pet names.

Another intriguing revelation that probably will seem cool to only me. A new student I’m tutoring I shall call Lucyna. She has just arrived to Cleveland for two months to visit her daughter. She has very little knowledge of English, save what she had learned 30 or more years ago in elementary school.

As we were discussing her family, Lucyna told me that she has a dog. A little beagle named Ally (or, as she spells it, Ali). The fun part about this is that her daughter had named the beagle after the title character of Ally McBeal.

Big deal. Many people do that. Name their pets after famous people or famous characters. It just so happens that my brother owns a dog, it’s a beagle, and it’s named after a famous TV character. Its name is Bauer, taken from the lead character of 24.

Two beagles given names of TV characters. Not a bad place to find them. Therefore, the next cat I shall have will be given this delightful and well-known moniker: The Situation. I’ll just make sure the it’s neutered before anything unpredictable happens in the neighborhood.


—(Reposted from Live Journal)—

Two days a week I tutor this guy – let’s call him Murat – from Turkey who has been in the US for about a month and a half now. He’ll be here in Cleveland for five more months. He’s working at the Cleveland Clinic to get some experience at what he said has a “very very good medical place” and “one of best in world!” The closest I shall come with describing what he does is this: surgery particularly having to do with colorectal issues. I told him I did not need further explanation.

Murat was born in Kars. He lived there until he was six. He then moved to Ankara for a while. He studied in Istanbul and lived near Topkapı, which I’m guessing is in the Fatih district since the palace is around those parts. Unfortunately, he supports Galatasaray. This has not been a hindrance in me receiving payment, nor has it stopped me from showing up. We both explained why we liked our opposing teams and left it at that. I can live with that; it seems he can as well.

After uni, Murat practiced surgery in Ankara and Kars. His family just arrived in Cleveland at the start of the month and I’ve been tutoring him (mostly conversation, but it breaches into pronunciation and the more relevant aspects of grammar and interaction with other people). Murat’s level of English is quite low, and he sometimes has trouble stringing full sentences together automatically. He pauses a lot. Normally he gets to where he needs to go; it just takes time. He knows things, but it’s just trying to get everything whirring in his head out there. I have to remember to slow down occasionally, but I’ve already told him that might happen. I mean, I hadn’t taught elementary and/or early-intermediate learners of English since 2008.

Two Tuesdays ago, we had the best conversation so far. I had a list of questions to ask him (about how he interacts with people at the store, at cafes, at the clinic, and other public locations where he MUST use English). However, we began to digress from these questions around 30 minutes into our tutoring session, and we talked instead about literature. It spawned off a question about what he did in his free time; he said he loved reading books but he’d been doing a lot of researching for the clinic and so did not have too much free time for it.

Murat’s a huge fan of the classics, especially Russian literature. I grew intrigued, since I’m a big Dostoevsky nut, and asked him which authors he likes most. He said he likes the familiar ones: Tolstoy and, particularly, Dostoevsky. I became even more pleased and asked his favorite novel by Dostoevsky. Sure enough, it’s The Brothers Karamazov, which is mine as well. I wish his level of English was much higher because I’m sure we’d have been able to talk for a bit about it (even though a lot of the novel has slowly evaporated; I need to reread it). We touched briefly on a few famous American writers, but we also discussed a few Turkish writers. He asked me which authors I’d read. Sadly, I had to give the token answers most Westerners would answer: Orhan Pamuk and Elif Şafak. He told me he really enjoyed Aşk or “Love”. I told him I’d only read The Bastard of Istanbul.

We both agreed that – although Pamuk is a very important writer for Turkey and the world, despite what some Turks might think about him – he’s incredibly difficult to finish. At least his fiction is. I’ve tried reading two of Pamuk’s. Rough going. Not particularly fulfilling. His nonfiction, Istanbul: Memories of a City, is his best work. Simply amazing! Murat also provided me with two other authors (Yaşar Kemal and Nazım Hikmet). I had heard both of these people before, but was not fully sure where exactly I’d heard about them. Then, it struck me later on that evening. My pal, Jeff, from Turkey is a huge fan of them! He’d blogged about Hikmet in the past and put a few lines of his poetry on his blog space. Both authors are/were two people who’d been persecuted/arrested/etc. in the past by the Turkish government. If you aren’t well-versed in politics in Turkey, then you don’t realize how much flack a lot of writers get for voicing their opinions and also some of their discontent with the government and how things in Turkey are run. Many authors, journalists, yes some politicians, and others living in Turkey have been arrested, tried, some have even been killed. Just for speaking out for a certain group of people (Kemal against the persecution of the Kurds in SE Turkey). Just for having an opinion that did not gel with the current power. Hikmet fled to various countries during his life and died abroad. Other famous writers (both Pamuk and Şafak) have been held under fire for their words or work (Pamuk for his recognition of the Armenian Genocide; Şafak for one of her fictional works where characters label the Armenian Genocide AS a genocide, which therefore “insults Turkishness” and is against the law); for Pamuk, he even received death threats for his views that the Genocide happened.

I am hesitant to ask any further personal questions to Murat. About his ancestry, about his beliefs, whether or not he has similar ones to Kemal and Hikmet, whether or not he has similar viewpoints to the majority of Turks. We have only met five or six times. This foray into literature has given me more knowledge about Murat, but I do not think it has brought me very far into serious conversation – especially when his level of English is not advanced enough for very complex statements and opinions.

He did not vote for Turkey’s national elections, either. Voting absentee does not seem to happen in Turkey. (Or does it?) At least that’s what Murat seemed to imply. He couldn’t. He wasn’t pleased with Erdoğan’s victory. Another patch on my student’s intriguing personality quilt.


As I was drifting off into sleep last night, my mind began skiing down and around endless swaths of evergreens – picking up memories like a strong gust of wind hitting my face as I swerved down the large hill to the bottom.

The first thing that came to me was when I found spatters and drops of blood along with dirtied tissues littered across the bathroom floor the day before I left for Las Vegas, July of 2007. My grandmother had cut her foot some time in the middle of the night; I had been out late and was quietly making my way to my bedroom when I took a glance in the bathroom and saw the mess, dreading the worst, only to find my grandmother asleep and – upon waking – oblivious to the fact that she had cut herself and had bled profusely on the floor.

The scene changed.

This time it was me in Istanbul in February of 2008. I was running along empty Kadıköy streets at two in the morning. My pal, Anthony, had just had a housewarming party. Another lojman roommate headed back with me. A good six inches had already fallen, coating the streets with marzipan drifts. No footprints anywhere; humans and animals staying far from the elements. No cabs, no vehicles to tarnish the main roads. Tyler and I – both quite tipsy – began flinging the compact-able snow at one another. We were the only ones to bring noise to the darkness. Lamplights continued to shine, providing an amber tint to the sky and to the ground, sparkling snow beneath each light. Frost clung to my beard for a good long while even after getting back indoors. Istanbul shut down for three or four days.

The next image was Mary and I eating margarita pizza before seeing Franz Ferdinand in concert in Columbus. This happened in 2009. We both were raving about the pizza; we ate it all there. We waited in line for the concert not long after. I sneezed, and the 16-year-old girls in front of us began to whisper nervously to one another. I heard something about flu and I immediately knew they were discussing whether or not I had contracted swine flu, and most likely were discussing if they had received any flyaway specks of saliva from my sneeze – which I had covered well. I wondered aloud if I would be able to survive the evening without fainting – for “my forehead felt quite warm to the touch.”

Jigsaw #4: recalling St. Patrick’s Day in 2007, when I was a bartender and becoming more and more depressed at the fact that I was doling out drinks, receiving really meager tips, not getting many responses to inquiries as to what was happening with people (after I got off work), wondering what the hell I was doing with my life after almost a year of getting very little out of the B.A. I had received. Little did I know, even two months, three, four months later that I would be taking an airplane in October of that year. There my life would change drastically. I would find out that teaching was more in my blood than I had anticipated or desired even as I was making highballs and vodka martinis to drunk partiers on the 17th of March, four years ago.

Four years ago. It’s been that long. So I thought of September of 2007. I got to see the Indians come from behind and beat the Tigers to win the Central Division! I was four rows behind home plate for that game. Casey Blake was still on the team. He got a pie to the face. The rally-pie-to-the-face  tomfoolery became a big fad after that; I kept wondering if there was a team who started it before we did.

Later that same month, I had an interview with English Time. It was more them telling me there was a spot open for me after talking with them for 20-30 minutes. One month later, I was in the skies. I was flying to Dublin and sat next to this 55-year-old Irish woman who talked and talked all the time about random things I don’t remember. She even talked while I was watching Arrested Development on one of the in-flight channels. That same morning, arriving early at the hostel in Dublin, I found out that the Cleveland Indians lost Game 7 to the Boston Red Sox; no World Series for us. Saddened, I left my bags at the hostel and made it to the Jameson Distillery and grew mighty sloshed as I hadn’t had anything to eat after the overnight flight.

I ran into someone at a bar that same night who was studying abroad in London. He was a Clevelander, grew up in Shaker Heights, was an Indians fan. He was staying at the same hostel I was. We had a shot of whiskey to toast to a great season – albeit too short (even though it was longer than it had been and would be for the next few years).

All these things happened four, three, two years ago. A lot of time between then and now. I fell asleep to all this. I first told myself I would not try to connect these thoughts together; as I look back, a lot of my stray thoughts soon found connection with chains that now cannot be severed.