Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Dinner table lay-out

This is not about the lay-out or design of a dinner table. This is about some dinner, and some lay-out or form of some streets in London, or in my thoughts.

A.k. does not eat meat. Whether out of politeness or sincere appreciation of the smell, he seemed to have been impressed by the lamb. R.s. did make all the food as well as preparing the dinner table. S. had a long trip earlier and seemed to be quite tired. She was on her usual go during the dinner conversation, though. We were to discuss possible collaboration opportunities between our 'centre' and an institute at the NYU that earned a new grant. Everyone was going to bring in ideas about their current occupation and where they see themselves in a few years time and how this could all contribute to a potential work that would come out from the collective work (or a merger of their individual works) of the people.

I knew I did not have much to say when it would be my turn. I did learn a lot of what others were doing, though, as well as getting more detailed information on what my colleagues have been working on. At some instances, I was working hard on grabbing a fruit out of my fruit salad with my spoon without making too much noise not to interrupt anyone. I only had to deal with what was on my plate, the wine was being poured down somehow.

At one point I was looking at the shape of a piece of lamb meat and thinking of continuity and randomness in shape and form of things. If they had asked me at that moment of what I was thinking I could have easily come up with the following, which I developed on my way back home after the dinner:

"I am thinking of the about how the mystery behind street lay-outs of this city differs for me than those of in Istanbul. As I walk even around in the avenues which I walked before in London, I always see streets that I have never walked into. They may be completely new, or I may have seen them before. However, I've never discovered them. I now understand why: In Istanbul, I would walk into almost any street I pass by. The reason is that there is a bigger curiosity in every street. Because I can never see the 'end' of the street, regardless of how you define an 'end'. For me, it means where my point of view, that is aligned with the road on the street, whether be it paved or unpaved, a dirt road or an asphalt-road, gets interrupted. There may be a building that intervenes into my vista, or the street may be turning to right or left, or there may be a hill going up or down, so my view would always be cut before I reach my natural limit of my sight. Then, because of that curiosity, I would go in and discover that street. This is due to the topographical diversity of Istanbul as well as its historical and architectural heritage.

In London, it is not the same, thanks to the fact that many of the streets are created in a grid-pattern where you can see how the street stretches to the extent of your sight. It just goes straight ahead, except for the minority of the streets in the historical parts of the city shaped by Roman architecture and city-planning. The rest is just flat. Added to it is the usual gray and misty weather so your vista is even more limited and you already know what the rest of the street is like. Therefore you don't walk into it. But at that moment, another curiosity kicks in. In fact, there is a funny dilemma, or a dichotomy. The sheer fact that the streets in Istanbul are more crooked and interesting make the city overall a more mysterious place, but because I have discovered much of that mystery, there is few left for me. However, in London, because I don't tend to go into every street because of their similar patterns, there remains a greater amount of mystery for me. And at that point, I start to go into smaller-scale details that I might have not done otherwise:

I look at the differences of elements and how they are aligned in different streets. The size of a park and whether it is on the right or the left hand-side, and how many residential places it would correspond proportionally to its size in the street it is located. What are the proportions of social-housing to a detached housing in this street? Where do the older type of terraced or detached housing stop and social housing begin on the same street? And even if these are streets in the same neighbourhood with similar typologies, then I would start to zoom even more to start thinking about what sort of stories are taking place in the households on a particular street. To be fair, I would do the same in Istanbul, but not out of necessity, but out of already established curiosity. However, here in London, that curiosity could be my only tool of differentiating between different locations even within the same neighbourhood..."

Maybe, this could have been my answer, but my response was actually much shorter and straightforward:
"I have not really been focused on academic research for over a year now and I do not know where I see myself in 5 years". I did talk about recent interests in migration policies and socio-political implications of different spatial configuration of different migrant groups but that did not evolve into a discussion that other people brought up into the table. Well, I wasn't intending to lie or make up a story anyways.

My whole existence there, as well as what was going around was a big story in itself. I guess at this point, it may even be relevant to reveal that R and S are damn world-famous sociologists. And the dinner was delicious and wine was good.

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