Thursday, November 20, 2014

Re-orientation in the Big City

It runs deep, the soul moving forward without seeing. At times this year of thorns and roses, I’d step out one door and not know where I was headed. Where was I living, for instance, was I to turn right or left? Which side, over whose floor?

It was a long story about an accident, the speaker asked the audience many questions. When could she work again? When could she walk again? The annual conference of the national day of remembrance for victims of traffic accidents was recently held and, along with my duo partner, I performed a few songs for the occasion. Memory, the experienced speaker, said, is captive to trauma. I believe her.

What did I mean to write about this week for this blog? I had a juicy topic and I can’t remember it. Now I walk not yet out of blind routine to my apartment from my work, but with some consciousness that the path I am walking is one I have tread before, and I watch the passing gables not with astonishment but greet them as friends, the swan, the cherub, the two clocks. It amuses me walking to work in the morning moving towards both the Westerkerk tower clock and the clock on the Eerstes Hollands Levensverzekering Building.  The payout on the Insurance building’s clock is a near ten minutes slower than that of the protestant prompting.

It’s time to slow down a bit and re-sort priorities. This year has provided many, and I mean to take the next steps towards the…mindfulness is what they call it. I hadn’t much faith in the concept as a whole. I started using the office calendar function to prioritize issues that were still up in the air. This is not my genius, I stole it from a colleague. The calendar is filled with phantom appointments for ideas that might have flapped in or are still circulating someplace out there in the wide world.  Let’s check and color coordinate all those notions!

I decided to learn to read again, tired of misunderstanding the texts that swam before my eyes these past eleven months.  Usually on the third time I got the message. In order to avoid miscalculations, I’ve taken up the habit of waiting to react, allowing the branding iron to cool.

It’s a bit like a family, the riding stables. After a months of waiting for a spot, I got the call telling me that I would get on the Tuesday morning roll call for lessons. I could barely decipher the Amsterdam accent on the phone, but the message reached me. The rule of thumb to be accepted and ride is: Do not be wishy-washy. Do not cancel lessons, make sure you call to tell them that you will or will not be there, etc. They take you to task. “She has to come and discuss her decision with us face to face.” Stated the riding instructor this week to the group. You’re not allowed to leave the group without an explanation in the flesh. It’s a basic here and now situation. “She’s autistic as a car door.” Threw in one rider. Doesn’t matter, she’s going to have to show up, even one large horse bite, two tee-shirts and a few antibiotic tablets later, and stand her ground.

Seems reasonable in the long term. 

Seems reasonable in the long term to start thinking of other situations in which I can explore creative writing more. I will be writing less blogs and more Other Things. I am aiming for two blogs per month now, instead of four, giving me a bit more time to read and reflect, and space to compose longer thoughts.  I’m feeling just about up to the task at hand, although no accident has occurred.


Thursday, November 13, 2014

And then.....It's That Time of the Year Again

She was holding the knob bit on my nose to turn my face to one side and then the other.  I was being inspected for faults, looking for the ones, black heads in particular, that the beautician felt she could fix. It’s that time of the year again. The discussion is raging and I so far I have refused to post image of the culprit, Zwarte Piet or Black Peter on my FB in the form of an article or commentary. (However, I've just been informed by Vinita that she's taken the initiative with our upcoming mid-November post on AngloINFO South Holland by choosing a photograph of what looks like a prison cell but is supposedly a representation of Saint Nicolas' bedroom taken last year during Gouda's holiday festivities in the city hall. "Don't they understand this is racism?" She fumed over a coffee the other day, and, yes, we are used to being called "outsiders who don't get Dutch culture," our comments most unwelcome.) I've noticed many acquaintances who used to show their outrage at the blackface Dutch holiday character via this or that media platform have also been worn down a bit. Or maybe they’re waiting for the right moment to pounce. Not that I have changed my mind about the issue and since a few Dutch large retail concerns have decided to ban the image from their stores, I feel that progress slowly has made its way into the public arena. The controversy is staged and is well lit.  The gladiators are having a go at winning redemption in yet another case of man versus man.
“What to do?” I think, wondering about our lost manuscript. It was supposed to be published last year and it won’t make this year.  I haven’t set eyes on it in a while, do I still like it? Maybe I’ve moved on by now, in terms of writing. Maybe not. I’ve been reading a book about Amsterdam written by a well-heeled expat.  It reminds me of writing “The Bee’s Tour of Godua, Buzzing through Vinita’s Lens” – yes an obtuse mouthful isn’t it? While reading “Amsterdam, The World’s Most Liberal City” (a long and uncomplicated title that clarifies the point reiterated so well, perhaps too well, in the text) I watch the pages turn over swiftly and reflect on the choices made by the author, Russell Shorto, pausing every once in a while to consider whether I will ever write another guide book, or historical summation. It was, all in all, a really good exercise, and I have no regrets. What do I want to write?  Well, then I must stand by our "lost" manuscript. That’s a start in the right direction. In the meantime I’ve written a novella and have reviewed with both a terrified  and critical eye as potential for being published in a year or two.  Or not. Loss of courage then. Do you feel my waffling on the matter? Where’s north? Am I letting myself be intimidated? Oh dear.
While puttering around worrying about the short stories ever getting printed, I’ve gotten someone to look at my poetry and he’s made suggestions. Also a step in the right direction. Guidance and orientation are never bad ideas in general. Plenty of projects to work on for 2015. Oh wait, we’re not there yet. First we have to get through another month and half, the holiday work out that tests our patience and good taste.  If only a fabulous ultra-beautician of great wisdom could lay her soothing hands on all our brows and make us look instantly a little fresher, rejuvenated and raise our self-esteems by pointing our combined noses in the right direction. Yes, here we may all agree on the wording of that last sentence while thinking opposite intentions and muddle bravely on, n'est-ce pas?

