|Under 18: Everyone can hold the Heineken glass, but not everyone gets to enjoy a tasting at the brewery.|
Wednesday, March 28, 2012
Sunday, March 25, 2012
That night a black taxi barely lit on the side of the road with its musty yellow sign pulled away from the curb near Park Frankendael. The driver unexpectedly threw his paper onto the passenger’s seat when we tapped on the window, and as we slid across the black leather seats, situating ourselves on either side of the car, he called his operator to indicate his whereabouts. Inside, visions of the city passed by, ones seen on the bus ride to our dinner reservation, and ones intended for reviewing on the bus ride back. Without an extra mile given to unneeded detours to, could you say, earn extra money, the taxi pulled up on the side of the road across from my street. Happily stepping over the north-south running tram tracks I looked back, back at the direction where our walk almost started from the bus stop for the 65 – the bus that we never caught that evening. After waking up early to meet my Philly visitor at the airport, even I was tired, and could only imagine her exhaustion at that point.
Thirty-three became thirty-six, and then a day later, thirty-seven. The actual elapsed time did not matter however, as staying awake any longer than a day’s twenty-four merits bonus hours. It’s like a frequent flier program: the more time in the air, the more complementary miles awarded, and sometimes, extra services as well. Three hours initially added onto the calculated thirty-three for powering through the day without a nap, and another hour for the one lost to daylight savings, I guess. My Philly visitor coincidentally arrived the weekend hopefully anticipated since Amsterdam’s days began to shorten: the yearly occurrence of springing forward. Clocks set ahead an hour to enjoy prolonged days and golden evenings with the ability to indulge after work in open windows or lost strolls around close, but unfamiliar, neighborhoods. The absolutely dizzied joy evoked by this change completely effaced those memories of cold, cursed mornings compromised by puffy, knee length jackets, unyielding weather, and almost absent daylight.
My Philly visitor, a former art student, and like the many that studied in the small capitol of Rhode Island, dryly remembered her either all-nighters or almost all-nighters. “I managed to sneak in an hour of sleep,” she explained with a showy glee, proud in a sinister way, as most of us did not. When four in the morning showed on either studio wall hanging clocks or cellphones dirtied now by whatever glue, paint, or material shavings resided on deft hands, a sleepless night soon followed - and potentially not the only one that week.
Everyone dealt with, and experienced, all-nighters with their own particulars. Coffee with occasions of dropped objects - luckily never my caffeinated beverage - indicated my day impaired by an absence of sleep. Students’ skin by early winter acquired a mauve undertone from both unseen daylight and overlooked sleeping hours; and as a walking art school ghost myself, difficulty arose recognizing this affliction that could only be temporarily cured by a healthy Saturday night’s, or mostly Sunday morning’s, sleep. Comments such as “ask me the last time I slept,” or “I’ll catch up on sleep during my Thanksgiving break” floated around classrooms where someone probably fell off of a stool during a critique the week prior. In some odd way, art school prepared us more for jetlag during travel than the realities of a job market.
“Since graduating from art school, I’ve been catching up on sleep,” she joked over her fried egg on toast, and coincidentally I told people the same. We thought alike, she noted, as I too looked down at my fried egg on toast, differing from hers with salmon instead of old cheese. Anticipating the discomfort following an overseas flight, a power nap came from my suggestion box. Just two hours, enough to trick the body into thinking that it did in fact sleep. Many advocated toughing out the first day in order to jump on the correct time zone, however, when arriving to a city before a normal Saturday morning wake time, a nap could be justified. Even I would quickly sleep around three in the afternoon if readily arising early on a Sunday morning to hurtle required errands. My Philly visitor did not take the offer either after the Heineken Experience nor the Van Gogh Museum, and after we arrived home in the evening, not enough time permitted a nap and a freshen up. Beauty trumped jetlag and we left that night for dinner at Restaurant de Kas, afterwards deciding that our entire day of walking, and for her not sleeping, could be rewarded with a taxi ride home that night.
