I've just updated the weblog Best Bits and noticed that a while back, I talked about Kadri, quite possibly my favorite, but most terrifying, cat evar. This is the entire post, from when I was in Turkey in '98.
Deep in the heart of the tourist belt that runs along the Mediterranean coast of south-western Turkey lies a string of small towns that European holiday-makers have taken over and called their own. Dalyan is one of the smaller, more laid-back places and caters mostly for middle-aged office workers on their annual two-week break. The pace is somewhat slower than that of the raucous party towns of Marmaris and Bodrum. Here, there are river boat trips, turtle-spotting boat trips, boat trips to the nearby Lycian ruins, boat trips to..., well, you get the idea.
I was lucky to stumble across the Blues Bar on my first night, hidden away in a little backstreet with only a barely visible sign to attract people in off the main road (although some of the lights were broken so that it actually read "Blu:s Bar -->"). It was a tiny, open-air venue dominated by numerous pictures of famous jazz and blues musicians on the walls: Miles Davis looking, as always, seriously cool, an amazingly young (and thin) B.B. King, Thelonious Monk, Buddy Guy, Aretha Franklin - this was my kind of bar!
Most of the seating was outdoors and being next to a restaurant, the place was overrun with cats looking for scraps of food and a bit of attention. King of the alley was Kadri, a huge, jet-black panther of a cat that everyone was scared of, customers included, not just the other cats. Bad-tempered and grumpy, he would perhaps allow you to pet him for a short while before ripping your arm off when he'd had enough. And it was just too bad if you left your seat and came back to find him curled up there - no-one was brave enough to try to shift him and you just had to go find yourself somewhere else to sit. Nevertheless, the two of us got along just fine, obviously sensing a kindred spirit in each other.
The owner of the bar was a big, hairy Turkish guy named Murat (in Turkey, all the guys are big and hairy) who had studied American Literature and spoke English well. He had done his thesis on the American Blues and was an avid connoisseur - the cupboard behind the bar was jam-packed with old shoeboxes stuffed with cassettes from the obscurest of blues musicians. We listened to them incessantly and he would get quite upset if I tried to spice things up with a little jazz or fusion, yelling at me to change the music and put something on that the customers really wanted to hear.
He also tried to teach me some of the language but I stubbornly resisted, Turkish being one of the world's most useless languages to know (after Thai) but I did pick up a few Turkish proverbs and learnt such gems as "to hit a tree while driving through the desert", "if you can't avoid being raped then you might as well lie back and enjoy it" and my personal favourite: "a man without a belly is like a house without a balcony".
Each night he would sing and play guitar while his Australian wife served drinks and made pleasant conversation with the customers. I had brought my horn along and sat in for a few nights - the two of us worked well together and before I knew what was happening, I was being offered a job. I was forced to accept, unlimited free booze being part of the deal, and so it was that the World-Famous Dalyan Blues Machine came into being.
There was a constant stream of people passing through town who would come join us for a session: a really sweet couple from the U.S. who played bluegrass and country to a standing ovation, a skinhead from Ankara with a permanent snarl on his face who had mastered the art of playing his guitar and giving the audience the finger at the same time, a really good English saxophonist, a really bad English saxophonist, some short, fat guy who came several times and would sit in for the entire night with a stupid grin on his face, doing nothing more than keep the beat on a Turkish drum (which drove me nuts - he had no idea how close he came to death, or at least serious injury each night). But always, every night, there would be Murat 'n' Taka banging away on our instruments, just waiting to see what would happen next.
And when we weren't blowing the Turkish blues, we were fighting it out over a backgammon board. As soon as the gig was over, out came the set and the testosterone really started to flow (in Turkey, "tavla" is not so much a board game as a test of manhood). We swore at each other in Turkish and Thai as our fortunes ebbed and flowed - he would roll his eyes towards the heavens, urging Allah to give him the best numbers while I spent my time trying to learn how to rig the dice roll. We were evenly matched with neither one of us really able to get an edge and so the sound of wooden backgammon pieces being slammed down onto the board would ring through the night until the early, early hours.