Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Dumb Luck

It became an evil-Izmir_night_shot_by_TubeScreamerlooking day yesterday, warm, windy with a constant threat of storm. Add to this, in the late afternoon, the sky turned an ominous dark orange. This happens from time to time when wind from the south blows dust up from the deserts of North Africa. They call it "the Lodos." I find it charming to name the winds.

I was to meet my wife and her mother at the municipal opera house last night for "Adriana Lecouvreur" by Francesco Cilea. To say my wife is an enthusiastic opera fan is definitely an understatement. I can be convinced to attend ever so often. I enjoy the spectacle of the sets and costumes more than the actual singing. And it is always nice to get out of the house and splash a bit of culture on yourself.

Now I know that it sounds awfully posh to say lightly, "Oh, we were at the opera last night" or "Didn't I see you last week at the opera?." However, that isn't quite the case here in Turkey.

The crafters of early Republic had the noble and enlightened view that cultural events would have a civilizing effect of the society and so, made such things as operas, theater and symphonies affordable. (That's an idea that warms my heart but it is too bad that they didn't feel the same way about public libraries.)

So, going to an opera isn't furs and tuxedos, top hats and carriages waiting in the rain. The best part of this Turkish arrangement is that it allows exposure to great works of Art, which often seems much harder in American society. The sad part is that, human nature what it is, most people would prefer to wallow in the garbage of television in the privacy of their own homes, rather than making the minimal effort of going out for classic works. And I have no right to look down on anybody for doing that since I can wallow with the best of them.

My wife likes to show up early with her mother- another raving fanatic- so I was, thankfully, allowed to arrive later on my own. She knows everybody there at the opera house and they know her so I was able to escape all that fuss and waiting, hand-shaking and pretend-recognition.

For a few thousand years,  Izmir has growing around a bay, hugging it protectively like a mother, and there are two ways to travel, the long way by bus or taxi around the bay or the short way, cutting directly across by boat. That being a rush-hour, I opted for the convenience of the ferry boat crossing. With a few other wind-battered passengers, I sat in the open section, once designated for smokers. (It is rather unclear what the exact rules are, at the moment. The sign clearly warns that smoking is forbidden but nobody pays much attention. None of the crew seem interested in reminding them of the rules.)

The section was dark as a well and nearly as empty. A nuclear family on tour was trying to snap a photograph of the city and a woman fought with her long beige scarf that made Arabic script in the air. To shelter from the worst of the wind, I sat with my back against the wall, watching the gradually-narrowing panorama of Izmir.

2104736-KARSIYAKA_BY_NIGHT_FROM_HILTON-Karsiyaka Behind the few tall buildings sat mounds of points of lights from the homes and shops of people on the hills. Amber of the street lamps, blue or yellow lights from the windows and the green-tipped minarets of the mosques.

The social heart of the city The Kordon- that famous street with many bars and restaurants runs along the seaside-was, from that distance, a long dotted line of carnival lights that described the water's edge. I could feel the spitting rain and the sensation of waves pounding against the side of the ship as we trudged to the opposite side. The buildings became clearer, as we grew nearer and nearer and I could just make out the toy cars bumbling down the sea highway to the west.

In my ears, Leslie Feist sang to me:

There's a limit to your love
Like a waterfall in slow motion
Like a map with no ocean
There's a limit to your love
There's a limit to your care
So carelessly there
Is it truth or dare
There's a limit to your care

Beyond her song, the wind ironically mocked the sound of flames. And then suddenly, I was at peace.

How wonderful the city looked at that time of night and at that moment before the rains. A mist of endorphins, a powerful feeling of well-being. I thought of how lucky I was, and how little I generally appreciated that fact.

That I should be even here in this country. For so many years, It had been a deeply-nestled fantasy to leave home and cross the ocean and see the places other travelers had described. To travel so far. It should never have happened. I should have been too afraid to make that crossing. I should have found some excuse not to venture so far from home.

It was not all luck but most of it was. Dumb luck. That I should be here- in this 5,000 year-old city and at this time of our history- when things are convenient, when risk is manageable and avoidable and fear tolerable. And it was dumb luck to be on this rather insignificant planet at all, in what seems to be a great emptiness that nobody can explain.


  1. This place seems to be a great one for visit..I wish to go there one day! droppin' ec too!

  2. As much as we love the place we were born, it is a fantastic thing to find a home country of our own. When I was growing up, I always knew I wouldn't stay in Finland for the rest of my days, but I just didn't have a clue as to where I would be moving to. The destination changed with my age; first it was be Africa (namely Gongo, which doesn't even exist any more), then USA, then UK, then Estonia, but Australia? Not a blinking chance. It was so far, so mysterious and so unknown, that it never even crossed my mind as a possibility, until, by dumb luck, I met my husband.

    Now that we're here, not a day goes by that I don't gasp at awe at the scenery over the roof tops of our neighbours and over the Mt Wellington when I cross the street to the grocery shop. When we venture a bit further from our house, I marvel the buildings around Hobart - they are the oldest ones standing in the whole of Australia, since Sydney has been largely rebuilt and Hobart is the next oldest town here. I love old things, especially houses, and there is a lot of old houses to love in Hobart. The other thing I love is forest, green trees, and the first time my flight was approaching Hobart airport (which is a stunning airport as the plane takes a U-turn over the water to prepare to land on a short landing strip that was wedged between the mountains where it best fit) I was feeling like I had never seen planet Earth in my life. It was so green and blue over Tasmania, just like the images of our planet are from the distance... But the green never went away when those toy cars turned real.

    This is my home, although I was born on the opposite side of the world, this is my home.

  3. I've just discovered your blog from Tales of a Foreign Land. You write so beautifully and I'm looking forward to taking the time to read some of your older posts.

    I'm busy clearing up after the Lodos. Bright orange dried mud everywhere!

  4. Ayak- When I arrived at the opera house that night, my leather jacket was "freckled" with brown spot from the rain. It was a mess.


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