A heavy Sunday

It has been a stormy Sunday morning spent reading, drinking coffee, listening to forgotten music and thinking. Uh oh.

On the topic of happiness: If I were George Michael circa 1985, I would be wearing a t-shirt that said, "CHOOSE LIGHT." It is a conscious decision for me to laugh and keep things simple and light, and that makes the days in Amsterdam brighter, but that doesn't mean I am happier here or that I have stopped being serious on the inside. I still need my days of melancholy and hours of staring out at nothing. I know that there are people in this world who don't wrestle with phantoms, and perhaps they are the true happy ones, but I am not one of them. If I deny the dark parts of me in an effort to appear constantly sunny (for whose benefit?) I deny the part of me that feels and experiences a deeper part of life. And those deeper feelings and experiences bring me a profound happiness. What I am learning is that it is possible to be sunny and serious at the same time and that happiness, for me, may be much more about peace of mind than anything else.

On the topic of loss: I realize that I didn't lose everything from the past few years because my memories of the people and places and pets that I loved are still clear. My years were not wasted just because the end was painful. When I was at the market yesterday, waiting for my fish to be cleaned, I heard the Simon and Garfunkel song, "America" playing from the DVD booth. Jeff and I listened to my vinyl copy of "Bookends" lots and lots in the months around 9/11, and I had downloaded the song just last week in a moment of nostalgia. To hear it again, after not hearing it for years, while in the middle of a uniquely "Katie's-life-in-Amsterdam" experience brought my past and my present together in a weirdly wonderful way. Though he is gone, there are years of shared moments that are still important to me and I don't want to bury those memories any more -- I want to honor the good times we had. A gentle, peaceful Jeff has been showing up in my dreams a lot lately - the guy who was happy staring at nothing in the middle of nowhere - and he keeps telling me goodbye. I look forward to the day when I can gently and peacefully tell that favorite version of the man I loved goodbye too. I am getting there.

On the topic of trips: I am taking Tom to Prague for a long weekend next month and then LeeAnne and I are spending a week in Spain in October. Prague will be fascinating to see through different eyes (both his first-time view and my second-time with a fair amount of additional knowledge view) and I am certain just as beautiful as I remember. And Spain will be fabulous. If anyone has Barcelona or Seville suggestions, I'd be glad to get them. And we can all look forward to a week of (e)Spanish cheeses. Muy bueno! Muy delicioso!


Phun with photos

I made a concerted effort last Sunday to take photos of the normal details of Amsterdam life, and to learn more about what my camera can do lens, shutter and colour-wise. So sit back and enjoy a little tour.

This is a boat moored on the canal next to my apartment. Though the blur makes it hard to see (I didn't say the camera affects were all GOOD), the red and white umbrella is freaking adorable. The red and white plastic bags you get when you buy produce at the markets are freaking adorable too.

The "I amsterdam" campaign is all over the city. This sign in on Museumplein, in front of the Rijks and VanGogh museums and is either loved or hated by people who live here because it is huge and in English and quite blatant. I like it.

And the following:
Giant chessboard by the Leidesplein.
Street scene.
Bridge detail.

I must give a shout out to Ms. Stacy Bolt, who included "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" on her most excellent farewell music compilation "Amsterdamn!" I did a chair dance and Diana Ross-worthy lip-synch while grinning like a mad woman and wiping away happy tears. Thanks lady.


Gay Day

Amsterdam hosts the largest Gay Pride celebration in the world, so I donned my pink feather boa and motorcycle boots and went forth to soak the fabulousness in.

There is a massive boat parade on the Prinsengracht canal that an estimated 35,000 people watch from the bridges and alongside the water. I got to see the parade from a lovely top-floor apartment right on the canal -- enjoying cocktails and food
while waving at the boys and girls from above. The floats were essentially giant dance parties with great outfits.

Some notes from the field:
- One float had men dressed in Rembrant-era neck ruffs and short shorts.

