Monthly Archives: March 2014
Back to normaal
With the extra A as the Dutch say it. The Nuclear Security Summit is over and all the major traffic routes are operational. Which was a good thing because this afternoon I had to go Den Haag for a customer meeting. Their location is directly across from the US Embassy which was probably not a good place to try to get near during the Summit. From my understanding, most of the center of Den Haag was closed off. However, by this afternoon, we were in good shape.
Tomorrow it is off to Houten, outside of Utrecht. We have approximately 100 of our customers coming to talk about modern software development. I know, that is a topic that you are jumping out of your chairs with enthusiasm to discuss! Well, for this crowd it will be. Having gotten five different meetings out of today’s dress pants, I feel like I can finally send them to the dry cleaners. Tomorrow I will have to wear something different since I was at the office twice today and I can’t get away with it again!
The boys go to the beach on Sunday with Renee and their doggy friends. She takes a group to the beach every couple of months or so. And I am going to Brussels, to catch up with an old colleague from Seattle years ago. She moved to Paris to get her masters from the Sorbonne and then ended up working in Brussels. I am looking forward to taking the train down and spending the day hanging out with Barbara and seeing the differences between Belgium and the Netherlands.
I have something even more exciting to share. Tonight I found out that Boy George is going to be in the Netherlands a week from Monday. OF course I bought a ticket! He’s performing in Tilburg, which is by Vught and the nuns. Culture Club’s “Colour by Numbers” was the first cassette tape I ever owned. I was 9. I have been a Boy George fan ever since. When we were living in New York, Lawyerella and I went to see “Taboo” on Broadway which was the biography of Culture Club. Boy George was in it but not as himself and I think it only ran a week. That’s the closest I have ever been to seeing him live. That is about to change. I am so Excited!!!
I remember having all of these enormous Boy George posters in my room. And one time, I was smarting off to my mom and I just pushed her beyond her limits and she tore my posters down. That was declaration of war. I wanted to look like Boy George. All my friends were into Duran Duran but they were just too pretty and normal looking for me. I was already a weirdo 🙂 You might get why my mom would sometimes say that she hoped I would have kids just like me… of course, the steady streak of non conformist that each of us has comes from my mom. We didn’t always disagree about music. I remember her also telling me that “the Ramones were like the Beatles of my generation” and she could understand why I liked them so much. She was also the only mom who would drive me and my friends to Ramones concerts and wait for hours for us to be done. And to really get into the spirit of things, she would have made signs on poster board for the windows of the VW vanagon saying “Ramones or Bust” “Follow me to the Ramones” etc. In other words, my mom was hella cool. I just didn’t get it until I got a lot smarter, past my 20th birthday.
That’s who George is named after, Boy George. Henry is named after Henry Rollins. You could say that they are named after the two men that I admire most and who shaped my attitudes. I think it would be really cool to have dinner with both of them at the same table. Unlikely to happen in my life but cool all the same.
Back from the border
The Nuclear Security Summit is going on here this week so there’s police presence everywhere and many routes are being changed or closed off entirely. Of course, this is the weekend that I chose to go Bad Nieuweschans, right on the border with Germany. It was utterly uneventful for me since I am generally pretty law abiding. It was unusual though to see so many police. Living here, I rarely notice the police. I guess that is a good thing.
I left Friday afternoon around 2pm and stopped in Marum on the way up north. Marum sits right over the border between the provinces of Friesland and Groningen. Groningen is a province. And there is Groningen, the large city in the north. There’s a university there as well. It is generally a city of really smart people doing cool things with alternative power, ethics, etc. It was peaceful as always in Marum in the church yard. I stopped there for a long time to talk to mom and to deadhead the flowers from last time. Every time I have made the journey to Marum, before Mom passed, we were always in rental car or someone else’s car. This time it was Astrid parked between the trees along side the road. The car that my mom and I spent so many miles in was now what takes me to visit her.
Outside the graveyard itself, the municipality has built a rose garden overlooking the graveyard. Right now it looks very precisely aligned but as things start to grow and bloom, it will surely be a lovely spot. I took a picture from the top of the garden since it is higher than the graveyard. In the Netherlands, it might just qualify as a mountain!
Bad Nieuweschans is a small town. And I mean small like one store, one regular bar or krug, one more upscale bar and houses. The two claims to fame are the mineral springs and the fact during the 80 years war, it was one of the five bastions that held the northern provinces out of Spain’s hands. You can still see a fraction of the original wall and the deep canals that were dug to keep the North safe. I am paraphrasing Dutch history but originally the Netherlands was double the size. During the war with Spain, the lower seven provinces (what is now Belgium) sided with the Spanish instead of fighting for their independence with the upper provinces.
