Monday, December 30, 2013

Listening to Dutch on London Streets:

Surprisingly, I have overheard quite a few conversations in Dutch whilst strolling through the streets of London; it's sprinkled here and there, and–unsurprisingly–most often the Dutch speaker can (to the trained eye) almost immediately be identified as being from the Netherlands if the time if taken to observe mannerisms, dress, and interactions with others nearby. As I continue my evolution with the Dutch language, I realize that I am a better speaker than I lend myself credit; people understand me and I understand them. However, it's indeed interesting to eavesdrop on Dutch conversations while outside the Netherlands; often the general consensus amongst those speakers is that–obviously–'no one nearby can understand us'. How wrong. Being a non-EU citizen, for a short while longer at least, I was required by the Dutch government to learn the language; they foot the bill, so I put up little protest, although tears were shed during the learning process. And now, reflecting on the last year–at the beginning of which I was informed that I had passed the 'Dutch as a second language' exams (and I say exams, plural, because the examination process is an intense two day affair, indeed)–I can now, and with confidence, say that I am truly bilingual. What a great way to approach 2014; that is, with confidence.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Copper Rocking Chairs:

I am currently in London; a place I've never before visited. London is huge, and in many ways, the exact opposite of magical Amsterdam: it is dirty, sprawling, diverse, and they speak English (which is very welcomed, though it's certainly not continental English, nor North American, either). I have never been to the UK, which is odd considering that I've lived in Europe for about seven years now. Happy to be here, I am. Though, as I just said, it is no Amsterdam. What is wonderful about the city on the eastern edge of the North Sea–Amsterdam–is that it's not really a megapolis; far from; it's a village with the mindset of a global power player–which keeps it fun, interesting, and full of transient faces. I feel as if in London I am constantly commuting–the same act of which happens when traversing Paris, or Madrid, or Berlin, or Manhattan; getting around takes effort. Why not just cycle somewhere, like in Amsterdam? Well, that's possible, but it will take some time, and you'll probably have to fight for your right to be in the street as well, as while dedicated bike lanes are present, they are also a rarity. Amsterdam's scale certainly has something going for it that makes it accessible; oversee-able.

The copper rocking chair above is only one of about six of an ensemble that have been clustered and installed alongside Alexanderkade, on Pieter Vlamingplein, in eastern Amsterdam. They so delightfully allow one to sit, stop, think, and watch the world pass by. These are my favorite types of places and spaces in my city–tucked away while still out in the open, freely in plain sight, yet simultaneously allowing for voyeuristic views. These rocking chairs are oversized and all positioned in animated states of their 'rock', yet none of them do 'rock; they are fixed, steadfast to the ground that they call home. Just like me, or so I'm coming to learn. As they patina, I patina along with them. They have become one of my favorites places in this city: while sitting on any of them, I feel small owing to their oversized status. They remind me that I am just a spec in the world; only one creature among billions of other humans, and countless other living entities, all of which are competing on this planet for air, light, and energy. Yet as these rocking chairs continue to patina, and as their lovely golden-brown depreciates into a subdued shade of emerald, I begin to wonder what they'll look like in 10 years, and if they will be resting in their same location at that time. I wonder the same of myself. I'll have to wait and see.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Northern European Sunlight in December:

On Thursday I had my hairs cut; the act of which is always refreshing. It's as if a whole new you emerges after the hour or so long process is over. I don't have much hair to begin with, as I am male with short-er hair, but the hair that I do have is now sculpted, so that its taper dissolves as my head nears the sky. It had been some time since I had had one–a haircut that is–and I now feel quite sartorial. So symbolic, these haircuts. So, full of potential for metaphors, or so they prove. I happened upon a new hair dresser, and hair dressing space, on Spuistraat in Amsterdam's center, called Wild Romance. They're fabulous people, and they space is fab, too. While, indeed, departing from my former preferred stylist, I opted for a new location, an unknown face (the new stylist), and an unknown space. All so intriguingly delicious and so overtly tempting. So I did it; I left my former stylist behind for a new, unknown yet to me–having so much blind-faith in a pleasant name I picked at random–I now have a new monthly partner in my grooming routines. And I like the way that feels. I most often have my hair cut, about once a month. Yet there is so much that happens in between each. The hum-drum of the everyday is something that, since I knew possible, I try to avoid at all costs in order to transcend it. Though I do stop for 'those small moments', as Dominique Browning so affectionately states: low golden rays of winter sun, a tiny beautiful berry on a coniferous tree, or the modernity of light paths that sweep throughout and illuminate this city's streets from above–these beautiful, healing moments are periods of time that I always allow, to take my breathe away.

Daily life continues to be a swirl of early mornings for me: these days I wake around 6:30 and immediately go for a 5-10K run around Amsterdam, mostly around Flevopark, the Oostelijk Havengebied, Funen Park, and nearby the Plantage–aka the city's zoological gardens. These early morning runs, the experience of which I value so greatly, for some deep unconsciously appreciated way, are so integral now to my daily life that it feels as if I run almost every day, these days. In fact, over these past few weeks I have run almost every day, with perhaps only two or three days of rest. That is terrible for my body, I'm sure. While running yesterday–a run of only 4K–my legs were screaming up at me, from below: 'Abuse!', they shouted, furious toward me for their overuse. And indeed I am slightly exhausted. I must remember to allow my body, and mind, rest. Lately this city seems to have taken on the status of infrastructure; onto which the ever luminous Northern European sunlight is projected throughout the day; the low, early morning, and evening light being the most spectacular. At other times, such as this past Sunday, the sun can be completely blotted out by the cumulous and so distinctively Dutch clouds, which hang so low and are so omnipresent. So much of the horizon can be seen, at almost all times, in the Netherlands; that's what happens when a country has little to few hills. On these lazy winter days, which are full of dark gray, the city slips into its hungover state–it's been more glamorous and seemed much sexier. If only summer were here. But unfortunately it's not; it's the dead of winter.

The solstice had its appearance earlier this week, as the northern hemisphere began its ascendancy toward its lengthier days of sunlight. Because of the Earth's rotations, and the snapping of the seasons–hello, winter!–the sunlight is spectacular. It's just another of the many reasons that I so revel in calling Northern Europe home. Earlier this week, while cycling toward the studio were I spend my weekdays, the views that permeated my vision were quite literally breathtaking. I was cycling over the Toronto Bridge, which crosses over the Amstel–Amsterdam's river and the main body of water that slices through its center–the sky was half filled with clouds, which left just enough room for a slight sliver of the sun's rays to pierce through; the ways in which the reflections from those rays danced and glittered off the façades of the seventeenth century houses that so stately align the river Amstel was, I'm convinced, one of those rare occurrences of natural beauty. It will never happen again, and certainly not in the same way that I previously experienced. It's not very often that the sun, or a building, or even a moment, can tear me from my bike in a vain attempt to capture it through the lens of my camera. Most often when this occurs when I explicitly go cycling, to no where in particular, for the sole purpose of reveling in such moments. All experiences, it would seem, are fleeting; just as Susan Sontag states in 'On Photography'.

In many ways I still feel as if I am learning to grow up. However, according to all standards, I am already grown up. I am an 'adult' and support myself financially; earlier this year I married my love. Perhaps I am, and always will be, young at heart; a little kid deep down, looking out at the world with an insatiable ferociousness, the appetite of my curiosity forever leading me to my next adventure. Yet at the same time, I have changed. I have grown, and I certainly do feel older and wiser. However, more so the latter than the former. Wise beyond my years I am, I have always been told, and have always told myself. Because shouldn't we all think of ourselves as fabulous? If we were to all just go around thinking of our lives as mediocre, or (gasp!)–unfabulous–then what's the point of waking up each day? I overheard myself telling someone–at the very fabulous holiday dinner I attended last Thursday–that, 'I'm not sure where exactly I'm headed. But I know that I'm going in the right direction.' Totally true.

At the fine age of 28–wise and yet young; spirited and yet experienced; hopeful and yet honest and realistically reflective of my abilities. Perhaps all that one can hope for, when going forward, is being confident in the present, knowing where you came from, and knowing where you'd like to go (or are currently going). As I grow, I experience and I learn. I refine and re-polish; I subtract and I add; or I re-add pieces from a previous subtraction. As I grow older I look forward to life more with every day, as I become more conscious of myself, and my rightful place in the home that is the planet Earth. My body and I are also continuing our ever evolving relationship: I love and accept it more and more each day, as reciprocity for its agreeing to let me listen in on a few of its inner workings. Sometimes my body feels very sexy; other times it feels glamorous–often it feels confident and… handsome; other times it feels contorted and unattractive. Though I've come to love it more; it's inseparable from me and me from it. And, this body is the one thing that, no matter what, will never leave me–it and I are forever one. So I better become fully acquainted with it now. And so I have, and continue to do. We are doing just fine. It cares for me and I care for it.

Going forward into 2014 I hope to further bring peace and confidence into the decisions and actions that propel me through life. These are not qualities that I have lost; they have been only dampered throughout periods of this past year. Going forward, with confidence and love as my alibis, I know that 2014 will prove to be resounding to me, just as 2013 proved fruitful beyond all expectations. Perhaps it's just that then: letting go of expectations in order to: 'Go forward confidently, energetically attacking problems, expecting favorable outcomes.' That can't be too difficult, I imagine, and a sudden boost of energy at the beginning of December has increased my eagerness to check off every box on my to-do lists: a reorganization of my life's bundles of 'important' papers recently took place, and all my digital files are now neatly organized and wonderfully out of sight. It is remarkable–how productive I can be sometimes–if I let myself become overtaken with passion for my task at hand. My stamina is strong, and there is confidence within my stride. I must remember to balance the stamina of my actions with the stamina of my voice, so that both are equally as strong. Going forward, in 2014, I am eagerly anticipating the propelling forces that I've brought together in 2013, to enable and sustain my crescendoing future. Going forward, I know there are so many great places, spaces and faces, that are all yet to come. Going into 2104, I am happy.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Friday, November 29, 2013

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Autumnal Hues:

