Thursday, September 18, 2014

Maybe It’s a Snake

Could be, I was transporting myself to Florida perhaps, where exotic animals block up drains. Maybe there was a snake stuck in the shower drain. It is a highly unlikely scenario but still, a definite solution to the problem. Remove snake, repair drain, everyone happy. Do insurers here in the Netherlands cover the snake in the drain occurrence?
“You are not going to put this discussion on FB in one of your infamous flowery formatted status statements!” This was directed at me at midnight while descending from our train which had just pulled into Amsterdam Station. There’s a great waiting room for the royals there, you know, gold gilt and mosaic themed.  Statues glaring at you from the ceiling corners, etc. You’ve got to know to bait time a bit or perhaps time baits you with a heavily symbolic over the top d├ęcor until it seems a bit ridiculous. Either way, there had been a long discussion in the train ride home from the Opera aan de Schie festival about all sorts of things, starting from what’s the view of and from an upside down triangle.  The triangle theme was not a successful subject and led to some irritation facilitated by the hanging and uncomfortable sensation that arose in our throats, the need to defend our IQ levels. A good number of glasses of wine had been partaken post performances, and everyone was still a bit wired on the adrenaline, wired from the fatigue of less adrenaline than before the performance, and, ultimately, wired on the booze.
Instead of feeling the usually mutual love post climax of the opera festival, we were sitting back in high school being interrogated about our future capabilities stuck in uncomfortable train seats. Were we focused on thinking the right way? Would we achieve greater heights because our brains were then cajoled into thinking in the great Western academic tradition? The logic of logic within the balanced three tips of a triangle?
Well, what I most enjoyed about Opera aan de Schie this year was showing up with four ballet dancers. Okay, so the show is not about me, I was merely a part of it. I’m not quite sure how I managed to think about putting together an “Orfeo ed Euridice” with dancers.  Most likely because the score by Gluck has dances in it and at one point I nearly had an orchestra too, but it because of budget concerns it ended up being a cast of eight. Four dancers, three singers and a pianist. One of the dancers had been in the company of the Dutch National Ballet and, retired, is presently teaching at a ballet school and was dancing along with her students. I cut up the score and told the dancers to do what they wanted with the options. They brilliantly filled in the story line so that the singers could simply sing and emote with music while standing basically still. When we finally rehearsed the two groups, singers and dancers, together we had a complete show. This was an excellent result.  The story is about love, losing it, finding it, replacing it, endless wandering back and forth about what is true love and the discrepancies of what is not and cannot, in the end, be called straightforward faithfulness.
The final conversation in the train oddly enough mirrored the opera theme.  The revelations capturing the attention of our fellow passengers, one of whom could not keep his eyes on his day old newspaper and instead followed the bouncing ball topic between our small mixed group about the infidelity of men, the natural unbreakable chain reaction of lust, the discussion rebounding between the one man and two women in our group; the women’s distrust of the male sex evident, their irritation at not being the sole object of desire, composed disgruntlement as regal as the royal waiting room in Amsterdam Central.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Picnic Patricians

The bag smelled awful. I had been regularly eating a lot of prepared supermarket food up until now, such as that smelly salad that comes in bags. Pitiful I know. Why not, you might ask, just grab or tote a sandwich for lunch like most people? Sandwiches are the last thing I like to eat when given the choice. Being gluten intolerant means that there are many gluten free bread products available but all of them are magnificently inedible unless toasted.  So if I toast four slices of gluten free bread (the equivalent to two and half slices of normal sized bread slices) and smear them with a lot of butter and something else tasty and moisturizing, they become slightly appealing as a possible lunch option. But not by much. Now that I have an apartment with total control over my own (unshared) kitchen and could pack lunches easily (the entire vista of the fridge is mine), I have begun to be more resolute when grocery shopping. Still, I backslid and over the weekend bought a bag of smelly salad. It tastes awful as well and prompted me to read a number of blogs by people who categorically refuse to eat the embalmed comestible. Anyway moving on from the vagabond life of apartmentlessness to getting more organized as I am now well housed, I rounded up a friend and neighbor on my day off this past weekend for a marathon of walking about Amsterdam.

“Do you want an apple?” I asked as we stood in line on the richest of the richest canals in Amsterdam to view the interior of a patrician’s house. I had a gluten free sandwich in my bag as well.  I wouldn’t dare offer it to anyone to eat. Instead I thought he might like the apple. He wasn’t hungry.  Nonetheless I fished the aluminum foil wrapped bullet out of my bag.  “See,” I said tapping the unwrapped sandwich against my iPad case, “Rock hard.” It made a hollow tapping sound.

