Home: Part 2

BIGTURK

And now I’m stuck in the supposed better life that I had been seeking…this time with a “significant other” that is no longer, and me in tow.

But in between, since my first quarter of my life in Chicago, there has been a number of other places I called home. Home at this stage becomes quite a relative term, in the sense that when a person is in college for example, a sedentary lifestyle is the furthest thought on that person’s mind.

The first day of college at Ball State University was the first day of my pseudo independence. I arrived at Edwards Hall, fourth floor, last room on the right. Walked in to meet my first roommate Gary Valentine from Plymouth, Indiana. The room was already plastered with girls in thong bikini bottoms bent over bicycles, and a poster of Samantha Foxx with her flapjacks supported with her crossed arms and a pair of cutoff acid wash jean shorts. Oh, and suspenders holding up her shorts.

At least it was on his side of the room. This was my first real life encounter with, for lack of a better word, a hick.

He was all right, but we weren’t a roommate match in heaven. Then came roommate number two, as Gary opted out…which was fine by me. My next roommate was Rob. He was a quiet sort of guy, totally nice, and he actually left the room wall decorating to me, which was a combination of band posters, and photos clipped from magazines like Details, which in the late 80s was a pretty cool, hip, underground magazine. He would describe to his guests as “Gok’s Art Deco…” Which was the wrong terminology to use, but I didn’t say anything.

We got along really well. I think if I remember correctly, he was from Anderson, Indiana. He had his high school sweetheart that he’d bring around to the room occasionally. I don’t remember her much, but she was nice.

He actually contacted me a couple of years ago on Facebook, it was nice reconnecting after 20 years. I guess he was married, had a couple of kids, got divorced and realized he was gay. Now he’s in a happy long term relationship with his partner. I don’t see him on my Facebook anymore, maybe he was one of those wise people who chose to live offline. He was a nice roommate, perfect to get along with, and a good friend.

During that year of matriculation, I left the sheltered lifestyle I grew up in, in Chicago with my grandparents and started discovering social life, parties, punk rock, tequila, kegs, and hangovers.

First girl I dated in college was a tall 17 year-old from Fort Wayne, Indiana that reminded me of Melanie Griffith in Something Wild. Tall, almost my height, pale alabaster white skin, further whitened with make-up, accented with bright red lipstick, big eyes framed with dark eyeshadow. And crowning everything, a jet black, bob haircut. I immediately gravitated towards her and her friends through the throngs of drunk jocks and Greeks. I think I busted out probably one the lamest pick-up lines in history…”do you listen to cool music?” It was the tequila talking, and the fact that I was 18 and still a virgin.

Anyhow, we had a nice chat, she introduced me to her friends that she was staying with that actually attended Ball State. I became good friends with most of them, and eventually went to my first “punk rock” show in Chicago at the Cabaret Metro with a couple of them, it was Janes Addiction on their Nothing’s Shocking tour. And like Details magazine, it was when they were still good.

So back to the party. The Melanie Griffith looking goth chick (back when being goth was cool also) came around to my dorm room the next day to braid my hair with string…whatever that was called. That was a slightly better line I used the night before to get her to meet up with me the next day.

After she braided my hair, we made-out for a couple of hours and she left to go back to Fort Wayne.

Then after a few phone calls early that week, it was decided that I take a road trip up to Fort Wayne. So that Friday I hitched a ride with Darrell, the bass player for our dorm resident punk band. Melanie I’ll call her, asked me what I was in the mood for as far as stuff her mom would pick up from the supermarket. I couldn’t think of anything but Diet Coke.

I got to their ranch house in the middle of a vast field with a big ass tire factory off in the distance where her dad worked.

Now here’s the awkward part. Melanie was working at the mall till 9pm, I arrived at their house at around 3 in the afternoon. I was preparing myself…”Hi! I’m the college guy your daughter met last weekend at a party, and we made out. Pleased to meet you.” That’s of course not what I said. Her mother greeted me at the door, she used crutches to walk. All I remember was a blue dress, thick nicely coifed hair, and a beaming smile. I relaxed and felt welcome. It was still a semi awkward situation, but better.

