Sunday Morning Soliloquy - Musings of an Urbanite: September 2011

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Longest Blog Post Written About Istanbul EVER!

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Leyla Goes to Istanbul.... 
Wish I had Instagram so I could make an Instagram Photobook

Departed on Turkish Airlines on 9/23 - having arrived at the airport late, I was bumped from my business class seat to a horrible coach class seat. It was quite disappointing as I love business class flights on Turkish Air and the flight usually makes my trip.

Arrive in Istanbul on 9/24 around 5pm, grab my luggage, go through customs and I headed out to find the Havas Shuttle Bus.

9/24 around 9pm, I arrived at my aunt's house on the Asian side of Istanbul -- after taking a plane, a bus and a taxi.  No ferry, so I was happy.

9/25 I get my hair done by Serif, my aunt's hairdresser, who turns me into a zebra.  I now have blonde and reddish striped highlights in my hair AND it cost me $200.  Thanks Serif, now I feel like a giant jerk walking around with "Turkish hair" as I keep referring to it. I knew I should have stopped him when he asked me if I wanted any "yellow" in my hair.

I spend the rest of the day walking around looking for an adaptor so I can use my western electrical items. I have dinner at Mado, alone,  and then head back to my aunt's.  That first night, I fell asleep at 10pm!

Mado Caddebostan

9/26 I am still on the Asian side of Istanbul.  I wake up LATE, I am jet lagged, I eat breakfast with my aunt. She proceeds to tell me numerous hysterical stories while she smokes her Marlboro reds at the breakfast table. She asks again if I would like to stay with her instead of check into my apartment/hotel in Beyoglu, I thank her and decline the invitation.  My aunt reminds me that I am free to come and go as I please, or, if I meet a man, I can choose not to come back at all.  I assure my aunt that I will not be meeting any men on the streets of Istanbul, and that I did not choose to stay in an apartment so I can have loads of sex with strange, Turkish men.  I simply want some privacy and freedom to move about the city as I wish.  This falls on deaf ears.... but I did think it was cute for her to give me the freedom to not come home should I find myself in a magical moment.  To think, I could have done the walk of shame on Bagdat Caddesi - next time!

Still 9/26, it seems this day won't end. I try for a third time to get the SIM card working in my phone. Apparently there is a "system wide outage" for Turkcell.  Annoyed, I head to a bookstore and purchase a copy of Time Out Istanbul - the English Version.  I am happy for a brief moment, the cell phone frustration is wearing on me, I can't get online and my people need me.

Still 9/26 I head back to my aunt's and we order Kebap and Lahmacun - heavenly, meaty foods. My cousin and my other aunt pick me up and we head to the European side of Istanbul.  If you're reading this and you didn't know that Istanbul stretched across two continents, stop reading now and go join Sarah Palin in her backyard looking out at Russia.

The time is now 4pm on 9/26, what may have been the longest day of my life.  We head to Istinya Park and have a beer and a coffee at Masa.  My cousin keeps pointing out famous people (because this is a really posh mall) and I have no clue who they are and I don't care. We window shop for a few hours.

We continue to walk around Istinya Park for an endless amount of time, have dinner at the fish restaurant Istinya Pazar (market) which was delicious. Around 9:30p, my cousin takes me to my apartment.  I check in, and my cousin, her husband and I head out to and have some drinks off Istiklal overlooking the city and the Bosphorus. That was a lovely night.

This is where I am staying - Nuru Ziya Apartments in Beyoglu

Lobby at Nuru Ziya

Finally!! It is 9/27.  I wake up around 9a, get out of bed around 10a and start working.  I work until about 4:30pm and then head out for the day.  I meet Simon and Ayla in front of Galata Saray High School and we walk over to an Armenian restaurant for delicious food.

Ayla and Simon Johns in front of Galata Saray High School

9/28 Wednesday I wake up late once again and work all day. I then head down to Ayla and Simon's apartment which was located in the Tophane neighborhood, just below Beyoglu. I bring my good camera as there are many lovely buildings and sites to photograph.  See them here on my FLICKR page. I renamed their street "Man Alley" - there were no women on the streets or coffee shops or the park, only men and boys.

This is the best picture I took all day on 9/28. I was taking a photo of the street and she just popped out from around the corner. 

The best picture I took all day!

I arrive and the men in "Man Alley" insist that I take their photos, so I do just that.  This was a request that multiple groups of men and boys asked of me "Take my picture!" they would holler at me.  I did not get it at first, but then I thought, by taking their photo, a piece of them travels somewhere - I take them with me to wherever I am going and maybe that brings them some comfort or joy? 

Take my photo

Once up in the apartment, Simon gives me a tour of their lovely home (that they both equally dislike for a multitude of reasons, I'm sure living in "Man Alley" has it's disadvantages for Ayla, a woman, and Simon, an Englishman) as Ayla goes to get the baby.

