Om de Hoek

Someone call 1912, tell them I found their missing summer day.

There is a spit of land in the far west of the Netherlands. A tiny spit of land that forms the headway for the great river Maas that cuts through Rotterdam. A tiny spit of land that takes the brunt of the elements, the largest ships, the everything the ocean and sky and wind can throw at it. That tiny spit of land is called Hoek van Holland (literally, the corner of the Netherlands). And yesterday, I finally saw it.

Hop on the B metro. That’s easy; the station is literally outside my front door. Ride that baby all the way to the end: Schiedam Central. Find the bus halt. In summer, there can be as many as four bus lines running back and forth – but, of course, on the day my brother and I went, there were only two buses every hour.

As I traveled across this tiny nation (and tiny it IS; my goddess! I’d drive longer to get to my grandparents’ home than it would take to travel the length of this tiny land), I watched the landscape change. The Dutch have a way of planting up the area to hide cities and towns and industrial parks. The only way you know something is over there is due to the church spire towering above the trees, or a fast glimpsed solar panel through the canopy. Then, in a heartbeat, everything changes. The trees open up to wide, expansive fields dotted with cows, sheep, and horses. A quiet lake surrounded by tall reeds erupts in activity as a gaggle of geese takes off in flight.

There was a time I looked at the neat rows of trees here in the Netherlands and thought yuck, gimme real forests. Everything looked too manicured, too tamed to my eye. I was used to horizon-to-horizon openness: wide skies, nature, and not another human to be seen. But after spending a large portion of my life near such untamed wildness, I find now that I appreciate all the landscaping the Dutch have done. There are paths through the land here. Paths that can take a bicyclist or walker from one side of the country to the other. Paths that are well laid, and lit at night. Paths that wind you around those trees and quiet lakes, through the fields dotted with animals, past every sight worth seeing. Tired? Thirsty? Need to pee? Undoubtedly the Dutch have thought of that, too, and if you just hang on for another five minutes you’ll see the bench laid out to sit on (conveniently under a large tree that offers its shade to travelers), or the cafe with cold drinks and hot sandwiches, or the public toilets that are always kept clean and well stocked.

These little niceties are especially appreciated after 14 years in Ireland, where sitting was an irregularity…

When we finally made the beach, it was like some long forgotten scene of a by-gone era. Sun parasols dotted the sand, a look I always associate with “olden times”. Some kids flew kites. A couple of boys kicked a football around. Kids and adults alike licked ice cream cones and sucked cool drinks. Dogs played in the surf. Despite it being only 20C (70F), most people were out in their bathing suits, determined that since it was summer, they’d treat it like summer, no matter how many goose bumps they got from the chilly off-shore wind.

And it was clean. Maybe the cleanest beach I’ve ever seen.

We were told it was ‘just a beach’. What we found was a lively on-sand mini-town. There were fancy vacation homes if you wanted full time sun and sand. A row of cheap fast food, then better sit down meals, then clubs with alcohol and entertainment. Shops to buy stuff at, arcades to throw away your euro on. And a long stretch of sand dunes, guaranteed to hide walkers, bikers, and lovers from prying eyes.

Up, and down. Out to the end of the breakwater, to watch the waves crash over the gigantic rocks laid down like a giant’s building blocks scattered along the way. Half a dozen hardy fisherman cast their long poles, teasing the hidden fish swimming amongst the seaweed. ¬†A double toot from an outgoing passenger liner, people standing along the railing waving at those of us still on land.

The most disappointing thing of the day was our fish, bought from a stand on the beach. Expensive, and not nearly as good as the guy who has a stand by our house.

Today, I am back to more normal activities. The gym, obviously. Walking in the sand for three hours is good exercise, but it isn’t the cross trainer. Need to get to the printer and have a hard copy of my play printed up. Haven’t looked at it for days; giving my brain and my eyes a good rest before the final editing process. Gotta run my lines, too. Been neglecting that.

Telling myself good things are coming. They’re om de hoek.

I know it

Editing. Formatting. All that crazy shit a writer does that makes our eyes go wonky. Honestly, sometimes I think I stare so long at the computer screen my eyes dry up completely. It even hurts to blink.

All of that is good. Well, maybe not good as in good for me, but definitely good as in I’m on the right track. And way the hell ahead of my deadlines.

Had occasion to pause and bless my brother the other day. He’d met with R, his friend, in the morning. In the afternoon, he came home and told me: our appeal was rejected by immigration. Without skipping a beat, he informed me he’s already met with lawyers and accountants, and a clear plan of action has already been instigated, so, keep cool and relax. We are re-applying this year. Basically, starting our entire residency over again from day one. It’ll cost. Naturally. But our team has informed us it’s the way to move forward – and, apparently, a fool proof plan. There are no grounds to reject us if we re-apply.

I heard that, and the first thing I thought was ‘he doesn’t trust me with the news; he had to get everything settled before telling me’. Second thing was ‘Goddess, what other action could tell me how much he cares about me? He didn’t want to throw me or worry me or have me slip into a depression. He kept it from me until he had answers.’ My mind has settled on the second thought, and once again I find myself feeling small and petty for any and every argument I’ve ever brought up against him. Here I am, bitching because I think he doesn’t always listen to me or do the dishes in a timely manner, and there he is, dealing with extremely stressful questions about our future and not wanting to stress me out. And when I asked him why he didn’t tell me immediately, he simply answered: I knew you were upset about L, and I didn’t want to add to your worries.

Small. Teensy-tiny. Miniscule. Whip out your microscope and see me cringe.

Yesterday was a day out. (And here’s another thing about my bro, if you don’t already think he’s fabulous.) Every once in a while, my bro takes me out. Gets me out of the house, forces me to go downtown, eat a meal in public, walk around. We window shop, he encourages me to look at new clothes, once in a while we buy something. Yesterday we were on a mission for new headphones for both of us. Into Media Markt by Alexandrium. Wall of headphones. I chose a mid range set – not the cheapest, but not the most dear, either. Then an attempted casual ‘since we’re here, why don’t we look at entertainment?’ from my bro. Upstairs to DVD heaven. They were having a massive sale; found dozens of films for only five euro each. Walked out without spending too much, yet still have loads of hours of good watching. Then it was off to Papaya – literally, a little buffet type hole in the wall. But Goddess! THE best food ever. Came home to that companionable feeling we have after a fun day out. We laughed a little easier, talked a little more animated – all because we got out of the apartment for the afternoon.

And, I got a new hoodie. One that doesn’t look old or scruffy. One that hasn’t been washed a thousand times. Might go back and buy a nice blouse. Something that’s NOT a T-shirt. I’ve only got a few non-T-shirt shirts; I’d like some more.

Today I must tackle the housework. It’s piled up. I’ve managed to keep up on dishes and the big stuff, but the floor -! I can’t even consider getting down to do abdominal exercises with all that crap lying around. It’s too dirty. So I’ve lined up a day of hoovering a dusting, washing and ironing. Probably won’t get to the gym because of it.

Oh! And I have an answer. Anything I ever fantasized about my very cute physiotherapist was all one-sided. During my last appointment, we talked about the upcoming play – and I teased him that I have a whole two months to convince him to come to one of the performances. Hitch. I could feel it. His response: I’ll think about coming. Not sure, I’d love to come! So, now I know. Any interest on his part should have resulted in a bit more enthusiasm in his reply. I dithered on at the appointment. I said how I don’t know many people, how it would be good to have some support, etc. Tried to mitigate the disaster I just opened up. Oh, well. Can’t feel too bad about it. I am talking the production up, and I am inviting everyone I say more than two words to (other than shop workers; I often say five or six words to them, but I’m not inviting every cashier I meet). I tried, you know? Put it out there. I suppose it’s better to know for sure than to wonder forever if…. If. That wonderful two letter word! In my mind, it only becomes a curse if you put ‘only’ behind it: if only…. Do that, and you might as well shoot yourself in the foot. But if…Truly, that word sums up all that we can be.

I digress.

…I may sit at a unique crossroads in my life. Don’t know that I’ve ever received such not so good news yet still felt so okay about it. I mean…I’m not happy about the residency thing. The idea that we’ll need to cough up thousands yet again in order to stay here doesn’t sit well with me. But we will be able to stay. Right now, that’s everything. As for my fantasizing…A little bit of that, especially (ouch!) at my age probably isn’t such a bad thing. But I don’t necessarily want that to manifest into my reality. I’m too busy with my own life to share it with anyone else right now.

I’m 51. And selfish.

I know it.

It feels good

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Ah, to play the star again. No writing, no direction, no cinematography – just get up and act. Be the role.

My prep for the first night of auditions was needed. Despite anticipating a few dozen people to show up there were fewer than 10 of us there, and all but one were long time participants with the group. I was one of two women, so I got to strut my stuff three times with different male actors. Loads, loads, loads of fun. But I didn’t see anyone I wanted to ask to my read through. ūüė¶ Hoping they show up on Tuesday night, which I will still go to (although there’s no need for me to audition again). I took what was on offer last night, and what was on offer was light heartedness and a seemingly genuine happiness to see me back. I smiled and chatted, participated, felt the fool and laughed at myself.

I also hit my lines perfectly, each and every time.

Got thru the phone call (ugh) in Dutch (UGH) to make an appointment for my hearing trouble. Had to switch to English. I don’t know…maybe it’s my hearing problem, maybe it was her accent, maybe she used all the words I don’t know yet, but I just couldn’t understand what was going on. Don’t feel great about that, but telling myself it’s okay. I tried, and that’s what counts. First time they had open was in May, so I’m waiting another 4 weeks before anything changes for me.

Headache this morning. Not the subtle kind I sometimes get, the ones that I wake up to and realize I have a bit of pain in my brain. Nope. Today was the WAKE UP kind, the ones that pound relentlessly at your forehead and temples and force you to get up.

Been completing ignoring the rolling tumbleweeds in my inbox(es), and allowing myself to fall into writing again. Cannot say how long I wrote yesterday because I didn’t look at the clock and I’ve no concept of time when I write. But I did map out the radio drama. Put in three narration spots, borrowing passages from my original short story. Wrote out the first scene and a climax scene that’s almost completely sound effects. Decided I just can’t keep calling my characters ‘cop’ and ‘schoolkid 1’, so I did what I always do (that little bit of extra insanity you don’t know about unless you look for it): I researched the meanings of names and chose each character’s name to reflect their primary purpose in the script. Probably something no one will ever catch onto. But it’s there.

