Homes in Galata

Memorieeesss…

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When I first moved to Galata, I knew I was home. I had already lived in Istanbul since 1998, moving from Buyuksehir to Sirinevler, Tarabya, and the Koc University campus beyond Sariyer. I had a car when I lived out at Koc, but I was always going into town and was tired of living in somewhat of a gated community, beautiful as it was.  I went back to my job as director of English Time and my office was on Istiklal Caddesi, so I started to look at places in Galata.

Galata is a very old district. It is above Karakoy, where the sailors would go, and thus above the brothels. However, Galata traditionally was full of tavernas run by Greeks or Armenians. It was where the Muslims went out to play, the entertainment district of the time. However, when I lived in Galata, most of the non Turks had left and had been supplanted by many Black Sea families. A few artists had rented places there because it was so cheap, but of course once the bohemians discover a place, the cool people come in next. It becomes expensive and takes on airs. I much preferred the Galata neighbourhood to the tourist overrun area of interest. I am glad I moved there when I did, and these various homes covered a time of great change in the ‘hood.

First I looked at a few places with the muhtar, traditionally the village head, but in the city a minor bureaucrat. Most muhtars profit from their small positions, mostly in real estate. When my friend and I were outside his tiny office on Kuledibe Sokak, an old man nearby said in Turkish that Sayim Bey did not speak English. I told the man that we were speaking Turkish now and it would not be a problem. Kind of funny.

A friend of a friend from Koc knew someone who was renovating two places in Galata, so off I went to look. One was on Luleci Hendek, the very top floor, probably illegal, of an art deco era building. The ceilings were low and the climb was high. The next one was up the hill closer to the tower. That was my place. It was on the fifth floor with another add-on floor above it. There was access to the terrace on the main floor and on another bigger terrace on the top floor. The view was fabulous, from the Sulemaniye Cami to the first bridge. I could see the Princes Islands and sometimes even snow-topped Uludag. My bedroom took up the whole second floor, though there was a small bedroom I did not use. From my bed I could look up at the Galata Tower and then across the room the other way to Asia.

However, that place had the landlady from hell and we were in court about it for seven years. I rode that roller coaster as I learned a lot about the court system in Turkey. At least they moved from manual typewriters to computers over the many months that I attended court. Eventually I won a settlement from her, but of course it did not cover what I had spent. Anyway. One of my most poignant memories related to this is one day in August when things fell apart. The woman had ordered the renovation work to be stopped and it was rainy, so water dripped down the beautiful new stairs and into the new kitchen. I finally got pissed and had the work finished so I could use the space. In the meantime, she had the court evict me. One day I could not take it any more and started crying, strong Molly who rarely cries. My friend Cevdet was taken aback and patted me, assuring me it would be ok. I walked out onto the terrace and looked over at the Golden Horn, which was covered by cloud. Then hundreds of leylek, the storks, starting flying out of the cloud and up the Bosporus. They just kept coming and coming. Since they bring luck, I was heartened, though luck can be widely interpreted…

I was in court about that flat for several years. Funda, the landlady tried successfully to get me out, with case after case and counter-suit after counter-suit At the end, I won a small settlement, which is what I used to open my first cafe.

 

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I lived in several different places around Galata. After the heaven and hell house, I moved to a recently renovated flat on Luleci Hendek. It was in a building that had been designed by a Greek architect and probably originally occupied by Greeks. It was the Papadapoulos Apartaman. I lived in a small flat at the front, so I could see across the Golden Horn to the old city. I could also look down into the courtyard of San Benwa (Saint Benoit), one of the several French schools in Istanbul.

The most memorable event from there was watching the men cut up a steer they had butchered in the courtyard for Kurban Bayram, the Feast of the Sacrifice. Since it was a holiday, I was cleaning my place and when I was flipping my carpets from the balcony, I looked down and saw that they had just ‘cut’ the animal. This is done by a man who has been designated for this task and it is done with a prayer and respect. Once it was done, the men opened the hide and it became sort of a tarp as they worked. They cut it all up and gave some away, as is the custom, and were all finished in about six hours. It was not as gory as I had expected and it was certainly interesting.

The flat had nice wood floors and the bathroom included a big jacuzzi, which did not work very well in the winter since the water heater was limited. The renovations had uncovered some frescos and it was generally a nice flat. However, I was not happy there, so when another flat came up, I gave my notice.

 

muellif sok house

The next place was closer to the square and also near Sishane on a short side street. It was on the third floor of a building owned under suspicious circumstances by an old turkish lawyer. Apparently it had been owned by an old Maltese woman, Nellie. A friend of mine knew her and told me some of the details. The lawyer had her adopt him, promising to take care of her in her old age, which he did not do. Part of the ownership was still in her family, though it was not clear where they were. Someone from England came by one day but I was not home and the shop keeper could not speak English, so it remained a mystery. At any rate, the lawyer had not taken very good care of the place, which in a way preserved it. It had many art deco details in the door frames and the floors were still wood. There was no heat, so I got an electric heater for the bathroom and one soba (gas heater) for the living room There was also no hot water, so I got a heater for the shower, though it did not get as far as the little kitchen.

