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Habib Gerez, a Turkish charming narcissist


Habib Gerez, a charming narcissist!

In the previous story, I explained how I came across an older gentleman. Here is the rest of the story.

I took my daughter’s hand gently, and followed Habib Gerez to his cozy mysterious alley.

Gerez took us back to the green narrow ally until we reached those very tall heavy stairs. He climbed them with no problem — a bit surprising considering his 88-year-old figure. He was opening the door when a pamphlet on the wall attract my attention. There was a picture of the old man with a short bio of him. Apparently, he was fluent in 5 languages, he was an artist, a poet, and an accomplished writer.
Gerez opened the door and let us in. We entered a cozy, old-looking kitchen. Three wide stairs connected the kitchen to a spacious room on the right. A naked woman statue lie on the floor, and another naked woman made of a golden wood stood beside her.

“Too many naked women around you, Habib,” I said, referencing those sculptures inside and outside. “Tell me about them.”

“I am not a wealthy man, But I know how to enjoy life,” Gerez said.

“These are the work of my best friend Mustafa, a very famous sculptor in Turkey,” he replied.

My daughter pulled my skirt. “I wanna leave, mommy,” she said. Everything was so antique, dusty, and quiet. She had all reasons to go out and enjoy the scenery instead of listening to me and the old man. It was up to me to make her busy. I gave her iPad. “You can watch Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood until I finish my talking with Mr. Gerez,” I told her.

After I settled Ranna on a couch with her iPad; I grabbed my pen and notebook and started talking with Habib Gerez.

A charming narcissist by nature, Gerez never failed to repeat his name more than one thousand times during our one-hour tour / interview. Playful and self-assured, he showed me how he spends his time between his painting studio at the upper level, his writing office on the main floor, and the eating area at the corner of the house.

There were about 4000 paintings and books in his warehouse. He wasn’t very successful in selling his latest book Gerez: Art is my destiny. He handed me the book, “Here, you can have this. As you see I have plenty,” he said.

Unmarried with no children, Gerez owns four cars and he vacations in Italy and France. “I am not a wealthy man, you know,” he said. “But I know how to enjoy life.”

A Jewish attorney by training, he never practiced law seriously. Instead he had spent his time working as a reporter for different newspapers in Istanbul, including Haftamn Sesi, A Jewish-Turkish newspaper he cofounded in 1956, and later for Salom, for which he wrote poems until 1997. Salom newspaper liked his poems and paid him handsomely.

Gerez didn’t have an appetite to listen to anyone but himself. He loved to hear the sound of “Gerez,” echoed in the room like a romantic music. I found him overwhelmingly eccentric, very likable, and gentlemanly polite.

“I am not a wealthy man, But I know how to enjoy life,” Gerez said.

Even so, after all of those talks about “Gerez”, I knew so little about him. It was time to ask a personal question. “Have you ever been in love?” I asked him. He pretended he didn’t hear my question.

“Gerez, I know so much about your accomplishments,” I said. “But what about yourself? I asked you a question a minute ago, but you never answered,” I pressed. “Once I loved a woman I shouldn’t have,” he said. “Let’s leave it there.”

Rumor has it that when he was a young man, Gerez fell in love with a French woman married to his Turkish-Jewish friend. After that big chaotic affair, he could never love any other woman.

“And, how do you get along with Muslims here?” I asked.

“I am Turk,” he said, “only a Jewish one.”