Ready to send an SMS to my teacher blowing off my lesson today and head right back into the script.

Really feeling the flux around me. Don’t know what’s going to occur. Don’t know how I’ll manage to juggle things if everything I’ve thrown up into the air comes back to me at the same time.

I do know I put myself out there. Put my best foot forward. Gave it my all.

It feels good.

Birthday Blog: Hands on Acceptance

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Happy b-day to me, happy b-day to me…

My very cute physiotherapist who I’m really trying to not think about kissing told me I should throw a little party. I said there’s nothing sadder than a birthday party that no one comes to, and since I don’t know many people and those I do know I don’t know well, I’m scared that’s exactly what would happen. Birthday parties don’t go that well for me. I’m better with the ‘it’s Friday night so I’m having a party’ type of things. Those parties are legendary. Well, if I’m honest, my 21st was a legendary party. The first, last and only legendary b-day party. Huge house party, cops came three times, I never saw them because I was playing ditzy party girl and indulging in lines of cocaine upstairs. Legendary. But since then, b-days fall kind of flat for me. Sometimes downright disappointing. Which is why my birthday became my birthweek during my thirties – because time after time the actual day sucked, so my brother kept suggesting do-overs. It got so sucky around my birthday that I needed that entire week to be Queen and Do As I Pleased.

I’m living in a better place now ¬†– yeesh! just made it sound like I died! But there’s far less to annoy me, far more to do and see, and I find having one (or two) birthdays a year works¬†just fine.

The weather is supposed to cooperate; that’s always a good start. I’m pretty certain I’ll be blowing off my language lesson this morning. It’s not that learning the language isn’t important. It is. It’s very important. But today is my day, and I may no longer be Queen for a Week but I sure as hell am¬†Queen for Today (at least in my little life circle), so Queenie says we’re not working today at all, just playing and having fun, and I say ‘yes, ma’am’ and jump to it. My brother suggested we go out for something to eat. That way I have fabulous food and he’s not slaving away in the kitchen to make it. We can both have fun. Queenie has declared we’re having Greek today, down at Markt Hall. It’s a good choice. For less than thirty euro, the two of us will get plied with incredible fresh Greek delicacies and feel more than satisfied. Plus, there’s no clean up tomorrow. What could be better? From there, it’s a delightful short jaunt to shopping supreme street. Shop after shop. What do you want to look at? It’s there. I want to get into the cheap shops. The bargain shops. Walk out with an armful (or two armfuls) of brightly coloured fun things for a tenner. Be silly. Buy a silly toy or two. Buy something that makes me smile. Doesn’t have to cost much. I just want a little frivolity today. Then maybe stop for a joint in the cool place around the corner from the library. They’ve got the inside done up like you’re underwater. Another wander around in fresh air, and take the metro back home. Cut into my b-day cake, which I baked and frosted yesterday. I finally went with a confetti cake, like my mom made for me when I was very small. What can I say? The age thing has been bothering me, so I’m giving myself a little bit of nostalgia today, too. Then it’s camp down for another night of Gotham, one of the two b-day gifts I’ve received from my bro. The other is a set of books telling Dutch history in Dutch – and in comic book form. Fun and educational. I got ALL my bases covered this year!

I think, too, I’ve come to some sort of acceptance with my age. Can’t say I’m thrilled about it, but I do think I can live with it.

….Because I was right when I said judgement comes from outside. Leave a person alone and they don’t deride themselves for their weight, the way they dress, their hairstyle (or lack of). But put that same person in a room full of other people and suddenly all that becomes important – or, at least, it can become important. I’m not saying everyone does that. I’m just saying it happens. Quite a bit.

And maybe I’m mistaken here; maybe I’m way off the mark. But I feel like I’ve found at least one person who’s accepted me fully. One person I haven’t hidden parts of myself from, one person I’ve been blatantly honest and forthright with. The strange thing is, it’s my physiotherapist. Something about taking my shirt off in front of a guy (and with all the lights on) within 30 seconds of meeting him just disarms me from any subterfuge. What’s there to hide? All the flab I disparage, all the wrinkles and sagging that make me feel old are¬†out in the open before the first minute has passed. There’s nothing left to hide. So I am myself with him, fully. He’s seen me sad, angry, jovial, thoughtful. He’s heard my life views, my political views, even some of my spiritual views. I’ve heard him laugh at my jokes. He’s remembered our conversations visit to visit, and asked follow up questions. He’s revealed quite a bit about himself, too. In short, I feel I can say anything to him. Complete honesty at a level I’d never even contemplate with a sit-behind-the-desk therapist.

*sigh* No wonder I’m crushing so hard.

But crush aside, I do have a strange easiness with him I rarely experience. Maybe it’s all his professionalism. Maybe he’s just a nice guy. Maybe he treats all his patients this way. I don’t know. What I do know is I can stand in front of him next to naked, look him straight in the eye, and not feel one bit of discomfort or embarrassment. I like to make him laugh. I like to discuss world views with him.