Thursday, November 6, 2014

“We’ll Talk on Facebook”

“We’ll talk on Facebook”

She said this to me so assuredly. I was stunned, because I’ve never talked to her on Facebook. What she meant was she’s seen me busy on Facebook. I’m rather partial to the social media platform because I like to write odds and ends. I also like to use it as a pin board for ideas.  In fact I have used it as a precursor to Pinterest. To be sure Pinterest also fascinates me, especially when visualizing projects or ideas.

“What would we talk about on Facebook”? I wondered. This was a brush off. It didn’t really bother me because we’ve not been in contact for many years, and I just thought given the occasion that I would say hello. Instead of hello, it was in reality a goodbye.  The ultimate Judas kiss from Facebook.

I am at an age and destination where I’ve figured out I need to carve out a new life. And it’s not a new life, it’s an old life where I, a renewed single, get to do whatever I want to do now without having to take into consideration the interests of another person, basically something like Facebook but outside via the real life pavement. Of course I, like many others, have realized that there are limitations with Facebook.  Sometimes I post an item that I know will not appeal to many, not even a single person, and then it amuses me to look at it on my page, unloved and unliked. I then ask myself, “Do I even like or take interest in this?”  Ignored, the danger of social media ostracization stands out in a lone post, a blatant red flag of something unpopular, hanging on my page.

Nevermind.  Nevermind I told myself, having bought a Museum Night ticket with the express purpose of joining a group of people going out to the event. I thought a little bland socialization might do me some good. The group was full.  I had clicked in vain. Therefore I went to museum night alone which was probably the better option of the two as I don’t really like hanging around DJs and bars. The likelihood of my being entirely exasperated trouping around with a group making small talk was highly possible, in fact inevitable when there was art to be witnessed, which I consider much more important than small talk. It’s an obsession of mine.

Setting off into the incredibly soft November evening, not a drop of rain, wearing a very light coat for the season, I entered the Grachtenhuis and reviewed, en masse, a rather idiotic presentation of the planning involved in the expansion of the grachtengordel in the 17th century. Dopey patrician voices boomed at us from the loudspeakers. Nonetheless, the occasion forced me to tolerate the infiltration of some useful information into my brain.

I quickly walked off in the direction of FOAM, the photography museum.  Inside the noise was unbearable. After considering putting in my earplugs, I turned my back on the celebrations instead and walked across the street to the Museum van Loon. Hardly a soul loitered about, except young men and women dressed in evening apparel who were obviously extremely well brought up and had no idea what they should being doing besides standing at the door in a tailed tuxedo. The classical canal house itself is still private property and it seemed that the proprietors had recruited a youthful group of their social class to host the night.

“Holy cow, the curtains match the wallpaper,” a man behind me said after having scoffed loudly to his friends about the overwhelming pattern of the wall paper. The mansion’s upstairs wall paper was blue and white and very French. It depicts pastoral scenes, people and nature rambling across the walls. Museum Night is not really a night for the usual museum goer. No, it’s for people who want to party in a museum.  We were sitting on gold sprayed chairs in what was genteelly being called “The Living Library” waiting for a 15 minute presentation to begin on the proposal of a greenhouse museum in Amsterdam.  “It’s for the children,” we were being told, “To learn where their vegetables come from and rediscover the joys of long forgotten variations of carrots.” Despite the many unsubstantiated arguments for the erection of the edifice, the idea sounded healthy and looked appetizing. “I am sorry but there’s plenty of space to grow food in, and we will not be forced to grow our own meals on our balconies or in our bathtubs in 2024.”The man behind me said. Gone was the veil of upper crust eccentricity to save the planet. To be sure he was a modern, white walls, no nonsense type of guy.

I felt very entertained by the polarities of scene and happily trotted off to the Handbag Museum where three young poets were having a moment.  I sat down in the 18th century window. The window was open, so warm was the night, and I half turned my body one side to face the room and the other half to face the street. The water in the canal was a ripe black and glittered gold below the street lights. My nose brushed the red velvet curtain, my right eye looked into the ornate reception room. The three poets stood on overturned beer crates in their sneakers. Kitchen towels had been placed under the beer crates so as not to scratch the parquet. One spoke about meat balls, stuttering meat balls, the other declared life was a bitch. “A bitch,” he said, “Is beautiful.” Thus at the end of his poem he stated he could well appreciate a bitch. A discussion arose about whether we should listen to more profanity. Nostalgia was up next, forwards to the next topic.

The cozy thing about this evening was that it was in Dutch and there weren’t many tourists taking part. It was all a very Dutch Amsterdam event. The poems were in Dutch, the presentations were in Dutch and most everyone was speaking Dutch, even jesting between strangers.

Moving on, the Portguese synagogue was all a lit and blazing with charm. As there are no electrical lamps, this meant the hall was lit entirely by candles.  The building itself is monumental and very un-Dutch in temperament and proportion perched on great indulgent pillars like those of Solomon. Seated in a wooden pew among many unbelievers, I reflected that indeed I had always wanted to experience a candle lit evening in the synagogue. Unwittingly it had come about. On the other hand the Hortus Botanicus was a surprise. I hadn’t been before, and I discovered that I should go more often, take a book and read for a moment in the tropics, inhaling the heavy and humid air that reminds me of Singapore. It felt like an attractive winter plan was hatching, and it had nothing to do with Facebook.