I very much enjoyed soaking myself in the mineral waters. It made me think of mom and I had some really good chuckles when the naked German bathers came walking through the sauna areas and out into what is called Bathrobe Park (meaning that you are supposed to wear a bathrobe there). Despite the signs that indicate the necessity of bathrobes, the Germans bathers remain defiantly anti-bathrobe. Ironic because one of the big differences between the Dutch and the Germans is that Germans have a big belief in hierarchy and following the rules. The Dutch don’t spend any time on hierarchy and believe the rules are generally good but as an individual they don’t need them. I think this captures my mom’s mindset pretty well.
After exploring the town, I found myself on the terrace of the small bar. I sat down for a cup of tea and to read the local paper. That was at approximately noon. I didn’t leave until ten hours later. I was swept up into the crowd of regulars and proceeded to spend ten hours trying to understand the Groningen accent, catching up on all the local history and generally being given a hard time. It was great! I really enjoyed myself. The people were so much fun. Groningers have a reputation for being very stern and standoffish, kind of cold. They are much more reserved than people from this end of the Netherlands. But that only lasts until they get to know you. I learned a lot about farming. For example, there are lots of ponies here. Ponies don’t seem to have a very practical purpose and there are more ponies than kids’ birthday parties that want to hire them, I am sure. Well, I learned the reason why – not to eat them (though they do in Belgium) but because they keep the fields manageable. You can either mow them with big combines or you can keep ponies. And ponies are seen as a much nicer option.
In turn, they offered me a place to play my first concert. I promised that I will come back when I can play at least four songs on my banjo. The owner told me that they would let me go on stage late, when everyone was pretty drunk so the audience wouldn’t notice the same four songs. We all exchanged contact information and the next time I am north of Marum, I will certainly stop in. The best part is that it was such a mix of people and everyone was just accepted for who they are. From the guy with no teeth to the local tycoon and everyone in between. And they made me feel welcome. I wouldn’t trade living in Amsterdam for Bad Nieuweschans but I would definitely visit there again.
Sunday I spent the last day of my mini break soaking again in the springs. Before I left to head south, I stopped back in the krug to say good bye which resulted in two more coffees and then two hours later, I was finally on the road. It stopped raining long enough for me to stop at Marum again and bring the new plants and pot them. And I didn’t stage them first 🙂
The boys are doing fine. I don’t think they missed me at all. George had have a bath yesterday because apparently he rolled in something unbelievably disgusting in the park with Renee. He smells deliciously like dog shampoo and that’s all I really want to know about that experience!
The next couple of days I will be working from home since the NSS is still going on. While the office is technically open, they recommend not coming in since getting there can be problematic. Okay by me since I have good coffee and in the afternoons, I can work from the yard.
I learned some new patterns for my banjo at my lesson last week. At one point, I was playing and my teacher was playing the guitar and I kind of yelled “Oh my god, we are making music”. Which was kind of funny. I was clearly overwhelmed by the possibility 😉
Anyway, time to make dinner for the dynamic duo.
Survived the bike commute
Sitting on a terrace, enjoying the super weather and a well earned glass of wine. Beatrix and I made the commute to work today, 23 miles round trip to the office. Can’t say I will do it every day but on warm weather days, it is lovely. A long ride through the Amsterdamse Bos and then along the outskirts of the runway. The key is to follow the flight path. Good thing that tomorrow I am going north to Groningen to spend the weekend in the mineral springs. Back to my wine and people watching 🙂
Birthday, bike accident and a banjo
My mother, the pot stager
I know what you might be thinking… but I am not talking about that kind of pot. My mom had no idea what pot smelled like until I pointed it out to her one day on the street in Seattle. “That bizarre burning dirt weird smell, that’s pot, Mom”. My mother used to call herself the “kebon” which is a Bahasa Indonesia word for a young man who works in the gardens. She would often tell me that if I didn’t treat her better, she would file a complaint with the Kebon Union against me. These complaints always had to do with the garden. My mom could spend days looking at plants, visualizing combinations in her head. And when she finally committed to buying them, you would think they would get transplanted right away. No way. Then came the next step, the Pot Staging. My mom would arrange the plants in their original containers in their (potential) new pot. And they would have to stay there for at least a week. During that time, she would rearrange them, recombine them, change pots, you name it. Sometimes I would have to threaten to plant them myself before they would exit the Pot Stage. My mom could see what she wanted, she was a great visualizer. However, she was reluctant to commit them to being transplanted until she knew they were going to blend together exactly as she wanted. And yeah, she made beautiful arrangements. Eventually.
Her pots and various remnants of those arrangements are mostly in Lawyerella’s yard. I couldn’t bear to throw them out and I couldn’t bring myself to empty the pots and ship them so I filled the Vanagon full before it went to Cedric and “staged” them at Lawyerella’s.
