Monday, October 18, 2010

A Monumentus Year in Amsterdam: Part 1

First: I moved out of Westerpark in February. I couldn't have been more sad to leave the West of Amsterdam. Westerpark is an interesting area, and when I first moved there I couldn't help but feel as if its importance or implicit impact on the city was of any interest to anyone. And was I totally wrong about that. Wrong indeed. I was told that many people my age would love to live in Westerpark. Dutch people too. I managed to–at a low cost–and humbled my days away during 2009 lying on my living room floor, staring out my windows while looking out at the clouds rolling by above (as they tend to do in Holland), and seagulls sang their song in the distance whilst soaring over the nearby, out of site canal. Westerpark is beautiful and I highly recommend it to anyone. After I realized how important the area is in terms of cultural hub, I began to fully appreciate my new home. The area is finishing up its last bits of gentrification from the late 1990s and early 2000s–putting on the finishing touches. The area is home to an interesting, diverse and pretty safe bunch. There are great trams connections, and more importantly, Westerpark itself.

It opened in 2003–with the Westergasfabriek as its anchor–and the park is complimented with beautiful soccer fields, a cinema, running paths, a bit of rather fenced-in-and-lined-up 'nature' (as most Dutch nature is), and some very fine terraces–and even a stream that you can pitch a blanket nearby. If you can, move to Westerpark. It's great. But more importantly, from my house in Westerpark, I was able to walk to the Jordaan from my doorstep, in three minutes. I loved that part. And then I moved to the Jordaan. The Jordaan. Wow–I thought. I had finally arrived. I was getting the chance to live inside a picture perfect fairy tale postcard; the true heart of the city, in my eyes. It is picture-postcard perfect. Fantastic. Every angle is easily captured by camera. It was exciting. But the apartment, was less exciting. But you see, before I lived in Westerpark, I lived in the Old South, or Oud Zuid, neighborhood of Amsterdam.

I would run around Amsterdam, literally all the time, upon moving here in 2008. Oud Zuid was my home turf for my first half year in the city–my running spot in the city. My first neighborhood to call home. The 1920s Brick Expressionist, and locally called the Amsterdam School, architecture gives way to curvaceous sculptures within brick walls, and constantly-carefully placed concrete reliefs. And lots of interesting and distinctly Amsterdam bridges. Oud Zuid is essentially a little island in the south of the city. Literally. And that's how most all of the city is: canals, canals, and more canals, everywhere. Zuidas, the city's business district is on its southern edge, while the city's Olympic Stadium is on the western edge of the neighborhood, and the Olympiaplein, and Beethovenstraat areas are quite lovely, too: the former for playing soccer, the latter for strolling. The Oud Zuid is also home to grand alleys of trees. They are monumentally beautiful. And, all of this (this being the area in general) was built for the 1928 Summer Olympics. The area is a time warp of architecture. This city is an amalgam of loosely clustered buildings, all falling into distinct categories of certain architectural eras.

And so I moved on to another 'cluster' of historical deliciousness–when I moved to the Jordaan, in freezing cold February of 2010. A small and 'cozy', freezing-cold middle-of-the-winter-goodness, apartment, in the heart of it the city. I loved the area. How could one not? The countryside, the Amstel, the Rivierenbuurt, and the Indische Buurt, De Pijp, Vondelpark. The many areas the marathon traverses, are all beautiful. Running is such a sensational sport, and the mental intensity that it takes is my cup of tea. The one thing I love about running is that–no matter what–no one can make you slow down, speed up–or worst of all, stop. It is you and you alone. Even if your legs hurt, you can say–'listen legs nothing is going to make this any easier, and if you can run this, this fast, then don't be a wuss and slow down.' So I push, and push, and push through. And tell myself to never ever give up. I love the mental intensity of individual–yet often times collective sports, like swimming. Beyond running I've been immersing myself into my professional position as of late, and doing some pretty great things with Dutch graphic designers and editors.

