Monday, 6 September 2010

Fish death shade circle

Prestigious fish is still hunted - we wait for what comes out. The best fish is fish which you don’t really know what species of fish it is - but you can see what sort of flesh it has, more or less. I am always jealous of desert-island fiction (right, mainly Lost) because they get to spear fish and just eat them. Also, the Life of Pi, because he gets to drink raw turtle blood with no moral issues.

The waterfront in Istanbul - I didn’t know what the name of these were – they were white fish. I have a particular experience, I suppose, because I don’t know much about the names of anything, particularly fish. The hunters along the bridge put these ones in a bucket, and they kept shrimps separate. Baby sturgeon were set aside with water in ice cream tubs, for laying...(which is cool)

There are sort of grill-boats along the waterfront below the fishermen that serve up the fish, butterflied and in a crusty bread with lettuce, tomato and raw onions. They cost 2TL, there is only one thing to order, the guys are very fast and very good at staying upright. People flick the driest bits of crust over into the water when they have finished, for the growing baby fishies, which is nice. I saw one woman come specifically to dump a whole bagful of stale bread – the water near the edge is fairly scummy. Imagine if the pigeons that eat your Greggs crumbs were caught (in wire traps set by young boys saving up their 2d a beak for a bag o’ ferret squall), glazed and splayed on hotplates by the street vendors in Trafalgar Square; identifiable by the feet glued skyward on their distinctive black umbrellas. Pigeon thighs skewered with roast fig, hot potatoes, and paper cones with chestnuts, and malt vinegar with pulp. Instead of, erm...

Perhaps I romanticise. When you get your fried fish in bread, in Istanbul, you can sit on a little stool under a shade. There are lots and lots of people, everyone shares. On the table is a salt shaker which loads of salt comes out of (just let it happen, these salt-hole people knew what they were doing) and a pop bottle with a hole in the lid, full of lemon juice. You put this all over your sandwich. Many also bring over a little pot of pickles from a nearby pickle stand, and munch the both alternately.

The water motion through everything, the death of the fish, the crude perfection of the condiments, the much needed shade, the stillness in crowds...this was idyll, three times in..two days? I forgot. I was quite alone.

what happened while I ate this kebab is more interesting than kebab

So this guy came up while I was eating this, outdoors, by myself – the shade was the pretext for him coming over. Its cool, its fine, whatever, but sometimes crazy people come and talk to me (all the time – why me?!) so when he started speaking I was already thinking of a good excuse for leaving.

Well 2 hours later, I was still not sure if this guy was crazy or not, but he certainly earnt his 2 hours with his totally amazing conversation (possibly lies). This guy was around 60 years of age – an American, with little hair, and a heavy build, with light shades. His name was Michael. Mike.

Ok, here’s his story. This was Mike’s seventh or eighth time in Istanbul, over a period of around 20 years. He had been coming back each time to oversee the same project – a project which he played a critical role in orchestrating, a semi-secret project which was nearing the stage at which it would be released to the media (this was to be his last trip) and, in Michael’s oft-repeated phrase...change the way people think, about...everything.

The project was - the excavation of the Ark. It turns out that Mike had a couple of personal attributes that placed him uniquely well to discover these remains. Firstly, he was an all-out evangelical Christian – he really believed the Ark had been real, in some sense, and this mattered to him. Secondly, he was a high-school teacher of ancient languages, and almost as a hobby, had studied the holy books in several original scripts. Thirdly, before becoming a teacher, he had been a military cartographer.

It turns out that he was reading a passage about the final resting place of Noah’s Ark, which I wish I could remember the reference for. Anyway, as Mike was acquainted with cartological things, it suddenly dawned on him that the description –which discussed the grounding of the ark as simultaneous to the appearance of certain peaks – described an altitude, as the waters lowered. Already common theory established that the ark was likely to be found on Mount Ararat – so he began going for long hikes, in circles, around the mountain at that height. It took him a few trips, and he didn’t really know what he was looking for, but one day, the path gave way and he uncovered some really old carved wood in the permafrozen earth. Wood which he recognised as covered in proto-sumerian hieroglyphs.

Let me tell you a little about what the Ark turns out to be like. It is not a boat. Rather, the ark is a long cuboid – like a big shipping container, made of thick wood. Inside – and it had not yet been opened, but rather only scanned with electrics and things – were thousands of compartments of different sizes. These were the compartments were the animals spent the flood. Mike suspected that God had cleverly put all the creatures within into some sort of stasis – rather than the typical pooey roary oinkey picture we learn from school (and 2012). He had a typically anglo-techno explanation (a catholic would have accepted the mystery) about how God would have done this – something about silica – but it basically got around the food and poo problem. Now I could believe something like this had been found – I could believe that someone had once embalmed and stored species in a wooden ceremonial coffin to save them from a prophesised disaster, and that this could be the origin of the Noah story. But while I might expect bones, shells to be inside, Mike was quite clear – he was expecting empty compartments. The turtles had to have walked free, to populate the earth.

The whole operation was being bankrolled by the Turkish government and influential friends in the US military had also secured funds (perhaps the most plausible part of the story). It was all being done in a silver sheet heated tent, carefully melting the steep frozen edge of the mountain. Mike claimed the news was going to be broken in a few months. I never emailed the guy. Maybe I should.

I don’t think he was a compulsive lier. Rather I think he was a compulsive doer, of crazy things.