Day 3 begins in Istanbul…

So it’s 1am back home on the east coast of the US – and most are tucked away in bed. It’s 8am here… and the roosters are crowing and the minarets are squawking, dogs are barking and people are out and about. Fortunately no horns are honking yet – but I guess that’s soon to come… It’s another beautiful day and I’ve been up most of the night. Sleeping comes at a real premium when you first get here as there is so much going on and you have to have the windows open most of the time to breathe and get some air across your body at night.

Generally it gets better after the first week and sleep is usually something that just ends up happening rather than being something that is planned. Yesterday I was doing the “Hey that guy’s passed out” head nod for an unknown amount of time and ended up bouncing my head off a cement wall about four times before I realized I had dozed off. And as it’s always entertaining for people to watch, my brother in-law Ozcan (ooz-john) was watching with amusement when I woke up.

Though I had good reason to be sleepy on top of the jet lag… The night before I had been up until 5am running around Taksim Square with Turkish voice over talents Andy Boyns, Mehmet Onur and my sister in-law Cigdem (Chee-dem).

Though a grainy photo does it little justice, Taksim Square is a raucous place which caters to many people and many different desires.

We went to many clubs – some of them packed to the gills, most notably MASK live music club which will have you elbows to a-holes about 20 minutes before the band is supposed to come on and it gets progressively harder to move as the music starts. However, it’s my second time there and the music has been above par both times with a combination of western rock, funk, jazz, pop and hip-hop.

From there – we went on to the last place I would have expected to find… An Irish Pub in the middle of Istanbul complete with a cover band playing CCR, Joe Cocker and Roy Orbison. Though they were out of Guinness, so we had to settle for a Danish draft – but the Jameson was 3 bottles deep on the shelf..

A startling sign in the middle of Istanbul..

As with all the other vices, the Nargile (Nar-gee-lay) or Hookah/Shisha pipes in Istanbul are by far the best I’ve ever had.

And I imagine that they aren’t good everywhere. People have a bad habit of going to a place and then making a blanket statement that “everything” in the entire country, such as the food, is great. I my friends, am a bit more skeptical. The one thing I look for when scoping out hookah spots isn’t all that different from what I do when I’m looking for a good sushi bar… Are there asses in the seats when I look in the window?

If the hookah bar is busy in Istanbul or Izmir – and it has older people sitting there smoking- and they aren’t a bunch of classless, asshole tourists giggling as they pass the stem around and talking far too loud – then it’s a safe bet that you aren’t going to run into some candy coated gag-weed like the stuff that is all over Fairfax and the surrounding area where I live.  The smoke is thick but light, smooth but strong and gently tastes of the flavor of whatever variety you selected, as advertised.

Nargile in Taksim Square

If you’re really lucky you’ll run into a place that sells natural tobacco like they do on the Izmir waterfront. It’s a special treat and contrary to popular belief, I smoked cigarettes for 20 years and quit over 3 years ago… and I don’t find myself longing for a stogie or wanting to run out and buy a pack after an evening or daytime hookah session. For some reason – I only want to find another hookah… and I’m happy to let it be a day or so before that happens.



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