The Week In New Stuff, Episode 3, in which I cook food, play tennis, take photographs, watch films, annoy neighbours and meet interesting new people...
Saturday 23 September :: Daiquiri Party, private residence
Tonight I went to a Daiquiri Party that happened to be located on the ground floor of the house in which I live. At the party, the host, whom we will call Ken, prepared pitcher after pitcher of ice-cold daiquiris containing an array of different fruits. He then proceeded to hand them out to anyone with a mouth. The daiquiris were very strong. Some of the guests became quite intoxicated.
The weather was clement enough for most of the guests to hang out in the garden, where there was a fire and chairs around the fire with people playing musical instruments. Some of those people were Mulligan's Wednesday night regulars, so the music was Irish-themed and of a very high quality.
When it was late enough and I was intoxicated enough and some of the proper musicians had gone home, I also played a few songs. Indeed, guitars were passed back and forth till around 4am and the next day I would feel bad for the neighbours, and no small degree of shame for my part in their inevitable irritation.
Sunday 24 September :: NDSM, Amsterdam Noord
Today I went to see Safari at the Eye, but unusually, the film started bang on time and I was a couple of minutes late. Usually in these circumstances they don't let you in — and rightly so — but today I persuaded the lady who sold me the ticket to let me sneak in quietly, like a mouse wearing socks. But then, when I pushed open the first door to the screening room, I found myself stuck in a tiny ante-room to the cinema, basically a large box in absolute darkness. I could hear the film on the other side of the box, but I couldn't find the handle for the second door to gain access.
I felt around for the handle for what felt like a long time, but was probably less than a minute. I was very conscious of making a noise, and I was feeling increasingly uncomfortable. In the end, I decided that it wasn't to be. Unfortunately, when I decided to leave, I could no longer find the handle for the first door and ended up spending the next four days trapped in a box.
No, that's not true. I did find the handle to the first door. And I left.
Then, as I was in the north of Amsterdam, I decided to explore.
A haven for creativity...
While I was taking a picture of some graffiti, a lady called Anita approached me. Anita is a visual artist who happens to rent the space I was photographing.
She wanted to know if I was one of the urchins responsible for the graffiti. I told her I was not. She said she didn't mind the words in pink but was less keen on the black paint, and the word "VANDALIZED" above her door. I hadn't actually noticed the word "VANDALIZED" till it was pointed out, having been attracted primarily by the words "Change the future please" and "OK!" Now that she'd drawn my attention to the word "VANDALIZED", however, the American spelling cut into me like a switchblade and I commiserated. American is everywhere in Amsterdam. It riddles the communal English tongue like a cancer. Believe me.
Anita and I fell then into conversation about life in the NDSM Wharf and she ended up showing me around the workspaces, which were built into and beneath the huge concrete wedges that once served as launch ramps for the ships they built here after the Second World War.
One day I would like to live here, or close by. NDSM Wharf's slogan, suitably unsnappy, is: "Old shipyard turned creative haven". And you can feel it. There is creativity everywhere. Even in the vandalizm.
Anne Frank by Eduardo Kobra at the NDSM Wharf
"Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy."- Anne Frank
After thanking Anita and saying goodbye, I explored, took more pictures, and came home.
Monday 25 September :: Underground Cinema, De Nieuwe Anita
Tonight I went to a bar that boasts the following: live music, theatre, comedy, DJs, exhibitions, pub quizzes, cocktails and cinema. Although obviously not on the same night. That goes without saying.
Tonight it was cinema night. Underground Cinema with Jeffrey Babcock. The bar is called De Nieuwe Anita. Why? I don't know. I never asked. But next Monday will be the 11th anniversary of its weekly hosting of Underground Cinema. Tonight was another total sell-out (in terms of tickets rather than film choice). Depending on the venue, Underground Cinema is either free or costs a measly two or three euros.
Sex urchin Silvana Mangano — everybody wants her legs...
