Saturday, September 24, 2011

Istanbul Nightclub DJ's get no First Amendment Protections

We spend the night partying at a famous Istanbul disco, whose best feature, in my opinion, was the seven story winding staircase one need ascend to gain entry. This is of course serves a warning, meant to give unwitting customers a chance to turn back before being exposed to DJ’s that are intermixing Ray Charles, with Middle Eastern music that might satisfy only the most rhythmically impaired- the songs had no beat whatsoever.
I had heard good things about Istanbul night life, and this place was packed, but authorities in New York City would have closed down the place and fined the owners hundreds of thousands of dollars on music selection alone, First Amendment be damned. (And they’d be right to)

The next morning we start by investigating the touristy part of the city.  We stop by the Grand Bazaar, a gigantic complex of small shops selling everything from trinkets, to T-shirts, to antiques, to masses of gold.
Gamze is proud of the fact that Turkey both sells and produces some of the best counterfeit name brand clothing in the world. “We’re #1,” she brags, “It’s almost indistinguishable from the real thing. "Gucci" is of course on full display.

 I see an antique dagger with a scabbard decorated in heaven, prominently displayed in a shop window. It turns out it is 80 years old, and the owner wants $2,000 for it, a price I visibly recoil at.
“Can I just film the dagger?” 
            “Sure,” he answers disappointedly, without moving to get it for me.
             “Could I hold it while I film, please?”
             “Just film it through the window.”
             Obviously we’ve all experienced this before, storekeepers whose only interest is how much money they can extract from you. I have to say, in my two visits to Istanbul, it’s more pronounced here than elsewhere.
                “You know what, you’ll never be a great salesman until you can greet all your customers with love. You’re just concerned about numbers, I assure you when you become interested in the heart first, and making that connection with someone, your numbers will follow.”

A quick look at the Grand Bazaar

                We take a ferry to the Asian side, then bus after bus after bus, til two plus hours later, we finally arrive in Gamze’s neighborhood. Public transport here is ridiculously packed, the vehicles ancient and dirty;  often smelly.
                The jammed streets and highways create awful amounts of pollution; at times it can be hard to breathe, as air regulations that we have in America, which Republicans rail against as bad for business, are non-existent in Istanbul.

A crowded Turkish bus- almost entirely male

                We get to the last leg of journey, a small bus that waits until it’s completely packed with sardines before leaving. It costs about eighty cents to climb the steep hill, Gamze’s house at its pinnacle. This middle class neighborhood is at Istanbul’s highest point. My view of the city is far reaching.
                Wanting to show up with a gift for Gamze's mother, we stop by a roadside stand selling baklava. 20 something pieces fit into the 5 lira box, quite a contrast to an earlier offer when we had stopped in one of the numerous sweet shops in town, and I had asked to purchase one piece of baklava to try.
                “No no, minimum order four pieces, 10 Lira.” (almost $6)
                Just another rip-off attempt. The shopkeeper saw a tourist and immediately tried to take advantage. It's in mankind’s greedy nature to extract as much from any situation as they can, rather than act fairly and plan for the long term. It’s symptomatic of how we treat, not only our business dealings, but our environment, politics, and relationships. I've even heard of people so shortsighted they would trade humanity's universal freedom of speech, which people have paid for with their lives, for which wars have fought, just to shut down an Istanbul nightclub because of their horrendous music. But he'd be right.
Me, Gamze, and her awesome Mom, Birgu
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