On the lam from the ‘Dam:
Just returned from a fantastic vacation with Jody Gnant in Amsterdam. After seven days of fun and (most recently) almost 20 hours of globe traversing, I’ve come to some realizations. Now, a good professional writer will tell you that the grit of any story is in the details. But a good professor of psychology will tell you that “brevity is the soul of genius.” I will attempt to give both grit andgenius in the blog entry that follows, but can promise neither in my current, frazzled state-of-mind. So let’s start with my realizations about some clichés:
“There’s no place like home.”
That is certainly true. But just because a place is like no other place, that doesn’t particularly mean it’s better than any other place. Amsterdam is an amazing city for many, many reasons. People seem to focus on those “tourist attractions” in the ‘Dam that stem from the city’s more lenient legal system about certain things, but there’s so much more to the city than that.
Art and music lovers, in particular, are drawn to the city, because it’s a mecca of international creative expression. On one corner, there might be a Parisian busker playing “Red, Red Wine” on an upright bass. On another corner, there might be a Dutch portrait artist with a small studio set up. Another corner might play host to an Indonesian flute player who’s placed her tip jar in front of her very cute dog.
And then there are the museums: Rijksmuseum, Rembrandt House, the Anne Frank House, the Van Gogh Museum – plus tons of shopping, restaurants, canal cruises, etc. So yeah – there’s no place like home, but there’s no place like Amsterdam, either. My goal is get Jody some gigs in Amsterdam and other places in Europe, because I’ve found that by and large, the audience for pop music (and singer-songwriters in particular) is much larger there, and people actively seek out new music.
When Jody gave one of her CDs to the clerk at one of the clothing stores on Nieuwdijk, the clerk and her friends looked genuinely interested in the music and happy to have a free CD. And not a single one of them mispronounced Jody’s last name. Jody’s heritage comes from European countries and she was happy to be “in ze fatherland” in Germany.
The fact that Jody tends to sleep all day and be up all night in the states makes me think that she’s just perpetually on European time. And I think Europe is a much better breakout market for Jody’s criminally underheard music than the U.S., where the market is flooded with so much blasé crap and consumers are sheep-herded and spoon-fed mediocrity.
“Home is where the heart is.”
Yep. It’s also where the bills, the jobs, and the everyday worries we go on vacation to escape are. Jody and I both needed this vacation for various reasons, and I would argue that while “home is where the heart is,” you can make anywhere you are “home,” and keep your heart with you. Jody and I made ourselves at home there. I think she was a bit taken aback by the Dutch’s lack of talkativeness – it’s not that they’re rude at all; they’re just not super-friendly and they seem to pay more attention to duty than dallying. But Jody took them equally aback with the random acts of kindness that are so intrinsic to her nature. On the outbound flight, we had a layover at O’Hare, where we met a poor young woman who had lost her wallet and been stuck at the airport all day, trying to figure out a way to rent a car or take a bus to her grandma’s house, with no money or ID. Upon hearing this, Jody didn’t hesitate to find out how much bus fare would cost and give it to the girl. In Amsterdam, Jody gave a girl on the street a whole cup of French fries because she didn’t like the mayo that was slathered all over them. She went out of her way to try to find somebody at Central Station who could use her bus ticket because she was done with it. She gave our friends on the train ride from Dusseldorf to Amsterdam a CD for each of them. She gave a police officer at the Philadelphia airport a bunch of hand and toe warmers.
And we made new friends. I got to meet Andrew from tradingnothing.com, who was just a great guy and so much fun to hang out with. The stuffed monkey he brought with him provided the most entertaining dinner I’ve ever had – the staff at the Italian restaurant where we ate, Peppino, fell in love with the monkey and ultimately traded Andrew a bottle of Chianti and four shots of Italian whiskey for the pillowed primate. We also met a Dutch-Irishman named Duncan at the train station in Dusseldorf (he actually helped to prevent us from getting on the wrong train), and got to spend all day Thursday with him as well. We had breakfast, we took a brief boat cruise, we went to the Anne Frank House, we walked around the park behind the Rijksmuseum, we had dinner, and we took lots of pictures.
So yeah. It was like home. Maybe even a little better.
“You can’t take it with you.”
Oh yes, you can (unless it’s liquid in a container that’s more than three ounces in your carry-on luggage). We bought plenty of stuff and took it with us. Jody bought some killer clothes at this place called Punky Fashion, and I had the joy of watching her try on outfits for almost two hours (no, I’m not being sarcastic; it really was a joy). I also bought a couple of things there. Dusseldorf had great shopping, too – that’s where I bought three pairs of shoes. I got two funky pairs of Converse high-tops (one’s a glittery blue paisley pattern, the other pair has skulls on them) and the ugliest Crocs I’ve ever seen. The color is a splatter-pattern mix of puse and dark blue, and there are Spiderman and robot buttons on them. They are sooo ugly. I love them. I figure if I’m gonna buy shoes in Dusseldorf, they should be striking enough – for better or worse – to be a catalyst of conversation back home (i.e., “What the hell are you wearing on your feet?) As soon as someone asks me that, they’ll get a great story about a day in Dusseldorf.
“You can never go home again.”
My interpretation of this cliché is two-fold. On one hand, I see the truth in that statement as an abstract expression. So many people think of “home” as a sedentary place, a bricks-and-mortar (or drywall-and-chicken-wire) building where they put all their stuff and sleep at night. But if one views “home” in an abstract sense, as in feeling at home and having a sense of comfort and safety, then “home” is not a stationary, concrete thing. It is a feeling, a state of being, and therefore, it is transitory and mutable. So you can’t really go “home again” if “home” is always changing.
But alas, I live in the literal world, and not only can I go home again, but I kinda had to come home again. If I had my druthers (and more money), I’d still be in Europe. There’s another popular saying: people need a vacation after their vacations. I’m so down for that, but it ain’t gonna happen. In less than two weeks, I fly to Austin, Texas to begin coverage of the SxSW music festival. Hopefully, Jody will be with me, and there will be more blogs to come – faster this time, too, since we won’t have to hunt down Internet cafes.
That’s it for now. Not quite brief, and not quite genius. But verbosity is the soul of early morning jetlag.
(Check out the fantastic photos Jody took on our trip here).