Monday, August 25, 2008

What is possibly the best way to spend a sunny Sunday afternoon?

The quick answer to that question is obviously: watch Turkish oil wrestling. That is exactly what I spent a good chunk of the day yesterday doing, which resulted in visual delights such as these:

Let me explain. A couple of years ago I made a somewhat unexpected trip to Istanbul, which turned out to be totally life-affirming and revelatory. Never before had I seen such a gorgeous city! Eaten such magnificent food! Engaged in so many random and bizarre conversations on the street, some of which were conducted in German.

I returned from this trip quite curious about this unexpectedly delightful land, and have, since my return, attempted to keep up somewhat with political developments in the country, to learn more about its history, and to read, hear and see more of its art. One thing had always eluded me though: Yağlı Gűreş, or, to those English-speaking types like myself: turkish oil wrestling.

Imagine my delight, then, when I read that it would be conducted at the annual New York Turkish Festival. I packed up a clueless pal (I wouldn't tell him what he would be watching, which was mildly mean of me), headed up to Central Park, and...whoa!

I have to admit: I still don't get the rules. There is obviously a ritualistic component involving the oil application, the hand-holding, and the foot-stomping that takes place at the beginning. But the point seems to be digging one's hands down the opponent's pants and...grabbing....something. I'm sure a flip and pin is involved somehow too. But it sure wasn't like any wrestling I've ever seen before. * Anyone care to explain?

(*I should mention: I'm no wrestling novice. A somewhat ignominious part of my childhood history is that I was madly in love with the Von Erich brothers. Do with that information what you will, cruel blogosphere.)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Jeffrey Dalmer (sic) ate lunch in Aberdeen?

Once again I have fallen behind on my blogging duties. I can't help it--I've been busy, doing things like traveling about, home redecorating, and being woken at 6 am by a neighbor singing the soundtrack to "West Side Story" at the top of his lungs. (True story. And I'm not sleeping well because of it.)

Last week, though, I was on a mini-vacation. I say "mini" only because I didn't pay for my airfare, and didn't do any advance preparation at all. Instead, I cashed in my frequent flier miles, checked out a travel book from the library, and hopped on a 6:30 am plane out of LaGuardia...which meant that I left my home before my neighbor even woke up to start his singing.

The Pacific Northwest was my destination. I've never really been there before, unless you count an all-night drive from Seattle to California during my college years. (I don't count that, because I didn't really see anything, and the whole experience was tinged by sleep deprivation and other college-era misdeeds that I won't go into here.)

What did I discover on this trip? Well, I might be ambivalent about the west coast. On the one hand it's pretty:

(Aberdeen, WA)

(Aberdeen, WA)

(Lion's Gate Bridge, Vancouver, BC)

(Vancouver, BC)

And there was lots of beer:

(Widmer Brewery, Portland, OR)

(Red Hook Brewery, Woodinville, WA)

But otherwise, it was just slow. Even in those little drive-through espresso bars, and most especially at the Canadian border, where I waited for *three hours* in my rental car for the privilege of re-entering the United States.

I was also a bit taken aback by Vancouver, which was just overrun by junkies. I've got nothing against the junkies, of course, but it was a bit unexpected to see so many nearly middle-aged people pocked with track marks, digging through the garbage and collapsed in various stages of nod throughout Vancouver's alleyways. It all seemed very old-fashioned somehow--like the '90s never ended. While in Aberdeen, I half-expected its most famous son, Kurt Cobain, would suddenly pop out from behind a building. He didn't, of course--but another '90s icon apparently ate lunch there: