Why I Love Turkey

 

A few hours ago I got up to feed my cats. When I put out the food, to my puzzlement, only six cats showed up.

I wasn’t initially that concerned, because I’ve freaked out over a missing cat before only to find him or her several hours later in a suitcase under the bed. But it’s quite unlike Süleyman to miss a meal. When after several thorough searches of the apartment and several conspicuously loud openings of several more cans of cat food he still hadn’t shown up, I began to get worried, and then, after several more passes, the searching of all the drawers, the hamper, the washing machine, and every other place a cat could hide, I knew for sure something was wrong.

Jump cut: No idea how he ended up where I finally found him. He’s not saying. It seems impossible that he could have fallen six flights from my balcony–it’s covered in fishing net to prevent just that–but it’s remotely possible he could have squirmed through a tiny part that wasn’t quite sealed. Either that or somehow he slipped out the door when I last opened it, got down six flights of stairs, out the locked front door, halfway down the block and up a high sheer concrete wall to the ledge of a nearby building, but this too seems improbable. Point is, that’s where he was, on a narrow ledge, a very long way off the ground. I wouldn’t ever have found him if he’d done what lost cats typically do, which is to hide silently, but he heard me calling for him and started howling back. So I knew he was up there, and from the way he was crying, I figured he was most likely injured. There was no way to get him but to climb on top of the van, scale the wall, and rappel up the drainpipe.

The guys on the street are working guys–they do manual labor of some kind, I’m not even sure what kind, to my embarrassment. Everyone who does this stuff in Turkey is always doing something nuts and OSHA-violating like climbing to a place like that without using a safety harness or a hard hat. They would never have let me go up there when one of them could have gone, but as I explained to them, that cat was no way going to come down with a stranger, and if they tried that this situation was going to get a lot worse, fast–trust me, I know him. So one of them went off to find a ladder (of sorts), one went off to find a cat trap (of sorts), one went off to find some cat food (of sorts) and one steadied the make-shift ladder, and the other one went up first to make sure I had a hand to grab, and the other ones waited on the street looking mildly concerned.

It took us about forty-five minutes on that ledge to coax the idiot cat out from behind the air conditioning unit, and the whole time I’m thinking that one misstep and one of us, or the cat, is going to end up as a chalk outline on the pavement. I’m imagining my obituary, and actually kind of narrating it in my head, to be honest–BERLINSKI DEAD AT 42 IN FAILED ISTANBUL CAT RESCUE OPERATION–and thinking of the announcement on Ricochet and how sad you’d all be and how it probably wouldn’t come as that much of a surprise to anyone.

But at last he stopped howling and came out for the food, and when I snapped the lid on the cage, it really had a kind of moon-landing feeling of against-all-odds accomplishment. We handed him back hand-over-hand; they helped me down; and this was, all in all, very typical of Turkey, because the fire department is not going to come in a situation like that. You help out your neighbors, and you especially help foreigners, and sure, you’d risk cracking your head open to help rescue a cat for some woman you barely know and from whom you expect nothing in return. (I swear to that last part; this wasn’t a damsel-in-distress situation, this was a crazy-cat-lady in distress situation, and we all know there’s a difference.) Ordinary people here help each other. They have to: They know the government sure won’t.

Suley seems just fine–he’s sleeping it off. I’m going to keep a close eye on him tonight in case there’s some kind of internal injury, but as far as I can see he’s just dusty.

I asked the guys whether there was anything I could do to thank them, they said no, no, don’t mention it. I went downstairs again to bring them some cookies, but they were gone.

Endnote: It seems kind of beside the point, but they were all moderate Muslims. I’m guessing so, at least. It’s statistically highly unlikely that they’d have been the local Zoroastrians.

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  1. Profile Photo Member
    @

    It must be hard to herd that many cats.

    • #1
  2. Profile Photo Inactive
    @MorituriTe

    Glad you were able to retrieve your cat unharmed, Claire! (And I intend that sentence in both its meanings.)

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    @MelFoil

    You thanked them much more than by just giving them cookies. You gave them a great story to tell, about helping a pretty (but crazy) foreign lady rescue her suicidal cat.

