Saturday, October 24, 2015

Typical Typicalities of the Regional Area

I have never been to the much-vilified Benidorm, in Spain, but I imagine it isn’t terribly different from Marmaris, in Turkey, a foreign place that exists pretty much solely for British (and in Marmaris’s case, some German) tourism. All the signage seems to be in English. There are restaurants called Ali Baba Kebab. There are a million shops in which to buy fluorescent trainers (to Americans: sneakers) and Hollister, California, T-shirts. There seems nowhere to buy anything authentically Turkish, not unless you go a couple of miles inland, into one of the dreary, colourless neighborhoods in which those who work in the million hotels reside. 

I can imagine them being adept at lip-biting and teeth-gritting, as they must feel approximately as the people of Iraq did after “we” liberated them from Saddam Hussein — occupied. I got a small taste of that living in Los Angeles when I would venture up to Hollywood Blvd. to buy tip-jar stripper heels, for instance. I’d be surrounded by gawking fatsos from the American heartland posing  in front of the Chinese Theatre with locals dressed up as Marvel Comics superheroes, or trying to decide on a tour of the stars’ homes. The difference is that the gawking fatsos were my countrymen. The bloated, misshapen Northerners covered in hideous tattoos on whom the Turks of Marmaris depend for their livelihood must seem to them to be from a different planet, a planet they haven’t the slightest yearning to visit.

About two-thirds of the staff of the five-star hotel in which we stayed, mostly with bloated, misshapen Northerners, made no secret of their distaste for their guests. The look on the face of one of the bartenders at the minibar just around the corner from Reception as he handed over drinks said, “I hope you choke on this.” You’ve never seen such glowering.

As is our custom, we signed up for what we call the Typical Typicalities of the Regional Area tour, on which you are loaded on buses and driven, in this case, into The Real Turkey. Our guide was a ponytailed local who’d lived some years in Australia, and whose accent — part Turkish, and part antipodean — was therefore uniquely grating. He took us first to the place of business of a local beekeeper. We removed our shoes and traipsed dutifully through his wildly overdecorated little house, and then, of course, got The Sales Pitch, during which our host implored us to buy various kinds of honey, most of which he asserted would cure what ailed us, including what is known on American television as ED. We were given the opportunity to buy glasses of pomegranate juice. A fascinating glimpse into life as actual Turks live it!

A typical Marmaris pub.
Then we were bussed to a not-notable waterfall, after which we were served a not-very-notable lunch. I fretted that the morbidly obese Glaswegian woman beside me might overwhelm the bench on which we and several others were seated, but it didn’t happen. I had an omelette and what the Brits (and, apparently, Turks) call chips, but which I grew up thinking of as French fries. Flavourless, but filling. Then it was down into an Actual Turkish Village, in which we were invited to peer through the windows of the local (empty) schoolhouse, and then invited to ogle the local mosque. Not even a little bit fascinating!

Once back at our hotel, we might have relaxed by the swimming pool but for the fact that there seems not to be a single big hotel swimming pool anywhere that Brits go anymore where awful disco music isn’t being played loudly enough to be heard on Rhodes when the self-styled DJ who curated it isn’t bellowing ecstatically, as though at a fieldful of kids on ecstasy rather than a hundred bloated tattoo monkeys from the north of England seemingly intent on sustaining third-degree sunburn.
I am no better able to imagine how endless disco music became inescapable on the edges of swimming pools than I am to figure out how people all over the world come to wish to wear clothing bearing the name of a sleepy little cow town in central California. I can no longer pretend that I’m not getting old. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

How Manuel Noriega Felt

Last week the missus and I traipsed through the most charming part of Marmaris, Turkey, the so-called Old Town adjacent to The Harbor, it occurred to me that there might be nowhere on earth I would hate more than Bar Street at midnight at the height of the season. I could easily envision it being full of drunken young yobs (obnoxious persons) throwing up on each other to the accompaniment of deafening house music, the worst music in world history, music dumbed down so far as barely to be recognizable as music.

Before we’d set out for the Old Town, we’d asked the leisure company representative by whom we were supposed to be welcomed our first afternoon about the free moonlight dinner cruise offered as an inducement to submit to the welcome, which traditionally involves the rep trying to persuade you to sign up for a slate of overpriced, invariably disappointing tours. We figured that on the moonlight dinner cruise, someone would try to talk us into subscribing to a timeshare arrangement. 