Saturday, March 24, 2012
|At the End: Everyone who completed the tour ended up in one of two bars to enjoy a beer, or two.|
|Bottles and Lights: A wall flashed images across the glowing Heineken bottles.|
|Commercials: Past Heineken commercials played over large screens around a room. Some visitors just walked through, while others sat to enjoy the full reel.|
Wednesday, March 21, 2012
Sunday, March 18, 2012
Regardless if I took tram 25 from Amsterdam Centraal and walked two blocks, or tram 24 or 16, which dropped me off a noticeable distance down the road, and crossed two major intersections, it took the same amount of time. Longer daylight hours and moderate temperatures compelled performing the longer stroll down Ferdinand Bostraat, however, it honestly depended on which tram pulled up in front of Amsterdam Centraal first. I will not pretend to be that inspirited by the spring weather just yet - ask me after my winter wardrobe sufficiently fills my blue plastic bins lodged in the back of my closet. There is such a satisfying sound produced when pushing those bins across a wooden surface, out of sight, that makes the clamps signifying a job completed absolutely unnecessary.
Usually tram 24 and 16 won this race. Sometimes I wondered if anyone on those trams could tell that my loyalty rested with another. Almost every morning tram 25 picked me up; a choice does not even need to exist. My morning commute depended on its punctuality, and at this point, a perfectly timed connection sustained. I almost enjoyed watching the clock until the last minute necessary before leaving my apartment. After a day at work, however, this allegiance falters.
Stepping onto tram 16 and 24 my imagination wondered, acting as a distraction from probably more meaningful internal conversations, to project thoughts onto other riders of tram 16 and 24. In reality, let’s be honest, they probably considered the degree of their hunger or ran through misplaced comments from the day to even notice my presence. Nonetheless, in that moment and in this imagination, they suspected something; as if I were a spy for tram 25 trying too purposefully to appear inconspicuous. The delightful delusions wore off quickly as I sat quietly with my backpack on my lap, my arms wrapped around it, resting, memorized as I watch Amsterdam drift by. A sight that holds so much splendor for visitors usually overlooked by city commuters. Even I forgot sometimes.
The tram sped down the Damark, past the excessive tourist shops and bars: an Amsterdam Today, Teaser for Babes & Beer (according to them of course), Tours & Tickets, the Vodka Museum, and a couple of McDonalds. Marked a no local-man’s land with a supposedly great frites place as its only redeeming quality. The tram bell chimed as it sped past Dam Square and then Kalverstraat, along the way bikers and pedestrians waited for the go-ahead, anxiously piling behind each other as the light turned green. Less foot traffic populated the sidewalk before the roundabout and a stretch of never ending construction interrupted all movement, which, by now, is more of a norm: years not months, according to others, since the project’s initiation. Other grounds throughout the city germinated coincidentally by its seeds with construction at every turn and tram stop, including Albert Cuyp Market.
Did you know it’s “Amsterdam’s famous street market”? Every single time the tram approached this stop, a prerecorded announcement came over the speakers. I usually mocked it like a smart seven year old, looking over to my colleague and remarking, “yep, Amsterdam’s famous street market, looks like my stop,” as I, for whatever reason, tried to get up as the tram rounded a sharp corner. I then crossed the street haphazardly: a zig zag avoiding first taxi, then bike, and finally baby carriage.
Walking down Ferdinand Bolstraat, my mind wondered from shop to shop expecting the same. The same discount video store. The same small computer retailer. The same gelato place…wait a minute. I stopped in the middle of the sidewalk, perpendicular to a dad and his daughter inside. Leaning over the only thing preventing his little girl from grabbing the gelato herself, a sheet of glass, they made their choices and the two attendants prepared the cups. My steps continued, but faltered as I consider one for myself. It’s late though and my mind continued to project my path down the expected landscape.
Saturday, March 17, 2012
|For the Birds: A man throws old bread toward the flock of hungry birds.|
|Along the Canal: Another dumps the entire offerings in one pile for the birds to feed on.|
|The Crowd: There is heavy competition for the extra bread.|
Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Sunday, March 11, 2012
One evening, I opened up my kitchen drawer and rummaged through the clanking cookery. A soup ladle, a whisk, another whisk, meat scissors, a pie server, a mini meat grinder (I think), and some other tools that were washed once when I first moved into my apartment some months ago and then put away. The simple dinners and quick weekend lunches assembled on my kitchen counter did not require anything fancier than a fork, spoon, knife, and sometimes, yes believe it, a sharper knife. It’s not here; a realization reluctantly reached after moving everything around three times with false hopes. I shuffled a couple of steps to the left onto the next drawer, reluctantly performed the same movements, as I did not think it rested there. The first drawer held the highest potential so I opened it up a second time. No luck.
