Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Monday, July 28, 2014

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Becoming Me:

A wave of calm has steadily crest over me; a process the began last weekend. There have been very few moments in my life in which I have detoured from taking a hard choice, when faced with two options that were on par. Very few times have I let systems of reward or punishment lead my choices. I instead follow my reason, my passion, and my heart–all three of which are located in my head; my body’s only along for the ride–it’s the vessel in which I navigate life, and luckily it looks nice. Since the end of the previous year I have been withholding, from many others, a decision given to me by another; a positive decision that will forever change my future. This approval I have been sitting on, until last weekend, in order to timely allow for its arrival into my and thus another’s life. Last week I let this secret out. That soul-lightening experience could have taken many directions; yet having mulled over the subject for so long, nearly every conceivable outcome or outline of the conversation I had already designed in my mind–and so prepared for conversing on this one, highly refined topic I was. Just as a few years ago, when I was also faced with a hard choice–one that would only allow me to go left or right–I then, just as now, chose the more difficult of the two paths before me. And it forever improved my life. It took courage, and conviction. Only last weekend could the decision I had chosen to take years earlier be relayed in full, by forwarding that information onward, in person. It was a hard choice, and a long conversation, but I mustered my self-confidence; indeed I shined. Regarding both of these hard choices–one last weekend and the other nearly three years ago–I'll be forever happy, that I never chose to make reasons for myself to avoid them. So, I've now chosen a new path by adding an extension to my current one. From last weekend forward, life has a new journey for me; one that builds off of and upon where I've already been headed, for 28 years–and it's one that leads in multitudinous directions, its ending point forever unknown. And it will, now that it's laid, enable me to continue making me, into the me I'd even further like to be.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Monday, July 21, 2014

Sunday, July 20, 2014

I am Amsterdam:

Last night I fell asleep dreaming in Dutch–a first for me. I had spent most of the day in hanseatic-infused Deventer, conversing about everything and nothing, while the summer sun illuminated the sprawling garden that I was then submerged within. Having spoken in Dutch and having listened to Dutch non-stop for about eight hours; it was the ultimate language immersion–an intimate group of five. The day made me realize that, I do indeed speak Dutch, and quite well at that. No longer do I sit on the edge of my seat waiting with baited breath for each word to descend from the mouths of others. Oppositely, I instead sit back, relax, and listen with delight, knowing that, I'm present; I'm here; I'm aware of what's happening. My newfound status as a nearly fluent speaker of Dutch has caught me by surprise. It's not as if a switch has suddenly flipped, and the world of the Dutch language has unraveled before and around me. Rather, I've been learning, practicing, absorbing, and internally building my language skills, more or less, since I arrived in Amsterdam. The problem has always been connecting the newly acquired communication knowledge in my brain, with my tongue. Years went by without me being fully able to express myself to others, in Dutch. I sat in a limbo between Dutch-ness and English-ness, or more appropriately, American-ness. This gap between the mind and the tongue; it affects nearly all aspects of one's life during such stages of language learning. How frustrating not to be able to speak, correctly, to express a desire, a wish, a need, a hope, a dream. And yet how interesting, to now see that six years in the Netherlands was the turning point at which I wholeheartedly internalized the effects it has had on my identity. And yet perhaps none of this is true. Maybe, just maybe, I subconsciously kept myself from acquiring fluent Dutch. After all, when one is on the outside, looking inward is a delight; everything is new and nothing is left overlooked. Yet once on the inside, I'm learning, it's possible to both belong and to not belong; to be accepted and yet still be different; to be 'one of us', and yet not. I like that. It means that there's space for me in the Netherlands, as crowded as the country already is. This past week I received a letter–on behalf of the King Willem-Alexander–that states that my naturalization request has been approved. After six years of disconcerting experiences that have enlightened me as to the multitude of the ways in which one can be–and see–in the world, a new calm has overcome me: I am now Dutch. And I am Amsterdam.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Friday, July 18, 2014

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

On the Streets of Haarlem:

On the streets of Haarlem: a city whose location so near to both Amsterdam and the Atlantic Ocean, is so seminal to its rich history. Composed of hues that recall all shades of brick–tans, auburns, maroons, and browns–so much of the city's architectural ornament is accented with dashes of patinated copper or gilded trim. In existence since mediaeval times, the city has nearly always played a prominent role within North Holland and its history. Its center square is occupied by the enormous and aptly titled Grote Kerk (or, ‘The Big Church’, in English)–which has even been painted by Gerrit Berckheyde. And, the mediaeval quarters situated amongst the church's shadows often reveal the techniques of their construction, via their exposed bricks walls, most of which line tiny alleyways–or steegjes–with others abutting neighboring buildings. Haarlem found its footing during the Renaissance slightly before Amsterdam did, and so its stock of buildings from the 1500s and the early 1600s show more similarities with Netherlandish architecture, than that of, say, Amsterdam’s architecture. Specifically, the fluidity of Haarlem’s building's from this time trace their influences back to the flamboyant and bravant structures that were then being designed and constructed in the Southern Netherlands, in cities such as Antwerp. And so Haarlem is, in some ways–and in many others not–very different than Amsterdam. For a city its size (population about 155,000 people), its contributions to the history of Dutch art cannot be underestimated, so pivotal it was, as a hinge between the Catholic Southern- and the Protestant Northern-Netherlands. Not to mention Frans Hals; with his lucidly treated brush strokes, which since have been so readily absorbed by other painters in style. All that is very nice. But my favorite part of Haarlem, I must admit, is its close proximity, to the beach.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Monday, July 14, 2014

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Guggenheim Museum, at the Cobra Museum:

Unlike the great Dutch painters from centuries past–with their meticulous detail to the streams and shadows of natural light, that ephemeral charlatan–the Abstract Expressionist painters, active mostly during the 1940-60s, were concerned with emotion, color, and a celebration of the painter's canvas as an arena in which to play. Originally housed within the S.R Guggenheim Museum, in Manhattan, on the edge of Central Park, a treasure trove of paintings from this period–celebrating play–has, by hap stance, found its way to North Holland. Sited in the center of Amstelveen, on the southwestern edge of Amsterdam, the Cobra Museum is currently exhibiting an impressive selection of Abstract Expressionist artworks, at ‘From the Guggenheim Collection to the Cobra Museum Amstelveen’, on display until August 31st, 2014. Lesser known than the Rijksmuseum, and as distinguished in its importance to the canon of Dutch art history; the Cobra Museum is named for an art movement whose members were, more or less, the European counterpoint to the New York City based Abstract Expressionists, such as Jackson Pollock. Cobra is an acronym derived from Copenhagen, Brussels, Amsterdam–these are the cities in which those painters worked. Last week I was invited to dine at Le Petit Cobra, an intimate pop-up restaurant nestled within Cobra's permanent collection, on the museum's ground floor. The paintings on exhibit from the Guggenheim are located on the floor above. And so I dined amongst canvases painted decades ago, from the Cobra’s collection–together they encircled the dining space, lending to it a backdrop of explosive color. It was a social, special dinner, on a lusciously-lovely and crisp summer evening; the type of summer day during which, everywhere I look, all I see is gorgeousness. It was the paintings from the Guggenheim that struck a chord within me, as compared to those of the Cobra's permanent collection; this more than likely has to do with the fact that the paintings from the former institution are now in the Netherlands, and are thus no longer very near to Central Park. The presence of these paintings before me that night was not ephemeral–memories of their characteristics are now imprinted on my mind. They demanded my attention, that night, these paintings, and few sculptures. They begged to be mulled over, over and over again. Numerous works within the exhibition elicited great excitement within me; and yet perhaps they speak of equal, less, or more volume to other onlookers, so subjective and abstract as they are. As the vibrant gold-hued Northern European sunlight set upon the museum that night, it streamed through the double heighted windows of the museum’s upper story, streaking the floor of the exhibition space, as the visiting curator provided insight into a number of select canvases. Emphasized during the commentary was that there is no right answer as to the true meaning of these artworks; they are all meant to be subjectively interpreted, and emotionally provocative. Standing alone in the exhibition space, silently gazing straight into Jackson Pollock’s 'Number 18', with the last of the day’s sunlight fading fast, and no one waiting behind me to look at this humble painting, after I left, is a moment within my relationship to art and its history that I'll forever tightly cherish. It's lovely, that the spirit of mid-twentieth century Manhattan has temporarily taken up residence so near to Amsterdam.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Monday, July 7, 2014