Bury Me Not

Posted on June 5, 2012


“O bury me not on the lone prairie.”

These words came low and mournfully

From the pallid lips of the youth who lay

On his dying bed at the close of day.

My teeth sank into the medium rare pattie and the first drop of grease hit a waxpaper sheet that had been fashioned for that exact purpose and strategically placed below the hamburger. Many culprits insultingly offer “hamburgers” here in Istanbul, but I’ve journeyed all the way down Bağdat street, past the many  Gucci and Lacoste shops, to eat this one. It’s called the Dukkan Burger, and it’s big and topped with real cheddar cheese.

Across the street, a TV crew has unloaded from their van and are filming the mourners attending a funeral service at the green Galippaşa Cami. Judging from the number of cameras, I knew it must be for someone famous. However, after I looked at the police there, I guessed it must be someone in the entertainment industry. It couldn’t have been a politician because the police only had pistols. Usually, they carry AKs for duties ranging from security detail for a concert to crossing guard. Therefore, I knew it must be someone famous but benign.

The sun was assaulting the wide avenue, and many of the mourners were wearing shades. For some reason, I found this incredibly offensive. Why would you wear shades to a funeral? I thought. What gives you the right? Here a man has taken the final scary step in life. He’s dead and they are going to stick him in a hole in the ground. It’s over for this guy. His one shot at life on this earth is spent.

And here are all these people mulling about comfortably in their shades. Their sensitive eyes shielded from the midday sun like baby quails shaded beneath their mother’s wings.

Something real is happening. Something solemn. Take off the damn glasses!

I hope my funeral is on the brightest hottest day of the year, and everyone there is squinting so hard they give themselves headaches. There will be no shades to remove and disentangle them from the reality of the moment. If I have to be dead, people will have to squint.

The mourners were keeping it light. Telling jokes and fond memories as they exited from the mosque’s gated courtyard. I found out later it was the funeral of Orhan Boran. Apparently, Mr. Boran was a legendary radio, stage, film, and TV figure. I read the titles of some of his plays and TV programs and concluded that he must have been a wholesome and well-meaning sort of fellow: Panel, Hello Friends (Merhaba Arkadaşlar), Sunday Nights With Orhan Boran (Orhan Boran ile Pazar Geceleri), and Moments With Orhan Boran (Orhan Boran’lı Dakikalar). He ended his long stage career with a show called A Musical Belly-Laugh. And I’m sure it was, but you aren’t laughing now are you Ole’ Orhan. As people are prancing about in shades posing sickeningly for the cameras, I bet you are wishing you’d put rat poison in their tea.

The phonies sidling up to the cameras with their “I was friends with Orhan Boran” smiles, looking down their noses at those who are merely “friend’s of the family.”

Now, listen. This beats everything. I took a swig from an ice cold Coca-Cola in a glass bottle while watching some delivery men carrying flowers into the courtyard. These were the kind of flowers usually awaiting the winners of the Kentucky Derby. That’s when I read the big banner drapped across the flowers. You couldn’t miss it. In large bolded font: Courtesy of Yadda Yadda, Attorneys at Law. Then another, Courtesy of HSBC Bank. Maybe a modest card tacked on to the flowers, so the family knows who sent them, I could understand. But the community has decided it’s acceptable to surround a dead man’s coffin with advertisements. And Turks are always harping about America, the capitalist country full of mindless consumerism. As my mother would say, “The pot is calling the kettle black.”

Finally, my pity for Orhan Boran’s body reached its apex. A soulless woman in shades passed the cameras and entered the courtyard carrying her instrument of defilement. In my opinion, she may as well have been carrying a can of spray paint tagging everything.

What she WAS carrying was an enormous Dolce and Gabana shopping bag. That’s right. It was admirable how she interrupted her Spring wardrobe shopping to pay her respects to a corpse.

And that is how I think I’ll end this rant. I wish those people would have remembered that there was a corpse there, there in the box everyone gathered around. Think about it. Humans have been gathering around dead bodies for quite some time now. It’s kind of an ancient and sacred ritual taking place here.

In the song “Bury me not on the lone prarie” or “The cowboy’s lament,” the dying man pleads to be buried with friends and family surrounding him rather than a lonely burial in the wilderness. However, if he had “friends” like Mr. Boran’s, I wonder if he would be singing a different tune.

Posted in: Istanbul, Neighbors