Fine Days

We read this poem for my Literature of the Turks class a few weeks ago, along with many more by Orhan Veli, who is recognized as a central figure in Turkish modern poetry. It's a complete break from the earlier poetry we read along with it, which, although also modern, looks back to classical Ottoman divan poetry and is infused with a sense of nostalgia and loss. Unlike the other poets we read for that day, Orhan Veli is irreverent, sarcastic, and more laid-back.
Fine Days
By Orhan Veli (Kanık), translated by Bernard Lewis*

These fine days have been my ruin.
On this kind of day I resigned
My job in "Pious Foundations"
On this kind of day I started to smoke
On this kind of day I fell in love
On this kind of day I forgot
To bring home bread and salt
On this kind of day I had a relapse
Into my versifying disease.
These fine days have been my ruin.
The day we discussed Orhan Veli's poetry was a beautiful, early spring day. One of my fellow students walked into class and brought this poem up immediately. "I know exactly what kind of day he's talking about," he said. "Like today. 'On this kind of day I forgot...' to write my response paper." And we laughed. Then it turned out that he had remembered in time to write it, but then forgot to print it out.

Anyway, today was even more beautiful. Between classes, I had a pleasant lunch on the lawn with a friend from high school, then headed to Turkish. Not many people seem to care about the literature of the Turks, as I mentioned before—there are only eight students in the class. Today, four had emailed saying they couldn't make it, so our kind professor treated the three of us who were there (another just failed to show up) to coffee (hot chocolate for me) at Espresso Royale. It definitely beat the basement of the MLB. Today we were discussing the novella To Crush the Serpent by Yaşar Kemal, which is about the pressure placed on a boy by the rural society in which he lives to kill his mother—her lover killed his father, and his father's family demands vengeance on the woman, not just the murderer. So the boy grows up in this horrible environment, with his grandmother telling him he must kill his mother or else his father's ghost will never rest. It's really compelling, and seems to be a good translation from the English side of things. I don't speak Turkish.

But this post is about poetry, and I think Orhan Veli is fun, so I'm going to post a few more poems, all from the same book and also translated by Bernard Lewis.
For the Fatherland
What have we not done for this our fatherland!
Some of us have died;
Some of us have made speeches.


We can't come together, our ways are different
You're a butcher's cat, I'm an alley cat
Your food comes in a tin bowl
Mine is in the lion's mouth
You dream of love, I of a bone.
But your way isn't easy either, brother
It's no easy job
To lick the man's hand every damn day.


—from the butcher's cat to the alley cat—

You speak of hunger
That means you are a communist
That means you burned down all those buildings
The ones in Istanbul
The ones in Ankara.

What a swine you are!
Cats can't burn things! They're cats! What! Hilarious. Although John pointed out to me that a cow supposedly burned down Chicago. You know the song. "The cow kicked it over/she picked it up and said/there'll be a hot time in this old town tonight. Fire fire fire!" On that note, I'm going to go sit in what's left of the sun. Oh, and the various parts for the song listed here are pretty funny.

Nope, wait, not ending there. Some girl just walked by, and we heard her say, "No, don't jump! You have so much to live for!" The cats are on the roof again. It was probably directed at Table Cat.

*I'm pretty sure this translation is found in Kemal Silay's An Anthology of Turkish Literature (Indiana University Press, 1994), which is out of print, but available used on Amazon, although the publication info is different.

Spring Living and All Its Perils

How did we end up here? Well, the cats, just like every other person in Ann Arbor and the northern hemisphere, noticed that it was getting warmer out, or at least that there was a lot more going on outside.
Table Cat took to sitting on our microwave platform (IKEA table, but whatever) on the counter, so he could look out the back door's window if a human would be so kind as to open the curtain for him.
And then he started to explore above the cabinets, which I think was disappointing for him, because it didn't take too long for him to head back down.
Last week was immeasurably lovely. The light was so bright, so complete, and you could smell that it was spring.
 It's funny how every time spring comes, I feel like it's completely new, even as memories of previous springs well up in my mind. The light step of feet in canvas shoes brought back April walks to the Arb at the end of sophomore year, and the exhilaration of biking down the street with no backpack and no jacket brought back living in the Krankenhaus. Even being stuck in the Fishbowl scanning notes wasn't so bad when I looked up and remembered the natural lighting.
I spent several pleasant afternoons on the front porch, eating my late lunch and reading modern Turkish poetry in the afternoon sun.
Emma, and then Caitlin and I, took to the roof above the porch in the goldy evenings. Well, everyone pretty much took to the roof.
Only Table Cat was allowed to roam free at first, since he has lots of experience with running away and always coming back.
I learned Haroun was allowed loose when both cats came up to the bathroom window on the side of the house and meowed to be let in. Which is only possible from the front, but sometimes they forget how to get back inside. They love exploring the roof and sniffing at the edges, wishing they could experience the real world on the ground. But they happily scamper in the other direction, too.
The worst part was yesterday evening. Haroun was on the couch, Emma and I were watching Say Anything, and we looked over to the front window to see Table Cat watching us. From the porch. Oops. No photo of that, though. Hopefully Haroun won't learn to jump off the roof. He's just a baby.
In other roof-related news, we were sitting on the roof on Friday night talking, when suddenly something slid down down down the shingles to the gutter. It sounded like a phone. It was Emma's phone. Emma was barely too short to reach it when standing on the porch ledge, and no one we knew who was tall was available to get it out. We knew it was supposed to rain-snow that night, and this was the last thing Emma needed to tell her mom. "You know, you just don't want to know what happened to my phone this time," she would have to say. In the end, Caitlin yelled out to a tall guy walking by our house, "Hey, man! Could you help us? Our phone is in the gutter! We have cookies!" Thank goodness Emma had made cookies, and thank goodness we live on a busy street this year. So there's another peril of the roof.

