Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Burgazada



I have just descended a deeply steep path to Martha’s Bay on the island of Burgaz, a pathway which gave me a start, not just with the precarious nature of its incline, but with a joyous false memory, a terrific thrill of worlds colliding as I stumbled to the sea and realized, “Ah! I have been here before.” But I hadn’t, nor was it déjà vu. The path, full of broken glass and prowled by stray dogs, is the very path described in the opening of my novel, “Everything Must Go.” It has been well observed that literature offers a hand out to the reader, an invitation to concur, “Yes, I felt so too,” which is a remarkable experience always. The realization that someone separated from oneself by centuries, continents and languages could have also reverberated with something so apparently private, is always a beautiful thrill, undoubtedly, but when you find yourself unexpectedly both the writer and the reader of the scene, it borders on psychedelic. When one’s own life reaches backwards (or forwards, who can say in this case?), when one actually staggers into a physical place one had imagined for themselves on the other side of the world, then what is there to do but to surrender to serendipity, the tidal wave of everything?

The sun is travelling overhead, as always, we are following it. Around the island runs a concrete sidewalk, like a gastric bypass, though no cars travel it only visiting idlers, strenuous horses and local dogs. Below, on the rocky beaches, sunbathers lie profoundly still, sprawled out on their stomachs, like corpses washed up in swimwear. Two motley hounds have adopted us, one black, one dirty blonde, they have followed us down the ruinous runway, onto the beach and are engaged in chasing and fetching the plastic bottles the boys throw into the water for them. The boys are, of course, on ecstacy, they have set up base in a bay of sunlight allowed by a gentle recede in the profusion and diversity of rocks and greens rolling down the cliff face behind us. The weather is benign, but not hot, I am reading Gore Vidal’s memoirs, a present from my Mother.

Across the bay sits Istanbul, cynosure, misty, vague but insistent, like the future. The waves chorus as they roll up on the rocky coast, bringing in abandoned, mateless shoes, a treasure trove of single sandals and lonely sneakers dashed on a shore studded with endless, priceless, coca-cola caps, bejeweling the nacreous carpet of sea shells, pine cones and vivid green moss. The dogs, like much-loved monarchs oversee their domain, serene sole proprieters of magnificent piles of trash, fabulous, untold riches which they regard as a playground to preserve for future generations, noble and historically minded as they are. A diamond mine of plastic bottles, gallon drums and five liter flasks washed in from the city at high tide, or perhaps thrown over the cliffs above by nihilistic picnickers in a mirroring of humankind’s own waterless fall towards apocalypse. A mountain of contorted, sun bleached bottles, abandoned as the tide retreats, added to daily as it advances again, clean and strangely beautiful garbage, piled upon itself. A wonderous stash of heroic waste, heaps of tragic beauties stranded on land, successors to the fishes, the true riches of today’s seas.

The broken shells under the feet of the boys (really, they are men) tinkle too, like shattering icicles or breaking glass in amongst balletic flowerings of plastic wrap and dessert pots tangled in the stones around their toes. One lonely vodka bottle floats out, ten meters from us, thrown too far for even the zealous dogs, who have escorted us here, to fetch. It catches the light and its form blurs with the vitreous water, glints, attracts the brief attentions of the Imperial Guard, those ever vigilant seagulls. The boys, warmed as much by serotonin as sunlight, find an easy familiarity with the regal dogs, wading out into the water together, finding submerged outcroppings of rock and posing like 50s pin-ups, unselfconsciously good natured.

Turkish floats above my head like the smoke from the joint, which I like a true Californian, smoke too greedily. The meticulously polite, offensively charming boys are somewhat outraged that I drag three times before passing it on. “In Turkey,” says one of the boys in his round about English, “We smoke once.” At the Southern tip of the crest Martha’s Bay forms, swims another boy, alone boy in blue board shorts, his face is indiscernable, featureless like a nightmare or a Julian Opie. How an unescorted traveller finds his way to such an unacknowledged destination is not to my mind known, but the emotional red globe has moved on again, behind the trees, he has the sunlight now, it is lost to me and the boys and the dogs.

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