All things come to a beginning

Thursday, August 30, 2007

People watching

Moving through the throngs of passengers-to-be in a train station in Brussels or watching Antwerp from a street car window (just the other night I saw one girl hold on to another by her long hair and knee her in the face repeatedly, until a third girl intervened and started cussing her out. Scene of the crime: het Plein voor Verdraagzaamheid, aka "Tolerance Square". Classic.) I am always fascinated by people going about their daily business. Especially in an uncoordinated cosmopolitan mess of tired faces and eclectic styles.
I was bussing it through Saint Josse yesterday, a suburb of Brussels, and in front of a Polish "Sklep" (which, I take it, means "store"?) four men wearing scuffy jeans, work boots and t-shirts with a picture of a teddy bear and the words "Don't forget Beslan" were standing around, having a drink. A man walked past them wearing a worn down greyish suit and a black top hat. Just like that. I wish I could have captured their tough guy "are you seeing this douche?" smirks, too funny.

For more "are they serious?", take a look at: (NYC's most trendy), (always at least a year ahead fashion wise), (A Finnish blog - a girl I went to school with actually just left for Helsinki, wonder how much of the local style she'll take on during her exchange year. Knowing her, a hell of a lot) and the alma mater

Monday, August 27, 2007

Meeting of minds

I am fortunate enough to have some friends in my life whom I love. I mean love, madly. I think they are so smart and fascinating and hilarious - and when we hang out, words and thoughts come easily, with no strain, no stress. Just yesterday evening, I was sitting next to a friend, made a snarky comment about someone standing in front of us (but out of earshot, cause I'm brave and mature like you wouldn't believe) which apparently was exactly what she was about to say and she said "Dude, get out my mind!". I got a bit of a kick out of that, I can't lie. I mean, with every human being's background and experiences and memories being unique, what are the odds of getting to spend time with people who see things very close to how you do? Sometimes, friends just know. Like Renée, who sent me an oldie but a goodie:

Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth; oh nevermind; you will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they have faded. But trust me, in 20 years you’ll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can’t grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked….You’re not as fat as you imagine. Don’t worry about the future; or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubblegum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind; the kind that blindside you at 4pm on some idle Tuesday. Do one thing everyday that scares you. Sing. Don’t be reckless with other people’s hearts, don’t put up with people who are reckless with yours. Floss. Don’t waste your time on jealousy; sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind…the race is long, and in the end, it’s only with yourself. Remember the compliments you receive, forget the insults; if you succeed in doing this, tell me how (...) Maybe you’ll marry, maybe you won’t, maybe you’ll have children,maybe you won’t, maybe you’ll divorce at 40, maybe you’ll dance the funky chicken on your 75th wedding anniversary…what ever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much or berate yourself either – your choices are half chance, so are everybody else’s. Enjoy your body, use it every way you can…don’t be afraid of it, or what other people think of it, it’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever own.. Dance…even if you have nowhere to do it but in your own living room. Read the directions, even if you don’t follow them. Do NOT read beauty magazines, they will only make you feel ugly. Get to know your parents, you never know when they’ll be gone for good. Be nice to your siblings; they are the best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future. Understand that friends come and go, but for the precious few you should hold on.

Amen, sister.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

So love

It's my brother's birthday next week and he's throwing a little dinner party. I've been graciously invited, but he has had to admit that my envelope is the only one with a single name on it. All the other guests, his friends, will be coming in pairs. Awesome.
Coincidentally, I have a previous engagement the same night - a (single) friend of mine's housewarming party. I'm not sure who else is coming, but it's bound to have a far higher solo ratio. Which makes it closer to my natural habitat.
Don't get me wrong, I love them both to death and am honoured to be invited to their homes. And I am not a single fascist who looks down on couples or avoids them at all costs. The two parties just have a different vibe about them. He'll take coats and prepare food while she'll tell you to throw your stuff in a corner and grab a drink. He'll have conversations where people illustrate their point by drawing figures on the table surface with their fingers, she'll have people gesturing and mimicing like maniacs because the music's so damn loud. Sitting versus standing. I don't have a problem with either position. I just don't know about being the only person in the room whose line of vision is at a different height than everybody else's.

