Friday, April 17, 2009

Star Spangled and Fairly Tangled

Keeping with the times, we chewed mushrooms and discussed the philosophy of colour and shape and our perception of it. We then proceeded to laugh hysterically at our state of mind. We were truly off our kilter.

"It does work!" we exclaimed with joy.

We danced. Oh, how we danced. The music flowed through us like a river of faeces. And when it came out on the other side we were halfway through our come down. Overconsciousness can be a bitch. Not that it was heavy. It was anything but. We let it go. After all, it is all about the ebb and the flow.

The following day I was full of gas. I sat down on the toilet and let go. I entered into some heavy breathing exercieses, my muscles relaxing, and lose that undesired weight that was brewing in the depths of my intestinal track.

And now it is Monday. Grey. Quiet. And not too warm.

When will the sun shine, I wonder?

When will I bask in all its glory and be free of worry?

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

A New Season; A New Way of Suffering

Springtime is upon us. The days are getting longer, the trees are budding, the flowers are blossoming. The days are beautiful once again. But with this sudden beauty comes a price. All of us are not affected, but those of us who are pay dearly.

Hay fever; the unworthy penalty of the new season. And I suffer from it terribly. That mild sniffling, those few sneezes, they are not much to endure at first. But then they turn into unending stuffiness. You constantly sniff the snot back into your nasal cavity when lacking a tissue with which to do the proper job. You sniff so much that it gets to you. Your whole face aches, stuffed with mucus you wish you could get rid of but just can't. The dreaded sinus infection kicks in and the next thing you know, your throat starts aching and your chest grows heavy. You wheeze every time you breathe and you can't kick the illness.

Oh, what affliction; what suffering. But, as we know, it is the cross to bear in exchange for those first few warm days. Reflecting back on those first few days of warmth and sunshine of March and April, you remember the good times with friends, barbecuing in the park as the sun goes down, when the days are just barely warm, but the nights still require a jacket and scarf. It was worth the heavy heads and aching cheeks; the blocked nose and the itchy eyes. It was worth it because you knew it to be the start of something new. People say that Autumn is a time for starting over, but I say fuck that. With spring comes new vegetation and new opportunities; new fruits and new beginnings.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Monday - Can't Trust That Day

A Monday night in Amsterdam can offer many things. Most people are likely too tired to do much after a long day back in the office, so they retire to their abode for a hearty, yet easy meal. They will feel themselves satisfied after said meal and unwind in front of their televisions to fill their mind with the useless programming offered by the many cable companies and broadcasters cross their respective lands.

This is how many Monday nights will play out for the masses. I know that is how they normally play out for me. But this past Monday was different. The sun was shining and the birds were singing. It was the first in a succession of nice days. A sign that spring was surely just around the corner. That was encouragement enough.

"Today," I thought to myself, "I will take advantage of this gorgeousness that is a spring day and pump up the basketball." It had been sitting, half-deflated, in my closet for what seemed like months, and in anticipation of the days to follow, I decided to fill that rubberous sphere back to its former glory. And so I did.

I had planned to meet Amanda for dinner (neither of us could be bothered to make anything - that too familiar Monday feeling) and had a half an hour to spare. I used that time, ball in hand, to take to the courts.

I was rusty, that much was clear. Aside from the ninety minutes I had played nine days before, I hadn't played since the previous summer. Towards the end of my quick session of hoops, I found where I was going wrong.

Due to the state of the rim itself; bent, broken and overly misused, it was virtually impossible for the ball - as spherical as it was - to pass through the hoop, whose spherical shape had so obviously been receding over the years. And so I started to increase the arc of my shot. Rather than pushing the ball from my chest (a technique I learned did not help so much with the aim of my shot, but rather hinder it,) I started to shoot from behind my head, aiming it like Larry Bird did in his heyday.

This technique drastically improved my aim, as I could see the exact point of release, and therefore increase my shooting percentage. Unfortunately, it could not be put into practise and see if it truly worked, as I was scheduled to meet Amanda for dinner at 6:30.

Dinner was a very casual affair at an upscale little place on the Haarlemmerstraat called, "STOUT!" I found the prices to be extortionate for the type (and amount) of food you would get. The menu was quiet limited (as would be expected in this sort of place,) but what was on offer was not of the quality one would expect. Amanda's steak was well-cooked and her munster mousseline potato sidedish was the perfect accompaniament, but I personally felt that I could get a decent steak at a thousand and one restaurants across Amsterdam for a third of the price and be just as underwhelmed.

