Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Inspiration in NYC:


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.

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.)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Dear Amsterdam:

You were looking mighty fine last night, and here's why.





Thursday, September 10, 2009

Heather Also Thinks Amsterdam is Perfect:

Heather is a Canadian who has been living in the Netherlands since May 2008. We share a mutual love of coffee, Amsterdam and all things Dutch. I read her publication, Life Abroad, quit often (Update, August 2011: She's back in Toronto, and I'm following her travels in Canada!) as she's always off exploring some area of this exceptional city, and never forgets to bring her camera along. Enabling her to share her beautiful adventures in and around Amsterdam, with the world. Heather recently returned to Canada, but she'll be back in Amsterdam in just eight short month and I can't wait to finally meet her once she returns. (Update, September 2011: She didn't come back! Read for more details as to why.)


Heather with an ice cream from IJscuypje, in De Pijp, Amsterdam.

Here's some of her favorite reasons for loving Amsterdam:

1. Having a cup of coffee and a piece of apple tart at a brown café.
2. Watching spacious boats cruise down the Amstel.
3. Walking along Prinsengracht, looking at the colorful and creative houseboats.
4. Accordion music, wafting through my apartment windows, during dinner.
5. Albert Cuyp market during the busy morning hours.
6. Homemade ice cream from IJscuypje, in De Pijp.
7. Painted black brick canal houses from the Golden Age.
8. Dutch businessmen in their sharp navy suits with brown leather shoes.
9. Watching an Ajax game; eating a Van Dobben croquette met brood (with bread). 
10. Visiting the 'Seven Bridges' at night, and seeing their lights shimmer.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Bikes in Vondelpark:

Speeding frantically through Vondelpark, bikes chase the mid-summer setting sun.

Monday, September 7, 2009

(the) Weekend:


I really had a great weekend.

On Thursday of last week I received a letter from the IND (the immigration and naturalisation service of the Netherlands). I've been given the green light for my new residence permit! I had already applied for it, but the government makes you wait, and wait, and wait for all things officially Dutch, as a foreigner. This has been a year in the making people! And knowing this only made my weekend even better. I've sort of felt as is my life has been in the hands of the Dutch government for the past year... and that's just not a good feeling. For the first time, in a long time–I have absolutely no worries. I'm healthy, happy and financially secure. Yay!

I went to a 'foreigner in the Netherlands'-meet-up on Friday night, in the city center. It was really enjoyable. I didn't have any American/Commonwealth friends in amsterdam (that was until I met amanda, from Amanda Blog and Kiss, for coffee a few weeks ago–hey Amanda!). And it was really great to hear everyone's stories of how they arrived in holland, how they find all things Dutch, if they speak Dutch, etc... but was almost more fun was the fact they everyone sort of knew at least a bit of background info about each other from reading about each others lives. It was a really fun Friday. We sort of all had to spill how big of stalkers/research-er's we really are.

One person confessed they had read all of one particular publication's archives. I'm still working to that point. But a few are close. My life is quite beautiful, and I sometimes forget this, as everyday I’m surrounded by the beauty of this every so disgustingly charming city. And I absolutely love it. I really feel at home here in Amsterdam. I told someone at the meet-up that I want to live here forever. I really do. And even if I don’t (live here forever), there’s absolutely nothing wrong with thinking that right now–I think my life would falter if I thought differently. I didn’t come to Amsterdam for anyone but myself. And what a nice feeling that is. Most, if not all, all of my friends are Dutch. I’m not sure if this happened consciously on my part–or not. But that’s ok. And has only served to further immerse me into Dutch culture more than I could have ever hoped or wished for.

Sometimes, life throws the most unexpected of situations at you, which shake up your life completely.

Which only brings even more unexpected situations. Like meeting 15 people from (quite literally) around the world at a tiny little bar in Amsterdam on a slightly rainy Friday autumn evening. Then, I went out with Amanda again on Saturday night. It was a really great time! We went to Suzy Wongs on Saturday, among other bars–and what a nice feeling it was just to sit in a bar without wood paneling on the walls. I felt like I was back in NYC–sipping cocktails. I met some really great people, both nights this weekend. One girl I met had (quite literally) just arrived in Amsterdam from Canada, where she now lives (this was saturday; non writer). This girl had lived everywhere–though originally from Australia. Sometimes I forget that I too have lived everywhere (San Francisco, NYC, Düsseldorf, Copenhagen, Amsterdam). Anyways, alcohol always seems to let these little one line confessions slip between random people. And I couldn’t help but take note of one she said to me, at one rather loud and chaotic point in the evening.

It was something along the lines of: ‘I just can’t go back, to Australia’.

The strange thing was there wasn’t anything in this quick glimpse into her life that made it seem as if anything was too terribly wrong or uncomfortable with the situation in her home country. It was more one of those… ‘If I went back to Aussie-land, I just don’t know…’ One of those open-ended sentences. I feel the same about the USA. I just don’t want to be there right now. The country has some major issues it needs to sort out. And honestly, who knows if I’ll ever move back. Though I can’t say I see it happening anytime in the next few years. Everything Dutch makes me smile, as does almost everything about my life here in the Netherlands. I’m hardcore researching places to take Dutch lessons these days–and if anyone has any favorable experience with a certain Dutch Lessons establishment, please shoot me an email. I have decided I'm obsessed with the elephants in the Elephant Parade in Amsterdam. My favorite can be found here, for all you Amsterdam-ers.

But yes: Dutch is the language I'm trying to learn. Why? Beats me.

No one made me move to Holland. And no one is making me learn Dutch. I just want to. As I told someone at themeet-up: I imagine the real reason I'm in Holland right now is simply: the USA would just be too damn boring. My life could easily include a car, large apartment, and flat screen TV–friends who speak English, (all this, if I talked to the right people in the USA and landed the right psotion, that is; which I'm convinced I could do–especially after living here on my own). But I simply wanted to challenge myself. So I left. I first stepped foot on European soil in July 2007. And after that–how could I ever live in the USA again? After knowing all this history and culture is just an eight hour plane right away... Yesterday I rearranged my apartment; as sometimes I do that when I’m just sick of looking at all my things/stuff lay in the same spot for weeks and weeks. And it is just that–unnecessary baggage. I’m so happy that before I left America-land last year, I shoved my life in two suitcases (please read: rid myself of all my excess material possessions I do not need, that do not make me happy by having. I feel so free sometimes because of this), hopped the Atlantic and bunked down in Europe to see where life takes me.

So far it’s been one hell of a time. Which I imagine can only get better from here.

I have this book that I bought at the kringloopwinkel a few months ago. It’s called ‘The Glory of Amsterdam’. It’s one of those books that was published in the late 1970s–1974, to be exact; certainly before the advent of InDesign or Photoshop, that’s for sure. It cost two Euros, but in my mind it’s priceless.

A few sentences from the introductory essay captivated me. But I must say; this entire essay weaves the magic of the canals, gabled houses, and all things Dutch, into some of the most inspiring words that create the most vivid imagery inside my mind, whenever I read it. Which is quite often. I can’t even begin to imagine what Amsterdam must have been like in the seventeenth or eighteenth centuries, but sometimes I like to pretend I can. One of the sentences clearly sticks out in my mind–quite vividly. It reads, ‘When walking through the center of Amsterdam, one must not forget that the city was built by some of the world’s richest people.’ I think that that small fact, is simply astonishing. And I would venture to say that all Amsterdam-er’s (myself included) have forgotten just how spectacular this city truly is at some point. No other European capital can compare. Honest.

I’ve been spending large amounts of time cycling through the Jordaan these days. It takes me five minutes to walk there from my house; two if I cycle. It’s shocking how small the area of the city really is–and how each time I’m there, I always seem to stumble across a new area I’ve never laid eyes on. One street simply takes my breath away. While cycling South-East down Tichelstraat–especially at sunset, and as you approach Prinsengracht–the tower of Westerkerk perfectly lines up in-between the rows of gabled houses on either side of the street. And it’s simply stunning. Just another one of the three million or so reason I love this city. Around every corner is a new surprise, a stunning view–or simply an empty bench, next to an empty canal, just waiting for someone to sit down and watch the show that is called life slowly pass you by.

Heather, a Canadian in Amsterdam, from over at Life Abroad, recently asked me to send her a list of my ten favorite aspects of this city.

Here's the introductory sentence she wrote about me:

John, from John Does Amsterdam, recently shared with me why he loves his newly-adopted city. His publication is one of my favorites, as he really captures the essence of the city and seems to have a continual love affair with all things Amsterdam. Here’s what he had to say about life in this remarkable city.

How much fun is that!? She even called John does Amsterdam popular!

And, here's the list:

1. The best hot and frothy cappuccinos, and the little cookies that come with them.
2. My bike. It's always within a 500 meter radius of me.
3. The Dutch countryside.
4. That there are many beaches nearby.
5. Vondelpark & Westerpark.
6. Getting lost in the labyrinth like streets of the Jordaan.
7. Hopping on my bike; blanket, book and ipod in bag, with nowhere to go.
8. The longest summer nights I've ever experienced.
9. The most extremes of architecture ever collected in one city (in my opinion).
10. The fact that all of Europe is just out my front door; easily accessible by plane or train.

Heather recently sent me her list–and it will be published here soon. You can be anyone you want in Amsterdam–and I love that aspect of my city.

Amsterdam. Home.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

An Evening of Cycling Absolutely Nowhere:

Last year, when I moved to the land of tiny (as I refer to the Netherlands), I fell in love with Amsterdam. These days, we're falling in love–all over again. And I don't think I could have said it any better than I did last year:

'There's a chill in the air, and you can feel the seasons changing. It's as if the second hand has suddenly struck a new hour, and the new hour is the next season–autumn. there's something that happens around this time of year that gets me excited. The leaves are changing colors, slowly sauntering to the ground, and Vondelpark is revealing a side of itself that I have yet to lay eyes on; the advent of autumn is here. The weather’s just perfect–not too hot, not too cold. And when the sun shines the smell of dried leaves fills the air. The days are getting shorter, the sunsets even more spectacular. Sometimes I ask myself if they’re even real. I’ve been taking picture of the Dutch light from various places around town; mostly from my back terrace. I’ve amassed quite a bit so far, and only time will tell what I’ll use them for, if anything. They make me smile when I look at them, and remind me of just how spectacular the world really is.' I was one happy guy last year. And apparently, all I had to worry about, were which flowers to buy at the market: 'Lilies I’ll be looking into, but who knows what I’ll buy. Only time will tell; perhaps a vibrant color of another flower will spark my interest more.'

Of all my troubles, those were the toughest: flowers–and this is highly insightful, in retrospect. So why can't today be like that day, last year? Oh wait–it can, of course. And how wonderful, for me, to realize this. This past weekend, which cycling, I stumbled across the greatest quote ever. It was painted on the front of a house, above a doorway, situated in the tiny artist community/squatter village of Ruisgord. Some 8K east of Haarlem. The quote read: 'Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift, and that's why they call it the present.' It's so true, I love it. Tomorrow is a new day–and until then–I'm slowly brewing a new love letter to Amsterdam.