Thursday, December 20, 2012

Snow Day in İstanbul

I've had a challenging month. And today it's snowing, it's cold and I'm cranky. Last week I could not remember what Planck's constant was. It bothered me. Tally-ho, the internet to the rescue.

Alrighty then.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Bang, Bang, Vroom, Vroom

The first time I saw Daniel Craig on the Skyfall set as James Bond he was coming out of a metallic Land Rover in a silver-grey suit firing a shiny gun. He was very sexy, surprisingly short and wearing very tight pants. For days my Facebook status was all about Daniel Craig’s tight pants. To be fair, the tight pants were part of a tight suit. I guessed Brioni (the suit just felt Italian to me), but I was wrong, very wrong. It was, in fact, Tom Ford. (And just an aside: Can Tom Ford do no wrong? I think probably not.)

The suit looked amazing on Daniel Craig’s James Bond. The silvery steeliness reflected something in his eyes and in his persona. The suit seemed to dance on his body, the fabric caressing and releasing his thighs as he walked. To me the suit seemed to balance the essence of James Bond – a loaded gun and a sensual lover.

I have been thinking a lot about fashion and style of late – how fashion is about desiring something and (your) style is about defining something, claiming something, saying it’s yours and that you are somehow what you are presenting. I don’t think the suit was a casual choice – how could it be? For me, it was a perfect choice and not only because I was crouched down only a couple of feet away from those pant legs. The suit gave structure to Daniel Craig’s beautifully muscular body, enhancing it in a way jeans and a t-shirt would not have done. It gave him a context too. I am not a crazy man firing into a crowd – I’m a man in a suit. I’ve got a job to do. Bang, bang, I am doing my job. Vroom, vroom, off I go.

I’ve also been thinking a lot about the difference between men and women. Why is it that women don’t write more about masculine beauty? (Ok, sure, romance novels, but I mean, c’mon.) Seriously, women, look at this.

I know the first impulse is not to write about it (maybe not even the 192nd impulse.) I also know women are not as visually driven as men, but really, look at that man’s back. And also, c’mon, write about it. (This Bond Girl looks for cigarettes and some Scotch.)

It’s all about beauty and desire, so back to the tight pants. I think every man should have a great suit and a pair of tight pants. For the record, Skyfall’s costume designer Jany Temime called the look ‘body conscious’. Yes, very. You may not want to go underwearless like James Bond – (there is a really slight chance he was wearing whisper-thin boxers, but I doubt it – I was crouched down by his legs a long time. I looked. I saw everything. I’m just not debriefing you on everything I know. So sue me.) But for the record, gentlemen, when you do get your tight pants, just make sure when I see you I immediately think bang, bang, vroom, vroom. Thanks.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

I Was A Bond Girl, Kinda Sorta

My time on the Skyfall set was mostly fun, though I did moan a lot about my “costumes”. It all began with a little error in translation – I was told to wear ‘pastel’ to the set and to me that means baby blue, pink, maybe even coral. Soon I got a dressing down from the wardrobe mistress who threatened to send me home for my totally inappropriate outfit.

“Have you never been on set before?” she asked angrily.

No, actually, I haven’t and as often happens when people start yelling at me for reasons I don’t quite understand, I got all deer-in-the-headlights and froze.

Erica, my soon-to-be on-screen wife, who had also been yelled at for wearing inappropriate clothing charmed the wardrobe bitchtress mistress and off we went to get our costumes.

It was about 7 in the morning (and late by film crew standards), most people were already on set so all of the costumes were already picked over, but the wardrobe mistress noticing perhaps my dazed-and-confused expression decided that she would now be nice to me.

“This is your lucky day,” she said. “You get to wear the Joseph jacket.”

The Joseph jacket was yummy, except for two things. One, I cannot wear the color stone (that’s beige, folks) and two, the extra 75 desserts I had had the month before prevented the wardrobe mistress from being able to zip it up. Goodbye, Joseph jacket, it was nice knowing you.

What I ended up wearing made me feel like a (male) New York City cab driver. I am not a girly girl by any stretch of the imagination, but really I need to feel at least a little bit feminine. Everyone assured me it didn’t look so bad, but I felt awful in it – but it lent itself to my first storyline.

Erica, my partner in wardrobe inappropriateness became my on-screen partner. Here she is (out of costume).
In the scene we filmed near the Halkbank, we were a lesbian couple from Brooklyn on our honeymoon. She was the Julianne Moore to my very macho Annette Benning. Our two kids (are all right) at home in Brooklyn. We stood on that street corner consulting a map as a Land Rover with Daniel Craig’s stuntman zoomed by. Here is a photo our fan John took of us.
The next day I was called to the set I had gathered that what was meant by ‘pastel’ was actually neutral, as in beige, grey, black and brown. Since I have black and grey clothes, the next time I was able to act in my own clothes. In that scene I spent the afternoon with my former roommate Gennady. I told him to first look at the camera, then look at the zooming Land Rover. It was a word to the wise and he kept looking in the camera’s direction in all the shots. We, of course, had a backstory too. I was his professor’s younger wife and he was a Ph.D. student and we had run off for a romantic weekend in İstanbul. In the scene we were standing near a cart that had cleaning supplies and rope and other strange odds and ends for a pazar in the heart of Eminönü Square.

“Should we get some rope and a feather duster to take back to the hotel room?” I asked.

Gennady knows me well and didn’t answer, he knew I would just run with whatever he said so he just conserved his energies for looking at the camera.

I don’t have pictures from that day, and that was also the day that a seagull sent a load of good luck raining down on us – and our own, personal clothes.

This is how the Daniels (that’s Daniel Craig and the stuntman also known as Daniel – but is Freckles to me) remember me. By this time I had made friends in the wardrobe department – and since they liked me, I got to wear something that actually was feminine and gave me a waist. I wore this outfit when I was crouched near Daniel Craig's...well, more on this soon.

