Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Fountain at Leidseplein:

The fountain outside the American Hotel on Leidseplein is still flowing at full force.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Growing Up, Take 26:

Here I sit on a train, going to Maastricht. This should be my last visit to the city for some time. I have never particularly enjoyed going to Maastricht. The people, while polite, are not 'out-of-their-way' nice. You really have to be in the community, to be accepted by it. Never the less, it is a beautiful city that I have previously professed my intrigue for many times over–the architecture heavy; the river freely flowing; multiple countries just over every hilltop.

One thing it does not feel like, currently, is Christmas. Where is the snow? Where is the cold? Where is the ice? Where is Santa? Well, to be honest, I did see Santa the other day when I walked into the Bijenkorf. He was telling everyone 'Merry Christmas', in English. Just yesterday, while cycling past the Tropenmuseum, I saw that Coca-Cola has, more or less, bought up every sidewalk-side advertising billboard along the Linnaeusstraat. Complete with a picture of Coke Santa, and the words 'Merry Christmas' proudly proclaimed in a 'rustic-classic' san-serif font, on every one of them. The Anglicization of Amsterdam is almost complete!

And speaking of English–my Dutch has taken the back seat for some time now. I have been so focused on my professional self, and listening to what my heart wants to be, see, feel, and create. My life thus far has been incredibly rewarding, and every time I do sit down to write something long winded, I always think back to a post that I wrote while sitting in a launderette, in Düsseldorf, washing and drying and folding clothes. But that was always because I never had a washer/dryer in all these tiny Euro apartments I had previously rented, so all my typing was done, while doing laundry. Yikes! It's fun to look back and see how I've arrived at where I am now. I moved to Amsterdam quite swiftly, right after graduating from university. My real-world education is beyond most, for someone of my age; at least that's what I tell myself.

And there's another worth: self. The self is the inner you; your soul. The essence is what connects us all. And to lose your self, in the essence, is a beautiful thing. Launching off from 2011's key-word of fluidity, the word essence seems to have a much better possibility of being fluid-like, in my mind, than self. So I've been trying to live in the essence; be in the moment; and not be in my head. It's working well, and I notice that I enjoy casual conversations more these days, with more depth. Chit-chat is tedious to me; it makes me feel like silicone–that is, lacking firmness in the moment. I've also, this year, researched and explored new passions, new paths, and new ways of combining words with media to story tell; that has been the ultimate goal of my self for the past two years: to learn the art of combining images with words. It's worked_and I've done it with some of the world's best. It still surprises and excites me to this day, that some of the world's best creative minds, I've pulled into my sphere of life–to create alongside. It's so exciting. I want to always learn, from the best, and I'm not afraid to make that a reality.

Christmas is coming up soon and I still have to put up our tree; kidding of course! It's been up since the middle of November. (What else would you expect? 'November–how so?', you ask. It's a fake one of course! How else would every branch (and the overall silhouette) be perfect?). I'm going to The Hague tomorrow for a 'Christmas' lunch with the family, and then Christmas day is reserved for some serious present opening, coffee-of course, and lots of deliciously lekker food, drink, and Christmas cheer. Then Tuesday I'm off to Gdansk, Poland. Renting an apartment in a chic part of town, and having five days to explore a tiny harbor city, during the always interesting 'between Christmas and New Years' period, which should prove exciting. If only for the fact that there is not much of a set agenda involved, except eating, drinking and exploring the castles and woods around Gdansk–and of course, it's cute city center.

Then, my friend Amy arrives on New Years day; this Amy. The one that inspires me to be myself, never focus on the past, and make the most of, myself, within life and the tangible 3D-material world the surrounds us. I am not sure what our plans will be, but I'm sure it will involve lots of bike rides, coffees, food, and lots of smiles and laughs and long winded conversations.

As 2011 dwindles to an end, I feel as if I've become more true to myself; my ambitions; my desires; my wants; my needs. My life is becoming more focused in terms of where I want to be in the world. I want to surround myself with, as Oprah so eloquently stated: 'Only those who will lift you higher.' And I'm doing just that. And I'm doing it in Amsterdam. It's exciting; it's intoxicating; and it started at a young age. 19 and running through the streets of Gay Pride in San Francisco; 21 and running around Chelsea and downtown Manhattan's nighttime-scene; 22 and in Copenhagen and Germany and Amsterdam... learning about architecture and design while sponging up as much European culture and history as I could, and can; alongside street-smarts, physical activity and endurance (running!), and a renewed and reinvigorated sense of body-consciousness, allowing for the exterior to match the interior.

'Style is just the outside of content, and content the inside of style. Like the outside and inside of the human both, they both go together–they can't be separated.'

I recently watched this wonderful video interview of Diane von Fürstenberg, in which she states that she didn't know what she wanted to do or how she was going to get there when she started her professional career, but that she knew who she wanted to be. That's powerful. And more importantly, incredibly pragmatic and inspirational. I am on my way to who I want to be (getting back to the self). And along the way, I'm going to surround myself with creative and inspirational people who will 'lift me higher', while providing the necessary environment and resources, allowing me to lose myself in the moment at all times, to be true to my desires and aspirations.

