Sunday, August 13, 2017

Lets Get Lost – from Den Haag to Amsterdam to Home – August 3

Chet's last resting place at our hotel in Amsterdam.

Caroline in Den Haag, number two at Mauritshuis.

Let's get lost
Lost in each other's arms
Let's get lost
Let them send out alarms
And though they'll think us rather rude
Let's tell the world we're in that crazy mood
Lets get lost – Chet Baker

We woke up in perfect quiet.  Looking out the window at the sky, we drank coffee knowing the next day we would be rushing to catch a 915 AM flight to the USA.  This would be our last quiet moment for a while and we all knew it.  So we sat in bed and listened to the waves and seagulls, looking at the birds fly in the distance. Birds seem to be everywhere here.  The sound of the water soothes in countless ways. So, we let it soothe and calm us, before the last day of the journey began.
By 9 AM, I ran down to the beach, jogging with the birds and dog walkers.  Clouds filled the sky but it didn’t matter. The water and sand felt refreshing on my feet.  The day before I worked through my next story on the beach.  Contracts for a novel and a memoir secured as we hiked, it had already been a productive summer.  And the next year would be time to write and breathe and enjoy.  Stories give my life purpose.  There always has to be a next chapter.  When I can’t find one, I imagine walking out into the waves and oblivion, going back to the sea.
When I have another chapter to write and live, it feels worthwhile and purposeful. Its an odd feeling going home to being a full professor.  There are no more steps to climb, just more living to do.  So I’m writing my novel and stories, teaching and bringing up kids and organizing.  In between all that we had one last day to travel before our seven weeks on the road would end.
So everyone packed our backpacks, now weighed down with post-hiking spoils from our trail across France, Austria, Hungry, Poland, Czech Republic, and Holland.
Before we headed out, we went back to the beach for a breakfast at a beach restaurant called Patagonia.  A fire was burning, the place had a rustic vibe.
“Are you guys hikers?” the our waiter asked, greeting us.
“Where have you been?”
We chatted for a while.  He told us, he’d just finished the Santa Cruz trail in Peru and recommended it highly.  His other favorite in Chile.
“Could the kids do those?”
“Easily,” he continued. “Only a five-day hike.”
There is a world of places to visit. This is our last trip to Europe for a while so we’ve really enjoyed it.
It is time for something different – Asia, Latin America, Africa – there are so many other places we need to explore, so many other beaches to enjoy.
Finishing, we made our way to Mauritshuis, a museum in the Hague for one more afternoon of the Dutch Masters, Vermeer, Rembrandt, Jan Steen, the museum was teeming with gems. My favorites were by William van Haecht and Henrick Avercamp.
Number two and I walked together, chatting about the art and her novel about Sesi, the reluctant queen of the Austro Hungarian Empire.
And kept on moving, strolling through the Hague and grabbing the next train for a final night in Amsterdam.
Caroline had booked us a room at the Prins Hendricks, a hotel across from the Central Station and St Nichols Church.  Walking in, I saw several photographs of the jazz musician Chet Baker and a plaque.  I started to put the pieces together.
“Why all the Chet Baker stuff?” I asked.
“Walk outside with me,” smiled one of the hotel staff finishing his shift.
“He died right here,” the amiable gentleman smiled, pointing up to the roof,  “He took one last puff on the roof, stumbled, and down he fell.  In 1988, we had some poles down here pointing up.  He fell on them.   Now we have musicians from around the world, who come to stay in the room where he stayed.”
“Dad, you are not allowed to smoke on the roof,” number one counseled after I told her the story.
I have never smoked in Amsterdam.   One doesn’t really have to, as the smell of pot is everywhere.  
Getting lost in Amsterdam is always fun, even without a puff.
It was now 315.  The girls were going to go for a bite. I wanted to see a bit more art before our adventure ended.
So I got a cab over.
“Where are you from?” the taxi asked.
“Brooklyn, NY.”
“I wanna go to New York.  But I’m afraid I’d never come back.” 
“I feel the same way about here.”
“I wish I could speak like New Yorkers,” he gushed, doing his best De Nero accent, covering his Bombay accent.
“How many languages do you speak?”
He listed five or six before English.
“I only have a ten so tell me when we are close if you could?”
“My friend.  I get you to the museum with however much money you have.”
So he drove and we talked.
“Here you are, the Hermitage.”
“Peace in the Middle East,” I fish bumped him.
“Peace in the whole world.  God knows we need it,” he followed. “
“I agree.”
He let me take his picture. But only after he put on his glasses.  
I ran inside, taking in exhibits of outsider art, Dutch Portraits and a historic review of the last tsar in Russia, “1917 Romanovs & Revolution.”  The Monarchy of Russia lingered well into the 20th century. The show highlighted those last years, the political persecution of Dostoevsky, his imprisonment, the music of Tchaikovsky, the indifference of Tsar Nicholas, his beautiful family, their advisor Rasputin, the 1905 and later 1917 revolutions, and subsequent murder of the family.
“You’ll have to hurry if you want to see all three shows,” noted the man who sold me tickets.
“I can do it.”
So I rushed through the show, “Portrait Gallery of the Golden Age” highlighting the intelligence of the Dutch to build a city around water, instead of trying to suppress or hide from the water.
The outsider show highlighted the collective talent of those thought to have lost their minds. Its never easy.  But the stories of those in the asylums are worth witnessing over and over again, the acknowledgement of the limits of reason are worth investigating and witnessing.
Finishing the show, Caroline arranged to meet.
But not after we all strolled, between the markets and anarchist bookshops, the red lights of ladies catering to their clientele, blue lights for trannies, cafes, sex shops, rainbow flags, gay bars, beers, pink ribbons, music, and drinkers hanging out along the canals.
Caroline and the girls and I met outside the hotel for a pink and dinner.
They told me about their afternoon.  
“Dad, I saw a rainbow strap on,” reported Number Two, after walking through the right light district to get to the hotel.
“We saw it all,” smiled number one.
I remember being a little shocked the first time I strolled through there.
We’d eat and wander through the gay, puling streets of Amsterdam for hours, before making our way to bed.
I slept for a while. But the night kept on pouring into our room.
“I don’t want to leave,” I told Caroline earlier in the day.
But its ok to go home.
Some Brits made their way up the spiral staircase across from our room, screaming.
We’d travel in a few hours, making our way back to the USA, back to our life. But the road is life too.  And in this case, it was a good one in which to get lost for a while, before coming back to the crazy old USA.

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