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.

In my mind

Opened up my outline and began writing in earnest this week. I feel almost as if I’m writing a term paper. My outline is so detailed I can’t stray far from it, so it’s just check the next line, think, and write it out. My biggest stumbling block right now is my determined decision to use zero contractions when my characters talk. It’s a little dialogue trick to emphasize the people are not native English speakers. But I don’t want to sound stilted or weird, so I must think from time to time and turn my phrases so they sound both foreign and natural (using Tolstoy as a big example). In other words, I must think more like a Russian in my dialogue. It’s a mind set I can use, but it’s like anything else: once my head is there, it’s difficult to pull out. My inner dialogue has shifted to a bad Russian accent (much like Moose and Squirrel), and I find myself giggling over idioms and sayings running thru my brain.

But I’m discouraged, even as I write. The Russian allegations, the hysteria, the hacking and propaganda accusations – Gods, I’d have to be Hemingway to get this play produced in today’s clime.

I’m still putting my all into it.

Realized more than ever that my first act must be both introduction to and education about these women. Too many people I speak to have never even heard of this regiment. So the first act may be the furthest from the ‘truth’. I have to explain the situation, their bad equipment, the sexism and opposition, and why the regiment was formed in the first place all thru dialogue. In real life, this was all known. In the script, we have to allow the audience to discover this – educate them. It’s a fine line, to give all that info without being heavy handed. But I think I’m managing to do it, through personal perspectives and stories.

Case in point: the soviet agent. Every soviet regiment had an agent, called the Politruk, attached to it. The Politruk was the long arm of communism. Often times, they were harsh and unforgiving – and just as suspicious of their troops as they were of the enemy. But how many Americans know that? How many would even recognize the word ‘Politruk’? Not many. So I introduce the term, but make it clear thru the dialogue exactly what this person’s role was in the military. A similar thing happened with the woman responsible for forming this regiment. No one in the US (or very, very few) will know who she is, even tho she’s a well known aviation star in Russia. So I have to give some background on her, explain why she’s a big deal – even tho she’s not even in the play. Her story is related thru another character’s personal history – this is the woman who inspired the character, who showed her that women can be more than just mothers and wives.

The entire first act will just be introducing all the characters, their relationships to one another, and enough historical information so the audience will understand the story. Like I said, I gotta stick to that outline. Eleven characters to give fully rounded roles to…that takes a lot of words.

Today’s a pimple on the ass of summer. We’ve had several cool days, back in the mid 20s. Today’s temp is shooting up to 30 or higher, out of the blue. And we’re supposed to pop with severe thunderstorms later on this evening. I sure hope so. My tiny bedroom always stays three to five degrees warmer than anywhere else in the house.

Off, soon, to the gym. Get my arse moving. Hopefully after that, I’ll still have a few hours to tinker with the script and get some more work done.

Heard from my acting partner, who is working as an extra in an upcoming film. Passed my head shot on to him, and he promised to pass it on to the casting director. Also heard from the director’s girlfriend, who put together the promo poster. While she wants to use photos of all of us in various promotional shots, they’ve decided to keep the photo with me and my partner as THE picture. Think I’ll get a large print out for my wall. I’m pleased she responded; never sure how that relationship is going. Doing my best to be warm, friendly, and non-threatening.

And I gotta ask a Dutch native about something. A Dutch guy, specifically. Some of the young men who work at the gym have a habit of winking at me every time I’m in there. I get winks when I check in, and winks when I leave. Honestly, I don’t know if that’s a ‘hey, you’re an older woman but you’re a tough broad, so I’ll give you a wink’ or a ‘hey, you’re an older woman and I’d like to do you’ thing. Or maybe it’s just a thing shop owners do. The Dutch say hello to me as I walk far more than other nationalities. So maybe winking at regular customers is just a friendly gesture. A ‘we’re all in this together’ thing. I don’t know. Wish I wasn’t so dumb about these things.

Very little thought to anything that frightens me. Too wrapped up in everything else. That’s good; saving me from needless anxiety. I worry sometimes that I use my work to distract me from all that. That all I’m really doing is pushing it away.

But, hey. A little distance from my fear isn’t a bad thing. It’s just a mental holiday from myself. Leave those doubts behind. Allow myself to feel powerful for a little bit. Sexy, even.

So in answer to the ever-present summer question are you going away on holiday?, the answer is I already am on holiday. In my mind.

This doesn’t bode well

I’m 51. Almost 52. Yet, just like any kid, I couldn’t help but feel that rush of excitement yesterday as my very last language class drew to a close. Six glorious weeks of holiday. I know I’m bound to flip, and at some point complain how could I ever have thought this much time off was a good idea? But that ain’t today. Today I’m still a kid, off of school, no more homework or doing things I don’t want to do.

Yippee!

Had the treat of finding another online comment from (yep, you guessed it) my uncle, who seems to yank my chain an awful lot. Props to him; he did it again. I’d posted an article from a German news source that discussed a study of sexual aggression in male apes. It suggested that sexual aggression and intimidation runs in the species; similar behaviors were noted in various monkeys, orangutans, and apes. It also suggested that, humans being closely related to our ape cousins, this trait was present in male humans – which led us down the merry path of ‘rape is just something men do’. Sugar-coated, I’ll give you. But it lay there in the midst of this article’s words, splayed legged for the world to see and jerk off to. Naturally, my comment while posting said article was rather scathing. And how did my right-wing, privileged uncle respond? “This picture isn’t of an ape.” Yes. A stupid comment on the accompanying picture of said article. Nothing on the content. Nothing on my thoughts. Apparently, this was his only way to discount what was being said. You’ve got the wrong picture on top of the article. If that’s wrong, I’m not even gonna bother reading it. Maybe that wasn’t his intention. But it read that way.

The only reason I see for him doing any of this is to needle at me. I just can’t figure out why he feels the need to needle me. I don’t even live on his continent. His life never need intersect mine. And how many times do I need to say thanks for the money loan? It was paid back, with interest. Doesn’t mean I have to shut up with my opinions.

You didn’t buy me, uncle.

I replied, and told him I didn’t write the article and perhaps his comment should be directed towards the news agency that published it.

Play rehearsals went well. Learned we’re booking five performances. Two locally, two in Amsterdam, one in Leiden. That’s so far. Hope there aren’t too many more. If I have to cough up for money towards a venue, plus travel costs, plus perform – well, that’s asking a lot, isn’t it? At the same time I’m glad. Glad I’ll have these opportunities to shine. Glad it won’t be a lot of work for just two nights and then sitting around doing nothing for the rest of the year. I’m puzzled as well. These people think they can do local plus out of town gigs? What’s the draw? Or are there just so many theatre goers in the Netherlands that we’re guaranteed a certain amount of people? It’s not even like they’re active online. Their sites – both the dot com and their FB page – rarely changes. I saw them struggle to draw more than 40 people last year, and that was locally. Well, I’ve not been invited into the inner circle yet. The Grand Poo-Pah has not granted me access. So I don’t know who’s doing what, or why they’re not doing some things that seem obvious to me.

Want to get in some rehearsal time today while my bro is at the comic book shop. Not that I need much. I almost got my lines memorized from last night’s three run-throughs. Then it’s dishes, per usual. My bro did a bunch of dishes yesterday while I was busy, but then he dirtied as many dishes as there were earlier by making dinner. So I’m left with a large sink full of dishes to do all by myself. Again. Hoo-rah. Then it’s off to the gym, for an extended-extended work out. What I’ll extend, I don’t know. I just know I want to burn, burn a lot, and burn hard. After that, if I can lift my arms and keep my eyes open, I’ll see about puttering with my outline.

*sigh* And the festivals are beginning. The endless outdoor music and all sorts of fun festivals. No money for entrance fees, so I have to wait for the freebies. But I hear the fireworks at night, celebrations with thousands of people. It’s kind of lonely, hearing that as I lay in bed trying to get to sleep. Gee, listen to that. All those people out there having a good time. All that fun and life and music and activity. Usually I’m too tired to worry about it for long, but in those brief moments before sleep takes me I can feel very alone.

Diving into writing will only reinforce that aloneness. I know that. Going to do my best to get out every day, no matter how hot the writing is going. I don’t want the next six weeks of posts to be about feeling like a ghost, or having no friends, or being disconnected. And I do want to get my work done. So a strict half schedule must be adhered to. Half a day, every day, get the fuck out of the house. Go to the gym. If I have to do the gym every day because it’s the only thing I can afford that’ll get me out for a couple of hours, alright. Then I’ll super push. Go to rehearsals. Take a walk. Look through the charity shops for cheap clothes. Try to meet up with acquaintances. Say hello. Chill. Ask them how they are, what they’re doing.

Anything.

Hm. Two hours officially into my holiday and I’m already finding ways to keep myself occupied.

This doesn’t bode well.

Reverse Hibernation

Tired. Like, down to my bones. Every limb feels heavy and stiff. Slept 10 hours and considering a nap. Trying not to, ’cause naps fuck me up more than it’s worth most times, unless I’ve been on a crying jag (which I’ve not)…then it resets me.

Consciously smoking. Cutting down. Reigning in. …It’s as much a pain in the ass process as active listening is right now.

Just want to sleep.

My brain has shut down. It refuses to think of anything more than putting one foot in front of the other. It offers no inspiration, gives me nothing from story-land to occupy my time.

It’s bleak, but comforting. And I think this is the way death comes to us. It tires us down, bit by bit, until we welcome the unending slumber. At least, I hope so.

I hope that’s the way it happens.

Happy thoughts to while away the day, yes?

Ugh. I hate my body when it’s like this. Far beyond just exercise back lash. Fronts have been moving through the area, and long observation has lead me to the conclusion that fast moving weather fronts affect my RA. Summer is always hell. I use selective denial, and choose to remember summers as fun. But the truth always hits me mid-way. Summer tires me out terribly.

Been rehearsing my role. Really have the first seven pages down. Recorded in my partner’s lines for the last half of the script. Now it’s repetition. Perfecting. I keep finding deeper and deeper nuances of body language to use. So much can be said with a turn of the head.

Trying not to worry. Tough, when I’m like this. If I could keep active, keep going…then maybe my mind wouldn’t go so dark. But I struggled to get the dishes done. It was a big job, or it felt like it. Going outside, committing to other activities…I’d drop over unconscious within an hour. I need an extra boost of caffeine to even begin reaching a state of ‘normal’ alertness. A big boost.

Feels like I’m slipping into some reverse hibernation. Sleep away the summer rather than the winter.

…On a cosmic level, that makes sense somehow…doesn’t it?

Hot, and dead

I shouldn’t even be here. I should be finishing up my coffee and getting my butt to the gym.

Two days of 35+ degrees, though, and I’m sapped. Everything is hot. Been sucking on popsicles to try and keep cool. Feel extra extra tired: not sleeping well due to the heat, and naturally my RA is flaring up a bit. My joints (not the fun ones) feel thick and fat.

Got rehearsal tonight. I’m ready for it, tho I’m not ready to take a hot metro ride down in the evening sun (which is still damned hot) to a classroom which is ALWAYS hot to rehearse for a couple of hours. Hope we can do it outside.

Feel bad for the kiddies who are still in school. Sure hope those buildings have some air conditioning. And let’s face it: doesn’t take much in the way of cooler air to feel pretty good. An A/C that sputters out tepid air would be very welcome.

I’ve got a couple of fans.

Resisting the urge to shave my head. So far, anyway. Can’t guarantee that I won’t chop all my hair off before the month is over. Have to use every single hair pin I’ve got to keep this thick mass off my neck. Nine, in total. And my hair still escapes.

Smoking too much. Way too much. Hate it. Hate how often I find myself reaching for a smoke. How often I hold a lighter in my hand, waiting. Telling myself to take timed breaks – don’t smoke for at least an hour. Hold off ’til after dinner. Small goals. Somehow, tho, the total keeps going up.

It’s not even Summer Solstice and it’s too damned HOT! Goddess! Can I even make it through this summer?

……Shit. Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit. I think I fucked up my meds. Just had an alert on my computer to take my methotrexate today, but I think I took it yesterday. 98% positive on that. Fuck. Okay. Don’t panic. Just don’t take the pills today. Trust your memory. If I’m wrong and I’m skipping a dose, I won’t keel over.

Go away, summer! This constant heat makes it harder than ever to keep track of time.

Don’t even know the last time we had rain. All the grass outside is dead. It just lays there, yellow and harsh. The kind of grass that hurts bare feet because it’s so damned dry. The world has become a waffle iron, searing its pattern into people’s back and shoulders as they try to enjoy the sun in the manner their ancestors did: by going out in it. Utter madness. It’s too hot, and every thing is dead. Get it? The grass is dead. The trees are dead or dying. Everything is getting seared. Take a hint!

But they don’t, of course. Instead, people body check ME because of my too-white legs or arms while they sport the color of lobsters. Mob mentality. We’re all doing it; if you don’t, you must be wrong.

Go on. You’ve got your manner to kill yourself, I’ve got mine.

It’s too hot to argue, and in the end we’ll all be dead, anyway.

The Ghost in the Window

It’s good. With the right actors, it could be great.

Even the typos I found in my read through didn’t detract from the suspense in the story. Corrections were quick – been thinking about it for a week (there’s another life axiom: the longer you think about a storyline, the less time it takes to get it on paper).

Of course, if the script is performed by a bunch of hacks it’ll come off as cheesy. Or it could.

My brother gave me a weird warning yesterday, before I began reading. He told me to stay calm if anyone labels this as a black comedy. I told him there are zero comedic elements in the script and I can’t imagine anyone turning this into a comedy. He said I’m writing (again) about subject matter that makes most people nervous, and when people are nervous, they poke fun – therefore, it’s a possibility. Yo – write down a number and put enough zeroes behind it and you can call this script anything you want. Do it in full clown face; I don’t care if you pay me enough.

…Okay, not exactly true. I’d never go and see it if it’s done in any other manner than the way I wrote it.

It would not prevent me from writing another one. Which is good, because now that I found my way into these thrillers/suspense/horror stories, I know exactly how to make them happen. Two words: what if. What if this happened, what if that were true – what if can get you damned far in a story, and makes things very interesting.

And yeah, as I was sitting last night watching tv, I heard something that triggered those two words in my brain. Mmm.

Bad news: Scrivener sucks. Can I say that louder? Scrivener SUCKS. It can’t insert (MORE) or (CONT’D) in dialogue breaks. That’s a killer for me. No matter how much the designers of Scrivener want to say that using (MORE) and (CONT’D) is old fashioned and going out of style, they’re still vital stage directions in theatre scripts. Not including them in any software designed to write scripts is stupid. It’s akin to not adding in an auto page number function. And naturally, it’s not something you see until you get to the very last stage – printing. Grrr. Have another trial software – Fade in – to try, but I think I’ll just head out to Celtx and get it typed in on that software. Getting to that point where I need it done and out, so I can concentrate on my next script.

Started reading the book my director lent to me on the Night Witches. It promises to be an interesting read. It’s a role play game book, not a novel or non-fiction piece – something I’m not really familiar with. But it’s got suggestions for character types and scenarios, set-ups for interpersonal conflicts and intrigues, and I think it’ll expand my storyline in several directions. Certainly, if I get stuck on how to move forward, I think this book will be invaluable.

Just had a reminder pop up on my screen. I’m meeting people today to be social. Oh…yeah.  In five hours I need to be downtown, alert and aware, and preferably not looking like I just got out of bed. Bummer. Really don’t want to get out of my pj’s today.

Right. Arrows out. Remember to ask. Look up. Smile. Don’t overwhelm with a long monologue about my work. They are people, too.

So – breakfast and shower. Keep my head about me and my hands off the keyboard. Then a nice little metro ride downtown. A nice cup of coffee or glass of juice while I talk to people who might spark another story or character idea for me. A nice afternoon out of the house, and I’ll come back twice as refreshed and ready to work. Nice. That’s what I’ll aim for.

I’d like to be more than just a ghost this summer. I don’t get outside and do summery things anymore. And I never tan or stay outside long enough to get color. Part of that is my problem with too much heat. Part of that is my work. But I do feel a ghost, watching others get that warm brown skin, smelling the BBQs, seeing people sitting outside, hearing the music and laughter floating in thru the windows…. And I’m not quite sure how to stop being a ghost and start living again. Will forcing myself to sit outside, baking in the heat, take care of this sense that something is missing in my life? Or will it just make me feel lonelier, as I sit on a park bench by myself, speaking to no one, watching others have fun?

I could deal with my ghostly existence if it meant my work was getting noticed. It would offer me some sort of balance: okay, I don’t go outside but my work is winning me accolades. And I know I don’t do real life very well. Nice to dip my toe into once in a while, but I don’t want to go swimming in that sea every morning. Outside looks great, but I know once I’m there the heat is oppressive, I begin to sweat, and all I want is to find a cool place to chill. Better to view it from here. Better to look down, and observe.

That’s me; the ghost in the window.

When in doubt, ask

Seems keeping my cool – literally and figuratively – has become the game of summer.

Friday’s language lesson sucked. Mince no words. I was not the only student bringing the mood down – plenty of reticent people in that room. No hands up, no volunteers. Our time consisted of writing down words and creating sentences from them. Okay with four or five words. Hit the ten word mark and you’re talking about prepositional phrases inserted somewhere in the basic framework. I was told I was wrong, wrong, wrong. Still don’t understand why the verb placement is where it is. Still don’t understand why MY conglomeration of the words was wrong, when an earlier sentence used the same structure and was perfectly fine.

Class broke early.

Came home to piled up dishes by the sink, a full garbage bin and overflowing recycling. Cleaned it all up AND ran down for more cool beverages and milk. Even remembered to turn in our old batteries (the pile was HUGE).

Today: a bullshit message from my uncle, the gist of which is ‘I don’t believe in climate change’. You can imagine how that went down with me. Managed to not say anything  – again. Do I get any points for preventing an argument?

Looking forward to an afternoon alone so I can read through my latest script. I’m waiting with baited breath, actually. Get up and get out of the house, bro! Is it creepy? Can it work?

Should get to the gym, too. Keep on with the basics.

Bleh. Like I want to take care of the basics right now.

Beginning to feel bogged down by the heat, the Dutch, the relentless get up and do the same fucking thing again – because all those pesky jobs like making your bed or keeping the house clean are never really ‘done’. Reminding myself I voluntarily took on more housework while my bro is working on his book. And some part of me replies – Yeah, yeah. You always make some sort of excuse for him, don’t you? He doesn’t do dishes now that he’s writing; he didn’t do dishes before because he was busy with music or comics or some other excuse that you let him get away with. Just admit it: the chores in the house are rather one-sided.

…Can’t really argue with that.

And I’ll admit I get fed up enough with it that, from time to time, I let everything go to Hell just to remind my brother how much work I generally do around here. It’s a nasty habit, formed out of years of not being able to ask for help when I need it.

So this is my reminder to me: I don’t like dust bunnies. They annoy me to no end. Better to just pick them up. Don’t count how many times you bend over to pick them up, just remind yourself how nice it is not to see them anymore. Same goes with the rest. I/You like a clean house. Keep that way for me/us. …And ask yourself this: if you lived alone, would you let the housework go? If you wouldn’t, not doing the chores because you’re pissed off at your brother for not helping ISN’T an excuse [wonderful multiple negative statement – SEE how your brain works?].

Ohm. Calm. Do not lash out. When in doubt, stay silent. – Whoa! Maybe that’s my problem. How about -‘when in doubt, ask’? …Oh, I like that better. Calm. Do not lash out. When in doubt, ask.

…Um…help?

 

 

 

 

 

Will you?

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In a city like Rotterdam, wind becomes a sneaky animal. Seems no matter what direction it starts from, once the wind begins winding through the Escher-esque buildings with cut away floors and balconies protruding from every available surface, it gains a slyness to it. It will buffet you this way and then that, hitting you square in the face from multiple directions. You never really know from what direction it will come. Only where the city gives way to water expanses do these air acrobatics cease. The edges of the ocean, the river, the lakes – that’s where you can find true wind, blasting its way across the flatness of Holland and the North Atlantic, bringing a sea salt tinge and wayward seagulls inland.

This true wind met me as I stepped off the metro yesterday. End stop: Nesselande. Down the walkway, to the left of towering buildings that competed for the eye’s attention with hue changes, filigree looking glass designs, and sheer overhang intimidation. Opposite, open park and nothingness. Where strange buildings ended and nothingness met, the beach began.

A few sailboats and windsurfers skimmed across the surface of the lake. They raced the clouds above, seeming to fly across the water as swift as their air borne competitors ran before the breath of the gods. A few groups of pre-teens passed me, their phones out and their eyes glued to the screen: Pokemon. Three women and their assorted children ignored the wind and the clouds, determined to soak up what sun there was on offer.

People were scattered on the boardwalk. A few walked dogs. A few joggers. A few like me, just meandering. I nodded, and smiled, and said hello. Far down the beach I saw a skeleton set up for a festival. That drew me on to the very last park bench along the boardwalk. There I sat for a moment, my arms thrown wide, my head back – a summer gesture. While I was genuinely happy to grasp this nostalgic moment of summers past despite the decidedly un-summery weather, my head was already asking: where is that person I need to help today? It was as if the wind had blown them all away to roost in dark corners I wasn’t seeing. I knew they were there; I just couldn’t find them.

A bit more walking to the very end. No trailing off of the city into suburbs. It is a clean cut, a butcher’s chop. The very last building and then – nothing. Nothing but the road paralleled by the bike path, a straight shot to the horizon. It was easy to imagine the road never ending yesterday. No hills, no curves: it carved through the land like a young river, too bold to be waylaid by any simple land obstruction.

I wondered where it would take me. Sometimes that urge to just go is very strong in me. But as I gazed at the horizon and wondered the clouds that earlier seemed so buoyant and playful became dark and menacing things, gathering at the precise point of road meets distance. The wind shooed me back, past the towering buildings and the women trying to tan, past more zombie children with eyes fixed on their mobiles, to the ghost metro station of Nesselande. My carriage awaited me, and in a few short moments I was home.

My spiritual malaise over not finding someone special to help caused me to take my helper’s eyes out. I was just me, heading home. No poetry, no epiphanies. I told myself I’d done well. Fresh air and exercise for an hour all topped off with a smile and a good attitude. But a lingering petulance still plagued me, a dissatisfaction at not accomplishing what I’d set out to do.

I swung the door to my building open with more force than necessary – an indication that all was not well in Beeps world. My aggression was met with a flash of annoyance: two young girls were running around the small lobby in some sort of game. Their pink bikes were mini obstructions to get around before I could access my post box. I grabbed the papers stuffed in the box and turned to see the girls waiting for the lift, still pushing each other playfully. Taking a breath, I prevented myself from rolling my eyes by shifting my attention to the handful of flyers and newspapers I held as I walked towards the lift. On top of the mess lay one half sheet: a color in picture for kids.

Wil je dit?

I didn’t think, didn’t bother to probe my mind to find out if what I was saying was proper Dutch. It was out of my mouth before any of that could occur. And the girls were nodding yes, they wanted it. Their heads bent together over the flyer, their eyes reading what I was much slower to realize: it was a contest. They left the lift on their floor, their horseplay over and done with. Excited whispers accompanied pointing at the flyer. Dag, they said to me with a smile.

It took five full steps out of the lift before I realized that I’d just done what I wanted to do. It wasn’t what I expected, and it certainly wasn’t what I was looking for – or where I was looking for it.

But that’s kindness. It’s a wind through the city type of thing, not a wind off the lake thing. It meanders, it shifts, it changes direction dramatically on you. You’ll never know where or when the opportunity will come at you. In that way, kindness is sly. It wears many guises. It sneaks up on you when you’re not looking, then stands at your feet at stares at you eye to eye, eyebrow raised in the perpetual question kindness always asks.

Will you?

Eyes Wide Open

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Spent some real time thinking about my own words. With my new rules in place, I was able to think about myself in past tense and what I was going to leave behind without getting all caught up in who would actually show up to my wake. Unless I really do win the lottery, there’s not much I could leave behind. I mean, there’s my work – music and stories and poetry, oh my – but unless I leave it to a marketing guru it’ll do what it’s always done: sit there and get a bit of attention but nothing that would save anyone’s day – or life. I’m not sure if handing an heir my stuff so they can spend a lifetime facing rejection for a dead woman’s work is a good idea.

All I have is myself and my time. All I can afford to pass on right now is a smile and a kind word.

I hope it’s enough.

Goddess! I’m macabre again. Thinking about death. A little of that is a good thing. Too much is just too much.

I see the Netherlands has begun the trick of putting cancerous body parts on the front of tobacco packs. I’m sure that isn’t helping my mind set! This is the third country I’ve lived in that’s adopted that measure. Let me state this clearly: it doesn’t work. I’ve never witnessed ANY smoker ANYWHERE say they’re gonna give up smoking because of some gross and disturbing pictures on the packages. The only thing that kind of thing does is cement into our subconscious minds that THAT is what’s happening to our bodies. In a world where our expectations and thoughts shape our reality, that’s a damned foolish thing to do. All this is is a shock-jock advertisement. It’s disturbing and meant to throw fear into people.

Disgusting that people make money from doing shit like that.

Then again, I find a lot about human society disgusting. Seems humans always need to fight something. Sooner or later, man’s attention always turns to his fellow man. I guess there’s only so much mountain climbing, clear cutting, deep sea diving, and drilling a guy can do before he just needs to clobber somebody.

Or so it seems.

Maybe that makes the task I’ve set before me all the more important. Maybe in today’s world, it’s the smile and kind word passed on that’s worth a fortune rather than the six figure investment account.

I need to think that’s so. I need to believe I can pass on the meager gifts given to me by strangers. The help, the thoughtfulness, the kindness. And there’s a strange thing about those gifts: they’re the only ones that grow as you give them away. Hoard them, and you lose them. Give them out freely and you’ll never go without.

Now THAT’S something to remember!

My plans today are simple. I’m eyeing up the pile of dirty dishes by the sink that my brother didn’t bother to touch yesterday while I was out of the house and choosing to view it as his gift to me rather than a burden. I like a bit of routine and for better or worse circumstances in my life have led to dishwashing as part of my routine. So I’ll get a fair amount of dishwashing routine in today, since two days of stuff has built up. Then it’s exercise and fresh air, some Dutch – but keep it light because it IS the weekend, a shower, and music. I’m gonna delve into my machines and release the three songs I’ve created. Paperwork first. Recording music is a boring process. Everyone thinks that’s where the magic is, but it isn’t. It’s in writing and producing. Recording is ho-hum. First, write out the song. You gotta know when everything is going to come in or be silent. Then record in every track, which means you hear the song a LOT as the instruments build up. Next clean up the tracks – technical jiggery-pokery at it’s finest. That’s hours in headphones. Only when that’s all done does the fun start again. I can tell I’m in that mood to sit and dial the knobs back and forth over 3/96 of the song looking for the perfect cut point for each instrument. It’s not something I can DO every day. Takes a tremendous amount of willingness to just sit there and do the work.

It’s also inside work. Inside the house AND inside my mind. Cut off from the world. I love it, but I also recognize the inherent weakness in it. Go there too often and you risk complete isolation.

Oooooooh, yeah. Just re-read my blather and realized I am REALLY in that recording mood.

Okay. But a promise is a promise. I made a promise to myself about today, and I’m not gonna let myself down. I WILL get out of the house first. Maybe even take the metro out to the lake for something different. That sounds like a good idea. Take a 15 minute metro ride to a different area. Walk around the lake. It’s summer, for pete’s sake. Maybe I’ll even pick up a small treat for myself. A drink or something cool to combat the midday heat. I will NOT wear my shoes – my feet need out of the dungeon of orthopedics for a day. I’ll wear sandals, and let the sun and wind blow through my toes. That way I’ll be able to feel the sand when I hit the beach. Another summer sensation.

Along the way I’ll be distributing my gifts. A smile here, a hello there. A willingness to stop and try to converse. A willingness to just stop – to look, to talk, to think. And I’ll be searching. Searching for someone special, somewhere special, that I can help in some small way. Maybe I’ll find it and maybe I won’t. But I’ll look. Eyes wide open.

A little summer inside me

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It’s been a few days. I can tell I’m full of unsaid things; it’s hard to figure out where to start. The red is back on my news button. I can walk again without pain, thanks to finding out just how sadistic my physiotherapist actually is. And I’ve collapsed in on myself.

Went out for a walk yesterday, the first actual walk in weeks. I got my lotto ticket – plus a freebie because once again my ticket hit a couple of numbers – and made an appointment to take care of my hair. Felt a bit Frankenstein-ish for the first 15 minutes; I kept expecting pain, so I minced my steps and kept my eyes on the sidewalk because the last thing I wanted was to trip over an uneven paving block. I was also just nervous. Being out in public, dealing with Dutch again first hand…I don’t know. It was weird. I felt overly shy and intimidated, though there was no bleeding reason for it. I realize now what I didn’t realize a few weeks ago: my language teacher wasn’t just teaching me Dutch, he was giving me a lot of confidence to continue to TRY to tackle the language. Feels like I did a runner; haven’t used any of my language skills lately and although there’s much more I can read, I think my comprehension of the spoken language has taken a nose dive.

Not pleased about that.

But it’s great to move without pain or some sort of tugging sensation in my back. And my physiotherapist…well, he said some patients call him a sadist, and I get it now. He took my leg, crossed it over my body, then pulled it up so my foot was about the level of my head. HUGE stretch. I thought my leg was gonna snap off. Then there were the sitting twists, with a pain point on my spine that was SO bad when he touched it I really didn’t think I was gonna twist at all. In the end, though, I sat up, then stood up, without pain. Can’t argue with the result.

Yesterday I woke up to a bloodbath in Nice, today to an attempted coup in Turkey. Portugal is just about bankrupt, Italy’s oldest bank is about to go bust. As I wrote to a friend, I was very excited to be here for the beginning of the euro. These days I wonder if I’ll be here to see it break up. I’ve also been following local news, and a pattern has emerged. There’s a neighborhood half way between me and downtown that’s a problem. If someone’s been shot or arrested in Rotterdam, chances are 60% or greater that they’re coming from this location. I’m keeping an eye on it. And the neighborhood. Things get too hairy and we’ll bug out to a new location. Of course, things have to get a lot worse than what they are now before I’d consider moving. I’m living in a land where one shooting will be talked about for days, even weeks, because it’s that rare.

…So I feel like I need to stop lolly-gagging. My bro is nagging me to take it easy and I agree; I can’t go off and start hauling around a bunch of heavy shit or crawling on the floors to clean something right now. I also can’t continue to sit on my ass like I have been. Or if I AM sitting on my ass, I should be doing stuff like language lessons on my computer. Language is weird right now. My reading skills are above my speaking/hearing skills, so I catch far more from subtitles on tv than I do from listening to dialogue. But the written word has become symbols to me; put a few letters together this way and it I know what it means in Dutch, tho I probably won’t recognize the word if it’s said. I’m not reading with that inner narration voice I use in English. I just recognize the symbols. And I realize I could become fluent in the written word and not be able to speak for shit, if I let it happen. Trust me to do it the opposite way of most people.

Keep finding myself saying ‘no, I don’t WANT to smoke’. That’s weird. And I’ve been having a few headaches, too. Don’t know where my smoking level is at because I haven’t cared to keep track. Whatever level it is, it’s going down.

Off the pain killers, too. That’s good; I’ve managed to stop with 8 pills in reserve for the next emergency.

*sigh* Funny how when I’m up I have nothing to say about my emotions but when I’m down that’s all I can write about. Maybe that’s denial. Or maybe that’s just a touch of normalcy. There’s more things going on outside of me than inside right now (or so I tell myself). Can’t tell and I could give a fuck. All I know is that I need to concentrate a bit on the outer stuff. Walking normally. Being able to respond to simple things in Dutch again. Going out alone without feeling weird. That’s tough, but manageably tough. A challenge, but a challenge I can handle. Though I have to admit I was probably red in the face and sweated up a bit yesterday after Dutch this and Dutch that. I’ve got the weekend to walk out some of my stored up mania. I can go back to some language lessons and listen again. Get my ear back. Move forward.

And I’d like to do something summery. I don’t know what. BBQ, swim in the lake, a festival. Something. Something to tell me that yes, this is summer and I did something that only this season offers. There’s a deep ache in me for summers of old. Running thru the grass. Boating on a lake. The smell of charred meat in the air. The taste of corn on the cob, lathered up with butter and salt. Sitting around in the sun, drinking beer with friends. I miss all of that.

Somehow I’ve got to get a little summer inside of me. A little sunshine nonsense to tell me the world isn’t all that bad. People still have fun. It isn’t all red news buttons and pain and work.