It is stunning to me how long memories can stay planted within our minds: A memory of mine has resurfaced from years ago–its accompanies the discomfortingly fleeting feeling of autumn's air, and it brings to mind cozy sweaters, red wine, coffee, and books. Gorgeously autumnal Amsterdam–it's ushering in autumn. As am I. Amsterdam, with its multitude of layers, is now a cornucopia of color.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Sunsets Above Amsterdam:

Sunsets over the Indische Buurt lend themselves to the spectacular these days, as Amsterdam leans toward winter, now only 27 days away. Beginning around 17:45 and ending only 30 minutes later, the intense rays of sun that burst over the horizon just before they dip beyond its is wondrous in all its beauty–at the end of November. Rather than settling into its hibernaculum, the city's trees and vegetation are instead at their apex of autumnally blended visual splendor. Amsterdam is currently clam before the coming snow storms, and even darker evenings. Which only means: expect more spectacular sunsets during the week ahead.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Glamour and Asia:

For the past year many interests have consumed me; my thoughts have tentacled in multitudinous directions–further inspired by travel. Yet one thought has consumed my every thought–leading me to, somehow, be able to connect all of my thoughts back to this one thought, without much conscious effort. The ideal that's consumed me? Glamour. Better yet; transcending the everyday while trying to get to a more idealized, perfect place.

Glamour is the reason that shoes are so transcending; they elevate you (especially when they are: new and never worn, and of a standard of quality that rightfully commands a high price) above 'the now'; shoes make you levitate when strutting down sidewalks–they make you feel just a bit lighter with each step along the way of your day. Shoes are glamorous; so are sunglasses–they both conceal while they reveal.

Thus these thoughts of mine, which entail leaving the here and now to instead inhabit a world of illusive construct; they are transcending in themselves. Yet a frequent reminder comes to mind often, in which I remember to expel these thoughts–write them on paper, capture them with images, transcribe them, and give them physical form in some way–so that they manifest in reality, readily available for viewing. Should these thoughts remain as only thoughts within my mind, only I will familiarize with their beauty; their seemingly disparate links between subjects compose the unique narrative of my experiences.

Thus I now type them on the screen–reminding myself to express that self with words, the stepping stone footpaths that I lay for myself throughout life; connecting one subject to yet another, and in doing so, opening up doors that I once never knew existed. How one door leads to yet another; how many different performances of life does one encounter? How will I ever know? I won't. So I'll just have to keep on getting up each day, and keep weaving through Amsterdam's city streets–confident in stride when walking; confident in pedal when cycling.

Since returning from Hong Kong and Singapore, I also visited the United States–which is always an adventure; how many bucket sized Coke-Light's can only person really have in one weekend? America was wonderful–it is at once both eerily familiar and strangely foreign. Most items of human interaction in the country, from the media to the customer service, is very… happiness oriented, which is really wonderful for the efficiency and expeditement of that service. But Asia… Asia was very different. There were no super-jumbo sized everything, and the people are more consciously aware of others in public, as opposed to say, Manhattan–where street-crossings can turn into stampedes; it's every man or woman for themselves on that island.

Yet in Asia this is not so–at least not in Hong Kong and certainly not in Singapore. In Hong Kong a layer of accessibility is presented to the foreigner who speaks English; they formerly ruled the island, transferring it to Beijing in 1997. The buildings are packed on Hong Kong Island in a very dense positioning, and they all face the water in front of them, on the north shore; thus south facing sunlight is an interesting point to take note of when visiting. Otherwise, the city was fabulous–wonderfully friendly people; interesting New Territories; and public transportation options that include boats and trolleys remnant of those in San Francisco.

Singapore felt like a controlled state at its finest; it shined and its people knew, I deduced, that they were living within a slight state of exception within their tropical surroundings. Yet nothing ever is what it seems; Singapore is no exception. It surprised, delighted, and induced awe through its sheer diversity of languages, people, subcultures, and exceptionally superb-and-clean public transportation, which trumps that of Manhattan any day. The open people, easy of movement, and diversity of cultures proved for the country to be a highlight of that travel-trip; everywhere was texture just waiting to be devoured with sight, and moments were abound that included explosions of tropical hued color.

It is odd… I have so much to say yet cannot. I am undergoing a period of deeply rooted transformation. I know it; I can feel it.

Friday, November 15, 2013

On the Streets of Hong Kong Island:

Walking through the streets of Hong Kong Island: whose elevated footpaths criss-cross and connect at various heights and levels above the city below; a feeling of lightness permeated while unfamiliar Cantonese invaded sight, surrounded within a swirl of neon lights–signage layered above sidewalks with many shops neatly tucked in narrow storefronts, one after the next; a layer of space exaggerated by the forced perspective created by curves that take these same streets up and down and around hills in every direction–a flood of fog rolls over the city and the city sleeps below; palms wave on tiny rooftops of the towers whose heights soar behind any expectation of such slender towers, all densely built on the northern edge of Hong Kong Island.

Friday, November 8, 2013

On Emotions:

Guilt: I did not meet your moral standards and expectations,
Shame: I did not meet my own standards of behavior, and
Contempt: you did not meet my moral standards and expectations.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013