The last outfit I wore was this one.
And here I am with my on-screen husband James. (I am nothing if not versatile.) James was everything you could ever want in an on-screen husband – kind, patient and not easily thrown. We did the scene 50 or 60 times and he was always in character, good naturedly asking if I was hungry or if we needed to get anything else for our kids at home. (We had three. Will, 14 and the twins, Rebecca and Lisa, 12.)
Really, there’s a lot of time between takes and standing around can get boring. That’s why it was fun to play fight with the Iranian stuntman behind me.

“Hit me. Hit me.” I told the Iranian stuntman.

“I cannot hit a girl,” he said.

“Dude, you’re a stuntman. Pretend to hit me and I’ll pretend to hit you.”

My on-screen husband patiently watched me karate chop and play kick the Iranian stuntman until they (finally) called a wrap for the day.

So that is a brief look at my time on the set as a Bond Girl. Now that you know what I look like, keep your eyes peeled for someone with short brownish-reddish-blonde hair somewhere in the opening sequence in Skyfall. If you see me, let me know.

Friday, November 9, 2012

(My) Secrets from Skyfall

One of my very first posts from my Hürriyet Daily News blogging gig was this funny piece about Skyfall. And now the time has come for me to tell you all the things I didn’t tell them.

First of all, you should know that I was picked up more than a cranky two-year old on that set. And for the record, no, I don’t want to see your tattoos, ride on your motorcycle, go to your house in Bodrum, protest something with you or hear your Michael Jackson cover band, but thanks for asking. Actually, the first three “offers” came from the same guy who called himself Eddy. When you’re working long hours on a film set with lots of people standing around waiting, chit chat is normal. I was chatting with a lot of different people, but Eddy had an agenda. I had only shown polite interest in him, but I guess he liked me – or more likely, wanted to get into my pants – so he proceeded to show me the tattoos on his neck and on his forearms. When I didn’t show enough interest, he showed them to me on his cell phone because, you know, in New York we never really get to see tattoos, do we?

Eddy had also chatted with my former roommate Gennady that day and Gennady is the kind of guy that can talk to anyone about anything. I kept trying to tell Gennady not to encourage him, but I couldn’t get a word in edgewise. When Gennady left to do his scene, Eddy gave me several backhanded compliments including how I did not dress like an Italian (Yeah, because this is my costume. We’re on a movie set, remember?) and the all-too-accurate guessing of my age, which I found less than charming. (For the record, a woman likes to think that she can shave 5 – 10 years off her age on a good day – and dude, if you want her to like you, feed her vanity. That’s like womanizer rule # 1.) He had told me he worked in the resort/hospitality business, which translates into a womanizer’s playground – but he was the absolute worst womanizer ever. When he insisted I take his phone number, I found it easier just to put it in my phone under “AnnoyingEddy” and not pick up the next day when he called and the next day after that. Thankfully, he got the message. And you know how it is when someone’s annoying they’re usually not just a little annoying, but a whole lot annoying? Eddy was a whole lot annoying. He couldn’t even just be normal in the scene, but had to ham it up with double and triple takes. The next break we got I went over to where Gennady was and hung out with Tom and Jeremiah who were grad students. Tom was reading Delueze or Guattari or quite possibly both. It’s funny they don’t come up more in real life (Delueze and Guattari, not Tom and Jeremiah) because they say things like desire is a machine. You know on a good day desire is a beautiful machine and on a not-so-good day (like around Eddy) desire is a bad, bad machine.

Actually, sometimes it is a funny machine, like the guy who wanted me to protest with him at the Hilton.

“What will we be protesting?” I asked him.

“Art,” he replied.

I kinda really like art, so I asked, “But what about art?”

“It’s a protest about art and it’s at the Hilton,” he replied.

And yes, the guy did have a good command of the English language, we had spoken at length the day before. If only he had said we were going to protest against Paris Hilton I would have been all over that in a hot second.

But my favorite guy was Kurdish Peter Lorre. Like his name suggests he was Kurdish and looked like Peter Lorre (Peter Lorre in M or Peter Lorre in Ninotchka, but most definitely not Peter Lorre in Casablanca.) When we met we had the usual broken English/Turkish conversation where he told me he was Kurdish and I was Italian and American. The next day for no explicable reason he started speaking to me in French. I know I did not mention I spoke French and yes, it is a Romance language, but not one that I speak. He went on and on and when he was done I smiled and said, “İtalyan.”

But he just kept speaking French. Unfortunately, everything I know in French just leads to french so that was of no use whatsoever. For the first few days I just smiled and nodded, but then after a while I learned the be-distracted-by-something-on-the-set-after-you-wave technique.

I met a lot of people on the set. Here’s a photo of some of the non-Turkish extras.

Ok, and here is a contraband photo of the waiting area for the extras.
And the restaurant at the Sirkeci train station – we all had breakfast there at 5:30am every morning.
I took it as a good sign that we breakfasted under the watchful gaze of Sean Connery (even though it was in Murder on the Orient Express and not To Russia with Love) and there was also a picture of one of my all-time favorite actresses Wendy Hiller who was also in the movie.
So stay tuned for my next two posts in the James Bond Series: Bang, Bang, Vroom, Vroom (or What He Wore) and I Was A Bond Girl, Kinda Sorta (or What I Wore) coming soon to an RSS feed near you.

Friday, October 26, 2012

A Day On Henna Island

Kınalıada or Henna Island is one of the Princes' Islands and is part of the Adalar district of İstanbul. Ada means island, adalar islands, and Kınalıada's name comes from the color of the land there which is rich in iron and copper.

