Category Archives: Missives from Abroad

Riding a Scooter in Istanbul (we just took it to the mall)


Dearest Readers,
I have decided to post another video, this one of a day playing with our new scooter.
It’s difficult to decide whether or not to end this silly blog, or to try to reframe it in some way that someone may find relevant.

Here is a video that we made.. trying to find a place for a little kid to ride a scooter can be difficult in a big city like Istanbul.

I’d like to end here


There is a funny feeling you get when you realize that you started something and it’s not going anywhere. It’s time to lose it. Get rid of it.

Should you separate yourself from it? Should you own it? Was it a mistake?

Maybe, for a minute or two, but not as many minutes as you spent.
Half-hearted effort?
Yes, unfortunately.

This page is coming down.

– J

Existential Grief and the Experience of Being


Bursa, 1974

Dearest Zissy,
After some great deliberation, I’ve come to the point and made an agreement with myself that I now need to organize my thoughts to form a solution for what ails me. What ails me is most likely what ails you and so many others: a vague and sneaky malaise that whispers hints to you that all is not well between bites of sweets or what other distractions you may give to yourself to thwart existential grief and the experience of being.

The solution, I have decided, is humor and love, as well as a kind and generous regard for others (regardless of what horrifying stupidity we may expect from them), each in the right measure and in the right places, applied generously wherever and whatever and blah blah blah. I wish you fuzzy feelings, and I feel very fuzzy in return.

To spread butter, one needs a knife, but because a knife is not suited to spreading warm, fuzzy feelings, I’ll need something bigger, with more reach and a less threatening appearance. For lack of a better idea, I’m going to have to resort to the written word and short moving pictures, until there comes a day when I can afford to send free massage coupons to thousands of people or when I am permitted to touch them directly.

The solution for this uneasy condition which is only too common is direct creative action for its own sake and the likely dismay of any of those unlucky enough to witness it.

This is the mission that I give to myself, for surely no one would ever give it to me nor even grant me permission if it were theirs to withhold.

I must end here now, Dear Zissy. Edmund is painting our walls with a material that he believes will enhance the intelligence of anyone who enters the house. It looks like a toxic black pudding, and the fumes from the stuff has us feeling sleepy and seeing spots. I am taking Horace to a hotel.

Love Always,
J. Ozawa

Big Nostrils


Dearest Zissy,

I have been unable to understand the joy and frequency with which young Horace inserts fried potato wedges into his nostrils, but I fear they may become stretched one day, able to accomodate entire potatoes, much as Edmund has described his unfortunate uncle, who fell victim to a similar childhood curiosity for inserting objects into his nose. His case resulted in nostrils that were so stretched and thin that they hung over his lip and occassionally caught on his fork.

I hope that you are well, as I haven’t heard from you in quite some time. Please don’t be concerned about Horace or his nostrils, as he is still quite handsome and could endure any amount of self-inflicted defacement and still win hearts.

Edmund sends his love. He is still not talking with me, but he has thrown a crumpled note at my head with a message to that effect.

Take Care,

J. Ozawa

The Unibrow Story


Istanbul, 1979

Dearest Zissy,

I am writing to you with sore feet and a bruised ego, for today I learned that in spite of my often depreciating view of myself, I am further depreciated by age and a growth of hair between my eyes. Lost on the Anatolian side of Istanbul, I met my first evidence of discrimination in this country when I found myself unable to obtain directions because of my appearance.

With my smattering of Turkish and English speaking persons unwilling to engage me in conversation, I found one individual who glared cruelly at me and stabbed angrily at her own head with her pointer finger until her nail opened a small wound exactly between her eyes. I turned from her, frightened, only to meet another woman who clicked her tongue and stared darkly into my face.

It was then that a helpful gentleman with a goat took my jacket and pulled me into an alley and began assaulting my face with shears. It was an agonizing few seconds under the knife of a man who can shave 100 pound animals faster than a normal person can tie shoes, but instead focused on just a square centimeter of my face.

Without a word he stood up, leaving me in a heap on the dirty floor.My patch of unsightly hair had been replaced by a patch of chafed skin that bled slightly. The kind faces that met me thereafter made me happy for my injury, and I was able to get fast, accurate directions to a place where I could meet the correct bus to take me home.

I shall stop writing now, it is getting quite late and I need to take Edmund to the hospital after trying to recound to him exactly how I got my injury.


J. Ozawa

New Vlog: Screaming Turkey video #51: We hate the cutting guy/Scratched my iphone!


Dearest Zissy,

In recent weeks, we’d been afraid to leave our home for fear that it would be demolished behind us. Construction crews and demolition crews in Istanbul are nearly on top of each other, running neck and neck in their race to make this city look more horrible and likely to fall over in the next earthquake.

Little Horace has begun knawing on the wood and leather objects around the house due to lack of sunlight, so today I resolved to detach myself from this little place emotionally and let the crews have it if they want it.

It is still standing today, but tomorrow and the next day, I shall do the same, and each day after, until one day I come home to a pile of rubble.

My new attitude is quite freeing, and Horace and I had a lovely day in the sun.

J. Ozawa

A terrible, terrible dream..


Dearest Zissy,

It grieves me so to have had no news from you in so long. How long has it been? How many moons? How many trips around these tired worry beads do my fingers need to take until the sun shines again?

Little Horace has been a terror at school. His teacher, the long, graceful swan of a creature who impressed with her long years of education and experience, has requested that I help her to pay for the cost of treatment for her alcoholism by having bottles delivered to her home under cover of night. I have agreed to say nothing to anyone about why her big brown eyes seem to swim in her cloud of perfume and mouthwash smell. She’ll be found out, but it won’t be because of anything I’ve said. It will be because of Horace, this wonderful little boy of mine.

My pride and joy. May no one ever hope to manage him.

I had a dream last night that the Russians were coming. In my dream, the ruling party was good at robbing people and seducing villagers, but dreadfully inept at foreign affairs. They’d awakened the bear and there was hell to pay, and no amount of shrieking, defiant slogans, or journalists placed under arrest was going to change the reality of that helltrain coming off the rails.

Edmund is well. He’s gaunt and deathly as ever. He send his love.

I do to.


J. Ozawa

The Reptilian Scourge, Numerology, and Aliens


Istanbul, 1977

Dearest Zissy,

I was very sorry to hear of your father’s passing for lack of a Lazy Susan. Still, we can take comfort in the fact that your mother is still being provided for.

Edmund is well, or as well as can be expected. He is trying a fruitarian diet. I have tried unsuccessfully one several occasions to fool him with non-fruit, but the man knows what a fruit is and his body is punishing him for it.

Little Horace is still little and should remain so for some time. He brightens my life and brings noise and laughter to our home, which also drew the attention of our crackpot neighbor and her two shrieking lungs. Her fists deserve some mention as well, as they spend a good deal of their existence pounding on the wall in an effort to silence us.

As toddlers shan’t be silenced, we decided to try to make peace with the shivering wraith by baking her one of Edmund’s lemon and banana cakes, but within an hour Edmund was cleaning it off of our door to the sound of her bony fisted pounding and yells. Poor Horace was beside himself.

I went to talk to her myself and give her a piece of my mind, but when she opened the door, I found her countenaince to be quite sweet and cordial, and even likable, as if the devil that possessed her were taking a nap. I found myself whispering hurriedly in order to not wake it before I could get my message across.

She invited me to dinner to meet a group of her friends, which I found quite odd. I asked the place, and she said that it would be in a ballroom in Kadikoy, just 20 minutes away. I was nearly afraid for my life over this curious development, but I went, determined to have peace between our two houses, and honestly did not give a thought to whether or not I would enjoy an evening with one whom I still regarded as a miserable person.

The meal was peculiar, at best, with cold beef sandwiches, cold chips, and ayran, that horrible salty yogurt drink. During the meal, at a table where I sat with five others, I was asked one question after another, until I felt the need to ask why I was the center their attention. No one seemed to have a job. No one played golf. No one read books or knew what was on television. They deflected my questions and asked more about me. I changed the subject several times, and each time the subject turned back to me. One after the other, they looked into my eyes, pinched my face, and looked at my neck. An old man crawled under the table to examine my ankles.

At that point, I stood up to leave, and if you had smacked me with a dead cat and thrown me down the stairs, I could not have felt more cold or more cruel towards this world or its miserable inhabitants, for it was then that I noticed the banner which featured a reptilian couple with a warning that alien snake people could be among your friends and neighbors.

In the center of me, just under my sternum, there stirred the little bit of humor that has remained with me into my advanced adulthood. It positively glowed when the lights dimmed and a projector kicked on and a dramatization of aliens among us shown on a screen. I chuckled at talk about numerology and foretellings by Rumi of alien benefactors.

The night became fun, and I had a fabulous time. Surrounded by this hokey cult, I felt suddenly at home.

That night, I shared a taxi with the mean-spirited wretch and she became genuinely sweet, even flirtatious, and I felt comforted by the fact that I had passed all of their alien frogman tests.

We passed her door, and she lingered there for a short while before she invited me in. I begged her off and said that Horace would likely still be awake, unable to sleep until I returned home.

Once home, I informed Edmund that we would be leaving, and we began to pack.

The tomb and the tuk tuk driver

She's a bıt strange.
She can drive our tuk-tuk.

Istanbul, 1976

Dearest Zissy,

I cannot begin to tell you how happy I was when I learned of your learning to drive. Edmund has repainted our tuk-tuk in preparation of your visit. I hope you like orange, for there is plenty of orange to be found on the seats, windows, lights, and tires of the vehicle, as well as a dab or two on the main body panels of the vehicle, which could very easily be attributed to Edmund’s blindness. Also, should the subject of the car’s color ever arise, please say that it is a very pleasant shade of blue.

Edmund has begun construction on a tomb for himself because he has decided that he wishes to be remembered, and the project has already consumed most of our small garden. Each day after breakfast, he plays the same mournful Chopan recording and dresses in a black suit. A local man brings him the bricks, which Edmund stacks himself.

The structure is impressive by virtue of the fact that it is sound and stable in spite of Edmund’s age and physical condition. It is a testament to the commitment and care that Edmund has given to the project. It already serves some of its purpose, as Edmund goes and sits in the tomb whenever I practice my singing. Yesterday I threatened to install a tape recorder that would play a sample of my voice directly into his ear on a neverending loop in the event of his demise, and he became so sullen and heartsick that I had to recant.

This tomb business has become dismal and divisive. I hired someone, and tomorrow I am planning to bulldoze the thing and plant some petunias where it stands. That should cheer Edmund up.

I look forward to your visit, dear Zissy, and I sincerly look forward to seeing how well you can manoeuvre a tuk tuk in Istanbul’s traffic.


J. Ozawa