I am not a romantic, but a realist. I am pragmatic beyond belief, intensely loyal and devoted to anything and anyone I put my passion–and more importantly, love–behind. This past Sunday, my stunning boyfriend and I went to a 'body-pump' class at the (brand new and huge!) gym we just joined. Having been a swimmer and a runner during my youth, I know how to exert full control of my mind over my body. And these past few years I've really explored and begun to understand my body; accept it; embrace it. Besides, it's probably one of, if not the only, thing that I'll have with me, my whole life. I'm learning to love it; it can move in all kinds of fun and fluid ways. And if the right song is playing, my living room can turn into a dance floor–a party of one, shall we say. Sometimes the other joins, and then it's a party of two–caught up in the essence. I like that.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Finding Their Way Through the Fog:

At the ever and always busy intersection of Nassaukade/Marnixstraat & Fredrik Hendrikplantsoen... Just outside the lovely Jordaan, and right next to my former buurt in the city. How I miss the west of Amsterdam, with all it's tiny streets and canals. But Amsterdam East, these days, is where it's at. I've come to love the ever so boho-chic, Indische Buurt.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Life and All its Wonders:

I've been considering life quite a bit lately; what it is that I'm here for; what it is I want to do in the world; what I want to 'give back'. (Which my boyfriend always says is sooo American of me. 'Give back? Ch–who does that?') I would like to give back to something; be it a team; a project; a goal; a global goal. And I do feel as if I already have, in many ways. But I am questioning what it is I want to do with my life. And which direction I want it to go in. Being fixed natured as I am, it's tough to get me to move on from anything once I've attached to it: could be a joke; pair of pants; type of food; the color of that flower over there; the last funny thing you just said; how happy I am; how wonderful life is; what to do today...

Monday, December 19, 2011

Growing Up:

I am slowly learning that I either do something half-heartedly, or whole-heartedly. With me, it's all or nothing. And that, it's not exactly what you do, but how you do it. I want to undertake everything I do, with passion. To use a wonderful quote from 'Under the Tuscan Sun' (love that movie!), and subsequently Federico Fellini:

'Put yourself into life and never lose your openness, your childish enthusiasm throughout the journey that is life, and things will come your way.'

So I'm trying to do just that. I'm thrusting myself out into the world. With childish enthusiasm. A month or so back I went to a party; a party full of all kinds of graphic designer/writer/pr/fashion types–and I loved it. My people! It has been a while since I'd been to a party with people who were more or less in my general age range. And doing the same things I love to do–personally and professionally. It was refreshing. And it was totally fun to to tell people how I came to the Netherlands–as everyone asked. It's a fun story to tell. But it's even more fun to tell people that I came to the Netherlands, to write for a pair of influential design and architecture magazines. Since moving onwards, my journey here in the Dutch capital continues to unravel in profoundly poignant ways. It was at a particular moment, when retelling the story of my arrival, that I realized: I totally belong at this party! And this really is the life I've created for myself. How fun.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

John does Antwerp (Again!):

Antwerp was rather interesting–it's situated within Belgium, whose history is deeply entangled with that of the Netherlands. Some parts were rather ugly, and others, not. But everything about the city was so varied, so not ordered, not unlike in the USA. But very unlike here, in North Holland.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Friday, December 16, 2011

Facing South:

One side of my home is composed of a rather large wall of windows, which gives way to the view south. Therefore, sun. Everyday, all day; from winter to summer. Winter sun in Northern Europe is so wonderful... Europe's climate is so striking considering just how far north the continent lies on the globe. (Read all about it in The Little Ice Age by Bryan Fagan.) I am definitely a Northern European kind of guy. A chill is always in the air in Amsterdam, and I really enjoy that. The morning sun that rises over Amsterdam is splendid, its shimmer bouncing off clouds. And sometimes while facing south, taking in the view, I'll see planes flying by on the horizon landing and taking off at/from Schipol. All of the below photos were taken from the climate controlled comfort of my living room, facing south. I have the most awe-inspiring morning sunrise views. They stun me with their beauty.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Monday, December 12, 2011

John does Antwerp:

I have an unbridled affection for the 'Low Countries', and having never been to Antwerp, I was more than excited to scope out the 'Belgian' architecture when compared to that of, for instance, Amsterdam. I do love those gabled houses of the Low Countries. Antwerp was/is a bit less (understatement) 'organized' than Amsterdam (in the ways of: crosswalks, traffic lights, road signage, street signs, etc...) But apparently Belgians have cool 'frames', you know, for their glasses; great food (because that whole 'French' thing); soft 'g's; and soft personalities–so the Dutchies say. (In turn, Belgians apparently say those from the north Netherlands (aka: North Holland) are: blunt, harsh, and rude). We are totally not. We welcome all, in North Holland. We welcome all, in beautiful Amsterdam.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Monday, November 28, 2011

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Monday, November 21, 2011

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Friday, November 18, 2011

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Nearing Winter Sunlight:

Just this past Sunday Amsterdam, looked like a splendor; it's approaching the year's annual end. The smell of sun-dried leaves filled the air as crepuscular rays shined down. This morning while cycling to work, 'salt'–to melt the ice–had been sprinkled on bike paths in my part of the city (and perhaps the whole city). Winter is on its way. And, almost instantaneously, Amsterdam has become freezing cold.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011