I spent most of this month in California, settling into a suburban life of bicycles and breweries and borrowing books from the library. I’m back in Istanbul now, but so grateful for the chance to slow down at the end of the year.
Best Of The Month
Usually when visiting California, I try to fit in as much as possible— see friends, go to museums, explore the offbeat.
This year, I rode my bike and read library books and it was PERFECT.
Riding my bicycle (Bikeminster Fuller) made me feel free and mobile in a way a I rarely do in California. The city my parents now live in has a proper downtown, and the weather was mild and nearly perfect. I leaned into suburbia, and it was exactly what I needed.
I went to Los Angeles to spend a long weekend with my sister, which is always a highlight. We meant to do many new exciting things, but we still ended up revisiting my favorite places in downtown LA (The Last Bookstore, Grand Central Market) and added a new one (the LA Flower Market!)
Finally my computer is back and functional, thank goodness! This is a huge relief.
Worst Of The Month
Being far away can be strange and disorienting; halfway through these long trips I always feel completely removed from my context. Luckily, it passes.
What I’m Loving
Reads: I spent my time in America reading two books that analyzed, in very different ways, how we arrived at the moment we find ourselves in now. Fantasyland by Kurt Andersen tracks the very American tradition of believing magical nonsense, stretching back through the initial British settlers and on to this surreal world of “fake news” and a Dunning-Kruger president. Andersen’s voice is sarcastic and cynically hilarious, and I enjoyed the book (though found it daunting how deeply the belief in wild things goes).
The second book comes from the perspective of an American living in Turkey. Suzy Hansen’s Notes on a Foreign Country might start in Turkey, but its focus is on America, our influence on the world, and our ongoing ignorance of it. It was riveting and sort of terrifying. You don’t have to have a connection to Istanbul to appreciate this book— I recommend you seek it out. It changed the way I look at many aspects of the world and the current news.
Music: There weren’t any specific artists or albums I was into this month, but I made a nice mix of my December jams here.
Movies/TV: It seems I do most of my movie-watching when I’m home at the end of the year, and this December was no exception. I watched all of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel with my parents, which was colorful and delightful (if occasionally a bit too self-consciously exaggerated). I want all of Mrs. Maisel’s coats.
In LA, Hillary and I went to see Lawrence of Arabia at the American Cinematheque. I can’t think of a better way to see this epic movie than on a massive screen, surrounded by movie-obsessives. The film wasn’t what I expected— I realized I actually knew almost nothing about it— which made it more enjoyable. We came away from the screening swooning over Omar Sharif.
Another unexpected highlight was a terrifically terrible 1960 melodrama called Portrait in Black, which my family stumbled onto on TCM and couldn’t stop watching. It’s supposed to be suspenseful and thrilling but it’s so over-the-top that we were all in hysterics. This review sums it up pretty well. To be fair, it was a gorgeous-looking movie, and it was shot on location in San Francisco, which was pretty cool.
Podcasts: My friend Lizi always comes through with the podcast recommendations, and this month she pointed me towards Slow Burn, a dissection of the gradual build up of the Watergate scandal. The parallels to the current moment are scary, but I really love the podcast because it focuses on the stories that have fallen by the wayside of history. Totally fascinating.
I also loved the end of Heaven’s Gate (still the best podcast theme song!) and an old episode of 99% Invisible called The Modern Necropolis, about the town of Colma, California where the dead outnumber the living.
The Film Files
I shot many rolls— including a few double exposure experiments— in California, but haven’t had a chance to develop anything yet.
My parents’ home is a quick bike ride away from Calicraft Brewing Company, a nice little brewery with a dozen microbrews on tap and the option of customizable flights. I went quite a few times this month to taste my four little beers and read a book, or chat with my sister, or catch up with my dad after work. I miss this sort of thing in Turkey.
There’s no specific trip on deck at the moment, though I would love to go somewhere in Turkey this month. Otherwise, I’m just resettling into Istanbul life, and planning the things to come.