I had been assured by a number of people that the Dutch are difficult to get to know and have no reason to want to know American travelers. This is, from my experience, bullshit. One guy, who replied to the online journal on Joel’s website (as opposed to the Livejournal site, which I’m not sure is working), was from Holland and wanted to help me with the finer points of Dutch culture that had so far mystified me.
We got together for beer the other night and hung out until late, comparing notes and jointly trying to figure out the Dutch relationship with the word
We ended up at the nearest thing to a beer pub that Amsterdam has, which had some damned fine beer I must say. Then on to a place called The Last Watering Hole, which was described roughly as a American style pub for homesick Americans and Dutch people who disliked Dutch food. There was a … band? … playing, the individual musicians of which were quite good, despite a clear impression as the evening wore on that not all of them had met each other yet. The music tended towards bluegrass and soul, with other bits thrown in. The vocalist was a soul or jazz singer from Tennessee, and he endeavored to put on a good show by setting a pace that took us through a variety of venues and songs, often within seconds of each other, highlighting the not inconsiderable skills of each of the other musicians.
Around the time that any given piece was hitting its high point the vocalist would say the name of or point towards a musician, who would then get to apparently make up on the spot a solo that went well with whatever new piece of music the vocalist had pulled out of his ear. It became apparent over time from the looks of panic on the faces of those so chosen that they had no idea at all what this guy was going to do next, or perhaps even who he was. When the final set ended and the vocalist thanked the crowd and trotted off the stage and out into the bar, the remaining musicians sat there looking emotionally exhausted, leaving me with the distinct impression that this guy had wandered in out of the blue and started orchestrating. Not that he wasn’t good (he was quite good), but I do think he popped out of a cake or something.
My Dutch friend told me two critically important things about Holland; 1) … was something I can’t remember. How many were there again?
Anyway, we had a great time and plan on hanging out again next week.
Similar things are happening with some of the staff. One guy here invited me by his place to hang out with him, his girlfriend and his twin brother. In fact I’ve been getting to know and like most of the Dutch and non-Dutch contract staff. I’ve decided to avoid mentioning names in these entries for various reasons, but most folks could figure out who I was talking about if they knew them. I’m note sure if what I’m seeing is a microcosm of Amsterdam, Holland, traveler types or just the Flying Pig, but regardless it’s been fun.
It’s also a little surprising. I’m American, so I can’t get long-term employment easily. This marks me as a traveler/tourist who is likely to leave in the not distant future. So when someone here invests the time to get to know me a bit I’m always a little surprised. Part of if may be that much of the staff of The Pig anyway is composed of people who like contact with travelers and all that this entails. But I can’t help thinking about the fact that I’m likely gone unless I have an overriding reason to stay (personal or professional), and that this must be on the minds of anyone who is currently putting the effort forth to get to know me. When the woman I’d expressed interest in asked casually in conversation how long I was planning to stay in Holland , it struck me as a particularly relevant question.
How much time would you spend on someone who you knew was probably disappearing soon? Especially when there were 200 of them a night staying at your workplace. I’m told I get extra points for not being an American collage kid bopping around with a Eurail pass on daddy’s coin, but still, anyone who lives here it seems to me would become jaded pretty quick. (P.S.: if any American collage kid reads this and thinks “I don’t want to be lumped into that category and ignored,” don’t worry too much. If you can see the difference in yourself it’s likely others can too. It wouldn’t hurt to have your eyeball pierced either.)
It’s an interesting lifestyle, and there more to it for someone like me who likes to settle in and get to know people than I had really expected. A lot to think about.
Some people thrive on this and use it. There’s a guy here who hits on anything with tits. He’s disturbingly successful with an approach that seems like pure sleaze to me (if any woman can clear up why that kind of thing works I’d love to hear it). But when I’m honest with myself I’m not sure what it is about this that bothers me aside from a primal desire to pull the limbs off of a male who is being more successful at the mating game than I. If all he wants out of traveling is the opportunity to wet his wick as often as possible, and if enough women are happy with little more than a walking penis, then who am I to complain? (says Duri, smiling and feeling around him for his axe)
Just talked to one of the bartenders (the guy who told me to drop by his house) about how he stays interested in the plethora of people. He pointed out that he meets maybe five people a year who pass through and make enough of an impression to warrant really getting to know, and it’s not that unusual to see them again somewhere in Europe. The majority of travelers pass through just as faces, but some people stick out as people and are treated as such.
A young English traveler said something like this as well. She’s just short of 19, has been traveling for six months and is getting ready to head home soon. She commented that after six months she’d realized that there were only so many faces, only so many personality types that you ran into. After a while, everyone reminded you of something. I’ve heard this from people in their 70’s (about which I teased her), but apparently the travel reinforced the same impression.
Perhaps combining the two approaches what you see is simply that personality traits stand out pretty quickly, like teeth in a particularly complex key. There may be a near infinite number of variations on the key, but the traits that fit your personality will be the ones that stand out to you, and so these are the people you’re likely to get to know. If asked, most of us can’t come up with a coherent answer as to
So instead of meeting zillions of people and either being swamped or ignoring them, your instincts take over as usual and you invest only in a subset of the total number.
It’s a partial answer to the question (since I can’t imagine that you can ignore the high probability that this cool person could go away soon), but still interesting.
So in the midst of all this contemplative claptrap I’m living life.
Living life means talking with people, reading some, working at The Pig about 4 hours a day, trying to figure out how to look for work in the IT industry around here.
Work at The Pig is mostly mopping things and cleaning things. My day goes a lot like this:
“Wrong bunk man, fuck off” “Dude, get out of the shower!” “Ok, anybody know where the hell Rebifurrito is?” “What do you mean, ‘smell the hair traps?!?’” “Man, I just cannot get this black crap out from between the tiles!” “Housekee — WHOAAhehehh heh … no, that’s ok, we’ll come back later ….” “Dude, this smells awfull. Here, smell this!” “Is this your towel? Mind if I use it to mop?” “No man, get the cat outta there!” “Well, I guess he’s not coming back for
And so on. Some time around 2:30 we stop and go off to enjoy ourselves. I’m spending a lot of time trying to figure out what is involved in living here. I’m not sure I want to yet, but obviously it’s interesting enough that I’m spending the time to investigate. So while I’m socializing and cleaning showers I’m also looking for work again. I’ve an appointment Thursday the 28th with a woman who specializes on advising wayward Americans on how they can get started here in business. I’ll spend a few bucks getting the info, but it will tell me how feasible that option really is. I’m still up in the air on moving here, but now that I’m getting to know people a bit it’s more tempting. That kind of thing clearly counts for me more than most of the other details.
I do miss home though. I miss my music, and the music at the clubs I frequent. I miss relaxing on the couch or chatting with people I know, or simply knowing where everything I might need in town is. Normal, I guess. Ah well.
Station break. You know how people say that Italians all think they drive like Mario Andretti? Well, when stoned, they seem to all think they sing like Pavarotti as well. A bunch of stoned happy Italians sitting around the chill room watching music videos and singing randomly to (sometimes with, sometimes against, sometimes in ignorance of) the music. Things get a little surreal from time to time.
I’m going to go ahead and try to post this tomorrow. I keep getting sidetracked or interrupted before I can reach a satisfactory ending, but that isn’t likely to get better over the weekend. There’s a lot more I want to talk about that has been happening both within and without, but I don’t have time yet. In the meantime I can at least put this up and get a fresh start. With any luck you’ll all see something Friday afternoon your time.
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