Work Work Work
My down time is over for now. Well, that’s not true, day after tomorrow is a day off too. I’m heading up the road to a town called Leiden for a show tonight. I was in Leiden either a year ago or two years ago, i can’t remember. It was at another time when I had days off in Holland, and I had decided I wanted to see another canal city with a whole lot fewer Americans. Beautiful place. So today I’m going to cab back to Central Station and take an early afternoon train, and I’m even going to stay in the same hotel. There’s a bar on the other side of the canal that I like. My old friend William is meeting me up there too. I don’t recall what year I met William, but it was awhile back. Probably early 90s. Bob Saporiti and I were traveling together as we were apt to do back then, and he and William were buddies. We used to hang at the Nightwatch and drink schnapps and get our bartender friend Cor to do magic tricks behind the bar. He had one that was sort of a three-card monte thing, where you’re trying to guess which cup has the olive under it, and when you were finally good and confused he’d lift up the cup and there would be a damn lime there. It was a real crowd pleaser. I went to see those guys last night and the night before too. Cor, Nuri, Michel and Roger. Roger is the new guy. He’s only been there 15 years. When Dustin was in his teens I took him there, bought him a Heineken, first beer I ever bought the lad. Same thing for Savannah. Me and her watched the World Cup there over a few days and nights. Never got to bring Ada here, which is a shame. She would love it.
That’s one thing about this town. When you leave and stay gone for a year or two, you can come back and everything is just about where you left it. Even the little shops where you can buy cheap wine and strong cheese and fruit and good bread, they don’t come and go, they stay. I like that.
The last two days I’ve gone for long aimless walks to parts of town I don’t usually get to, looking for cozy little cafes to eat good Dutch food and drink small glasses of beer and shots of espresso. Every street is lovely, these long stately boulevards, many with a small or broad canal down the middle, and big dignified buildings all brown and gold and fat-bellied on either side. I don’t know if they do this, or did this, with every thing they built way back when, but a typical construction trick was to have the house or building lean out just a little bit. They were taxed according to the size of the footprint, so they tended to build narrow and tall, and as a result the staircases here are famously steep and narrow. I’ve come down some, I swear I turned around and took like a ladder. This made it very difficult, in fact impossible, to get heavy furniture upstairs, and so they leaned the structures out over the sidewalk so that when they hoisted a piano or a sofa up it wouldn’t bang into the walls on the way up or down. Must have been interesting to build that way. I wonder how they did it.
Today I expect to see flowers. The tulips are up. Tomorrow I may go to a giant farm, but I bet we’re going to see some from the train today. The weather has finally turned fine, and I’m sorry to miss the sidewalk cafes back in Amsterdam (I’m on the train now). But, even as wet and chilly as it was over the last few days, I was ok with it. More than ok.
One thing I’m noticing, more and more of those big slow turning three bladed windmills like they make in Denmark. Wind power is happening. The small old windmills which Holland has long been famous for were not to generate power but to control the water. Since so much of this land was claimed from the sea, and the sea is walled off above the land, keeping the water in these canals is vital. [I’m realizing that I don’t yet understand the whole land reclamation thing, so I’m gonna try to read up. future kev.]
By the way, just pulled out of Amsterdam and the train has stopped at the Haarlem Station. New York City was originally New Amsterdam, and of course that’s why the Dutch also had a part of town called Harlem. But you knew that.
Here I sit in Leiden now, waiting for William. I guess he missed his train. He just texted that he’s arriving 45 minutes later than planned. I’m sitting in perhaps the only Starbucks in the world with no wifi. But they do make a mean latte.
My plan is to make it to the hotel and catch a shave, clean up a little and change clothes. I was asked if I wanted to take a boat ride before the show and I automatically said yes. That’s generally the right answer to that question. It’s an open boat and it’s going to be cold. Really cold. Maybe I oughta bag it.
Oh yeah, here’s William.
Last bit before I post this. Took the boat ride, it was wonderful and it came with a history lesson about the town of Leiden, which is just a little older than 1000 years. Romans. Played the gig, next day saw the flowers, unreal, next day another gig in another town, loved it, today we’re off for a two-fer. Some kind of giant record convention somewhere and then a show tonight. I gotta go.