Jearld Frederick Moldenhauer – Photographer, Bookseller, Naturalist

The Road to Sardis – A Story

In the early summer of 1983, after moving & recovering from the arson (July, 1982) that totally destroyed Glad Day Bookshop in Boston I decided to give myself a break. Following several months of running the store by myself the cash flow was sufficient enough to again hire staff .  Once things were running smoothly I headed off to the island of Chios where I knew I could access Anatolia by ferry. My destination was the ancient city of Sardis, capital of Lydia which Herodotus stated was the original home of the Etruscans. Altogether I visited Turkey 18 times so I’m not exactly sure which trip this was but I do recall feeling exhilarated when we landed and I put my foot back on Turkish soil again.

My plan was clear but my map was not. I left Ceşme in a dolmuş, hoping to reach Sardis before evening. After changing transportation several times I found myself on the banks of a river with no bridge to the other side.  A short distance beyond the river a range of mountains appeared. There was no indication of these mountains on the road map I was using.  The mini-van crossed the river on a small barge operated by ropes and poles. It was already mid afternoon and I realized that I was not going to make it to Sardis. We stopped in a village near the top of the mountain and I spotted a “Otel” sign on a building. It made sense to spend the night especially since I had no idea what the village nearest to the archeological site might offer. The hotel seemed pretty empty except for the ground floor where a few men sat at tables drinking beer. I dumped my backpack, took out my camera and went for a stroll thinking how good the light was for photography. I was delighted with the clean mountain air and warm glow of the afternoon sun as it fell on the small cultivated plots of the local farmers. It wasn’t exactly very interesting photographically but I was happy and content to find myself in such a peaceful and beautiful place at the end of the day.

When I returned to the hotel I saw several boys in their late teens busy cleaning and moving things about in the eating/drinking area so I asked why they were changing everything around. The hotel doubled as a sort entertainment establishment for the village and I noticed a small stage closed off with a curtain like a theatre. The boys explained that they were getting ready for the evening’s entertainment. A group of belly dancers from Izmir were coming to perform before the men of the village and of course as a guest in the hotel I was invited.

The place started to fill up with old farmers around 8pm. These men dressed as they did all the time, wearing a dusty old suit coat and a beret cap. Within a short time the place was packed and it seemed that every male deemed of age in the village had showed up to enjoy the evening’s entertainment. The burgeoning Turkish beer industry was just starting to gain a foothold that even extended to this small mountain village. Once the place was full with everybody busy drinking and eating snacks the curtain opened revealing three hefty women sitting on chairs, each holding a tambourine. Each weighed about twice what the villagers did and on average were at least half a foot taller as well. Immediately the singing began and they swayed back and forth, marking the rhythm with their tambourines. For about half an hour they stayed sitting and singing. Once the warm up was over, one by one they left the stage and started getting into their real act. Singing and gyrating their hips they made their way through the crowded drinking area until they had singled out a man to perform in front of. It became immediately clear what this game was all about. Every male in the place had their eyes fixated on the singer and the man she had chosen to shake down. Three women had about seventy-five men in their trap!

It started with the men they guessed might be the wealthiest. That would set the tone. These big city dames knew how to intimidate each farmer as his fellow villagers watched every move. The women became increasingly animated, gyrating their shoulders and hips in such a manner that their humungous tits were pretty well bouncing into the farmer’s face. After either enjoying or enduring this assault the farmer pulled out a bank note and pushed it between the singer’s breasts. Some did it quickly, some hesitated but finally broke down while their neighbors stared at them and made jibes. This went on for what seemed like hours and they circulated and recirculated until they felt everybody had received the treatment.

Close to the end I spied an older, moustached farmer at the next table. He was looking rather forlorn knowing that his turn must be coming up. And so it was. One of the Turkish Brünnhildes fixated on him and began shaking her bazooms within inches of his head. His face was hung downward toward the table top. Finally he couldn’t bear the intimidation any longer and began to reach into his coat pocket. Just then he looked up and our eyes met. With my arm extended I gestured to him to keep the wallet in his pocket. Everyone saw the gesture. He hesitated, smiled at me and pushed the wallet deep into his jacket pocket. Brünnhilde moved on and the man gestured for me to come and sit with him. I took a chair opposite his own and he reached his hands out across the table. I gave him mine. He held fast while he (most likely half for real, half in jest) asked me to marry him! It made perfect sense, someone who helped look after your resources would make an ideal spouse! I felt that I had made some sort of cultural breakthrough but it was only the first that this night would offer.

Sometime around 1am the show was finally over and all the older men made their way out the door. The old farmer (who still remains the only person to ever propose to me) shook hands and said good night. Now the boys, about 6 or 7 of them started a massive and frenzied clean-up job. I stood there for a moment and decided to grab a broom and join in. It took at least an hour to clean up and they explained that this being the only hotel in town the three women would be staying upstairs in a room across the hall from mine. They had their plan – to go upstairs and try to have sex with them. The owner or manager of the place had left after the show so it was just the boys, the three dancers and me. Once upstairs the boys made their move and were quickly sloughed off by the women who said they weren’t old enough for them. So there I was, my opportunity to offer myself as a substitute for three Brunnhildes !

There had been no talk about my being gay, how could there be anyway? My knowledge of Turkish was limited to a few hundred words and none of them spoke either English or German. Language wasn’t necessary, in fact it might well have complicated things. Anyway as I had already discovered, in Islam there is plenty of homosexual sex but almost no gay “identity”. Before I knew it all the boys were in my room in various states of undress! We piled onto the bed and I introduced them to the wonders of being on the receiving end of a blow job. That was after they made their standard moves toward my ass which although hardly virgin, has never figured out where the pleasure in getting fucked exactly is. I must confess how much I’ve enjoyed orgies in certain Muslim countries over the years. They always just happened quite spontaneously and have a spirit of genuine fun and male brotherhood about them totally unlike my group sex experiences back in the western world. When everyone (yes, including me) had their magical orgasmic moment, they said good night and filed out. I crawled into bed one happy traveller. Alas, within half and hour more young men came knocking on the door! Now, so many years later, with age doing its work on my body and my libido I wish I’d opened that door and welcomed their brothers and cousins in! But I was dead tired, thinking about tomorrow and Sardis so I pushed the dresser in front of the door and made it clear fun and games were over for one night. I got up early the next morning and walked around the village, hoping to see one of my bed mates. Not a one around. And so I strapped my backpack on and hopped on the first dolmuş headed down the mountain toward Sardis.