“Sister Carrie”, “Takva”, Ruffino Tamayo, Good Hockey and Bad Thai Food

“Sister Carrie” is an old-fashioned, yet modern book, about a young girl, new to the big city, who slowly finds her way. She is 18, from rural Wisconsin, has a married, older sister in Chicago, comes to join her, finds that she is both treated as a servant and over-protected, and decides to set out on her own–without money or prospects. She meets a handsome smooth talking traveling salesman, Drouet, who treats her fairly well, sets her up in an apartment which they share, and things seem to be OK, until she meets Hurstwood, his married friend, and decides that he is more to her taste than her benefactor. Until she learns he is married…….

I don’t want to give away the plot of a book that I think you should read, but suffice it to say that, for the ten years or so that the book covers, Carrie learns to take care of herself financially, and become independent, and that her relationship with Hurstwood continues for some time, although Carrie seems to think that he was no longer married when he found a Baptist minister to ‘marry’ them, and that she had no idea that he had stolen thousands of dollars from his employer in Chicago before he tricked her into leaving town with him.

Hurstwood does fare so well, starting out as a successful manager of a bar/restaurant in Chicago, and ending his life in a Bowery flop house in New York. He is unable to cope with the world he has created by his very poor decisions, and she is able to grow into a world she never even dreamed about during her early years in a country town in Wisconsin.

There is a lot in the book about social class and capitalism (Dreiser being a socialist and progressive) and, yes, about feminism, although it isn’t called that, as Carrie learns the way of the world and how to make an independent place in it, something very rare and hard to do one hundred years ago.

Carrie is a survivor, as one would say today; Hurstwood is not.

Neither is Muharrem, the central character in Takva, a movie released in Turkey about three years ago, which tells the tale of a very humble, devout, unmarried man in Istanbul, spending his life as an “apprentice” to a distributor of burlap sacks, where he fetches the coffee, answers the phones, and generally runs the small establishment, and has done so since he was apprenticed to the owner by his father twenty years earlier. His free time is spent with his sheikh at a “lodge”, where is a devout follower of an Islamic sect that, according to the director, is not based on any particular sect, but close to the Qadali sect, one of many found in Turkey, but has been made a little more elegant and prosperous in the movie. His sheikh gives him a second job, to collect the rents and manage the repairs on the many rental properties which the sect operates and uses to fund its religious activities, throwing Muharrem into the throes of capitalist Turkey, and placing before him all of the ethical dilemmas that go with that – offers of bribes to get help with licensing and to obtain other favors, what to do when the tenants lose their job and cannot afford the rent. Muharrem is a very nice man (although his temper gets the best of him at times in his new position), and he cannot cope. He, like Hurstwood, simply disintegrates.

Most Americans are not going to see “Takva”, I know, but if it is available on Netflix (which I have never used), or you go to Potomac Video in Chevy Chase, it would be an interesting choice. Of the three Turkish movies we saw this week – one about an ethnic Greek in a small village pretending she was ethnic Turkish for virtually her entire life after the Greeks were expelled, and how she reconnects with her brother in Greece; the other a more typical modern film about a man who decides that it is time for him to move on from his long time relationship with his female companion, and realizes too late that it was a mistake – ‘Takva’ was the best.

Now to the art scene, but first a complaint. The District of Columbia, short of cash like all other governments, has decided that increasing parking meter rates, and increasing the times that parking meter payments are required, has complicated life here a little more. We were going to the Mall yesterday to see the 1970 Soviet film version of “Uncle Vanya” yesterday afternoon, only to find that the free Saturday parking near the Mall is no more. The problem is not putting money in the meter (that is an expense, but not necessarily a problem), but the two hour parking time limits, that would make a movie rather difficult. Parking on the Mall itself remains free, but at an even greater premium, and when we arrived downtown on a very crowded Saturday afternoon, we were unable to find a place to park before the film was scheduled to start.

So we drove home, but decided to stop at Meridian House, on 16th Street, to look at an exhibit of large graphics by Mexican artist Ruffino Tamayo. It had to be at least as good as the film. If you go to http://www.meridian.org, you can see what the exhibit is about. These are late works of Tamayo, all done after his 70th birthday, it would appear. They are large, and bold. They are lithographs done with a special process, which is explained at the exhibit, and printed on handmade paper. They are simple and colorful, and their titles actually reflect the content. You don’t have to know Greek mythology or Mexican cultural history or anything else, just to look and enjoy. The exhibit is free, and ends sometime next month. It has been there since October. The Meridian House museum is located in the house that belonged to Washington Post publisher Eugene Meyer and it is where his daughter Katherine Meyer Graham grew up.

Good hockey – we went to one game and saw the Caps beat the Flyers, and then watched them beat the Penguins and the Coyotes on television. It is getting a little too easy, is it not? We Cap fans will wind up with big heads.

Finally, the bad Thai food. Not a major crisis, just a bad lunch. I had a business meeting on Friday morning near the Woodley Park metro stop and decided to get something to eat before I headed to my office. I stopped in Jandara and ordered a simple chicken fried rice. Which was fair – nothing to write about, so I won’t.

But the service was appalling – to get the order taken, to get the order served, to get a glass of water, to get the bill (something that never happened) all took an enormous amount of effort. I would suggest you stay away. And, I just went to the Yahoo Travel Guide, to make sure I was spelling the restaurant’s name correctly, and read the first review on that site: it was one I could have written, so I assume that Jandara can at least be proud of its consistency.

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