A Song & a Memory: “Maybe You” by Saint Lou Lou

April 10th, 2014 § 4 comments § permalink

Peep peep!

It’s not that I haven’t had anything to say, honestly.
In fact, I talk more than I ever have…in person.

But these past two years of my dwindling blogging has coincided with two pretty crappy years of my life, and no one loves a sad blog.

So rather than blog you through the ups and downs of it, I just let the blog fester and mold for a bit.

Am I back?
Not sure.
Do I have something to say right now?
You betcha.

A song and a memory.

Unspecified location, unspecified year.

I opened the car and got in the passenger’s seat. We hadn’t seen each other in a very long time, and I had never been a passenger in your car. I made a joke about hoping that you were a safe driver, and being a typical guy you guffawed that you used to do this for a living on a snowy mountain, thankyouverymuch.

As we pulled out of the airport parking lot, you put this song on the radio and said that you had been listening to it quite a bit and that it was really nice.

Right away the beauty of the song hit me. We played it one more time.

We were both excited, happy to reconnect after so long, and equal parts nervous and unsure of what the weekend had in store. We headed towards the city, where we quickly ran into a detour. Thinking I knew the way, I directed you to take a turn, which meant driving down a restricted road. (Oversight, my bad.)

The police pulled us over.

I tried to be helpful, so I reached over to turn the music down while you rolled opened the driver’s side window.
Instead, I accidentally turned it up and blasted this song at full peak, turning it from a beautifully melodic piece into a big EFF YOU to the approaching policeman.

Whoops.

Next time, I will be less of a backseat driver.

You charmed the policeman enough that he not only let us go without fine or warning, but also gave us detailed directions on how to get to our destination, and saw us off with a smile and a wave.

When I hear this song I am always brought back to that night’s drive into the city. The streetlights sliding by, the emotion swirling around in the car. The nerves, the excitement. The curiosity, the sweetness.

And of course, the pretty awesome driving.

*

It all boils down to Love.

April 22nd, 2013 § 8 comments § permalink

After the highs of last week, the end of the week brought sobering news.  Within the space of 24 hours I heard of two passings: one a friend from the States, the other a new acquaintance in Amsterdam.  After a long week, the news left me emotionally drained, and I went offline and turned inwards for the weekend.

On Saturday morning I got a call on the landline: the grandfather of a friend had passed away in the night.  These three deaths- one a friend, the other an acquaintance, one I never even met- affected me greatly, and I spent the weekend thinking of them, all three of them.  I carried them around with me all weekend, like heavy bricks. I had all of the natural reactions to death- sadness, nostalgia, mourning, loss, regret, thoughts of the last time we met, thoughts of those left behind and unfinished business.

But I thought about life as well.  I spent the weekend thinking about the passing of time, and what you should do with your time, and who you should spend it with.  I thought about who you want next to you at the end, but also for the entire duration of life.  And I thought about what, on a daily level, you should do with the time you have, and what will be left behind after you pass. These heavy bricks became lighter, less of a sad load to carry, more of a means of building something, a foundation to lay down, a path to pave, a direction to take.

I didn’t come to any firm conclusions or answers, but I did realize that way too much of our time is spent caught up in distractions and obligations and damaging emotions, when what you really should be focusing on is: love, compassion, kindness, friends and family.  I am grateful that I took the time to think about these three men and their lives, and I appreciate the guidance that I received from it, guidance that they will never know they supplied.

In the end, it all boils down to love.  I am going to use these bricks to build a path of love. That’s my direction, that is what I am taking from this weekend on introspection and remembrance of three lives passing.

x

*Crickets*

December 24th, 2012 § 10 comments § permalink

Ahem.
So uuuhhhh. It’s been awhile.

I couldn’t even begin to tell you where I’ve been or what I’ve been doing or what is preoccupying my mind of late. Mostly because 3 and a half months is a long time to cover, and the distance feels vast.

But where to pick up then?

It is 3 am on the morning of Christmas Eve, and things are quiet. Now is as good a time as any I suppose.

I’ve fallen out of love a bit with blogs lately. With my blog(s), with other blogs, with blogging in general. I was considering shutting up shop, when I got a lovely comment from Julia.

“perhaps you have found an exciting new life following your holiday, but in case you have just not felt motivated to write…. you should know people out there are reading”

Julia, if you are still reading this, a full month (almost to the day) after you commented, then thank you. Your comment came at the right time, right when I was thinking “What’s the point?”. And then I realized that there is no point to blogging except blogging itself, and that never stopped me before. So I decided not to give up on blogging just yet.  An eight year hobby deserves a better chance than that.

But it’s not just blogging that is falling to the wayside: I am not returning phone calls, not even picking up the phone most times. I don’t email back. I forget to text. It all just feels so….so…..not what I need right now.

What I do need is anyone’s guess. If you find it, can you let me know: a) what it is; b) where to find it; and c) if it costs much (because times are tight right now).

In the meantime, I will tell you what I have been busying myself with while I’ve been avoiding phone calls, emails, texts and this blog:

  • Yoga. (Specifically hot yoga.)
  • Swimming.
  • Running.
  • Gymming.
  • Work.
  • Taking my dog to the park.
  • Sleep.

So, as for an “exciting new life”,  Julia?  Not so much.

A quiet, serene, maybe too-boring-to-blog life?  Yes, maybe that.  Maybe just that.

I’ll be back before the end of the year with the year’s alphabet roundup, my own little blog’s traditional nod back to the year that just passed.  In the meantime, if you need to brush up: 20062007,20092010, 2011.

Merry Christmas everyone!

*

A Date with Northern Africa

September 6th, 2012 § 6 comments § permalink

It was about mid-January, and 2012 was still new.  I was sitting outside with my friend in the hot tub that sits in the middle of the garden in Spa Zuiver.  We were sunk up to our necks in warm bubbling water, but the outside air was brisk and there were only starts and a bright three-quarter moon above us in the sky.

I’m not sure what we were discussing as we soaked there, staring up at that amazing sky, but eventually the topic rolled around to surfing, and my friend mentioned that she knew of a place in Morocco with a “learn to surf” package aimed at girls (ahem…women), where in addition to surfing you also did yoga every morning, went shopping at the markets, and hung out with other girls.

And so the idea was born.

“We should totally do that.”

“Totally!” (Because we are 31 going on 13.)

“How about for our birthdays?  We both turn 32 in September.  It’s the perfect reason to try something new.”

“Okay!”

Nine months later, and it is finally our birthday month, and so on Friday we’re popping on a plane to Morocco and learning how to surf!

I am a big birthday kind of girl.  Birthdays are the perfect time to begin all over, rethink your life’s strategy, contemplate where you are going and what you want to do with your life.   I treat every birthday as my own personal New Year’s, complete with resolutions for the year ahead, so the fact that I will be stepping into a new country (never been to Morocco), on a new continent (never been to Africa before!), and trying something new (never been surfing!) for my birthday just tickles me.

This will be an amazing way to start the 32nd year off right, and who says you can’t start surfing when you’re 32?

I think this sums it up.

The place where we are going is the dfrost surf house in Taghazout. To prepare I have spent my summer running, doing hot yoga, working out at the gym, and swimming at the Marnixbad. I did standup paddling and slacklining to work on my balance. I revised some French lessons. I bought three new bikinis. I’m as ready as I’ll ever be.

This is what the week ahead has in store for us:

 
I know, right?

After a week there we will then explore Morocco a bit more, so if you have tips on where to go and what to see, please let me know! We will spend 3 days in Marrakech, but there are still a few more days free that we haven’t planned yet. But not knowing is half of the excitement.

So wish me a happy birthday, and a happy travel, and I will blog again when I get back!

xx

500 Word Essay on What I Did This Summer

August 25th, 2012 § 4 comments § permalink

Summer is drawing to a close.  You blink, and suddenly it’s the end of August already, and your shoulders are tan and your hair is lighter and you are always in a constant state of wetness from swimming, or from showering after the gym, or from the Dutch summer which means the heavens are always opening up when you are on your bike not even close to home.

I think I have had the most nostalgic summer since summers weren’t yet a thing to be nostalgic about.

I tried slacklining in the park.  I went stand-up paddling along the Amstel river.  I went to the beach.  I joined the pool and have been going swimming.  I’ve been hitting the gym all the time.  I’ve stocked up on books from the library and have been reading and reading and reading.  I watched a favorite old movie from childhood with a friend.  One time I stayed up all night writing with the windows thrown open to the cool night air and the moths fluttering around my head, for once not because I had insomnia but because I was too excited and didn’t want to sleep.  On a particularly hot and sweltering weekend (the hottest since 1994), I went swimming with a friend in a pool at a bar, then went cycling to the Amstel river where we went swimming off of a wooden dock.  After swimming we had a picnic in our wet bathing suits, there on the banks of the river until the sunshine started to wane.

There has been a lot of activity this summer- mostly on my bike and in the water, and surprisingly (and happily) very little alcohol.  Every night I have gone to bed feeling like my body was spent, like I had run around playing all day with friends.

Just like summers when I was a kid.

I’ve eaten my weight in watermelon, and probably more ice cream than was good for me.

Just like summers when I was a kid.

There has been a lot of griping this summer about how bad the weather has been, and indeed it has been a very wet summer.  But the breaks of sunshine and warmth in between have been glorious, really something to swell the heart and keep me thankful that I live in such a beautiful (and water-based) city.

Since living in Northern Europe for so long, one of the few things that I really missed was the warm summer rain in New Jersey.  It’s a rain that falls heavy and tepid, something that makes you want to run out and splash in puddles and lay in the grass while it beats down on you.  Summer rain in Northern Europe is very seldom that warm, but this summer it was.  This summer on more than one occasion I was drawn into the street during a torrential downpour so that I could just stand there and feel drenched, or I was caught on my bike and got soaked through to the skin and didn’t care in the least because it was summer rain, an altogether different thing.

Just like summers when I was a kid.

Nostalgia.  It really got me this summer.

(Photos from Suuz’ iPhone, except the last one of my feet.)

Taking my life back.

August 15th, 2012 § 3 comments § permalink

After way too many near-attempts at throwing my phone out of the window, into a canal, or against a wall, I decided the best thing to do was to simply delete everything on it.  I no longer have any apps, I deleted facebook from the phone, and I signed out of everything except email.

It’s a phone again.  Just a phone.

The touchscreen still angers me beyond belief, but I am no longer contemplating phone murder, and my nights are much more enjoyable.

I’m seeing people, and doing things, and reading more.

You wouldn’t think that these have anything to do with eachother- having a smartphone and being social/having a life/imbibing culture, but they are directly correlated, at least in my life.

And besides, look at my summer reading list, back at the library this Saturday:

"Light" Summer Reading

I’ve only read one and a half so far.

Do you think I can manage 7 and a half books in 3 days?  How about when one is in Dutch (‘Ik, Jan Cremer’) and another is 1,474 pages (‘A Suitable Boy’)?

WHO HAS TIME FOR SMART PHONES IN THE SUMMER?!?!

I am the niche.

August 6th, 2012 § 7 comments § permalink

After writing to me about how ridiculous it was that Gwenyth Paltrow was trying to convince her to buy $550 cashmere leggings via the medium of her blog Goop, my cousin ended her email with “I’ve been a blog stalker lately.  You should write everyday. ”

So this is for her:

Tina, I will write more, I promise.

I’ve neglected my blog somewhat lately, and I considered just shutting it all down, closing up the blog shop, and forgetting about the whole thing.  Mostly because blogs feel like something of a dinosaur these days.

But then I realized that, since the days of my geocities blog WAY BACK WHEN (R.I.P.), it’s not that blogs are a dinosaur.  It’s that they’ve evolved.  They’re a lizard now, if that makes sense in the metaphor that I am trying to make here.

And I’m not evolving with them, I guess.   Because I’m not trying to make money with my blog, and not trying to find any sort of niche here.  I’m not claiming to be an expert on anything, and it seems that’s all that everyone else is doing: blogging for money or fame (ha!) or self-professed expertise, and not just blogging for the sake of the words.

No one blogs for the words anymore!

I guess on this blog, I am the niche.  That is what this blog is about, it’s about me.  ME!

I AM THE NICHE!

Take that you slimey lizard blogs.

Oh hey, speaking of words!

The Amsterdam Writers Group is meeting tomorrow (Tuesday 7 August).

This fiction blog is amazing.  She should focus on a longer work, seriously.  I’d be first in line to buy it.

aaaaaand

I asked for a quote today for a neon sign that I can hang in my room.  Similar to this one.  Except mine would say ” float on” after my all-time favorite pick-me-up song by Modest Mouse.

*

Words Elsewhere:

Hotel V:  A Nudist Troll Tries to Book at Hotel V (Ha!)

Hotel V: What to do in Amsterdam in August (So much!  It is going to be a great month.)

 

My Day Yesterday

July 31st, 2012 § 2 comments § permalink

While walking the dog through Vondelpark, he did what he always does, what dogs always do, and that is pull tricks in whatever ways they can pull them.  People were spread far and wide across the whole park, but when it came time to hunch up and do his business, he stopped right in front of someone on a bench.  Call it a canine sense of humor, or just call it bad manners, either way he gets us every time.

This guy was maybe in his early 20′s, sitting in the shade of some bushes on a park bench, leaning almost into the bushes themselves.  He had his headphones on, a spliff in his hand, and was probably really enjoying life until the dog and I entered stage left.

I stood there about three feet away from him while Mylo hunched over.  I had my bag in hand ready to be a responsible dog owner, and was trying my damndest not to make eye contact with the guy.  After a few moments, I thought, “Oh to hell.  I’m practically standing on the guy’s toes, I have to say something.”

So I looked down at him on the bench and indicated towards the hunched over dog, “Sorry,” I mumbled.  ”Bad timing.”

“It’s not bad timing, it’s perfect timing,” he said.  Then he smiled.  ”Sometimes life can be shitty.”

 

Ooooooooooh! After the love is gone!

July 27th, 2012 § 5 comments § permalink

Normally after a night spent awake, I look back in bleary-eyed wonder about what could have kept me up for those extra 8 hours.

This time, I know.

It’s the people who walk down my street at all hours of the night, talking to the person three inches to their left as if they were three miles away.

It is the heat of the city, which makes me sleep with the windows open, which makes it that much easier to hear all of them shouting to their friends.

It was the douchey douchebags who were sitting on the tram stop in front of my apartment blasting horribly repetitive tap-on-my-brain-with-a-hammer techno music.

It was me furiously dialing the police non-emergency line, scrambling in my brain to come up with the proper way to say in Dutch, “There are two douchebags on the tram stop in front of my house CAN YOU PLEASE ARREST THEM I HAVE TO BE IN WORK SOON.” (Luckily their tram came before the police picked up the phone; I didn’t quite have the sentence fully formed and it would have just been me yelling down the line “EIKELS!  EIKELS OP DE TRAMHALTE! VOOR MIJN DEUR! DOE IETS!”.)

It is this pain in my shoulder returning after a three year absence.  Can’t say I missed it much, or the havoc that it wrecked on my life at the time.

It is shin splints.

And it’s this song, the chorus of which keeps repeating ad nauseum in my head.

So, if knowing is half the battle, what then have I won?

2000 & 2012, a parallel

July 15th, 2012 § 3 comments § permalink

It’s a Sunday, and the mandatory cup of tea is by my side.  The windows and balcony door are thrown open, and a light breeze is coming through the house, carrying with it the fresh scent of the rain, which I can hear falling quietly on the windows and leaves outside.  Upstairs, my neighbor gently strums his guitar and in my apartment David Gray’s album ‘White Ladder’ has just come to a stop.  Birds are chirping.  The dog is sleeping.

This all paints a very zen picture, but then I look across the room and see all of the clutter that I just created and my chest starts to clench up again with that suffocating feeling.

So.  Much.  Stuff.  Where did it all come from?  How can I get rid of it?

***

A few months after my mother and I moved to Belgium, she went away for a week to Germany for work.

For a few days I wandered the floors of our new house rattling around like a penny in a coffee tin.  It was a big house, the largest we had ever lived in.  Our meager belongings, which had been shipped over from New Jersey, barely filled two rooms.  Including the kitchen, this was an 8 room house spread over four floors with a further 5 bathrooms and a basement with garage.  It was a lot of space, way more than I was used to, and walking from room to room admiring the crown molding and oddly tiled bathrooms did little to clear the house of my loneliness.

I wasn’t working yet, and didn’t know anyone, so had nowhere to go and no one to call.  At 20 years old, this was also the first time in my life that I had lived without a pet in the house.  It felt so lonely.

So I went to the animal shelter to look for a housemate.

I think I went with the intention to take a look, but within a half an hour I was heading home on the tram with a very heavy and very vocal black and white cat in a small crate.  The ladies at the shelter told me that he had been there for years, was very smart and friendly, and I should take him. He had done his time and deserved a loving home.  ”Say no more,” I said, and took him home with me.

For the next few days, having Louis as company helped.  Now there were two of us wandering the expanses of the large house, getting lost in the nooks on the staircases, calling out to each other when the quietness became too quiet, when the vastness too vast.

My mother came home within a few days, and I met her at the front door with every intention of confessing that I had just made such a large decision for the both of us without her knowledge, that we were three now. “Don’t be mad, but I have something to tell you…” I started as a greeting.

Just then her gaze dropped to the floor behind me, where Louis had come to see who was at the door with a questioning meow?  I watched with bated breath as my mother’s eyes widened and her mouth opened into a perfect oval.  She dropped  everything there on the landing- her bags, her briefcase, her purse- and started to crawl towards Louis on her hands and knees, cooing a high-pitched, “Heeeeeeeeeey.  Whoooo iiiiissss thiiiiiiiiis?

And from that moment on, Louis was no longer my cat, but hers.  Having kept me company for a few lonely days, he focused on a bigger challenge: keeping my mother company while she worked through her own issues- an ending relationship, culture shock after a move abroad, a huge career shift, and like me, loneliness.  He was a great cat, and he took his job very seriously.

I can say without a doubt that Louis became one the Greatest Loves of my mother’s life and lived a comfortably spoiled ten years with my mother until his passing early last year.

Louis

As for me, I found work, met new friends, and eventually started dating.

***

Dave has been away to Ireland since Tuesday on a week’s holiday, gallivanting with friends and family.

For the first few days I relished the silence, and having the apartment all to myself.  My choices on the TV, my dishes in the sink, me stretched out across the whole couch, me stretching across the bed, four pillows to myself, my, my, my, mine, me.

I went to work, I went to the gym.  I took Mylo for walks.  I tried something new.  But then the rains came, and after a few failed attempts at going out, and maybe one too many rented movies, I started to wonder what it was that people did in this city for fun, and why I wasn’t with them.  Which is ironic, as I write a blog telling others what to do in Amsterdam for fun, but could think of nothing enticing enough to drag myself out of the house.

This apartment is much smaller than that first house in Belgium; I could fit four of these apartments into that house, and my things fill this place much more than it did the house in Brussels.  I have a job, I have friends. Plus, I have Mylo here for company.

And yet I still rattled around the house this week, moving from room to room and back to the first room (because there are much less rooms).  The dog moved with me- to the kitchen, to the living room, back to the kitchen, back to the living room.

What I was looking for, I don’t know.  But suffice to say, I couldn’t find it.

On the fourth day that Dave was gone, I got a flatmate.  She moves in on Monday.  I told Dave by text while he was somewhere on the west coast of Ireland enjoying the scenery and probably a hangover.  I thought it was best not to surprise him at the door like I did my mother all those years ago.  He was surprised, but not upset.

So I’ve been spending the day clearing out the spare bedroom, taking all of that clutter and dispersing some of it throughout the apartment, and some of it into black trashbags, which as I mentioned above is serving only to cause me to suffocate and want to burn it all in a great big bonfire.  When you have four rooms and then suddenly must fit into just three, a sort of imbalance happens.  So much stuff.  Where to put it?  (FIRE!)

I’m not sure there’s a lesson in this post, but if there were I think it would be something like, “Don’t be left alone for a week” or “Don’t make decisions based on loneliness”, or maybe just a simple “Don’t collect so much”.

And now I have to go and finish making room for one more person in the house.  And take the dog out one more time, and go to the gym one more time, and maybe rent one more movie.  As of tomorrow, it will change, and by that I mean it will all go back to normal.  Until the next time I’m left on my own.

 

 

The Internet Works.

July 6th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

Well I’ll be a baby’s flipper.

The Internet works.  It’s like mmmmmmmagic.

Three years ago I wrote about a song and a memory that I had associated with a friend.  This post actually.  And a year later I wrote about the same friend, and not being able to find him on the sticky webs of the worldwide.

And then he found me.

Voila.

Does what it says on the tin.

One Year On

June 5th, 2012 § 2 comments § permalink

It was exactly one year ago today that I lost Lola. My biggest mistake. That one regret that will last a lifetime.

I thought about her every day. On the 5th of nearly every month, I would think, “Two months without her.” “Six months of her being gone.” “Nine months.”

I cried often. I’m crying now.

One year now. It seems to have gone fast, how could I have spent a year without her? And then I think to myself, “It’s only been a year?” That whole stretch felt like a decade without her, a dozen years.

I have so long to go.

2007 - 2011

I still miss her. I always, always will.

If there is any good to write about, it is that now the pain of her passing- that actual horrible day- is further away.  This has left room and space for happy memories of her.

“Oh, man.  If Lola were here she would chase the shit out of that fly,” we say with a laugh. Or, ”Man, it’s been so quiet without Lola snoring in the corner.  Remember how loud she was?”

I was told this day would come, and at the time I couldn’t have believed it.  The happy memories were buried too deep under the What if I hadn’t‘s and the I should never have‘s.

But slowly over the past year, the balance has become more even.

I will always have that regret, and I will always feel the pain of her no longer being here, but I am truly, truly happy that we spent those seven years together.  I will always be grateful for that.

2007 - 2011

 

2004 - 2011