If only it had been only that bad. 

I got an odd, unpleasant feeling on noting that the ship on which we were to cruise was the pirate galleon Barbarossa. The ship, uh, weighed anchor and sailed for around 90 seconds toward the middle of the bay, where, to our astonishment, it stopped. And then the horror began — the dreadful, moronic “music,” with its relentless four bass drum beats per bar and its gall bladder-liquifyingly loud synth bass. THUD! THUD! THUD! Every 16 bars or so, the bass takes a powder while the synthesized snare drum plays eighth-notes, and then sixteenth-notes, and than sixteenth-note triplets, and finally thirty-second notes (a “roll,” we used to call it at Orville Wright Junior High School). Then the bass, re-entering, does a wonderful impression of the Big Bang. THUD! THUD! THUD! It’s undeniably exciting — the first couple of times you hear it. After 750 times over the course of an hour, you cease to be excited, and begin to know how Panamanian dictator (as “we” began calling him after the memo telling us to stop calling him “ally”) Manual Noriega felt when the U.S. Army used horrible music to induce his surrender. 

Is the idea that Kids Today can’t dance to Stevie Wonder’s “I Was Born to Love Her,” say, because without THUD! THUD! THUD!  they can’t figure out where the beat is? Is this some sort of drug thing? If I’d ingested a large dose of MDMA or acid, would I have been enjoying myself? Would I have felt that I and everyone else on the ship were, well, throbbing as one? 

I’m reminded of what’s happened to major league baseball. When I was young and foolish and a fan (it makes no more sense to root for a professional sports franchise than for a new Walmart or Home Depot), one had to make his own fun between innings. At best, Helen O’Dell might play a few bars of some tune beloved by The Whole Family — “Roll Out the Barrel,” let’s say. Nowadays, little entertainments are hurled at the fan not just between innings, but between pitches! We are a nation of spoiled four-year-olds. 


At a few minutes after eight, I asked a member of the Barbarossa crew when we would be returning to shore. At 11:30, he said. We had in front of us 210 minutes of THUD! THUD! THUD!, over which conversation was impossible. But we could always avail ourselves of the bar, with its outrageous boomtown prices, perhaps the highest in all of Turkey. I thought briefly of trying to organize a mutiny, but the first two people I approached with the idea — a couple of…lads from the North — turned out to be big fans of house music. I suggested to Spousie that we swim back to shore. Doing so was likely to take less than 210 minutes. Spousie reluctantly nixed the idea on the basis of not knowing how to swim. We looked hopefully at our wristwatches. Forty-five seconds had passed since our last look. We had 209 minutes and 15 seconds to go. “I wanna hear the fuckin’ bass,” someone growled malevolently through the ship’s immoderate sound system. 

I have always regarded Bob Seger’s “Old Time Rock and Roll” as purest crapola, and not because it’s impossible to hear without envisioning Tom Cruise in his underwear. But when mealtime arrived, and the DJ awarded us a wee respite from the house music, Bob Seger’s “Old Time Rock and Roll” sounded like Mozart’s Requiem. Real music! The meal, of course, was just awful. 

The original DJ, whom I’d somehow resisted the urge to strangle, had been joined in the booth while we dined by two accomplices. I think one of them must have been tasked with inserting American-accented interjections into the infernal thudding. “I wanna hear the fuckin’ bass,” the malevolent voice kept growling in an American accent, leading me to think, “If you can’t hear the fuckin’ bass, buster, you are what medical professionals call ‘deaf.’ The internal sloshing of what used to be your gall bladder should be more than sufficient proof that it’s there. THUD! THUD! THUD!  

By and by, we lost the will to live, and that might have been our salvation. We continued breathing and swallowing, and my best guess is that our hearts kept beating, but otherwise every other system shut down. THUD! THUD! THUD! went the music, but we had ceased to care. About anything.

After around 72 hours of this, the DJ’s caused blue foam to rain down on the handful of dancers. “Orgasmic!” I thought. “It must nearly be over now!” It’ll go to the bathroom, come back, lie down, and smoke a cigarette. No such luck. Before we finally weighed anchor anew, the torture persisted for another couple of months, or maybe it just seemed that way. When we finally reached the shore, I didn’t kiss the ground, but don’t imagine that the thought didn’t occur to me.