B. and I had been planning a trip there - or perhaps we'd go to Burgazada, another of the islands, but then settled on Kınalıada. Monday was a sunny day and perfect weather for our trip, so I grabbed the ferry at Kabataş and watched the seagulls fly by (I know they were looking for pieces of bread or simit - I only had teeny, tiny sandwiches - more about them in another post - and those were off limits. The man from Saudi Arabia wanted them to eat bread from his hand. I told him they wouldn't and they didn't. But here they are flying.)

We stopped in Kadıköy and B. joined me. She brought simit which we ate (sorry, seagulls.) I drank coffee and she had an ice tea and after 25 minutes we arrived in Kınalıada.

Which way should we go? Let's go right, B. suggested. Sounded good to me and off we went. I don't know what it is. I love dilapidated old houses. I just love them. I am not sure if the love comes from my deep love of real estate or my deep love of stories. I can tell you, this house had a lot of both.

For the past year or so I have been obsessed with Miss Havisham from Great Expectations. Mrs. Clennam in Little Dorrit also lives in a dilapidated old house, but Miss Havisham in infinitely more fascinating. After being swindled and left at the altar, Miss Havisham sits in her decaying mansion wearing one shoe and her wedding dress. You can understand why she's gone mad and what an amazing symbol of inertia she is. So, that being said, what is it with Dickens and women in old dilapidated houses - there's an academic paper just asking to be written (if it hasn't already been written to death.) And what is it with me and dilapidated old houses?

Here's the front view.

And here's a majestic island house in all her glory.

B. and I walked and talked. We caught up on a lot of things. I stopped to take photos of flowers.


Kittens sleeping in flowers.

I wanted to take a teeny, tiny one home. But then thought, no. Step away from the kitten, B. said. I stepped away. Though this was my first step at looking at my commitment issues. Today I bought a bamboo plant. I'll start slow.

It was a gorgeous day. We walked up to the monastery. The directions were kind of iffy, in that way that Turkish people give directions. We came to a kid's park. The monastery was supposed to be visible, so I climbed up the jungle gym to get a good view. I don't have a picture of that. But I do have a picture of our wrong turn.

We found the monastery. I don't have a picture of that either. It was kind of dull on the outside - but a window had been closed on an old, white lace curtain and part of it was outside and part of it was inside. Is that you, Miss Havishamopoulos?

We walked into town and sat and talked by the sea. I was struck by the textures.

And the color of henna.


And again.

It was a lovely day. I cannot wait to go back. We'll see about the kitten.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


Nope, I’m not going to write about the A.S. Byatt novel or a remake of The Exorcist . I want to write about things. When I left New York I gave away all of my possessions except for a box of books, a suitcase filled with shoes and two Rubbermaid containers of clothes and art and some writing I wanted to keep. It was one of the most liberating things I have ever done. I had too much stuff. In New York you would never have convinced me of it, I had too little space I would have argued. And while apartment space is smaller in New York I had a whole lot of sh*t.

So now that I have my own space in İstanbul I am really careful. I don’t believe I should only have 100 possessions, but everything I buy is something I really need or will make me very happy using. I still have a problem with paper products (I like them and they make me feel like there is a world of writing possibility out there that I can now tap into because I have the right notebook. Right notebook = right genius book in the world of my imagining.)

In any case, here are my ‘can’t-live-without-them’ 5 possessions.

1. and 2. My salt shakers. Yes, I have two.

1. I bought this red one first. It’s perfect for salting the water for pasta, but a disaster when trying to salt food. I love its big, beautiful salt shaker shape, the color of the red cap and cover and how it looks when it is filled with salt. I had to buy the second one because no matter how lightly I tapped this one too much salt ended up on my food.

2. This is not the salt shaker I intended to buy. It was the only one I could buy singly and it was cheap (1.50TL, about 80 cents U.S.) I had wanted to buy a squarer, fatter one – kind of like the ones you find in American diners – but I am so glad I found this one. I love the way it fits in my hand. I love how elegant it is. I call this my Madame X salt shaker. It reminds me of this painting by John Singer Sargent.

When I put my salt shakers together it kind of looks like the Haiga Sofia, don’t you think?

3. Rosewater – and not just any rosewater, but vor-mag energy-enriched rosewater. Rosewater is known as the beauty secret of Turkish women. I use it as part of one of my daily rituals. I love the scent and the lovely and loving energy it awakens in me.

4. Alligator stapler – This is just the perfect stapler. It’s the perfect size. It’s whimsical (it’s an alligator – or, if I am mistaken, then a crocodile) and it makes me happy just to look at it. Collate and staple, people, collate and staple.

5. Oh, this was a hard one, but hands down this is my most important possession. Moka express. One cup. Every morning. Love. Happiness. Espresso. Every day is a happy one.

What are your most important possessions?

Friday, October 5, 2012

Sevgili Türkiye

A lot of you know that I blog for Hürriyet Daily News in English. One of my first pieces (actually, it was my first, but I bumped it because I wanted to write about my experiences on the James Bond set) was something called Dear Turkey, a love letter to the Turkish people about my love of Turkish food. My sweet, dear and talented friend Ayşe Ermert loved it and thought it was a shame that only English readers should enjoy it. Since she is an amazing translator, she decided to translate it into Turkish for Turkish readers to enjoy as well. So today I share with you all Ayşe's lovely translation.

Sevgili Türkiye,

Sana bu mektubu yazıyorum çünkü seni seviyorum ve senin için neler hissettiğimi bilmelisin.

Bence bu dünyaya değer katıyorsun, ancak çok utangaçsın ve sana bahşedilen harika hediyelerden bahsetmek konusunda çekimsersin. Yani şunu söylemek isterim ki uyanmanın ve tüm dünyaya ne kadar mükemmel olduğunu, yemeklerinin ne kadar lezzetli oldugunu söylemenin vakti geldi.