- The float with older (much older) men and women who were dancing in pink polo shirts and rainbow leis was a classy and dignified contrast to the youngsters on the other boats. It was charming and very heartening to see.

- This was a family event, meaning that Dutch families (moms, dads and kids) were out on their small boats watching the parade go by. It was a joyful and entertaining event and it was nice to see people just enjoying the energy without judgment or fear.

And me? I wound up dancing on a stage and having a blast and then drunk dialed my parents when I got home. Cuz that’s the way I roll.



On Wednesday, Heidi and I made plans to spend Saturday at the Kröller-Müller museum. It is well outside of Amsterdam, but Heidi had heard great things about it, and getting out of town sounded lovely. I went to the web site and looked up the directions for getting to the museum by train, and I thought I had it all planned out when we met at Central Station this morning at 11:45.

Cut to 4pm, when we actually arrived at the park. By that time we had:

- Missed the first train because I had to buy bread and cheese at the station market for the "hour" long ride. OK, there was wine to buy too, but that didn't have anything to do with anything other than fulfilling my romantic notions of what a train picnic should include. Drinking the wine directly from the bottle wasn't so romantic, but that's another story...

- Caught the next train half an hour later, but overshot the stop where we were, apparently, supposed to switch trains. Heidi asked the conductors standing on the platform what we should do, and they said, “Take this one,” pointing to the train in front of us. We went to get on, but something told me to ask if we had to change trains again after this stop. They said -- completely deadpan, “Yes. You will need to change trains at the next station.” Good to know. And that is the Dutch system of communication in a nutshell. You’ll get 85% of the information you need, but you’ll have to guess what questions to ask in order to get the remaining 15%.

- Finally reached the Apeldoorn train station after about 2 1/2 hours, and went to catch the bus to the museum. In the information station, the woman told us, after laughing at our pronunciation of the museum name, the bus ride takes half an hour, comes once an hour, and we just missed it.

- Thrown a hissy fit and almost went back to Amsterdam, but went instead to use the WC (.50 cents), where I couldn’t find the button to flush the toilet, and a woman who had already paid for HER turn and opened the door as I was pushing anything that resembled a button. Heidi couldn’t find the button in her WC either, so we had a bit of a laugh as the woman hurried me out because, “I paid 50 cents and can’t close the door now because I will have to pay again.” So I gave up my stall and walked quickly away.

- Caught the bus and learned that we would have to transfer to a small, white bus, after about 30 minutes. Fine. Fine. Whatever. We got off the bus when the driver told us (after passing some really cool houses) and boarded a small bus, telling the driver where we wanted to go. By this point we thought we’d just go to the national part that surrounds the museum, since the Kröller-Müller closed at 5. So we told the driver we wanted to go to Hoge Veluwe park and he said, “OKAY! I can take you there.” We drove for about 10 minutes and then saw the same buildings go by. He drove us in a circle! Seriously! About 500 metres past the point where we started, we arrived at the park and the fun really began.

Everything about the museum was amazing – the architecture, the collection, the sculpture garden, everything. I went in with a grumpy attitude and came out completely jazzed about life. We didn’t have much time there, so I want to go back when I can enjoy the whole place at a slow pace.

The park has over 1500 free white bikes that you can use while you are there. After we left the museum we got on bikes and rode about 10 kilometers to the other side of the park in search of food. We went through forests that smelled like Black Butte in summer and big meadows and, surprisingly, a desert! With sand dunes! Where the heck did that come from?

The restaurant we ended up at only offered a 24.95 all you can eat and drink buffet, which we were so excited about. We ate outside on the patio and enjoyed many sub-par but still strangely satisfying trips to the food bar. Lots more fish offered in the Dutch buffet than at a typical American one. But there was still soft-serve ice cream, so it wasn’t completely different.

The ride home was much easier, as we caught a bus about 200 meters away from the restaurant that took us directly to the central station in another town, where we caught a direct express train to Amsterdam. We got back in a little more than an hour. All told, a great day.