Photo by Robert Burroughs
The shop’s name is Guzel, a Turkish word meaning beautiful. And inside Giizel, located at 1621 West Lewis Street in Mission Hills, are Oriental rugs that, indeed, are beautiful. They are draped upon darkly stained wooden partitions, piled in stacks upon the floor, and hung along the walls like modem paintings. The rugs have been imported into San Diego from the provinces, tiny villages, and cities of the Anatolian peninsula, which today is modern Turkey. The rugs are named for the places where they were woven — Kars, Yahyali, Dosemealti, Bergama, Melas, Ghiordes. Their somber colors evoke the fiery orange sunset as seen from the city of Izmir, the dark-green mountains that rise above the village of Hereke, the earthen browns of the plains land of eastern Turkey, the Aegean Sea’s deep blue waters. The rugs are a sensual feast.
Their designs, although mysterious to many Westerners, are meaningful not only to the weavers, who have learned their 800-year-old traditions, but to collectors for whom Oriental rugs are a passion. Some of the rugs’ symbols stem from religious inspiration, such as the rugs from Taspinar that lie on the floor, near the entrance into Giizel. The Taspinars are deep blue and scarlet red; in the center of each is what appears to be a rectangle with a triangular steeple at one end. The motif suggests a skyscraper, tall and thin, set against the city’s midnight blue sky. Actually, the design is known as a mihrab, a prayer arch said to represent the Al-Haram mosque of Mecca where Mohammed’s body lies.
Photo by Robert Burroughs
Another rug, known as a Yagci-Bedir, has a border made up of eight-pointed stars of Solomon known to Moslems as jewels of Mohammed. A rug woven by Moslem Kurds reflects their belief that, for enduring their difficult nomadic life on earth, they will be rewarded with a better life in heaven; within the rug’s center mihrab are many hourglass designs that remind them of the passing nature of all things on earth, yet always to strive to reach Allah. Other rugs have symbols which reflect secular, more practical concerns. Stylized scorpions decorate the border of a piece from Kars, woven by nomads of eastern Turkey, a design which, for many Westerners, may not bring about the most pleasant associations. By representing scorpions, the weaver hoped to provide the power to keep the creatures out of their tents. Octagons are among the many geometric shapes of a brown and green rug from Kula. They are to bring good luck. A colorful Kozak of reds and greens has a border of tamgas, the branding marks used by nomadic tribes on their animals, tents, and other possessions.
The most stunning rugs inside Guzel, however, are the two three-by-five-foot silk pieces from Hereke, a village on the Sea of Marmara, about a ninety-minute drive from Istanbul. The Ottoman sultans — who ruled Turkey, as well as all the region that stretches from the gates of Vienna to Morocco, from around 1300 until the Nineteenth Century — established Hereke 400 years ago as the premier rug-weaving center in the world. The best rugs from Hereke have the amazing number of one million knots per square meter, and they frequently require from one year to two years for three women, usually girls between the ages of ten and twenty (because only their fingers are thin and dexterous enough) to finish. These are the rugs bought by the wealthiest European families, by kings and barons. The two Hereke silks inside Guzel have light-blue fields with center mihrabs, above which is a religious chant in Thuluth calligraphy done in gold brocade said to have been dipped in molten gold. Each rug retails for $6000. And while the approximately eight or nine San Diego merchants who specialize solely in Oriental rugs will offer contrasting, frequently not flattering opinions about Turkish rugs in general, when their talk turns to the rugs of Hereke, almost unanimously they say that Hereke rugs rank among the finest mg weavings in the world.
Photo by Robert Burroughs
Yet it is not the artistry of many of Guzel’s rugs that makes this shop unique in San Diego, perhaps in all of western America. Guzel is unique because all its rugs are from Turkey, and few rug stores would dare specialize in Turkish rugs. The business is hazardous , one which depends upon the ability of traditional folk art to survive the onslaught of mass-produced rugs from nations such as China, India, and Pakistan. Its survival is uncertain.
