Sunday, December 13, 2009

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Monday, December 7, 2009

Sunlight, in December:

Yesterday, in Amsterdam, around 16:00, and after a long day of rain, the gray clouds decided to let the skies open and allowed the sun shine through. And the sun decided (as always) to hit the tops of the tiny canal-font houses–bedecked in gables–in the most spectacular ways. The streets still wet, pedestrians finally braving foot outside their homes. Sunday night was teeming with natural beauty.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

John does Maastricht:

I’ve been going down south to Maastricht quite often these days. It's the tiny city of less than 120,000 in the very south of the Netherlands–I've been about five times, in the past two months. Which will continue every two weeks from now on. So that’s kind of fun. A little mini 36 hour adventure. Six hours of trains included. With a beautiful mediaeval, yet at one point Roman as well, city to explore at night. Maastricht is just beautiful. Really; just beautiful–with all the quintessential European components of street-life: lampposts, gray cobblestone, tiny winding streets... The city is situated on the river Meuse. Simple enough. The view of the city from atop any of the numerous bridges over the river is just stunning. Spectacular really. An interesting tid-bit of info about Maastricht’s architecture–so I’m told–is that most of the houses in the city center have their (structural) load bearing walls parallel to the sidewalks that lay in front of the houses, rather meaning there is less space for windows on the front facades, because just like how the buttress had to be developed for windows in cathedrals, so did a method for windows. And brick glazing was not an option back then. So you have, monumental buildings that visually seem 'heavy’, with tiny windows. As opposed to amsterdam’s dainty canal houses with large spans of glazing across the front façades–because their load bearing walls run perpendicular to the sidewalks, all perched mostly on the water–or nearby. As the city of Amsterdam is essentially a city of islands. Similar to Stockholm, and slightly less, Helsinki. Certainly similar to Venice. But I’ve never been to Venice. Then Stockholm and Helsinki. So with the lack of canals in Maastricht, there is only the river as the city’s main body of water, though I did stumble upon a stream weaving though the center. But the city just feels ‘heavy’. All stone; many cathedrals; a small population.And the most shocking difference. Topography! And since it’s autumn now–the surrounding hills of the city looked as if someone was shaking out a huge blanket, the blanket covering the tops of the trees, and the trees dotting the surrounding rolling hillsides. and on the that top of the blanket, were the vibrant colors, the colors being the trees, and the trees being a patchwork of browns, reds, oranges and crisp burnt golden ambers. All glowing in the bright, warm, autumn sun of mid-morning. I just love this time of year. There are so many aspects of my life changing, because the world is turning. Literally. A simple concept–but also one that inspires. And I have taken an affection to the European winter. Cold and a bit windy; here in the Netherlands it chills you to the bone. I can imagine it's even worse in Oslo. But then, on days like today–the sun shines through, the clouds disappear–and the clouds give way to sun. Sidewalks begin to fill with smiling faces, bundled up in warm winter mittens, jackets, and hats.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Bedecking Buildings and Bridges:

Since the holiday season is on it's way–lights are going up around town, strung in between the gables of the houses and on bridges. Some of the city's trees have even lost all of their leaves. My immersion in the seasons; feeling them click; experiencing them change–is so rewardingly renewing. I can't wait to sit in cafés all evenings of the week, wearing big sweaters, sipping coffee, book in hand.

Friday, November 13, 2009

A Very, Merry (Dutch) Christmas:

I become a bit more comfortable with the Dutch language every day. I love speaking Dutch, now that I'm getting better at it. The strange thing about learning a new language isn’t even that it sounds odd compared to what you spoke, about, 100% of the time before now. And even stranger–no one else knows exactly how much (insert name of language here) you actually know, first of all because you’re still learning. I can read signs, headings of newspapers, paragraphs if necessary, and speak when needed, in Dutch–or after an evening of intoxication. Which as we know, alcohol brings down inhibitions–aka this is why people do crazy acts when they’re drunk. And what makes the fear of being socially rejected less pronounced. (Which is basically what speaking a new language around people whose native language is the language you’re speaking is, right? A fear of rejection? Everyone wants to be accepted by others, I’m convinced. No matter how individual or apathetic or anti-this-or-that you are–I think everyone needs some form of acceptance in their life, to feel as if they belong to whatever group they need or should belong to.)

