Perfect Izmir Day

Wake up groggy, because apparently Efes Pilsen puts bear hibernation strength formaldehyde in their beer. A big day of bank errands, shopping, and döner-eating await!

Time to hit the ground runn–

First clear the table of the forty dishes that comprise a Turkish breakfast. Everyone likes chores! Make sure to put away the bread basket, sucuk plate, the cucumbers, the tomatoes, the feta cheese, the sugar cubes, the salt, the pepper, the soft boiled egg holders, the olive oil, the tea glasses, the tea glass coaster plates, the black olives, the green olives, the oregano, the Aleppo pepper, the tiny salt shakers, and the cutlery. It’s like an archaeological assemblage. Yes, sometimes Slow Food can be a pain in the ass.

Understand the appeal of a quick bowl of cereal now, even if a splash of milk turns my intestines into a chemical weapons factory.

Glance out to see what people out and about are wearing. Sweaters and hats and gloves? Must be freezing!

Weather is 28 degrees Celsius and sunny. Immediately begin flooding underpants with sweat. Swamp ass in Turkish is “bataklık götü.” Not a saying, but I’m determined to have it become one.

Say hello to our ever-growing army of street cats. Have a previously-sweet but now aggressive cloudy-eyed male mount my leg. Dread the prospect of taking him to get fixed. Pull up pant leg to examine the pinpoint blood drops on my leg. Stupid horny cat.

Catch what you think is a dolmuş, but what in fact is a local city minivan that looks like the Mystery Machine. Avoid asking any questions as you careen away from the cardinal direction of your original intent. Smile/grimace and say “it’s part of the adventure!”

(Protip: a dolmuş is basically a white taxi. The dolmuş of days past were the minivan things we got on. More important protip: if there’s a wrong turn, vehicle, or physical gesture to be taken or done, I will somehow always find my way to it).

Get told to sit down in a seat the INSTANT one is vacant. Say “hey, it’s cool, I’m OK standing,” and have ten people yell at you at how unsafe you’re being.

Stand up to offer seat as soon as a woman gets on.

Am now standing.

Someone gets off, I am immediately directed to their seat.

Repeat this game of musical chairs for thirty minutes while trying to figure out where we are.

Get off at Karşıyaka Metro station when every single person gets off. We’re somewhat close to where we want to be, but the random turns, rapid acceleration, and circular route have you feeling like a hostage recently removed from a trunk. Apparently we took a tour of the Şemikler neighborhood.

Walk wrong way for 45 minutes. Keep following “Feribot” signs that appear to have been rotated by those evil goblins in “Labyrinth”.

Finally find main street in Karşıyaka that you’ve been looking for. Begin search for famous döner restaurant, Sakıpağa.

Walk obliviously past said restaurant multiple times by mere feet because the logo has a very distracting ayran-being-poured graphic, and because I am an idiot. Give up on food for the time being, as it is now 30 degrees Celsius and I need someplace with air conditioning right away before I have to wring out my underwear.

(Sure, it’s sexy when a WOMAN says “wring out my underwear,” but when a GUY says it, how come it’s considered “UN sanction-violating mental torture” and “sexual harassment?”)

Go shopping with lady, because she needs clothes. Get yelled at in store for daring to take clothes between levels OF THE SAME STORE, which apparently operate with a floor-as-Teutonic-fiefdom concept of retail management.

Six transactions for five items later, step out ravenously hungry.

Take a random hollering preteen restaurant busker’s recommendation and pop into a restaurant for a döner sandwich.

Ask for four ayrans for two people. “You want four?” Evet, dört lutfen.” DÖRT ayran? Again, yes, goddammit.

Feel like a fatty.

Go to Garanti Bank to get debit card from new Turkish account. Room is 8,000 degrees. Understand why no one moves even in the slightest to help me. Welcome back to the swamp, dick and balls!

Get informed that the card has arrived, but they lost it.

You LOST it?

“Well, the courier lost it.”


“We gave it back to them since we didn’t know what it was, and they lost it.”

Sounds like YOU guys lost it, maybe?


Return to bank two weeks later, after Bayram, and find that card has been there the whole time. Card was in envelope with language on the front that effectively said “This is a new card for a new bank account, so here it is, keep it safe, KTHNXBAI.”

Waddle past aforementioned famous döner restaurant, not hungry in the least. I MUST HAVE THIS DÖNER.

