Prosecards from the Edge (of a Continent)

A running commentary on my life in Izmir, Turkey...and other thoughts.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Karaoke at the Clubhouse

Turks love to sing. I've heard them do it on the street, on the bus, in the meyhane (a restaurant with live music where everyone sings along). I've heard my own Turk sing in the shower and, to my occasional embarrassment, at the top of his lungs in a crowd.

But one place I never expected to hear any singing was in the clubhouse of the Zirve Mountaineering Club. This is the place we meet every Tuesday night for our climbing course that will eventually end in certification. It's very serious. We listen to speakers and look at slides that educate us about nutrition, orienteering, adverse weather conditions, safety and equipment. We've quite possibly learned about nearly every aspect of mountaineering. What we haven't done, however, is cranked up the classical Turkish art music and had a big ol' sing-a-long. Until last week, that is.

Although we normally only go to the clubhouse on Tuesdays for our course, on a whim we decided to drop by on a Wednesday night. It was a different world entirely. The people gathered in the room differed significantly from the Tuesday night crowd in that they were (a) less athletic, and (b) more predominantly female. On the big blank wall used for projected presentations there was no picture of correct passing procedure for icy mountain passes, but rather a great big, red-lettered screen that read 'Welcome to Özcan's Karaoke'.

What ensued thereafter was a potent blend of comedy and tragedy. There were speakers that could scarcely project louder than a normal human voice, badly synthesized tracks punctuated with rap-like record scratches and ridiculous flourishes totally out of keeping with the original character of the song. There was a microphone that screeched bloody murder when held in practically any position, and singers so wildly off-key that it did prompt a bit of soul-searching within myself, searching for the ultimate answer to the question 'how do we define entertainment?' Seriously, why do people do this to themselves? Okay, for the ones who 'sing', it's fulfilling their '15 minutes of fame' fantasy. There are others who don't sing, but hope that someday they might have the courage to, because they really want to express themselves. There are others who never have any intention to sing, ever, but find it entertaining to watch others make fools of themselves. And then there are those who wind up there by accident, or because their friends wanted to go, who sit there listening to a bad rendition of cat-in-heat yowl, saying to themselves "why, why, WHY???"

Fortunately, the fridge was well stocked with beer, a situation which we quickly rectified, of course. By the end of the third beer, I was beginning to discover some entertaining aspects of the whole spectacle, and was learning a little Turkish (and a little Turkish culture) to boot. I reflected that these old songs, which form part of the national consciousness, might have been forever inaccessible to me were I only to have heard them on the radio or at the meyhane. (The lyrics are normally wailed and pretty unintelligible.) Here I got to read them from a wall, in bright red letters. So now when I hear that song about making love under the stars, or the drunken inkeeper, or the lout who forgot about his love (just for a moment), maybe I, too, can sing along. I just hope I have the good sense not to put a microphone in front of my face when I do it.


At 1:16 PM, Anonymous Frank Ludwig Grossmann said...

Kate, I am using this as a portal, because I cannot get through to your Yahoo serveur. Is the problem at your end? I have sent you a message both from and the school's STRATO. The message is: yes, certainly you may have the apartment from 22 Dec when I leave to 7 Jan when I come back. See you on the 19th. Bisous, frank

At 4:30 PM, Anonymous fl.grossmann said...

Dear Kate,

Not good. The system just collapsed again. I got your "up and running" reply to the test message, then tried to send this with no success.

Good, up and running like you said. Quelle blague about La Poste. You know if
they were really on strike, 50 per cent of the messages would have gone
through, just like SNCF.

This is the letter I tried to send you the last few days:

I will be flying out the morning of the 22nd of December, returning the 7th of
January. The apartment is yours, and your sarcastic tongue aside, there is a
ficus in the kitchen window that would appreciate a drop of water. I was fretting
that aspect of being away. Further details can be arranged.

Comet is just around the corner; Jacque's Wine Cellar has a branch shop just
past Hemingways now, so all the major food groups are covered.

The day before yesterday, in the staff room, some of new teachers were asking
how bad it was in the old days, probably because I was wearing my leather
jacket with "I know I'm going to Heaven, 'Cause I've spent my time in Hell: ISB
2004 - 2005" on the back. The question came up as to how is John now? Can
you relay any gossip from your mom?

Thomas Pynchen's new novel is out, and Thalia sold out before I could even get
down there. I've ordered it for a 1,085 page wallow over the holidays. Once, on
vacation in Cyprus, I read all of his Gravity's Rainbow, between crawling in
tombs and tunnels in ruins.

There is the Winter Dinner tonight, even further away: the dining hall at
Crysler-Benz. I'm getting a lift from Darcy, so that is easy, but some of the
newer teachers might find it intimidating.

You said you are flying in the 19th. What time? Do you need meeting? I suppose
that now Yahoo is in service, you can make arrangements. I will attempt to de-
crapola-club the table, but not overly much, as I need to find things. The
apartment is small enough that hunting for a plate of fork will not stretch on
for long. How long are you staying? I'll have spare keys ready for you, and when
you go, just drop them in the post box--or even leave them on the table and
just pull the door to. All this can be better worked out over a glass of wine at
M'chi's. See you in a week!

Bisous, frank

At 5:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey! Look! I was actually able to access your blog today! Maybe the Chinese government has decided you aren't subversive after all--at least not today. Tomorrow may be a different story.

I'm quite puzzled as to why Turks would feel the need for karaoke, since they sing all the time anyway. Maybe, as in your case, it helps people learn the words of the classic songs. Perhaps these days with all the pop music influence the young people are not growing up with the classics.

Re Pynchon's new novel: wish Frank good luck with it. I've read some hilariously negative reviews of the work, notably one in the NY Times, but there were others, too.... I think even devotees of Pynchon (among whom I am not numbered) are having some troubles with his latest work. What's your take on him?


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