Simon's recording studio

Simon's Studio... soon to be a baby's room

Posters hanging on the wall (P.S. Ayla & Simon met at a Stereolab show, Ayla was a groupie, sort of like a cross between Penny Lane and the high school journalist kid working for Rolling Stone Magazine in the movie Almost Famous - well, not really, but I think that is how I will refer to her from now on)

Stereolab Concert Posters

The view from Ayla and Simon's Balcony

The "DIY" Grocery Store

Still 9/28 I am super late to meet my cousin in Taksim Square and my Turkish phone has been blowing up! Like an idiot, I accidentally downloaded some stupid song as my ringtone - the kind of ringtone that  callers hear when they call. I don't hear any of these calls, they mostly go straight to voicemail, which  of course, is not set up.

I call my cousin back and we've missed our dinner reservations. I hop into a cab and head to Nisantasi to meet Cem, Aylin and Kayra (Aylin's daughter) at a back-up location for dinner.  We have dinner and then head back to their apartment in Sisli for coffee.  We sit around for a short while and then Cem drives me back to Beyoglu; something NO Istanbul resident ever wants to do unless they have to do it - drive through Beyoglu - an area established in the 1600s. We head through a labyrinth of narrow, one-way streets that serpentine and make no logical sense. We ask for directions from men sitting in front of tiny grocers and the answer is always the same "right, right, right, left." Or, "all right and then left".  None of this makes sense so we just follow the line of cars and I assume we'll eventually all get there.... which we do.

9/29 that would be today. Efsun arrives in Istanbul from Ankara (she took it upon herself to join me on my trip) and I have a full day planned. I wake up at my usual late hour of 10a.  I try to get some work done this morning but I end up chatting it up with the people in the hotel for about an hour.  This was fine, because A) I really like them and B) I'm here to talk to people about Istanbul and learn what the locals do so I can write it up in the guide I am editing.

12:15p I depart the apartment to gather Efsun from Taksim Square -- and thank god I do because she would not have EVER found it on her own!  She is terrible with direction and has trouble with many other things too -- again, another blog post is needed to describe the faults of Efsun (Corn Man as I call her).

Efsun is here!

Corn Man (aka Efsun) and I had a full day.  We headed out to lunch at Peymane, just down the road from my apartment in Tomtom, had Cig Kofte and Pirzola (spicy beef tartare and lamb chops) for lunch.  

Cig Kofte

After lunch we went to the Park Hyatt in Macka for a site visit, such a lovely property.  The sales manager gave us a tour and described the rich history of the building.

Park Hyatt Istanbul

Still 9/28 and I am still with Efsun aka Corn Man. After the Park Hyatt, we head to Nisantasi and have a drink at Biber, a nice bar/restaurant with an outdoor cafe. We then walked down to the Bosphorus road and walked for about 30 minutes along the Bosphorus until we found a taxi.  

Off to dinner in Bebek at Chillai...still 9/28.  Chillai is a hot and trendy restaurant in the very sexy neighborhood of Bebek.  I ordered the sword steak and Efsun had some pasta dish she enjoyed. 

Still 9/28.... On the way home, I insisted we stop for dessert. We had the taxi drop us off in Taksim Square and walked down Istiklal.  We stopped at Saray Muhallebicisi so I could get some Tavuk Gogsu -- aka Milk Pudding with Chicken Breast, a dessert that comes from Ottoman Times and the best thing you will ever eat in your entire life.

tavuk gogsu

For more on my trip to Turkey... check out:

My Flick Page
My Travel Blog
My Other Sunday Morning Soliloquy Posts

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Procrastinating in Istanbul

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Just a Perfect Day - Drink Sangria in the Park

Not exactly what I am doing in Istanbul, instead, I am inside my apartment in Beyoglu (aka Galata) trying to get some work done. It hardly seems fair that I should have to work on a day like today, and I am trying, but procrastination is bringing you this blog post. Given all of the alternatives, writing the report I should be writing is daunting.

My Kitchen / Office
At Nuru Ziya Suites, this is the second floor kitchen area of my apartment.
I am using it as my office, there are patio doors with a spacious balcony. 

As I was typing this, I came across my horoscope for the day and it is quite accurate, almost as if someone were speaking right to me...
Aries: Sometimes you forget how forceful you can sound when trying to make your point. You might actually think that you're the only person who sees the whole truth. Unfortunately, your overconfidence can frustrate your friends and associates today. You'll get along better with everyone if you just remember that others have the same right as you to their perspectives -- even if they conflict with yours. 

I best stay inside to not "frustrate" my friends and associates with my "overconfidence." I think sometimes people confuse "overconfidence", it often times can be fear, or lack of confidence. If I knew I was going to get my way, I'd be cool, calm and collected, not "forceful" in making my point.  Or maybe not, the other day when I was upset with my cousin for wanting me to stay in their home vs. my rented apartment while in Istanbul, I became very forceful with my words -- but I was irritated that they could not accept my decision.  I guess the horoscope is right... I am a terrible person and should be quarantined.