I crunched my way through the snack.  The crumb laden peanut butter goo (it’s always a toss up: a lot peanut butter is needed to disguise the bread but too much peanut butter leads to a brittle choking sensation) didn’t help to relieve my thirst. I ate the apple too. “This used to be the dining room.” We were standing in the back room of the Bartolotti House. The built in marble fountain used to cool the wine exuded elegance, the epicurean themes hanging heavily on the wall.  Feeling dehydrated, I fantasized that the water spout might be conduced to deliver instead a dark chocolate pudding, so rich in antioxidants, a perfect complement to wine. I could easily imagine the presence of many green bottles. Then, speaking of compliments, sometime in the 18th century a musician moved in and converted all the beautiful light and resonance into a music room. Either way, it was a very elaborate and agreeable space overlooking a large garden. Even 17th century the laundry facilities appeared quite charming under a skylight in the basement. All those off white colored tiled walls, their milky and pitted shining surfaces waving at me, were very inspirational. I wanted to move in immediately.

“Mega water leak!” The note was posted to my front door. The shop below my flat had found water descending from the ceiling.  When I went to look, they had cleaned it up. I didn’t have any extraneous water in my flat. Why hadn’t they unscrewed some of the ceiling panels to look for the leak? This thought occurred to me several times over the next few days, but what did I understand about the wicked ways of water? 

The shop owner stood on my bathroom floor looking down, he feet supported by the firmly cemented tiles. He was a sweet guy with a slightly off kilter smile. “It will all have to come out!” he declared, “To fix the water leak.” The building’s superintendent finally spoke up. “No.” Well, there was some common sense talking.

We had seen three 17th century mansions. My companion started saying things about Art Deco lines, his mind reeling from all the Rococo. We marched over to Amsterdam’s City Archives designed by Bazel.  The rooms reminded me vaguely of a house I had once lived in when I was 5. It had lovely electricity switches.  Not those abhorrent plastic splotches that we now must accept but little brass switches or old fashioned twist notches with a delicate line threaded through them to give a sense of dimension.

To continue the theme of near modernity we walked over to the Grand Hotel, formerly the city hall up until the 1980's, and saw the famous first class wedding room for the well to do, filled with stained glass and muted green wall murals. My Open Monument Day Partner in Crime was nearly kicking his heels together with glee at the sight of so many straight lines and geometrical patterns. One more visit, we mutually decided and afterwards sealed our five hour six monument day trip off with a chocolate mocha treat in the Bijenkorf looking out over Amsterdam under blue skies, complete satisfaction plastered over our faces. We parted ways on the Spuistraat. There was still half a day available; he went off to compose music and I thought about composing some poems and this way we’d celebrate a great day out in Amsterdam back in our own spaces.  What about the leak, you wonder? So do I from time to time, but so far no further notice of rampant hysteria has been taped to my door.
Open Monument Weekend (or Day depending on the town/city) occurs once a year (usually the second weekend in September) and is a national event.


