Bach on the Bosphorus

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The Kadiköy Ferry from Karaköy. About 12:25pm.  Recalled to the best of my ability.

I’m sitting (with a çay) next to HM, talking about jobs and graduate school and teaching and resumes. Students are scattered about on the upper deck at the stern of the ferry to Kadiköy, on our way to meet our community partners (Tasarim Atölyesi Kadiköy).  The’yre looking out at the Bosphorus, talking, drinking tea.  A group sitting just behind me is drawing and sketching away.  This little wisp of man comes up – wavy blond hair, glasses, fashionable shoes, worn jeans. He’s carrying a cello case.  He sets it aside and walks around, looking about.  He stops near me and watches the students drawing.  He leans over:

JP:  That’s a nice drawing.

AP: Thanks.

JP: Are you guys art students?  Are you here with a drawing class?

AP: We’re architecture and landscape architecture students.

JP: Cool.

AP:  I see you brought a Cello (nodding at a robins-egg blue case, leaning against one of storage units at the back of the Ferry.

JP:  I’d like to play, but it might be hard to find a place back here.

Me:  Take my seat, I don’t mind standing.

JP:  Seriously?  Thank you.  That’s awesome.

AP makes some room on a bench with a few other students.  I sit down.  JP (we learn his name a little later) talks to me.

JP:  Yup.  I’m going to play – provided there’s no security around.  You know (looking at me now), I had left my cello here a little while ago taking this same ferry and I was scouting for security.  Another musician I know was like “Get off the boat, Man!”  And I was like, “What?”  And he was like “Get off the boat, man!  They’ve taken your Cello off the boat!” So I ran out and there it was, leaning against the ferry station.  I mean, it could have fallen in the water or something.  I was glad to get it back.”

Me:  How long are you in Istanbul for?

JP:  About a year and half.

Me: And where are you at – with your stay?

JP.  Oh.  No, I’ve been in Istanbul about a year and half now.  I’m from Alaska.  Just living. Where are you from?

Me: All over the place, but we’re from the University of Minnesota, in Istanbul for about a week now, staying until May on a study abroad program.

JP:  That’s great, man.  Really great.

The ferry starts up. JP stands up and says he’s going to take a quick scout for security (there’s a camera right above us). He’s back fairly quickly, takes his cello out and begins to play.

As soon as he starts – immediately almost, I know what he’s playing.  It’s the prelude to Bach’s Cello Suites.  I take it all in, as much as I can, for those few moments.  An enormous tanker is transiting the Bosphorous.  Behind it, I can see the silhouette of the historic peninsula.  Davud Agu’s Blue Mosque and across it, the mountain of the Hagia Sophia, then the Hagia Eirene,  the Tower of Justice above the Sultan’s Divan, now Sinan’s Imperial Kitchen chimneys at Topkapi.  A dip of the landscape, then the Galata Tower, fading into the topography of the Seraglio point, then the packed urbanity of the city and Beyoglu and towers and skyscrapers behind.  The pile drivers working at Galataport, ferries criss-crossing the blue-green waters of the Bosphorus and endless, never-ending Istanbul.  Domes, minarets and waves. To the right, I see locals looking on, a few people have cameras out (me included).  A Turkish man throws simit to diving seagulls; gives a hunk of the sesame covered stuff to JT, who gets up and moves to the railing, his arm trailing little arcs as the white birds dive to catch the bread out of the air. AP and GB are sketching the cellist now ,and we are all looking, drawing, listening to Bach across the Bosphorus, Europe to Asia.

 

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