The older you get, the more you realize what you really need in life.
For example, I never used to think I needed a hand-woven Turkish carpet. E-tap? Yes, I needed that. Carbon frame made from carbon with lots of carbon and all-carbon? Yep, I needed that, too. An Austrian mill for grinding wheat in my bedroom? Oh, hell yes.
But it never occurred to me that what I needed more than all of that put together was a carpet. This is because we never know what we need until it is time.
Fortunately, here in Izmir, there are a lot folks who knew that I needed a carpet even though I didn’t. And even more fortunately, when I was walking aimlessly in the market, it was evident to all and sundry that the look on my face was, “I NEED A CARPET, NOW.”
That’s when a man tugged at my elbow. “Excuse me, good sir, but where are you from?”
The way you are supposed to deal with people in the bazaar is to keep walking, so I stopped. “California.”
“Oh, that is a beautiful country, most beautiful. Tell me, good sir, are you here for long?”
The way you are supposed to deal with queries at the bazaar is to dissemble and keep moving. The fellow waved me into a chair, so I sat. “I’m leaving on Thursday,” I said.
“Now tell me, good sir, how would you like to buy a fine leather jacket?”
“I generally don’t do well with anything ‘fine.'” I motioned to my cheap cotton hoodie.
“Yes, yes, but we can make you handsome and elegant and luxurious in a beautiful leather jacket. Come with me, but first some tea.” He called out to his cousin and although I don’t speak Turkish, I understood him perfectly. “Get the sucker some tea,” he said.
Out came the tea. “So tell me about your family,” he said. “You must have beautiful children.”
“They used to be but now they are too grown up to be beautiful.”
“A child is always beautiful to a parent though he is a hundred.”
“The child or the parent?” I asked.
“Yes, yes, of course,” said Burak. “Of course. What size of leather jacket is best for you?”
“The size that is free,” I said.
“We do not have that size,” he said gravely.
I drank the delicious tea. “I’m afraid I’m not in the market for any clothing.”
Burak looked mournfully at the teacup. “There is no obligation to buy anything, we are friends, you and I.”
“It seems to me that you are a simple man in appearance but very complex inside, very complex, like internal combustion engine.”
“I’ve been called worse.”
“To me you must needs appear to be one who would own a fine Turkish carpet.”
“If it’s in the same price range as my price range for leather jackets, I’m in.”
Burak called out to his cousin and said something like, “This cheap bastard has wasted all our time and drunk our tea let’s take him to the carpet shop and get a commission.”
Burak took me by the arm and guided me through the throng. We turned left, then right, then left, then right, then right, then went up some stairs, then around a corner, then left, and then we left the bazaar entirely and began ascending the steepest, most narrow streets I have ever seen. Eventually they became so steep that they turned into stairs, and I was lathered in sweat.
Small children peered out from doorways as my guide pushed me onward and upward, going from lost to very lost to completely lost.
Finally we came to a small building. “This is my cousin’s carpet shop. Only finest carpets,” he said.
We ascended the narrowest of stairs and went down a hallway and up some more stairs and then around a corner down a dark hallway and came to a small wooden door with iron bars and a peephole. Burak knocked and I saw an eye in the peephole. The door opened and Burak guided me in.
“Here is a sucker,” he must have said. “Sell him a carpet but be careful as he will drink all your tea and fart.” Then in English he said, “I bring to you my cousin Arda, carpets most beautiful on earth.”
He pushed me across the threshold. The door closed behind me, and Burak was gone. The single room was well but not brightly lit, and three of its four walls were stacked high with folded carpets. The fourth wall had a sofa and next to it a desk and a small chair.
A man with a large black beard in a thick gray suit sat on one end of the sofa. In the chair a thin man in a t-shirt smoked a cigarette and eyed me. I heard the bolt in the door shoot home. “Hello, good sir, welcome, welcome! Let us serve you a tea? Or perhaps a Turkish coffee?”
“Coffee would be great,” I said, and settled into the sofa.
In the middle of the room two older men were unfolding carpets, one after another, things of dazzling beauty and no insignificant weight. They were apparently wrapping up a deal with a French gentleman. I followed the conversation in French. “For you, because you are my friend, because your wife is beautiful wife, because your daughter is beautiful daughter, because your son is handsome and strong, and because today is Saturday, I make you a special offer.”
“Yes?” The French guy said.
“4000 Turkish lira, 800 US dollar.”
“That is a good price.”
“No, no,” the fellow scolded. “It is magnificent price, beautiful price, you can never find such price and quality but here. And I give you free pillow case, but machine made so not too special.”
The French guy and his wife conferred. “Okay, we will take it.”
They rolled up the carpet, bagged it, and sent the customers on their way.
The older of the two straightened after putting away the other carpets and turned to me. “Where are you from, good sir?”
“A beautiful, beautiful country. And you are a lover of Turkish carpets?”
“Then you have come to paradise.” He waved at the walls. “Would you like to purchase a carpet, or a kilim, or perhaps both? Your lovely wife would desire both.”
“What’s the difference?”
“The carpet is thicker, double knotted, and warmer, heavier, the kilim is better for your summer home, single layer, cooler, lighter, easier to carry.”
His cousin rolled out a dazzling kilim. “But I can see you are a man of excellent taste.”
“Where does it say that?”
“Your eyes, they are of a connoisseur.”
“I don’t know anything about carpets.”
“Perhaps but you know much of life and quality things, you can easily become expert in Turkish carpet. And for you, because you are my friend, and because today is Saturday, I make you a special offer only to you because you come from so far.”
“What does Saturday have to do with it?”
“Saturday we are happy and relaxed and joyful for Sunday, but Sunday we eat much food, spend all our money, and come to work anxious and needful to sell many carpets and make money, so no discount. But today is lucky day, Saturday.”
“This carpet which will look beautiful in your bedroom for only 4000 Turkish lira, less than 800 US dollars, and this kilim for your lovely daughter, for only 2000 Turkish lira, less than 400 US dollars.”
“How did you know I have a daughter?”
“You have a careful grooming of man accustomed to listening to daughter’s loving advice about clipping long nose hairs and such. Tell me, would you like shipped FedEx or regular freight?”
“Look, Arda, I’m not in the market for a carpet today.”
“Of course not, because Turkish carpet is investment for a lifetime. A leather jacket you can purchase one day, but Turkish carpet your purchase lifetime. It’s good investment.”
“I suppose so. Let me think about it, okay?”
“No obligation, only enjoy coffee and tell me about your beautiful children.” He sat next to me on the couch.
“Can I tell you about my grandchildren instead?”
“Ah, grandchildren? You are a blessed man indeed, praise Allah.”
He meant it.
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