I chose the ribs, which was a dubious decision to begin with, as I had reasoned with myself that I shouldn't get the same dish as Amanda. Why? I don't even know that. Two small racks of ribs were presented to me by a cutesy waitress who was not worth the tip which we left behind. I've had decent ribs before, which were equal parts delicious and inexpensive. And they didn't even need an overly sweet barbecue sauce to cover up the tastelessness of the meat. A huge disappointment in my eyes.

The only saving grace to this dish of mine was the fact that I could have had more. The eyecatching detail on the menu stated 'not unlimited, but give it your best shot!' And so the idea was that they set the plate of ribs in front of you and ask you if you'll be wanting more. I told the girl that I thought that would be enough, and it was. Once I finished my meal, I found myself agreeing with my original decision. I could have eaten another rack, but at the time I was full. "What would be the point," I thought, "in stuffing myself with inadequate food?" It just wasn't going to be worth the discomfort I would have most definitely been feeling afterward.

I bid adieu to Amanda and made my way toward Utrechtsestraat. I had planned to meet up with an old friend that evening, and Amanda was set for a long night of work.

Taking a seat in a small beercafe on the corner of the Frederiksplein and Utrechtsestraat, Cafe Oosterling was decked out with old fashioned barrels, labelled with the drinks of old: Jenever, Anisette, Brandy, etc.. the owner of the joint informed me that they were just for show, and so taking me for a tourist, I entertained him with the story of how I found myself in his cafe on that particular evening, surprising him by saying that I'd been living in his country for over four years.

By the time I got around to telling him how I found myself in Amsterdam, Steven Shaw walked in the door. I hadn't seen Steve in years and it was good to catch up. I asked about his brother, whom I had known before, but he regretted to tell me that he had seen Dave probably just as much as I had, which I knew to be false as I hadn't laid eyes on the man for a good three eyars, but i did not question him on the matter at the time.

Adam showed up and we trudged off for some Tapas.

The Pata Negra is a notoriously run establishment along the same street, who are known for their lack of proper Spanish olive oil and subsequently overpriced dishes.

We drank cervezas leisurely and had many dishes of greasy seafood and cured meats. A Spanish waitress had caught our eye and we entertained her with our Western charm, cordially asking her to join us for a drink when she had finished her shift. She politely refused, based on the grounds we had been drinking and were in no fit state to entertain a beautiful lady such as she. We took this as a sign of subtle respect, paid our bill and went on our merry way.

Popping into a late night cafe down the road for a nightcap on the way home, we had a few more laughs and then parted weays.

It just goes to show you, that everyday can bring surprises. Even a Monday.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

A Tartan Invasion

The Scots descended on the city in droves. Like the Battle of Boroughmuir, they had turned up in the thousands with a purpose. Riding through the city centre, one couldn't go a block without spotting a kilt or hearing that thick, unmistakable accent. With the tartan dotted through the city streets, and the volume with which they were present (save for the obvious buildings and canals,) one just might have thought they'd turned up in Glasgow.

According to the BBC, who have come to be a source one can trust when it comes to supplying the news, twelve thousand tartan wearing (and Tartan drinking for that matter) Scots were in Amsterdam this weekend. What was the occasion, one might ask? And rightly so. Why would a nation of people flee to another country for a mere two days? The answer is national pride. The Scottish National Football Team were in town to take on their Dutch counterparts in a very important World Cup qualifier.

Yes, every Scotsman and his mother turned up for the match. Not with the intention of celebrating victory, mind you. No, that would have been very unrealistic. With a mounting injury list and depleted confidence, there was no chance of a Scot win. But what the Scots did bring to the table was character, and plenty of it.

Second in a weak group (also including Iceland, Norway and Macedonia,) the Scottish have every chance of qualifying for their first World Cup in 12 years, but what they would not be doing is moving that one step further on game night. But you wouldn't have known it to see them in town - they were in high spirits and full of vigour.

And full of alcohol. Most of them had flown into town the night before, and so from nine o'clock on game day, they had been bang on it; drinking heavily and talking a good game. By six o'clock that evening, they had more drinks than you, dear reader, have had hot dinners. Witnessing them stumble along the cobbles, they so obviously barely had a leg to stand on. "What will these drunken beasts be like by nightfall?" I wondered as I pedaled myself home. "When the moon is holding water in the midnight sky, will they take to ravaging the locals?" I shuddered to think. What any sane man would have been doing amongst these animals is beyond me, yet there I found myself, in the thick of it, as it were; careening, mooching - a detached observer.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

"Hi, I'm Mark Kramer.."

We returned to the deck, a couple drinks in hand, and I basked in the ever-giving sun to continue my reading. Theroux was in Ceylan, mixing with whores and preparing for India.

