Thursday, March 27, 2014


Whatever your condition is—infirmed, melancholy, or even clinically healthy—greater proximity to the sea will be of observable benefit. It was with this principle in consideration that I left my lodging and, at meeting the Mediterranean, enjoyed the homecoming waiting at any body of water larger than a puddle.     

Keeping the Mediterranean in eyesight, I walked through Antalya’s shopping district until I passed under Hadrian’s Gate. The ancient gate gives way to a matrix of pansiyon(s), pansion(s) and pensions, each sign targeting a different type of citizen.  Cutting through the pensions--where shoe polishers ask in 4 languages if you want your shoes polished--I reached Karaalioglu Park. Pursuant of “greater proximity”, I sought the outer reaches of the park.  Beyond the uniformed street vendors, the procession of pines and sharp masonry is where the drunkards drink and lovers love;  where the crags of dissolving cliffs encroach on ancient foot trails; where the stench of cat urine scrambles into the wino’s burp to spice salty breezes.  Walking these trails, I happened across what appeared to be an abandoned advertisement for a café next to the sea.  I followed the murderous arrow until its target was apparent.   Walking under the skinny black ribs of a metal archway, I descended concrete steps until I entered Adalar’s Beach Club. 

Now, before me is a beer and Antalya’s Bay.  Across the blue expanse are the Taurus Mountains, the highest of which still shimmer with snow reluctant to take the steep slalom to the sea.  My vantage point, however, is not so mountainous and not so marvelous:  Adalar’s Beach Club is in dilapidated state.  The coral boulders on which the establishment rests have been smoothed to foot friendly platforms by haphazard globings of cement.  The bridges connecting the boulders are made of metal frames which support unfastened planks of wood.  The frames are oxidizing with a visual blistering, making the crossing to the lavatory more adventurous than I’d care for.  The manager seems more pirate than barista and has the requisite tattoos on his forearms, the sailor’s CV. His fluency in English pidgin is more unsettling than being the typical English-less Turk.  He rattles off a multi-syllable Turkish name, but extinguishes the confusion by requesting to be called T.G.  The cushions on the lawn chairs have been faded to 80’s colors.   

T.G.’s dog just chased away a cat. Damn, I like cats. 

The café is decorated with red—also faded—Coca-Cola umbrellas, which are held up by cheap plastic. The tank at the bottom purposed to anchor the contraption is poorly sized to provide stability amidst Mediterranean gusts.  The inevitable happens and a salty gale drags the umbrella off the boulder, plunging it into the shallows.  Without delay, T.G. grabs a fishing line with a treble hook fit for decking a marlin.

A ship taking tourists for a 40 minute cruise is sailing across the seascape, Titanic’s love theme blaring from the upper deck. 

All men gifted with extended years develop talents and those talents classified as civil are further catalogued as arts.  Now, sharing the boulder with T.G. I‘m witness to one of his talents, which, under different circumstances, would be praised as art. With a gentle underhand pitch, the hook finds the targeted area.  After a few skyward yanks the umbrella is snagged.   Maybe the pressure of my audience upset his rhythm, so the umbrella is torn, connection lost.  Again, the umbrella is baited, but this time leathery hands successfully retrieve the catch.  Well done T.G.

The persistent crash of waves is more audible now. I should be watching the Med.   

Looking at the blue harbor, I’m falling into reverie.  In this particular trance no acquaintance escapes memory. In a singular glance the sum total of my friendships are summoned; the streams of coincidence that spring friendship run into deeper waters.   My condition has most certainly improved.  

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Patriotic Prose

It’s an odd thing that distance gives clarity. Being in Iraq during such tumultuous times, I suspected my literary inclinations to be directed at bombs exploding in Baghdad or the romantic landscapes surrounding Soran. Instead, distance has become an expansive lens through which I see the nation of my citizenship.  With this lens looming about, causal reflections focus into the detailed and distant, so that one promenade through an Iraqi neighborhood revealed a truth as to an unregistered, albeit truly American activity occurring in American neighborhoods.  But, before progressing, I encourage the reader to take note of the acrobatic eagle, who, spread and stamped on the U.S. seal, firmly grips a clipped olive branch inside resolute talons.  With this reference, I only hope to introduce the idea that yard work and proper pruning were always tallies for patriotism, and, while the reader may be prepared to interpret the stunning coordination of our Nation’s bird symbolically, it is reasonable to surmise, given the bird’s predatory history, that the raptor has an affinity for well-trimmed shrubbery more than anything else.  So, as I stepped through the Iraqi neighborhood, catching glimpse of concrete and tiled courtyards, I recalled, with uncanny clarity, a common scene that shapes the green space resting in front of American homes.  Chlorophyll clots plastered on a mower’s modern edges and verdant stains on sneakers testify the grandeur of this scene; a citizen is mowing the lawn.

It had been two weeks since the lawn was last snipped, yet, somehow, three people in the house claim they mowed the lawn last week.  Although if household activities are measured with a common currency, one person may have innocently confused their nightly dish washing for a mow and their protestations shouldn't raise acquisitions of immortality.  Regardless, the uneven growth of grass is throwing the yard into a visual disequilibrium that, at a certain length, will continuing growing onto the family crest, so that lions and shields will be pricked by nettles and weeds.  Inevitably the Toro or Deere will be taken out and tasked with giving Mother Nature a buzz.   

Strident pushes swell muscles to thoughts of bravado, and gas fumes intoxicate the mower with accomplishment, usually, far before completion—a dangerous temptation spoken in monologue as “You’ve done a phenomenal job. You can finish the rest tomorrow.”

Who doesn't pace during calamities or at crossroads?   Now see that the mower’s course is that of a dizzying pace on a grand pitch, where trivial thoughts roll and layer into thick potentates, dictating the next line or life decision.  Many life changing decisions were resolved at the mower’s helm.

Take the angle which is readily available for the modern mind, the satellite view, and zoom in on the yard undergoing the relevant transformation.  The mower’s clamorous course finds a harmony as parallels expand into a grand staff ledger. The mower, a moving note, makes a melody and the sonorous crash of horsepower slowly vibrates into a patriotic prelude echoing Copland’s brassy blessings.  Return to the ground. 

Complementing this activity is the most perfect time of day.  Summer’s slanted rays give admirable length to blades of grass, shooting golden shadows across the lawn.  The evening’s soft light dilates pupils and vision is heightened into a psychedelic state; the evening’s work will be surveyed with great detail and appreciation. 

This harvest of leaves of grass leaks an unnatural evening dew and calm repast issues from wounded grasslings.  

Any person who has mowed has earned their keep.