Franny GoldenFranny Golden ~ Artist

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FG: First Person
April l993
Istanbul Peaches
Istanbul Peaches

There's a blind man on Bagdat Cadessi who sells evil eyes, which has always seemed to me such a paradox. Still, I always buy something from him--always. He's usually on the sunny side of the street (as he was yesterday, just below the old Atlantic Cinema). He collapses himself on a low crate and in his lap rests an open wooden painter's box, in which are neatly organized bowls and dishes wherein he separates his eyes according to size and shape and worth. I always buy the wee glass elephants. (Although these are not as whimsical as the eyes the gypsy women sell from their baskets.) I adore this man.

His hands are huge! And like the great paws of a Retriever pup who will eventually grow into them, they seem similarly out of proportion to his folded little frame. (I suppose, if he were to stand up, his proportions would adjust themselves.) When I put all the eyes I want into his massive waiting hand, the little glass talismans look minuscule, inconsequential. And I stare for long seconds at the vast whiteness of his outstretched palm.

His voice is soft and deliberate. Even before I tell him how many there are, he responds, Tamam. Oldu . Sometimes I give him an extra bin lira note, or a coin--if I have one. And he always knows--instinctively--when I have given him extra; for he grabs at my fingers with his great, gentle grip and says that Allah blesses me.

Well whoever you are who has blessed me, thank you! In particular, thank you for these years in Turkey. This has been a remarkable, sublime adventure. And like the blind man who sells eyes, it is both paradox and irony. Contradictions everywhere.

I embark, for example, on my morning "constitutional," and watch the gypsies haul up their plastic tubs and buckets and hoards of bouquets from hidden chambers beneath the sidewalk. How the streets are filled with a palate of color and a blend of fragrance. I grin, inhaling this balm deep down in my belly. It's wonderful!

The wonder is short-lived. As I turn to cross Bagdat Caddesi a putrid blast of foul-smelling petrol and coal (both of low grade and quality) suffocates the atmosphere. The air is rancid and smoky. I am disgusted and consider this contradiction: two men next to me light up their Turkish cigarettes, and it smells wonderful!

The bandanna tied around my neck is there for such occasions. I mask myself, bandit style, then begin the jog down toward the sahil, where I know the Marmara will offer relief. I crank up the head set music and find a tolerable pace for this ole body.

Again the magnificence is spoiled. The wretched stink of debris and garbage--washed and dumped ashore--lingers in the air. The System has carelessly, without vision, made this beautiful place a dump. Plastic, glass, metal, fabric--all the evidence of a great civilization, all the evidence of uncivilized behavior--here, trashing my sahil! Okay, okay, don't look down. What you don't see won't hurt you.

On my return from Fenerbache, along the narrow pedestrian walk, a white BMW screeches carlessly behind me. A young couple, out for a morning spin, slide their way into the soft earth and across the walk path. Their outside mirror scrapes my elbow; in less than an hour's time, I reflect, I have beheld the most beautiful and the most awful.

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