From the living room I could look down onto the street and see what was going on. When I rented the place there were some awful paintings of nudes in the living room and one back bedroom, but they were painted over.

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Muellif Sokak is very short. It is maybe 100 meters long from the bigger street leading straight to the graceful municipal building, curving around to the V where it meets the downhill street. On the corner is a tiny park, maybe five meters across.

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My house had a cumba (joomba), which is an alcove in the living room which overlooks the street. From there I could lean on the windowsill and see what was happening in this small neighbourhood. I think because it was so small, I paid more attention to some of the details, instead of passing them by as I would on a busy street.

In the summer I often came home to find the lighting shop owner sitting across the street at a little table playing tavlis, backgammon. He offered to teach me how to play, but I never took him up on the offer. He played with people who worked in other shops or offices around or with friends who stopped by.

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This same shopkeeper and his sister took care of the street cats who lived in the neighbourhood. Other people gave them crunchies from time to time. At night I often threw down chunks of old cheese—manna from heaven for the cats. There was a flow of cats. There was one older black cat who had sired most of the young ones. The remaining mother at this time was a calico. Her offspring had kittens this spring but she died in the process. Various people took care of the kittens, but some did not make it and some were given away. A very sweet white cat, Pamuk (cotton) died around then, probably from something it ate. Its brother had had its foot run over, so the shopkeepers were taking care of him. Sometimes other cats came around and there was then a show of territoriality and sometimes the shopkeepers shooed them away. Most of the cats were friendly and are not scaredy cats like most street cats.

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From my room there was a wonderful view of the Golden Horn, where I saw people sculling and some small airplane races. I could also look across to a parking garage and then over to the terrace of a building. In fact, one night I heard someone begging, ‘yeter abi, yeter’, enough, bro, enough. I did not make much of it and just turned over and went back to sleep. In the morning I was using my binoculars to look at the boat activity on the Horn and when I panned to the terrace across the way, I saw some plain clothes police holding up some bloody clothes. Someone had been murdered and I may have been sort of a witness. My friend told me to ignore it, as it was not a good idea to get mixed up with the police.

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At the time we were making a learn English video, so I let the crew come to film one of the ‘dramas’ at my place. That was a mistake, as it left the place in chaos for a few days and caused a little damage. I had to struggle to get some money out of the studio for that.

The rent at that flat was fairly cheap and I lived there for a few years, in spite of the fact that once again I had to go to court, since the landlord said I had shorted his rent when I paid the sleazy tea man (his ‘nephew’). It was thrown out of court.

I had some very nice parties and some good visits from my daughter and my aunt, among several others.

However, all good things must pass, and the lawyer sold the building to a Cypriot who started to renovate it. I was disappointed, as the Cypriot was a photographer and I though he would respect the place more. He divided each flat into two, with the idea that it might be an apartotel, but apparently he had a disagreement with his partner and for a few years the place stayed empty.

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From there I moved to a large flat on Camekan Sokak. I wrote a blog about this street (mollyscafeistanbul.wordpress.com/2010/08/06/mollys-cafe-camekan-sokak-a-short-history/ ). The landlord owned a small lighting shop a few streets over, so when I went to pay my rent I learned various things about the flat. His father had owned it for 35 years. At one point it had been rented out to 30 Syrians he called them, though it was not clear that they were from Syria. At any rate, all these men crammed into the flat, perhaps taking turns sleeping.

The rent for this flat was quite a bit more, but I rented out some of the bedrooms. I had sort of a a suite at the front, so I had my own salon and bedroom that were private. There was another salon at the other end of the flat. There wasn’t much of a view, but from my suite I could look down on the street. In fact, that sort of led to me opening the cafe, but that is another story.

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I had some nice flatmates and some weird ones. The nice ones included Deniz, an American Turk that I knew from parties. There was also Mareike, a Dutch woman who was going to grad school. She came to look at it with her mother, who liked my textiles. My son lived with me there for a few months, trying to work as a fix-it man. Then there were a couple of weird ones. One girl was very depressive who became sort of friends with another weird girl, Hale. Hale had not been there for even three days when she brought home some strange guy who was there while she was working. He made us uncomfortable and I told her he had to go. In fact, eventually I told her she had to go. And then finally I told depression girl that she had to move because I was moving out.

There was a great terrace on that building. In fact there were two. The nicer one had been taken over by a German Turk who rented out flats in the building and he did not want us hoi polloi to use it. It had a great view of the Bosporus and the Asian side. The undeveloped terrace had a view of the old city. Traditionally terraces had washing rooms for the women to use and then they would hang their clothes out to dry up there. Terraces are usually for all the residents in the building. At any rate, we had a few nice parties up there.

In fact, the biggest house party I ever had was in that flat. There were a whole lot of people I did not know, which was a little distressing. One guy was a thin rat-faced man who worked in the basement of the building doing something, I don’t know what. At any rate, he showed up and got blasted and two different friends walked in to the bathroom to find him pissing in the shower. That was the last big house party I had there or anywhere else.

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I took Deniz with me to a new flat around the corner. It was owned by a blonde Russian Kazakh woman who was married to an older Turkish man who had worked in Kazakhstan. The flat had been renovated by the person they bought from. Two bedrooms had been made into one, so one of the doors was a big window into the entrance room. The other bedroom had its own bathroom with a custom made long tub. The floors in the flat were original wood, as were the doors. The living room had a juliet balcony just big enough for a chair. It also had a raised dais for cushions, which was sort of a la turca. By then I had opened the cafe and I definitely did not have any parties there. Deniz told me she was moving into a flat her parents owned, so I decided to move too.

And a here a little cat story. By then I had taken on Oscar, a little white cat. I took him to the cafe every morning and carried him home at night. Soon I would just open the door and Oscar would raun down the stairs and out to the street. He would turn up at the cafe when he felt like it.

And a neighbour story. The guy across the hall was a slimeball. He and his brother had inherited the flat from their mother when she died. The brother was retarded and the slimeball was supposed to take care of him, but was not very good at it. This guy was a driver for prostitutes who were on call. One evening about 11 o’clock he knocked on my door with another slimeball in tow. The guy wanted to make a movied and wanted to look at my place. I told him I was not interested, epeciallly since I had my doubts about what kind of movie it would have been.

My last flat was on Tatar bey Sokak, which brought me full circle. It was not all that old, probably from the 80s. At one time the building had been a han where there were workshops of various kinds, but the owner had converted it into flats. I had a balcony and a large living room, as well as a small front bedroom and a windowless bedroom in the middle. Since at the point I had not planned on having flat mates, I had my bed in the living room From the balcony I could look down into the cami’s garden, which made it easy to imagine how at one time that hillside was all orchards. I could also look across to the old city, across the Bosporus, and the other way over to Cihangir. I lived there for a few years, along the way collecting the odd flat mate, one of whom took it over when I left.

Here is a story from that flat. I awoke one night to hear some slaps and thumps and a woman crying upstairs. I could not go back to sleep this time. Finally I went upstairs and pounded on the door. When it opened, a little guy poked his head out and said ‘I am here’ in English. I was fairly pissed by this time and was probably quie a sight, a middle-aged woman in her robe in the middle of the night. I told them that if they did not stop, I would call the police. This was all in English, since I was too mad to speak in Turkish. They understood ‘police’ very well. In amongst this the man who lived across the hall opened his door to see what was going on. I huffed off back to bed and that was the end of it.

My real last flat was when I returned to Istanbul for a year. It was quite bare because I had shipped my things to Canada and for that year they were in my nephew’s basement. This flat was across from my cafe, which was a mixed blessing. The landlady was a character. She fawned. She was probably a gypsy, as she was smoothly brown and had some gold teeth. The tea man up the street told me that she had been a whore, which did not surprise me. I saw her flirt and fawn with Cevdet– the Turkish equivalent of ‘oh, realllly? We had some issues with how I could pay my rent, as she cancelled her bank account, which meant she would come by the cafe to get her rent. Things became a little unpleasant, as I had little time to deal with this silly old woman. She wanted me to move out, which she couldn’t make me do, but I moved out anyway. I was not fond of that flat, as the whole street had weird vibes.

I also got to see a lot of flats in Galata because I would translate for my realtor friend Sait when he had foreign customers. It was interesting to go inside these buildings right on the square or on side streets. And of course when I was looking to rent or even buy, I saw many places. Some were offices that had been flats, some were awfully (read: village) furnished, some were dumps, some had already been renovated or restored. This was when Galata was starting to get cool. Again.

I loved living in Galata and enjoyed (mostly) my homes there.

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My Pharmacy in Tunel

another nugget from the past

2005

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The pharmacy I go to is just beyond Tunel Square, part of the Narli Han. It has been there for 60 years and now the upper shelves are lined with old brown bottles once used for dispensing medicine. It is run by three pharmacists, two of whom are in at least their 60s. One has quite taken to me and when I walk in his faces brightens, and he touches his finger to his heart to mean I touch his heart. I think it is mostly meant as a sweet joke and I treat it as such.

The shelves are stocked with all the modern-day products that people need—medicine, shampoo, ointments, and so forth. In Turkey you can get a lot of medicines over the counter that you would not be able to get in North America without a doctor’s prescription. This is partly because many people cannot afford to go to a doctor, so the pharmacists become a sort of general practitioner for minor ailments.

