Wednesday, May 21, 2014


Last night as I struggled for sleep, a condition that has eluded me for all the days I have been here, eight now I think, or nine, very protracted for Jet Lag, but then I have a lot on my mind, which seems reluctant to slow down, even as my body does, to put it mildly, I wrote the following pome:

Struck by a pram
In Amsterdam
Where nobody pays attention
She flew quite high
Towards an azure sky
And entered a new dimension
Where the air was clearer
And God seemed nearer
And none of the people were slobs
All was sameness, parity
Total clarity
And running it was Steve Jobs
You had but to click
And the air was thick
With the certainty all would be well
With nothing surprisin’
On any horizon
And everything being just swell
And it turned out that she’d gone to Hell.

As I don't know where I'm going, and I don't know who's going with me, to give a new and slightly melancholy twist to the lovely folk song, I have decided to be open to any possibility and just allow it all to unfold, hoping it does.  
   I seem to be headquartered at the Apple Store, a bright and open duplicate of the one in London where I learned nothing, trying to lob myself into this century.   This is curiously still, like the one in London, nothing like New York's, where you can hear nothing, so busy and filled with international languages many of them in Baby, as there are carriages everywhere, true tots in them, some of them just learning to sit up and already at the iPads with games on them.  Terrifying, the swallowing of the world by technology, but I imagine a relief to the parents having the attention diverted so they don't cry or need their diaper changed.
    This store in Leidse Square is bustling in a peaceful way, like Amsterdam itself, except for the bicycles and trams which amaze me by not hitting anyone, including me.  It seems quietly perilous, the only thing harsh about it the language, glottal and ugly to the ear, but maybe that is because I don't understand it, or have Dutch antecedents, as does my landlord, a youngish man named Fred, whose parents were Dutch, so he's come back to connect with his roots, and also pick up a few bucks, making a career out of renting these less than lovely flats, for fairly exorbitant prices.  The one I slept in last night is a step-down into a basement, being careful not to hit your head on the concrete overhang.
   I am writing this the next day, moved to the flat I rented for a week for a fortune, relieved and somewhat surprised to be still alive with nothing broken as there are steps everywhere it is lucky/amazing I didn't fall down, including the ones to the loo, which, being older than I thought I was, I had to go to in the middle of the night, slightly this side of terrified.   Today, after a beautiful if over-lavish dinner last night with my new friend Daniel, met on my flight from Scotland, his beautiful and curiously respectful and interested teenage son and a neighbor who's still very mad at his ex-wife, I spent the first many hours of the day waiting to be connected to the Internet and have my phone work.  I shall probably go to my seeming Club, the Apple Store, to try and reconnect with Paul, a remarkable young black man who came to work at Apple to cut down his stress level.  He was in banking, and the business taught him by a genial uncle who used to stop by his clients' house for coffee and discuss how the world was and what might seem interesting as an investment has become driven and impersonal.  I was at the store yesterday (Tuesday) from the time it opened at ten in the morning, with everybody being allegedly helpful, after saying they will go ask a colleague for whatever it was I wanted or needed, they never appeared again.  He was not there yesterday, so I spent the whole time there trying to figure things out by myself, waiting for one of his colleagues.  They notified me every minute on my Mac that there were only 25 minutes till my One-on-One tutorial, then 24, and so on down to the moment the appointment came when no one did, nor was there a sign of anyone.  I had to go and get them to come up with one of their colleagues.
    No one seems to have friends here: they all have "colleagues."  It sounds very professional, but professional seems not exactly a key word in Amsterdam, where most of the young people, Paul excepted, seem to have little purpose.  My landlord who charges a lot of money for a barren apartment with a garden outside the bedroom window that would be nice if it had anything in it besides old boards and dead plants has a staff that seems to have been acquired mainly through Frisbee.  They are advanced Frisbee players which has a particular jargon that I will try and pick up this evening when I am taking one of Fred's colleagues' colleague, a most genial young man, who came to sort out my Internet problems, and is from New Zealand, so more generous of spirit than the Hollander Fred sent me earlier.  
   The apartment I am in, hazardous down steps and a long, narrow, dark and forbidding corridor, since taxes here were based in part on how wide the hallways were, is across the street from Ann Frank's house.  I am feeling a lot like her if she had lived to be old, as I am in a terrible state of anxiety caused by not-knowing, which is usually a blessing in life since it is the one that works best because that way you get surprises, hopefully some of them good.  But here I am not sure I will make it intact through this stay, what with the stairs and having already almost fallen down them once, caught by the second and more genial of Fred's colleagues, who just got engaged so I am taking him and his fiancĂ© to the Asian restaurant I went to the other night, because I really liked him and he genuinely helped me, and I am very alone in this city.  I was here only once before when I was with the Journal, so everything was free and very First Class, so I learned little about what it's really like.  Hope to find out without losing my way, in many senses of that expression.
    This is enough of all that is dark and narrow like the corridor.  I am off now to try and discover a bit about Amsterdam on foot, since I have been given a map from Watsup, an App that the young New Zealander put on my iPhone that lets you make calls without being charged.  We'll see.  Remember, if anything happens, I loved you all, whoever you are.  That includes my daughter-in-law.