Neil Carstensen is Guzel's owner. He is a short, delicate-featured man, whose weight fluctuates according to whether he’s elated with his shop’s current state of affairs, or depressed. For thirty-four-year-old Carstensen, Guzel is his $100,000 gamble. One day in early February Carstensen took me into the back room of his store, past all the marvelous Turkish rugs in the showroom that have such a deep aroma. He showed me a frock he wove in 1976 when he was a twenty-seven-year-old cultural studies student at Emerson College, in Sussex, England. “I spent half a year to weave it,” he said. He slipped on the frock, and its many folds of various shades of brown-dyed wool fell into place upon his delicate shoulders, down to his knees. ‘‘Weaving is my passion,” he said. “It’s the metaphor for my life, which is a weaving of various impulses, intuitions, and actions. There’s a rhythm — a flow — to weaving that I try to carry over into my life.” A magical glow, which stemmed from the momentary success Carstensen seemed to be having with his shop, emanated from him.
Halit Aydin (far left), Yalcin Kocak (second from right), Hussein Erim (far right)
The glow of prosperity has not often been evident in Carstensen’s life. He arrived in San Diego in 1978, having left Emerson College unable to pay for his schooling. Carstensen, who’s from Rochester, New York, had learned carpentry and house painting from his father, who had a home-remodeling business in the East; in San Diego Carstensen decided to try the same business. “I did really good work,” he says of his carpentry, “but I never worked fast enough to make much money.” By 1980 he wasn’t working much at all and had only a few hundred dollars. He was living rent free, sometimes with one of his brothers in North Park, sometimes with a cousin in Ocean Beach. (He also had some sisters here and in fact had returned to San Diego, a city he had visited several years before, because of his relatives.) He became tired of home remodeling, and began to look for a change from work as an obligation to work as a passion. His long-time interest in foreign cultures guided his search. “What I really wanted to do was import native folk arts: Indian wood sculptures from Mexico, or art from Ghana or South Africa, other primitive regions. I wanted to learn about other cultures by traveling the world and buying folk art.” But the little he had in a savings account would hardly suffice to start an import business. All he had was a vague vision. He didn’t even have the personality of a salesman; a shy, nervous man, at a party he’s more likely to leaf through a National Geographic to locate a story about some African tribe than to mingle and engage in conversation.
Photo by Robert Burroughs
His vision became much more concrete when early in 1980 he regularly began to go to Effendi, a Middle Eastern restaurant on Mission Boulevard in Mission Beach that specializes in Turkish cuisine. Effendi is run by a man from Turkey, chef Ergun Gecgil, whom Carstensen befriended. Talking late into the night, Gecgil would tell Carstensen about his early life in eastern Turkey, living among the nomads with his father, who was a gendarme. In April, Carstensen met at the restaurant Major Hussein Erim of the Turkish army. Erim was assigned for a few months (the result of his NATO duties) to the Naval Air Station at Coronado. He was a tall, thin man who spoke English well and who showed great self-confidence. Some nights, the three men stayed at Effendi until two or three in the morning, Gecgil serving strong Turkish coffee, Erim telling Carstensen about his plans to establish an international export business, which would work in quite well with his military duties that took him to many different NATO nations. Carstensen spoke of his enthusiasm for native folk arts. Erim said that in Izmir, which is a large city in western Turkey, across the Aegean Sea from Athens, lived an extremely wealthy man, Halit Aydin, whose tobacco lands had lost their enchantment for him, and who had begun to travel throughout the country, using family connections with rug weavers to buy pieces from all the villages. Aydin even owned three rug shops in Izmir, and he had clients in Belgium, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, and Atlanta. Yet, despite the Atlanta connection, Erim said, America loomed as a vast market yet to be exploited, where Aydin hoped to make a fortune. “When you get some money, I can put you in contact with him,” Erim said. Erim left for Turkey in June.
Photo by Robert Burroughs
“What I found out about Turkish rugs,” Carstensen says of the time he spent studying them from June through the rest of 1980, “is that Turkey is rapidly industrializing, with one of the highest GNP growth rates in the world. And in twenty years, when that industrialization is completed, many of .the weavers will no longer be weaving, particularly the nomads of eastern Turkey, where much of the industrialization will happen; they will be working in factories where they can make much more money. Many of the rugs — particularly those from the tribal regions — will no longer be made. Those pieces bought now will double, triple, even quadruple and more in value. That was what was positive. I also discovered that Turkish rugs are hardly known in the United States. And most of the big dealers in Oriental rugs started with the backing of very wealthy families. Without that strong backing, you haven’t got much of a chance to succeed. In fact, from the American business perspective, to go into the Oriental rug business is lunacy. The rugs are a high-ticket item with extremely erratic sales periods. That discouraged me, but I was also intrigued.”
