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Galeta Tower show.

Kyria and I, upon getting to our apartment, quickly showered and got ready.

I should say a few things about our toilet.

Toilets are part of international travel and honesty about the toilets is always a travel-guide plus. We actually had two toilets: one in the apartment bathroom and a second in the washer-room across the hall. The second toilet was in case the power went out. The reason I was given for this was that our toilet was a “macerating toilet.” I’d never encountered this term and it, unfortunately, mingled slightly with the word masticating in my head. I was left with the mental image of an anthropomorphized toilet…not unlike Pee-wee Herman’s friend, Chairy…carefully chewing everything. The truth of the macerating toilet is, simply, that it uses a system a rotating cutting blades to liquefy the human waste before in enters the sewer-system. Our toilet made an unusual, but not terrifying, grinding noise when flushed, thanks to the rotating cutting blades. The anthropomorphized toilet in my brain, however, says OM NOM NOM.

Our toilet also had a sticker depicting things that should be tossed into it. I wish I’d taken a picture of it. I do love warning visuals. Depicted were the usual suspects, trash, used condoms, and such and then it got into territory like razor blades. Because I don’t think Kyria photographed the image either, I’ll pretend that full-blown knives and guns were also depicted as unflushable.

Toilets in Turkey, like many worldly toilets, don’t want your filthy waste paper flushed. These had to be deposited in a waste can. Because we were apartment living, not hotel living, we didn’t have a maid to wisk everything away, although if we’d stayed longer we could have had once-a-week cleaning. The directions for disposing of trash written in our apartment guide told us to simply put it out, at night, near the concrete planter by the street. I was never 100% sure which planter, or where in location to place it, and nothing ever looked like a designated garbage place. I can’t speak for Kyria but when it was my turn to toss stuff I would look both ways, hope no-one was looking, and ditch my bags where I hoped to be the correct location and scurry back inside quickly incase I was simply littering.

We cleaned up and put on our going-out gear. Kyria had packed many, nice, stretchy cotton-blend dresses that didn’t wrinkle. I’d packed many homemade skirts and colorful t-shirts. She, looking sexy and smart, and I, looking colorful and cute, walked down the four flights of stairs outside, turned left, turned right, and crossed to Galeta Tower.

Wiki Break it down for us!:

The nine-story tower is 66.90 meters tall (62.59 m without the ornament on top, 51.65 m at the observation deck), and was the city's tallest structure when it was built. The elevation at ground level is 35 meters above sea-level. The tower has an external diameter of 16.45 meters at the base, an 8.95 meters diameter inside, and walls that are 3.75 meters thick.

There is a restaurant and café on its upper floors which commands a magnificent view of Istanbul and the Bosphorus. Also located on the upper floors is a nightclub which hosts a Turkish show. There are two operating elevators that carry visitors from the lower level to the upper levels.

Not sure what the protocol was, as the elevators were also for people with tickets to see the view from Galeta, which they needed a ticket for, I told the man “For the show. OZLEM made us reservations. OZLEM THE DANCER.”

I’ve never been to Egypt. My trip to Istanbul last time made me realize I didn’t have to be an undercover dancer/dance enthusiast. It wasn’t what I presented myself as if not asked…and outside of the Sultanhamet area, pushy people didn’t ask.

The Tower show was under-attended. Ramadan isn’t a huge time for tourists. When things are super busy, the Galeta actually has two simulnatious shows, one upstairs and one below and the performers scurry from one to the next. This isn’t unusual. I remember seeing it at Karavansarai last time. There’s some talk of the government wanting to reclaim the nightclub for itself, despite the fact that there is a long history of the inner restauraunt/nightclub being privately owned. All the performers are aware of this and slightly anxious.

Our waiter took us to our table, by the windows, and then came back to move us right next to the stage…no doubt because we were getting the FRIENDS OF OZELM treatment. He also asked us where we were from. We offered up Holland, America AND Japan…I didn’t think he’d bring us all three flags for our table…but he did.

From our table we could still see out the windows. You couldn’t really take in the amazing view as much as you could watch people posing for pictures in-front of the view. I rather enjoy watching people photographing people. This is in contrast to my general dislike (my mother is laughing) of being photographed on vacations.

