Thursday, April 17, 2014


Last weekend my brother, my dad and I began the arduous task of cleaning out my mom and Allen's house which, if you know anything about either one of them, you know that means wading through wooden buddhas and mannequins, doll heads smiling through clock faces, books, platform pumps stuck onto the legs of one large frog, snake skins, various animal skulls, feathers, artwork, ribbon, miniature boats and an unfathomable amount of very ploufy bedding, all the while listening to the two parrots talk to each other IN MY MOM AND ALLEN'S VOICES.

You try to not let that get to you.
Here we are, not letting it get to us.

It was near the end of the day when we opened a drawer and found a wad of cash. Or wads. Not sure if that can be plural, but trust me when I say it was a lot of money, albeit Turkish money.

Neither my mom nor Allen have ever been to Turkey.

Not knowing much about Turkish currency, we had no idea if we were looking at $5 or $500, so we counted it and looked up a currency converter, first my brother wouldn't tell me what it said. Instead he made me do it on my phone to make sure he wasn't messing it up somehow. So I did and then we did it again and double checked on Google Images that we were looking at the right bill, and then we looked it up on a few different currency converters but we kept getting the same thing. 530,000 Turkish Lira = $251,000 USD. We found $251,000 in my mom's house in Turkish Lira. Lirasi? I don't know.

The next hour was like a montage in a Quentin Tarantino movie, my brother, my dad and I sitting on the floor surrounded by cash, whispering, greedy, incredulous. Because seriously? That would be so my mom and Allen. To leave us mystery money in another currency left in a drawer that reeked of pot. Where did it come from? Why? But more importantly, how could we exchange it without attracting too much attention?

My brother was flying back home that night so he took one 10,000 bill with him (=$4750 USD) to see if he could exchange it at the airport. He was nervous because, well--Midnight Express (even though he was just flying back to LA). I sent him a text that read: Biiiiilly.

Long story not very short, they told my brother he had to exchange it at a bank, so the next day I took a 10,000 bill to the big Wells Fargo in the San Francisco financial district. I should add that I was nervous, too, because as soon as I opened the big heavy door I tripped over nothing and did a complete yard sale on the hard marble floor. I make a terrible money launderer/smuggler/door walker-througher.

The teller took the money into the back (again, Biiiilly, plus I was already sweaty from tripping in front of everyone) and finally came back with it to tell me that Turkey had reissued their currency in 2009, that the bank note I had was no longer in circulation and thus worthless here, but could be redeemed at the Central Bank of the Republic of Turkey. In Turkey.

To which I called my brother and my dad to say I hear Istanbul is beautiful this time of year.

Here's the thing: this has a 99.9% probability of being stupid. The same 10,000 note that we have (a lot of) sells on ebay for $8, not $4750. But the truth is, I love my mom with everything I am and I love Allen, too, but they couldn't have left us with a bigger mess if they had tried. I joke that trying to settle the estate is like trying to clean up diarrhea with a q-tip.

So I have emailed the Central Bank of the Republic of Turkey--so far no response--and if they don't get back to me I will talk to the Turkish embassy. Maybe it's worth nothing--it's very much most likely probably worth nothing--but it's giving me something else to think about, and I can almost hear my mom and Allen laughing with us (or quite possibly at us) as we joke about a family Christmas in a Turkish bath house.
In┼čallah. Coincidentally, that is the only word I know in Turkish. It means, "God willing."


Anonymous said...

wow. what a story!

Michelle M in KY said...

I, so hope it is REAL! At least there would be something positive come out of this time of such sadness.