Tonight was Bitter Rice, a steamy neorealistic melodrama with a Marxist subtext, and two short films by a French director I'd never heard of called Jean Painlevé: Sea Urchins and Liquid Crystals.
Sea Urchins is particularly beautiful and fascinating and is worth tracking down and playing somewhere in your life on a loop. I also enjoyed hearing the story — told by Jeffrey Babcock — of how Jean Painlevé ensured his place in history as the first human being to film a seahorse giving birth.
Tuesday 26 September :: Tennis courts, Gerbrandypark
In the late afternoon I played a little tennis with V-neck in Gerbrandypark, on the courts with the iron nets, which I love. They add an extra frisson of excitement to the game.
There are two courts in Gerbrandypark, both with iron nets, both free. There is also a playground nearby, behind a high bush. Sometimes urchins from the playground come to the tennis courts for mischief. Today I engaged in badinage with a few of them. In Dutch! Infant Dutch badinage! The most scintillating badinage there is. Gerbrandy would be proud.
Then this evening I cooked a meal for my neighbours in a downstairs flat.
Six people, and even though only one and a half of them are Dutch: I AM INTEGRATING.
I made a tomato, olive and caper spaghetti thing that I found at Avant Garde Vegan. It was alright. I mean, nobody puked, but equally, nobody fainted.
Wednesday 27 September :: De Schreeuw, Oosterpark / Taste Before You Waste, Dokhuis Galerie
The murder of Theo Van Gogh came up in Dutch class today, as did the monument erected to commemorate his life in Oosterpark. The monument is called De Schreeuw, as in The Scream, which is slightly annoying to be honest, as there's already a very famous piece of art called De Schreeuw. If I ever get murdered in cold blood and someone insists on commemorating the rollercoaster of achievements of my life with a modernist monument in a park, please insist on my behalf that they give it an original title.
Anyhow, quite by chance, I found myself in Oosterpark a couple of hours later, eating hummus. I was on my way to Taste Before You Waste HQ at the Dokhuis Galerie, and the sun was out. When I remembered that De Schreeuw was also in Oosterpark, I sought it out.
I found it.
Screams within screams within screams within screams...
After which, I made my way to the Dokhuis Galerie and met (and joined) the Taste Before You Waste cookery team. This was my second week helping out here, but my first on the food prep shift. Last week I served.
This weekly dinner event is called Wasteless Wednesday. It consists of a three-course meal made from a range of perfectly edible ingredients that local shops and supermarkets would like to throw away, but that TBYW volunteers collect, cook and serve to hungry people. People come and pay what they feel like paying. There is always a cheap bar and a really excellent atmosphere.
I'll write more about the whole thing elsewhere in more depth, but for the moment, suffice to say, getting involved is a great pleasure and tremendously rewarding.
Plus there's always at least one or two natives, so I get to practise a little Dutch too.
How verbazingwekkend is that?
Thursday 28 September :: Filmtheater Kriterion
Nothing really new today and for that I apologise. However, having worked all day, I went tonight to see Detroit at the Kriterion, and the level of disgust I felt at the might justifiably be described as new.
I fear I'm losing my optimism for the human race. I used to think we'd see sense and pull through, probably right at the last minute, but now I fear the sociopaths are too strong and the fearful and easily manipulated are too numerous, and too fearful.
Still, there's a new series of Curb so, you know, swings and roundabouts.
Friday 29 September :: OBA Cinétol / My Head
This afternoon I went to a new library after Dutch class, to do a little work. It was the OBA Cinétol on Tolstraat if you want to know the truth. And here's where I sat...
And if that's not interesting enough for you, I made a lovely bit of progress with my Dutch today. Specifically, the imperfect tense fell into place, at least theoretically, which is good enough. Something similar happened in Italy with the continuous tenses and I remember it well. It's a wonderful feeling to make progress with a language. It's like unlocking a new level in a video game. Except you don't feel like you're wasting your life.