Then the dad came home. Within the first couple of minutes I obviously clued him in on the fact that I was a Turk, and that was enough for him, I was family. He had fought alongside Turkish soldiers during the Korean War and told me stories of how brave and crazy they were on the battlefield. He told me a story on how at night all the US troops on the frontline would be sitting in the dark of night in order not to draw enemy fire. He explained to me that even when they lit up a cigarette they would hold their helmets over their faces while smoking in order not to have the glow of the cigarette cherry potentially give away their positions to the enemy. In the meantime, he added, the Turkish soldiers would be right up there on the frontline at night with bonfires going, singing and dancing. He said he thought it was crazy, but brilliant.

Oh, and this whole conversation took place in his station wagon as he drove me around Amish country, while reaching for beers for the both of us out of a cooler in the back seat.

Then Melanie came home, and we had our reunion after a week apart. She was supposed to be at work pretty much the whole day at the mall the next day, so I went up there with her and wandered around aimlessly for six hours, and got my ear pierced. My first official sign of rebellion.

The rest of the weekend we spent on blankets in parks, or in her room making out while listening to the Swans.

That was essentially it for that relationship. The next day I bade my farewells, hopped back in Darrel’s car and drove back to my breeze block 12×15 dorm room. I don’t know what happened, maybe I got over eager, or the proverbial whooped, and that pushed her away.

Never knew at the time that would be pretty much the way the majority of my relationships would run throughout my life. Obviously the majority of the relationships of my future failures lasted a tad longer that a week. But I think this first one set the bar pretty accurately.

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Home: part one

Home. Throughout my life, up until my current age, whatever that may be, has been in a lot of different places, and I’m sure I will be living in a lot more places in the future.
So in essence, I guess I don’t know where or what specific place I can call home. For me, the starting point was Ankara, Turkey. The only real notable person who called Ankara home, that may be known by people in other countries around the world would have to be the late lead singer of The Clash, Joe Strummer. Yeah, its a random fact, and I don’t know where and when I was bestowed with that knowledge about music history, but I remember thinking that it was pretty cool. I guess it made my first hometown feel like a real hometown.
But where is my real hometown? Sure, Ankara was where I was born, and my first home was in the Cankaya (pronounced Chankaya) district. I just remember it as an apartment on top of a hill overlooking the city below, and the Pakistani embassy, as well as my grandmother’s favorite restaurant, which has since moved. I remember the apartment being spacious with a sunken in living area with a fireplace, and big balconies. I did go back to see it when I was a bit older, it was in between tenants, as we had it pretty much rented out all the time after my grandparents moved to Chicago in 1973.
Which would then bring me to my second home, which was off of the trendy Tunali Hilmi street, pretty much walking distance from my first home. This apartment was the apartment my grandfather bought for my mom when she got married, and it was big, like all other Turkish apartments. From the outside it was your typical nondescript, crappy concrete apartment building with absolutely no redeeming architectural qualities.
I remember the smell of wood finish, stain, and shellac in the entryway of the building because of the woodshop in the lower level of the building which was halfway between the basement and the first floor. I guess it would be considered a garden level apartment, or wood shop in this case . The carpenter down there was a Turk of Greek descent, I think his name was Aleko, and his work was well known amongst the Ankara wealthy. I guess he was one of the few people in the whole country that knew some special type of wood finishing, essentially a dying art. Probably dead by now.
But it was pretty cool, I remember on my summer visits to Ankara from Chicago I would go down there from time to time, and he would give me some wood scraps and glue, and I would put together various little wood­scrap sculptures.
Anyhow. That was home one and two. Home three took me to Chicago, a place I called home for a pretty long while. The first building we moved into was the Powhattan on 50th Street in Hyde Park in the Southside of Chicago. The apartment was basically temporary lodgings for us after my grandfather got a job at the University of Chicago as a professor teaching Ottoman history to students in America. I can’t say exclusively American students, as my grandfather’s reputation drew masters and PhD students from all over the planet.
The Powhattan was a very posh temporary home. We had the penthouse, and I just remember the building and our apartment being like a castle, or a palace. There was a doorman present, operating these vast metal and wood Art Deco doors with images of native american warriors (everyone called them Indians back then) in metal and glass on the flanks of two double doors. There was a button outside that would operated the heavy automatic doors for the times the doorman was not available to press the button for you. The doorman stood indoors for the most part. There was a spacious foyer to the building before you entered the wood panelled lobby with large comfy leather sofas and armchairs. The doorman stood in the foyer, and his duty was to help residents with their bags, or open and close car doors. But, the most important task was to press the button on top of the polished brass railing at the top of three or four steps.
One doorman sticks out in my memory. Tall, uniformed, older guy with a face that was reminiscent of a turtle. He topped his uniform with a formal military­-style hat. But, he also had one other peculiarity, and that was the fact that he had no fingers on one of his hands. Didn’t know if it was because of an accident, the Vietnam war maybe, or maybe he was born that way.
I always fixated on his hand, and my grandmother always yelled at me in Turkish not to stare and it was rude. He would always smile at me, and would from time to time let me press the button on top of the brass rails to operate the door. It made me happy, it made a cool and weird electronic whining sound every time it opened.
I don’t remember how long we lived there. I just remember the apartment being huge.
There was a living room right off of the entryway, which was about the size of an average New York City studio apartment, at least in my eyes of what I perceived then compared to what I know now. The living room had this crazy accordion like wooden curtain that would close off the room. That was the room the TV was in, which from what I can remember was built into a wood panel wall. Adjacent to the TV wall was a full bar, though never stocked fully except for a few bottles of my grandfather’s favorite scotch.
The furniture was some gaudy 70s floral pattern, probably left over from the late 60s, and covered with those nasty clear plastic furniture covers that protected the furniture at the cost of looking gaudier than the actual furniture itself.
To the right of that room was another huge room. It must have been big, because there was another living area, this time with no plastic covers, a full­on poker table and a pool table. Neither of which were ever used.
Then beyond that was a full dining room with a medieval­-sized dining room table, which was actually converted into my grandfather’s workspace. The dining workspace was a precursor to what my grandfather’s workspaces were to be at every other place he called home, or my grandmother and I had to live in.
The kitchen was pretty damn big too. There was a dining area that would comfortably seat six people, and a long countertop where towards the back was a long stainless steel panel built neatly up against the wall and the counter. These were actually a platoon of lined-up electric range tops that would fold down as needed. I don’t know how many there were, but there were quite a few.
One of my grandfather’s students at the time was a tall and lanky Turkish dude that would babysit me when my grandparents went out somewhere. I terrorized him and persuaded him always to do something that I normally shouldn’t be doing, like flipping down one of the range tops from that row of range tops, and making rice. And burning it.
That student grew up to be one of the foremost historians in Turkey after my grandfather, and even was the curator of the Topkapi Palace museum and grounds in Istanbul. Nearly 40 years later I went to visit him at his office in the palace with a buddy of mine from New York. He was hosting a luncheon for various expatriate business women, and women business owners in Istanbul.
When he introduced me to his harem for lunch, he didn’t neglect to mention the time we made rice and burnt it.
Seriously, what do people call home? And, it seems like most people live a relatively transient lifestyle. If, of course, certain criteria are met, like being single, or if the person is married, whether they have kids or not. The home of a person who is not settled in their minds thus becomes somewhat of a relative term. Home moves from apartment to apartment, house to house, city to city, even country to country. Its the nomadic instincts of people. When people were hunter and gatherers they moved to where the food was plentiful. Then when agrarian society was developed, that movement stopped. But, even then, people still had a tendency to move. And another “but” here, but, I’m not an anthropologist, nor am I going to pretend to be.
We all move. We all move for whatever the reason may be. It may be that people are seeking that proverbial better life, or cliche better life. Better living, better job, better money, better climate, better people, better restaurants, better clubs, the list of “betters” is endless. And, no matter how many “betters” a person seeks, there is always going to be something “better” once that person starts taking the “better” they moved to for granted.
New York City may have been my “better”, but I sought out an even better “better” by leaving New York City. That’s a whole nother story.

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Little Pink Book

Certain people are just flat out happy and content with life, and make the best out of whatever situation they are in. This can be sensed in a simple transaction at a liquor store.

A man rocking nearly 60 walks into the liquor store my 44 year-old ass is working in. “I hope you folks card me, because today is my birthday,” he exclaimed walking into the shop with the aid of a carved wooden cane.

He laid his libations on the counter. One was your standard form of booze, vodka or something. That was obviously for the birthday boy. The second was a really, really bad concoction the shop recently started carrying called “Kinky”. The one that he grabbed was the pink one. That was potentially for his significant other.

 

The cheery man laid his cane on the counter and proceeded on engaging me in conversation. He had a small frail face, that complemented is small frail body. He wore a Vietnam Veterans trucker cap adorned with numerous pins. He had on an old, nondescript t-shirt, and donned a black leather biker vest with various POW and Vietnam War Veteran accoutrements.

