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Cats of Istanbul and more

June 9, 2015

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Istanbul was noisy all the time. Men at the parking garage shouted in Turkish. The muezzin called from a minaret less than a block away, through a megaphone. Beautiful sounds, gorgeous voice, perfect pitch. I anticipated and listened. Five times a day starting about 5am, then 9, then 1, 5 and 9. About 5 minutes past the hour, usually. In the night, party goers, often sober in this Muslin city, sang and laughed until 3 or 4am as they walked beneath the window.

Istanbul has 22 million. Or 18 million, according to another person. Or 17 million. Half in Europe, half in Asia, separated by the Straight of Bosphorus, merely 1 kilometer wide where castles on each continent loom. Sure enough, the towers and walls are castellated. I accompanied Susanna and her Minnesota art class to the Black Sea. We hiked up a hill to another ancient fortification designed as a lookout. I hiked with the group that was old or overweight. Made our legs burn. Semi-wild house cats seemed to be everywhere.
The cats are cultivated in Istanbul, like trees in public places. People leave them cat food. They seem to mostly leave them alone. One evening I looked out from the 3rd floor window of our apartment when I heard cats yowling and growling. Cat stand off. Arched backs, big hair. Growls. A man stood near one of the cats, watching. Soon 7 or 8 women stopped nearby to watch. The man made his move toward a cat, which ran away. The electricity in the air was gone. The women chatted in Turkish.
I sang my clearest falsetto from the window, “Help! I need somebody. Help! Not just anybody. Help! You know I need someone. Helllllp!”
Some of the women looked up at me, smiling broadly.

Another time I was nearing our apartment, walking behind a couple who were taking a selfie with one of those ubiquitous “selfie sticks.” I got between them, behind them, and made my widest million-dollar smiles just as they clicked. Then I changed to my usual grim expression and pushed past them as they squealed with delight. The guy put up his hand: high five. I also fist bumped him.

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