In what may become a regular feature, we're starting up "Neighborhood Blotter" here at Carpetblog. Its success will depend on my neighborhood's capacity to be interesting.
As the owner of an old wood house, I have more than a casual interest in fires. So when my bedroom was filled with red and blue strobe lights from firetrucks at 5 am this morning, I got up out of bed almost as fast as I did when the terrorist cat woke up the Carpetdogs.
Because Turks cannot resist a spectacle -- from a minor car accident to a five alarm five -- the whole neighborhood was already standing in the street, commenting, speculating and selling. The television cameras were there, as was the Simitci (guy who sells sesame covered bread-rings called simits, the ubiquitous Turkish street food). Women I had never seen before -- or failed to recognize since they were less covered up than usual -- held children by the hand and everyone was chatting while three trucks' worth of fire fighters went to work. (For reports of Carpetblogger's previous experience with foreign firefighters, look here).
The source of the fire was the Hurdaci's camp, which he had built out of scrap wood and plastic sheeting in a narrow vacant lot between two multi-story buildings. Every neighborhood has a Hurdaci -- or junk guy -- who collects everything from old appliances and pieces of unidentifiable metal to "antiques" in his big wooden wheelbarrow on rounds around the neighborhood. Our Hurdaci is gregarious and always has some pets for the Carpetdogs.
My sense is that there is a hierarchy of Hurdacis. At the bottom are the freelance recyclers who purge trash heaps of plastics, glass and any kind of paper, placing it in big plastic bags attached to metal dollies. A successful guy will have a bag stacked full of recyclables higher than his head by mid-day. Next are the guys who do metals, and electronics and then, "quality junque."
My street's Hurdaci seemed to just barely reach the latter category. With ugly chairs, paintings of questionable quality and old store fixtures for sale outside his little camp, I think he might have aspired to join the owners of the chic antique shops for which my street is famous. He had a ways to go, since by our standards, he was pretty much a homeless guy.
Should this be the case -- rather than the product of my imagination -- I think his dreams have, as they say, gone up in smoke.
While it didn't take the fire fighters long to dispatch the fire with water and foam, it was pretty hot and smoky. I wanted to ask if anyone had seen the Hurdaci, but apparently my Turkish is only functional between the hours of 9-5 pm. Remarkably, after I had been standing watching the fire for a good 10-15 minutes, the firefighters carried the dude out alive and apparently unhurt. He walked to the waiting ambulance.
The excitement was short lived and the camp is now nothing but a pile of charred rubble. Despite the fact that there are several vacant lots on the street and this one is especially narrow and remarkable in no way, one neighbor speculated that someone wanted to evict the Hurdaci and build on the lot. Personally, I think that the guy's open fire and propensity to drink are more plausible explanations.
As I walked past with the Carpetdogs this morning, I saw the Hurdaci dude, sleeping on the sidewalk next to his ruin. This week in Turkish class, I learned the grammar behind the the second most common phrase in Turkish (after "Mashallah"), which is "Allah Korusun," which is "May Allah watch over you." Allah was definitely paying attention to our street this morning.