Friday, November 20, 2015


A hop and a skip from my apartment lies a neighborhood called Kuzguncuk. My mom is visiting and resituating herself, figuring out where all her old haunts are or used to be. She lived in Uskudar in the 70’s. She speaks Turkish and knows her way around, navigating the cobblestone streets, mastering the various modes of public transportation, and appreciating everything in its historical context. She’s exhibiting a Gene Autry air of being back in the saddle again. Really, I think she should just move here. And I think we’ve discovered the perfect neighborhood for her: Kusguncuk. Its name means “little raven” and it reminds me a lot of my old neighborhood in Portland, Oregon: Multnomah Village.

We walked to the Bosporus, listened to the water lapping the shore and watched the passing ferry boats. The bridges were lit up in Christmas colors, whether Turks intended it or not. We ate at a restaurant called Metet. I ordered lentil soup and a chicken skewer and my mom lived it up with iskender doner kebab and ayran. I threw a piece of chicken to a stray cat and suddenly, we were surrounded by a whole menagerie of begging felines and an occasional dog. A cat with one eye sidled up to my mom. I felt guiltily amused sharing an inside joke with my mom that is still funny after 27 years.

When I was in kindergarten, the height of cleverness was winking and giving the thumbs up sign. I couldn’t wink so I pathetically had to hold one eyelid down, give the thumbs up sign, and wait for someone to notice how cool I was. Despite our mockery, the one-eyed cat decided he loved us and wanted to follow us home. We ducked inside a chocolate shop and we could see the poor cat out the window, winding his head around, trying to find us with his one eye.

Wooptee ti-yi-yo. Rocking to and fro. Back in the saddle again.
Kuzguncuk is like Multnomah Village, but cooler. The food is satisfying, the people are friendly, and the feel is multi-cultural and enlightened. There’s a big community garden, two synagogues, and two Greek Orthodox churches. After we finished our meal, with the one-eyed cat still looking enamored of us, the server brought us complementary Turkish tea. I said, “I think he must like us.” Then he brought us another round of Turkish tea. “He must really like us,” I said. My mom said, “What’s not to like?” I feel the same way about Kuzguncuk. 

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