Archive for November, 2012
If you happen to be in Istanbul today, and are wondering what to do, drop by Contemporary Istanbul. Even if the venue is not quite right for the subject matter the selection of talent and work is something special. It’s especially encouraging to see contemporary Turkish art take its place right next to international artists without any dissonance. I’ve been a little distracted (in a good way) the last couple of years, so I haven’t had much chance to monitor what was going on art-wise locally to the extent I’d like to so it was particularly nice to bump into friends and artists like Emel Kurhan and Ahmet Polat, both of whom are enjoying international success. It’s particularly interesting to view art with other artists and discuss the work without pretence. It’s a fair, which means it’s every bit as much about transaction and collection as it is appreciation.
As art is incredibly subjective, there’s always a certain amount that could be described as grotesque and cynical and exploitative. However, there’s at least as much if not more that is incredibly thoughtful, provocative and beautifully executed. The problem with such an event is that it’s on such a scale that it can become overwhelming and make you wonder if you’ve seen enough. After a few hours your head starts to whirl and your eyes begin to burn. That wasn’t a problem, however, when I saw my friend Ahmet Polat’s work. I’m clearly unable to separate the artist from his work, but just as I began to worry that too much of the work was distant and cerebral, I saw some of the work excerpted from his book and exhibition Kemal’s Dream. One print was of a father kissing his daughter goodbye through the window of a bus. Something in me just popped. That’s the final image that stays with me. The feeling captured in this print overpowered me and made me understand what I appreciate in art — sincere storytelling that makes us realize what we live for and what we need to share.
Everyday in some ways, extraordinary in others. That for me is what life is like in this city. This man is rinsing his catch of mussels with water from the Tarabya harbour. Some 25 metres away they’re driving huge underwater pylons/footings for the new floating pier system. It’s a little disturbing, thinking of what may be being unearthed, and what’s being poured into the water this man is using for his food source. Apparently this is one of the cleanest stretches of the Bosporus, and people (during warmer weather, at least) often swim around here. I’m certainly no marine biologist but the vast numbers of predators such as dolphins, often seem like an encouraging sign that this seaway is still a vital one. Let’s hope it stays that way for men like this as well as for the life within it. We need each other.
Despite the chaos surrounding me it’s nice to be home and welcomed by some special people with open arms. There’s no going backwards in time, but for now that’s okay. Home is not really a place is it, Sof? That’s why I hope wherever I am, you’ll always be nearby. Then, even if I’m not home, at least I’ll know I’m close.
Ever wonder where you are? I do frequently. Last week I was in Western Quebec, gazing at lakes, examining a cottage reconstructed from a 150 year-old barn surrounded by trees and silence, eating pizza “stix” from a baker person — now I’m back in the middle of traffic, chaos and noise, trying to get myself back up to speed. It’s no wonder life seems like such a dream sometimes with the ability to transition between so many distinctly different landscapes in such short time expanses. I’m not always sure my mind is ready to catch up with my current experience. Perhaps it doesn’t always want to.
On my recent trip back to Ottawa I noticed some very positive developments in both the food and the retail sectors. The one thing Ottawa once missed was local flavour on a world-class scale. I’m happy to say that’s far from true these days, and almost makes me a little homesick for the small town, big taste experience of which I just partook. The gastropub experience was truly world-class. Special merits to Jordan at the Hintonburg Public House.
BE BIG ON TASTE. NOT PORTIONS.
Good food and drink doesn’t need to be overly dressed up or presented in an excessively fancy way. The food here is neither huge nor especially fancy. It’s just damn tasty and interesting.
SERVE LOCAL TEXTURE. NOT LOCAL TRENDS.
Everywhere I went in Ottawa was serving pulled pork. Maybe it’s because I’m not at all interested in pork or food trends, that one of things that stood out about the Hintonburg Pub’s menu was the absence of a pulled pork anything. If every place you go to is serving something, they’re not a trend maker any more. It’s the small details that make the experience. Not having something can be better than having it.