I think most people don’t speak a non native language around native speakers–simply because they know they’re sound odd, then again, of course you will, but how will people react? Surprised that you can? Laugh at you because you have an accent? I imagine it depends on whom you’re talking to. I imagine that’s what it’s like to immigrate to the USA, from a non native English speaking country. And have to learn English upon arrival in that country. (Which I now always refer to, as ‘America’–as the Europeans do. When I lived in Germany two years ago, I told someone that I was ‘from the States’: they then replied, ‘what States?’ That fixed that.) But in the USA, in cities where people aren’t backwards enough to say things like–‘This is America and we speak English!’, as they loads their gun–for the most part won’t mind what language you speak. It's all about communicating and being understood, anyway. The USA does not even have an official language. English is its de-facto language.

Therefore, in cosmopolitan American cities (those on the coasts) people will, for the most part, realize that ‘you just arrived’ and you can therefore speak whatever language you want. But, please speak some English if you, for instance, run a shop. Other than that–you’re fine. Do whatever you want.That's the beauty of America: there is no national language.But not in the land of tiny. Like, for instance, a few weeks ago at work I opened the door–similar to this. But this time it was a Turkish guy. After a few exchanges of broken Dutch on mine and his side, he realized we could communicate better in English, than in Dutch–so we both switched. Then he got all heated on me and asked why I don’t speak Dutch. Because apparently he gets told he has to speak Dutch–by Dutch people–all the time. That’s odd. Most Dutchies tell me not to even bother. Which just gives an inside glance into the immigrant culture her in ams. Then again, it just poses the question, I’m not an immigrant. So therefore our cases are different because, he might not be? But even if he wasn’t–would he still be told he needs to learn Dutch? Probably.

Those in the Netherlands, by the way, have a habit of shipping in people from 'other' countries–and then allowing them to stay, but only if they do the tough jobs that the natives do not want to do–for example all the Turkish people came in the 1960s. But now that the second generation of ‘Turkish-Moroccan-Dutch' people actually live (and have a life/house/kids/job) here–the Dutchies are having a hard time accepting them into ‘Dutch’ society. I imagine it’s similar to the black/white/slavery relations in the USA. Except in the USA African Americans are already assimilated. That's the strange thing about Europe: each country is their own race of people–or so is the narrative. Each quite homogeneous. And will say that that is the native consensus. It’s strange to grow up in the USA and no one really cares what religion you are, or what language you speak–because the country’s so enormous. For the most part you can always find similar people to surround yourself with–everywhere you go–because the country is so, diverse.

I don’t think I will ever comprehend the local attachment to zwarte pieten. (In English: black peters. They are the (blackfaced) Dutch version of Santa's elves. Meaning the people in this picture are white, with afro wigs, and bright red lipstick on? And that's OK in the Netherlands.) There's no need for me to explain it either. Last week I had a Swedish girl ask me if I had seen the decorate-able zwarte pieten head gingerbread thing–much like a gingerbread house kit–available for purchase at the local grocery store. She was literally shocked and had no idea what it was. Until I picked up that she was trying to–subtly–tell me she thought it was a bit, shall we say, politically incorrect or racist.

Saturday I went to De Bijenkorf (a department store in the Netherlands) to exchange something. While getting lost (which is surprisingly easy considering De Bijenkorf is just one giant rectangle) I ran into the Christmas decorations! Natuurlijk, in the foyer near the escalator. What was there? But threegiant zwarte pieten; animatronics, and climbing up and down ropes strung from the ceiling. I was torn between laughter, shock, and just plain–‘Hey! get out your camera, John!’–mode. So I did just that. It was quite frightening, to be honest. Today I asked someone (Dutch) if they thought zwarte pieten was racist. They immediately fired back: ‘Yes’. But that’s OK–because you could easily look to the USA’s version of Christmas–and invent some reason why Santa’s elves are politically incorrect. For instance, because they resemble those with dwarfism. I can’t not say that I’ve never taken part in Christmas in July. But not matter what sort of accompaniment Santa, excuse me, Sinterklaas may have, it’s all good with me. Because Christmas really isn’t about the elves, Santa, the presents, badass food and drink, or the time away from work (if work may happen to be your thing). I imagine Christmas is about being around those you love. And I think that’s what matters the most.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Speaking Dutch:

