Of all the absolute SHIT that I’ve been through this year, this particular pile-o-crap is really a sucker punch to the nutz. It truly hurts me to do, but for once in my life I’ve got to be an adult about my finances. And that means facing the fact that rent day is one day after Halloween, and I am already very, very short on the rent for next month.
So shelling out for costume fixings and the ticket to the party and drinks all night won’t help the fact that I am already several hundred euros short on rent. Rent that I’m supposed to magically pull out of my ass on the first of the month. Still not sure how that’s going to happen, but meh. I’m too upset right now about Halloween to really give a rat’s ass.
This could very well change if we miraculously get someone to rent the spare bedroom. Then you KNOW that his/her deposit is going straight into a Halloween costume, and I’ll be running to the front of the party line, throwing my money into shots of Jagermeister and vodka limes.
Because I can only take being an adult about my finances for so long.
Anyway enough about that. Let’s see where I was in years past:
I promised this story a while ago, and since I’m coming up a bit empty-handed for blog posts these days, I suppose now is as good a time as ever.
I worked at The Wild Geese Irish pub in Brussels two times during the five years that I lived in the city. Once was back in 2002 when he was my boss. The other time was in 2005 after a 6 month period of unemployment where I was climbing the walls of my apartment and wandering the streets of Brussels every day, completely at a loss as to what to do with myself, how to fill the long hours of every day.
I happened to be at the pub having a drink one day when I asked one of the girls that I knew there if there were any jobs going. She said no, but a few days later I got a call from the manager. It turns out they did need people, and quite badly, so I was back working at the pub the next week.
As much as I dislike bar work, I have to admit that it can be quite fun at times, especially when you close for the night and have a few drinks at the empty bar, throwing around stories of the assholes that you served that night, or the funny things that happened during the day. I had only been back working for about a month when I worked a busy Friday night shift and we finally closed the bar at 3 am. After cleaning up, we were settling down for our after-work drink by 4 am and the stories were flowing. There were five of us in total, and after one drink, the other girl went home. The assistant manager let her out of the side door, and came back to his seat, so it was just me with the three fellas.
We were just enjoying an after work drink when suddenly...
Now, as is always the case, hindsight is 20/20. After the events of that night, I was able to look back and think, “Yes, it was odd that I saw 4 men dressed in black passing the bar at about 3:30 am in a very non-residential area of Brussels,” but at the time I thought nothing of it, didn’t realize that what I was seeing were 4 robbers “casing the joint”- the joint that I happened to be in, merrily drinking away the night’s hard work.
And again in hindsight, the assistant manager should have locked the door after he let the one girl out. He really kicked himself for this afterwards, but we couldn’t have predicted that any of this would happen. And those guys were outside anyway, just waiting for the opportune moment, so when they saw that the door was left unlocked, they grabbed their chance.
We were just turning back to our drinks again when the door flew open and four men ran in, dressed totally in black, with ski masks, black gloves, and guns. Black shiny guns that they were waving around.
Did I mention that they had guns?
First thought: haha! What a laugh. But who do we know would pull a joke like this?
Second thought: Oh. Crap.
"On the floor! Now!"
So that’s how the four of us ended up facedown on the ground, each with a gun to our head. The robbers were yelling and yelling in French, and I have to tell you, after five years of living in Brussels and struggling with French on a good day, my language skills were never so sparkling as when I had a gun pointed at me.
WHO IS THE MANAGER? WHERE IS THE BOSS?
He’s not here. He wasn’t working tonight.
WHERE IS THE SAFE?
WHERE IS THE MONEY?
In the safe.
WHERE IS YOUR ATM CARD?
In my bag. (Here my bag was thrown down in front of me, the contents strewn about and my wallet taken out. He flipped through the cards, asking which one was my debit card, and pulled out an expired card.)
WHAT’S YOUR PIN CODE?
That card is expired. (So helpful of me! Just because you’re being robbed doesn’t mean you should forget your manners.)
I saw the right card in my wallet, and willed it to somehow hide itself. Stupid card didn’t listen, so he eventually found it and pulled it out, waving it in front of my face.
WHAT’S YOUR PIN CODE?
I gave him my number. I was fully aware that there was an ATM machine across the street, so they would probably go use the cards, and by lying about my number I would get caught out.
WE WILL KNOW IF YOU ARE LYING!
I know, but I promise that’s the number. It’s my mother’s birthday.
THIS WILL ALL BE OVER SOON.
Thinking: What the fuck does THAT mean?!?! Over soon how?
Anyway, while this was going on with me, the three guys I worked with were also being robbed of their personal belongings- mainly money, cards, and phones. Then they took the assistant manager upstairs to get him to open the safe (he played stupid and didn’t open it, although they roughed him up a bit). Then they told us to get up, marched us back to the kitchen, and had us lay facedown on the floor back there. Then one went to steal money from our cards at the ATM machine across the street while the others stood guard, telling us over and over again that it would be over soon.
Oh no, not the kitchen. I've seen this bit in the movies...
During this whole thing, my mind kept swaying between two basic thoughts. The first was: “ohshit-ohshit-ohshit-crap-crap-crap” and was accompanied by visions of the flash of gunfire, and wondering when that was coming, and how it would feel. I was bracing myself for it.
The other more dominating and rational thought was something along the lines of: “They won’t shoot. It would make too much noise, and they want to get away as quietly as possible. And besides there is no reason to shoot us. They’ll just take what they want and be gone.”
But I have to admit that when they marched us back to the kitchen I couldn’t help but think of all of those stories that I heard growing up where workers in bars and restaurants were robbed, then brought back to the kitchen and shot execution-style. I had a flash that this was a bad, bad sign, but then the rational side of my brain would remind me that there was no reason to hurt us, no reason to shoot.
Moments later another voice was above me, yelling at the back of my head:
YOU WERE LYING! WHAT’S YOUR PIN CODE?
I wasn’t lying. That’s my pin code, I swear.
DON’T LIE TO ME!
I promise, that’s the number!
The Jersey girl in me got a little indignant here, I have to admit. Pfffff. Calling me a liar when he’s pointing a gun at my head? That’s a laugh.
I think because they were in a rush to get out as soon as possible they didn’t press the issue much further. I remembered later that I had in fact given the wrong number to my debit card, having just gotten a new card recently. So they didn’t get money from my card, but they did take my phone and €300 that was in my bag for my rent. But it was sheer stupidity and forgetfulness that saved what little money I had left in my bank account.
I have a feeling as well that because I was a girl I got a bit of an easier time than the three guys, who were hit and kicked about a bit, while I was just nudged and pushed.
Anyway, they told us in the kitchen to wait for 10 minutes and then they disappeared. We all layed there in a row, quiet as church mice for about a minute until the assistant manager looked back at me. I flashed him the biggest cheesiest smile I could muster with two thumbs up signs, laying on my belly on the nasty kitchen floor, and the two of us burst out laughing.
That’s when we got up and called the police.
The police came and the manager of the pub came around. After giving our reports and seeing the police off, the manager gave us a few hundred euros to go into town and have a few drinks to unwind. He felt really bad that we had just been through this ordeal, but besides a bit of shellshock we were overall in good spirits, more in disbelief of the whole situation than anything else. One guy, however, was a bit more shaken up and decided to go home instead.
So we went into town but it was too late for any bars to still be open, so we bought cans of beer and sat on a bench in the city center, asking if this really just happened to us, and going over the finer details to compare what each of us had gone through. Then we headed back to the assistant manager’s house and hashed it out some more. It all felt so surreal and incredulous, something that happened in movies, not in real life. So we just drank and laughed and marvelled over how imposible it all seemed, bonding over this thing that we had just been through until the sun came up the next morning.
Our laughter made me feel strong. I felt like a survivor, but I knew I didn’t quite deserve that title. It had been an ordeal, but I was more fascinated by it than frightened. My rationale had kept any panic at bay, and for the most part- except for a few tense moments- I knew that we would come out unscathed when it was all over. It was only hours later, after several cans of beer, when I arrived home in the morning, that I broke down and cried.
You always think about how you would react in certain situations, and I can assure you that whatever you think you would do, you never actually get around to doing. The shock is too sudden, your mind clicks off, and you kind of just numbly react.
Anyway, I did walk away from the situation with a bit more awareness. Any job I’ve had since you can be damn sure I’ve checked the locks on the doors twice at closing, and kept my head about me when leaving the place at night.
I can now chalk it down to one of life’s more interesting experiences that I have had. And it may seem kind of odd, but for that I’m actually somewhat grateful.
I wish that I had some good excuse for the lack of blogging these……let’s see…ten days.
Whoa, wait- really? Ten days? Ten whole days? Dayum.
Anyway, I wish I had a good excuse, but honestly the only reasons are: new job, ongoing social life, lack of blog fodder, and an unreasonable and very time-consuming love of The Real Housewives of Atlanta.
At least that last one will be over with as soon as I get through all of this last season, but I’m just going to say it now: The day I watch the last episode of The Real Housewives of Atlanta is going to be a sad, sad day. Maybe even one to be filed under my “Things that made me cry” category.
Meanwhile, the search terms that bring people to this blog never fail to provide me with a reason to smile:
Awwwwww yeah. You’ve come to the right place, my friend.
Disclaimer: I realize before I even sit down and fully type this post out that this song memory is going to raise some eyebrows.
Westlife? Am I serious?
Yes, yes I am serious.
Brussels/Ireland, 2002-2003. It may seem like all of my Song and a Memory posts are about ex-boyfriends, but that’s not the case. This is the first. The rest have all been friends.
In 2002 my life was all about excesses. I had doubled up classes at university so that I could finish my degree in half the time, I was working two full-time jobs, I was drinking a lot (every night), and I was seeing two (and eventually three) guys at the same time. To say life was hectic would be an understatement, but I was 22 and invincible, and ready to take on life headfirst and rip it to shreds.
One of the guys that I was seeing was my manager at the Irish pub where I worked nights. He was a monster of a guy in height and width, and commanded a presence that I’ve yet to see matched elsewhere. He was a heavy drinker, and a heavy gambler, and he seemed to always win. He downed his pint of Guinness in three gulps, and told me that the measure of a man was how many rings of Guinness foam he left behind in his pint glass- the fewer the rings, the bigger the gulp, thus: the bigger the man. His laugh was loud and rumbled out from the bottom of his belly, and he like to laugh a lot. He was at times hilarious, at other times extremely obnoxious, but I was a sucker for guys who made me laugh, and I was a complete sucker for him.
For some reason, we just clicked, although our relationship was volatile, to put it mildly. I was trying to keep up my precarious balance of jobs, classes, and relationships, and he just wanted to party every night. Smashed glasses or holes punched in walls became the standard. I often showed up at work straight from an all-night binge, and would close my office down and sleep under the desk. Once I was shooed away by the guards at work at 9 am because I smelled so bad of alcohol and looked a mess. “You look like a bar room floor. Go home and get some sleep before you get yourself in trouble,” they told me. It wasn’t a proud time in my life, that’s for sure, but I was having fun and didn’t care about what damage I was leaving in my wake.
He wasn’t the first Irish guy to want to whisk me off to Ireland, and he wasn’t the last, but he was the one that brought me there for the very first time. During the summer of 2002, together with another couple we flew up to Ireland and rented a car for the week. Since they were all Irish, we drove around to all of their towns and stayed with friends and family, and sometimes the odd B&B. I couldn’t have asked for a better first trip to Ireland. We drank a lot, laughed a lot, and danced at every pub in every town we stopped in for the night.
At the time, this song had just come out and was being played pretty much non-stop everywhere. It was absolutely the cheesiest song ever, so it naturally became our anthem for the trip. We would just be settling down into a pub or club for a long night of drinking when this song would come on and up we’d get, bopping around the place. The next day in the car, hungover and headed towards the next town, this song would inevitably come on the radio, and we’d all start bopping again, a bit more delicately this time due to the hangovers, but still laughing over memories made the night before.
At one club I drunkenly tottered into the bathroom wall, and when I joined the group again, blood was dripping down my arm.
“What happened there?” he asked, pointing to my arm.
I looked down. I was just as surprised to see a cut there. “I dunno, I must have cut myself when I fell.” I worried over the cut, trying to wipe up the blood. “Man, that’s going to scar.”
He stared a moment, and then let out a belly-rumbling laugh. That loud, loud laugh. “Good. Now you’ll always have a memory of your first trip to Ireland!” he roared.
We kept on drinking. That scar lasted for years. I just checked my arm; it’s finally gone.
We partied so much during this trip that we even missed our flight home because we were sleeping off our hangovers. Not good when there were classes, exams, work schedules and other boyfriends waiting back at home.
When we eventually made it back to Brussels, the stresses of my life and future goals snapped me back into reality and I tried to be more serious. By this point, my excessive behavior had caused more damage in my life than I cared to admit to myself, and I was trying to sort myself out. I had spent too long stamping on those in my life who loved me and wanted to support me, and had spent far too much time trying to please this guy by staying out all night drinking with him when I should have been studying or in bed.
The break up was an on-again, off-again thing that spread over several months and two countries when he moved back to Ireland later that year. I flew up several times to see him there, and he came back to Brussels to spend time with me, but we both knew it was ending when the last time in Brussels in early 2003 he wanted me to come out at 3 am even though I had an important final exam the next morning. He showed up at my apartment in the wee hours of the morning, clearly coked off his head, and angry that I wouldn’t come out, handed me back the keys to my flat and left. I never saw him again.
I don’t think my mother has ever forgiven me for that relationship. She thinks that he was the single worst thing to ever walk into my life, but I have a lighter view on the whole episode now that it lives in my past. It wasn’t that he was a bad person, he was just the wrong person for me. Every decision that I made to stay out drinking rather than stay home studying was my own choice. Every time I got in the car after a night of heavy drinking (I am ashamed to admit) was also my choice. I don’t blame him. It was all my own fault. I made some stupid, stupid decisions, but I take full responsibility for each of them.
I think every girl has to go through one of those horrible relationships and emerge alive again on the other side, maybe a bit battered and bruised, so that she can have a proper perspective on things. I certainly learned my lesson, and that is that my life is my choice. I can either fuck it up consistently, or choose to be a better person, make safer decisions, and surround myself with people that I am proud to be friends with.
I walked away from this period in my life newly single for the first time in ages and spent the next year reconnecting with friends that I had neglected, finishing up my degree (with perfect grades I might add), and spending one glorious, blissful year as a complete bachelorette.
Overall, I can’t regret that time in my life, because it was a very important step in the path that led me here, today, right now.
And that’s what I am reminded of every time that I hear this song.
Last week I scored some last minute tickets to see the sold-out Florence and the Machine show at the Melkweg here in Amsterdam. The show was fantastic, she was fantastic and so very charming, and my god the woman has mile-long legs! What a sex pot!
Sometimes when you see a band live, the sound is just that little bit off from the recorded and produced songs on their CD. Not the case with Florence. Her voice was nothing short of amazing, and it all sounded very true to form.
Tenant: Negative Feelings concerning work, relationships, health, house, skills, abilities, future prospects, etc. which have taken up residence for the past 5 months
+ + +
Notice Terminating Tenancy
You are hereby notified, in any event, that your tenancy is hereby terminated as of October 12, 2009.
You are hereby requested to quit, vacate, and deliver possession therefore to the undersigned on or before October 12th, 2009.
This notice to vacate is due to your following breach of tenancy:
Damage beyond normal wear and tear to property (i.e. my heart and soul and general well-being).
Damage that poses a potential safety hazard to you and other tenants (i.e. eating shit food, not exercising enough, not getting enough sleep, drinking to excess, moaning and complaining, and general distraction and procrastination).
Should you fail, refuse or neglect to cure the breach, or vacate said premises within 14 days of this notice, I will take such legal action as the law requires to evict you from the premises (i.e. verbal and physical ass-kicking from friends, family and loved ones). You are to further understand that we shall in all instances hold you responsible for all present and future rents due under the tenancy agreement.
Last weekend I went to my friend John’s workplace for after work drinks. This is a common thing in the Netherlands, called a borrel or a borreltje and is just one of the ways in which the NL is so great (three cheers for work-sponsored drinking!), and also one of the ways in which working from home isn’t so great. A one-woman borrel on a Friday night at home would be just…sad.
Anyway, John does fancy things at this fancy workplace (not sure how much he wants to divulge so I’ll leave you to stalk him on his own blog to find out the details) and at this fancy workplace they work with……SMALL THINGS (I know what you’re thinking: HEAVEN, right? Am I right??).
I was given the gift of a small thing from one of his fancy coworkers. This person didn’t know of my love for small things, but I’d have to say it is the quickest way to my heart for sure (after a home-cooked vegan meal of course).
Of course you do, because if my stats are anything to go by, at least HALF of you came here searching for “whale wars Laurens“, “laurens sea shepherd“, “laurens police whale wars“, etc, etc, etc.
By the way, you won’t find him here, sorry!
However, you WILL find him back in the Netherlands for the first time in ages in De Lier next Thursday night at 7 pm, where he will be hosting a benefit to raise money for the newest Sea Shepherd campaign. Everyone is invited (RSVP needed), and from the looks of things it is going to be a good night! If you are interested please let me know and I can forward on more details.
Plus, it is raising money for a fantastic cause! I love to Party for a Purpose.
A friend and I will be there, but we are currently having trouble sussing out how to get there, so if you’re going and have two spare seats in your car, please consider taking us too! We don’t bite (much) and we’re great company on car rides. We’ll let you win every single game of I Spy. That’s how rad we are.
The Monkey Proof benefit night hosted by Monkey Business in Jamie Oliver’s restaurant Fifteen. Tickets are 10 euros and the meal (a further 75 euros) is going to be a 3 course meal cooked by a proper vegan chef (YUM!). I know this company because Lush dealt with them- they are doing great things to help the Orangutans that are under threat from the Palm Oil business! If you want to help in small ways, AVOID PALM OIL at all costs! You can read more about it on the WWF site.
My friend Lesley was interviewed for a new podcast called Vegeze. In her interview, she discusses what it’s like to raise her son as a vegan, how and why she became a vegan, and hints on how to make it work. Lesley was one of the people that came out and visited me in London, and we had a fantastic night having a laugh. She was also recently in a Madonna video (!!!), which you can read about here.
The week of October 25th to the 31st is World Go Vegan Week. If you’ve been kicking around the idea of giving veganism a shot- either for your health, for the animals, or simply for shits and giggles- now is a good time to try it! I promise it is easier than it sounds and about ten million times more rewarding than your average carnivore diet.