And boy, do I like the feel of his hands on my body.

Not that I remember…

It’s been a long time since I woke up still under the influence of the alcohol I drank the night before.

Can I get an ‘ow’?

So. Final performance. Best audience, best of everything – which happens so often on closing nights. I was led to a full bar and had a beer bought for me. We laughed. We shared. We talked theatre and roles, directing and stages, hopes and festivals. The group wants to submit the play I helped out with to a festival in Frankfurt. And I was asked if I’d go along with them. Don’t know if any of that will actually manifest, but it was damned nice to have the offer and be included. I drank too much (4 Dutch beers) and shared a taxi back home with someone to split the cost. Walked in at 3 a.m. and I guess I remembered to shut the door because it wasn’t hanging open when I got up.

What IS hanging on me today is a memory of talking about the script I gave to the director. He told me he knows a ‘theater connoisseur’ and he wants to pass what I’ve got so far onto him to get an opinion. Last night I blew past that without thinking. This morning I’m far more excited, especially after I realized he wouldn’t pass a piece of SHIT onto someone he knows. He thinks it’s good. Maybe quite good. Gods, I hope I don’t hear it’s derivative or trite. I know it’s my first attempt at theatre. I know it won’t be my best because it’s my first. But I don’t want to hear it’s a piece of crap, either.

I’m too hung over (damn; it’s been a long time since I had to write THAT phrase) to get to the gym or do much of anything other than rest and recoup. Naturally, the sun is out today after a long spell of rain. Figures! And I don’t really do strung out well anymore. I can honestly say that. Part of me wants to eat, the other part gets a little sick feeling at the thought of food. I want to get some fresh air, but I know what I need is rest. My voice dropped a few tones this morning and it wasn’t from smoking too much yesterday.

Ach! Am I making any sense? Probably very little.

Now I’m remembering why I don’t care to drink too often.

Are you coming back? We’ll see you again, right?¬†For whatever reason, it was fairly obvious the group has some problems keeping people around and involved. Everyone¬†kept asking me if I’d continue with the group, like my complete and utter delight at just getting out of the house wasn’t self evident. But I get it. These people are part-time actors. They all have families and jobs and lives outside of the current theatrical project. I, as we all know, do not. They barely break even on the venue costs, and that’s with a contribution from each member of the troupe.

When I’m a bit more sober, I intend on trying to change that. At some point I brought up the public access television here and suggested we find someone who wants to film the group so it gets on tv. It was a well received suggestion. Hell! They don’t know it yet, but I’m the queen of grass roots movements and doing a lot with little to no money. And hey – right now they’re limping along with support from their friends and families. That won’t change even if I don’t succeed in getting more publicity for the group. Everything I do will be gravy.

Hm. Gravy. That brings me back to food.

Off for sustenance. Something. I’m real tempted to make a frozen pizza I’ve got sitting in the freezer. Breakfast of the drunk: pizza. Then it’s nap time, more food, juice, more naps. Big plans to shake up the world today – HA!¬†Next week is next week. Today is a capsule I need to swallow. Feels a bit like dry swallowing an aspirin, but that’s my own fault. Booze. I’m such a lightweight. Well. I’ll get past it and then maybe regret what I’ve written this morning, like perhaps I’ll regret some of what I said last night. Hope not. I’m far too harsh on myself. Drunk behavior is drunk behavior. It’s not like I flashed anybody.

At least, not that I remember…. ;-D

Real Good

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12 noon to 12 midnight. That’s how long I was out of the house yesterday. My feet are killing me. What, perchance, took me out of my comfortable zone for so long?

Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you to The Last Minute Players.

After three weeks of not one peep from the theatre group, an email finally came whizzing my way rather late Thursday evening. Are you still interested in helping out backstage? And I, ever the eager puppy, replied yes, yes I am! And yes, I can do every show. When do you want me and how high can I jump for your pleasure, sir?

13:00. The director wrote it in military time to make sure no one got confused. I arrived at 12:48 thanks to the timing of public transport. And – no one. In fact, no one showed up for almost a full half hour. And then it was only the director who’d emailed me!

We headed straight to the stage. Oh, goddess. Small stage. Small hall; seating capacity maxed out at 63. No heating other than the lighting.¬†No green room, nowhere to change or do make-up. Nowhere to put props when they’re not used onstage. Worst of all – no toilet paper in the ladies’ room.

I was the anchor. The one person who hung around when everyone else went hither and tither. I was the person messages were left with. And all of that was doable and okay ’cause there was a back door onto a small garden area that lay hidden from prying eyes – perfect place for me to indulge in the only joint I brought along (and the only joint I smoked).

By 2 p.m. a couple of actors had shown up. That’s when I heard any ‘rehearsal’ was going to happen at 4. So I sent a text to my bro, who was at the library, and we met up for a fish sandwich dinner.

By 4 p.m. most of the actors had shown up. Most, not all. And at 4 p.m. I was told rehearsal would begin at 5.

One of the lighting guys had brought his dog in. Jimmy (the dog, not the lighting guy) was a smaller dog breed (sorry, don’t know my dog breeds) with a stocky, powerful body and a fun loving disposition. Our relationship began with a hand sniff, as these things usually do. Then I went on Jimmy duty, keeping a close eye on him as he sniffed around the stage set up – which included a fat, juicy pepperoni sitting on the edge of a table. I think it was this close watch that told Jimmy I was a person he could love and respect. After that, it was all doggy love. So much doggy love it got obscene. It began with some fun. A little jumping up at me and chasing my hand. Then the grabbing began. And boy, could that dog grab with a lot of strength. If I stood, he grabbed at my mid-thigh and then slid down to my ankle. I found something out about myself yesterday: I’m very, very ticklish in my calf area. Grab my thigh, no problem. Knee, no problem. But grab my calf – or in this case, slide down my calf – and I was reduced to a helpless, laughing lump. My only alternative was to offer my hand, which Jimmy then grabbed with all his strength and held close to his chest. Up on two legs, too. It was so bad I could lead him fully around the stage on his hind¬†legs. He never let go. Even if I sat down, which I really needed to, he was right there, grabbing my arm off the armrest, pulling me down, licking me with a ferocity that made everyone coming in the hall ask if he was my dog.

Then the doggy farts began.

The first one wafted up in the air and I wondered – as did probably everyone in the hall – where that stench came from. But the first was just a warm up. The second fart would have peeled the paint off the walls had there been any (just curtains, thankfully). Then came a quick succession of farts that only a dog can let loose with. People’s faces turned down, I heard an ‘oh, god! is that dog sick?’ exclamation, and everyone began to walk away. And this was happening while Jimmy wouldn’t let go of my arm. Basically I was dragging around this smelly fart machine that wouldn’t let go of me.

If it sounds funny, it was. Even through all the stench I was laughing so hard I almost cried.

Five p.m. came…and went without rehearsal.

Someone bought four pizzas and we broke bread as a team.

Six p.m. and The Last Minute Players were still running lines with their scripts. The lighting guys finished up and Jimmy left the hall. Things began to heat up when I was asked to do three things all at the same time.

Curtain up at 8:15 and I still didn’t know what I was going to be doing. The director pulled me into the hall and gave me four diagrams of the set layout, then marked where each scene was supposed to take place.

9:20 and the group I was called there for was finally on stage. I’d memorized the layouts and the order of the play. In, out. I was a ninja props master. At the end of the show I was told it had never gone so smoothly for the group, and thanked numerous times.

And you know…despite the small venue, despite the haphazardness of it all, the group did really well. Got some well deserved belly laughs. Never had to ask for lines, just breezed through the scenes as a team.

As for me, I memorized about 8 of their names. Still more to go, but things got busy and I didn’t have the time to greet everyone, get their names, and repeat it until it was in my head. I kept William Hurt in mind, too. He’s not my favorite actor at all – I think he’s pretty awful as a rule. But he gets lots of parts because (I’ve heard) he’s just a great person to have on set. A nice guy. That was my goal: to be the helpful person, always encouraging, always congratulatory, always ready with a smile. No bitching. And they made it easy; only once did I think about politics, and that was a brief comment to two other US ex-pats.

I have renewed promises to discuss my script when these productions are over, and I find I also have renewed faith that will actually happen. And more. I was asked (again) last night if I’d do a role in the next play.

My feet ache. My clothes from yesterday are covered in dog hair. I’ve got bruises on my arm from Jimmy’s love.

And I feel real good.

Cranking up the intensity

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Today’s the day.

Oh, my sore ass!

In the gym. Half an hour on the bikes, half an hour on the treadmills. Kept my heart rate between 128 and 130. Then onto free weights. Two sets of 30 reps each, 4 positions hitting biceps, triceps, deltoids, and full arms.

I crawled back home, barely able to stand upright because I’d used up absolutely everything that was easy for my body to use. Felt like I hadn’t eaten in days. Begged my bro to go downstairs and buy some fish from the guys out front. Scarfed down two and half sandwiches before I felt like I wasn’t gonna cave in around my midriff.

This morning was my one on one language lesson. The other student showed up briefly but had to leave to take her kids to the doctor. So very happy I get a flu shot every year. This year’s variety includes a fever and a bad cough. Our instructor made us read from a random paper, then talk about what we understood. Ye gods! Once again I heard how clearly I speak. Yes! Bleeding yes! I should hope so after driving myself batty with vowel sounds. And I can read well. Very well. Better than the other student, by far. I just don’t understand all these words I pronounce and read so bleeding well. That’s pretty much where everyone agrees I’m at: I just have to widen my vocabulary. My grammar is good to excellent, my pronunciation for words I know superb. But cramming more words in too fast can make me forget other things and confuse me. I’m committed to the long haul here.

Went down to the theatre group last night at the very last minute. Got the email in about 5:30, and they were meeting by 7. Pulled my act together, grabbed the script and out the door. I was obviously VERY focused on handing off that piece of work. There was one of those meet and greet things in the lobby where the theatre group generally meets, and I spent 15 minutes searching for them – which included a short time of locking myself out of the building in a sealed off construction area that I had NO chance of getting out of. Did I panic? Did I even sweat? No. Just banged on the door unashamedly and yelled ‘help’ ’til someone heard me. I’d hoped to find the group early, talk to the director a bit about the script. I had less than 30 seconds. When I said I’d written it for the group the director’s eyebrows shot up with interest, so I must have said the right thing. He promised to take a look at it last night. Then it was sit and enjoy, watch and learn. It was just the director, the actors, and me – no one else. lol! I guess I’m the only hard core person who wants to show up at all these things. Every once in a while the group would break, and they’d explain the next scene so I could enjoy it fully. And I made a couple of suggestions to the actors, which they readily accepted and adopted to great effect. Plus I found out that if they ARE going to have me do the sound during the shows, the first time I’ll see the equipment is the afternoon before opening night. They have to pay for the venue, and a full dress rehearsal the day before would cost more. Understandable. A bit of a crunch on me, perhaps, but I’ve got my ace in the hole – my brother, the superior sound engineer, who’s promised to show up on the afternoon and help me check the equipment. All in all, a great night. I felt accepted and included and had a lot of fun even tho I just sat around. I hope I can join them a few more times before their performance.

So I been a good girl. Been such a prat, as a matter of fact, that I over did my homework – as usual. Fully wrote out things where one word answers would suffice. Dat’s okay. I be ahead of most in the Friday group. An’ I do so like to shine when I cans. An’ I can shine. Bright. Put on those sunglasses, baby. I’m cranking up the intensity.

Local

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Bureaucracy. An ugly word in any language. And sometimes it seems like American bureaucracy came up with the ‘hurry up and wait’ mentality. These were some of my thoughts as I waited in line for an hour, INSIDE on a beautiful day, to hand in the paperwork for my new passport. Oh, yes. I simply HAD to make an appointment, date and time, don’t miss it, don’t be late, don’t bring any electronic equipment. Being ten minutes early (because I’m one of those dinosaurs who, when you say 10:45 a.m., is there at 10:35 to make sure I don’t miss the time), didn’t seem to make an impression. I was going to wait whether I was ten minutes early or ten years late. And goddess forbid that they should actually man all the counters available. Oh, no! Those are there for show, miss. We don’t actually MAN those windows, miss. People might get the idea they could get in and out in under an hour. *rolls eyes*

And here’s a question for you. What’s worse: being a person of color who doesn’t get waited on, maybe because they’re a person of color, or being a person standing BEHIND the person of color who doesn’t get waited on. Yeah. Could not believe what happened to this guy. First he was ignored for 15-20 minutes as he stood, next in line for service. Then the people behind him skipped him when a different window opened up. I had all empathy for him. No idea why he was there; could have been a passport, some modification to his records, or a visa thing. All I do know is he was there when I arrived and he was still there, waiting, when I left.

Of course there was a crying baby. There always is in these situations.

All of these things made me dread going to the US consulate in the first place because I knew these people – or people very like them – would be there.¬†Sometimes it’s like being on stage in a play; cue baby crying, man at window raises voice, guard walks through the room. Maybe the US gets actors to come in. Maybe it’s all part of the US consulate experience.¬†Come one, come all. Experience first hand the slow grind of bureaucracy’s wheels. Every show lasts at LEAST an hour! Cringe at the baby’s shrill crying. Sweat real bullets in the hot, overcrowded room. You’ll soon find you’re not WATCHING the show, you’re PART of the show. You’ll be muttering curses, making ironic observations, and pulling your face down into the American Bureaucracy Frown (patent pending).

So I was very surprised when I finally approached the window to find (1) a cheery person to deal with and (2) an amazingly quick and efficient response. Yes, I had to wait an additional 15 minutes for them to type my name into the system so I could pay them their money. I was still done faster than the man who was ignored for so long. Maybe it was my fore planning. The woman behind the counter commented on my passport (it doesn’t expire until February) and told me I was smart for coming in early. A fast check of my paperwork and a copy of my passport was all that was needed. I’ll be getting an email in a few weeks to go back and pick up my new passport. That’s it.

Other than the inevitable wait in line, it was the fastest bureaucracy visit I’ve ever had to experience.

The day then opened up. Ah, Amsterdam. Again. In heat. With tourists. Could have been worse; a Wednesday in mid May is nothing compared to a Saturday in June. But the lines for museums were too long for my brother and me. We’re not tourists anymore. We’re locals. We can return in winter, when the tourists are at a minimum. So we passed by the Van Gogh museum and the Rijksmuseum. We vetoed Nemo, the science museum, because their exhibits close down early and we want to see everything.

In the end we simply walked through the city. Stopped in at a shoe shop selling off all their inventory and bought a couple of Chuckie’s for my bro. Got lured into a place making homemade halva via a free sample that sent my tastebuds to heaven, and bought enough halva for 6 months. Popped into a couple of coffeeshops for a toke and laughed at the tourists getting stoned off their asses. One guy seemed to be a writer. He had a notebook out and scribbled a few words. His head nodded down, down. Then there was a soft clunk; his head hit the table and stayed there for 5 minutes while he stared down at his notebook and his friends laughed at him. Ended up at a place called Blue for lunch. Fabulous view, fabulous food, and handmade fresh lemonade that was killer. I thought it was a bit pricey at ten euro a plate, but then I saw the plates. Didn’t need to have dinner later on, it was so much food. Wow.

The cherry on top of the day for me was using our local train station. Prior to this, any trip I’ve taken has been run thru Rotterdam Centraal. Yesterday’s trip was run thru Rotterdam Alexander, a train/bus/metro stop less than 5 minutes from the house. Check in with my OV chipcard and viola! Catch the train. No fuss, no muss. And no busy Centraal station to deal with. Now all I need to do is figure out a local Amsterdam stop to get out at. There’s a couple the train passed through yesterday. Hop out there, pick up local transport and bypass the tourist stuff altogether.

I’m becoming a local. Now I’ve just got to master the language.

 

Fun Centraal

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My feet, Grouchy and Sleepy

48 glorious hours to recoup before I head back up to the city that will dazzle and destroy you – Amsterdam. I think it’s gonna take that long for my feet to stop aching. Between now and then, the only walking I want to do is to and from my bed, the telly, and the toilet. If we run out of food I’m flipping getting delivery.

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what we saw

Yesterday was King’s Day. The color was orange and the word was fun. I didn’t feel strong enough to venture further than the neighborhood shindigs last year, so everything was as surprising to me as to my friends. The Netherlands is setting a record for the coldest King’s Day ever¬†this year: snow in the northern areas, with cold rain and frequent hail by us. Did not stop the yahoos from going out in T-shirts only; I saw them. Mad people. Mad, young people with strong immune systems. I envy them and their casual approach to their health.¬†The entire country (except those areas shut down by bad weather) was open air parties and one huge market. King’s Day is the one day where anyone can sell anything on the street with no permit. About 20% of the population clears out their homes of last year’s stuff, lays a blanket down in a public square, and does sort of a rummage sale thing. Plenty of regular stall sellers, too, but the thing that stretches the market from here to Groningen is joe public. Roads downtown are cut off to auto traffic. Nieuwe Binnenweg (a major crossroads downtown) was a sea of people on the sidewalks and people spilling into the streets – mostly in orange. If you had the strength and fortitude, you could have stocked your house from the ground up with everything: household goods, clothes for every size, knick knacks, cook wear, plumbing, electronics, plants and flowers. Frankly there were only two things I didn’t see for sale; people and hard drugs, and I’m sure SOMEWHERE that was going on, too (tho not condoned by anyone).

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what I want to see

And then there were the parties…I felt too old and weary to attend any of the thumping music venues. Doesn’t mean my smile didn’t widen and my step lighten when I walked past and heard great sound systems pumping out killer techno and trance. Well, they say three’s the charm. Next year will be my third King’s Day, so I look forward to feeling better and doing more.

Today there are two things on the chop block: smoke and play. I’m serious. My brother monitors my fun levels – as well as his own – and he’s declared that if he sees me doing anything other than playing games, smoking, or enjoying a film with my feet up, he’s gonna roll me a big fatty and sit down and make me smoke it in front of him until I calm down. Yesterday morning as I put shoes on my aching feet, I would never imagine that stopping, sitting, and taking a break would be so difficult. It is. I’ve been on a fast paced, active three day schedule and just STOPPING is hard. I’m exhausted but antsy. Keep feeling like I SHOULD be up doing something right now. I may fall back on that lone Ativan tablet I keep chipping away at. Take a bit to ensure I’ll relax. I still have tomorrow to run little errands (like getting my blood work done). Today I do nothing.

Yeah, I’ve wound up into a bit of mania or hypomania. Whichever. Just a bit too fast paced. Part of me wants to keep going with it. Of course! I’m walking all day long and barely eating anything. I KNOW I’m losing weight, pushing my muscles beyond what they normally do. If the pool was open, I’d be in it. Swimming HARD. Good thing for me it’s closed. I’m amazed I (knock wood) haven’t fallen ill since I’ve been walking around cold and damp for three days. Maybe once my friends are on their flights home I’ll collapse into a tired, fevered ball. Whatever is keeping me on my feet and keeping all illnesses away, it’s very welcome right now.

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TrefPunt; the coolest coffeeshop in Rotterdam

If I manage to change out of my pj’s – and there’s no guarantee that I’ll even TRY to change out of them – I’ll be donning my new T-shirt. My favorite coffeeshop, TrefPunt, had a King’s Day special: for 35 euro you got a 5 gram bag of unmarked weed and an orange TrefPunt T-shirt. The grass is not the highest quality, of course, but I’m surprised to find the T-shirt IS. It’s a warm, thick cotton blend with the TrefPunt logo, which is uber cool. Of course, wearing the TrefPunt T-shirt is akin to wearing a shirt with¬†I AM A STONER¬†written across your chest. But I AM a stoner so I wear it with pride and give anyone who even THINKS of looking at me askance one of my wide, all-knowing grins. It’s not a shirt I’d wear to language class or when I have a doctor’s appointment. Any other time, though, it’s fair game.

I think a new game for my computer is called for. Something I can zone into for several hours today. Fun! I’m a kid in a candy store when it comes to buying games for my computer. I got into gaming late in life; I think I bought my first computer game when I was 40. Gaming is now the primary function of my computer. I always feel I could go to the library to write on my blog or answer e-mail, but it’s only on MY computer that I’ve got games I love to play . I don’t need to move one inch. I’m already where I want to be: Fun Centraal.

Vidalia Season

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My fun and sunny day never showed up. It remained cloudy and cool, with no forthcoming suggestion from my brother to let loose and treat myself. Rather the opposite; I was asked how many boxes I wanted for the living room area and what colors. So my original plan was resurrected and I cleaned. NOT top to bottom as my head kept telling me I should do, but an all around pick up and tidy which was easier on me and more effective visually than super cleaning one spot.

I am VERY unsophisticated. It’s not that I don’t like nice things – I do. But I see no reason to have clothes you can’t relax in, furniture you can’t sit in, carpets you can’t walk on, all to keep things ‘nice’. That’s asinine behavior from people who have too much money.¬†We don’t sit in that room unless we have company.¬†Say whaaaaat? Where do you live, Downton Abbey?

My house is so small…

How small is it?

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I should have a slew of jokes ready for that. I’ve only got the one, and it’s only for my bedroom: My bedroom is so SMALL that when a mouse moved in I had to get an extension put on.

Anyway, my home is as unsophisticated as I. Color schemes don’t exist. Stuff is just stored as neatly as possible. My brother…he isn’t quite a hoarder, but he comes close. We carried some broken studio equipment from the US to Canada to Ireland (paying $$ each time) because ‘maybe someday’ he’d get it fixed and use it. And hey! What do you call someone with 15,000 comics? He’s got a lot of stuff. If you saw the wall of DVDs…well, you’d say it looks like a rental DVD place, and you’d be right. There might be more than a thousand.

My point is I won’t¬†bother trying to bring this living room together into any cohesive whole. There’s the tv corner, the studio corner, the kitchen corner, and the dining/computer corner. There you have it: the full layout of the living room. It’s packed. It’s also now colorful. My bro is as childish as I am at heart, so he had no problem getting boxes in every color they had. Green, turquoise, red, orange, dark blue, yellow. A bit more of that and the living room¬†will echo the colors in my bedroom. Combine the colors with two dominating windows, one to the east and one to the west which flood the living room in perpetual light, and it’s a light hearted room to be in despite the clutter.

The good mood generated from seeing the house neater just keeps on snowballing. Get one spot cleaned up, move some stuff around, and suddenly a LOT is tidier. Spent quite a bit of time yesterday opening up my kitchen cupboards. That used to be asking for a pile of kitchenware to fall out onto the floor. Now I can see where stuff is and what I have.

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Also tidied up the light fixtures, which right now are nothing more than hanging bare bulbs ala ‘Hollow Hills’ from Bauhaus on the Reunion Tour (anyone? other than me?). They used to be hanging bare bulbs with big gaping holes where the wires come out. Now they’re all capped. Unfortunately, we lost electric to one of our outlets. Just happens to be the outlet I plug my computer and the studio into. Going to have to call in an electrician to find the fault. I spent about 2 hours yesterday afternoon without access to my computer, and never in the history of the WORLD has there been two longer hours. Man! I thought I jonesed when I stopped¬†smoking. Nothing compared to going cold turkey from my computer. Suddenly I couldn’t write, I couldn’t play, I couldn’t access the internet to talk to anyone. I felt like there was very little I could do to fill my time: only¬†tv or reading. I take back every gentle laugh, every joke, every thing I ever said that might have been disparaging to people who’d lost their mobiles. If they live on them like I live on my computer, I now understand. It’s almost like a death. We rely on our phones and computers so much that when they’re gone they leave this big hole in our lives that’s damned difficult to fill.

Modern day addiction. I can see why clinics are opening up to help people off their gadgets.

Guess that’s the set up to talk about smoking – my personal addiction. It’s going well, thank you. Smoking one now. Will smoke again after breakfast. Will smoke this afternoon while I play and enjoy the new cleanliness of the living room. Right now all I ask of myself is that I don’t smoke so heavily my smoker’s cough returns.

Today is the girl’s day. Time for me to ask what she wants to talk about and give her space to ramble on. I’m less uneasy about doing that since I’ve not been thrown by it. I feel like I can talk to myself, discover a thing or two, but not carry any negativity from remembered emotions or scenarios. Feels like I’m developing some space between hurtful memories and the person I see as me. I’m more apt these days to take a look at what the other people in my memories might have been going thru rather than just blame them. Don’t know if that’s ‘right’ or not. Maybe I need to process more. Maybe I’m just ready to move on. After all, I’ve already spent the better part of my life trying to figure out why I am the way I am.

I’ve no delusions that I’ll come to an ‘end’. The only ‘end’ to personal growth is death, and on the right day I’ll even argue THAT. But since we reside in a linear time reality, we really are on an unending journey of self discovery. Our memories add up; we make decisions over ourselves, our friends and loved ones, and our world based on what we make of our personal history.

For now, I’m on a stable layer. A peel on the Onion of Truth that isn’t ready to slide off in your hand.

And damn! Today the Onion isn’t even a crier. Must be vidalia season.