Sometimes, I open the door at work when the doorbell rings... Because I get to practice my Dutch with people who think I'm Dutch, right from the start. I do work at a Dutch company, so this makes total sense. And today, for the very first time, it went like this: I spoke Dutch for at least three exchanges back and forth, until I realized that I had no more Dutch words for a new question that fit the situation. (Besides something like, 'Hoe gaat het met u?'. Which in English would mean: 'How are you?' Literally it means: 'How go it with you?' Strange translation, eh?) Me: Goedemorgen (Good morning!; which can be sounded out in English as: hoo-duh-morgk-guh. All together now: hooduhmorgkguh! Sexy, eh?) Them: 'Ik heb an afspraak met ––'. (I have a meeting with...) Me: 'Ah; ok! (motion them into foyer). Een momentje alstublieft. (One moment please). I then realize I have no idea what their name is. I could have asked, 'What is your name?' in Dutch–but not on a moments notice. (Update, February 2011: My how times have changed! I can totally quack away in Dutch now–woohoo! Fluency is on the way!). At this point, I still have to 'build' sentences in my head... translate it from English back to Dutch, literally, then switch around the word order for Dutch grammar. And therefore I give away my non-native tongue if I pause. So I blurted out: 'Spreekt u engles?' (Do you speak English?… literally: speak you English?) And then, in English, we carried on. The strange thing is I can read Dutch for the most part. Especially if it's in newspapers and magazines and such. And I can read Dutch design talk pretty easily. Progress.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Sunday, November 1, 2009

John does Maastricht:

I'm going to Maastricht tomorrow morning. I'm excited. A little town to explore at night. Maastricht should brace themselves. Their cappuccino sales are about to rise. Drastically. Because that's all I plan on doing each evening. Before retreating to the hotel. And then doing it all over again. Or at least some variation of that. A mini vacation. How fun. I, more or less, lounged around the household this weekend; no plans, no worries, nothing to do except read and enjoy the sun. It was, I must say, ask, exceptionally lekker. Take a nap on the rug with the window open so you can hear the bikes go by? Done. Wake up. Wanna take a nap again? Sure. Glass of wine? Of course! Some cheese? Yes please. Sleep. Read. Eat. Lay. Sleep. Repeat.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Manhattan Arrives in Amsterdam:

My great friend Rich is in town visiting from NYC–it's nice to show my city to people who don't live here. Today, while sitting next to a canal near Café Letting–my new most favorite breakfast spot in all of Amsterdam–that even has soy milk for their cappuccinos (and pancakes with maple syrup!). Perfection. But while sitting on the side of the canal–Keizersgracht to be exact–the stories started to come out to Rich: '...and the more elaborate your gables, the more money the world thought you had, and thus displayed your wealth and importance to the city and its visitors...'

Really–I should start charging people for these tiny bits bits of random facts about the city, or at least write them down sometime. I'm sure a publisher would pick that up. I like playing tour guide–but it does get to be exhausting. Especially when you have to teach people all the rules for the bike lanes, and all the other subtle cultural differences that come with the city of Amsterdam. But I don't mind sharing–and it's nice to have someone to spill everything that's happening in your life with at this moment to, and hear what's happening in theirs. And then–just like that–they're off on a plane to the other side of the world.

It's nice to have those friends that–no matter how much time passes between seeing each other–because the next time you do, it will be just like it was yesterday. I've had so many friends come visit me in Amsterdam this year–it's kind of insane–but most are just passing, or have passed by, for a day or so only. Now that I've lived here enough to know een beetje meer Nederlands (a bit more Dutch)–it's fun to show off my Dutch skills to all my friends, and try not to chuckle when they try to read signs and menus, and completely slaughter the Dutch language. Today I even made it through a whole 'restaurant-ordering-yes two coffees. Thank you, het was heel lekker, can I please pay' ('Mag ik de rekening'?) transaction, at Café Letting.