Bunu neden söylediğimi anlatmama izin ver. Biliyorsun ben İtalyan'ım ve bildiğin gibi İtalyanlar dünyaya pizzayı, makarnayı ve Rönesans'ı hediye ettiler. Ve biz durmadan bunlardan söz eder dururuz. Son zamanlarda ise, berbat poltikamız ve kimsenin satın alamayacağı kadar pahalı, güzel elbiselerimizle ünlüyüz.

Ve halen dünyanın neresine gitseniz, insanlar İtalyan yemeklerini sevdiklerini söylerler. Neden? Çünkü İtalyanlar sürekli yemeklerinin ne kadar mükemmel olduğundan bahsederler.

Nereye giderlerse gitsinler İtalyan yemeklerinin daha iyi olduğunu söylerler. İtalyanlar bunu birbirlerine ve herkese kitaplarda, dergilerde, billboardlarda, bloglarda, tweetlerde ve tv programlarında yüksek sesle anlatırlar.

Çok sevgili Türkiye'm, sen neden bu kadar sessiz kaldın? Neden bizim pizzalarımız için söylediğimiz şarkılar gibi senin piden hakkında şarkılar duymuyorum? Neden mantı ve sarma hakkında filmler yok? Neden kimse döner hakkında şiir yazmıyor? Neden? Senin yemeklerin İtalyan yemekleriyle yarışabilir. Ben bunu kanıtlamak için fazladan 8 kg aldım. Türkiye'de tattığım herşeye bayıldım, kokoreç hariç. (ben işkembe de sevmem zaten)

Kendine güvenmeye başla Türkiye! Seni seviyorum ve herkes seni sevdiğimi biliyor. Seni gerçekten seviyoruz, ama sahip olduklarını paylaşmalısın. Biliyorsun Rönesans yıllar önceydi ve biz İtalyanlar hala bu sebeple epey övgü alıyoruz. Sen, künefeyle veya kaymakla neler başarabilir, ne övgüler alabilirsin bir hayal et. Kaymak'la dünyayı bile fethedebilirsin.

Türkiye, artık tam zamanıdır! Anneanneler ve babaanneler pencerelerinizi açın ve böreğinizin lezzetini anlatın bağırarak. Babalar, iskender tabağını havaya kaldırın ki herkes ne kadar iştah kabartıcı olduğunu görebilsin. Çocuklar siz de dondurmayı.

Türkiye, uyan, ayağa kalk ve lütfen kulağı duyan herkese Türk kahvaltısından bahset!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Italian Kisses

It was my second trip to Florence. I was visiting a distant cousin who worked for the Foreign Service. She was expecting me at her home – a large palazzo across the Arno. It was raining and had been raining for days. There was so much rain that the Florentines would look at the Arno with worried faces fearing another flood. The weather seemed to suit me. My heart was broken and I needed a change of scene. My cousin was happy to see me and apologized for the weather. I didn’t mind the rain, I told her. She gave me a cozy robe to wear and I ate peanut butter sandwiches and we talked until late.

The next day, she insisted I wear her rain boots when I went out and not the fashionable short suede ones I was wearing. They were knee high and bright red. She also gave me her golf umbrella and off I went. Because this was my second trip I wanted to see what I had missed the first time. My first stop was the Palazzo Vecchio. It was a rainy weekday in October, so there weren’t any tourists, but there were two businessmen standing inside. One turned to me as I looked around and said, “Now here is an intelligent young woman,” pointing to my boots.

I blushed, the boots were hopelessly American and after living in Rome for a year, I had tried to become as romana as I could.

He and his companion smiled at me.

“Is this your first time in Florence?” he asked.

“No, my second, but my first time at the Palazzo Vecchio.”

“Well,” he said, “if you give me 10 minutes, I will show you the Palazzo. I am the direttore.”

I don’t know if I wanted to say no. Maybe I wanted to get out of it, but he had sad eyes and an almost uncanny resemblance to Giancarlo Giannini, so I followed him to his office. After a few calls and a re-arrangement of papers on his desk, he took me on a tour of the Palazzo. The Palazzo no one really sees – cell-like rooms and a tight passageway with only one tiny window looking out onto the grey sky and the Arno. It was in one of these darkened hallways I started to get nervous. Maybe it was a little claustrophobia; maybe it was the New Yorker in me wandering in dungeon-y places that got it started. The direttore sensed it and soon brought me back to the main room of the Palazzo. He beckoned me to follow him again. This time to the Tesoretto, a small jewel-box of a room also known as Lo Studiolo di Cosimo I. He unfastened a velvet rope and led me in. He closed the Tesoretto’s door behind him and walked to me. There were only the two of us in Cosimo I’s most private of rooms where he had once kept his most precious objects as well as personal documents and healing plants. The direttore stood in front of me and smiled.

He bent his face down to mine and kissed me. It was the first time I had kissed a man with a moustache. He kissed me again. Then he walked away and opened the door. And I followed him.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Saturday, September 15, 2012

What You Are Searching For

This is something from the book I wrote called The Goldberg Variations. Ammachi or Amma is considered a living, Hindu saint. Her darshan or blessing is given in the form of a hug.

What You Are Searching For

I wear a t-shirt that I bought in New York. It was one of the last things I buy for myself before leaving. On the front is the symbol for yoga and on the back it says, “Om is the essence of all you’ve been searching for. Om is your own true nature.” It is a quote of Ammachi’s and I spend three days at the Manhattan Center when she is in town in early July. And after years, I even receive darshan. What I think I will feel when I receive it is not what I feel. I have been emotional and nervous all day, but when I receive her blessing I feel calm, peaceful and I have no need to cry or to manage my emotions. I am. So I look around for a place to sit and be alone.