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  4. Profile Photo Editor
    @Claire
    etoiledunord: You thanked them much more than by just giving them cookies. You gave them a great story to tell, about helping a pretty (but crazy) foreign lady rescue her suicidal cat. · Oct 17 at 9:49am

    By Istanbul standards, this wouldn’t even rank as a story worth retelling. But if I were to translate this, find them again, and show them that this perfectly everyday act of decency and chivalry had made foreign news, it might give them some pleasure.

    • #4
  5. Profile Photo Inactive
    @MelFoil
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.

    etoiledunord: You thanked them much more than by just giving them cookies. You gave them a great story to tell, about helping a pretty (but crazy) foreign lady rescue her suicidal cat. · Oct 17 at 9:49am

    By Istanbul standards, this wouldn’t even rank as a story worth retelling. But if I were to translate this, find them again, and show them that this perfectly everyday act of decency and chivalry had made foreign news, it might give them some pleasure. · Oct 17 at 9:56am

    Don’t underestimate your own newsworthiness Ms. Berlinski. :)

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  6. Profile Photo Contributor
    @Midge
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:It seems impossible that he could have fallen six flights from my balcony–

    Oh, I don’t know… The cat righting reflex is a powerful thing, though six stories is very much in the danger zone (cat injuries from falls increase until seven stories, then decrease after that, maybe because the cats reach terminal velocity and have a chance to relax). The physics behind this even has a name: the falling cat problem (I bet Pa Berlinski could explain it to you — anyhow, there are papers on it).

    If you’ve never seen the NatGeo videoclip about why cats land on their feet, you should. Pace Pseudodionysius, the cat in the video really looks like Morris the Cat on a strict regimen of performance-enhancing drugs. But maybe that’s just the slo-mo.

    Ordinary people here help each other. They have to: They know the government sure won’t.

    And that is the paradox of the Welfare State.

    PS: You know about CK’s Obsession for Cats?

    • #6
  7. Profile Photo Inactive
    @KennedySmith

    Well Allah be praised that it was Suleyman rather than Selim the Sot on that ledge. He’d have been toast.

    If I ever have (shudder) cats, they’ll be named after Medicis, like Piero the Gouty. Dogs have so far been named after Scottish royalty.

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  8. Profile Photo Coolidge
    @UndergroundConservative

    Great story. I had several “Why I love Russia” stories like that, though “cat-less”. The most prominent way to get help from strangers is to get your car stuck in the snow. People always come out of nowhere to help push your car out. My favorite moment was when I couldn’t get my car out of my parking space at my apartment complex. (driving on the road in the winter is easy in Russia, but finding a parking space with less than two feet of snow is another matter). I can usually find a way out, but this time, I was stuck but good. I lived a block away from a synagogue and within minutes of my struggle, a swarm of Orthodox Jews leaped into action and spent a very physical, sweat-dripping 30 minutes digging me out. And of course, no special gifts were accepted. It was a sight to see. Several Jews with long beards and black hats patiently helping this dumb American out of a parking space. One of my fondest memories in Russia.

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    @River

    Beautiful story, Claire. It’s always great to hear about people of other cultures being warm and human. The salvation of every nation is the cohort of ordinary people with good hearts.

    I’m doubly delighted that Turks are accepting of cats. I’ve been to countries where they’re are condemned as the spawn of Satan, and the few cats you do see are wretched beyond belief; a heartbreaking and unforgettable sight.

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  10. Profile Photo Member
    @JohnH

    I do not love Turkey, but I will say this for the place: everything’s in Turkish. Sorry, I’m just being peevish because I went to the refrigerator for a stick of butter and noticed “nutrition information” in Spanish on the box. Has anyone inside the U.S.A. ever read nutrition information in Spanish? Empty multiculti gestures like this would never happen in Turkey, I thought.

    But kindness to animals would happen, and that always gives one hope. (In point of fact, I have witnessed positive cruelty to animals only in Cape Verde, but – in an empty multiculti gesture of my own – I’ll just say, “That’s in Africa.”) In Turkey, in Erzurum specifically, I saw an old man petting an obviously sick cat, and that – along with seeing a guy selling two microscopes on the sidewalk one month but one microscope the next month – made me think maybe this place is OK after all.