 

I complemented him on his cane. And with pride he said he bought the cane from Walgreens decades earlier, but the handle was customized with a variety of jingly-jangly adornments. Each had a story. Braided bracelets from various Central American nations, Native American embroideries, and a small vinyl cow flashlight that “mooed” when you squeezed it. He was particularly proud of that.

 

He then produced a little mini-booklet of pink three-by-five flashcards stapled at one end from the pocket of his black leather biker vest.

“This is my birthday card, and if you can find some room I’d appreciate you signing it,” he said, adding that he had been doing is little mini birthday books for the last 30 years.

I signed it in a tiny little corner I found that didn’t have a birthday wish written on it. It was apparent that whoever he encounter throughout the day, he had them sign a birthday wish to him. The three or four cards stapled together was full of wishes front and back. Maybe most were friends, maybe most were strangers like me.

 

It just made him happy on his birthday for the last three decades.

I’m sure somewhere in his home, there are 30 little booklets recording every birthday he was happy to hit. Friends, family members, strangers, shop clerks, all a part of this man’s memories on his birthday.

 

I wonder if all of the books are pink?

 

Who Cares About Cyprus?

This is a view from my "penthouse" apartment in Girne/Kyrenia North Cyprus. It was always nice having dinner on my terrace watching the sun set over the Five Finger Mountains. The name of the mountains sound so much more romantic in Turkish, and not the euphemism for masturbation as it is in English.

This is a view from my “penthouse” apartment in Girne/Kyrenia North Cyprus. It was always nice having dinner on my terrace watching the sun set over the Five Finger Mountains. The name of the mountains sound so much more romantic in Turkish (Besparmak Daglari), and not the euphemism for masturbation as it is in English.

This past week Cyprus experienced yet another new initiative to find a solution to the 40 year-old problem. The White House decided to dip their toes a little deeper into the problem, and sent their “special” child Vice President Joe Biden for a new round of whatever, who upon arriving aboard Air Force 2 to sunny Larnaca stated (the obvious) that it was “long past time” for a solution to the Cyprus problem.

The two respective Cypriot leaders on the island; on the Greek Cypriot corner President Nicos Anastasiades, and on the Turkish Cypriot corner, the “leader” Dervis Eroglu, stepped out of a dinner with Biden at the Ledra Palace, which is situated in the United Nations controlled Green Zone. Now I should clarify here that Eroglu is never referred to as “president” due to the fact that the Turkish Cypriot north of the island is not recognized internationally. Only the Turkish Cypriot north and Turkey calls him “president”. And it should be added that only Turkey recognizes the self-proclaimed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. Of course Turkish Cypriots are cringing right now, probably thinking, “How dare you say that”. Well, facts are facts. Does anyone outside of Turkey recognize the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus? No. Is Dervis Eroglu viewed by anyone in the rest of the world as the president of the country that doesn’t officially exist? No. So basically it is semantics. Is he the leader of the Turkish Cypriot people, some would say yes.

Anyhow. They came out of a long dinner, Biden said what he had to say, which is basically what every other envoy to the island has said over the past 40 years, the decision for the re-unification of the island is ultimately left up to the people of the island. Yay! Cue the flags.

It never happens like that.

How many times were similar statements heard in the nearly 10 years that I covered the Cyprus problem for Reuters, and two national newspapers on the island? I heard countless world leaders and diplomats try to wax poetic on the Cyprus problem, and bring some more pressure, or some new plans, or new initiatives to bring the two sides together and unite the divided island. The common reaction from both sides on the island, at least the leaders, was similar to that of two school girls who liked the same boy in trouble in the principle’s office right before their parents were called in to take control of the matter.

Of course in this round of pressure from the US with Biden of the decades long debacle, like any, the internationally recognized Greek Cypriot Republic of Cyprus side of the coin naturally is paid lip-service by the visiting dignitary so they don’t start whining, and the pariah state status holding Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is included in on the games with a backdoor not-s0-glitzy meeting with the colorful, blunderful Veep.

Its the same thing, different players. The Turkish Cypriots have a tendency to recycle the same tired old leaders, so nothing new is happening there. I have to kind of wonder if Eroglu actually bothered to learn English over the years since I had left the island?

Just a little sidebar here, elaborating on the history of Cyprus from the Turkish Cypriot perspective (in the perspective of a black-beard mainland Turk – black-beard is a derogatory term for a mainland Turk used by Turkish Cypriots). Pretty much since the start of the turmoil on the island, which hit the boiling point in the early 60s, one leader for the Turkish Cypriots stood out, and that was Rauf Denktas, a British educated lawyer. A little sidebar to the sidebar, Cyprus was a British Colony, hence why it is such a mess. Now what happened is that Denktas assumed the position of flag-bearer for the Turkish Cypriot community pretty much on the coattails of Turkish invasion of the island in 1974. Okay, another sidebar for clarification purposes here; Turkey invaded in response to a Greek backed coup conducted by a Greek Cypriot terrorist organization that toppled the existing government on the island that was headed up by Greek Cypriot President Archbishop Makarios. Sound messy enough? Of course I am glancing over much of the details. This is just the gist of the matter.

The invasion caused the division of the island resulting in an exchange of populations placing all of the Turkish Cypriots in the northern third of the island, and the Greek Cypriots in the southern two-thirds of the island. Done and dusted, and from that point onwards, Denktas assumed the leadership of the Turkish Cypriot community, of course with the blessings of motherland Turkey. He was pretty much the end-all-be-all in power till 2005, when he was voted out of office and replaced by a refrigerator repairman turned socialist party leader. The country is a democracy (I use that term loosely), and obviously there are no term limitations in North Cyprus.

Fact of the matter was that Denktas was the only Turkish Cypriot leader the international community listened to, the subsequent leaders are the same political players in rotation from the same rogues gallery, and now truly the puppets of mainland Turkey. In the past if anyone had problems with the Turkish Cypriot side and sought out the motherland Turkey to seek resolution, Turkey would consistently say, “Don’t talk to me, talk to Denktas”. The man had some clout. However now, it is a different picture, Turkey is like, “Step aside, let me sort this out”. Biden was even rumored to say, “Don’t worry, I’ll talk to Erdogan (the Turkish Prime Minister, and douche), he’s my friend.”

My question is why it, meaning Cyprus, simply can’t be left alone? The Greek side of the debacle has to let the whole we-were-invaded-in-1974 thing go and move on, and the Turkish side needs to let the whole Turkish nationalistic pride thing go (and also agree to some sort of property deal). Compromise for a solution. I mean I’m sure Turkey is tired of bailing the Turkish Cypriot north out financially all the time. Seriously, its worse than a college kid running up his or her credit card up to the limit and beyond, and then hitting up his or her parents for more money.

But alas, there seems to be much more at stake here, and the main issue is the global exchange of property. A fact that cannot be avoided is that the land the Turkish Cypriot north sits on is pretty much all Greek Cypriot, and it is a fact that many Turkish Cypriots that were pretty much nothing before the war, barely farmers, found themselves a part of a huge land grab in the north and are for the most part, the wealthy businessmen and landowners in the north of the island. In the 10 years that I spent on Cyprus, I don’t think I once heard the words uttered out of any Turkish Cypriot’s mouth longing for their property in Larnaca, or Limassol or wherever tiny village or hamlet on the island…all for the shear simple fact that many of the Turkish Cypriots that were displaced into the north are living large.

So in all fairness, I would venture to say that what the Greek Cypriot side is requesting in a solution is not too far of a stretch. At the end of the day this is one of the main sticking points as to why a solution hasn’t been achieved for the divide on the island. And in all honesty, I think the Turkish Cypriot side is a bit wary, or even scared, because if there is a solution based upon the huge land-grab that happened after 1974, a lot of the Turkish Cypriot side’s dirty laundry is going to have to be hung up to dry.

The Greek Cypriot and officially recognized Republic don’t really have anything to complain about really. Yes, sure, they want to be compensated for what is rightfully theirs, but they did pretty okay after the ware with the tourism industry, especially since they were an internationally recognized country with direct flights (the north, people still cannot take a direct flight, all flights have to go through Turkey). The Greek Cypriots also did well with their offshore banking industry, and being a haven for money laundering, well, at least till they became a member of the European Union, in which case Europe frowned on their not-so-kosher banking practices.

And then there was the whole courtship between the Republic of Cyprus and Russia, which is directly and indirectly tied to the whole offshore banking industry. Which, this particular connection will bring me to the reason why all of a sudden Cyprus is important again.