I find a corner in the first balcony – I have sat there before and because I am a creature of habit, I return to almost the same spot. I drop my purse, my bag and I wrap the white cotton shawl I bought earlier in the day around me. I feel the drape of the cloth on me and I feel a deep pleasure – the weight, the feel on my arms and on the left side of my collarbone, the warmth that it gives me in the over-air- conditioned hall. It pleases me and I feel happy. I turn my head and my attention goes to two men two rows in front of me on my right. The older man has a grey ponytail that stops mid-way between his shoulder blades. He is wearing a soft cotton top and vest and flowing linen pants. The colors are all pale and faded and he sits lightly turned towards his companion with his right arm wrapped around the back of the empty chair between them. The younger man is turned directly to one side, he sits cross-legged on the chair giving his full attention to the older man. The younger man has short, black hair and a short black beard and is dressed in loose white linen.

I just want to be, but my attention is drawn to their conversation again and again. The older man talks of his experiences – of going to India, of meditating by the Ganges, and how, from time to time, he has a flash, a moment of divine connection. He knows it, he feels it and soon it is gone. He speaks slowly, thoughtfully and pauses now and then to look down to the stage where Amma is giving her blessing. When he stops, the younger man is quick to quote some teacher he has heard speak or make some witty remark and laugh almost too loudly. His energy is strong and sure and full of certainty. The older man continues to speak quietly and I begin to feel annoyed at the younger man. The older man has all the patience in the world for him, I do not. I see in everything he says a need to be noticed, to be considered wise, to be well on the path to knowledge and enlightenment. He is so sure and knowing – the older man is not so sure. He speaks of his traveling, of not knowing and finally says, “I know I am an aspirant,” and this word rings in me like a bell.

“This is what I do,” he says, “This is what I am.”

The younger man says something and laughs. But I am looking at the aspirant who moves his head slightly to one side and I see that he is very handsome. For a while I am lost in thought about these two men and who they are. It seems so clear to me that as time goes on we become so much less sure, much more afraid, everything is more fragile, closer to death, and therefore, more exquisite, more beautiful and more rare. There is a spark in youth that we lose in time, but if we are true to the questions within us, we are visited from time to time with a moment of enlightenment.

The younger man is still talking and then when he stops the older man says, “And now that these three years have passed, I want to give myself to love.”

“So, it has been three years?” asks the younger man.

“Yes, all this traveling has helped me know myself better.”

“Ah,” says the younger man, “so you are ready to fall in love.”

“You know,” says the older man, “to love someone else is a way to confront yourself, to understand who you are. When you look into the eyes of the Beloved, you are looking at yourself. That is why we fall in love, to know ourselves. But to open ourselves to someone and to let ourselves become vulnerable and allow them to love us, for however long and however imperfectly, that is when we confront the divine.”

The younger man looks at the older man and says nothing.

“But I am afraid,” says the older man, “Am I really ready? How will I know?”

“In time, in time,” says the younger man and they are quiet for a while. So I pick up my bag, my purse and I pull the shawl up over my left shoulder and I go.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Damn You, French Dress!

I was on my way to the library, really, I was. I just wanted to stop at Carrefour to see if they had those 100-pack tea lights I love. Having candlelight at home is one of those small indulgences that really make me happy. They didn't seem to have them anymore, so I was on my way into Beşiktaş when I remembered the discount designer dress place that was close by. I still need a dress for my cousin's wedding in Italy and I haven't felt very inspired to spend a day mall shopping. Since this was on the way, why not? I’ve wanted to write something about clothes and fashion here in Turkey (look for it on my Hürriyet Daily News blog soon), so I thought I might find some inspiration today as I shopped for a dress.

I walked over to the store and scouted the racks. Everything is arranged by color and the knee-length designer dresses (as well as the ball gowns) are in front and to the right when you walk in. We have stores like this in New York, racks and racks of designer dresses for 70% off or more. My favorite is Daffy’s, followed by Century 21’s Bay Ridge branch. The prices in New York are much, much better, but New York was not helping me today.

I decided to try three dresses and take some photos. I wanted to try some things with color – not black, not red and certainly, not white. Blue would be perfect, maybe even green. I flipped through the dresses. I picked three that didn’t inspire me with high hopes. Maybe I could write something funny, I thought.

I tried the first dress.

My niece dresses like this when she plays Disney princess dress-up. But where was her Bedazzler? This dress needs some rhinestones. Oh, and definitely some sparkles! I would accessorize with a wand. Or maybe, not.

Dress number two is a Halston dress.

Unimpressed. Yeah, me too. Does it look more like curtains or a bed sheet to you? I thought the off-the-shoulder action would give it a Godess-y, siren-y vibe. I was wrong.

And then came dress number three. Here it is on the hanger.

We’ve all known dresses like this. Whatevs. Am I right? Then, I tried it on.

It just needed my body to give it life. Damn you, French dress! You are way, waaaaaaay too expensive for me. But I can’t deny the way you make me look and what you make me feel. You make me want to pick up Saudi princes and [redacted] in airplane bathrooms. You make me feel like more of a woman than I can handle. You want things from me, no, demand things from me that scare me a little. And then I tried on the fuchsia shoes.

Oh, damn you, too, slutty, 1980s, fuchsia shoes.

