Van Gogh and the Musicheads


“Nothing happens in my world. If something happens at my party, at least I can gossip!”
“Do you feel discrimination often?”
“Sometimes. I usually ignore it. Some of it sticks.”

“Horses startle themselves on purpose.”
“They must have a short memory!”
“I slap myself sometimes.”

There were more Americans than Dutch at the barbeque, but Juriaan insisted he’s not into all things American, he just happens to know some of us. I had to meet him twice because I’d forgotten about the first time. “Girlfriend, that was only half-an-hour ago! You came in, huddled over in the corner looking all scared, so I thought I’d come over and say hello.” Vaguely, slowly, the neurons of short-term recall reconstructed the memory . . . he had that foreign-sounding name, right? and no wonder, then, that he looked familiar… he hates political crap but has quite solid political views: “I have my own party.”

I had three encounters with characteristic Dutch brusqueness yesterday. It crossed my mind that the Dutch attitude is a bit like Black American cool, especially as evidenced in rap, an aggressive kind of presence. I think I could get used to it pretty quickly, it doesn’t seem too far removed from American Deaf directness, although perhaps a bit more physically embodied. The moments (enhanced by special intercultural commentary provided by my co-sojourners in Dutchland) helped me gain perspective on a difficult encounter during fieldwork last year.
After re-discovering the fact that all shops close at six pm (expletives deleted) and watching small jets of water spurt out of recessed spigots to clean the roads, I was informed that there are two things the Dutch have not figured out:

  1. short words
  2. bicycle theft

We were looking for some straat, reminiscing about Michael Jackson. (Did you know he had a patent that helped him defy gravity in Smooth Criminal?) We finally arrived to “one of the finest locations in Amsterdam,” Renee & Paul’s rooftop patio. Angie, in un-MJ-like form, explained how she managed to go for a bicycle ride without causing an accident but still acquired tread marks on her clothing. The accident-prone side of her character is not displayed in the portrait Renee painted, although mine was demonstrated when I forgot that I was drinking water from a glass instead of a bottle, missed my mouth and poured water down the front of my shirt and all over the floor (with “Loser” playing in the background). Steven described the local protocol for beer distribution and replacement, and Dustin gave several anecdotes illustrating “there’s something wrong with Brussels.” “The EU thing?” Juriaan inquired. “That too,” Dustin said, but most of his stories involved police corruption. “The Belgian police are notorious for corruption,” Juriaan agreed.

I was feeling a bit out of place. Angie and her husband had just flown over from Colorado for the weekend. In a private jet, I wondered? Later, I realized maybe they grabbed seats on a commercial flight as an employment perk from her airline industry job. Several tunes from the Rolling Stones roared out of the bedroom, enlivening the quite comfortable social atmosphere. In climate terms, the evening was absolutely perfect. The temperature was warm (not at all hot), the sky a soft blue with puffy white cumulus clouds scattered about. Was it someone’s birthday? Juriaan was arguing to only mark the decades: 40, 50, 60 . . . Michelle and I talked about time compression – when you have so many experiences in such a short time that it takes awhile to unpack and sort them out… and I (in the cultural/critical part of my brain, thought) of course, if everyone just keeps partying then the time for reflection can be postponed indefinitely….

“Wait a minute, what does it mean, ally?”
“It means friend; I’m on your side.”
“Or a dark alley, depending on your interpretation.”
“You could be the author of many people’s misfortunes!”
“Missed fortunes? Mixed fortunes?”
“I’ll have to read to see if I made the cut!”

Everyone (who speaks with me and gives permission) makes the cut. 🙂
I’ve been to so many parties – not just over the last year, but also back in the day of my late twenties and early thirties. I wasn’t fully conscious yet. “Get up, stand up, don’t give up the fight!” Conversation moved on to gender-based dress codes (girls = glamour, boys = whatever). My new look? Terrifying. “Let’s get together and be all right.” “What did you do with your mullet?” Smuggled it into the European Parliament on the head of a UMass teddy bear!
Internet-based communication was also a topic: you can’t get away anymore – Facebook, MySpace, two email addresses . . . there’s no place to hide. Blogs!? In my delusional state, I kept giggling to myself, imagining new acquaintances reading this and wondering where did she come from? Who let her in?! I do not know Sign Nepali but Lava and me go way back to the time when bowling saved my life. I felt like dancing last night but was feeling self-conscious: beyond the desire to enjoy each other’s company (which I share!), I also couldn’t help but wonder: are you safe, do you care, do you want to be part of something bigger? Or are you trapped in the cynicism that so many smart people feel about the way we (through government and big business) continue to hurtle towards planetary damage? I know tone is hard to read in this print-only medium, so I can only ask that you be generous in interpreting my intentions. I want to be invited back, to belong in the circle of friends, and . . . we really do have a crisis to address and resolve.

Lava: “I’ve seen what you’ve been posting on Facebook. It’s really gotten to you, hasn’t it?”
Steph: “Yep, I see that expression, those rolling eyes – she’s gone over the edge!”
Lava: “You can do more! It’s all in your head!”
Steph: “I’ve had enough!”
Lava: “Ah Steph, when are you going to learn?”

Hmmmm. Maybe when you join me? 😉
Come on, it’s really time to Stop It!
(Take out the “really.”)

3 thoughts on “Van Gogh and the Musicheads”

  1. “What did you do with your mullet?” Smuggled it into the European Parliament on the head of a UMass teddy bear!” — Love it! 🙂

  2. hi steph! You are an amazing blogger! Funny to read about our party on the roof the 26th. Great to have you guys over. Enjoy your travels, and keep on the blog! Bye, x Renee

  3. One of my former students asks where I came up with that one about the mullet. The best ideas always build on other people’s flashes of inspiration, don’t they?! 😉
    Thanks again for hosting us Renee, you created a wonderful sense of welcome.

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