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.|
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.