I know I’m not alone in wondering this. Can we manifest things? Don’t worry – you are at the SBHOPPER blog. I know I don’t get cosmic very often. I have not dropped acid. I really don’t even know what acid is. LSD? Timothy Leary stuff?

I won’t rule out trying it, though. If I make it to 70, that’s going to be one hell of a bacchanal. I should start Googling giant spit-roasted tofu in the shape of a pig. Capitalism, right? Has to exist. If not, maybe this is my niche calling. Supply and demand.

Manifesting. Does our mind make up connections and links it wants to see, or have our thoughts shaped the universe? I know, that’s crazy talk. All of you are seeing connections you want to see. My thoughts are shaping the universe. Probably not what you wanted to hear. We serve up tough love here.

So a few days ago I inadvertently started shaping the universe. I read about Turkey ruling that the Hagia Sophia was to be a mosque again. I stressed out about my poorly archived negatives and thought about starting with the Turkey photos, the vast (Vast!) majority of which are awful. I can no longer remember which came first.

The Hagia Sophia is beautiful. And that’s from someone with zero belief in Christianity or any other religion. I’m interested in religions and appreciate them. I’m just not a believer.

When I stepped off the plane in Istanbul in 2000 to teach English, I felt like I was coming home. It was a strange feeling. I’m not the first to say that. There’s something about Turkey. The history! I fell in love with the Byzantine era. Ottoman and Turkish history, too, but the Byzantines/Romans/Rum sank their claws in deep. John Julius Norwich’s reverence for Byzantium resonated. And the Hagia Sophia bound it all together. “Constantine, I have surpassed thee.” That may be true Justinian, but you didn’t need to screw over Belisarius at every turn.

When I read that Turkey was re-designating Hagia Sophia as a mosque instead of a museum, I was bummed. Hey, the Turks run Turkey, they can do what they want. They don’t and shouldn’t care what I think. But it seemed like a small, petty move. Turkey has bazillions of beautiful mosques. Having the Hagia Sophia and the Church of (in?) Chora as national museums seemed like a grand, secure, magnanimous gesture. Not my call.

I started flipping through my negatives. I really hate to admit it, but 99% of the photos I took while living in Turkey sucked. Garbage. But I plowed through the negatives, trying yet again to organize them. I’m hoping to get 20 good ones to put into a zine. Otherwise they’re in cheap albums, plastic sleeves, or hard drives that I’ll never look at.

While I was organizing them I started chatting with my childhood friends. Somehow we got to talking about Persian and Ottoman history, the Armenian genocide* (that phrase will probably get me hacked), Ataturk, the Turkish Republic, the Seljuk Turks, Alp Arslan, and 80s music. (*I can understand why Turkey gets annoyed by American politicians trying to place blame. Our history books act like the colonization of America was a win win for everyone, including native Americans and slaves. One does not get the feeling that American politicians are doing it to help Turkey and Armenia heal.)

Out of all of those topics, it was music we stayed on longest. I took the position that the crowd we ran in was largely musically ignorant. We were pretty much the jock contingent. It’s sort of hilarious to say that. We wouldn’t have met any pop culture stereotype levels on that front. Hard to explain. Sometimes we cement the definition, sometimes we’re defined, and sometimes it’s a grey zone. Our circle included a few popular jocks, most of our parents were mid- to upper-middle class for the area.

We had terrible taste in music. No, not terrible. There were bright spots. We followed old school Van Halen and AC/DC. My friend Scott introduced us to Run DMC, Public Enemy, and NWA. My friends Pi and Ray let us listen to their Bauhaus, Love and Rockets, and Gene Loves Jezebel. My sister took me to hear The Thompson Twins and OMD. But aside from Scott’s love of rap, we were accidental listeners. There were cool kids walking around with The Smiths and B52s shirts.

Foreign language to us. I wish we’d been better listeners. We eventually listened to The Clash, The Cure, Joy Division, and New Order, but earlier would have been better.

But maybe these things have their time and place. You can be introduced to something, but if you’re not ready to hear it, it might just fly right on by.

Had a zoom chat (I Zoomed?) with my sister and cousin tonight. I am compelled to add a warning here – about to talk a little about wanting to see parents. I think that is a tough subject for some, especially in these uncertain times, so click away if need be. Ok…so like a lot people, we’re trying to figure out how to safely visit parents. This virus is cruel on so many levels. It stalks the most vulnerable, and it robs people of what they’ve worked so long for – a retirement around grandchildren.

I won’t carry on with the doom and gloom. Let’s go to a bright spot. My sister told us that my niece/goddaughter is learning the guitar and listens to The Cure, The Clash, etc. I was over the moon. My niece is punk, she’s playing the guitar, and she’ll carry a little of Joe Strummer. My work is done here. Bucketlist achievement unlocked.

We still need to talk Turkey. I talk about my bad photos a lot. I’m not trying to play the self-deprecating card. I am 100% sincere – 99% of my photos are garbage. I hate them. That hurts. Almost as painful is when you see a photo that could have been a contender, even if just for me. I’ll show you one.


Istanbul, 2000 or 2001.

Istanbul, 2000 or 2001.

Forget all the scratches on the negative. I don’t care about them. I’m not trying to get this in a museum. Composition is important folks. I was so fixated on the …shit my memory is fading… old part of Constantinople…Sultanahmet?…that I missed the best part of the photo, the person fishing. I should have panned right a bit. As it is, I have a photo with a bad horizon. If I try to fix that I will cut off the most interesting part of the photo. Leave some wiggle room folks.