I've been cycling around town a lot lately, going to Maastricht a bit too often, reading the days away, cycling around the city at night when it is most beautiful of all. And all in all, generally enjoying being happy and wonderful, and just a bit more sunny eyed then the previous day, each day. Because I know, that when I wake up, the person laying next me–the most beautiful person in the world, will be there next to me when I wake up, to help usher in the brand new day. It is magical. And so, Amsterdam: You continue to inspire, excite and elicit the most inspirational imagery, causing emotive-ness within me always–and continue to serve as the background, for my beautiful beautiful life. I'm looking forward to your winter moths that are about to come. You can really feel it in the air. Amsterdam is becoming cold. And soon Christmas lights will be going up. My hands are already getting cold from cycling. My ears are just a bit too chilled from the wind whisping past them on my bike, too. Winter is on it's way and you can tell. As Carrie Bradshaw says so well in Sex and the City: 'There is a time of year in New York when even before the first leaf falls, you can feel the seasons click. The air is crisp, summer is gone, and for the first time in a long time, you need a blanket on your bed.' The same has just became true of Amsterdam.

Lately, I sometimes feel as, if for some reason, the world has stopped spinning one way and begun to spin in a whole new direction. Because somehow I are no longer spinning with the world, and the world has begun to spin around me, and only because there's someone who means the world to me, enjoying the new rotation, too. I guess that's one of the reasons as to why I haven't been writing lately. I've been too busy moving. And going on holiday to the land of consumerism–America. My place of birth. The other being: that I've been training for the Amsterdam Half Marathon, which took place this past weekend. It was my third time running the race, and this year I ran incredibly well. Not as fast as two years ago, but much faster than last year.

And so, with a newly repaired bike, and a second hand 'city bike' on the way, I am excited about both my bikes, and the winter months to come. I love cycling. I realize I do on a bare minimum–about 9K a day. A minimum. Cycling is my past time. I go on 'cycles to absolutely nowhere', all the time. Most of them at night, as the city can be most stunning then. And speaking of the city of night–if you have noticed, the city of Amsterdam is currently replacing the soft, warm golden glow of the street lamps and lampposts of the inner city, with a more crisp–and most probably–a more as the design industry loves to buzz 'sustainable', alternative lighting form. It definitely has a more crisp feel, and visibility is certainly improved alongside the switch. But that warm, amber glow of a frozen canal in the winter, will never be here again once the switch is complete. Another Amsterdam moment and phase in the history of itself, comes to an ends. And that's the thing about Amsterdam, it has so many faces and sides. So much history and complex connections and contributions to the world. It's simply fascinating. And I love living in–and being a active piece of–this most interesting and spectacular city.

The area in the Jordaan below Rozengracht, is dramatic. Stunning even. Living in the Jordaan feels like living inside of a postcard. Everyday I was able to cycle through one of the world's most beautiful cities on my way to the studio, as I had been doing before I arrived in the Jordaan, in retrospect. But this time it was the seventeenth and eighteenth century clusters I was cycling through–not those years of the 1920s. Or the 1980s. The time difference in architectural styles is dramatically and visually drastically different from the architecture of Oud Zuid. In the Jordaan, it's Renaissance. And it's spectacular. Tourist or no tourist; the Jordaan (below the Rozengracht that is) is super. But the area above Rozengracht is even super-er, a bit more canal filled, with more quaintly clustered rows of houses–and it feels much different than the atmosphere of the Jordaan below Rozengracht. Hands down. The Rozengracht, with all its bakeries, and great Thai food, (and the only family owned Albert Heijn left in the city). For a few (long) months, the Jordaan was my home. Rozengracht is a huge divide in the Western portion of the city. The Jordaan is something I have an emotional commotion with, because at my very first months in the city were spent working at a studio within it. Though, the area can be broken down a bit more than it may seem. Inside a postcard. But then, I went through the whole–very Dutch–process of looking for a house, to buy. And it just so happened to be in the Indische Buurt...