Sunday Morning Comin’ Down

Posted on March 17, 2012


[Johnny Cash singing Kris Kristofferson’s song about how Sundays can be in the southern US. I like the part where he catches the “Sunday smell of someone fryin’ chicken.”]

Growing up as a preacher’s kid, I couldn’t ignore the guilt that inevitably dogged me on Sundays when I wasn’t at church. When I was a teenager, I didn’t consider a small country church, painted Easter yellow and 1960’s brown, the most exciting way to spend my morning. So, I often played hooky, but the guilt was a sharp pulsing pain in my side the whole day. My father would come home exhausted and take off his tie. He was never upset with me for not coming, and his kindness and understanding just made me feel all the more wretched.

Now that I live half a world away in a Muslim country, you’d think God would understand me forsaking the fellowship. But, even though I’ve been here for years, every Sunday, I feel the dull guilt in my bones. I massage my joints, but it won’t go away.

And it’s there again this Sunday as I saddle up my two pugs for their morning walk. We step out into the streets of Kadıköy, and I’m struck by the particular vibe of Istanbul on Sundays.

The dogs and I plod along the empty streets, and the bells of the Armenian church start to chime. I was inside that sanctuary for Easter, so I can picture the impressive display: men with robes and glorious beards, glowing candles, and sweet incense.

Did I mention the streets are empty? At least over here on the Asian side, most businesses don’t open until well after lunch if they bother opening at all. The holiest day for Muslims may be Friday, but they keep the Sabbath better than we do back in the States. I usually will only see a handful of people out before one o’clock in the afternoon.

The only person on my street is the janitor at the Uğur Dershane prep school watering the street. If you haven’t lived in Turkey, you may not know what I mean by watering the street. Turkish people don’t sweep the sidewalks in front of their businesses. They water them. They take a hose or a bucket of water, and mop the floors inside the building. But they don’t stop there. They continue mopping out into the street. The janitor puffs on his cigarette and nods at the dogs and me as we pass. He has made our street into a flowing river which reflects the morning sun beautifully.

Down the hill at the market, I wait for some of the customers inside to leave. I go to this market because the family who run it are very friendly and allow us to take the dogs inside. But, right now, I see a few covered ladies waiting in line and decide to wait it out. They probably think my pugs carry numerous plagues on their bodies.

Waiting outside the shop, I hear a sharp thud. In front of the Veterinarian clinic, next to the market, an enormous yogurt bucket has landed on the ground. Attached to the bucket is long rope stretching up to the third or fourth floor. Somewhere just inside the open window, I know there is an old Turkish housewife holding the end of it. The unseen person pulls the bucket up a few feet and then lets it crash again to the ground. thud! tinkle tinkle. thud! tinkle tinkle. The tinkle is from the money inside the bucket.

All this excitement is attracting the attention of a Chow Chow hanging out in front of the vet’s office. Poor guy has some kind of mange or skin disease, so he has been shaved which is not a good look for a Chow. He bumbles over to the bucket and sticks his head in. Before he has time to make off with the money, someone got wise and pulls the bucket up. Now, this housewife is in a real dilemma. She still needs to drop the bucket to make the sound to signal the shopkeeper, but she is caught up in a game of come and get it with a hideous and bored Chow Chow.

Eventually, the shopkeeper steals a moment from the customers inside and leaves the store with a loaf of fresh bread and a tub of yogurt. She takes the money and puts the large tub of yogurt in the enormous tub of yogurt on a rope and gives two firm tugs.

The bucket is raised halfway to the window then stops. The shopkeeper counts the coins then gives the thumbs up and the transaction is complete.

There you have it. A Sunday tradition you can only find in Turkey.

Now that the customers are gone, I go inside to buy a glass bottle of günlük süt (daily milk) and cocoa puffs.

A nice start to a lazy day.

Here’s an interesting news story about buckets and ropes in Istanbul.

Posted in: Istanbul, Neighbors