The net-net:

Ariel’s Ballroom Dancing Dress: Dina Bar-El – 295TL (164 USD)
Halston Schmatta: Halston Heritage – 373TL (207 USD)
Damn You, French Dress: Vionnet – 510TL (283 USD)
Damn You, Goody Two-Shoes: Le Silla – 243TL (135 USD)

Not putting any of these on my credit card. Priceless. Though if you’re a Saudi prince or a Turkish millionaire, I’ll pour myself into the dress and gladly pour out some other ideas from my all-too-vivid imagination.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

My Non-Winning Entry from McSweeney’s Column Contest

I knew I wouldn’t win, but entered anyway. It’s not that I am not funny. I’m plenty funny. Hilarious, even. It’s just that I really can’t see myself writing column-length pieces in McSweeney’s preferred style, which is funny, ironic, sardonic, sarcastic and laconic (but probably not in that order - or probably, yes, in that order.) It’s not that I’m not cool. Oh, I am plenty cool. It’s just that I don’t think I can throw off a “So-you-think-you-are-the-1,181-incarnation-of-Sri-Babaji-Snatam?-Please-fill-out-this-form-and-the-Rinpoche-will-be-with-you-shortly”-columns twice a month. I have to be in the right mood for them – and honestly, I am new to comedy writing. It’s really not my literary métier. Those of you who have read my extensive (and private) literary catalog will probably agree that I am more at home with the elegiac form. Ain’t nothing funny about an elegy, my friends. It’s as serious as a heart attack. So hopefully, what you are about to read is, in fact, funny.

‘I’ is for Italy

I didn’t know what I was looking for, which isn’t the best way of trying to find something. But that did leave me open to surprises, which I got a lot of and right away.

I knew I wanted to be happy – and all my usual ways of finding it – shoe sales at Daffy’s, mental-health-days off at Coney Island and intensive chocolate therapy did not offer any long-term, residual effects. Nor did the obsessive checking of the MLS listings for lake houses within two hours of New York City. Something drastic needed to be done. And when I say drastic, I don’t mean shaving-my-head-and-joining-an-ashram drastic. First of all because I need bangs to cover my wrinkles and I don’t like the idea of someone shooting botulinum in my head and two, do you know how much it costs to shoot botulinum into your head? And also, even if I could get my ass out of bed for 5-a.m. yoga at the ashram, I am going to need tons of espresso to be able to do it – and I have a feeling Guru Vegetariananda is not going to take too well to my espresso addiction. There, I’ve said it, and what’s more, I have no intention of quitting, not even for a week. But, Namaste.

So I packed up my under-market (!) Park Slope (!) one bedroom (!). Gave the keys to my landlord and put everything I owned into storage. I paid someone named Lick Shot to do it. He was from Guyana. The man at the storage place recommended him and when I called the number from the card, I had asked for his name.

Was it Mr. Lick? Mr. Shot? Mr. Lick Shot?

“Just Lick Shot,” he had said with his lilting Guyanese accent.

I knew then the adventure had begun and in the best possible way. This was even before the ride in the front of the moving truck listening to reggae music all the way up 8th Avenue to Brooklyn Heights. And way before all my clothes and furniture were expertly placed in my storage space like the Tetris pieces of my life. This is how eleven years in Brooklyn ended and how something new was about to begin.

What? Well, I was going to dive right into an Eat,-Pray,-Love journey. I was going to be all cute and Liz Gilbert and find Javier Bardem somewhere in Italy. He’d wear tight, black pants and a tight, black shirt open to the navel revealing his hairy chest. I’d lie on it under the moonlight and he’d play his gypsy guitar. Or something like that as long as the guitar wasn’t lying on my face and it would be all romantic. In this fantasy I was looking a lot like Ava Gardner in The Barefoot Contessa. Ok, no, not the fat, happy lady who cooks with a lot of butter and cream in her East Hampton kitchen. That’s Ina Garten. Ava Gardner. She was married to Frank Sinatra and starred in The Son Also Rises. Hourglass figure, red, red lips. You know what, forget the film allusions and let’s get back to me.

I was going to Italy. I was going to write. And I was going with a wildly handsome man whose sole purpose was to hold my hand on the plane. His name is Q. No, I am not making this up. This is true. I was deathly afraid of flying and a handsome man was going to hold my hand. Basically, I could not trust Alitalia to assign a handsome, single man to sit next to me, so I brought my own. That I could trust the airlines was a lesson I would learn at a later date. For now, I was off to Italy.

Table Scapes

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Brawlin’ in the Mornin’

Have you ever wanted to punch somebody? I know I have - the tourists near my old flat in Galata, the annoying chick on her cell phone in the library bathroom, people who are clueless and think the world revolves around them. Yep, pow! Right in the kisser. No, I haven’t punched anyone in a long, long time (and it’s a funny story because I actually knocked out half his front tooth, but it all ended ok because years later he wanted to date me.)

I have to say I like the pretense of civilization (and civility) adulthood brings. I say pretense because I used to teach first grade and can tell you that loads of adults still haven’t truly become mature. I like actual civility and civilization best, but will settle for the pretense. I really don’t want to punch you, but don’t tempt me.

But there’s something cathartic about a big, old brawl. I was thinking about the fight scene in The Quiet Man and how Barry Fitzgerald announces it’s a private fight at 3:16 (taking his cue from the famous old question, Is this a private fight or can anyone get in?)

A brawl was the last thing I expected when I got an email from my friend Jess (no, we weren’t the ones brawling.) Jess and I were thick as thieves in graduate school. We both had the same concentration (Women’s Studies) and pretty much the same sensibility. Our friendship was solidified in our now-infamous Feminist Theory class, team-taught by our department chair (now nicknamed ‘The Closer’ for her ability to get you to complete your M.A. even though you have only days before the statute of academic limitations runs out) and a feminist geographer (I am not making this up, there is such a thing.) No amount of coffee, muffins or candy bars could make this class any fun. Although I do recall liking the Luce Irigaray readings, I will never get back the 4 hours of my life spent on Gayatari Spivak’s “Can the Subaltern Speak?” Geez, please, no. Although we did not study any Camille Paglia, she was just coming onto the scene with her motor-mouth, New-York-accented philosophizing, she was a celeb, but not one who crossed our syllabus. And that was some time ago.

