Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Holy Istanbul

Last week for various reasons five people from Spain moved into my house and Larry and I moved downstairs into Kate's apartment and Kate moved somewhere - a friend's, boyfriend. I'm not sure. She's roving and we are displaced, though it isn't upsetting me as much as it normally would. But the other night, our first night in Kate's somewhat discombobulated apartment (for her standards are different than mine, though I think she has more fun), I couldn't sleep. Normally this wouldn't bother me so much. I often can't sleep. And when I do I roam the house, but now my movements contricted, my wings clipped. I had a pile of books I wanted to read, but I was too restless to focus on much of a story, when I saw Kate's copy of HOWL, lying on her desk. It's her favorite poem and one I hadn't read in a while so I figured what better late night reading, especially as I was also reading ON THE ROAD for my writer and wanderer class. I started reading and found myself once again caught up in Ginsberg's incantatory poem when, somewhere around dawn, I came to this line: Holy New York Holy San Francisco Holy Peoria & Seattle Holy Paris Holy Tangiers Holy Moscow Holy Istanbul! Holy Istanbul. What was it that made Peoria and Istanbul both holy? What was it that made cities holy at all? And reading Ginsberg made me flip back to Kerouac to whom Ginsberg in fact dedicated HOWL. And I recalled how Kerouac referred to Dean as the Holy Goof as opposed, I am sure, to ghost. I was thinking about this also because Kate's best friend, Sonia, refers to herself and Kate and their third friend, Paul, as the holy goofs and they plan to walk across America) and I started to think about what these guys, that is the Beats, meant when they made a place, and in this case, or my case, Istanbul, holy. Was Holy sacred to them, the way the Bible and the cross are holy? I was pretty sure not. This was a different kind of holy. A palpable, you can touch it, feel it holy. It wasn't the kind of holy that comes from God and above, but from men and below, not from heaven, but from earth. From the here and now and the gritty and the dirty and the chaotic and all the things you can't quite put your finger on. And then I put Ginsberg down and flipped back to Kerouac and I think it's Dean talking here "reaching his Taoist decisions in the simplest direct way." "What's your road, man? - holyboy road, madman road, rainbow road, guppy road, any road. It's an anywhere road for an anybody anyhow." And then a few pages later where Sal Paradise says "I was back in the soft, dark Denver night with its holy alleys and crazy houses." And this brought me back to Ginsberg because he wasn't chanting about holy cities in the God sense, but in the sense of all the back alleys and whores and drug addicts and drunks, and bums and saps. What to another writer might be god-forsaken streets to Kerouac and Ginsberg were holy streets and holy cities because they were alive and full of life and neither writer was afraid to take them on or be hurt or messed up on those holy streets in the holy cities. I recalled one dark night in Istanbul as I wandered alone past social clubs where men, only men, played cards and smoked. Past barber shops where barbers, razors poised, glanced my way. The winding streets whose direction eluded me. Coming upon the Grand Bazaar, its doors locked, its darkness impenetrable. I recall a story I once heard of a young woman, on her honeymoon, who disappeared inside of there. But I think it was a lie, but still I walked with a feeling that I could be taken, that I could also disappear down these uneven, circular roads. And as dawn rose in my daughter's apartment where we were camped out for a while, I thought that this all made perfect sense and if five Spaniards weren't sleeping upstairs and if I wasn't having a sleepless night, I would never have understood any of this.


  1. David LautersteinApril 30, 2010 at 7:59 PM

    Sweet, Mary. Thanks for the lovely column. I still tell my students that I am a beatnik, not a hippie... but they don't necessarily know what I'm talking about.
    :) David

  2. David, you were ALWAYS a beatnik! Now I understand everything.


  3. There are many palaces of interest in Istanbul like Dolmabahçe Palace and the Topkapi Palace. The Topkapi is a huge structure and houses the Imperial Council Chamber, the Imperial Treasury, the Sacred Safekeeping Rooms, Baghdad Kiosk, the Tower of Justice and the Harem.

    Çadir Mansion a significant mansion in Yildiz Park was originally built as "Sedir Mansion" but in 1960 was converted into the Tamzimat Museum.

    The Beylerbeyi Palace is interesting with its main building, sea mansions, Marble Mansion, Yellow Palace and Hasahir in the backyard. Its garden is of renown too.