USE LOCAL BRANDS WHENEVER POSSIBLE.
You can drink Coke anywhere in the world. You can drink Starbucks coffee anywhere. I don’t want reliable when I go somewhere. I want flavour. I want quirk. I want to try a beer or a soda I can’t have anywhere in the world. Nothing’s perfect in this world. But there’s a lot that’s mediocre. And we have big brands to thank for that. Draw in talent by using whatever nearby talent you have. Your customers, suppliers, neighbours and investors/bank manager will thank you.
LET PEOPLE SEE YOUR GOOD GRIT.
When I go to a eatery or pub I like to see the talent behind the scenes. The people who make your products should interact with the clientele. It’s reassuring whether it’s a baker or a brewmaster, or your chef. The only person I don’t want to see is the plumber. You can keep him or her invisible please. The accountant too. Sorry plumbers and accountants.
I’m pleased to tell you that the “Aha!” moment real ale drinkers in Istanbul have been waiting for is finally here. Today, The Bosphorus Brewing Co has opened the doors to the brewery and is welcoming customers to take their first sips of honest brews that are gently carbonated and big on flavour. I’ve sampled all, except the Karbon Stout, which I have on good authority is equally excellent. Though I’m particularly fond of the IPA, I’ll just have to see how Karbon tastes. But not until I’m back in town. For those of you in town, however, you no longer have any excuse to drink mediocre beer. So don’t wait for me. All the pertinent details accompany the chap in the cap below — şerefe!
I had to go looking for your grandfather yesterday. I’ve missed him for quite a while now, and have only glimpsed him occasionally in the last few years, mostly in my sleep where he could be himself again. So I visited his favourite place, Mer Bleu, hoping to talk to him even if only briefly. He wasn’t there. There are so many things I’ve wanted to say to him, so many conversations we never had. I’d hoped they might be finished somewhere along this trail. But I couldn’t find him or even something of him that I could introduce you to. There was only a strange emptiness, an endless landscape once familiar to me, now as infinite as the terrain of dreams, merging with the sky above. He won’t be found here anymore despite its strange resemblance to the land of dreams.
The next time we see Eric Robert Welbourne, may it be a long, long time away, in the infinite beauty of the beyond. Yesterday, our conversations ended. Today, I’m ready to live. There is no one I have ever missed so much as you, Sof, or a father who was ever as proud of his child.
A few years ago my friend Selin was in Milano, Italy for the furniture fair, but took regular breaks to indulge her nicotine urge. An Italian man who observed her said, “You’re smoking like the Grande Turco!” To which she replied, with a laugh, “I am a Turk!” Do Turks smoke considerably more than many other cultures? I don’t know. While I don’t endorse smoking in any way, this is still very much a smoker’s city. Despite being pushed to the pavements, despite the ever increasing size of the warnings on their packets, Istanbullu are pretty resolute when it comes to puffing.
Once upon a time I decided I would never, ever work again in advertising or branding unless it was for something in which I believed wholeheartedly. Well, ladies and gentlemen, I believe in good beer. Better yet, I believe in good beer and good food. Happily I have made the acquaintance of the Bosphorus Brewing Co., an interesting new venture involving craft beer by a delightfully eccentric brewmaster named Philip Hall. He and his family have been living in Turkey for several years now and have decided to invest themselves fully into something which they too subscribe to — real ales and honest food. Well, my friends, I can tell you that I have sampled both now, and the golden nectar they serve is the genuine article. The entire menu at the Bosphorus Brewing Co. has been developed to pair perfectly with its select brews and is the work of a former Turkish airlines flying chef teamed with Philip’s wife. It is great. Here are some test shots that I took today. I couldn’t wait to share them with you and hope I don’t get in trouble, but this is something you need to see. Better yet, this is something you’ll need to taste. It’s only a matter of a few weeks before Istanbullu can drink some real ales, and I couldn’t stop myself from spreading the news. By the way, the fishcakes are the best I’ve ever eaten.