Man at ordering counter looks like Estelle Getty. Get cut off in line multiple times because of silly concepts like “personal space” and “waiting my turn.” Get Jumbo döner sandwich. Ask for four ayrans.

“Did you say FOUR?” (Sad trombone).

Fill sandwich to the brim with spicy pickled peppers. Make appointment with toilet later. (It will be worth it).

Go home in time to watch Galatasaray blow a three-goal lead against marginal Anatolian squad.

Begin drinking Efes.

Moving Animals

Outside of the stress of packing up our entire apartment in Berkeley and planning on an international move to Turkey, we had to plan for a cross-country move to Minnesota, wherein our two kitties (George and Stamos) would be pawned off on my brother Bengi for the year. With the confluence of these MAJOR LIFE STRESSORS, Mary and I were running on about four hours of sleep per night during our last week in the Bay Area. Let me preempt all of the parents out there by saying yes, you all got waaaay less sleep than us for an entire presidential term, but keep in mind we were going to bed after many, many, moving beers each night.

I’ve done the cross country move from MN – CA once before with the kitties, and they were pretty well-behaved. Other than Stamos getting a wicked case of pinkeye in Little America, Wyoming, it was smooth sailing. *

This time, we left Berkeley at 6am, destination Mormonopolis Salt Lake City. We had a crate for the cats, but I opted not to use it, since the cats had been free to roam in the car on previous car trips. I thought nothing of their incessant whining and moaning until Stamos started to foam at the mouth. Like, Ol’ Yeller, long, syrupy strands of muzzle lather. George wasn’t drooling, but kept putting her stupid face up to my ear and screaming.

Since Mary can’t drive a stick, I was doing all the driving, while she was wrangling pussycats. Three hours into our fantastic voyage, cruising on I-80, Stamos abruptly stopped pacing in the limited space left in the car. She turned away from us, as if to look homeward wistfully, braced her legs, and shat feline soft serve all over my suitcase. Mary saw the whole/hole thing happen. At the same time, a deer decided to sprint to the median on the other side of the freeway, pause, and make a move like it was going to jump right into our path. I had white-knuckle adrenaline shakes on top of the poo-nami happening in the backsteat. Mary contorted her body in order to climb back and clean up the mess. As soon as she squirmed back to the front, Stamos began barfing everywhere. Being geniuses, we said “Hmmmmm, she must be car sick.” We pulled into a pet store somewhere around Lake Tahoe and bought pet mess spray, cat calming drops, a cat calming collar, and put the cats in the carrier. It was a bit more settled down after that, but we soon realized that Stamie had stress-peed little puddles all over the floor mats in the back, like when a lady jumps on a trampoline. The car smelled really amazing for the rest of the drive.

I still miss those cats (except for George…she’s the worst). You know what kinda sorta assuages the cat pangs? The millions of street cats in Turkey. They. Are. Everywhere. On cars, under cars, in trees, in bushes, under stoops, on balconies, at restaurants, in your windowsills, everywhere. It’s considered a positive character trait to feed street cats, and there are even designated cat feeding troughs around cities. My aunt gets street cat food from the vet when her cat has to go for an appointment. Sadly, many people will just abandon their housecats to the outdoors when they move away or go away for the summer. (Cue Sarah McLachlan’s “Angel.”) You can tell these cats by their nice grooming and general cleanliness. Street cats tend to be really lean, a bit mangy, and many have krusty kitty konjunctivitis, like what Stamie had.

Dogs are everywhere, too. Really healthy mutts abound. They’re all partially Anatolian Sheep Dogs (the dog breed Hugh Jackman’s character had to take care of in Kate & Leopold) along with general muttiness. Local city organizations (manned by Turkish Leslie Knopes) tag and vaccinate the dogs and you don’t have to worry about a pack of angry dogs ripping you to shreds, Django-style.

*I had some amoxicillin tablets purchased in Turkey the year before, because you can buy all sorts of awesome pills over the counter. I’m not one of those horrible people that doesn’t finish their course of ‘biotics and creates supergerms! Honest! I had picked up a few packs in case I got strep or something in the US. My dad suggested I give Stamos a weight-adjusted amoxicillin dose. If an average person weighs 150 pounds (outside of American red states, of course), and Stamos was about 15, then you’d just have to crush up the pill, halve it, halve the halves, and then halve the half-halves that to get pretty close. PET PHARMACIST! Thursdays on CBS!