Just gonna run through this quickly, for posterity.
We arrived back in Istanbul for the second day of the Swedish travel agency commercial shoot. My luggage was waiting for me in the hotel when I woke up. I was finally able to improve my odor.
Was taken to an old mosque on the shores of the Bosporus with a large, open plaza at the base. We sat in a café and ate breakfast while 50 Turkish men donned traditional folk dancing costumes around the corner.
When they were ready, they were led out into the plaza and taught how to perform my dance.
Teaching 50 Turkish men who didn’t really get what was going on how to mimic my bad dancing felt…a little icky. But they were game.
We shot a number of clips of us all dancing together beneath the old mosque. Once we had it, we shot some more clips with them performing their traditional dancing style. I felt much better about that.
Next up, we raced in a caravan to a great hotel sandwiched between Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque. It has a rooftop restaurant overlooking both sites. The Seven Hills Hotel is the name, I believe. The waiters cleared out all the tables so we had a space to dance.
Patrik, Jonas, and I consulted with Esra, our production manager and translator, as to whether it would be considered offensive to dance in front of either structure.
We resolved that the Blue Mosque was a potential concern, as it is an active religious site, whereas the Hagia Sophia has been converted into a museum and is, according to Esra, less culturally sensitive.
Hagia Sophia it is.
One of these things is not like the other…
And away we went.
We danced for a while. Patrik was happy. Everyone cheered and applauded and that was it. The Turkish dancers marched down the stairs and left.
…or so I thought.
Part of their payment for showing up was lunch at one of the fanciest restaurants in Istanbul. I sat down at a corner table to the unbroken stares of 50 large, silent Turks.
That’s not a very good picture. All I had on me was my camera phone. My new camera for the Africa trip is in the mail.
I mentioned the staring to Esra. She explained that they were very curious about me; wondering, ‘Who is this strange American and why are we being paid to dance like him?’ She said they wanted to talk to me, but didn’t know any English. I said I’d love to talk to them and asked if she’d translate. Nothing really came of that. I suppose they didn’t know where to start. So they just stared. And I smiled. And we ate.
Patrik, Esra, the rest of the crew and I spent the rest of the afternoon touring around Istanbul collecting clips at a few iconic locations: The Grand Bazaar, an ancient Roman cistern, a beach along the Bosporus.
In the dank cistern, a local approached Esra to ask what was going on.
“Who is this man? What is he doing?” he asked.
“He dances all around the world,” Esra explained. “On the internet.”
“Oh,” he said. “You mean Matt?”
Esra told me about this as we were leaving. It threw me for a loop. Things have changed in the year since I put the last video out. An unsettlingly large and widespread segment of the population is on a first name basis with me. This next trip is going to be…different.
No one’s going to spot me walking down the street, but in the handful of times that I’ve publicly broken out the dance lately, it tends to trigger some recognition.
I imagine this must be strange for people. If you spot Gary Coleman walking down the street, he’s probably not in the process of saying “What you talkin’ about, Willis?” If you run into Alan Greenspan at the grocery store, he’s probably not announcing a drop in interest rates. But if you see me, I’m probably doing the only thing you’ve ever seen me do – even though it’s actually pretty infrequent that I do that thing.
Ah, well. Enough ruminating on the nature of my quasi-fame. I caught a flight back to Seattle. The Swedish folks were nice enough to book me a first class ticket, so sleep was had. I have a week to prepare for Africa. And that’s that.