With good ole Joe Biden’s trip to Cyprus, at first I thought, who really cares about Cyprus? Most people I talk to here in the US, and in particular Minnesota, have absolutely no clue where Cyprus is. I think one person I spoke to in the past year or so was in the ballpark and said, “Isn’t Cyprus off of the coast of Italy?” To which I naturally answered, “No, you’re thinking of Sicily (you idiot).” I think one person recently said they thought Cyprus was a part of Syria. Anyhow, I’m not turning this into a piece on the lack of knowledge of geography by the typical American.

Who really cares about Cyprus, and why is the United States government showing so much interest in this tiny island the size of the State of Connecticut all of a sudden? I guess the answer is pretty simple, after a few conversations with friends on the island, and that answer is Russia. More specifically getting Russian interests out of Cyprus. Russia has traditionally been a pretty major player in Cyprus, and by “Cyprus” I mean the internationally recognized Republic of Cyprus. As I said, up until the entry of Cyprus into the European Union in 2004, the southern two-thirds of the island was a haven for off-shore banking, and money laundering. The island’s banking system was notorious for cleaning up the money for the likes of despotic leaders such as Milosevic, and allowing autocratic regimes such as Syria to access the world economy.

Oh, and then there was Russia’s money too. Throw into the mix the potential for a nice warm water port for the Russian Navy. The latter I would assume to be a little more dicey to accomplish since there are two active Sovereign British military bases in Cyprus. Maybe a slight conflict of interest there, but who knows, Putin is crazy enough.

Now lets put things a bit more into perspective. The whole situation in The Ukraine with Russia, and Vladimir Putin basically ignoring the US and the rest of the world, was pretty much a big slap in the face for United States foreign policy-making abilities, and gave a huge shot of Viagra for Putin giving him a huge boner of power. And now, in an effort to save a little face, and earn back some much needed foreign policy brownie points, the US is upping its game a bit and pushing for a solution to the 40 year-old Cyprus problem. I mean as far as a problem to solve, it’s a relative benign one.

The results? A solution to the Cyprus problem…brownie point number one. The solving of the Cyprus problem has the potential of bolstering the position of the United States as a foreign policy leader. Getting Russia’s fingers out of Cyprus…brownie point number two. And last, but definitely not least, the huge brownie point; staking claim to the huge natural gas fields just off the coast of the island. Granted, a solution to the divide on the island or not, corporations worldwide don’t really care about political turmoil, as long as they can have a presence and make money, its all good to them. All about the Benjamins folks. And its not like that Cyprus is a war zone, or there is constant ethnic clashing, death and destruction. That’s all in the past. In relative terms, its pretty tame place. The roughest you get probably is bar brawls here and there, some Russian mafia elements in the South, and Turkish mobsters in the North.

Yes, since the 1974 Turkish invasion of the island – or “intervention” if you’re on the Turkish side of things – both sides have a pretty hefty military presence. The two armies stare at each other across a United Nations controlled green-line, which is definitely not the most exciting thing to do when its 100 degrees-plus during the day. The UN troops on the island, or UNFICYP, are on pretty much an extended vacation. They’ve been there 50 years and have experienced 179 fatalities in those 50 years, 97 of them as a result of accidents, and 44 as a result of sickness. So not a real dangerous place.

All is still quiet on the Cyprus front. Joe back in the comfort of the good ole US of A, having briefed the powers that be about the nature of the talks. I mean seriously, how hard can it be? There are more people living in the East Village, Greenwich Village and Lower East Side of Manhattan combined than that of the whole population of Cyprus…okay, maybe throw in Tribeca and Chelsea. The fact of the matter is that the whole damn country is the size of barely the southern tip of Manhattan. And this has stumped the diplomatic community for the past 50 or so years? Maybe Giuliani should be the next envoy to Cyprus. Heck, he cleaned up New York City in a single term.

Honestly, I can go on about Cyprus for a very, very long article. And another thing I’m tired about the Cyprus Problem are the biases. Yeah, I’m Turkish, yes I lived in the Turkish Cypriot North. But, I disagree with the bullshit that both sides dish out over a problem that I believe has been artificially prolonged for decades.

I remember breaking the story about the Turkish Cypriot side unilaterally opening their side of the border to Greek Cypriots, a decision that had to be reciprocated by the Greek Cypriot side, otherwise they would just look like dicks, and I’m sure there would have been rights in the Republic if they didn’t allow their people to cross over to property which many view as rightfully theirs.

That morning at the Ledra Palace checkpoint was very elated form of chaos. It was also funny watching the UN troops stationed at the checkpoint scramble to maintain a semblance of order. And many of them were griping about the crowds. I look at one British solider with the blue patch and commented, “Really? You guys sit around most of the time as if you’re on vacation, heaven forbid you do an actual day of work.”

I also had the honor of riding along with the first people to cross the border in nearly 30 years that day. The couple I was riding with were originally from Kyrenia, or Girne as it is known to the Turks. We stopped on the edge of the mountain pass road that leads to the picturesque view of the town on the edge of the Mediterranean. When they left because of the war, they had just gotten married, and Kyrenia was a mere village, a fraction of the size that they were seeing before them.

Our goal was to find their home, the home that they had been married in amongst lemon tree saplings. They told me that their house was on the edge of town near some carob warehouses. So we drove and drove and reached the edge of town. But, then I realized a simple factor I was overlooking – the edge of town for them was 30 years ago, so we were way off. Then I remember that there are some Turkish Army garages that are located just on the entrance of the town that I knew for a fact were old Greek Cypriot carob warehouses.

We found the home within five minutes. There was a new apartment building going up on the property, but the original home was still there. I found the contractors, and they were more than happy to let us on to the property. Everyone was smiling, and pleasant, the woman was tearing up and smiling. The couple looked up at the canopy of full-grown lemon trees that were mere saplings when they got married in that same garden. The contractor said that they would be demolishing the small single story house that the couple once knew as their home. The couple didn’t express any anger, the Greek Cypriot man told me to translate to the contractor (who didn’t speak Greek or English) that once the new building is complete, they would love to purchase an apartment in the building. He added, “Once there is a solution, and once we can freely move about and live in our country.”

That was my “wow” moment for Cyprus. This man was not angry, or held any grudges, he realizes the world that he know has changed, he moved on. Of course this is not representative of all Greek Cypriots who lost land in the North after the war, but it gave me a glimmer of hope. I remember writing this for Cyprus Today, but Reuters greatly edited this little human side of the division down. I’m not sure if it was an editorial decision for space, or an editorial decision based on politics, since I was actually in the coverage of this particular story was working through Athens instead of Ankara.

Anyhow, I have many anecdotes such as these as a result my 10-year tenure on the island.

In reality, I believe in many respects that the Turkish Cypriot side are sellouts. I’m sure if the dollar amount were right, many of the people in the North would convert to Christianity, sell their property and join the Republic of Cyprus and the European Union. With the exception of converting to Christianity, many Turkish Cypriots have already jumped on the EU bandwagon…okay, it is their right, but it wouldn’t take much for them to sell out for a solution either, the only thing preventing that from happening are the political interests of Turkey.

One term I heard on numerous occasions in my tenure in Cyprus was Gordion knot. It is a term used for a problem that has become so complicated, without really any sort of solution on the horizon that it requires a very rudimentary, almost crude solution…taking a pair of scissors and cutting the knot, and unfortunately in the decades since the inception of the Cyprus Problem, no one has had the balls to do it.

 

The Big Turk is Back!

The Big Turk is Back!

This was a groovy little box I saw at an antique store somewhere in Michigan. I wanted to buy it, it was only $4, but alas, it had a flaw…a piece of well-stuck-on tape right down the middle. So I had to suffice with a photo.

This is also a little intro to my new blog where I will delve into many topics. It may be product reviews for electronic gadgets, to designer toys. It may be security and surveillance related articles. It may be fashion tips and advice, of course with my slant on things. It may be simple observations. Or it may even be creative writing pieces that I have done in the past, present, and obviously not in the future. That would definitely be silly. The future would be in my mind, and once I publish it, it will be in the present, and once I’ve read it, or my readers have read it, then it’s in the past. I’m sure the idea has come across clearly…or maybe not. It is going to be Drivel with an edge.

I may be an ass at times, I may be critical, because that is the way I am. But like any media on this planet, the reader has the option to just click the little “x” and move on. Or, if the reader wants to truly make things exciting, discussion, and comments will obviously be welcome.

I may at times be informative, and at times I may spew out a lot of shit. The point is to be exciting, and exciting can be negative or positive. As long as it provokes thought, incites anger and riots (maybe not riots), or gets your juices flowing, then I’ve done my job.

So the journey begins. I hope you folks out there enjoys this ride. I’m definitely going to try to enjoy it. Remember, this is just Drivel with a purpose.