Then Jess sends me an email, subject line: thought you'd enjoy this as much as I did :)‏ Nothing more but the link. And oh, boy, did I. This is a slug fest (though if you are offended by words termed the f-bomb and the c-bomb, don’t click on this link.) Otherwise what you get is a perfectly orchestrated, blow-for-blow literary brawl. All the better because they’re two broads (not chicks, not gals, not dames) – most definitely, women, but here they go at it like men – and with an eye toward what this might do to help their careers. It’s a satisfying fight that anyone can get in.

(And check out Letters of Note’s entry on the late Helen Gurley Brown’s letter to the editor of Cosmo Turkey - it's a masterful use of tone.)

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Page-Turner and I

My friend Claire from college was traveling in Turkey last month and we met up here in İstanbul for drinks in Galata. She had asked me if I wanted anything from N.Y. – yes, I did. I wanted a brick of Café Bustelo (my favorite!) and she brought me that and a whole bunch of other things that she knew I wouldn’t find here – salt-water taffy(!), jelly beans (!!), and cherry-lime gum (!!!), but the biggest surprise was four copies of The New Yorker. She put everything in a plastic shopping bag and when she handed it to me, I could feel the magazines.

“I have some other surprises for you,” she said.

“Ah,” I whispered without opening up the bag, “The New Yorker.”

“How did you know?” Claire asked.

“It’s not the first time I’ve felt up The New Yorker – I know what it feels like,” I said and we both laughed.

The truth is I didn’t know how much I missed good writing – in long- and short-form, until I opened one of the magazines when I got home. I started with a short theater review (for the play, “Cock” – no kidding) and then I read half the magazine, completely forgetting that it was late and I was tired.

Since then I have been reading a lot of The New Yorker – both online and off – especially, Page-Turner, because I love short-form pieces (a history of erasers, why everything is fiction and - oh, just go have a look, you’ll like it, I promise.)

I also like New York magazine. I subscribe to their daily emails for fashion and arts and culture. The writing is just as good as The New Yorker (especially in the long form), but there is a lot less national politics and a lot more pop culture (plus they have tons of pretty photos), so it feels lighter and bubblier than The New Yorker, whose own style brings to mind more of a very beautiful schoolteacher in a classic grey suit. Maybe because I have been reading a lot of articles about Alfred Hitchcock, I keep thinking the parallel is someone who looks like Tippi Hedren in Marnie. But maybe that’s just me.

So I have been reading a lot and thinking about writing. And I do realize that I enjoy thinking about writing a whole lot more than I do writing. I’ve also been pretending to write for The New Yorker. Wouldn’t that be lovely? That would be a dream come true. I’d do a lot of gorgeous short-form pieces about all the little things that turn me on about writing – or thinking about writing. Now, I just need to go out and buy a pencil skirt.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Keep Going

I dreamed I was Anne Lamott the other night. When I woke up I began analyzing all the little layers of my dream – my ego said, you have that kind of talent and my brain said, keep writing and you will get to where she is and the student in me said, oh, she is the greatest, you have so much to learn. The thing about Anne Lamott (besides being a truly beautiful writer) is that she tells the truth – whether fiction, memoir, her guides for writers or essays – she shares the truth of her experience. It is her truth to be sure, not the kind of truth whose existence is argued in graduate schools the world over, but her experience – the good, the bad, and the ugly.

I think the net-net of my dream is that I want to tell the truth, my truth. So I have been writing things I want to tell you. One, read Anne Lamott. Two, if you want to be a writer read Bird by Bird. Three, everything you need to know (or have!) will come to you. (Ok, this is the one I keep telling myself as I look for work writing! or editing! or acting?!) Four, keep writing. Five, see Four. Six through Nine, see Four and Five.

Because I have been doing Four through Nine, I recently decided to have a go at number Ten and I started looking around to where I could send certain pieces. Salon seemed an obvious place, so I took their advice on the submission page and started to familiarize myself with their content. Was my piece better suited to Love & Sex or to Life? The day I decided to explore the Life section a perfectly serviceable piece about catching the Bubonic Plague had been posted. It was written in “good writer’s voice” with touch of “wowwee!” because how many of us get the plague nowadays? And because I was not satisfied I decided to keep clicking and that’s when I came upon this. Emily Rapp’s piece is not “good writer’s voice” it’s “great writer’s voice.” It tells the truth, her truth and takes you on the full-circle emotional journey of grief and growth, understanding and our own delicate and aching humanness. I think a few years ago I would have tossed my piece in the trash and said, ‘Well, nice try.’ Now I am focusing on my truth and sharing it with you.

Does my piece fit the Life section? I think yes, it is on a different scale, but it does. Think sweet and breezy – and it also touches on grief and growth, understanding and our own delicate and aching humanness. So, ok, I’ll keep going. I’ll keep doing what I am doing, being and writing. I’ll write to the level of the raised bar as often as I can. I’ll keep finding things and sharing them with you. I have some dreams, they keep telling me things – and I’ll keep telling you.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Writing (with a little sex in it)

I am settling into my new place and my new life in it. As I intended it has opened up a whole new phase of creativity for me. I wrote a short story, I am blogging for Hürriyet Daily News, I am working on two short, funny pieces and I am trying to figure out where to invest my creative energies. I love the feeling of mastery I get when I write a short story – the architecture, the voice, the subtext, the telling of something true economically as possible. I have always loved the short form. But it is also an intense experience – like holding the reins of wild horses as I did when I wrote the last 1,000 words of my latest one. And afterwards I am out of it, usually for a few days, as if I just need to rest from that journey.

My shorter, occasional blog pieces are easier and gentler to write. I enjoy them, but there is no distinct feeling of power and control that comes from within a short, literary piece, which may be a good thing because I certainly don’t have the stamina for that all the time.

