29 April 2012


B. held out a twenty, and I reached over with my ten. 

"You can't let him pay," I said. "It's his birthday weekend."

"Her money's no good here," B. retorted. "She's a communist."

I thought the fuel station guy in the orange vest might burst with the force of his laughter. "I've never heard that one before!" he said.

"Heard what?" the young cashier said, as he came up and took B.'s twenty.

"Oh, I just said that her money is no good here," B. said, "because she's a communist."

I handed the cashier my ten and plucked the twenty out of his hand, giving it back to B.

"And it's his birthday weekend," I said. "I'm paying."

Did you know that they make BLT flavored chips? I am mildly repulsed, even though they don't taste that bad.

"How do they make these?" B. asked, sitting down by the river.

"According to the side of the package, they start with potatoes and add the fresh flavors of bacon, tomato, and lettuce," I said.


28 April 2012

Major Work Events

In the first year and a half after I moved to Universe City, I held exactly two Major Work Events that actually happened. (I planned for several more that fell through.)

In the last two weeks alone, I held two Major Work Events. 

Every night, as the janitor made his rounds at 9 pm or so, he would say, "Here late again?" and I would sigh and say, "I'm almost done, really."

And now I am done. Done, done, done. There is nothing left of me. I feel like I was drowning and now I've been washed up on the sand and I'm lying there coughing and gasping, covered in seaweed.

Last night I drank, and today I slept in until noon.

I am trying to remember how to breathe without doing, today. It's strange not to feel the pressure of what I ought to be doing when I sit outside in the sun with my chai, or when I chat with my friend J. over drinks and small plates, or when I stop for a moment to sort the mail.

I feel that background buzz that you feel when you have had so much to do for weeks, and then suddenly it's gone, but your body has forgotten how to exist without stress.

19 April 2012

sugar free

This woman from my fighting class challenged me to not eat sugar for two days, from Monday fighting class to Wednesday fighting class.

I screwed it up first thing Tuesday morning by forgetting and eating some peppermints on my way to a Major Work Event, but then I remembered and abstained.

The good news is that eliminating sugar is a brilliant plan for keeping myself eating healthily. It literally changes my diet completely. I guess I didn't realize that the bulk of my calories were coming from cookies/chocolate/chai/candy.

Oh, candy. How I love thee.

My fighting instructor said that I would feel so very good when I went off sugar, but I don't really. I feel fine. Sometimes I feel hungry, because I would normally fill in my hunger gaps with sugar. Sometimes I feel bored, because when I am working late (as I have every day this week), I want something munch-able.

Mostly, I am just exhausted, but that isn't the fault of the lack of sugar. That is just this week.

I need to keep not eating sugar, but I missed fighting class on Wednesday due to working and today due to exhaustion and so had no check-in with my challenger, and now how long do I continue sugarless here on my unaccountable own? Possibly forever, I suppose, but there is dark chocolate with caramel and sea salt in my desk at work. How long can I maintain no sugar in the face of such temptation?

10 April 2012


It isn't that my body thinks that it is 5:30 am, exactly. It just doesn't think it is 8:30 pm, either. It is very, very confused. It does not sleep by night, nor does it awaken by day.

I'm going to bed now.

05 April 2012


The house that feels like home in the Netherlands is three stories tall. The stairs are steep and curving and narrow in both directions - side to side and front to back. I mostly walk up them on tiptoe and down them with my feet sideways. The lower set of stairs just twists a little, but the second set makes a full 90 degree turn.

I sleep in a little room under the eaves and rafters on the third floor. The only toilet has always been on the first floor.

I don't know why the Dutch so like to have only one toilet in a house, but they do. And it's always in a tiny room with a tiny sink that only has cold water.

During the day, it is great to have the toilet on the ground floor. Statistically, most of one's incidences of needing a toilet are going to occur during waking hours.

But my Dutch family also loves beverages - tea, coffee, juice, Rivela, milk, wine, beer, hot chocolate, anything - and my great uncle and aunt constantly offer them to us. I once kept a running beverage log while I was here, just accepting every beverage I was offered, and the number, I believe, ran to 19. (12? 19? I can't really remember. Over 10. But 19 sounds familiar.)

AND, my Dutch relatives have no qualms about coffee at bedtime. Frankly, I have no qualms about coffee at bedtime either, save one: coffee makes me have to pee.

The problem with needing to pee in the middle of the night when your bedroom is on the third floor and the bathroom is on the first floor of a house with steep, curving, narrow staircases, particularly when you are clumsy, is the high likelihood of falling and dying. Or falling and making a clatter that wakes everyone up. Or falling and damaging yourself and lying helplessly at the bottom of the steep, curving, narrow stairs trying to decide whether to wake everyone up to help you stand up.

(None of those things have happened. But I am very, very careful, no matter how sleepy I am when going down the stairs.)

The situation has, in theory, been alleviated by the installation of a new toilet in the sink/bath room on the second floor, except not, because the new toilet requires pulling a string to get the water flowing, and then waiting a while, and then pushing a button that results in flushing plus a horribly loud noise. Oom C. calls it the spaceship toilet, and it does indeed sound like a rocket at liftoff.

To spare the people sleeping on the second floor, I still stumble all the way down two flights of steep, curving, narrow stairs in the middle of the night.

But today I remembered not to drink coffee after dinner. Maybe that will help.

04 April 2012


The house that is home in the Netherlands is the last section of a row house, the one with side windows as well as back and front, and the side windows overlook what we call the canal. (It is really the Rhine Canal.) Boats pass on the canal. Some are impossibly long and loaded with cargo. Some are luxurious cruise ships. When we see an interesting one, we look at the back to see its flag. "With all the green, that fancy one must be French," Tante D. says. "Jah, see? France."

The train to Amsterdam runs on the other side of the river, and the big shopping mall is there, too. Every time I come to this house, there is more development across the canal, and my aunt mourns it. "Terrible," she says. "It is just terrible." She likes things to stay the same, and rural, but nothing stays the same in the Netherlands, and rural is a dream when so many people live in so small a country.

The farm, the boerderij, where D. and my Oma grew up, no longer has its main farmhouse. I remember it, from the Christmas when I was eight, but it has been demolished, and the canal where my baby great-uncle drowned at age 1 and 1/2 has been moved into the space where the house used to be.

We went to the newly renovated church where my Oma's family had a pew and where my sister was baptized in 1987. The old pews with their are still there, on the sides, and the middle is full of new, bright chairs. The graveyard is still there, at the back. We took the same photos we always take: the four children in one grave, the one child and two parents in the other.

The three little ones in the same grave died of diseases that penicillin would have cured. Their brother tells my mom and me that the doctor had the penicillin in his bag when the last one was sick, but the government had not yet approved its use. Or they had, but he didn't know that yet.

The nearly-ten year old G.P. was hit by a car three days before his tenth birthday.

His littlest brother, the one who drowned in the canal, has the same name, and was born five months after he died. The younger G.P. is buried in a around the corner of the seashelled path, in a grave with his parents, even though they died four decades after him. Maybe four children is the limit for one grave.

I cannot imagine it. The sorrow echoes even sixty and seventy years later.

03 April 2012


The fire is burning, and my Tante D. said to me, "I know what you will do. I know how you like to pull this chair up to the fire and sit with your feet there." On the hearth, she means, and she is right.

The boats pass on the canal outside, as they have from time immemorial, and the tea flows unceasingly.

This house is home, here.

We have seen the city and the country, these last few days. We wandered through canals and tall houses, as one does. We walked on the beach of the North Sea. We strolled through flower gardens.

"How long has it been since you have been out on the town?" I asked my mom, as we crossed the Leidseplein at night.

"A very long time," she said.

And we drank hot chocolate in a bar amongst the young and partying.