The best thing about living close to the Bay is that we get egrets, cruising all over the place, sometimes between the houses or skimming along the canal behind the house.
Way back in 2008, we were dealing with a horrible neighbor in Glasgow who felt that he needed to bring the pub party back to his basement flat … beneath us. It was truly awful, and exhausting, dealing with police who wouldn’t take any action, and a pipsqueak of a neighbor who just couldn’t understand that we needed rest, even if he didn’t.
Fast forward to another flat, and 8 years later, when the neighbor upstairs (again in Glasgow) decided to put on an album … and promptly pass out, leaving us to endure horrible bass going all night long.
You can imagine our consternation when the bass started up last night, here in Newark. After a few hours of hoping and waiting, when 10 p.m. rolled around I phoned the police … who asked where we lived … and then told us they’d been getting calls since about 6 p.m. and there was nothing they could do about it.
Above is a shot taken from our driveway, looking out towards the Dumbarton bridge. We’re perfectly situated for Shoreline Amphitheater to blast the bass all the way across the bay, directly towards us, and for us to have to endure some other city’s lack of noise ordinance. Grr.
We’ve seen this story before.
We seen this story before, when Pharaoh looked at the Israelite people and saw that they were “too numerous,” that they posed a demographic problem for his power, and decided that the solution was to oppress them.
We’ve seen this story before.
And, when even oppression didn’t work and he realized that the real way to terrorize a population was to go after their children. Yocheved hid the baby Moses from Pharoah’s army just as Jewish parents hid their children from the Gestapo, just as parents right now are hiding their children from ICE.
We’ve seen this story before.
We’ve seen this story before in this week’s Torah portion, when the Moabite king Balak saw the Israelites running fleeing persecution, saw them in the midbar–the wilderness, the liminal place–between danger and safety and he said, “they will lick us clean.” When he used dehumanizing language–they are so numerous that they “hide the earth from view” in order to justify what he was going to do next.
We’ve seen this story before.
So Balak goes to the seer, the prophet Balaam and demand that he curse the people. Balak doesn’t care what happens to them, he just wants them cursed, gone, no mater how they suffer. But after a series of surprising events, Balaam doesn’t curse the people Israel–he blesses them. And there’s this moment in the middle of all this blessing when he turns to face the wilderness, this limbo, this howling void between danger and safety.
He sees them camped in their tents. He probably sees families together, children and parents, maybe children playing, maybe groups of friends, maybe couples in love. He sees a people, vulnerable and frightened, yearning to breathe free. He sees them. The seeing and the blessing are intertwined. When he opens his eyes & heart to behold the Israelites’ beautiful, holy selves, created in the image of God, he is able to bless them. When we open our eyes to see the full humanity of others, we are able to bless them. And when we bless–when we give over of ourselves to others, when we offer something holy and true to another–we also expand our capacity to see them. When we look to see, we can bless. When we bless, we can better see.
This fight is going to be long.
We’ve seen this story before.
And we know that the Bible–regardless of what Jeff Sessions says–stands on the side of liberation. We know that the Bible stands on the side of the oppressed. We know that the Bible stands for safety and hope for all. And we know that the Bible demands that we take risks in the pursuit of justice.
This fight will demand a lot of different tactics.
The midwives–Shifrah & Puah–in Egypt engaged in strategic civil disobedience in order to protect oppressed human beings.
Pharaoh’s daughter leveraged her privilege & access in order to protect oppressed human beings.
God used God’s power and might in order to get the Israelites out of Egypt, in order to protect oppressed human beings.
And Balaam looked.
Balaam turned to see. He opened his eyes and his heart, accessed empathy, caring, concern in order to protect oppressed human beings.
We need to do all of these things.
The hour is upon us.
We need to be brave in our resistance.
We need to use all of our privilege and access.
We need to use all of our power and might.
And we need to open our eyes and hearts.
As we fight to create a world that is equitable and just, we must also create a world of caring and connection, of empathy and love. We must never forget to look, and to see.
We’ve seen the story of oppression before, but we’ve also seen the story of liberation before.
We’ve seen this story before.
And we know that we can create a world based on justice, and caring, and empathy, and liberation, and love.
Overcome evil with good… don’t let it drown you. You’ve seen this story before, and every time, good wins.
Plums. They are … determined? Obstinate? Persistent? Annoying?
We have several quarts of unripe plum paste. We have several gallons of unripe plum pickles. We have several more gallons of ripe plum paste. We. Are. Tired. Of. Plums.
We will, however, be making some plum pickles, and some plum jam, and maybe some other things. Made of plums. Lots and lots of Santa Rosa plums. Which keep falling off of the tree, and demanding to be picked up so as not to have wasps, etc.
I like to take some awfully strange photos, but this one… is sort of a photo of a strange photo. What’s puzzling is the absolute prominence of the pineapple. Why should there be a pineapple there, in the bottom left, and were pineapples even grown in Brazil, etc.?
“As the Enlightenment period made the rich richer, the landed aristocracy began to engage in a frenzy of new hobbies, including gambling, boozing, and time-consuming, expensive pineapple cultivation. Pineries needed care around the clock, custom-built greenhouses, and mountains of coal to keep the temperatures high. The fruit took three to four years to bloom. The cost of rearing each one was equivalent to eight thousand dollars in today’s money.”
