Monday, April 24, 2006

Three Dog Nights

Istanbul, Turkey

The OC is having a bit of a nightlife losing streak. Last evening was our third unsuccessful outing in a row. We did not go out at all in Egypt, Ankara, or Izmir, so I was well ready for a bit of beerlarity. Lack of booze and cigarettes was making me dangerously chipper and healthy. Most of the young-folk fun in Istanbul goes down on or near the Istiklal Caddesi - a long pedestrian street that runs from Taksim Square across the heart of the new city. It is full of shops, cinemas, cafes, restaurants, bars, and clubs and seemed the natural place to start out. We were not two minutes off the bus and ten meters down the avenue before we were approached by an affable pair of Turkish men - one of whom spoke very good English. We walk together for a bit and chatted about the usual kind of things and they invited us to join them for dinner. We accepted.

Our new friends led us down a side street, around a corner, and down some stairs into a little restaurant centered around a large central grill. We scored some seats at the bar directly next to the barbecue and it was not long before we were enjoying a variety of salad dishes, bread slices, and a few glasses of raki. In between watching Model Boxing and Fear Factor on TV, the discussion revolved around footaball, horse rearing (the occupation of the more anglophonic gentleman), and women. We followed the salad course with some meaty skewers straight off the flame and washed it all down with another small bottle of raki. I was feeling good when we emerged back into the chilly night air.

We happily followed our hosts to a nearby bar. This is when the other shoe plummeted to earth. I could tell right away that something was not on the level. The bar had a comically-overdressed doorman, decor that is best described as "Russian chic", and the few occupied seats were filled by suspiciously Eastern-European women in lurid evening wear. The quickly-produced drinks menu had no entry costing less than 35 YTL (more than 25 USD). Jason quickly proclaimed the joint too rich for our blood and we made a prompt exit. Our companions stayed behind. The Lonely Planet warned that smooth English-speakers sometimes befriend tourists in order to lure them into buying horrendously over-priced drinks - with payment sometimes extracted through threats. We gave benefit when we should have given doubt, but we escaped with no money lost.

Determined not to let a bit of scamola ruin the evening, we marched up the stairs to a nearby cafe known to feature Turkish folk music. We downed a couple in the back of the room and watched the locals lurch and shimmy their way through a few numbers. As it turns out, traditional Turkish music does not agree with my musical palette, so we left to find a more contemporary offering. Club Babylon sucks. It was full of kids (average age - 19) bobbing around to disco tunes. I felt like the chaperone at a middle school party. Jason hit the dance floor for a bit. I contented myself with sending a barrage of weepy text messages. We left as the place was emptying out and caught a taxi back home.

Our plan for Saturday night seemed very promising. We were going to watch the big football match (a local derby) before heading downtown to see a set by drum and bass luminary Ronnie Sides. The football part was good. A local restaurant manager tipped us off to a good venue. We watched the match in a large tea house surrounded by dedicated fans. It was strange to watch a game in a booze-free environment. Afterwards we had a good supper and a nice Turkish coffee within easy sight of the Sea of Marmara.

Things started to go wrong just as the taxi man dropped us off at the drum and bass club. First, he got me with the old "you gave me a five, not a fifty" slight of hand. Second, he somehow managed to seriously overcharge. All told, I paid about 75 USD for a 10 USD cab ride. I hate that guy. The club itself was very nice, but Ronnie Sides and his audience were extra lame with a side of boring. The music could be described as "disco and bass" or maybe "drum and house". It lacked the essentially aggressive quality of good DnB. The people on the dance floor were bad, pushy dancers. Some enthusiastic flamer managed to spray me with beer, so I reeked of Efes all evening. Mr. Side seemed only marginally interested in his work and took any opportunity to walk off for a break. It was all a bit limp, and entirely disappointing.

Reeling from these two defeats, we devised a cunningly simple plan for Sunday night. We are staying in an area full of hostels and all the lowbrow clubs and restaurants that cheap-o travelers such as ourselves attract. We went out for a simple meal around the way, then settle in for a bit of a bar hop down tourist row. It was a lazy option, but at least we did not have to travel, could speak to most people we met, and were guaranteed to hear music that is at least familar. Things did not go wrong so much as they just did not go. The entire young population of Australia is in town for ANZAC day and we were unable to penetrate but the very periphery of their antipodean tribes. Dance floors were either uncomfortably packed or uncomfortably empty. We eventually gave up and went back to the hotel where I downloaded the "more cowbell" sketch. It was the highlight of the evening. God bless Christopher Walken. I hope Athens is a bit more happening.


Blogger jason said...

Roni Size.

Roni Size.

Roni Size.

He's a bit past his prime and clearly had no respect for his overly-adoring audience. The first time I saw him was about five years ago at Coachella, where he rocked. This time, he blew chunks.
Boring chunks.

4/24/2006 10:38 PM gmt

Blogger Mik3 said...

Ben Sharpa.

Ben Sharpa.

Ben Sharpa.

4/25/2006 7:11 AM gmt


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