My First Blog

I feel like I’m trying to get dressed with the curtains open. This is my first blog, despite years spent surfing the technology wave in the eighties and nineties, so bear with me. Dorothy Parker once said that she wanted to write but someone had taken the pencil. That’s how I feel about technology these days…while I was drawing in the ruins, the industry just roared on.

The first time I saw the word “blog” was in 2005. Moving here to Istanbul involved a divorce, a catastrophic illness, a career change, the death of a loved one, and financial ruin. When the dust settled I was illustrating childrens’ books for a Turkish outfit and living in the old city, pretty much hand to mouth. It was an industrial neighborhood next to a Byzantine mosque that was in restoration. I lived between an apartment house full of transplanted village families and a cavernous building of carpet factories and sweatshops. I didn’t speak Turkish. I didn’t have international access on my telephone. I had a Mac laptop and worked at home. I’d just gotten Internet in my apartment. I was immersed in Old City Istanbul. And I opened my email to discover that my good old friend Kim Grosch had been shot and killed two days earlier by his deranged stepson in Couer d’Alene.

A friend called from New York as I was staring at the emails in shock. I felt so helpless and cut off. She said, It’s on a bunch of blogs. A bunch of what? I read blog entries all night, following the police helicopter chase through the Idaho mountains, culminating in eyewitness reports of the murderer’s suicide. I sent a million emails back to old friends, did a digital portrait of Kim in high school from memory and wrote a eulogy. All my old friends seemed to know how to sling the newer technology around, and here I was climbing up on my balcony railing to hold onto the raingutter, look up at the stars and sob. I couldn’t sleep and I couldn’t stop crying, all over the guys at the local market, the emails I was sending, everything. After three days I went to bed around 9 PM on a Friday night. Just as blessed sleep rose like a wave, a taktaktak sound ripped it away.

It was coming from the factory behind my bedroom wall. The wall was plastered cinderblock. I’d painted it myself. You can’t bang on plastered cinderblock. I whacked it with a shoe. I shouted Yuksek!! Loud!! Chok Yuksek!! Too Loud!! I banged on a pan with a spoon. It would stop, and it would start again. I threw on a kimono over my nightgown, pulled on a pair of boots, and ran downstairs. You don’t go outside like this in a traditional Muslim neighborhood, but I didn’t care.

The factory building next door had one of those pull-down metal doors. I threw myself on it, screaming and pounding with my fists, “Arkadashim oldu America da My friend is dead in America!! Stop the banging!! Yuksek!! Yuksek!! Lights went on and people came out on balconies. Someone appeared at a factory window, yelling something about deli yabanji which is crazy foreigner. I pounded and cried. Who cares, I thought. Then my village neighbors yelled It’s true! Her friend was shot in America and she can’t take the pounding! I think that’s what they said. Anyway the tapping stopped. People said Gechmis Olsun which is May It Pass Quickly, an expression of condolence. I went upstairs exhausted and fell down into sleep.

The next day, Kimmy was still gone but I was sane again. I bought some baklava and took it next door. As each door opened on an uncomprehending face, I said, “Taktaktak?” Each face cleared and a finger pointed to the next door, until I reached the top floor. It was one huge space full of guys upholstering furniture with pieces of carpet. Apparently everyone had heard the story. Each face broke into a grin with my “taktaktak?” and each person pointed farther into the room until, in the very corner, I was face to face with a little shamefaced man holding a tackhammer. All these guys were laughing at him, but he got the baklava.

Kimmy is all over my desktop and my heart, and will remain there as he will remain with everyone who ever knew him, but I stayed blogless. For one thing, my computers had gotten old and I couldn’t access a lot of the new communication sites. Then again, I was so burned out on computer technology by 1999 that I was never going to look at another screen again if I didn’t have to. But the main thing is that old bugaboo: I can fly, but I can’t tie my shoes. I can do things that nobody can do, but I can’t do the easy stuff. Yeah, I can write. I learned the hard way. So what could be simpler than starting a blog? Start a blog, everybody said. But did I ask how? No, I just bitched about technological time-banditry and kept drawing by hand.

But this technology is our medium. I choose daily to live in the world, and that means embracing all the means at hand. So here I am. after years of mass-mailing my illustrated ruminations. I’ll put up the drawings here when I learn how. Just now, I’m glad to have a voice.

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