We started on our wines and, now a bit more ready to get to know another person, started talking about our lives, backgrounds, and sex-related-views. We also reflected on how goddamned lucky we are to be women who can who can work at the things that fill our hearts, and can go off and travel AND hang-out with other like-minded women. Cheers to the women who fought and who still fight for a woman’s right to make her own choices and pursue her own dreams.

They really kept feeding us. We’re not sure all of what we ate.

The place was less that half full. At the front of the tiny stage was an English family (flags!) with a lovely daughter, elementary school aged, who was excited to be there. This made me happy as I suspected she’d enjoy the heck out of all parts of the show…and I love dancing for happy children. My last gig had one very happy child who made up for the 11-ish-year-old-girl who shoved her fingers in her ears and turned away, refusing to look at me. Some preteens just aren’t ready to be confronted with the fact of breasts and hips existing WITH THEIR PARENTS RIGHT THERE!!!

We also took in some lovely hooker-wear at the back of the small venue.

While we ate and waited there were cheesy musicians playing cheesy western music. I rather hoped they wouldn’t be the live band Ozlem had been happy about..and they WEREN’T!! YAY! We could see dancers in “folkish” costumes waiting to start.


And…um…sultan. Sultan* with plates of cut-up watermelons with toothpicks next to him. Light-weight dancing girls in red haremy-panted folkloric costumes with pilboxy-hats pranced around a bit…dancing with tambourines**. Two other women, dressed similarly, sat next to the Sultan and alternately fed him watermelons, were fed watermelons. I assume this becomes a strange passive-aggressive feeding game if you work there and do the show. It would be for me.

*I am totally cool with you doing Sultan Shtick if you are a tourist nightclub in a country that HAD a Sultanate.

**I have unresolved issues with tambourine play.

Then came on dancer 1. Pretty, Light-blue Bella-lite costume.Most of the nightclubs have 2 or 3 dancers. Usually the first is…um…no great shakes. She hadn’t even started when it became time for me to deal with my tambourine issue. Dancer 1 was getting people UP ON STAGE.

I don't like getting up to dance at shows. I am there to see. I am off-duty. I also understand what will happen to a dancer if I say no, she’ll have a worse time getting other people up. I’ll do it, and I’ll be fun, but I’d rather not. One woman I’d noticed in hookerwear, myself, and two other ladies were soon on stage. They put red pillbox hats on us, put goddamned tambourines in our hands, and sat us next to the Sultan. They indicated that we were to play our goddamned tambourines.

I was fed watermelon by a Sultan. I played my goddamned tambourine. Kyria has photos. You can’t give me a percussion instrument and familiar rhythms and expect me to simply bang out the downbeat.

The dancer was ok. Not great. Total points off for making “The hell?” faces at the band…sure, the audience members couldn’t see that clearly…except those of us ON STAGE, sitting in-front of the band with our goddamned tambourines

Awww…hell. Time to dance with the dancer. First two victims are up. I am no fan of this. I do it, because it is part of what restaurants want of me, but my goal is always to be the most absurd person. I won’t make my volunteer the butt of the joke. I’ll let them be silly, but I won’t go near anything that will make them feel stupid.

Then it was our turn. Yeah. I’m not going to pretend I don’t know how to do a chest lift when presented one…and I’m not going to compromise my form by lifting my chest by arcing and shoving my shoulders back the way the dancer was showing me to.. Dancer 1 realized, quickly, that I wasn’t going to be wacky-can’t-do-it audience member. I’d generally say the way to deal with this would be to have a quick, fun, dance with audience member who can dance. I don’t suggest that you play “Oh, yeah, can you do THIS?” I came to Istanbul knowing how to follow-the-bouncing-butt.

She brought out piston hips over a level change to the floor snake arms, and then back up. If I were average audience member or had bad knees…not nice…but YES, I CAN DO THAT AND I DID. Shimmy? Yes, I can! Shimmies layered over stomach undulations? You don’t know how I love my tumulations, lady.

That would be the point where she grabbed my T-shirt, pulled it up, and wedged it under my bra. Yup. For realz. HI ISTANBUL! ENJOY, MY TUMMY! ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?!

