Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Days Begin to Darken...

Summer is clearly over and everyday it gets just a bit colder, here in Amsterdam. This summer was wonderful; sunny skies were not abound, but the season's energy was fluid in the air. Now that summer is over, I feel as if I've moved further forward down this road whose destination will ultimately lead me to who I want to be. Carrie Bradshaw posed a similar thought in an episode of Sex and the City I recently watched: at what point are we who we want to be, and at what point is one able to recognize when that desired self has arrived? Aspiration and glamour, key trademarks of the bourgeoisie, are social tools whose roots took shape in the late eighteenth century, in the Western world. So often can looking forward be glamourous, and thus deceptive; while looking around can seem to be somewhat not-needed. But stopping to take in the surroundings of any given situation, is essential. I find it enlightening to stop, look, absorb, and continue.  Sometimes I even repeat the process, or part of it. I'm a repeater; I repeat activities over and over again. My step is so often instep with the forces around me, that I feel as nothing could slow me down, and everything about life is wonderful. Most often my life always is, and these wonderful days usually take up about 350 of the 356 throughout the course of one year. Happy days; those are the best days. But those six, other days; well, those are not fun. Yesterday was one of these six. The day began with a wonderful run to the Montelbaanstoren and past my beloved flamingos at Artis. Later it began to rain, luckily after I returned home from running. Rain makes Amsterdam even damper, and colder, than it already is in Autumn. After my morning tram ride (because I don't believe in cycling in the rain), the day continued its interestingness. Why is it that sometimes one's qualities can shine, sparkle, and illuminate; while at other times those same qualities can lose their luster, for a quick moment? It's on days like these six, when internal-hurricanes surge, that I must remind myself, what I wrote to myself, in January 2012:

'I am on a path. I'm not sure where that path is leading. But I know I'm destined for great things. And ever since I was young, I've been chasing what it is that I can't see–my future.'

I must not forget to stay true to that path, stay true to myself, and realize that, as the days begin to darken, my life has only just begun. Next week I turn 27, but I'd be happier with 28. Even number are more my style. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Monday, October 29, 2012

Snow in Europe:

Apparently Bavaria is covered in snow at the moment. Snow! That's totally plausible as currently the rains and winds that are blowing throughout the Netherlands are coming from the UK, which is just to the left, as they normally do. But they're also coming from the North right now; as in blowing down from the depths of the Arctic–around where Norway is. Just think, breathing deep, in Amsterdam, at the moment, entails taking the chilled Norwegian air into one's lungs. A little bit of Norway in Amsterdam: how refreshing.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Thinking about: Home

I sit here, in slightly damp and overtly dreary Amsterdam; waiting; watching; thinking. So often do I look forward, when curiously I previously most often looked back. When an anchor is lifted from the ocean floor, it's usually retrieved and placed on deck. But what happens when the anchor's cut loose? Madness! However to dock again!? But the boat will go on, and continue forward on its journey. There might be a record of where the boats been; ephemeral scraps, digital photos, and bountiful memories.

Next week I am returning to my place of birth in this world, and that's always interesting. Especially since my last visit, two years ago, so much has changed, or so I've heard. In honest, the pace of change can be quite slow; socially, politically. But a push forward can help one, or a city, remember its past, while not holding that holy. It seems that Cincinnati is moving forward in the world; a small renaissance of sorts underway in its built environment, as well as its urban spaces and places.

Though buildings can be patched, painted, and purchased by a new generation; social change comes about a bit slower. With change often comes fear, as we are still, as humans, deeply ingrained to avoid novelties–they are a threat. It's easy to romanticize from afar, as I have previously done so often upon my initial relocation across the sea. Romanticism washes away unpolished edges, brushing over once troublesome situations, creating an impressionistic pastel image. That city's pastels, for me, have faded.

More and more do I come to understand my place in European society; culture; family. When separating from a group that one needs to belong to, or wants to belong to, there is a disconnect. No longer part of the group. It's up to me make myself part of any group; receiving in return the opposite amount of energy which I expel, as all energy is equally balanced. Assimilating I am. Yet though below the surface as I grow closer to this group, and my language abilities shape, the fine-graned sands refine.

