While wandering the streets of Çukurcuma, I happened into an antiques shop filled wall-to-wall with EVERYTHING in existence. The owner, an elderly Istanbullu with bushy eyebrows - one highly arched - sat cross legged smoking a cigarette as old-timey standards played on the speakers. He paid me no mind as I browsed the labyrinths of ancient cameras, military-issue lighters, records, and dusty old postcards.
By the time I reached his sitting area, he offered me tea, a standard Istanbul ritual. In the areas around Sultanahmet, an invitation by a young Turkish lad for tea is generally followed by a sexual proposition and/or a “visit to my uncle’s carpet shop, very good price, I give you discount”. I never got that vibe from Nevzat, not because he was old, but because he just didn’t strike me as *that guy*, what with his ornery facial expression and old-goat crankiness. Maybe in his youth he was *that guy* but my female-traveler-spidey-sense didn’t kick in so I accepted. I started talking and he abruptly stopped me saying, “I don’t speak English.” From there we continued to converse through Google Translate.
Technology. What a hoot.
I said I liked photography to which he said photographers treat the camera like a Kalashnikov. He despised the soulless aesthetics of the modern travel photographer, popping into his store to snap photos without asking, leaving as quickly as they walked in, making no effort at connection. I internally winced as I know I’ve done this a million times. I always had weird feelings about it but to have my actions likened to using a Kalashnikov, well, that got my attention.
I drank my tea as we sat in a comfortable silence listening to old standards.
The next day, I found myself in Çukurcuma again searching for Orhan Pamuk’s Museum of Innocence, which was incidentally across the street from Nevzat’s shop.
I decided to pop in to say hello and he offered me tea. “I wanted to say hello again.” His eyebrow arched and he shook his head, not understanding. I typed the short phrase into Google Translate and read the Turkish translation aloud to him in whatever rustic pronunciation I could muster. He let out the biggest smile, laughed amusingly, took my face in both hands and kissed my forehead before saying something in Turkish along the lines of a grandparent receiving a lovingly, yet horribly inaccurate drawing of a cat by their 4-year-old grandchild. Until that point, I had never seen Nevzat smile.
He offered some suggestions for places to visit in the area, ranted about photographers again (it was Saturday, peak tourist and local photographer day) and told me about his old college professor, a poet. He shared some old Turkish sayings that of course didn’t translate well, each messy translation causing him to grunt and arch his eyebrow, but no matter. Once again, we sat in a comfortable silence over tea and old standards, cigarette smoke wafting from the table.