“I sailed into the seas on your wide wings / I found good old days deep in the sea / A moss, a song, an old boathouse / I found the city where I was born everywhere I went…” (Yeni Türkü)
Last night, when I found myself at the Leman Sam concert without any schedule, I went from the darkness of Kadıköy Stage to the summer day brightness of Bodrum with a tiny tunnel.
Once upon a time, there was the Big Ben Pub in Bodrum. There was also an entrance of the Pub from Cumhuriyet Street (now called the Bars Street), with a slight ramp downwards, curving to the right, shaded with a white awning to give the appearance of a tunnel… There was a woman in the middle of that entrance one day. I must be 10 years old. I was going out; she was coming in with someone and there was a rush in the place: “Leman Sam is here!” A tiny denim shorts I remember, bronze legs, long red hair, a thin, tiny woman… I didn’t have the chance to look at her face.
For years, summer and winter, Big Ben was ours during the day, it was our playground! In the evening, our elders would play their games.
They would say “We are going to the pub” in short. Since the place also had an entrance from the Kumbahçe beach, they used to walk from the beach. It was a large place with fixed white stone lodges with couches and fixed wooden tables in the middle. There was a bar closest to the beach. Due to the location of the bar, the back of the bartender would be facing the sea, while the customers always watched the sea. And the castle …
The most important feature of the pub for me was that our house was two buildings ahead. This meant that whoever was performing during the summer, we children, my cousins and I, would fall asleep listening to this music at our grandmother’s house. We were not allowed to go out at night, but the bar was coming to us every night.
We used to fall asleep unaware of the meanings attributed to the nights while Doğan Canku sang “The hair of the sun made up of flames / when they cross the hill / The shadows cover the slopes / I’m afraid of the coming night” during the whole summer.
Another summer, Tanju Okan used to play on our heartstrings, saying, “The things were collected up with you, the memories were scattered all over the room… You… My woman”.
In a different summer, Derya Köroğlu (Yeni Türkü) sang, “If I didn’t have your letter, what you wrote … Who would believe we broke up with you?” We would look at the sky from our bed by the window and think about what was written in that letter. We did not know about the poet Murathan Mungan yet.
While Leman Sam sang, “I’ve turned to the dry leaf falling from the branch, early morning wind, scatter me, break me away, take my dust away from here, rub me on the bare feet of the lover. My love… My love…”, while I had yet to discover that the songs that touched me the most in this life were Sabahattin Ali’s poems of imprisonment.
While the band Yeni Türkü (it was really new and will always remain new for us!) sang, “You gradually make / The first rose of the summer bloom / With a mysterious and / Skillful touch / Nobody, even rain, has / Such little hands / The voice of your eyes is / More profound than all the roses”, I decided the name of my daughter, who is at my age of the time, without noticing: Rain (‘Yağmur’ in Turkish) …
It was another opportunity for happiness for me that it was the son of my dear Vedat Türkali, Barış Pirhasan, who adapted E. E. Cummings’s poem “Somewhere I Have Never Traveled” as “The Hands of the Rain” … Many years later, when I read in Muhyiddin Şekur’s book “Writing on Water” about a dervish tried to tell his students life and beyond through this poem, my words are inadequate to express my feelings then. Was I after a poem or was it following me? Or is it both?
Then the summer would end… September would pass with everyone leaving. All the bottles and glasses in Big Ben’s bar would disappear, the most spectacular orange pillows placed on stone couches were collected, the music systems and awnings on the seating areas were removed.
All that remained were the iron bars holding those awnings, an empty bar, a small stage, and a tree with a huge cavity. That tree, of which the name I can’t remember right now, had a strange sticky fruit like mulberry, and was my biggest proof to be able to say “We used to climb trees when we were children” …
On that stage, we used to give concerts to our imaginary audiences, serve each other invisible drinks at the bar, hung on the bars with our arms (our feet would not reach the ground), and raced who could move the most with their hands, gave up somewhere and jumped down with our stretched and numb arms.
Until the southwestern storms started, we would use this place for many games such as hide and seek and tag. After the storm, the place used to be filled with sand. It was a pleasure to play in that state. Everywhere in Bodrum was our playground, we used to love the town very much.
Big Ben had two periods in itself. In the first period, it was a meeting place for the locals of Bodrum and the people who had moved to Bodrum. An atmosphere that makes my mother say, “It’s such a place that no such place can exist again” …
When I think about my mother sitting at the bar of Big Ben and looked at Bodrum Castle while the house my grandmother bought after coming from Ankara was still under renovation (the early 1970s) and her happiness when she realized that she could always look at that view, it sends a shiver down my spine.
Then the second period that I described started. It is more touristic, our folks stopped visiting that frequently, but it was still beautiful when I think about it now… Then it was over. Fortunately, my mom keeps looking at the view …
I came back from my tiny tunnel while Leman Sam was making the crowd enjoy a wonderful night on the stage, breathless and joyfully, singing to a lower average age than I had guessed … We sang in unison, “after years, after the ways”.
* Excuse me if all these years passed made me make mistakes in the names or dates… We were children after all…
** The name of the tree is Bella Sombra (Beautiful shade tree) Thanks to Murat Cem for reminding …
This text was written in the summer of 2017 and revised in 2019.
Photo: 27 February 2019 Yeldeğirmeni Art Center- With Azra Kohen and Saffet Emre Tonguç. The photo was taken with the voice of Yeni Türkü, Derya Köroğlu on the Kadıköy tour, following the book See Me (‘Gör Beni’ in Turkish).