Friday, November 13, 2009


I was walking home from Muay Thai class last night when I saw this. A typical Friday night on Istiklal Caddesi. I thought they were charming, and a good example of something one of the tango teachers I interviewed last week said to me:

Everywhere in Turkey, people have dance in them. Tango is another discipline for us, but it was easy for us to move into it because the dance infrastructure was already in place in our culture. Turkish men are used to dancing with emotion. It’s in the folkloric dance tradition.

The point he was making was that there was no special reason why men should be so under-represented in Turkish tango culture, and as you can see, he's right. (I do suspect some Alevi influence in this scene.)

What's interesting about this is what happens after the film stops. The cameraman -- that's me -- nearly gets run over by a tram. It was this close. That very pretty woman with the long hair grabbed me out of the way just before it hit me. Regular readers (i.e., my mother) will remember that not long ago I did the same favor for a three-legged cat, in exactly the same place on this street, at exactly the same time of night. So I figure this incident is, at least, reassuring evidence that the Great Magnet does occasionally notice what we're up to. Unlike the cat, however, I recognized that this woman had done me a great favor, and I thanked her profusely rather than trying to slash her eyeballs out of her skull.

In typically sweet Turkish fashion, she then invited me to share the picnic she was carrying with her, and warm feelings prevailed all around, as so often they do in Turkey. I surely would have invited the cat to share my dinner, too, had he not torn it from my hands and scattered in all over the street, and had I not been drenched in my own blood.

Anyway, the point of this story is this: The whole "situational awareness" business still needs some work. I was so distracted by the charm of this scene that I didn't notice a tram barreling up the road at me. Now, this is not to say that I was completely unaware of potential danger; I was thinking about it. But I was thinking, "Be careful of your wallet in this crowd; there could be pickpockets around." Given the noise, it's not so surprising that I didn't hear the tram coming. But given that I know perfectly well that trams run up and down that street and stop for no living creature, I really should have been more aware.

Anyway, all's well that ends well, and it was nice to see these kids having so much fun.

I'll keep working on it.


  1. Glad to hear the Karmic Wheel turned to your benefit. FWIW, it's very difficult to maintain situational awareness, particularly peripheral vision, when working at a task that requires foveal vision. Filming, photography, computer work, and reading all render one vulnerable in that regard. Maybe we should stop doing them?

  2. An interesting thought, and it makes me wonder whether your brain actually loses its capacity to register those kinds of signals if you spend most of your life reading or in front of a computer: That would explain a lot, in my case.

  3. It's a matter of 24/7 practice. I spend most of my time at a desk, and a lot (too much) of my free time either in front of a screen or immersed in a book or magazine. But when I'm walking around or driving, I'm doing my best to keep my head on a swivel and use my peripheral vision. You just have to keep remembering to do it until it becomes an engrained habit. Expanding one's peripheral vision will also help one's posture and vice-versa.

    Also, if I'm faced with a self-defense situation, I try to put down my book, even if I'm right at the good part. OTOH, a rolled up magazine makes an excellent improvised weapon. I especially like Commentary as it has the perfect balance of lightness and rigidity. Penthouse is a little thick to serve, or so I've been told.