I have acquired a book called 'Jip en Janneke' (Update, February 2011: Jip & Janneke is not an exciting way to learn Dutch; it's just embedded in Dutch culture, so that's why everyone tells you to buy it–save your Euros for something else, like this) at a market this weekend. It's a famous kid's book series in the Netherlands. And Disney actually just bought the copyrights to the books, and plans on turning 'Jip & Janneke' into a cartoon. Of course they are. I had my first Dutch lesson last monday. The second is tomorrow night. And this book is going to increase my Dutch skills from baby Dutch–to kids Dutch–with the help of my lessons too. I hope. And lots of practice. Oh yes, and time. I have been wanting to learn Dutch ever since I first moved here.

The time has come, and it will be so nice to interact with the people around me on a whole new level. Rich and I have been trying to make it to the Rembrandthuis–but we're both incredibly distracted by all the oddities, familiarities, surprises and fun that the city unfolds–so instead of the Rembrandthuis, today we did make it to the Hortus Botanicus. Though officially just 'De Hortus'. Basically the conservatory of Amsterdam. It was beautiful. And they even have a butterfly garden, too.De Hortus is one of the oldest botanical gardens in the world–and is famous for its collection of Cyads–or so I'm learning. Basically they're plants that were around back in the days of dinosaurs–and before flowering plants decided that they needed to be the dominant plant form in the world. They pretty much all basically look like some form of a palm tree.

At the moment, I'm lying on my rug in my living room–staring out at the clouds rolling by–it's quite windy today in Amsterdam–so they're rolling especially fast. When people come to visit me they always want to do as much as possible in their brief stay. Completely understandable, but right now I just need a break. and as the six hour time change has finally caught up with the Manhattanite–aka sleep–it is time for a me to sit back and relax, read a good book, or at least pretend to, while I stare out my window at the clouds above. It was perfect.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

New World vs. Old World:

'Working as architects in a new world grid city, we have a perspective that is unconstrained by old world limitations. this free view has prompted explorations that test the envelope of construct-ability in architecture. Often confused with male phallic aggression, the primary visual manifestation of these explorations is the skyscraper–how tall can we build?–and the cantilever–how far can we project? (While recognizing that the skyscraper is in fact also a cantilever.) These have been part of our architectural explorations for a number of years. Another aspect of our explorative language has also been the use of color, particularly yellow, to define and provide contrast and clarity against a neutral metallic background.'

–Enton Corker Marshal

Monday, October 19, 2009

Amsterdam Half Marathon:

I ran the Amsterdam Half Marathon this weekend. I didn't do as well as I wanted. Mainly because I didn't train as much as I should have. Whoops. But it's good to know I can just up and run 21K if I put my mind to it. I did have to walk about 2K through Vondelpark, at the vey end–bummer... because my legs completely cramped up and my running shoes are not the most comfortable (aka: need more cushion). I bought them at Jack Rabbit sports in NYC back in May. They (meaning the people who worked there) recorded me running on a treadmill and everything to accesses my stride, which includes me landing on the inside of my heel. Thus my shoes now help correct the way my feet land when I run, but they're just not the same as my old shoes. And I now know in the future when looking for new running shoes–that I need support and cushion. Great points to know, for a runner, I'd say. The good news: there are plenty of more marathons in my future. And room for improvement, too.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Thursday, October 15, 2009

My Life as Laundry:

An older post, from my former digital publication:

February 16, 2006

Today, I told Melissa, my roommate  that my life is like my laundry: scattered everywhere and unorganized. She quickly rebutted with, 'True, but at least your laundry's full of nice things.' And even though half my closet is on my floor, at least the assortment looks nice. When you compare laundry to your life, and think of the nice articles that make up your wardrobe, and how your wardrobe would appear to someone who sees you frequently? I can't help but wonder, does my life just look good from the outside? Or is it all thrown together to create one big mess? After much thought I've decided that I need to do my laundry. Currently I'm out of socks and underwear... as of today. I even had to break out the cute underwear and wear those. When I do my laundry, I usually do seven loads at a time.. because I'm lazy and hate doing it once a week. When I do my laundry my room stays clean for about a week before it slowly creeps back to having clothes scattered everywhere. So in conclusion my life looks great from the outside, just like my wardrobe. But occasionally gets off track and needs to be tidied up a bit. Maybe I should just start doing my laundry more often. That way my laundry and my life would be in-sync. And no, I am not high as I write this.

Yesterday I did my laundry.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Sweet November:

An older post, from my former digital publication:

Wednesday, August 24, 2005
The setting: Cincinnati, USA, the banks of the Ohio River.

After watching that movie I couldn't help but feel like I need to 'discover who I really am'. One of those weird things I do all the time–that I personally don't really find weird. So today I decided to spend my three hours before work doing something different than the usual way I would kill those three hours, reading, playing online and watching TV–or worse–eating.

I went down to Sawyer Point and walked around alone, and thought about life–and took in everything around me through my senses. After walking the Serpentine Wall for a little while, I found the perfect little spot to put my feet in the water, and just write down my thoughts in a notebook... for about an hour I sat with my feet dangling in the Ohio River watching the boat traffic on the water, and taking in the sights sounds and smells of everything around me. I decided to digitalize them, so that way I'll have them forever. Here they are:

Why are humans always so curious?; Why is it that we as humans are drawn to water?; What is it that makes me scared of doing something minimally wrong, such as hopping that fence I just hopped through to get here, even though it was open?; Why do I think jet-skis are the coolest thing ever?; I will have one when I'm older! And I will use it; I don't know if I'll have kids or a family; But I do think having someone to share your life with would be marvelous; Why am I so drawn to water?; Why doesn't it rain more often?; And why are people so afraid to get wet?; Why are people so obsessed with brand names?; Is it really that cool if everyone has it?; I'm sweating; Why do I use the computer so much even if I have nothing to do?; I love waves and wish this was the ocean's edge nearby to wade in, instead of the Ohio River; The sky is so beautiful today; Oh! Look! Is that a-stick or a piece of metal?; If I had water shoes on I'd go see.; Why are people so impatient?; This current is a lot stronger than it leads on to be; Why is it that I sometimes have a hard time talking to people my own age?; Why am I here?; Sitting on a rock with my feet in the Ohio River, on a Tuesday afternoon?; Do I really want to be an architect?; Do I really want kids?; Why is it that some people have such an impact on your life?; Why is it that some people can't stay out of your life?; Big barge coming up the river!; I would like an ice cream; Why/how is it that life can thrive in the harshest/most incompetent environments on earth?; Here come the waves from that barge!; Small at first... It's actually going semi-fast for something that big; Bigger now; I wonder if the driver has another job, in addition to this one? Such big waves–they crested; I miss the beach; Why do I love electronic music in general, so much?; I smell... like fish!; I'm in such a good mood; I usually always am; I think I'm done; I miss home; I think I will go back now.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

October in Amsterdam:

Yesterday, I went to the Muziekgebouw aan t'IJ to see the symphony. It was quite enjoyable. The leaves of trees are starting to morph color, here in Amsterdam. They're dropping to the ground, one by one. People are pulling out the jackets and scarves. And the nights are getting longer. The olliebollen stands are popping back up around town. And soon, the holidays will be here–again. Last year I was puzzled and confused by all the new seasonal traditions I stumbled upon the the Netherlands. This year, I couldn't look forward to them any more than I already do.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Architecture of Music:

I can really feel things quite deeply. Sometimes music can express my emotions better than anything. Better than myself. Sometimes I can see things in my head so clearly, but yet no one else follows. Or see things as clearly as I do. And sometimes I wish I could translate the way I feel music, into words. Not the lyrics per-se. But the emotions and feelings that they evoke. I imagine that's why people dance. Slow dance; break dance; whatever dance. I once stumbled upon an article explaining what music means–it happened to be in a gay magazine called Circuit Noize. (I am a gay man, so it would probably make sense as to why this magazine sparked my interest.) But it couldn't have put it any better. It is one of the most beautiful essays I have ever read. It is entitled: 

Dance Music, Poetry, and the Architecture of an Evening, by Alan Brown

'Great music is the main ingredient in a successful dance party. You can have a party without lights, and you can even have a party by yourself in the privacy of your own home, without others. But you can’t have a party without music. Choose your music carefully, because it will take you places. Music is an emotional conduit, a current of raw energy. On the dance floor at a party, we submit ourselves to the musical whims of the DJ. Each time our crowd gathers, there is an enormous opportunity to create emotional value and meaning–both at the personal level and at the collective level. People are primed, dressed to the nines, ready to turn it out, wearing the big smile, and feeling just a little sensational. What happens next is one part chemistry, two parts sociology, and three parts music.

