Monday, June 20, 2016

Joyce Junkies

“Psst, Persephone!” A voice called out under my window. I looked outside into the Amsterdam night. A friend stood on the broad pavement and held up a small paper bag at me.  The bag contained his prized collection, the audio recording of James Joyce’s Ulysses, a 22 cd unabridged version, and he was lending it to me. It was midnight and he had an early morning flight.  He just needed to drop it off for my wellbeing; he’s a very caring individual.

“I used to smoke weed and watch the giraffes from my balcony.” So said she who could do that as she lived near the zoo.  Nope, not on this side of the city.  My fellow Joyce junky lives across the street from me and was the first visitor in my apartment. “Jesus,” he said sinking into the unstable sofa, “what the hell happened to you?” We hadn’t seen each other in ages.

“Listen, we need to meet at the Hema for a one euro coffee.” My Joyce Junky friend said. “It’s a great place at 16:00. You can watch the regulars. It’s utterly fascinating.”  I’ve arranged with my office hours that this is definitely part of my job description but I have yet to take this item up. This will be part of my duty as “finder and negotiator of office art at a budget price.” But I have to wait for a sms when he gets back from his other home in the north. I expect it will be something along the lines of “Made it to Hema, am awaiting your arrival, siren pastry wailing at me, have you a euro in pennies, got the table with the view of the mirror, spotted twelve regulars, no messiah as yet walked in the door to my knowledge, will you confirm?”

I am keeping his 22 cd collection behind glass, so my ornery Siamese cat won’t bother it. She’s good at nosing out value and demonstrating a potential act of destruction, leaving partial chaos behind, half torn book jackets, cracked pots, etc. I listen to a track or two when I cook and dine, chewing slowly.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Naked & Stuff

“Ja,” the senior citizen said looking around my flat. “I read a book about getting rid of stuff. I am busy downsizing.”

He’d enjoyed the book he’d read about getting rid of stuff. He often enjoys mono-themed books from the NYT bestselling list such as an American book about having too much stuff.  He’s not planning on moving from his large house anytime soon, yet his garden looks a little more ramshackle every year. “I have three bikes,” he confessed, as a full blooded Dutchman. “Why do I need three?” He confirmed flatly: “Downsizing, the way to go.”

He glanced around my flat again. I took half of my marriage with me to my new apartment, a one room space with an extra-large storage room, the storage room now housing the basic furniture that the flat contained when I’d moved in.

I’d downsized to get in there.  “Is this all you have?” a family member asked rather astonished.

It’s all about how you perceive matters.

“What do you think I need to get rid of?” I asked the man with the three bicycles.

He paused, then he agreed, “Well you need the bookcase and the scores don’t you?”

Since I moved in two years ago, I have halved my clothes – lost weight, wore them out, operation, etc – and I don’t have much money for new items at the moment. I keep shifting everything around.  If I wear x with y now, I could manage another season.  I also read through five boxes of books and disposed of the ones I didn’t want to keep. Recently I got two free mugs with some packages of tea, and was pretty happy for the profit. I own a bookcase, two small chests of drawers for office papers (filled with music scores), a table, four lamps, a wooden barrel meant to contain drinks and glasses (it’s filled with books), two chairs, two pianos, one carpet and one piano bench. You could argue that I might downsize to one piano but one of the pianos is off site in storage out of sight.

“The pool,” she said to me in relation to her vacation plans, “is not optional. On the tennis court, nudity is a choice but in the pool it’s obligatory. It’s a great place,” she continued, “lots of space. Never a problem to reserve a spot. You tack down your tent and there’s no one around for meters, only a few naked senior citizens linger here or there at times. Pity about the overhead power line. The French manor house is totally run down, and the owners don’t seem to be planning any improvements. Although if you go out to the tennis court and begin to pick the weeds, the (toothless, elderly and clothed) owners are usually inspired to lend a hand. They did cover the pool though; now a fence runs around it and it’s padlocked until eleven am because it needs to be cleaned for hygienic reasons. On Saturdays they hold a little dance with the birdy music (you may come clothed to this event) and they serve a local wine, completely unpalatable. Oh and you can rent a caravan.  The caravans are, in our experience, a little dusty. I broke out in hives after a half hour.  The thing is that when they applied for the permit to establish a camping resort, the mayor insisted on granting the permit on the condition that it be a nudist camping resort.”

A downsized vacation that has it all.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

The Purple Crate

Suddenly I couldn’t make out what the child was saying.  We had been chatting about groceries and grocery containers. I held a purple folding crate, obviously a fascinating apparition, between my hands which I was using in place of a grocery basket; my intention was to cart my groceries off back to the office that morning in that very same crate. I informed the young blond girl that I didn’t understand what she’d last said.  She looked up at me unfazed and I could see the snot bubble flex in her left nostril.  She repeated her information.  I felt hopeless and powerless in front of a small child, we had mutually failed the medium of verbal communication.  Her father turned around. “Those,” he explained pointing to the contents of the wooden push trolley manipulated by the child, “are named Pluk and Lekker Ding.” Pluk and Lekker Ding were a bit tired looking, and had their short doggy paws linked around each other in the bed of the push trolley.

That a small child should lisp at me Lekker Ding (“hey sexy” in some situations but also more innocently translated as “great piece of stuff”), in the supermarket line was a tad startling. The supermarket cashier with the fringe of brightly colored hair (every week a new color to brighten her life - it’s her brand of life) tucked a packet of the bonus item, some cards, into the girl’s trolley. “And don’t tell papa,” she instructed.

“Papa,” the child inspected the cards, “look what I got.”


Pray Tell:

I thought June would be a quiet month filled with me nosing about the musical scores I need to prepare for next year. I get to bark “Wow, wow wow” in a piece for instance (in a program called Alice Music in Wonderland) for a lighthearted English language program about Lewis Carroll and his texts. Annemarie and I practiced this once in a villa in Hilversum one afternoon with a loquacious pianist. The ensemble seemed to work well at the first try, could I run a variation around this wow wow wow theme? Or these days I could shake apart the Magnificat that landed out of the blue on my piano, which is the incredible saga of three composers and Duo Annemarie and Persephone.  The Three Composer Saga goes like this:

(Start of board game)


A friend invited me to a concert out in a polder near Woerden behind some small factory, the trees were in full blossom.


Two years ago

Sunny day

Enlightened music

Modern chandelier

Upon modern ceiling


Asked composer kindly

New piece for violin and voice

Received part of piece

A year ago

And then….



Annemarie & Contact

Composer, young


Based on Bach

Poem by Abbott

Yes he scribbles

The wait begins




In Stedelijk Museum

Asked for dinner


Schubert she sings

Gretchen am Spinnrade

In a too low key

Accompanied on piano

By short composer


First part


Voice and violin together

Arrives in mail

Two months later

Meeting, three parts more

In a grove in Watergang

Music Festival

Beautiful weather.


We are now arranging the premiere of one, two or three pieces: Pluk, Lekker Ding, and Maria.