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  11. Profile Photo Contributor
    @Midge
    John H.: Sorry, I’m just being peevish because I went to the refrigerator for a stick of butter and noticed “nutrition information” in Spanish on the box. Has anyone inside the U.S.A. ever read nutrition information in Spanish? Empty multiculti gestures like this would never happen in Turkey, I thought.

    Empty? But there are about 50 million Spanish speakers in the US, and only about half of them think they speak English very well.

    I’d guess a fair number of them have read the nutrition information in Spanish.

    As for me, my grandma and I had a little game: when we got multilingual food packages and instruction manuals, we’d look at the parallel translations and puzzle out what the words in different languages meant. An idiotic game, sure (but it does mean I can recognize the words for sugar and caution! in several tongues).

    I’d agree, though, that the biggest disservice we do to Hispanic kids in our public school systems is to not require that they really master English. It only hurts them in the long run.

    • #11
  12. Profile Photo Member
    @

    How charming that Claire doesn’t seem to comprehend the real motivation of her cat’s rescuers.

    Apparently, despite all the other cultural differences, a chivalrous response to a fair damsel in distress knows no boundaries.

    • #12
  13. Profile Photo Contributor
    @Midge
    Kenneth: How charming that Claire doesn’t seem to comprehend the real motivation of her cat’s rescuers.

    Apparently, despite all the other cultural differences, a chivalrous response to a fair damsel in distress knows no boundaries. · Oct 17 at 1:42pm

    Er, Kenneth… Claire herself points out that she’s not a damsel-in-distress but a crazy-cat-lady-in-distress, and there’s a difference.

    She is, however, an unusually good-looking crazy cat lady…

    • #13
  14. Profile Photo Inactive
    @Publius

    Claire,

    I’m very glad to hear everything turned out well with your furry friend. To my eternal shame, I only recently discovered you via your recent Uncommon Knowledge interview with Peter Robinson. You’re clearly in a very good position to address some questions I have about Islam and I’m more than a little curious to get your perspective.

    It’s self-evident to me that there are millions upon millions of moderate Muslims who just want to get on with their lives without wishing me or anyone else any harm.

    In your experience, is there such a thing as moderate Islam?

    Is Sharia law compatible with modernity and the ideals of Western civilization?

    If not, could it be made so by moderate Muslims and then be accepted by a significant portion of the Islamic world?

    • #14
  15. Profile Photo Inactive
    @GreatGhostofGodel
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: It’s statistically highly unlikely that they’d have been the local Zoroastrians. ·

    But it also would have been even more interesting for that very reason.

    On top of all that: great. Now I have a visual of you holding the makeshift cat trap open and pushing Süleyman into it, all to the soundtrack of “Also Sprach Zarathustra.”

    • #15
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    @KatieO

    Thanks for the great story Claire. I’m glad everyone is safe! One of my earliest memories is a “nine lives” story. When I was around 3 or 4 my tabby cat went missing. I was convinced I could hear him in my room. Once my parents believed me, they discovered he was trapped inside the wall! I can still see my dad using a power saw to cut a rescue hole. Apparently, the cat had gone in a cold air return with a loose cover in my parent’s closet (upstairs) and worked his way down to my room (downstairs, opposite side of the house).

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  17. Profile Photo Member
    @
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake

    Kenneth: How charming that Claire doesn’t seem to comprehend the real motivation of her cat’s rescuers.

    Apparently, despite all the other cultural differences, a chivalrous response to a fair damsel in distress knows no boundaries. · Oct 17 at 1:42pm

    Er, Kenneth… Claire herself points out that she’s not a damsel-in-distress but a crazy-cat-lady-in-distress, and there’s a difference.

    She is, however, an unusually good-looking crazy cat lady… · Oct 17 at 1:50pm

    If she’d been an 80-year-old crone, they’d have said, “Um, maybe you should call the fire department.”

