|A semi fictional encounter in Istanbul.
Contributed by Chuck
on November 3rd, 2007
Arriving in Istanbul, a muslim city, at night, had been a shock. They hadn’t known where they were. There was nothing that resembled a bus station or a tourist information booth. Buses were loading and unloading in narrow streets, moustached Turkish men wearing cloth caps were piling in and out of old American cars. There were glimpses of minarets and Islamic architecture. The Turks were friendly enough. One, who spoke good English pointed them up a hill to a group of 'Otelis'. They chose one called the Gulhane, the room had eight beds, the toilet was a hole in the floor, but they didn’t care.
Next morning they meet Goof from San Francisco. Ragged, bearded, just back from India. He is squatting cross-legged on one of the beds scraping pieces off a large block of very dark hash. He asks them if they have any skins. They have some blue Rizla as it happens.
‘Great. Real skins. I scored this in Kandahar. People call me Goof.’
‘You think it’s cool to smoke here?’
Simon isn’t sure. None of them wants to take any chances so they walked up an old cobbled road behind Hagia Sofia until they reach an open stretch where old cannons are lined up along the battlements overlooking the Bosphorus.
‘Man,’ says Goof inhaling deeply from the joint and passing it to Simon, ‘look at that man. That’s Asia over there. That’s where I was. Turkey is big man…took me a week to get through it. And Iran is even bigger. I hope you cats know what you’re getting into. The East will change the way you think.’
Arthur looks across the Bosphorus. Had Alexander felt any trepidation when he stood, perhaps in this very spot, looking across at his future empire? They sit on one of the cannons and Goof lights up another joint.
‘Dig the crazy cannon man. They use these things for hash pipes in Afghanistan.’ Seeing their quizzical looks he adds, ‘I’m not kidding. They have these massive clay pipes and they load them up with hash. Then they pass them round and everybody gets a pull. Those Afghan cats are really cool. You think you can smoke hash? Wait till you get one of those Afghan jellums. It’ll blow your heads off. Oh man look at the sky. Dig those clouds man! The great cosmic circus. We’re all part of it. And something is really happening now. Big changes coming man. Can’t you feel it? We are the agents of change man. This generation. It’s in us to change the world.’
‘I don’t know about that,’ says Simon, ‘that’s good hash though.’
‘Hey don’t bring me down man. OK I get it. You’re Limey intellectuals right. Arty types. Jerking my chain. But I know you guys. You’ve been brought up in nice little homes and had good educations...but you’re bored with it right. Now you want to walk on the wild side. You’re attracted to the random and the spontaneous types…you’re looking for kicks…like me.You know something’s wrong with the cosy material world but you can’t let it go. Am I right? Krishna and Kali...Yin and Yang. You need to read Kerouac man...he’s a writer...he knows what he’s doing...him and Ginsberg and those cats...’
‘Howl and On The Road you mean?’ says Simon. ‘It looks to me like they want to create an American myth. It doesn’t really work in England.’
‘Shit man Blake was English wasn’t he? Those guys...they have tapped the spirit man...turned it into words that sing.'
'On The Road is OK', says Simon, ' but there's no plot. It's as if he got really stoned and just typed it out in a couple of days.'
'I'm not sure about that,' says Arthur, 'I think Kerouac had it all written in notebooks already but he needed to get a consistent tone.'
'Jeez you guys,' says Goof, 'Why so fucking critical? Can't you just go with the flow. Read Henry Miller. He’s the energy source.’
‘We met Henry Miller.’ Says Arthur.
‘In Athens. Outside the American Express. He told us to fuck off.’
‘Too much!!’ Goof is rocking with laughter. ‘Henry Miller told you to fuck off! Too fucking much. That cat is a god to me man. He taught me how to live. Turned me on to the life force. It’s in the air man. And it’s free. But you have to open yourself to it. Just talking is no good. You remind me of all the fucking intellectuals in Berkeley. Coffee houses full of hipsters and beatniks or whatever the fuck they call themselves sitting around smoking weed and analyzing their lives. I got out. Ferlinghetti, City Lights Bookshop, poetry readings. Too intellectual for me man. Shit I’m horny. Hard to find a piece of tail in Muslim countries. Haven’t got laid since Delhi. India is wild man. Cows in the street. They got gurus and sadhus and wild holy men wandering around naked covered in ashes man. Weird stuff. But the people are great…the poor ones especially…they got nothing but they feed you man. Hey, if you get stuck you can always go to the Sikh temples…they let you sleep there and give you food...just dal...but it’s free man. Some crazy cats out there man…I met a German guy who’d spent 10 years in an ashram...reckoned he could drink through his cock. Hey...you think these Turkish chicks are hip man?’
Simon didn’t think so. Some of them certainly looked ready and willing but he thought anybody getting too close ran a good chance of getting castrated by angry Turks.
But Goof was off again…‘Kerouac’s right you know. There’s a revolution happening man...a revolution of the soul...you can feel it and this is just the beginning...I’ll make a prediction man...in a year or two there’ll be thousands of guys and chicks like you wandering off to India. Looking for...’
‘Looking for what Goof.’
‘Shit man I don’t know. Looking for God, looking for enlightenment. Looking for themselves. Maybe just looking for dope. Oblivion...who knows.’
‘Where are you going Goof?’
‘From here? I’m going to Greece...then hitching over to Spain I guess. Maybe down to Morocco. I want to stop hitchhiking for a while. It gets to be a drag...you know the worst thing about hitchhiking? You have to talk to all these people who pick you up…tell them some bullshit. You sort of feel like you have to entertain them...keep them awake. Or they start groping you. It can be a drag. But I love it man. Waking up in crazy places, miles and miles of desert then you hit a teahouse in a garden someplace in Afghanistan, sunset on the Ganges...it blows my mind. Don’t forget the water train from Zaidan in Persia. It goes once a week and you just get on and ride. It takes you right into Pakistan. Hey guys, I’m having a vision...dig the chicks.’
Two blonde girls dressed in anoraks and extensively patched jeans are approaching. Their names are Inga and Maj-Britt. They are from Malmo. Arthur thinks they look a little lost. They sit down on one of the cannons and things start to get confusing. Another joint is produced and everybody gets giggly. Goof goes into male display mode much to the amusement of the girls. Simon says something about trying to find the Grand Bazaar. Somebody, Jorge Luis Borges was it? once observed that the linear nature of language – wherein each word occupies its own instant in the reader’s mind - distorts the things we would make reference to. Fair enough, but that doesn’t mean we should stop trying. The hash is strong. Arthur wanders off and finds his way into the Seraglio, an evocative word in itself, where he strolls through rooms full of dusty Turkish weapons and elaborate jewellery, the Sultan’s lavishly tiled throne room and the disappointingly silent and empty harem. There had been some vague agreement to meet back at the hotel for another smoke but when Arthur gets there he finds Simon alone, writing up the day’s events in his journal. They think Goof must have got sidetracked.
‘Doing those Swedish birds probably.’ Says Arthur wistfully.
‘You know, ’says Simon, ‘he could be the real thing...a genuine San Francisco hipster.’ They agreed there is something magical about the way he just appeared in their lives. The timing was impeccable. Whatever Goof is he doesn’t come back to his bed in the Gulhane that night. They find him next morning in the pudding shop eating a bowl of yoghurt and doodling in a notebook.
‘Oh man those Scandinavian chicks are something else man. I think I’m in love.’
‘Both of them of course. Don’t make me choose.’ Goof pushes the notebook over.
‘Look at that man. It’s what I do.’
The notebook is full of drawings, felt tip and coloured pencil...naked figures flying through swirls and patterns. It is easy to imagine Goof in teahouses, cheap hotels or stuck by the side of the road turning out all the images in his mind.
‘They’re remarkable.’ Says Simon. ‘You’re an artist.’
‘Oh, those are just notes. When I get back to San Fran I’m going to work them up into posters and album covers. Music. Concerts. That’s where it’s at man. But first I’m hitching to Stockholm. You got any bread man?’
A semi fictional encounter in Istanbul.
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