So comfortable am I on the continent that I harbor no outsider feelings. I belong here as I live here and I live here because I belong here. The path through the woods, out into the scholarly institutions, and then into the continually shrinking globe; resonated, shaped, and enabled erudition of the self, while further positioning that self forward on its journey toward self-less love, expression, and being. My path will never be straight forward, as the off-shoot secret-passageways tempt and seduce.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Friday, October 19, 2012

Indoors vs. Outdoors:

People often express that they’re the most refreshed, most stimulated, when outdoors. But, more often than not, they don’t actually mean it. Rather, people love to be indoors. And, more specifically, they love to be at home. Everyone exults their home. How could we not? It is a refuge and a retreat from the world just beyond the window. Life happens on the street, yet unfolds behind closed doors. This place is a cocoon to collect the emotions, items, and relationships we cherish most. Indoors, we are in control of a room’s look-and-feel; its content. Outdoors, the seasons click slowly as the world continues its cycle. The home we create is an expression of love that nourishes, enriches, and enables us to go forward...

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


I am almost positive that the creative skills I posses are slowly but surely (in reality they are probably developing at lightning speed) refining. I am not an artist in the sense of mastering the paintbrush, or the pencil; yet those two 'traditional' forms of artistic expression are only two of the many tools one can call-upon for use. Lately I have been having flashbacks of my childhood–art classes as a young scholar, a tight-knit family that showered me with love, abundant woodlands, rolling hills, and the most striking thunderstorms on that side of the Mississippi River.

I've just finished reading this delightful article on the topic of glamour, its mythical origins in Los Angeles, and its current state of evolution in a world that's becoming ever more connected. In doing so, the means of producing glamour have become obtainable for more than most, similar to the ways in which digital cameras revolutionized the the business of image making. Yet, at the end of the day, even though the means of producing glamour are more readily available, the techniques going-into glamour's creation are trade-secrets and acquired knowledge held by a select few, alongside with the means that make that glamour-production possible. Similarly, though digital cameras are now more obtainable for many, the technique and expertise needed for the essential understanding of the medium is still a mastery, mastered by only a select few, too–as the public and the media and the publishers all have a hand in this production, and so–only a few can truly call themselves professional. Thus, while most can, say, make images today, the quality of the images made by those without this expertise technical knowledge, will fall far below those who do possess this so distinctive of qualities. Likewise, with glamour and its cultivation.

'At the end of the day, Hollywood was ‘tinsel town’, a showy façade in which the glitter was the substance and the glamour was not backed up by education, culture or breeding.' –Stephen Gundle, Glamour: A History

Monday, October 15, 2012

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Translucent Clouds; Intensive Rains:

A capricious wash of flooding rains has just concluded its creep over Amsterdam, and the sun has once again begun to shine; the clouds above the city are layered and stacked, and yet curiously beautiful, while, further, eerily moving. I am totally into the weather these days. Especially those crazy cumulous Dutch clouds which are never far away, even on the sunniest of days.

Friday, October 12, 2012

The Days Return to Gray:

Autumn's crazy clouds have rolled back into Amsterdam from their resting place over the North Sea, and in doing so have brought with them a large amount of sky-covering capabilities that have since been put to good use. And the sun; it is so low in the sky this time of year, it even feels magical. November is almost here (see; common theme in my life: looking forward) and with that comes my birthday, and crazy to think that in a few years time I'll be 30. How grown up! But of course I already am grown up and very well thought that I was when I was 13 as well, so I guess somethings do not, indeed, change. The mystic surrounding the month of November, for me at least, is an aspect of each year that I revel in. The leaves drop from the trees, everything (where I spent my of my life before moving to Amsterdam, anyways, and here a little bit, too) smells like burnt under-brush (twigs, leaves, clippings and so forth), and the chill in the air undergoes a metamorphosis from crisp to spine-tingling. And further, after November, comes December, and with it a whole other brigade of winter-time seasonal festivities–at least in this hemisphere–which only builds-up anticipation for the days further in the month, those yet to come, which also host celebrations. You see, this time of year is quite elixir-like for many reasons, though each is quite difficult to fully define.

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Fountain at Frederiksplein:

Two weeks ago, whilst idling away my time next to Frederiksplein's fabulous fountain, the sun shined through the clouds, while the water forced itself up and out of the fountains jets–my senses were delighted, in every way possible. Amsterdam doesn't have many fountains, unlike Southern Europe; this is completely understandable, as almost the whole of the city is submersed within water. 

Sunday, October 7, 2012

'Those Small Moments':

Just like Dominique Browning, I too am becoming ever more conscious of 'those small moments' that fill our days, yet that we so often ignore. Thus, if you look for them, are really are everywhere–those small moments of beauty. Such as when the light of the autumn sun shines through the window, and from the comfort of sitting on your couch, touches down on your arms, kissing your cheeks. Moments such as these are abundant in Amsterdam; though I think the warmth of the sun behind a window pane can be found almost everywhere. Which means beauty is all about perspective.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Winter's Clouds, on the Horizon:

I sit outside under the constantly changing rays of sun on this early October autumn day. The sun has literally just returned, as the clouds that were blocking it's rays from kissing my skin, blow further eastwards toward Gelderland. I'm presented with a view over the southern skies of Amsterdam allows the consuming of endless layers of cumulous clouds, recalling compressed yet oversized cotton-balls. Often these same clouds are overtly textured, but other times not, instead having a dark belly of gray softly sweeping the underside of their giant white mass. There's something consumably refreshing about the air in the city this time each year. The sun's light, shining strongly on often cloudless autumn days, dries out the leaves that are just now beginning to fall in-mass from the trees lining both streets and canals, as well as those within the city's parks. A change is coming and you can feel it in the air; Western Europe is at the edge of a tipping point in the planet's rotation, and we European residents are; ushering out autumn, and preparing for the long dark days ahead, when the planet takes its final plunge, bowing down and continuing its spin to say, 'Oh hey and hello there, winter.' Yet, even with all the city's inhabitants scuttling about in warm coats, winter has not arrived and will not arrive for at least a few more weeks. But even if the calendar says winter begins on December 21st, the dark days and endless nights will arrive in mid November in Amsterdam, along with the cold and the bone chilling rain. Though, this blustery rainy-wintery mix can surprisingly be quite refreshing. Life in the Netherlands can be so breathtakingly gorgeous that there's just no way to put it in words. And that's why most people don't bother; instead leaving it to artists to work with the Dutch landscape as the central theme of their work. The landscape here is fascinating for its complexity of tunnels, bridges, and multi level solutions to infrastructure that would, in other cities and countries of this size, seem unthinkable. Yet next to the infrastructural and technological innovation in my adopted homeland, a certain stillness can be found all over the country in pockets and swaths, within the endless polders float across seemingly endless landscapes of pristine agricultural areas, complete with preserved farmhouses (Friesland is especially stunning for this). With no elevation changes, other than the occasional dike in sight, and the endless sky above unfolds unbroken. It's this visual identity that has so profoundly influenced Dutch art, and I love it. So, here's to the cows in the polders, of North Holland, as well as the other remaining eleven provinces, of the Netherlands.

What is it about this tiny city on the North Sea that excites me so much? I'm equally as dedicated to the country that Amsterdam sits within, which is a fabulous place wrapped in endless layers of centuries of historical and cultural output. I'm in love. But perhaps that's also it; if you fall in love with someone new, when you move to a new country, does that make you're affections for that said country stronger? Probably. And by that I mean; probably and totally 100%. But I'm ok with that, as it only makes it easier for me to tuck myself within these esixting layers of history, and by doing so–that is, merging and assimilating into the local culture–I'm also brining my own culture with me, and thus applying it to the Netherlands. In the USA this action is practiced heavily, which is what makes the USA so ethnically diverse in its festivities; foreign-born residents or citizens are encouraged to apply their culture to American culture for a whole new fusion that the masses more often than not embrace as: American-(Insert-Ethnicity Here). A whole new cuisine, or holiday to take-part in, yet again. But this action of application of brought principles and skills is also applied beyond the realm of food, certainly in the USA, and accepted as part of an area in the country's culture, which sometimes spreads to the whole nation. In the Netherlands when something is 'ethnic' is will almost always be labeled in the minds of 'natives' as so–thus, never truly assimilating. I'm not really sure what it is that's American that I bring to Amsterdam; most of today's larger corporations have already done most of the work for me, in terms of material goods. Thus what I can bring to Dutch culture is more than likely going to be communicated through spoken, and sometimes written, word. What American values can I share with the Netherlands? Well, both country's racial history is less than wonderful, but at least the USA acknowledges theirs. The Netherlands, and specifically Amsterdam, has the NINsee, (and even it just closed!), the only 'museum' dedicated to slavery in the country that's never displayed on museum guides and publications published by the city, yet somehow the 'Museum of Bags & Purses' always finds its way onto the publication list. Further, there are lots of art installations in Oosterpark; the only one without a label is the one dedicated to Dutch slavery–this last bit of knowledge you must either infer or guess; how chic!

The clouds here amaze me, and the proximity to the rest of Europe makes me giddy at all times. Driving to Bergen earlier this year might have been the highlight-holiday for some time; and even though I didn't bring a coat to Norway during its seasonal march toward spring, I still loved every bit of it. Though the longer I stay in Netherlands I become more aware of the fact that I really am American, and I don't just mean that because my passport is blue. Rather, I hold the area where I'm from close to my heart; its ancestral inhabitants marks clear, the antebellum relics proudly revitalized and in-use, and the industrial and now post-industrial ruins and re-uses give a lovely character to the edge of the Midwest, which is just west of the Atlantic coast of the USA. But, just in the way paintings of American explorers and their early history excite me, so too do the stories of the Netherlands' endless struggles against the water, as well as the country's adorable gabled brick (and in North Holland, wooden) houses. Moving outside of your 'home' country isn't easy and it isn't for the faint of heart. However, I can't help but feel that with a rather large bank account, moving to a new country would be fabulously easily, yet at the same time be less-rich in its experience precisely due to the lack of 'everyday' experiences and encounters that would be missed if 'everything were arranged'. I very much enjoy living in Amsterdam. At this point I'm not sure that living in the USA would even be easier than it would in the Netherlands. I mean, with who would I even speak Dutch?! These years of lessons; for what? Oh yes, to be able to understand my partner and his family fully–regardless of the continent I find myself on. And besides, what harm can speaking two languages do? It only makes me a bit more exotic, at least in America; perhaps I should go for three someday. French? Politics within the USA, as seen from Western Europe, are really interesting. Of course, the only aspects of the 2012 Presidential Election are all views pumped through the pipeline that is the internet, lacking any sort of verbal one-on-one commentary or chatter from fellow citizens. Living not quite alone, and surrounded my so many people, in the Netherlands. And so, I am really excited to go to the USA for a week at the end so this month. Hello all things American; endless refills, smiles and hellos and thank you's–such manners!

Back in Europe the gray days of October are here and the rain seems to have come down in a constant stream since last week. Amsterdam can be wonderful around this time of year, especially on those rare days when the sun does shine–because then the rooftops of the city, and the many spires atop them, sparkle. The city will soon put up its plastic 'lighting' holiday-decorations that hang above the city's tiny side streets, with a heavy concentration over the 'nine streets' in the Jordaan, as well as above Dam Square. Sometimes they feel cheap, especially after the snow has melted in mid-January/February. But mainly, they make the city look even cuter than it does without them, even if the total collection of decorations doesn't produce the most sophisticated effect–that would perhaps be achieved painting the existing supports of the holiday-decorations a tan-maroonish color, rather than their current white. That way, they would blend in with the tiny houses they're strung perpendicular from, rather than visually popping-out. Either way, tan or white–and perhaps white for the foreseeable future–the holiday-decorations that will soon adorn the city, will be much welcomed by me. Yet, simultaneously in my anticipation, I am pining to jet-off somewhere this holiday. Somewhere with either lots of snow, or a population of millions... so either Oslo, or Stockholm, or somewhere in the Nordic, juxtaposed with, perhaps, London, or Paris. I want beautiful twinkling light and endless streets, and lots of wrought iron. Though, it seems that Amsterdam will be this year's Christmas destination, and that's totally ok with me. Look for pictures of my much beloved yearly-ritual of decorating a wonderfully real-looking artificial Christmas tree, and making it look as it if stepped out of the pages of glossy magazine, or Saks; I've 'got the skills', and I know how to use them. Christmas, bring it on–I'm ready to start baking the seasonal cookies. Autumn; move over.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Michael Beirut's Words of Wisdom:

'Get rid of the things you don't like in your life. If you, each day, think about what you enjoy doing, and do more of that, and less of everything else, you can actually shift your whole mentality and outlook on life.' –Michael Beirut

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Monday, October 1, 2012