Time to go back to work.  Before I go, I will add some pics I took from my phone of my trip. I have a "real" post coming soon.  Just not sure when.

Late 19th C. Architecture 
This diverse neighborhood was home to settlers from all over the world as reflected in the architecture.  Many of these buildings, like this one, are currently being rehabbed.

Istiklal Caddesi
The main avenue in Beyoglu.
Young, artsy Turks and tourists promenade day and night on this pedestrian street.

Amazing Food
Dinner in an Armenian restaurant in Beyoglu.
This is "meze" and possibly the best way to eat - a selection of small plates.
You will find cheese, olives, fish and vegetarian options. 

Stay tuned for more later...
Or, you can check out my Travel Blog -- I should be updating that shortly. 


Friday, September 16, 2011

It's Over... It is finally Over!

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Downtown Dash is over... time for me to decompress and take a vacation. 

My social media scavenge hunt, Downtown Dash, is finally over!! Planning the event eats up my entire summer, it is not easy, but I have fun and I believe all the teams had a great time too.  I will write a post about the event in the near future, but this post is about what I did after Downtown Dash.

The event ended Saturday, September 10th at 3:00 p.m., we headed to Public House and announced winners just shy of 7:00 p.m. and I was home by 9:30 p.m. and asleep before 11:00 p.m.  I woke up Sunday morning and decided I wanted to stay at a hotel that day to indulge and maybe get some spa time in. I emailed a few people and ended up getting the Loft Suite at The James Hotel. I checked in at 2:00 p.m. and spent the day in my room watching movies in my "theater room".

Loft Suite at James Hotel in Chicago

When I arrived, I was pleasantly surprised to find the room loaded with a wet bar, a sitting area, a separate bedroom area, a theater room with a projection TV and Bose surround system.  My sitting area had a nice bottle of wine sitting on the table - tempting me! And because the only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it, I cracked open the bottle of pinot noir and laid around in my theater room watching American Gangster. 

Loft Suite at James Hotel in Chicago

Loft Suite at James Hotel in Chicago

After my movie, I went to dinner at Primehouse (by myself), had the bone in filet with truffle fries. I also took advantage of the Foursquare special and had at Primehouse, a "chefs choice" appetizer with your Foursquare check-in.  The twittersphere told me that the donut holes with various fillings were not to be missed, so I indulged.

The Appetizer I got with My foursquare check-in

Bone in Filet at Primehouse

After my very satisfying and filling meal, I walked around the city taking pictures of Chicago like a common tourist. Just me and my camera walking the streets, snapping photos of tourists, buildings, the "el", the streets and whatever else struck my fancy.

Franklin Street in Chicago

Please comment, +1 or share this post below. 

You can check out all my photos from last weekend on my Flickr page.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

A Letter I Wrote to Leyla Arsan

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I Have Always Been a Bit Google Obsessed....In a Narcissistic Way.  

The other night, I was perusing my former MySpace blog and I found this letter I wrote in May of 2006. I wrote a letter to a different Leyla Arsan, taking up an issue with the other Leyla. I vowed that I would dominate the Google search, and, well, let's just say... I did not rest.

Here is the letter to Leyla Arsan:

Hello Leyla Arsan,
this is THE Leyla Arsan.  I just wanted to say hello.  And, i wanted you to know that about 5 years ago, I used to Dominate the Google Search term "Leyla Arsan".  I was always listed first, the offices I held in college, my one arrest, my race times, etc.  And then there was this other Leyla Arsan, she was from San Francisco, she took a lot of nature walks and saved animals - she fell behind me in the Google Search, she was second. 
But in the last couple of years, you, Leyla Arsan, have come along!  You are a scientist, and you publish things, and do important things, and travel a lot!  You are dominating the Google search and it is making me a little crazy.  Now I have to scroll down to the bottom of the page just to get to ME! 
My 1/2 marathon scores are 3/4 of the way down the page.  All the exciting things I have done in my past, no one can find any longer.  And, my Myspace Blog entries, they're present, but they are far below your speeches and scientific awards, or some sort of University symposium something or other you attended. 
Leyla Arsan, I know you went to Ankara Technical School, graduating in 1966, but I was the PR manager for AEMMP Records in 1997 - shouldn't chronology mean SOMETHING?  I should be listed first! 
These days, all I think about is "Where can I get published so I can beat that scientist Leyla Arsan!"  How can I regain my status on the Google Search!  Do I have to discover something?  Become a scientist?  Whatever it takes I will do it, I want to be the FIRST LEYLA ARSAN! 
If you search Leyla Arsan, Chicago - I still come first.  I just wanted you to know that.
Now, please go back to your busy day - solving scientific mysteries or saving lives or whatever it is that you do.  But please know, that when you're least expecting it, I will again rise to the top of the Google search.  I once held that position and I will not rest until it is mine again. 
Good Day,
Leyla Arsan 

That was a completely TRUE story. I really wrote that email.  She responded well, some how she knew I was kidding! 

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