Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Such a Perfect Day

I’ve been to many of the local beaches over the long summer months; with the sun shining in a vast clear sky every day, the water temperately affectionate and every hue of blue and most weekends free to roam, the invitations from friends to swim and bask along the shore have been irresistible. From the peaceful pebbled shores of ancient Phaselis and the delight of the sunset between Roman columns at sandy Side, from cosmopolitan Konyaalti to presumptuously chic Lara, each is uniquely stunning and contributes to making this coastal paradise one of the best places one could hope to live out the dream.

It’s been a remarkable season of travelling and busy schedules that included weddings and birthdays and visitors from near and far, and the weather, perhaps surprisingly, is still beautiful now in October. It’s no longer stifling, with the dense humidity from the mountain passes that settles as an oppressive tempest of moist yet searing heat scorching everyone who dares to test its waning power, but rather a comfortable warmth that encourages evening café walks and balcony breakfasts.

And of course, there is the exciting party atmosphere of Oktoberfest that draws thousands from across the city and region to Ataturk Park where the stage had been set for some of the biggest rock and pop bands in Turkey.

The ubiquitous yellow taxis were doing significant business on this busy weekend of music and mingling. Dozens lined up at the gates in anticipation of shuttling people back and forth from every neighbourhood and hotel as more arrived in a steady stream to drop off arrivals at the park entrance across from the glass pyramid. We hustled over to the ticket booths to claim our free entry badges, supplied by a wonderful friend who manages to keep the local ex-pat community involved in so many events, and made our way through the throngs to find a table at our favourite pub stall near the stage.

There had been local bands playing on the small stage since early afternoon, and jugglers, clowns, popcorn sellers, food stalls and flag-waving patriots all hustled for attention, but it was now time to light up the main stage and welcome the main acts of the evening.

As the first raucous chords blasted out from the massive speakers we grabbed a few beers from the ever-smiling girls at the booth and started as we meant to go on, with bubbly stuff in one hand and arms locked in dance.

By the time we were on the tables for the final encores of the third band we had shared laughter and friendship and hugs and silly stories with the usual gang that includes people from every continent and a few new faces that were enthusiastically accepted into the crowd. I’m blessed to have such a diverse mix of people around me, and to be in a place where so much happens, from the annual piano and blues festivals, the renowned Portakal Film Festival and Oktoberfest, and as you would expect, all the various holiday theme parties organised at local clubs by the group.

Summer is a hectic and fun time in this part of the world; a busy work schedule complemented by a range of activities all available on the doorstep.

The natural beauty of the beachfront and the nightlife of the old town, the mountain treks and the crowded restaurants, the jostle of tourists and the drives to historic sites of variable interest all compete for attention. Driving along the coast with my sons one sunny day, after visiting Saint Nicholas’s church, we stopped for lunch so they could eat crabs fresh from the bay. We fed scavenger fish with the scraps dropped off the terrace over the water and talked of the similarity with the Chesapeake in Maryland, where they first learned to enjoy the flavour of claws from these blue-shelled creatures.

On the way back to Antalya we discovered an isolated beach nestled in a rocky inlet, and decided to take an afternoon swim. Donning flippers, we swam out to the cave we had seen from the road and spent a while skimming soft white stones into the smooth turquoise sea before putting on masks and exploring the underwater caverns teeming with multicoloured fish on the other side of the cove. The sunset was spectacular and as we dried off in the balmy heat the endless sky faded from sapphire to ginger and into inky darkness behind the ridge.

Turkish weddings aren’t at all like traditional celebrations in the West; with no religious sacrament involved and little in the way of ceremonial pomp most of the accoutrements are recent embellishments added by young women who have watched American films and been entranced by the elaborate dresses and oversized cakes. Basically, there is a signing of documents and a shaking of hands and occasional dance by fathers that seal the deal. However, on any given weekend there are dozens of couples exchanging a hasty vow and posing for photographs in the scenic beachfront park.

My lovely friend and colleague invited me along to witness the occasion, so with my eldest son still visiting we took the opportunity to go along for a unique insight into this Turkish rite of passage. We watched in puzzled astonishment as the hasty proceeding finished in a flourish of flashbulbs surrounded by many other couples going through the same ritual before they all ran off to waiting cars to drive themselves home.

Birthday parties, anniversaries and other commemorations of the passing time are generally more interesting affairs, with friends turning out to drink, dance and talk late into the night, often at public venues offering live music and food.

I’ve attended quite a few of these gatherings over the past year; with the active social scene it’s no wonder they turn into occasions for the community to congregate and congratulate with much tipple and many a toast of cheer.

Although the bands at Oktoberfest were energetic and well-known, I’m not overly enamored with Turkish rock music. It’s easy to dance to and hits all the right notes, sounding as much like anything else on the market these days, but for me that’s really the problem with most contemporary bands.

There isn’t anything new and dynamic about this version of pop, beyond the sporadic infusion of conventional beats with traditional melodies played on electric instruments, it comes across as just one more attempt to reach the top of the charts rather than expressing something artistically fresh and unique.

The singers sing beautifully and the keyboards players maintain the melodic harmonies, the guitarists do solos and the drummers thumps their tubs, but the inspiration is lacking behind one more version of a tragic heartbroken love song. C’est la vie, the world turns and the music business thrives by selling cover versions of the same old stuff to a sedated audience, but, at least we could all dance to the recognisable rhythm of good old rock and roll.

It’s now late in the month and Halloween is upon us, there was a costume party I was unfortunately unable to make due to changing plans, but I know I was missed and the heartfelt thoughts of others mean much more than the routine of frivolous action. Memories of great times with friends near and far are the best of recollections. The reminiscences of places visited and the warmth of family comforts are more important than momentary self-serving seeking of fame and temporary acquisition of plastic possessions, and thank goodness, because objects and items don’t last as long as memories.

Like the ever-present sun setting into the sea on a sultry summer evening, the things we leave behind are the feelings of tenderness and love shared with others. The desire to leave a lasting impression is greater than the need to accumulate disposable apparatus of little value; this is part of what drives artists and musicians to create.

But being remembered after death for an accomplishment or article has little significance if there is no knowledge of the sentiment that produced the effect. It is life itself where the art is achieved.

Moments of genuine connection are the best remembrance of success, and companionship with others underlies the sense of victory over death. In the end, when the dust of the day has settled across the beach and the stars have scattered as tiny points of light across the midnight sky, we are left with the knowledge of camaraderie and special relationships that make the struggle for acceptance of self in this life worth the time we spend working to maintain the necessities of living.

To paraphrase the influential recently departed musician Lou Reed, my only hope is to make every day a perfect day, to be glad I spent it with you and you with me, to help me forget my self, and to show me how to sow what others will wish to reap.

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If you're interested in hearing any of the bands pictured above follow these links to the official videos: Model  Yüksek Sadakat  Cambaz