A pedestrian thoroughfare blocked to traffic, Carpetblog Sokak (alley) has served as stage for many award-winning local productions, including, most famously, the Deli Komşu (Crazy Neighbor) knifing incident, the vicious attack on the carpetdogs by a feral cat, a fire (several actually, but only one documented), civil society development projects and suspected Jihads. The presence of the Köy (village) Komşuler, with their inbred children and baroque domestic disputes, ensures that we get to enjoy a slice of rural Anatolia in urbane Cihangir.
So this is why, while standing in the Sokak chatting with a friend on a hot day last week, seeing a baby chick running free didn't register (that much) surprise. (In fact, twice recently we've seen a ferret in the Sokak late at night but no one seems to believe us)
"We need to catch it," he said. "Or the cats will get it." Of course we do.
A series of unasked and unanswered questions rapidly followed.
Our friend, who happens to be Welsh, grabbed it. "It looks thirsty. We should get it some water," he suggested, turning toward our front door. Wait a second there. Indoor poultry was more common in the Carpetblogger ancestral home than we'd like to admit. "Uh, is there an exit strategy?" we thought, but, not wanting to seem anti-urban poultry in a moment of crisis, didn't ask.
"Did you know you can make chickens pass out by rubbing beneath their eyes?" Seconds later, the scrambling chick had passed out in the Welshman's hand, motionless.
"Are you the chicken whisperer?*" That question was asked.
Now that Ben-10 has left Istanbul, we had sort of assumed the role of primary source of trivia relating to livestock, but this was an open, and unexpected, challenge. It really made us wonder what else they teach in Welsh schools.
Then, shrieking from the fifth floor above us. "Abi! Abi!" shouted one of the resident urchins. All upper-floor Istanbul residents have a basket attached to a long rope that facilitates deliveries from street-level vegetable vendors and bakkalcıs. His mother, who has a cow's voice, tossed her pink plastic basket down to us in the Sokak.
The Welshman placed the since-revived chick in the basket. The Cow Kız hauled it up five stories and disappeared behind the curtains.
Why the Köy Komşuler keep chickens in their fifth floor apartment isn't a huge mystery, but it does make us curious about how many others are up there and how long it will be before they make their presence known in the way chickens know best. And it does sort of explain why a rusty butcher knife was the closest weapon at hand when Deli Komşu knifing incident escalated.
But other questions remain unresolved. How did the chick get from the fifth floor to the Sokak? Why do chickens pass out when you rub beneath their eyes? Who discovered that and under what circumstances?
Istanbul may be a city of 20 million people, but it's really just a big village.
*Or, the Cihangir Chicken Tickler