What Kind of Person Do They Think I Am?

Last week, Emma walked into my bedroom and told me, "I've said it once and I'll say it again: you should really consider making marriage to a rich person your next career goal." She explained how, if this were my plan, I would have to devote my time to resting, perfecting my complexion, being cultured, etc. I guess I'd have to make time to practice piano and harp? It would be nice to have someone pay for me to watch foreign films. She went on to say that being qualified for jobs didn't seem to help too much in this economy, so I should follow a different path.

1. Question: Who gets married? Answer: An increasing number of people I am aware of, but still, not most almost-22-year-olds. NOT ME. I DO NOT GET MARRIED. And who gets married to rich people? Rich = old, probably, and we don't need to discuss this problem.

2. I don't actually know how to find rich people. If you do, pray tell, except I'm probably (as far as you know) not going to follow this advice, because I refuse to take this plan seriously. I have too much integrity (read: skepticism), and not enough initiative. Oh wait, on the internet. Ew.

3. Why do my friends make this sort of suggestion to me with such frightening regularity? (Any regularity is somewhat problematic.)
The summer before I went to Germany, I lived in a cute little house, albeit with awful tan-ish vinyl siding, with three of my best friends and a younger Table Cat, a Table Cat who took the initiative to curl up between my comforters and sleep on my legs regularly. Yes, plural comforters in May: it was cold. We called it the Krankenhaus ( = hospital, or sick house) because Ali and Cooper are always sick and I'm actually not that great, and...guests will think they're coming to get crunk, but instead they'll get KRANK! It's clearly one of the best jokes ever. Anyway, I was subletting a room in our dear Krankenhaus for the summer, intending to work—work enough to save money for Germany on top of paying rent, but if that wasn't an achievable goal, and it became clear fairly rapidly that it was not, at least to pay the rent and avoid the bottomless pit of despair that is moving back in with my parents. The summer of 2008 was notoriously bad for finding summer work, and I wasn't considered for any long-term jobs due to my imminent departure for Deutschland.

There was a period in my job search where I kind of...stopped. Nothing was working; what more was I supposed to do? I loaded the dishwasher and hung out in the yard with neighbor cats and read about German history. I used scholarship money meant for the year in Freiburg to pay my rent, then turned to my parents. One evening, we were sitting around and talking about how empty my life was. Now, to tell the truth, I wasn't so concerned about it being a little directionless, just about the lack of money (maybe I'm cut out for a life of indolent luxury). But Hegemonic Roommate the Male, to revive an old internet nickname, felt that my life was boring. He and Emma started brainstorming activities to fill my dreary days.

Above: Table Cat looks out the window, quite possibly at Yard Cat, pictured below.
Traditional employment was obviously not working out that well for me—although soon after, I got a job canvassing for a home improvement company, but how I went door-to-door harassing people for $8/hour and no gas money is a story for another time—so I'm pretty sure the obvious "You should be a stripper" proposal was thrown about. My response was probably an annoyed glare, or a sarcastic "Right..." They accepted that this was unthinkable for me, but surely I couldn't just sit in the house with the cat and reflect angstily on my life all summer. Everyone else had a job or was taking classes, but what was I doing to improve my lot in life? Besides checking out fifty percent of the Ann Arbor District Library's travel section and looking at the pictures occasionally. My metal-bodied laptop didn't even get internet in our house, because the hijacked wireless signals were too weak for it.
There are at least two piles of travel guides under that sleeping bag.