Da City

I think that in Flanders, Antwerp has a similar status to NY in the US or Toronto in Canada. Those who live there swear by it, everyone else thinks they need to get over themselves. The fact that Antwerp refers to itself as "'t Stad" or "The City" says it all, no? But in all fairness, it is a pretty cool place. It holds less appeal for me than say, Brussels, but it does have a lot going on eventwise. I've been spending a lot of my summer days there - just last weekend I hit up Jazz Middelheim, I was there last night for a wedding and today to hit the shops, I'll be there again for Cultuurmarkt tomorrow, a press conference on Wednesday and once more for Zuiderzinnen in September.

I've started carrying my camera around more and was able to take some shots of the new central train station - pretty & pretty futuristic.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen

Phee-hew, this one almost killed me. After "The promise of happiness", my tolerance for dysfunctional "3-kids & a shaky marriage" family sagas was already on the low side. And bamm, this mofo throws dementia, depression and incredible emotional cruelty (Read this on the bus to and from work, I can't guarantee I didn't curl my upper lip every 10 pages or so, wrinkle my nose and mutter "wedding rings, pick axes, potato, potah-to" under my breath) at me in a 500+ page hurricane. Lots of dialogue without finding the words, meaningless walks to nowhere, fights at the dinner table, messed up parent-child expectations, trivial middle class suburbia - in a merciless onslaught.

I thought about giving up. I didn't, but it didn't end a moment too soon. Note to self: no more Franzen whilst taking public transportation on rainy mornings. Not that it wasn't very well written. Small excerpt:
She shrugged into her jacket, lifted her bag, and waltzed across the room. At the door she announced in a general way that she was leaving. "I'll see you later," she said, almost looking at Chip. He couldn't figure out if she was immensely well adjusted or seriously messed up. He heard a cab door slam, an engine rumble. He went to the front window and got a glimpse of her cherrywood hair through the rear window of a red-and-white cab. He decided, after five years without, that the time had come to buy some cigarettes.
You can read more here.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Hi, I'll be yours today

About a week ago, I gave my very first tour. The sun was out, I had a nice group of visitors - including two supportive spies in the back - I welcomed, walked and talked and was thanked at the end with sincere appreciation. One woman especially hit it out of the park by suggesting I become a radio show host. Lady, if you read this, you made my month.
Turns out I like to make myself useful. I spent all day at work yesterday meeting new people, taking them to where they needed to be, making sure that they were happy and comfortable and that the work that needed to get done got done. I chatted, entertained, gasped and giggled, ran up & down stairs, handed out coffees and consolation, shot out some emails and phone calls in between and went home pretty close to ecstatic (like on the tour, a random compliment was the cherry on top: a cherubic little boy asked me if I "was a model". Little fella, you are a misguided fool who clearly lives in a magazine free house. But if I could have put you on a bun and eaten you up, I would have). I've always known I prefer well-rounded tightly planned projects over a gurgling routine, but it's interesting to see it confirmed. Give me name lists, time schedules, information sheets and a smile or two and I've got all my heart desires.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

When other people blog it better

Alli hits the nail on the head, as she so often does:

For most things, the more I do them, the better I get at them (...) But with relationships, the more I’m in them, and out of them, the less I feel like I know. And even as I see my friends in relationships, some happy, some not so happy, some serious, some not so serious, and even as I try to glean knowledge and experience from them, I’m left with feeling like I have no fucking clue what is going on. I don’t know when to draw the line. I don’t know when being there for them is more hurtful to me than it is helpful to them. I don’t know when to be friends and when to let it go. I don’t know when to ask for more if they aren’t giving enough. Or when they are asking for more, I don’t know how to say: “I just can’t give that.” I try to, and sometimes I think I betray myself a little bit to make other people happy.

Norwegian Wood

It's not the kind of book you can do justice by quoting a short fragment - it's an all-encompassing, submerging experience. So instead, I'll give you the lyrics to the Beatles' song the title is based on, also very appropriate:

I once had a girl, or should I say, she once had me.
She showed me her room, isn't it good, Norwegian wood?
She asked me to stay and she told me to sit anywhere,
So I looked around and I noticed there wasn't a chair.
I sat on a rug, biding my time, drinking her wine.
We talked until two and then she said, "It's time for bed".
She told me she worked in the morning and started to laugh.
I told her I didn't and crawled off to sleep in the bath.
And when I awoke I was alone, this bird had flown.
So I lit a fire, isn't it good, Norwegian wood.