There is a certain architecture to a successful evening of dance music–a shape, a direction, even a purpose. Like a story, every party has a beginning, a middle, and an end. The hallmark of a great party in the making is a palpable sense of anticipation for the music that is about to come. A great DJ can elongate the up-trip until a dance floor is ready to explode, and then pop the cork on the party like a chilled bottle of Dom Perignon. As a party unfolds, the recordings heard early in the evening linger in the Zeitgeist. A dance party is a cumulative experience; each musical selection propels the energy forward and also leaves an indelible imprint behind to swirl in the collective consciousness. You can see the first half of the party in the faces of those who stay for the second half.'

Beautiful, and you can read the full article here. I have been to parties like this before. Parties held in arenas with 40,000 people dressed in white. With everyone worshiping the DJ. They, are, fun.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

What keeps us from saying hello to strangers?

It would seem I was wondering the same thing, three years and four months ago, within an older post, from my former digital publication:

May 30th, 2006

A Quickie.

The University of Cincinnati is laid out in a big square, with each side about a half a mile long, which is the course I take when I go running. But, when I was at the recreation center yesterday, I swam after running... nothing new. But, when I left I realized I left my shoes. Being Sunday, they closed early and I couldn't go back and get them. So I decided to go back this morning, and they were gone. They were not in lost and found. Someone stole my shoes.

So in spite of that, since I had no running shoes today, I decided to be one of those power walkers and walk the 3K loop that is the 
University of Cincinnati. I didn't take my iPod, as I figured it would do me good for me to draw my energy off something else besides electronic music for once.

When I was making the rounds I kept thinking about how crazy it is that in two weeks I won't be here anymore. I'll be in san francisco, a whole new exciting city with so many places to explore. Most people would be scared by the idea of moving to a big city at my age and not know anyone in advance. i find the whole idea orgasmic... well, at least thrilling.

Halfway back to my house I ran into this old man walking at a fast pace like myself. Turns out there more than one person on this university's campus that walks the loop at 23:30 besides me. We just randomly started chatting about life as such as we both kept our pace, knowing the conversation would eventually end when we went our own ways. We chatted about his job, my studies as a student, real estate, textbooks, shoes... all of this in about three minutes. It's great to know there are people out there who can still carry on a conversation with a complete stranger, as most people tend to look the other way (literally), when walking toward someone down a sidewalk.

What is it about people we don't know that makes us look away?

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

San Francisco: 'What a Beautiful City'

Three years and one month ago, on my former digital publication, I was babbling on about loving San Francisco:

What a Beautiful City

August 18, 2006

Every second that I'm here and sober (Editor's note: ok, apparently I must have sipped quite a bit of wine during that hot San Francisco summer; Whoops!) I'm still amazed at what a lovely city I live in. As I write this, I'm sitting upon my roof overlooking downtown, Telegraph Hill, as well as the Bay Bridge and Treasure Island in the background.

(What that view looked like, literally. This was the view from my roof and it was spectacular.)

There's something about cities at night that always get me. There's just something during the night hours that cannot be matched by those of the daylight. I'm not completely sure if its the air, the lack of people on the streets, or just the general all around ambiance–but I love it. This has probably been one of, if not the best, summer of my life. Every weekend I seem to meet more and more enlightening people that somehow, unbeknownst to them, are teaching me just one more thing about this crazy, chaotic, and oh so beautiful world that we live in.

I've always been that person who just sits back and takes things in a very laid back manner. Granted everyone has their occasional outburst of hysteria, but who doesn't? And more importantly, life would just be way to lame (with a capital L) if I were always laid back in every aspect of my life.

One of my favorite things to do since I've been here is to go grocery shopping down by Fisherman's Wharf (about nine blocks away, Safeway, for all you Bay Area locals) around 22:00 or so at night. There's just something about walking nine blocks completely alone down Mason Street, with the occasional trolley rolling by, and Alcatraz Island in the background. Yet again, here I am, back to that whole night thing. Trust me, this walk is definitely not much fun in the daytime. There's just something in the air, at night. It envelopes me. Yet almost everyone I talk to who lives here full time says it is crazy expensive. I never really quite got what that meant until I truly started looking at the rent of most apartments in the area. Crazy; crazy; crazy. My rent is quite affordable, but that's only because my room is the size of a shoebox, and because I have two roommates.

