Friday, September 30, 2016

Going East

Promised is promised: Goes the saying, I saw this mantra pop up in my mind’s eye like a SOLD! sale sign as I stared at the public transportation link telling me all about the bus schedule. My friend, the organizer, had chirped, “There’s a bus every thirty minutes.” Yes, a bus departed every thirty minutes.  “Forty minutes!” I exclaimed aloud in dismay. The journey would take more than a half an hour.


I glanced outside over the rooftops of Amsterdam. September had been a long summer extension, unheard of in native terms in the Netherlands, but now, on the brink of October, the rain had moved back in. I glanced at the time. I would have to swiftly pack up from the office, bike home, take the dog for a wet walk, make a sandwich and rush off to the bus terminal. September had also given a lot of people a low grade cold or flu that hung on for weeks. I didn’t feel too well, but not ill enough to sit at home and twiddle my thumbs.

Sighing, I made myself a bologna sandwich and promised myself that I would finish the tail end of a book while in the bus. Correction, I like to look out the windows during a long bus ride, I would finish the book at the terminal, sitting in the bus waiting for the bus driver to start the engine.  I might just manage this challenge. Duo Obligato In Cartorium.

Every so often I board a bus to visit a friend or attend concert in some village north of Amsterdam. I have been assimilating to these bus trips north, usually short, and in this case curiosity was leading me on a longer trip due northwest to a place called East Houses. I gazed once more at the flat land in astonishment, it doesn’t look anything like the countryside of Gouda. It still feels alien and cold.  Looking out the windows I wondered again when this landscape would be more like home. How many years will it take?

We passed Edam.  Random thought: I’ve gone so far north I just passed Edam! Wouldn’t it be a good joke to write a book about Edam, after the books on Gouda? I fantasized on just how big Edam was in comparison to Gouda, what kind of buildings would I be able to describe?

Doubtless the whole concoction of the evening’s activities, considering how weak I was feeling, was not a terribly exciting prospect. I descended the bus on the side of the near deserted road, a small highway, and crossed over the tarmac to the village’s main street.  I slowly looked around as I trod over the neat red bricks, obviously recently laid and a color of new red brick I rarely have encountered.  I began to worry that the old brick red color would no longer be manufactured and we would all have to embrace this new softer red that said, “I am not really a brick, I am a concept of a brick.” A man followed me, in the bus he had looked as uncertain as I felt in the bus, there was no mistaking his intention, he too was heading towards the church for the musical concert featuring modern classical style compositions played on organ with the assistance of electronic recordings. Aside from a fellow in a baggy beige jacket taking money out of a modern brick wall, no other pedestrians showed themselves in the village, it was way past Dutch dinner time. I paused to ascertain the presence a senior citizen set out on the patio of an old folks’ home, in between the rain showers, a woman in a care service apron served him a cup of coffee in a thick cup that held more cup than coffee. Probably an old sea salt not able to stay indoors for long and listen to old whiskered women whimpering.

The man followed me, we both followed the direction of the church steeple. Suddenly I recognized the flags of a supermarket parking lot. The time was 19:36.  Would a supermarket in small Dutch village off of a local highway be open at 19:36? We neared the parking lot, I peeked around the corner.  The suspense was killing me.  In the old days, the supermarket would have been closed at 17:55, floor wiped, doors locked, and bumpkin employees snarling at you from the other side of the glass door. I ditched the man following me to the concert and ducked into the supermarket. It was still open. No one was present besides the cashier and the bar code checker. The cashier looked alarmed, the bar code checker followed me about the store.  I inspected the selection of canned beans, my dog is on a canned bean diet, and canned beans handily hide little pills that the vet hands out for little pesky problems.  I finally located a jar of white canned beans. There, I solved my little problem that was awaiting me at home. I bought some medium sized matches too and a green banana for the bus ride back.

I resumed my walk towards the church.  “Have fun!” the ticket seller said at the door as he handed me a program. Inside the church, as outside the church, was the 16th century church. Churches are one of my favorite haunts, and this one enchanted me, right away the bus ride, the rain, the bologna sandwich, the heavy jar of canned beans in my bag all melted away off my shoulders as I assessed the fun I would have at the concert.

First of all the church was not in regular service anymore as a church. “Once a month,” someone whispered, “a pastor comes to lead a service.” I made a beeline for the book sale table. 1 Euro a book, for the church upkeep. I bought something written by James Baldwin. Satisfied that I had read all the titles twice and missed nothing, I looked around at the decoration of the church. Huge black funeral boards hung about the place, depicting family coats of arms, and along one wall a massive ornate black and white tomb took hold of my interest.  I walked around the back of the pulpit and admired the flooring stones, half eaten by salt. I entered the pulpit cage and admired the old milk cans tucked in the corners. I judged the juxtaposition of the wiring with the antique features, and thought about grabbing the bell rope tied to one side of the building.

The concert started. But there was so much more to inspect!  Everyone was sitting, I sat twisting and turning in my seat thinking of what else there was to admire, and pass by again to admire some more. I made a list in my head what to visit again in the intermission.  I could go round and round. The electronic music started, and I felt my mind being taken into a male universe where this example of a composition was considered witty and funny.  The program was entitled "The Fun Cabinet." I tried to discover what was witty and funny about what I was hearing, I tried to get into the complexity of an electronic recording as serious music which should make the audience guffaw and slap their knees in joy and jolly notions. Suppose, I mentioned to myself, rocking across the straw seat of my church chair, craning my neck at a black and gold funeral board, that this was simply a film track? The organ began to talk to the film track, giving us all a different perspective on the matter.

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