I know I am very lucky – and I am grateful to be able to slip in and out of different forms and styles easily. I also think I am more or less at the same level within each of the forms (maybe my poetry needs some more crazy, experimental musicality and life experience, but I have planted that in the back of my subconscious and am just waiting for it to go B(l)oom!)

So, at the moment I am contemplating an easy, breezy longer narrative (no architecture, just one straight road beginning to end), with one easy, breezy voice (best friend kind of funny) with lots of sex, because as we all know, sex sells.

Here is a clip from one of my all-time favorite movies – that almost perfectly meshes social commentary with comedy.  Our hero “Sully” is a Hollywood director who wants to make an earnest movie about America’s social problems – and his studio bosses’ response.

[Sullivan's Travels is arguably writer/director Preston Sturges’ most important film. I highly recommend it along with my other favorite, The Great McGinty.]

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Show, Don't Tell

I've been having some disagreements with my web editor over the editing of my pieces. After some back and forth, I have asked them not to edit the pieces that I send them. My web editor who seems to be a decent, conscientious, professional guy sent me this today.

I am sorry to inform you that I am unable to publish any unedited content on the website and you have agreed and signed the HDN blogger agreement giving us permission to edit your pieces. It is not open to discussion and we cannot make any exceptions.

So here is some of the edited content that they can publish.

Thursday evening, pop music diva Madonna was on stage in Istanbul. Some had waited for weeks, some for months or even years and finally she came back to Turkey after 19 years with a crew of 200 people, 3 planes and 45 trucks. I was one of the lucky 55,000 people to see this event. I can easily say that those missed the event, also missed out on some valuable time.

- Madonna In İstanbul


Fish are of course more than a paragraph of encyclopedia information. But you cannot deny the help of an encyclopedia when you are looking for accurate and simple information. You will need to think deeply though if you want to learn and use the image of “fish.” Thanks to the art of metaphor, in cinema and literature fish have often been used as a symbol of captivitiy, despair, and “no escape.” If you are portraying freedom, you are lucky, you have “birds” in the catalogue, but the ones who are not that optimistic will need to look at the fish.

- Fish in the bowl


I can’t remember exactly what age I was when I had full sex. I don’t remember the date but I remember the settings. It was at a friend’s home, at a couch bed. I must have been 20 or 21 or 22. I had to go to work the next day and I thought whoever saw me next morning would immediately understand that I’d had sex the night before. Well, it didn’t happen that way. Nobody understood anything or would have cared even if they did. That looked like a big deal for me at that time but it wasn’t. Life went on as usual. Everything looked OK. I assume it must have been the correct age.

- What is the correct age to start sex?


Initially, let me begin with the usual difference, which is labor. In the south of Italy people work differently from northerners. It is obvious that southern Italians do not work as much as the notherners. Southerners have a break between 1:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. in a work day. They call this break “siesta.” They see the "siesta" time as the only time to stop their frenetic life. But on the contrary, northern Italians work very hard. They work for long hours and we can say that the north is the propellent power of Italy in a way.

- Italy - divided country

And here is a pull quote from this page:

This is another traditional Turkish food which is not so easy to make. You need really talented hands to make these balls.


I invite you to read each piece because I haven't even gotten into the other issues I have with the writers. All I can say is, don't you have other things to do than to edit my work?

You can read my pieces here:

Monday, June 18, 2012

Get A Move On, Girl

I'll be moving from my beautiful, rambling place in Galata to a cozy one bedroom (or 1 + 1 as we say here in İstanbul.) I am so excited to be moving into my own space. I am feeling all the energy of renewal. I'll eat right, I'll exercise, I'll work on all the projects that I want to work on.

This morning as I walked to the library, two of my characters came to talk to me. They are impatient, they want to live their love story, they want to live their lives, they want you to know them and why they are important. They want to be. Just yesterday I discovered my female character's name. I could see everything about her as a young woman and as an old woman, but her name eluded me. I couldn't even ask her as she wandered around her dark house, opened the door and let the narrator into her shop because I hadn't settled into the quiet of hearing her, of being with her. And I need quiet and alone time to be with them. My characters are not impatient with me - they are just exploding in front of me, their pasts, their present, their future. I know everything about them, I just need to settle down into writing about them. They've been waiting a long time - more than a year - just waiting for me to open the door and say, welcome.

They began as a short story called "Write It In Your Own Hand," but for the first time in my writing life my characters said, "We're bigger than this." "There's more." "There's a lot." "We're a book." "All of us." The whole family came and they were all talking at once. This was strange to me because my short stories are usually short, my characters self contained and all of the action is in the interior landscape. And Kemal said, "I married her out of duty." And the little boy said, "I want to be a writer." And Ayşe said, "It is all the same love." And I said, "What do I know about any of you?" And they kept coming back, the wife and the husband, the kids playing on the street, the woman who closes herself in a dark house for 20 years, the parents of the little boy - and they keep telling me everything.

Ok, I get it. Time to move - and move into a new routine. Time to write and not just about my characters. Time to be in a new place, in a new way and settle down into the things I love. Time to get a move on, right?

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

And She Lived Happily Ever After.

Let's begin here. There's a lot of my story that leads up to the title - and not all of it is what you would expect, and maybe none of it too. Some of the story I will share here on this blog, some of it will make its way into my other artistic projects and some of it I will tell you over tea overlooking the Bosphorus on sunny afternoons.

Oh, I may not tell you everything about me and what I think - a gal's gotta have some mystery, right? A little something to surprise you, to keep you a bit off balance, to make you laugh. Let's just say I'll share a part of me with you. Today's just the beginning - and there's a lot more to come.

I just want you to know that I am living happily ever after. And my soundtrack for today is: