18 July 2005

Impressions of Amsterdam

Casual people. Not studied casual, but straight ahead 'I think I'll go without shoes today' casual.

Language sounds like German being spoken underwater, woman at the ticket counter doesn't really want to help me with language lessons.

'Netherlands' sounds like something out of a fantasy novel.

Crafted - everything - staircases, water glasses, window shade pulleys, laptop stands - crafted, and crafted well.

Central Station crowded and hot and looking out for thieves and was-this-the-station-where? and out on the streets with water everywhere but everywhere and two streets away and you-call-this-a-red-light-district? nothing wrong with a little run down but a little further and dildos in the windows and this-is-what-I-call-a-red-light-district and a little further and look-right dirty-trick! she was in her underwear! can't look right! can't look left! look ahead! safe to look ahead - but can sense women on every side. Another block and naked-in-the-streets! help! too-much-for-me! get-me-out-of-this-place!

Pot everywhere some of it smelling better than any Grateful Dead show pot and some of it the nastiest dirt weed smell and some people on the streets staring at a car like it was the mother-connection-dynamo and passing a mushroom shop looked in and someone caught me by the psychic mane and gave me a calling-out like I haven't felt since the family at the Dead show gave me the old back-of-the-head cerebralellum once over.

Flower market full of bulbs and bulbs and grow-your-own-dope kits.

Street sellers selling art and - one women - beautiful - but beautiful - etchings. So precise - and deep. Each movement of each root - the texture on every leaf - a forest.

And water and water and more pot smells and water and kosher food.
How can you be a Jew in a place like this?

But! The most beautiful synagogue. Dark wood. Stone columns like redwood trees. Fifty feet straight up. The deepest holiest echo. A thousand candles.

The story is told that when they would pray
Friday night in the Spanish-Portuguese Shul,
the non-Jewish caretaker would begin to light
the candles at the beginning of the service,
as the sun was just beginning to set.
As the sun continued to set and the Jews
continued to pray, he would continue to
light the candles.
The light from outside would slowly wane,
and the light from inside would slowly rise,
until when the congregation finished the service
- and the heaven and the earth were finished -
he would finish lighting the candles,
and the world would be filled with light.

And back on the street, back to kosher food - a decent pita, and onward. More canals and more dope smells quit smelling like that! and an amstel beer by a canal as people on bicycles ride by, and more bicycles and bicycles built for two and hitching a ride on a bicycle, and a man playing accordion while people ride through the canals on little sputtering motor boats carrying bicycles.

Ann Frank's statue half a block form the Homo monument. Both outside a church, but no different from the naked women in windows who stand and deliver right across from an old stone church and a bazaar filled with the bizarre and shops providing the ways to get away from your unaltered consciousness.

Is spirituality a motion that runs against reality, or is it an intense experience of reality?

Outside of Amsterdam by train and it's suburban Europe - housing blocks, office buildings stained a dull grey, and train tracks. Farther out it's cows and sheep and more water and somehow there are no prostitutes on the streets of suburbia and it's quiet and nowhere is there that smell that smell that smell, and no one looks like they have subscribed to a reality that's entirely different. It's just suburban Europe - with carefully designed everything and fountains like football fields and trains that run on time.

3 comments:

MC Aryeh said...

LOVE this. "sounds like German being spoken under water," "can't look right! can't look left! look ahead! safe to look ahead," "Is spirituality a motion that runs against reality, or is it an intense experience of reality?" Beautiful words, beautiful thoughts. Hope you make it out of there ok....

Chazarmaveth said...

agreed, a lovely, lovely post. awesome.

The back of the hill said...

German spoken underwater?

As a speaker of the language, I have to object - German sounds like Dutch spoken by a control freak.

;-D