To make a long, wavering story short, they started telling me I should hang out in cafés and pick up guys. I was supposed to cultivate a mysterious, alluring persona: nice clothes, sunglasses, sipping my coffee—ew—and reading intriguing books. (I guess the Gossip Girl kick I was on for a brief period that summer probably would have been a secret to the café clientele.) And, you know, my computer would be able to pick up legal internet. This plan was not as innocent as it sounds, though. I'm pretty sure the idea was that these men I would pick up could at least partially fund my summer life. Maybe in a comparatively reasonable, yet still uncomfortable way; maybe in an exploitative, creepy way.

It sounded kind of fun, although Ann Arbor is not really the most exciting place, and it would be nice to read in more scenic locations, even if (or because) that would cut down on the impromptu naps I take in the sun, but I had one clear objection. As I mentioned in my last post, I was extremely stingy with my money for a while in college, especially since I failed to find summer work after freshman year, ditto for sophomore year, and then again the next summer, and that's how we got to this post. I guess. Anyway, the question was: how would I pay for all this coffee? How many days, weeks, months would it take to spark someone's interest, start up a friendship, find someone to pay my bills? To be fair, I might be exaggerating the exploitative part of this plan. Maybe it really was more about how safely bohemian a summer spent in the cafés of...Ann Arbor...would be. And expensive.
Too bad the cafés of Ann Arbor are not like these. (Ljubljana, Slovenia)

Hegemonic Roommate the Male said I could have his quarters to pay for my café-frequenting. He'd finance this new lifestyle with his loose change. For some reason, I didn't take him up on it. And then I quit canvassing and took intensive Spanish so I could pay my rent with university grants and federal loans. How romantic.

Only 1.5 Months More of the Michigan Theater For Me

In spite of my previous post with the imaginary posters for the ideal movie for my weekend, none of the movies I watched starred John Cusack, were narrated or at least directed by Werner Herzog, or took place in Italy. Wait. Is this true? Yes.

Russia, though. No, that's not like Italy at all. I saw The Last Station on Thursday night, because Emma wanted to see it, and I'm always up for a movie with James McAvoy in it—as long as it's not Atonement, because watching that, being strung along and thinking that this insanely unfair situation was going to slowly work out and then realizing that it was all LIES, was probably one of the most upsetting movie experiences of my life. Plus The Last Station looked funny, and was supposed to be so good, and all that. And it didn't disappoint. It was not, of course, all comedy, but Tolstoy was hilarious, Valentin Bulgakov (played by James McAvoy) was awkwardly cute and therefore also hilarious, and Helen Mirren was great as the countess. And nothing gruesome happened to James McAvoy, so that was good. I do wish he'd tried to help the Countess more, but the thing with biopics is that there are some facts.

Then, Nico and I were going to see Ajami—apparently it's the most critically acclaimed Israeli film ever—at the Ann Arbor Palestine Film Festival, but when we got to UMMA, where it was being shown, we learned it had sold out. Having bought Haribo Gummibärchen ( = gummy bears) in advance, we couldn't just not see a movie, so we turned to Nico's quickly filling hard drive and watched the new animated children's film The Secret of Kells, which lost to Up for Best Animated Feature and had the same producers as The Triplets of Belleville. It was fun, and the animation was really cool. And...then we watched Sherlock Holmes as well. It was very long. Entertaining, but, you know, ridiculous. Oh wait, I also watched The Big Lebowski on Friday night with a group of Nico's friends (and Nico, of course). There were a few gallons of White Russians involved, and it was a fun time.

In a different film-vein, Wild Strawberries, a Bergman film, is playing tonight at the Michigan Theater as part of their World Cinema series, and I haven't decided yet if I'm going to go. I saw it over two years ago, and vaguely recall thinking it was good (which is generally what People Who Know would say), but I don't remember much else about it. I'm already going to Kaffeestunde in the RC, then dollar burgers at Sava's with Maraia, and then what time will it be? I still have to read some melancholy German literature and think about studying for an exam on the Inca and their predecessors and god knows what else. I've been seeing (and paying for) a lot of movies lately, but I've got a pretty convincing justification, at least in my mind: I only live in a city with movie theaters in it (let alone one that plays foreign and indie films) for a month and a half more. One of the city parks at home does have a community movie theater, but I remember the extremely tall-backed seats being somehow uncomfortable when I was there (watching Viggo Mortensen in Hidalgo, which was a stupid movie), and they only play one crappy movie at a time, and only a few times a week. To be fair, the Detroit Film Theatre is a short drive from my house, and Royal Oak isn't much farther, but for mainstream, first-run movies we drive all the way out to Clinton Township, because the theater we would go to on Eight Mile when we were being cheap(er) closed years ago. Not that I went to that many movies. Anyway, it's the principal of the thing. There should be a real movie theater in any city that I live in.

(If I wanted to go on a thing about how horrible Grosse Pointe is, I would complain about how there aren't any commerical movie theaters because too many Detroiters would come to see movies and we can't have that, now can we? When Jacobson's closed, one proposal was to put in a movie theater, but no, no, no, let's have Trader Joe's and condos for old people or something. Why make life fun? And while we're at it, let's put some more hedge barriers on the cross streets with Alter because that will surely keep people from crossing the border. And make it a pain for Grosse Pointers who want to take Alter to the expressway.)

I spent a lot of college unwilling to pay for things due to money anxiety, but I've only got a little while left where the temptation is this big and the university is paying for my life, so I think I'll keep forking out my money at the Michigan Theater/hoping that someone will let me in for free. Also, the Michigan and State Theaters in Ann Arbor are the only ones I've been to and remember that use real butter on their popcorn, so I've been spending even more money there. Oh well. I haven't regretted it once.

This Is What I Want to Watch This Weekend

...although I did originally intend to find each of these elements in a separate movie.
Thanks to Jared for the background for the first poster; I can tell you where it was taken after I talk to him in the daylight hours. The second one's background is taken from the blog My Sardinia. John Cusack and Werner Herzog are all over the internet in these poses, so hopefully it doesn't matter where they came from. Also, the colors were way better in Photoshop. Oh well.


Disregarding the exhortation of the poem I translated and posted (Let's lead ourselves behind the light of the cold's written proof) and the homework assigned by my archaeology professor (Find someplace warmer than this), Emma, Cooper and I ventured significantly north for the first half of our vacation—to Montréal.

We drove the whole way, which was much cheaper for three people than the train would have been, and let me tell you, Ontario lasts pretty much forever. I don't know if it makes it seem longer or shorter that the majority of the rest stops heading west are closed temporarily, but it is a problem. (Today on the kitchen table I saw that Arizona just closed their rest stops period, which is horrible.)  This required us to bring the rotisserie chicken and baguettes we'd purchased at the Marché Jean-Talon in Montréal into a normal McDonald's to eat. We had no other option.
As we neared Toronto on the trip home, we drove into the sunset, which became ever more spectacular until it faded time for Toronto's buildings to sparkle in the darkness. As we left Toronto behind, the blackness settled around us and the highway became much emptier. More than four hours later, the twinkling peaks of the Ambassador Bridge came into view in the distance. Soon we could see Detroit's skyline. Everyone knows Detroit is in trouble, but Emma and Cooper wondered if everyone knows Detroit is better than Windsor. The conclusion reached: most people probably don't know Windsor exists, which is probably a victory, but also probably not true. Then Emma complained again about all the British names in Ontario.
Windsor and the Ambassador Bridge from Detroit's Riverwalk, July 2008.

On I-75, the Lodge, I-94, the roads were so well lit, and I could switch to any lane I wanted in an instant. Leaving Montréal had taken an hour, probably, because of a mishap with lane changes in the crowded tunnel that takes you from downtown and QC-720 to QC-20 (which in turn takes you to the interminable 401 across Ontario). We ended up across a bridge instead of on the way back home and found ourselves turning around in the casino's parking structure. It wasn't the last time we found ourselves at a casino on the journey home, either.

In Detroit, we dropped Cooper off at Wayne State and headed home. Emma stuck the Avett Brothers in the CD player and we sang along as loud as we could, while I enjoyed knowing just how fast would be all right. In the middle lane on 94, there was a van/bus/thing, lights on, attached to a smaller vehicle behind it. The van's back wheels weren't touching the ground—it was not pulling, it was being pushed by the smaller car. How did they see? We laughed, but sped ahead to avoid the accident Emma was sure would happen. Then off the highway and onto Alter and I made all the lights but one, and the inevitable one after you've entered Grosse Pointe. In Grosse Pointe, I worried about the headlights behind me and wished I was going less than four miles above the speed limit. To get a ticket a block from home would be horrendous. But we made it back safely.

Where are the photos of Montréal, you might ask. Or more likely, you would ask it without the accent aigu: where are the photos of Montreal? When are you going to write about Montreal? Why did you put that accent on it even though you are not douchey enough to pronounce it en français while speaking English? The answer, my dear reader, is that I am too busy playing the Sims and worrying about life to go through all my photos right now. And I like to put accents on things, although I'm feeling a little awkward about this one. Most likely, you aren't even asking any of these questions, because you aren't reading my blog. Oh well. But Montreal, and Mont-Royal, and taking a trip were all great. Whoever you are (besides faithful reader, commenter, and kindred spirit Ali!), just wait.