My two-serving soup can just stood waiting on the expansive, wooden counter, probably a little irritated at this point as it watched me bumble around with an ever increasing hunger, clearly inexperienced. Before opening my cupboard to abandon this dinner option, a final look under the countertop. On a shelf below, a white bowl designated as the catch all, and any, held a mini leather elephant, cork screw, lose rubber bands, and a usb drive amongst others random things, but no can opener. Prying open the impatient soup can with another sharp object crossed my mind for only a millisecond, as the content’s quality did not warrant such desperate measures. The low sodium chicken soup could wait.
Two small epiphanies confronted my abandonment of dinner option one: I eat too much soup at the canteen for lunch, which usually eliminates it as a dinner preference, and I might have overlooked certain “details” in these last couple of months. Until this week, I was also not aware of my access to basic channels, my television always remained off, or to an expensive coffee maker on a top shelf, my visibility only extends so high. However whenever my mother visits, realizations such as these surface much to my amusement as this is not only my first time living in another country, but also on my own.
“I’ll get you a can opener when you are at work,” a reassuring statement my mother whispered as I open the front door, my aunt still asleep on the futon in the living room. They arrived the evening before, tired by a four hour train ride from Paris, but excited as it marked my aunt’s first visit to Amsterdam, as well as my apartment. Six-something in the morning is too early for any vacationer to wake up, except for my mother. By seven am, surely the kitchen will be cleaned; eight am, a load of laundry started; and by nine am, the first supermarket run completed. All appreciated of course, it made my life easier, but a surprise to my aunt as she witnessed her sister switch from vacation mode to mother mode in less than an hour.
“Most people get a historical tour of a city for their first visit,” my aunt started as I closed the front door behind me that evening, “but not with your mom.” My mother knew Amsterdam as well as anyone after her first stay in November, probably even better than me at that time. During those weeks, she helped to fix my broken mailbox lock, adjust my radiator, figure out my oven/microwave, and get recommendations on the best cheese to buy at the Albert Heijn. She knew one of my neighbors. Tourists stopped her for directions, oddly, as she does not look Dutch. Everyone still recognized her even months later. My aunt received a tour of my neighborhood like none other, for as they walked down Ferdinand Bolstraat, my mom pointed out every shop she went to previously, describing each shopkeeper’s role in setting up my apartment. On one block, the shoe repair shop that shined my black boots; the block before that, the shop that copied my apartment keys; and somewhere down the road, the tailor who hemmed my jeans. My aunt not only learned about the best place to eat or shop in Amsterdam, but where do your daily errands as well.
If only that tour could be available to the public. Brochures would read, “Know Amsterdam as if you Lived Here,” and “Household Hideaways,” excitement wrapped around the best electronic repair shop or fastest dry cleaning service. People would gasp at the comparative prices and clap for shops open for limited hours on Sundays. Grocery stores would witness tours walking through daily, as the guide would point out the best deals or top food brands, and at the end everyone could apply for an Albert Heijn card. Even the smaller family owned repair shops would participate with two or three visits daily. Skip the Ann Frank House, go to the Rijksmuseum another time, and look at Van Gogh’s paintings in an art history textbook - this is a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Unfortunately only my aunt experienced this delightful occasion and I could not help but laugh, “sounds like you all had a productive day.”
Saturday, March 10, 2012
|Ceintuurbaan: Someone is up to no good.|
|Canal in Amsterdam-Zuid: And they seem pretty mad about something.|
|Ceintuurbaan: So they are holding Mickey Mouse for randsom. Serious stuff.|
Wednesday, March 7, 2012
|Near Rembrandtplein: You have no idea how long I have been waiting for this photo - the group of Italian boys with different colored Amsterdam hats.|
Saturday, March 3, 2012
|Side Street: A scooter waits, looking like he is actually posing for my photo.|
|Italian Recession: Naples has its opinions about the austerity measures.|
|From Above: Residence look unto the busy and dirty streets below.|