A friend at work told me she pays about $1,600 a month for here one bedroom in Oakland. Yikes. Oakland? No thanks. Almost anywhere else that would be a payment on a decent sized house. So far everyone I've met here seems to give off the impression that San Francisco is a temporary city. I'm curious see how temporary it will, ultimately be, for me.

Good night, world.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Stopping Through Switzerland:

I have recently been inspired me to pull out some older posts, from my former digital publication.

Here's where I was in life, three years ago:

Thursday, October 5, 2006


I find myself wanting to go to parks quite often these days. More so I just want to get out of the Taylor Mansion (which was my roommate's and I's name for our house at the time) and have fun in Cincinnati. I always thought that there was nothing to do in this city, but in reality there is. There's a lot actually. In San Francisco it was normal for me just to go to a park and sit there and read for hours on end, or just look out at the city on my roof with a glass of wine in my hand.

One of my classes this quarter is about environmental technology; heating, cooling, lighting, plumbing... The other day my professor said that it really doesn't matter when we 'need' to use heating or cooling, because we will anyway, because most of us spend our life indoors. I don't like being indoors.

When I didn't have a car for three months, I realized how little I actually needed one. In San Francisco, at least. Which brings me back to the 'I'd like to go to a park' thing... As I'm currently constricted to a small swath of a radius; the walking distance calculated my house. I quite like walking everywhere, and especially now since it's autumn in Cincinnati; it's by far my favorite time to be here. But there are only so many parks within my current walking radius, before a car must be entered. Yet there's something about the dampness in the air of this city, and the feeling of being surrounded by so many vibrant colored leaves.

Last year at the end of October I went on a week long road trip throughout new england and loved every minute of it. One of my favorite places that we went was Exeter, New Hampshire. Yet again there was just something about the air and the feeling I had from the town itself. Somehow it pulls you into a postcard, and makes you never want to leave.

As much as I love the West Coast, I wouldn't mind living on the East Coast for some time. Not necessarily in a big city, even though I love them, but more so in a quaint coastal town. There's something about Boston that I don't like, so it definitely wouldn't be there. But who knows where I'll end up. I've always wanted to live in Switzerland–so maybe I'll settle down there. That's why I love life. You never know where it will take you.

Three years ago I wanted to live in Europe. Three years later, I'm here. I finally made it to Switzerland this summer, stopping through on the way home to Amsterdam from Italy. The (overnight train) stopped at the Swiss border around midnight–for passport checks. Though we were allowed to get off and wander into the station for drink or such, and I was so thirsty... But when I arrived at the vending machine for a bottled water, the prices looked odd peering out at me from behind the glass. They were listed in CHF (Swiss Franc). Then it hit me: I'm in Switzerland! I could have not been more excited. I finally made it. And these days, I have no desire to live there. Or anywhere else for that matter.

Friday, October 2, 2009

The Netherlands and the USA:

The Netherlands isn't perfect–but it is beautiful, and certainly more organized in its built environment than the USA. That's one thing a Dutch friend told me the other day–that the USA is so intriguing because it's not organized (which Europeans associate with freedom)–whereas everything in the Netherlands is organized and planned down to the last detail. Graphic design for bus and tram time tables, the arts in all forms–even the locations that tell you where to put your trash on the curb. (I actually received a map showing where I was allowed to put trash in my neighborhood, and where the containers are located, all perfectly branded in a little booklet that came in my mailbox, that fits in perfectly with the city of Amsterdam's branding scheme: aka, red with three X's, which was designed by Amsterdam based design studio Thonik (and you can read more about Amsterdam's branding here)). I can now see all this organization through Dutch eyes, after living here for two years. At first, the Netherlands just looks like a land of perfect to the first time American visitor. Which I have written about here. And this is, ironically enough, why I'm a europhile. The continent is efficient, travel is easy, and most everything is in order, at least in the Netherlands. And I love that. Friends are great. And so are kind words from them that brighten your day, just a bit more.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

On Life, Love, and (Those Beautiful) Gables:

Today, I learned a new word:

n. pl. ca·thar·ses (-sēz)

