Letter from Istanbul Hasan pats his pockets. No I.D.
        "I left it in my car," he explains in Turkish.
        Joan offers our passports and a mollifying smile. The grim policeman waves both away. Now he is only interested in Hasan.
        Name. Address. Place of business. Date of birth. The passport cop writes down each answer on a paper napkin – the only one not smeared with grease from our hour-long feast of meze.

The face of authority, 5k jpeg

The questioning ended, the cop stands scrutinizing the little napkin that holds the facts of Hasan's life. But not all the facts. Not, for instance, that Hasan is Istanbul's only daily Internet columnist; nor that he has audited University classes for nine years while working variously as a movie subtitle writer, the SysOp of a small B.B.S., a magazine editor, and a Web designer.
        Nor does the napkin relate the oddly poetic story of Hasan's birth. How his mother went down to Bebek, Istanbul's seaside sector (whose name, ironically, means "Baby"). How, while dining over the Bosphorus at a floating restaurant, her own water broke.
        Nor does it tell of Hasan's grandmother, detained and interrogated by the police after a military coup. But that could be learned by a call to headquarters, should the passport cop choose to make one.