    • #17
  18. Profile Photo Editor
    @Claire
    Kenneth

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake

    Kenneth: How charming that Claire doesn’t seem to comprehend the real motivation of her cat’s rescuers.

    Apparently, despite all the other cultural differences, a chivalrous response to a fair damsel in distress knows no boundaries. · Oct 17 at 1:42pm

    Er, Kenneth… Claire herself points out that she’s not a damsel-in-distress but a crazy-cat-lady-in-distress, and there’s a difference.

    She is, however, an unusually good-looking crazy cat lady… · Oct 17 at 1:50pm

    If she’d been an 80-year-old crone, they’d have said, “Um, maybe you should call the fire department.” · Oct 17 at 2:04pm

    No, you’ve got to trust me on this–I know the difference. They’d have done it for an 80-year-old crone or a helpless foreign guy, too.

    • #18
  19. Profile Photo Editor
    @Claire
    Publius: Claire,

    I’m very glad to hear everything turned out well with your furry friend. To my eternal shame, I only recently discovered you via your recent Uncommon Knowledge interview with Peter Robinson. You’re clearly in a very good position to address some questions I have about Islam and I’m more than a little curious to get your perspective.

    It’s self-evident to me that there are millions upon millions of moderate Muslims who just want to get on with their lives without wishing me or anyone else any harm.

    In your experience, is there such a thing as moderate Islam?

    Is Sharia law compatible with modernity and the ideals of Western civilization?

    If not, could it be made so by moderate Muslims and then be accepted by a significant portion of the Islamic world? · Oct 17 at 1:53pm

    Maybe someone else here would help Publius get up to speed with our conversations about this? We’ve been talking about this a lot here on Ricochet …

    • #19
  20. Profile Photo Inactive
    @Publius
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.

    Maybe someone else here would help Publius get up to speed with our conversations about this? We’ve been talking about this a lot here on Ricochet …

    Sorry to ask questions that sound like they have been covered extensively before, Claire. I’ve only been a member for around a week and I’m still trying to get used to the site and the conversation flow. I’ll continue to explore the site and get caught up a bit better before asking you what the meaning of life is. :)

    • #20
  21. Profile Photo Contributor
    @GeorgeSavage

    Claire, I’m just excited that my teleportation system works at all! Of course, Suleyman was supposed to wind up in Northern California, so I still have some kinks to work out.

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  22. Profile Photo Member
    @WyleeCoyote
    Publius

    Sorry to ask questions that sound like they have been covered extensively before, Claire. I’ve only been a member for around a week and I’m still trying to get used to the site and the conversation flow. I’ll continue to explore the site and get caught up a bit better before asking you what the meaning of life is. :) · Oct 17 at 4:33pm

    Maybe the site needs a “tags” feature for the posts, so that newbies could find the discussions on subjects that interest them. The post volume here is pretty high, and so it’s easy to lose an interesting conversation as it slips into the archive.

    • #22
  23. Profile Photo Contributor
    @Midge
    George Savage: Claire, I’m just excited that my teleportation system works at all! Of course, Suleyman was supposed to wind up in Northern California, so I still have some kinks to work out. · Oct 17 at 5:02pm

    Cat-napper!

    If cat-napping is your idea of a good time, you’ve got more than just “some kinks to work out”.

    Claire’s gonna get you for this…

    • #23
  24. Profile Photo Coolidge
    @Pilgrim
    Publius

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.

    Maybe someone else here would help Publius get up to speed with our conversations about this? We’ve been talking about this a lot here on Ricochet …

    Welcome Publius. The party has been going awhile so you may feel like the new kid but you will fit right in. The contributor and comment stream is like drinking from a fire hose just to stay current but it is worth looking at the “Most active conversations” selection feature. That will give you a good feel for some of the iconic exchanges and for your fellow members. Claire has 327 posts (and counting) and her views and insights on the issues you raise are throughout the archive. Her first contribution is charming now, in hindsight – sort of like hearing Billie Holiday saying, “You just want me to sing, right?”

    • #24
  25. Profile Photo Contributor
    @GeorgeSavage
    Wylee Coyote Maybe the site needs a “tags” feature for the posts, so that newbies could find the discussions on subjects that interest them. The post volume here is pretty high, and so it’s easy to lose an interesting conversation as it slips into the archive. · Oct 17 at 5:06pm

    WC, I am just returned from a Sunday afternoon meeting of the Ricochet Powers That Be–at least we manage to maintain that illusion while Claire is sleeping–and we are hard at work on implementing your suggestion. The volume of posts is growing, which is great, and our site needs to evolve to make it easier to find your favorites and keep up with what you’ve missed while away living your real life. Look for gradual improvements throughout the Fall.

    • #25
  26. Profile Photo Contributor
    @GeorgeSavage
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake Cat-napper!

    If cat-napping is your idea of a good time, you’ve got more than just “some kinks to work out”.

    Claire’s gonna get you for this… · Oct 17 at 5:35pm

    I think of it more as cat-borrowing. Cat-napping is a crime too terrible to contemplate.

    • #26
  27. Profile Photo Editor
    @Claire
    Publius Sorry to ask questions that sound like they have been covered extensively before, Claire. I’ve only been a member for around a week and I’m still trying to get used to the site and the conversation flow. I’ll continue to explore the site and get caught up a bit better before asking you what the meaning of life is. :) · Oct 17 at 4:33pm

    No, no, Publius, don’t apologize, we’re still ironing out the kinks with this issue–how to easily find past posts on various topic themes. I asked because I was wondering if anyone had an easy idea how to find the most relevant ones. You’ll find most of them by searching under the term “moderate Muslim,” but that’s going to return more than you’ll ever want to read. I suspect we’ll end up with some kind of tagging and relevancy-ranking system, but you’re here at the beginning, so while on the one hand we’re not quite there yet, on the other, you’ll be able to say, “I was there at the beginning.”

    • #27
  28. Profile Photo Editor
    @Claire
    River: Beautiful story, Claire. It’s always great to hear about people of other cultures being warm and human. The salvation of every nation is the cohort of ordinary people with good hearts.

    I’m doubly delighted that Turks are accepting of cats. I’ve been to countries where they’re are condemned as the spawn of Satan, and the few cats you do see are wretched beyond belief; a heartbreaking and unforgettable sight. · Oct 17 at 10:34am

    Edited on Oct 17 at 10:38 am

    They are tender toward them, and rarely harm them, but they’re not responsible–they rarely spay or neuter; most run wild on the streets, and some are sick and wretched indeed–mine surely were when I found them, The Diyanet insists that mercy toward animals is a religious obligation,. Sometimes, though, this obligation is neglected, with terrible suffering as a consequence

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  29. Profile Photo Member
    @JohnH
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake

    But there are about 50 million Spanish speakers in the US, and only about half of them think they speak English very well.

    Do they know Spanish very well? I met a self-identified Puerto Rican cabbie in NYC who asked where I’d just come from (Brazil), and when I assured him he could probably read Portuguese because he could read Spanish, he said he couldn’t read Spanish. Ah. And then there was the time I checked into a motel in Eagle Pass TX, told the clerk what was on my license plate, tried to be helpful with the “V” by resorting to the v de vaca/b de boca business, and found she’d never heard of it.

    But tryin’ to keep this on-Turkey and on-animal, I will say every self-identified Kurd I met in Turkey spoke Turkish, and the nutrition info I read on a Turkish Snickers bar assured me that no pigs had been harmed or otherwise employed in its manufacture.

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  30. Profile Photo Inactive
    @Publius

    Thanks for the welcome and the kind words everyone.

    The Ricochet business model is largely based on selling people like me the ability to become part of a conversation with like minded people along with a variety of intellectual luminaries. It’s easily worth the price of admission especially given the quantity and quality of the contributors like Claire.

    The trick will be to get things developed so that people like me who recently join up don’t burn out Claire and the other contributors by trying to get them to answer the same questions over and over.

    A robust search and tagging feature makes good sense. What about giving contributors like Claire the ability to establish their own individual FAQ page where they can answer questions that are…well, frequently asked questions? :)

    • #30
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