Friday, September 5, 2014

A Lot of Songs About Love

It’s difficult to write about music. Who wants to read about music when you could simply listen to it? I googled Brahms+Liebeslieder+Blog and got nothing this morning. So what happens in Opus 52? Is there nothing to blog about when it comes to these love songs?
“Speak, girl whom I love all too well, do you want me to come to you?” (Number 1) Strolling through social media last night I had a good laugh over a light hearted discussion I was following on an idea to found a secret site for musicians to date. “Fuck it,” I read, “I’m just going to do it.” Said the initiator, a real go getter type.
 “Like a stream dashed against the stones, you learn to sigh when you fall in love.” (Number 2) “I can’t sleep,” someone confessed to me recently, “It just hurts too bad.”
“Oh women, how they inspire! I’d have become a monk long ago except for women.” (Number 3) Sitting across a rebounder one night a few weeks ago over drinks, his eyes glowing with happiness over his new found soul mate, the real deal he assured me, despite the husband and kids.
“I’d like to feel good, shine, even if was only just for one lad paying some attention to me.” (Number 4) It has come to my attention that I’d have never made it as a supermarket cashier in Amsterdam. I am completely incapable of producing the required flaming plumage both in hair style and hair color.
 “Her thoughts, like the green hopvine, trail on the ground.” (Number 5) I noticed at my last address in Amsterdam a number of postcards and handsomely addressed envelopes of quality paper routinely arriving from England. They were all destined for my roommate, whose eyes misted over when he talked of seeing his lover. Old fashioned missals, caring and highly romantic in this day and age.
“The little bird hanging around a lot of fruit has got a good thing going, getting caught and getting a pretty hand to help him out of his fix.” (Number 6) You know when you’ve come to believe you need a helping hand for something concerning the internet and you, if you are a woman as I am, consider calling someone male to help you? Yeah.
 “Previously my life was a pleasant one, but now my sweetheart’s eyes are cold.” (Number 7) Sitting in the divorce council’s office I noticed my ex flirting with the receptionist. Then he looked over at me, his eyes grew dull and bored as if he were looking at a twenty day old donut. Actually I really didn’t mind.
“When your eyes look at me so mildly and lovingly, every shadow vanishes.” (Number 8) Years ago, ages ago for some unfathomable reason, most likely to do with the cheapness of the occasion, I signed up for an Improv Dance Class for non-dancers. Back then, very green when it came to bobbing and flouncing coordinative skills, I stumbled along on two left feet. So did a fellow classmate and he was exactly my size. We immediately recognized a similar energy and whimsy level in each other and became friends. Just moved to my new address in A’dam last week, I sent him a message. We hadn’t seen each other in years. “Doncha live on my street?” I asked. He came immediately, a house warming gift in hand.  He looked at me, “I can’t believe you are here.” He said. “Tell me what happened!” And his eyes reassured me I was okay.
“There’s a house with a pink cheeked girl in it, I’ll break those iron bolts like they are a joke!” (Number 9) Okay, this is where I am questioning whether she’s slipping the bolts open at night, unbeknownst to papa or is he so macho that he’s sure he’ll break her resolve? And anyway this reminds me of our tenor in the Brahms quartet who is always mentioning that he’s sung xxx number of Bach Cantatas out of the x hundred that still exist. Will he find the no longer existent ones?
“Oh how the stream through the meadow is like the lover reaching his beloved.” (Number 10) “Are you going to internet date?” I was asked. “My ex does, and she’s now going out with I.” The speaker drew a breath, “I told her, that I was always ready to accommodate her if I. couldn’t make it. For some reason or other.” Hmmmmmm……
“There’s no dealing with people, they put an evil interpretation in everything. If I’m happy, they say I’m horny and if I am calm, they say I’m wild with love.” (Number 11) I get remarks like this, “You look great. But you’re all alone now right?”
“Locksmith! Come and make lots of locks, I want to lock up the spiteful mouths.” (Number 12) “What are you going to do if you don’t internet date?” Someone deliberately articulated, “I know! You know X? He’s given up on having a romantic life and has lots of platonic friends instead. You could be like him. He’s got a full life.”  The tone of voice said, “He’s strange but okay.”
 “The little bird flies looking for a branch as my heart looks for a heart on which to rest.” (Number 13) “You don’t have a bike yet?” Astonishment. No, I do not have a city proof bike yet. Considering that I have a seven minute walk to work and rotate for the most part within a ten block radius, it seems a little bit too much of a struggle to deal with parking a bike here and there. I’d rather walk around and discover my neighborhood.
 “The moon enhances the water’s reflection as my love returns my love.” (Number 14)  As I write this there is a couple fighting outside my office window on their roof top terrace. The antithesis of this scenario.
“The nightingale sings so beautifully, kiss me in the dark.” (Number 15) The “kiss me in the dark” part fascinates me.  When I was I child growing up amidst a stack of second hand Aretha Franklin records, the heavy vinyl versions with the in your face close ups of Aretha in lime green or hot pink, my father, a man of few words at most times, turned to me and said, “That’s the best song ever.” He meant “At the Dark End of the Street.” The song that was playing on the stereo just then.  Was he ever unfaithful to my mother I wondered at that moment of his roaming, job to job, cash and carry days.  For the most part, after three in the afternoon he was home, drug induced, sleeping off his 5 am writing habit. Still it’s the kind of setting and romanticism that inspires daydreaming.
 “Love is a deep well, dangerous. I fell in. I can now moan of my sorrow.” (Number 16) What was it that I was reading the other day? Some article about how the most lovey dovey of public declarations of love on Facebook in fact disguise dissatisfaction? Or was it the most lovey dovey of public declarations of love on Facebook lead to depression? Or was it….somehow, for the life of me, I just can’t remember what the article was about…
 “Don’t go there, where traces of my unhappiness lie strewn about.” (Number 17) Reinvention.  A great thing.
“The bushes are quivering from the rustle of a little bird, my soul is thus mirrored when I think of you.” (Number 18) Ahhhhh…..well…that’s just nice.

 Zwolle, 21 September Zwolse Muziekkamer 15:00 Info: