I was excited about spending the summer in Istanbul, 7000 miles away from the ice cream trucks of Hampden. Yep- I’m the grouch who hates ice cream trucks. What could be better for children than to load up on sugar and empty calories right before bed? What could be better for poor city children, who already suffer from a lack of freshly prepared food, to have a truck full of yet more cheap, processed crap pull up right in front of their homes? And the music- what kid even knows the words to “Pop goes the Weasle” anymore for chrissakes? If they must play children’s music at teeth gritting volume while parked at the end of my block for 20 minutes, (and I’m not sure they do since their target demographic listens to Katy Perry and Hannah Montana) couldn’t it be something a little more current and a little less Jack-in-the-boxey? I would take the Wiggles, people. Ice cream trucks are a nuisance, noisewise, and on some fundamental level I find them predatory.
Sorry, I don’t know where that soap box came from, or how I came to be standing on it.
At any rate, I was really looking forward to a summer without ice cream trucks. But it’s election year, and you know what they have here instead? Election trucks! Trucks with the candidate’s face and political party’s slogans plastered on them, trucks all tricked out with megaphones, drive all over the city blaring political jingles and patriotic songs! (Three passed Dilko in the time it took me to write that.) One was circling my block, slowly, for an hour last week. While I was trying to watch a movie.
This election is a fraught one, (Americans: think 2004) and there’ve been lots of protests, and lots of trucks blaring slogans, and lots of shouting through megaphones in Taksim Square. So the other night when I left work at 10 and heard a ruckus coming from Taksim I just yawned and settled in on the bus stop bench to read until my bus came. I sat there for half an hour, as usual, and when I saw the 202 pull up I knew my bus would be close behind so I stood and walked to the end of the benches to wait. It dawned on me then that it was very late for there to still be megaphone shouting and music blaring coming from Taksim and I looked left and craned my head to see what was going on- and my jaw dropped. The sky was filled with lanterns- candles in little hot air balloons, that were slowly, majestically floating away towards the Bosporus. “Fuck the bus,” I muttered. I pulled out my camera and trotted to the square, which was full of people. A point-and-shoot in the night doesn’t do any of this justice, but all those points of light in the sky are lanterns. I wandered around for a bit snapping pictures of the protesters, or demonstrators, or whatever they were. (As usual I was standing behind the language barrier and completely clueless about what was going on). I saw a demonstrating baby with a torch (!!!!!):
and lots of people waving flags: And a boy in a tree. And an old lady selling grilled meat sandwiches: And lots more people doing stuff that you can see (blurily make out) at your leisure in my flickr account located at the right.
Later I learned that the protest was a memorial for Turks who were killed last year in a mercy mission to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza. You can read more about that, and watch youtube videos of the protest if you care to. It’s pretty interesting, heartbreaking stuff, and others have covered it better than I could. What I will show you, however, is the magic of getting a protest-lantern-balloon-thing off the ground.
This takes a while, and a lot of help from your friends.
When at last you get it lit you sit there and hold it open for a minute or two while the air inside the lantern gets hot.
…you let it go.