Before we dive into the traveling story, I’ve got many thanks to give. First off, thanks to Dead Snakes for giving these poems a home. And to Hobo Camp Review for taking these (none of which are about cancer, surprise, surprise) and to Your One Phone Call for taking Morning Commute.
In other writing news, I got the guts of a new poetry book back from my editor and man am I excited about this one. News on that soon…
So AMSTERDAM! and BRUSSELS! and….Bruges.
So first up….Amsterdam!
Amsterdam is beautiful and canal-y and picturesque and filled with WAY TOO MANY BIKES. I mean good god. You can’t take a step outside without some ringing their little bell at you.
I mean this is basically every corner.
That said, it’s still incredible. Look:
That’s a Van Gogh sky if I ever saw one. Speaking of Vincent, he and Anne Frank were my big must do’s in Amsterdam. We had tickets for the Van Gogh museum but not Anne Frank since they only sell a limited amount online. So we headed up there on Day 1.
I don’t think I’ll ever have the words to describe what it was like to pass through that secret door behind the bookcase and to stand in the Secret Annex. Photography is not allowed so I grabbed a few images from online.
The staircase behind the secret bookshelf that lead to their hiding place
Anne Frank room
Anne and Mr. Dussel’s room as it would have been furnished
I also found this virtual tour of the house.
It’s still hard to unpack what an emotional experience being there was – not only because reading her journal gives you insight into what a vivid person she was but because while it is very much a historical document, it’s also a unique insight into what it is to be a teenage girl. A girl who fights with her mother. A girl who crushes on the boy down the hall. A girl like we all were.
One of my favorite parts of the visit was at the end when her friends talked about her. About how she was certainly no saint. How she was a bit of a big mouth. A bit of a bossypants.
But more than that, Anne was a writer. Prior to their discovery, Anne found out that Allies were interested in the journals of people who were in hiding for possible publication and she immediately started to write with an eye towards publication, editing and changing her work. I full believe that had Anne lived she would have been a writer.
I can think of only one other person who died without knowing the impact that their work would have on the world. And that would be Vincent van Gogh.
The museum was simply spectacular. Not only does it house a large quantity of his work, it’s got some of the most important pieces, like these:
Self Portrait in Grey Felt Hat
Almond Blossoms – painted to mark the birth of Vincent, Theo’s son.
The Potato Eaters
And my favorite, the Yellow House
This image doesn’t do this painting justice. Vincent was a color theorist and understood the importance of color juxtaposition – that yellow is more yellow against blue.
Unfortunately The Bedroom was out on loan to Chicago. Sadness.
In addition to the amazing work, they also had audio recordings of many of the letters that Vincent and his brother Theo exchanged in their equally short lives.
Other cool things we did in Amsterdam was the Rembrandt House, which I recommend to anyone who visits, especially the demonstration on how paint was made in Rembrandt’s day. Needless to say, it wasn’t a simple matter of going to the store and buying a tube. A large amount of the color was achieved through toxic and in some instances, gross, means.
And we also found this:
That’s the Amsterdam Hilton. And if that doesn’t mean anything to you then you’re obviously not a John Lennon fan.
Drove from Paris to the Amsterdam Hilton,
Talking in our beds for a week.
The newspapers said, “Say what you doing in bed?”
I said, “We’re only trying to get us some peace”.
It’s where this happened:
Other things, Amsterdam is full of: Tulips
And of course we also found the…ahem…. “coffeehouses.”
Oh and we stumbled into a massive pillow fight. Because why not?
Next up was a quick side trip to ‘s-Hertogenbosch, often called Dem Bosch to see the Hieronymus Bosch exhibit.
The Man of the Hour
In case you don’t know Bosch was a painter in early 1500’s whose paintings have informed our modern day imaging of hell.
And if you look really closely you’ll see some interesting things.
Flying out of butt holes.
The exhibit was great – though really crowded which was hard because to really enjoy Bosch you need to get right in there and really look. For birds. Flying out of buttholes.
Or this guy:
Or this…whatever this is:
Next up was Brussels.
Brussels is a gorgeous city that, as you know, was recently the target of a ISIS terrorist attack. While we were there, they found the “man in the hat” which I can only imagine gave the residents much relief. That said, every night on the news, I heard about how Brussels was “reeling” but what I saw every night were people having dinner and drinks with friends. You know, living.
We did see the memorials that were set up.
And we also saw a lot more ART including the Magritte Museum and a special exhibit of Andres Serrano, the photographer who did the now infamous Piss Christ
Yes that is a crucifix dipped in a jar of piss. Also on display was his Denizens of Brussels and Residents of New York, two series he did photographing the homeless, or sans abris as they are called in Brussels. But my favorite was the Morgue series: photographs of the dead, the caption of each image was cause of death.
Suicide by Rat Poison
Serrano also paid homeless people for their signs.
One of the most famous residents of Brussels is Manneken Pis – a statue from 1618 of a kid peeing. Apparently in the Brussels museum is a whole host of outfits that he sometimes wears.
More recently in 1985, he got a girlfriend, Jeanneke Pis.
We also found a studio where Vincent worked. The studio belong to his friend Rappard and had better light than the place Vincent was living at on Boulevard du Midi.
And a place where Byron lived
And the infamous spot where Verlaine shot Rimbaud
Shortly after taking this picture the owner of that lace shop came outside and informed us that the plaque is a lie and that Verlaine shot Rimbaud about four blocks to the west but since this is where all the tourists are that’s where they put the marker. He also called Verlaine a disgusting old drunk. So there’s that too.
And we found the Royal Academie, host to nearly every great artist in Europe including James Ensor, Magritte, De Kooning and of course….my beloved Vincent who after a month quit when one of his paintings came in last in a contest. Oh, Vincent.
And Brussels had some really great street art.
All Truth is Negociable
It was a really really beautiful city which we left for……Bruges.
If you haven’t seen In Bruges, you should cue that up right away. It’s a dark comedy about hit men trapped in this medieval city staring Colin Ferrell.
And really it’s not Bruges’ fault. It’s a very pretty little city but short of looking at windmills there isn’t much to do. So we looked at windmills.
But we did go see the Picasso Expo which was fantastic and a chance to see the flower bunch, which as a child, decorated my sheets. My parents are very cool.
And his Don Quixote
which my parents also had a print of…and his Dove
So that was Bruges.
We took a train back to Amsterdam in time to catch the Warhol/Banksy exhibition at Moco Museum.
So there it was…from Bosch to Banksy. And in between, I ate a disturbing amount of fries and chocolate and waffles.
Peace love and starbursts,