I am absolutely inspired by Amsterdam. And life in general these days. Whenever my emotions need to escape, in a form other than contemplation or laughter, the desire to pick up a paintbrush, marker, or colored pencil, always comes over me. I've been writing a lot these days, though I've posted none of it on here. Mainly because I just don't think the world needs to be that involved with my life. It's been an odd past two months. Vacations in Italy, love, meeting so many new people, meeting with publishers, working with wonderful photographers, and all in all–feeling more grown up, each and every day. The list goes on and on, when describing the development of myself. I really sometimes think: is this really my life? And I mean this in the most un-big headed way. It was my dream to live here. And now my dream is real. And on nights like tonight, when I run though the city, I literally almost cried because the backdrop I was running against (aka: Amsterdam) was just stunning. There's just something about the sunlight at the height of the seasons in Northern Europe. It's beautiful.

I was just given the final green light for my residence permit, for the final and last time. I never write about Dutch legal things, mainly because it cause me enough headache and worry to begin with, but I can't help but feel that I've been waiting for something in my life to implode this past year. I thought it was going to be Dutch things. and hence my bubble being popped. But oppositely, something that I never expected to begin in the first place, did begin, and then crashed. And I wasn't expecting it at all. And my dream still lives on, which makes everything more complex. Because at the end of the day. I have absolutely no worries. My life is splendid. And that makes me happy. I am happy and healthy. But I would be lying if I said I wasn't a bit down, over the past few months.

I have experienced every kind of emotion and feeling that one could have over the past year. I've been meeting new people left and right. And also because one of my very best friends just visited me here in AMS, from Chicago. He's a Europhile too. It was great to see him. we always say that one day we're going to own a cabin nestled along a fjord in Norway someday. And wear cable knit sweaters all day and sip coco. It's was his dream to live in France; he did it when he was 18. (And he now speaks fluent French.)

I love this city. My future is here. And that future looks bright. I am obsessed with the gables of all the houses in the center, especially the Jordaan. They are so rich in history and hidden meanings (which I love, in anything), and they never cease to amaze me with their beauty. Whenever a friend visits me here in AMS (and the tally is at nine different group this year, all different weekends might I add). My summer was spent being a tour guide...

But whenever people are visiting me: we step outside my front door, walk to the Jordaan, and I begin to babble on about architecture, the Dutch language, and gabled houses (and how and why the gables look the way they do, which by the way, is: Amsterdam houses are tiny, taxation on width in the Golden Age of Dutch culture and Amsterdam's beginnings, mixed with strict adherence to proportional guidelines, meant that everyone's home looks more or less the same dimensions on the exterior–therefore everyone's exterior of the home was adorned and garnished as a form of self expression, but also wealth, and the more elaborate and ornate your gables were showed the world just how much capital you had, on top of cleverly covering up the much less interesting and simple pointed roofs).

I love my city. And I imagine that I should realize that my life here isn't a dream. It's real. And I really live here. And I love it.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Inspiration, From New York City:

When I hear the bells of Westerkerk toll the next hour, I can't help but think tomorrow's a brand new day, and the sun will (hopefully) be shining. Which only reminds me just how spectacular the world really is, and just how small (but important) a role I play within it. I recently told someone I want to do great things someday. Why not make that day today? I wrote to myself while in New York, back in May. It was inspiring, at least to me, when reflecting on it. 'When you go back to Amsterdam John–meet people, genuine people. And have fun. Start painting like you want to. Don’t go out dancing (for now). And enjoy the company of your brother. Show him around Europe. Focus on running. And above all, John–Don’t forget that life is not a test. There’s no second act coming up later on. This is it. So have fun. Be adventurous (and I think you are). And enjoy your time in Copenhagen in the coming weeks… and the marathon. And the company of friends.' Life is not a test. And there is no second act coming up later on. So true.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Friday, September 18, 2009

Roof Terraces:

One of the most beautiful aspects of life that I've learned through living in all these great cities, is simply: No one city can make you happy. A city is simply a backdrop for life. What would a city be without people? Though certainly true that cities seem to attract like minded people. But I don't think cities bring happiness–though they certainly do create a very beautiful dramatic playground for life. Your life brings you happiness. However, I will admit, some cities are certainly cuter than others:

(Amsterdam: December 7, 2008: View of the city from the Openbare Bibliotheek Amsterdam terrace.)