Today I went to Intratuin after my long customer meeting. And I went a little crazy. I needed some hanging planters to hang from the walls and plants to go in them. Of course, I also needed dirt and some garden tools and an outdoor basket for the boys so they can work on their tans. And most importantly, I needed outdoor cushions for the big benches so I can have my office outside in the good weather. Tonight, after my last set of conference calls, I went to work with a vengeance. I planted all my plants, no staging, straight to done mode. While I was in efficiency mode, I could hear my mom telling me that combination wasn’t big enough for the planter and I should add some more plants and let it sit for a few days. But once I got started, I couldn’t stop. It is kind of fear thing, I just have to keep going. If I stop and think about the plants not being in the right combination, I wouldn’t do it at all. In honor of my mom, I also planted some lupines, which she loved. I have the seeds that she saved from her favorites, but I am waiting to plant those when I am somewhere more permanently.
I was completely overstimulated in the Intratuin. I could have bought another cart full. But I reminded myself that I couldn’t get it all back here in one run. And I didn’t even look at the indoor plants, just forced myself to walk on through. Pretty much every plant I bought is either blue, purple or orange or some combination thereof. Tomorrow I will clean up the hydrangeas by the front door and see if I can’t bring them back to life a little. I missed my mom in the Intratuin. Especially since everybody seemed to be there with somebody. I had coffee in the middle of my trek in their café. If my mom had been with me, well, we’d probably still be there.
Changing seasons and perspectives
If you had told me a year ago that I would be riding my bike with heels and my grown up going to customers clothing on, I would have looked at you as if you were visiting from another planet. Well, that’s what happened today. I had a customer meeting outside of Rotterdam and that means that I have to dress in something other than yoga pants and well-loved t-shirts. I had to be there at 930 and the traffic jams between here and Rotterdam can be legendary so I opted for the train. I could have gone with the safe route, taking the bus to the train. I have been watching women bike through Amsterdam with shoes that are completely impractical for anything other than looking at, let alone riding a bike. I figured if they can do it, so can I. And I arrived no less wrinkled or crumpled than I would have been going via car.
Tomorrow I have another customer meeting but in Aalsmeer this time.Sadly, it is not very transit friendly so I will have to drive. I will, of course, recycle my grown up clothes and wear them again since it will be a different group of people I will be meeting with. Ever practical.
George had a seizure today on his outing with Kate. It was short. I suspect it is because he has not been taking his medication as regularly as he should. Often I find the pills elsewhere in the house, where he has spit them out. Even if I hide them in his yoghurt or in a piece of sweet potato. This is a new batch of his regular medicine so I wonder if the coating has some sort of flavor? I have to get his prescription filled at the human pharmacy since they don’t use zonasomide here for dogs. How can a dog who is so naughty sometimes be so cute? Of course, as I am typing this, the devilish duo are curled up next to each other, performing a small dog snoring symphony.
Moortje’s bandage is off. I made the decision to cut it off on Sunday because he was so irritated by it that he was scratching himself all over the rest of his neck and wounding himself further. And after I cut it off, the next morning I found clumps of cat hair all over the house and he was sporting a strange bald pattern on his neck. It looks like the big wound is healing much better though. We go back to the vet on Friday for a check.
The Games Jam 4 Diversity this weekend was lots of fun.It was really impressive and inspiring to see so many talented people united on the idea of making computer games for audiences other than white males between 16-24. There were some very cool ideas and some were already prototyped into working demos. All the creative energy gave me a good jolt of appreciation for living in this city. It was held in the Amnesty International building here on the Keizersgracht so you couldn’t help but feel uplifted.
Most afternoons, I have been working outside at the big weather beaten wooden table in my yard. I like it a lot but on my list of things to get is a cushion for the bench. I have a list of things to get when I finally make it to one of those big yard stores outside the city. I also want to make a small frame to grow grass for George. Maybe 2×2 or so, big enough for him to graze from when he has an upset stomach. I won’t really be planting vegetables this year but I would like a couple of pots of cherry tomatoes.
When I was riding back to the house on Saturday, avoiding the tourists and catching speed on the downward slope of the bridges across the canals, with my basket full of daffodils, fresh bread and tomatoes from the farmer’s market, I was amazed that this is my life now. I live in this city. It struck me again of how fortunate I am to be here. I miss my mom something fierce. That doesn’t let up. At the same time, I have a pretty amazing quality of life. Now if I could just convince you to visit 🙂
My Crock Pot arrived today. I found an eggplant purple one in Germany. I really wanted it to make super hearty winter soups but the weather has changed. However, I am sure I will crave chili again soon and make up a batch. Or bring it to a potluck. Or as they call it here a Dutch party.
Be well, be warm and be secure in knowing that I miss you and am grateful for the friendship you bring to my life.