Then I was allowed off stage. I think I won that round.

Then there was the mix of folksy dancing boys and girls. Then it was the dancing boys, Black Sea style…but kinda silly Black Sea style. I say this because once you’ve seen Ahmet Luleci or his troupe go to fucking town on Black Sea dances, the rest kinda seem like prancing boys.

But, I like prancing, manly, boys doing stompy  spinny things. As nightclub shows go, everyone seemed to be having fun on stage…which isn’t always the case. In comparision to other shows I’d seen (Karavansarai, Oriental House, Istanbul Inn) it was a smaller stage, smaller production overall, but everyone seemed to enjoy working together.

Then came more…AUDIENCE HUMILIATION! The Three Stompy Boys do a bit with one member balancing and flicking knives with his chin into a cutting board held on the crotch of another member laying on the ground. Then they get an audience member…a rather cute, hawt, rakish American. He gets a smaller board! He gets more taunting…and at one point I think a visual joke accidently resulted in him getting slightly nut-kicked. We felt for him. Good sport. Good sporty sport cute guy.


Um. Ozlem fucking BROUGHT it. I wish I’d had more time to study in Istanbul. I’d love to work on shimmy drills with her. She’s smallish but a powerhouse. She rolled with what the musicians were playing. The musicians like to mix it up and know that they can toss things out, for fun, with her. She later told us they’d decided to keep it on the shorter side, so no floorwork (which I would have liked to see…and if I liked it, I probably would have bugged her for a private in floor). She was just a little, powerful, playful, dancer who left it all on stage. It being emotions, body glitter, and sweat. There was elegance, drum solo power, emotions, Roma 9/8…everything.

Well, everything but zills. She plays zills and knows how to play, but she shared the fact many musicians have burned out on dancers who don’t know how to play zills well and can’t play along with/enrich live music that they prefer dancers just…don’t.

Then came desserts and that damned man who sings songs from every country represented in the house. This is usually when I get the bill, we were stuffed to the gills and unable to finish our desserts, but we weren’t sure when Ozlem would be free to join us so we waited.

I have to hand it to the older man who sings songs from every country. He’s a trooper…or totally impervious. He KNOWS people leave when he sings…but he does not give up.

The English girl and I got in a flag waving competition for a while…until her flag escaped its stick and was trampled a while under the dancing shuffler of the singing man. She eventually rescued it…while I waved my flag in a taunting manner.

(I got my flaaaaag, and you don’t got one….sung to the “I got some ice cream” taunt)

He kept singing. I hid my Japan flag. One less country. It didn’t matter that it was eventually just me, Kyria, and a Nordic couple. He didn’t give up. He actively crooned for at least 50 minutes.

We were told our with-dancer discount and Ozlem joined us for gossip and a drink. She’s wip-smart. We talked about our local scenes and what the Istanbul scene is like. The woman from the Nordic couple (Norway I think?) came up to complement us. She was a year or so into learning Bellydance. She enjoyed my dancing, even if it was under duress, because she’d been disappointed with the original dancer She’d enjoyed the everyloving hell out of Ozlem (as she should) and Ozlem surprised her by busting out the Swedish (Ozlem lived and studied in Sweden for a while)…the languages spoken by each were just similar enough to be understood. Her boyfriend/husband stood around awkwardly during the love fest.

Kyria and I gossiped a while longer with Ozlem. I suggested to Ozlem that she really needs to get to know Tania (originally from Portugal, just moved to Istanbul from Osaka. Hell of a dancer and brain). We hoped to be able to meet up with Ozlem again while Kyria and I were still in Istanbul. It didn’t happen…but I think we’d all hang well.

Kyria and I took our tipsy-selves down the stairs, down the elevators, across the street (turn right, turn left), up the 4 flights of stairs…to bed.

Because the laundry lady had taken our extra top-sheet, I sleep half under one of my travel scarves. That was preferable to both of us trying to share a top-sheet, as we are both confessed sheet-grabbers. It was somewhat pathetic. Kyria offered that we could take turns sleeping with a sheet. I said yes, maybe…but as a good hostess…I wasn’t going to let that happen.

Bed time!

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