One time I went in because I had a corn. I didn’t know what the word was, so drew a picture (now I know the word—nasir, sounds sort of like misir, which is the word for the corn we eat). The pharmacist gave me a choice of a product in a box, a kind of plaster, or their own product. I went for theirs. He gave me a brown bottle with some strong-smelling goop in it. He showed me how I needed to take the fluff off a cotton swab, dip the stick in the bottle, and dab it on my corn. He said to do it twice a day for three days and then the corn would fall off. When the goop was applied, it turned a turquoise blue. It really did work.

They gave me another little brown bottle at another time for athlete’s foot. It looked and smelled like iodine and was meant to kill the fungus. It worked too.

The most interesting visit was when I went in with a sore toe, possibly an ingrown toenail (you are learning all about my foot ailments here!). My toe was a little swollen and sore. The pharmacist was busy changing the roll on the machine, so he told me to sit. Then several customers came in, so I had a chance to sit and watch the flow. Lots of foreigners go in there, as it is on Istiklal Caddesi and they are usually on their way somewhere. They usually needed something for colds or other minor illnesses. I looked into the back room, where once upon a time they prepared their medicines, and probably still do. The pharmacist went in there and brought out a biggish brown bottle and a cotton swab. When he set it on the counter, the young assistant sniffed at it and made a suggestion. The pharmacist returned to me and dabbed the stuff on my toe, twice. He then put some cream on it. I was amused by the attention, especially since there was a young man and his girlfriend in the tiny office, probably the son of the third pharmacist. He didn’t know I am a regular, and was kind of cool, though by the end he also was smiling.

This was an interesting experience, one of many little adventures I have in my dear Istanbul.

Here comes the Judge… in Istanbul

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Nov. 2002

As some of you know, I have been having trouble with my landlady, so recently we went to court. This is about a visit to a Turkish court.

Recently my daughter was on jury duty in the US and asked me if Turkey had the same system. No, it doesn’t. This is partly because the law is not based on the Magna Carta, which traditional English law is based on. Turks proudly say that their law is based on the Swiss Code, but mostly I am not sure what that means. One thing that it means, however, is that there is not a jury system. The decisions are made by a judge. Sometimes there might be another expert involved. Today the decision on my case was given by a single judge, which is not so different from when I was in court in the US dealing with custody. Also, a jury system like in the US means that citizens are registered and easily tracked, which is definitely not the case in Turkey.

Today we went to a court house built in the late 1800s during the late Ottoman times. In fact, the building was a collection of buildings, now with a freeway bridge roaring above it. Our court was in B Blok, which was where the icra (eejra) cases were dealt with. I had been there one time before, when this whole court stuff started. At that time I had to reply within seven days to a sort of summons issued by my landlady’s lawyer. Then I went into a shabby room full of pink files and ancient desks. The clerk at one desk lifted up an old typewriter to type my reply, once she had ascertained that I more or less understood Turkish.

This time the hearing was in a room at the end of a long somewhat shabby hallway, full of people waiting or hurrying from room to room. There were two “salons” for hearings, though only one was being used. A typed list of the cases was posted outside our salon. Our case was due to be heard at 11:00—along with about 30 others. We ended up waiting for about 2 hours, so that gave me a lot of time to look around.

 

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First of all, the lawyers all wore gowns. The cuffs were green satin, about 5 or 6 inches wide, and they had stand-up red collars. The gowns themselves were black. When I was outside smoking a cigarette, I noticed that a lot of lawyers went to an office window in that area and handed in their robes, so apparently many of them did not own their own. I noticed at the end that my lawyer had his own robe with his name embroidered on the yoke inside it. Under the robes, lawyers wore all sorts of things. Some wore suits, women mostly wore pants, and one guy looked like he was just off campus with black jeans and a sweater. Many of the lawyers were quite young. My lawyer is about 60, so he was one of the older ones.

The hallway was quite crowded with people waiting for their cases to be heard. They were women in headscarves, men in sweaters and suit jackets, grizzled men, businessmen, and some middle class people. I was a little out of place there because it was obvious that I was a foreigner, though people did not pay much attention to me.

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The salon was not very big. It was about the size of a normal livingroom. There were a few chairs along the back wall and along one side wall, where lawyers sat waiting for their cases. Above the judge’s bench was a large drawing of Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey. I imagine it is required, as it is required in all classrooms. The court system supports the Kemalist ideals of secularism, and it was Ataturk who introduced the Swiss law code to Turkey. In the middle of this not very large room were two tables with benches behind them for the plaintiff and defendant (or whatever they are called in a hearing). The lawyer for one side stood at one table and the lawyer for the other stood at the other. If the client was there (like I was), of course she stood beside her lawyer.