From June through November, 1980, Carstensen and Erim stayed in contact. Erim told Aydin that Carstensen was interested in importing Turkish rugs into the western United States. At first, Carstensen planned to act as the agent for a Turkish supplier who would provide both the rugs and the capital. That plan changed when, during November of 1980, Carstensen suddenly found himself $85,000 richer; at a wedding held in La Jolla for one of his sisters, he told his mother and her friend, Edwin Granato (Carstensen’s mother is divorced), both of whom had flown out from Rochester, about his desire to import TUrkish rugs. Granato offered to loan Carstensen $60,000; his mother offered $25,000. The money was loaned at twenty percent interest, but since he was dealing with family and a close family friend, the pay-back plan was flexible, depending upon how well the business went. “It was just that Granato is ^wealthy, and he likes to help young people get started in business,” Carstensen says. Also, the construction company Granato manages is owned by a Turk.
Photo by Robert Burroughs
Nine more months passed. The three men — Carstensen, Aydin, and Erim — continued to stay in contact through letters. But nothing major happened for Carstensen until the summer of 1981, when he received a letter from Aydin, who offered to fly Carstensen to Izmir to see, then buy, his Turkish rugs.
Aydin and Carstensen met at the airport in Izmir. Aydin was a short, bald man who wore a gold suit and constantly smiled. Erim came along; he’d become a partner in the rug business.
They went to Aydin’s stores. At the first store, Aydin dazzled Carstensen by showing him a sixteenth-century Usak; the piece should have been in a museum, but Aydin offered it for $50,000, a bargain. But Carstensen wouldn’t lose sight of his goal to bring back a wide assortment of Turkish weavings. At his second store, Aydin showed Carstensen a stack of wool Hereke rugs five feet high, worth a quarter of a million dollars retail in America. At his third shop, Aydin handed him two Kayseri silks, knotted in beautiful autumn colors, graced by doves with outstretched wings, on the limbs of golden-leafed trees. The rugs were worth $6000 each retail; Aydin told him, “Take them. Pay me later.” Then he tried to sell him everything else he had accumulated in his shops’ warehouses, or to which he had access: machine-made rugs, meerschaum pipes, cotton shirts, copper wares, worms for medical research. The two men smiled a lot when with one another — but they each had different aims. What excited Carstensen was the beauty of the rugs. For Aydin, it was the prospect of making a lot of money that interested him.
Neil Carstensen: ‘‘Weaving is my passion. It’s the metaphor for my life."
Photo by Robert Burroughs
During the three weeks Carstensen stayed in Turkey, he selected about $65,000 worth of rugs. He had gotten Aydin to provide several months’ credit by providing the Turk with international bank guarantees he had arranged before leaving San Diego. That was what was good about Aydin; the man was very wealthy and, unlike other agents, he didn’t need to demand payment upon receipt of merchandise. Carstensen had managed to keep free much of his capital to launch what he hoped would be a successful wholesale campaign in Southern California. Aydin, however, didn’t know that in Southern California, most Oriental rug consumers don’t even know that Turkish rugs exist. Still, the two men departed on a positive note, Aydin telling Carstensen, “You will be my exclusive distributor in the western United States.” Aydin, of course, had nobody else.
Tahriz Persian rug
Photo by Robert Burroughs
The shipments arrived by air freight at Lindbergh Field beginning in October, 1981. Not only were the rugs sent that Carstensen had selected — from Dosemealti, Taspinar, Bergama, Hereke, Konya, Melas, and other areas — he discovered that in each shipment Aydin would include many unordered items, such as about a half dozen Kayseri floss rugs, which are made to appear as though they’re silk but, being only a blend of mercerized cotton and a bit of cheap waste silk, once these rugs are walked on, they quickly lose their sheen; unfortunately, unscrupulous merchants sell them as silk pieces, giving Turkish rugs a bad name. Subsequent shipments from Aydin included goat-hair blankets, slippers, pillow covers, and rugs, from Ghiordes and Kula and other places, that Carstensen never ordered. He found it wasn’t easy to ship back to Turkey what he didn’t want, because to get his pieces out of customs, he had to provide bond for them all (to guarantee import duties), including those which he didn’t want; then if he wanted to send them back, he’d again have to go through customs and incur more expenses shipping them back to Turkey than if he just paid the duty, paid Aydin, and sold them at a loss or gave them away as gifts. No matter that Carstensen told Aydin that he wanted only merchandise he had ordered; Aydin continued to send other things he needed to unload. “Let me tell you, I love the Turks,” Carstensen says. “They’re a warm, emotional people. But business in the Middle East is done differently than in the United States. Many Turkish businessmen are still of the old mind and see each deal as finite, as though they’ll never be doing business with you again. In the Middle East, if you can give a rotten fish for a fresh loaf of bread, by God you will do that. You have to take your customer for at least thirty percent, or you haven’t done your job. Aydin doesn’t think he’s ripping me off — he thinks he’s just the better barterer.” It was a different business philosophy with which Carstensen was forced to live. Despite Aydin’s idiosyncrasies, Carstensen felt the man was better at understanding American business practices than any of the other agents he had met while in Turkey; also, Aydin had a remarkable aesthetic sense, and even the unwanted rugs, Carstensen had to admit, were beautiful representatives of their village or town.
Kars turruk in private home
Photo by Robert Burroughs
With his rugs in hand, he went to many dealers in San Diego and Los Angeles, but because of his passive nature, and with the recession in full force, he couldn’t persuade any shop owners to buy his rugs. However, even if Carstensen had been another Dale Carnegie and economic conditions had been more favorable, most of the merchants still would have refused to buy his Turkish rugs.
Arjang Babaknia owns two shops in San Diego — Asian Rugs Institute on Herschel Avenue in La Jolla, and a second shop, International Rugs Institute, on El Cajon Boulevard. Although his pieces are beautiful and authentic Oriental rugs, most of them are from China, India, and Pakistan. They’re production rugs, made in factories hundreds at a time. “With Chinese rugs,” Babaknia, a Persian, said, “it is like buying a pack of cigarettes.” Chinese rugs, he has found, have a uniformity of design and materials quality that consumers prefer to the Turkish pieces, which are each individual works of art made by weavers in their homes, frequently from their village’s sheep and from chemicals mixed by a village dye master. He showed me the one Turkish rug in his shop, a notorious Kayseri floss. “Now, you see why I never carry — and never will carry — Turkish carpets. Never. Each carpet I sell now I replace by a new Chinese. Chinese sell. . . . I’m a dealer, not a collector. All I want is to make money.”
At Barron’s International, on Girard Avenue in La Jolla, Andrew Barron indicated a wool Hereke hung on the wall beside a Chinese piece. Both measured about nine-by-twelve-feet, but the Hereke sold for $5000, while the Chinese rug was a machine-made piece that sold for $350. Although Barron spoke favorably about Turkish rugs, he said his shop offers what buyers want, and buyers don’t want them. "Indian rugs are our biggest sellers,” he said. Price is a primary consideration. A six-by-nine-foot Turkish Kars will sell for about $1800, the same size piece from China, India, or Pakistan for about $800. While a three-by-five Hereke silk will cost $6000, at Barron’s International one can buy a beautiful Pakistani silk, the same size, woven as an imitation of a Persian Tabriz, for $2500. That the Pakistani rug is an imitation of a Persian design is typical of all modem Pakistani and Indian rugs. They’re not authentic folk weavings. They’ve beautiful imitations that borrow designs from the classical weaving regions, such as Persia, Afghanistan, and a few Turkoman and Caucasian regions of Turkey. They’re even made from New Zealand wool, which is great wool, but doesn’t make for authentic folk art. As for the Chinese carpets, they’re made for the Western market: rather than offering the buyer a glimpse of the culture from where the rugs were woven, the rugs merely reflect the buyer’s taste.
“Most Southern California buyers of Oriental rugs aren’t interested in the meaning of it all,” says Dan Agajeenian from Agajeenian Oriental Carpets, on El Cajon Boulevard. His is the largest and oldest store in San Diego, in business since 1966, with sales of about 500 rugs annually. “They want a piece to look good, and that’s enough. They’re generally not as sophisticated as on the East Coast. It’s partly the weather. In the East, people spend much more time indoors. They care more about their rugs. In Southern California, big investments are for outdoor activities. And it’s also a matter of taste. Although I hear that in the last ten years, Turkish rags have begun to increase in both quality and numbers, they’re not a hot item, because the weavers have a tendency to get carried away with colors that are dark and strong, and the geometric designs are too bold. In this country, buyers want pastels in simpler designs. The Chinese and Indian weavers have adapted to the market by using soft rusts and browns and gold. But the Turkish weavers don’t think commercially. I couldn’t go to Yahyali, for instance, and order 1000 rugs of the exact same design and in various different sizes. I could do that in China or India. I could tell the Yahyali weavers what will sell in America, but the women have been weaving their designs, which are part of their tradition, for hundreds of years, and they’re not going to change. And they’re not equipped or organized well enough to go into mass production.”
When Carstensen went from shop to shop, he discovered that most dealers are either Persian or Armenian, which suggested to him that perhaps dealers may be involved in a loose ethnic/ cultural conspiracy against Turkish rugs. And while it is true that most of these dealers will recommend as “investment pieces” Persian rugs over all others, including the best Turkish, this prejudice does not seem to be related to the historical animosity between Turks and Armenians.
It isn’t just that throughout the last part of the Nineteenth and early Twentieth centuries, nearly two million Armenians were killed by the Turks, either slaughtered or allowed to perish in deportation camps while en route to Syria. And it isn’t that Armenian rug merchants, such as Agajeenian or Don Gertmenian (of Gertmenian Oriental Rugs in Los Angeles, the largest wholesaler in western America), still hate the Turks so much that they refuse to deal with anything Turkish. To the contrary, says Gertmenian. “When Turkish rugs were popular in this country in the 1920s and before, Armenians were handling the rugs.” Says Agajeenian, “Oh sure, with the old-time Armenian merchants you’ve got the prejudice ... but how long can you hold a grudge?” Both men insist it is because Turkish rugs don’t sell that they carry hardly any or none at all — not that they refuse to sell them.
The Armenian slaughter, however, did lead to the fall of Turkish rugs as the world’s premier Oriental weavings , a distinction they held prior to the 1920s. The Armenians had dominated Turkey’s merchant class; they possessed the expertise in international trade. Once they were driven away or slaughtered, Turkey lost much of its international business acumen. The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, once the world center where Oriental rugs from all countries were bought and traded, lost its importance, and the world trade shifted to London and Zurich. “Also,” says Val Arbab, a San Diego Oriental rug appraiser, “the Armenians were the weavers in the cities [where the finest rugs were produced]. And the Turks drove out the Greek population, too, and they were the dye masters who knew how to mix the chemicals properly. What rugs the Turks did export after the 1920s, most were just terrible. The dyes either held too strongly or completely faded to cloudy grayish colors. The weaving was loose. They had lost their expertise.”
This is despite the Turkish government’s intervention in its Oriental rug industry by re-educating weavers and dye masters, particularly in the cities. (The tribal and village rugs weren’t as devastated by the loss of the Armenians and Greeks and continued to be produced, but they were never as popular as city pieces.) Collectors, however, remain skeptical of contemporary Turkish rugs. “With any rug,” says Arbab, “whether it be Turkish, Persian, or Turkoman, there’s no way to tell how it will age, whether its colors will become uniformly rich and mellow, or whether each color will age differently. For the amount one would pay for one of [Carstensen’s] modern silks, an eighty-year-old Persian Kashan, in mint condition, could be bought.” That, to Arbab, would be a wise investment in Oriental rugs. It appears that, as far as today’s Turkish pieces are concerned, many investors want to wait and see how they have aged until they will buy them.
Carstensen opened Giizel in June of last year. His West Lewis Street location, however, wasn’t the most propitious site for the shop. The rent was good — about $700 monthly — but West Lewis Street runs through a quiet, primarily residential neighborhood, tucked away from the busy business section where Washington and Goldfinch streets intersect; not much foot traffic comes to West Lewis Street. If five customers came into Giizel in a day, that was a lot. He hired Tom Goodwin, a friend from Laguna Beach who had recently moved to San Diego, as his sales manager at a salary of about one hundred dollars weekly, and with the promise that Goodwin could, sometime, become a partner in the business.
Using the money made from the few carpet sales, Carstensen ordered more rugs from Aydin and asked him for longer credit periods, sometimes up to five months, to which the Turk reluctantly agreed.
From June through December, Carstensen sold nine rugs, two to a couple from Tempe, Arizona, who weren’t collectors but felt the color schemes of the Bergamas would go well with the rest of their home. Several silks went to a wealthy Los Angeles art collector. Carstensen’s sister bought one rug. “The rest went to people from around Mission Hills," he says. “Usually they’ve just come into their money. They’re young people who’re just now starting to make it.” Ironically, some of Carstensen’s most popular pieces were the rugs he hadn’t wanted — those from Ghiordes and Kula.
The strategy he first used to create a market for his Turkish rugs was to advertise. For several months advertisements for Giizel appeared in San Diego Home and Garden, San Diego Magazine, and Goodlife. “But each advertisement cost $400 a month,” he says. “And after a while I couldn’t afford to keep them in the magazines.
Then I invested $3000 in a direct-mail campaign, during the last few months of 1982. I had 5000 sales brochures printed and mailed to a group of select people. But that netted zero response. So I changed my strategy to face-to-face sales. I began to go to the trade shows [such as the home show at the Del Mar Fairgrounds]. I spoke about Turkish rugs to the San Diego Historical Society. We got an appearance on San Diego Sun-Up. That seemed to help.”
In January three Hereke rugs sold. One of them was bought by an Oriental rug dealer from Grand Rapids, Michigan, who was visiting San Diego. “The others were bought by people from Mission Hills,” Carstensen says. “I also sold an attorney in La Jolla a Taspinar that she wanted for her office. I sold a Kurdish piece to a lady from Hawaii.” Several more rugs sold in February, for a two-month total of more than $15,000.
Yet despite that brief flurry of exceptional rug sales, he was still $30,000 in debt to Aydin. In December Aydin had flown to San Diego on his first visit to America. At that time, Carstensen arranged for a dinner party at Effendi. Aydin listened as Carstensen offered reasons why Turkish rugs were hard to sell in Southern California. Aydin constantly smiled and exuded good will as the conversation was translated by his niece, whom he had brought to San Diego from the East where she attended a university. But Aydin was actually feeling troubled, particularly when Carstensen eventually got around to asking him for more capital. “I need more advertising,” he said. “Invest your money in Giizel. Then we can make Turkish rugs sell in Southern California.”
“I will try,” Aydin said.
A few months passed. Then one evening in early March an associate of both Aydin and Erim, Yalcin Kocak, called Carstensen from Turkey. He told him that Aydin wanted to get out of active involvement with the export of Turkish rugs. Aydin, Kocak said, feels that he must spend more time with his tobacco business. But Carstensen thinks he knows the real reason Aydin wanted to distance himself from the rugs: “He finally realized he wouldn’t make a lot of money with Turkish carpets, so he said forget it.” Kocak told Carstensen that Erim was now assigned to the Turkish embassy in Belgium and would be gone one year. Now Kocak and Carstensen were partners. Aydin would not give Kocak as much money for operating the rug business, and in early April Kocak called Carstensen to say that he needed to collect within ten days $10,000 owed to Aydin. Carstensen, in turn, called Edwin Granato in Rochester. (In January, Granato and Carstensen’s mother had become full legal partners . in Giizel. That was in response to Carstensen’s inability to pay back any of the $85,000 they had loaned him.) On the telephone with Granato, Carstensen said he quickly needed to find $10,000 to pay Kocak. Granato told Carstensen that it would be preferable if he were to find the money from another source, but that, if he couldn’t, Carstensen ought to then call him back. Five days later, Carstensen was on the phone to Granato, who arranged for another loan.
Later that night I met with Carstensen at Giizel. To save on rent, he has made living quarters in the rear of the store; this, however, means that he now usually dines at restaurants or coffee shops. This night, we went to Figaro, a small Italian restaurant nearby on Washington Street. Carstensen seemed on edge. He ordered a large plate half full of lasagna and manicotti, and he ate several rolls with a lot of butter. He had the waiter bring a bottle of wine. I noticed that he looked as though he hadn’t shaved in three days, and that his skin was thicker and duller; his features were softer than when we had first met in early February. His weight had risen. This was April, and March had been a bad month for sales: just one Kula and a Yahyali. Goodwin had quit to go to Canada and pursue a romance with an old high school girlfriend from New Jersey. He had left Carstensen with a $500 telephone bill, mainly in calls to British Columbia where she lived. I remembered the magical glow that emanated from Carstensen when we first met, but tonight he was depressed. I have seen photographs of him when he was younger; his eyes were sparkly and his body firm. But Giizel has aged him in his single-minded devotion. All his time now is spent planning his rugs’ promotion: sales brochures, arranging classes to be held at his shop to educate consumers about Turkish rugs, going to auctions where he hopes to sell a few pieces, and manipulating his finances in an effort to keep the business going. “If I can just hang in there,” he said, speaking as if to himself, “everything will straighten itself out.”