Lunch consisted of grilled kielbasa and good, strong German beer. We ate our sausages and I heaped praise on Jeremy for his choice in location. The lake below us shimmered from the afternoon sun and I felt that I could stay there forever, in that little pocket of nowhere, north of Kingston.

We were then introduced to Mark Kramer (see inset photo). Mark was a veteran of those parts, having lived in the area with his parents since 1989. We were introduced to Mark, who, climbing the stairs which led to the deck, carried an armful of various ingredients - a plastic bottle of Canada Dry, a Tupperware container full of ice, a litre of Gibson's finest and a lowball glass - those which would combine to make his cocktail of choice: Rye and Ginger. This man had obviously once been a Boy Scout.

He made sure to introduce himself by his full name: "Hi, I'm Mark Kramer." Like he was some bigshot we all had heard about, but had never had the good fortune enough to meet.

Mark Kramer drank his whiskey like a champion, sucking on his upper lip every time he took a healthy gulp. The guy even brought his own glass - a tumbler (of course) with no apparent markings. He seemed intent on catching Jeremy up on all the neighbourhood gossip: those who were moving in, those who were moving out, those who had recently purchased land, the fishing - what was biting and what wasn't, yet primarily talked about his own retreat - what he had been working on during the spring and summer months and what was planned for winter. Kramer liked to talk, that much was evident - and by the palid look on Jeremy's face as Mark hammered on with the local dish, one could tell that he'd heard enough of it.

Mark and Jeremy were of the few select crowd who stayed in this area all year around - they enjoyed the isolation. "Summers are great, of course, but I really thrive on the winters when you don't see a single soul on the lake." Jeremy had said as much to me around the campfire the night before, as we passed the Wild Turkey back and forth. A man could do some serious thinking up there. Blow the cobwebs off the old typewriter and bang out a few dozen pages. I could only imagine the peacefulness of such times; weekly jaunts into town for the bare necessities, ice fishing, all no doubt coinciding with the out and out loneliness that would sure follow.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Boredom takes the office by storm.

sweeps over me.
I fall asleep
at my desk,
I dream that
I'm falling
off a cliff.
I jolt awake.
I hang up.
I retire
to the tilet
for my daily
I'm reading
some poems by
I print them off
the internet.
I can't afford books
of poetry.
He's a

Friday, February 8, 2008

The Smack of Reality

Thursday night. Ridng that Amsterdam-bound train once again. First class this time. It is often in the evenings, on the way home, that I'll find myself among the upper echelons of the travelling elite. With more space and more legroom than one knows what to do with, one can relax and unwind.

The days at work seem to get longer and longer. Perhaps it is the knowledge that I will be leaving in one week that makes the hours drag by painfully. These last there days have gone by especially slow. They've felt like double shifts, and I find myself walking out of the terribly boring building, devoid of any architectural creativity, absolutely shattered. Serge Gainsbourg helps me unwind after a particularly stressful day. His serene voice, full of bass, helps me forget about the less than standard equipment at our disposal, and the sons of bitches I am forced to speak to on a daily basis.

And now as I write this I worry about dinner: what will I eat? I'd like to go out for a few drinks, but with a monstrous debt hanging over my head like a terrible spectre, I know that to be impossible. On top of the debt, I have little to no money in my account, and then there's the little detail of the two grand I must thrust forward for these ridiculous reparations my fellow tenants look to make in the spring. If I plan to have that amount saved up by then, it will mean a couple months of not go0ing out, of not socialising, and of not spending money on things that aren't absolutely necessary. That means I will most likely miss some amazing gigs that are coming our way over the next couple of months, namingly Portishead. However hard I may try to get tickets sorted out for the April seventh gig (or a couple spots on the guestlist in this case,) it still may not happen. Shain has informed me that it is very difficult to get press sorted for gigs that are already sold out, so that doesn't make for good news. And to top it off, the chap from JB has also told me that it's going to be a difficult pursuit.

As the train conductor announces Amsterdam Amstel, we coast by the local prison. I peer into the windows, hoping to see a face or a moving body, but all I notice are flickering lights with bare bulbs and no character whatsoever. I look out the window of Amstel station, and glance into their parking lot. Three white buses are lined up against each other, with the name 'Eurolines' emblazoned on either side. Anonymous buses taking anonymous passengers to anonymous destinations. Where do the fates of these passengers take them? Are they taking these buses to get away from their problems, or is it just the opposite? I fear they are taking these buses, and without knowing it, driving into one problem after the next. Or perhaps it's just some transients looking for a ride to the next stop on their European adventure. Travellers. Adventurers of the world. Explorers of the mind. X.