A man was coming and going from the salon to the list beside the door. He did not wear a uniform and in fact looked rather shabby. I finally realized that he was the memur, the clerk who called the next case or crossed it off the list if the lawyer had not shown up. He wasn’t dressed much better than a lot of the people coming to have their cases heard. He wore two shirts under his suit jacket, which had seen better days long ago. One shirt’s collar was twisted under the jacket collar. His pants were baggy and a little long and his shoes were scuffed. The man was balding and the rest of his hair was a little shaggy. He had quite Asian features, with the epicanthic fold and high cheekbones. His Mongol roots were very strong. He looked both harried and cowed. In the courtroom he would hand up papers to the judge as they were submitted by the plaintiffs or defendants. Except for calling people into the room, he did not say anything.

The judge, a woman, wore a red gown with a stand-up collar. She was sitting at a high desk at the front of the room. On this desk was a computer monitor, but I didn’t see anyone use it. In front of her was a woman at a desk with a manual typewriter, who pounded away on it at great speed. The judge would dictate her statement, which the clerk would type up immediately. While I watched, the judge smothered three or four yawns. I was afraid that she would take a lunch break just before our case, but luckily that was not so.

Finally my case came up. It was actually Funda’s lawyer on the list, though he did not show up. Instead, he sent a young woman. I don‘t imagine he thought anything would really happen today so why waste his time. We walked in and stood behind the table on the right. Turgay Bey, my lawyer, explained that he had opened a case that would be heard in March. He also explained a little bit of our case. The young woman lawyer said something about it too. The judge asked if we were going to dispense with the other case that was due to be heard on Thursday (my landlady is a nutcase), and both sides agreed. In fact, the other lawyer had made a mistake by filing it, because you can’t open two cases related to each other, apparently. During this process, which took about 5 minutes or less, I stood and tried to look like I was listening with intelligence and comprehension. Then it was over. We will go back for our case on March 13 and for this case on March 17. If we win our case, then this case will be dismissed.

So, that was my law adventure. It was pretty boring, but it was interesting to compare it with courts in the US. The system is quite backlogged, but there seems to be a way to get through it, mostly through postponements. The equipment, like the manual typewriters, is quite old and hard used. There are piles and piles of mauve files in all the rooms I saw into. One place in the hallway was wider and in it were tables and chairs filled by people working hard on the files. Some of them wore robes, so perhaps it was for the lawyers.

The more personal part of the story is that basically my house is still in limbo. However, after the New Year, I plan on doing something to the upstairs to make it useable. That is what I wanted when I took this place, and by golly, that is what I am going to get. It won’t be deluxe, but it will be my big room with my pretty coloured windows and the wonderful terrace with the view. This whole thing is stupid and has just generated major ill will and earnings for the lawyers. However, I will prevail—and I will keep you posted.

And…

These endless and many cases lasted for seven years. Unlike the U.S. system, if the lawyer does not show up, another date is given for another try. By the time the cases were petering out, the court typist was using a computer and there were monitors on the lawyers’ tables so they could check what she was writing. There was no court recorder writing down what everyone was saying. Instead, the judge instructed the court recorder what to write. That document was printed out and taken with us.

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I also went to criminal court as a witness for Cevdet, the contractor. Funda had decided to charge him with stealing the roof tiles. She had sent her own men to do the roof with the wavy panels evven though the roof tiles were already there. Cevdet took them back and we used the money elsewhere in the flat. He brought a businessman in a suit who owned the store where Cevdet had bought and returned the tiles. It was also useful that he was on the Beyoglu city council. In this case, there was one active judge and one savci, who was like a backup judge. I testified that Cevdet had not stolen the tiles.  Outside, our lawyer, Taner, strongly pointed out to a workman who was going to testify for Funda that perjury was a serious crime.  Taner basically took the wind out of her sails, thank goodness.

And I changed lawyers. The old lawyer had cheated me by keeping some of my money and the new lawyers were on the ball. Ultimately I won a small settlement, which I used to open my cafe. It was a cultural experience I could have done without, but such is life.

 

Writing in my blahblahblog

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For me, my blog is totally egoist. I write things to share and there it is ready to be read. I think I have two or three readers so far. Because I am an educated person, I have done many kinds of writing– academic papers, presentations, shopping lists, journals. letters. My blog is more for me than anyone else, but at the same time I am pleased if someone reads and likes or thinks about something I have posted. The topics are random, but a lot are stories I want to tell.

I am not a wordsmith. I have been fortunate in having been able to share time with many other wordsmiths– John Ash, Mel Kenne, Jeff Kahrs, Julie Doxsee and so many more. I know they work on their writing, tune it and turn it. I just write and if I occasionally come up with a nice turn of phrase, I am pleased.

I was thinking about writing in general. Animals mark their territories and we humans do also. However, since I believe we as a species fear death, we want our marks to last forever. There is a sanctity about the written word. Certainly archaeologists are happy to find writing, even if it is an inventory list from ancient times. Once something is written, it seems that it is indeed written in stone. It is almost sacrilege to throw out books, even crappy ones. That is partly because they have been made from such industry for so long, even though now they are printed by the millions, many as basically throw away books (paperbacks for travelling comes to mind, though now I suppose it would be a kindle for many people).

I have kept a journal since I was about 14. My first ex husband threw away the two years of journals that we were together but other than that, I have a box of them. I rarely read any old ones, though I might read back in the one I am currently writing in. I am not sure if I will ever read any of them again but I keep them. I told my daughter that when I die, she can just throw them out, though I may do that myself if I know when I am dying. The journals are not logs so much as exploration of the emotions I am feeling strongly at the time. Of course many of them are about love, some about loneliness, anger, thoughts and reporting of events of the time. They are about me.

When I first started to live abroad, I wrote group letters . Unfortunately, the ones from Japan are long gone. A few from Turkey have gone astray, but I still have several. It is interesting to read the enthusiasm and wonder as I tell about places and people. That kind of went away as life just became normal.

My writing style is probably more stream of consciousness. I rarely fine tune it much, though I do let something settle before I put it on the blog. I have seen some things recently that my father wrote and I would say I write like him only better. I used to teach academic writing, which of course is different from other writing, but I have realized that I don’t often take my teacherly advice regarding transitions and other devices.

My aunt recently sent me a copy of her version of a memoir, which I found very interesting. She is a Zen teacher, so it was good to see how she explained getting into it. When I called to tell her I had received it, I told her that my blog was my version of my memoirs. I feel it is important to share the stories I have written, to tell some new ones, and to explain some of the many photos I have. Luckily the days of putting people through the hell of slide shows are long past, so with a blog I can expose my stories and hope they are read. If they are not, so be it. The price is right! And it is all about me anyway.

My Unknown Life with Frank

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Most of the people I know now probably are not aware that I have been married twice. My first husband’s name was Frank, or Franklin as he sometimes preferred. He was a draft dodger from Wichita Kansas.

In the early 70s I hitchhiked everywhere, including around Toronto, where I was living and going to university. I met Frank when he gave me a lift. We hit it off and started seeing each other. We went on some trips, including Martha’s Vineyard, where his cousin lived. We stopped by Washington DC, where we were routed out of a park by baton wielding cops. Other trips were closer by, to Lake Erie or Niagara Falls.

Soon I moved into the house on Westminster in Parkdale, where he lived with Keith and Woody Russell, also from Wichita. Keith was a deserter and Woody was a dodger. The other person in the house was Rick Friend, a shy plump Jewish man. I was never clear what his story was. He had some money, I knew that.

At that house we smoked dope, dropped acid and went to the park, tried out macrobiotic diets– I once went on a cleansing diet of raw brown rice and lemon juice with cayenne. I ended it when Frank and I went out to steak dinner with some man he was cultivating for a job or work of some kind. I ended up with a terrible headache and we had to leave early.

Frank was sort of a wheeler and dealer. In Wichita he had fallen in with some fake guru called Rukka, who also seemed to be a wheeler and dealer. I met him once when he came for a visit and I did not like him. What I really did not like is that Frank sent him money periodically.

Frank got hired by Robin Hood to go around to markets to get their product on the shelves and displayed well. I learned that a face was the row of product and more faces was a good thing. I went to a couple of company dos but I was still a hippie chick and very naive, so those were not productive for Frank.

Both sets of parents pressured us to get married and for some reason we gave in. I met Frank’s parents when they came up for a visit, a humble Polish couple who had immigrated to the U.S. He had had a granite business for some time but it had failed. At any rate, we got married at the office in the Old City Hall in Toronto. My grandmother Marney had suggested that I get a gold band from a pawnshop, which I did (and in retrospect wonder how she knew to do that). Frank’s parents were not at the wedding. My parents, my aunt, and my sister were there, is all. From then on until we split up, I was known as Molly Hurysz (sounds like whore-ish).

Soon we were living in a townhouse in Woodstock. I had a small business that had been started when we were all in the house. I made iron-on decals that could be put on t-shirts. The designs included mandalas, logos (the zigzag guy for example), simple designs. I drove to stores around the area to get shirts placed in stores and then delivered them.

tshirt model 1970

Then we were moved to Montreal. We rented a house on the edge of Ville Mont Royal, which at that time was a ‘nice’ area. The house was a solid duplex with graceful elements. It was the nicest house I had lived in by then.

I got a real job working as an expediter in an office that imported textiles, usually from the UK. I worked with a woman named Barbara, who I became friends with. There was a Hungarian man who had had tattoos crudely taken off his arms (so I wondered if he had been a Nazi). One young flibbertigibbet girl often wore black bras under see-through white tops and would complain that the (few) men were looking. There was also a rather plain petite dishwater blonde of 19 who was having an affair with a married salesman from the office.

Barbara’s partner was from Newfoundland. In those years you did not often meet a Newfie and Newfoundland seemed very remote. Barbara and shared an apartment with a woman, who called Barbara one day at work to tell her that he had come home and was throwing money all over the apartment. It turned out that he had robbed a nearby bank. He had handed the teller a note but did not take it back when he got the money (about $5000). The police found a message or phone number by rubbing the paper and tracked him down. He was sent to prison for a couple of years and was put to work on a train gang. Sometimes Barbara would smuggle windowpane acid in a paperback for him, though I can’t imagine taking acid in jail.

One day I had had enough of Frank. We had been together for about two years. By then it was clear to me that he actually wanted someone else. He told me to lose weight, to get my teeth fixed. Perhaps I should take a conversation class to learn how to converse. He wanted me to shave my legs and had a razor in his hand to do it. I grabbed the razor and threw it at him, unfortunately missing him. Clearly I was not what he wanted. I went to Barbara’s with my bag and told her I had left Frank. She was delighted. I stayed with her for a while and then rented a room from a guy named Tom, who years later found me online and then sort of stalked me.

In Canada at that time, couples who wished to divorce had to wait five years unless they proved adultery. Thus we both went off and lived our lives. By the time five years was up I had had two different boyfriends in Detroit and Phoenix. I moved back to Toronto to finish my BA and to get my divorce. That was the last time I saw Frank and I have no idea what has happened in his life since then.

Life with Frank was a lesson in being who I am and dealing with yet another man who thought I should be someone else.

The woman tinerci

2013

Tonight I heard a man yelling and a woman yelling back. I thought it was a boyfriend and girlfriend arguing on the street, as I could not hear the words but I could certainly hear the tone of voice. The man was very angry with the woman. They came up to the corner and I then understood that it was not a lover’s tiff– it was the tinerci woman. She has been around for about eight years, which is pretty long for a glue sniffer. She comes and goes. She used to live in the garden of the pasaj down the street, but then the residents in the surrounding buildings had the gate locked so she could not get in. For a while she was sleeping somewhere else, but she is back. She sleeps near the closed gate, where she has her blankets, and uses the space as her toilet.

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Last year when she was camped there, a guy who had a shop nearby took pity on her and gave her the occasional tea or cigarettes. However, one day the tinerci woman attacked his girlfriend. They went to the police to complain, but the first police sent them to another police, who sent them to another police and in the end nothing happened. Now instead of being kind to her, he chases her off.

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The man tonight was chasing her off too. I have no idea what she did, but he was one pissed off Turk. There are some workshops on that street and I suspect that she tried to go in or tried to steal something. He had a metal piece that he smacked on the wall to punctuate his words. He did not actually hit her but it was clear it crossed his mind. Nuri Bey, the tea guy, walked down from his place to try to calm things down until the man went back to his shop. However, the woman kept walking back down the street as if to taunt him. Finally things calmed down and she went mutteringly on her way.

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I have seen this woman on the streets for years. In the summer she is often walking barefoot. As you get down close to where you turn into the square from Galipdede Sokak, her bare feet are imprinted in the cement in front of the kepabci. Sometimes her hair is cut very short and occasionally it is dyed. It is hard to tell how old she is, but I think she is in her 40s. She is thin and dried out.

There used to be a young man, also a glue sniffer, of about 25 or 30 who hung around with her, but I heard recently that he died. He stopped by my cafe one rainy day to ask for a couple of garbage bags to wrap his blanket in but did not try to come into the cafe and was very polite. He reeked of glue when I got closer to him. The woman had asked the hotelier across the street if he thought I would give her money, but he told her no. She did stumble past the door one day and make the motion for a cup for tea, but I motioned for her to pass on.

tinerci boys

Most glue sniffers are much younger than this woman. I saw one last summer who was 18 or 20, sitting on the step of the building across the street, sniffing out of his bag full of glue. He was in an animated conversation with an imaginary friend and also offered him a sniff from his bag. Most glue sniffers die young, so this woman must have started later in life.

In fact this street used to be a hangout for glue sniffers. A man who has had a restaurant around the corner for 11 years told me that when he first opened, the leader of the glue sniffers liked him for some reason and kept the others away from him. They liked this street because there were a lot of derelict buildings that they could get into or where they could at least shelter on the steps. I remember once seeing a pack of about 10 of these young people coming out of the street. I kept my distance because they are famous for being violent. The glue melts their brain and they have no hope anyway, so it is best to keep away from them.

These days there are a lot fewer glue sniffers around here. I don’t know if they have died off, been moved out, or collected for rehab (unlikely). It is a sad sight to see.

I wonder if, a few years later, the tinerci woman has continued to live on the street, or even to live at all.

Grandmothering

 

me and marney aug 75

marney molly 1974 or 75

My grandmothers were gray-haired middle aged women when I started to be old enough to know them. Nana was a strongly opinionated petite woman who walked with a cane. Marney was a stout corset-wearing lady who had occasional flashes of humour or lapses of ladyhood. Now I am a grandmother, not petite and rather stout, gray hair, slower than before.

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peggy nana molly

Not only am I a grandmother, but I am also the baby caretaker. It is a lot of work! Quin’s conversation leaves a bit to be desired, though it is fun to see him ‘hoo, hoo’ and move his mouth around. It is not fun when he fusses, which is usually when he is hungry or fighting sleep. This is when it is hardest, for he prefers to be held and rocked. Usually this involves standing up and rocking or pacing. For a while it meant sitting on the Pilates ball and bouncing (not my preferred method, as I was afraid of sliding off the ball). I am rediscovering muscles in my back and belly and arms that have not been used for a while. It also makes me realize why people have babies when they are young– they are flexible and strong.

I find myself looking into Quin’s face and looking to see who he resembles. Does he lean to the Farkie side or the Stahlnecker side? He seems to have some red in his hair, so that is definitely Farkie. He has a big head and that seems to me to be a Stahlnecker trait. He has eyes that may be green or brown, which is his own trait.

I wonder what he will remember of me. I am with him for four days a week plus some extra times. In his infantile memory will he recall me holding him and humming meandering tunes? That i shushed him to sleep? Will he remember my smell, my voice, how I look?

****

Today I was pooped on, urped on, cried on, teared on, smiled on, and laughed on. What a day!

**

I spend my days in conversation with a 5 month old. He greets me in the morning with a smile and then we go through our routines– rocking cuddle to a nap, fussiness till a bottle, burps, walks on nice days. He takes things in on the walks and people comment on him. Usually I run into people with dogs, so we stop to chat about dogs and babies.

grammo quin as king

It is amazing to watch this little scientist work things out. He is still a little spastic, bobs his head around to look, but he grabs things with more and more confidence. He grabs his feet, which are still themselves grabbing things with their prehensile grasp. He seems to remember how things work on his bouncy chair but he is not bored with it yet.

Quin is reluctant to roll over, as he is kind of chunky, but he sits pretty well propped up. He will have to roll over soon in order to get back up sitting.

I wonder what kind of life he will have. I read a letter in Between Ourselves recently in which the mother was wondering how her child would survive the droughts and famines and wars that were surely coming. They have come, but probably not how we all imagined back then. They are much more pernicious. How will the world condition have progressed for better or worse by the time Quin is a young man? And what will he be doing about it?

The poor child gets to hear me tunelessly humming and crooning to him. So far baa baa black sheep is his favourite, but I add in Christmas carols and even some opera. I suspect he will grow up to be as unable to carry a tune as his grandmother and mother. Lately he has been getting old MacDonald’s farm e i e i o, which gets his attention. I sing it low and slow and so it has become a lullaby. Recently I mentioned to one of my neighbours that I sing to Quin and she was surprised and charmed.

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These years it is unusual for a grandmother to take care of her grandchild on an almost daily basis. Several of Meadow’s friends with babies have expressed their envy. However, I could not do it indefinitely and I definitely could not do it if they had another child. My mother was far away from me and I never thought about her coming out to help me. My mother-in-law was too busy being shocked by me and could not understand how I mothered. When I was nursing Meadow, she asked how I knew she had had enough to eat. Because she stopped nursing.

I was lucky because I had a real mothers group and we got together regularly with and without the children. We could share what we learned about taking care of our babies and children in lieu of grandmothers being close. Now it is a grandmother’s club.

first great grand child

greatgrandmother julia with meadow

When my children were babies, I would take advantage of naps to do all the other things to run the household. I am not running a household so I don’t have to rush to do something. However, I try to help out in some ways, like folding laundry or sometimes taking out the garbage. I don’t want to be the kind of mother/mother in law that tries to take over, especially knowing that it would not be taken well.

a goodnight kiss for granna feb 81

granna and meadow

Life is slow with Quin. I have to always pay attention to him one way or another, so I find that even at home I listen for his giggles or sighs or complaints. I also find myself humming one of the many tuneless songs for him or I may stand and rock. When he is asleep I can knit or wash bottles but his naps are inconsistent for length. Sometimes I get him to sleep in my arms and when I put him down he opens his eyes and giggles. Other times he wakes up and complains. I want us to learn how I can put him down for a nap without him being in my arms first.

Truly one of the joys of being the caretaker grammo is that I can actually pay attention to this baby. I have watched him learn to focus and he can predict when we play peekaboo games. I bring myself to a stop in order to do that. I am not trying to fit him into my busy schedule but instead I am fitting myself into his. Several times a day I ask him ‘what do you want to do now?’ I am much better at reading his crankiness, wanting food or sleep or a different activity.

My back and arms are stronger, though they still ache some and my knees often could have better days. I feel like a grandmother. And of course I look like one because I am round and soft and have gray hair.

***

 

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Quin is now about to turn six months. Half a year. Amazing. Now I count half decades and he counts half years. He is a pleasant natured little person, still rather chunky. I am counting down to the time when I have to leave him and already I tear up. I am so glad for this time with him and also for being here for my dear daughter. My grandmothering in the future will be from a distance, as I was grandmothered, though a shorter distance. However, it does not diminish the love and I hope my dear Quin will remember that.