produced items. But these shops exist, too -- and that's important.

    And this is not tokenized history.

    When I visited friends in New York City, I saw advertisements for a museum (and tour) of former 19th century tenement life — interesting but also long gone. Also, if you’re visiting the Western states, the Lonely Planet guides like to recommend former brothels and other former venues of licentious activity. But how silly, right? How strange. The unruly, anarchic and passion-filled past is made into common tour. You’re left to wonder.

    Perhaps if I lived in Appalachia, I would feel differently — maybe history would be more ever-present. But, in urbanized America, history seems so hyper-branded.

    Of course, there is historical tourism here. And waiters wear gimmicky Ottoman clothing, at times, mimicking a time that is long gone.

    But there is also a tremendous sense of cultural and historical preservation. In Istanbul, history is a continual thing — something that extends so far back, and still seems so ever present, that the crumbling buildings and old folk songs seem relevant — somewhere between historical and contemporary.  And, as a history nerd, I can’t help but feel enchanted by the intermingling of past and present here.

    A watermelon cart in Cihangir, a yuppie/bohemian district bordering the Taksim area. I also took this picture walking home from a friend's flat. In Istanbul, you don't need to look for photo moments -- they're constant.

    Here's Cihangir -- modern, pastel and safe. Contrast Cihangir with Tarlabaşı...

    I know I have written multiple times on the old/new element of life here. But I’m honestly not tired of it yet! Perhaps it’s my favorite part of Istanbul. So in this blog, I’ll come back to it, again and again …just like my daily life …walking up and down streets and passing faces and doorways that could be 20 years old, or 200 years old — as if it even matters at all.

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    October 7th, 2010adminIstanbul, Ottomans

    Peering down from Ottoman ruins

    Fatih is one the of the best neighborhoods for urban exploration in Istanbul. The neighborhood houses the city’s most zealously religious community. But it is also home to many gypsies, street hustlers and, most importantly, ruins — the kinds that intermingle with greenery and street cats, overlooking skyscrapers and Istanbul’s famous waters. The Byzantines lived in Fatih. The Ottomans, too. Nowadays, the area of a former Byzantine castle is still used …as a bus parking lot. Yes, as a parking lot. History is so alive — and so dead — here, all at once.

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