The Strange History of the “King-Pine” hints as to the answers to those questions… while bringing up innumerable more questions. Definitely worth reading the article for the strange history.
The return journey from The Netherlands was a truly epic trip, and not by design. The initial flight from Amsterdam to Keflavic was delayed arriving, so we spent an extra 2 hours sitting around Schiphol Airport (which … is not a great airport, frankly, and the cheap flight terminal is positively horrible). That flight was then delayed further because they’d mis-loaded a bag and had to remove it before we could take off. All of that meant that the flight was around 3 hours delayed arriving into Keflavic and most people weren’t staying there but were traveling onwards. So, the airline bumped the two flights most people were trying to catch (to LAX and SFO). That meant that the connecting flight had to find a new slot into SFO, which isn’t an easy thing to do. This meant we ended up sitting around Keflavic for 8 hours instead of 1.5. Then, as we were ready to leave Keflavic, 6 people had given up and booked alternate flights, but left their luggage, so THAT luggage had to be dug out from where it had been loaded. Then, finally, we had the 8.5 hour flight from Keflavic to SFO. By this time our booked shuttle had canceled on us, so we caught a 40 minute Lyft ride home. All told, we left our rented flat in Amsterdam something like 27 hours before we arrived home, having planned for something like half that.
We did end up purchasing food in Keflavic (which … is horribly expensive, and we’ll be putting in a claim for reimbursement, because spending nearly $100 on a couple sandwiches, some yogurt, and some drinks … is rather obscene). But, mostly, we ate our own sandwiches, hard-boiled eggs, and choices from an assortment of weird Dutch candy (mostly minty, some fruity, and included the random salty licorice). We also packed sliced apples (packed with sliced oranges, so the juice would keep them from going brown) and fresh cherries, knowing that wet and crunchy things are really what’s needed while in the air. Of course, we also packed our 1.5 liter water bottles & filled them at every opportunity.
Traveling like this (with our own food) may have begun as an effort to save money, traveling on budget airlines. Now, though, it’s just how we do things, and something we’ll keep on doing when we switch back to more mainstream air carriers. Which … we’ll be doing.
This is likely the last time we’ll fly with WoW, simply because it was so clumsily handled, and there were so many small problems along the way. WoW scores the worst in service, as well, which … yeah, we can see it. At times, sitting in Keflavic, we asked ourselves whether we were seeing the collapse of an airline, and whether we’d end up trapped in Iceland, having to book last minute tickets out on another carrier. That isn’t a feeling we’d like to repeat any time soon, and the extra $1,000 to fly with a reputable carrier would probably have saved us 15 hours of stressful sitting around.
We will leave you with this, from the Delft organ guy: yes, that is Despacito, played organ-grinder style.
-D & T
If you’re someone who cleans up after your mess (i.e., you clear your browser cookies) then you’ll run into these irritating messages every time you visit a site and they’ve forgotten that they nagged you (because they don’t actually remember anything – they make your browser remember things for them, in cookies, and you can remove those memories any time you choose … like, when you shut down your browser). These messages would look like the huge waste of space banner, shown here taking up most of the page:
It’s easy to do, takes fewer mental resources than looking at whatever idiotic policy they’re trying to get you to agree to, and it will persist even after you clear your cookies.
You do clear your cookies, right?
Guest one has decamped, guest two is incoming. It is 29C/84F, and right now it is still, but periodically there is a cool breeze, which grows into a wind toward the evening. The forecast has threatened thunderstorms nightly, but other than the odd grumble, and the occasional quick shower, nothing happens to make people do more than take brief shelter with their ice cream. It is truly hilarious how unfussed Europeans, at least, are about getting wet. (The people screeching with umbrellas nearly putting out people’s eyes are …um, some of y’all. We take no responsibility for them.)
We’ve come to that point where we’re losing track of days. Time is kind of a warm blur, punctuated by finding a particularly good coffee (if you’re D) or something close to iced mint tea (cold water, mint leaves, a slice of lemon. Close enough). The joy of being with friends is a lot of random conversations, and books, and occasionally doing things.
We met the most delightful group of 50-60something Nederlanders on our boat tour the other day. They had grown up in Delft, and all nine siblings (minus the two who were meeting them later) were returning with spouses in tow to honor their parents, both of whom had passed away years ago – on the same day, a year apart. They translated the guide’s words to us, before the guide had a chance to swap languages. They raised a rousing cheer as they passed their old house. They ooh’d and ahh’d that they had a nephew in Cali who was coming to visit next month. They showed us where they’d fallen into the canal, and warned us not to drink the water, ever, despite the fact that it technically is drinkable (Ugh, no thank you; anything accommodating both swans and lily pads seems a bit too natural pour moi). We felt like a long missing part of the family.
It’s been lovely to people-watch here (the image to the left is a link to a video – do click through to experience the square, here in Delft); we spend at least a couple of hours every afternoon or evening just sitting at an outdoor restaurant bar or coffee shop, slowly sipping something cool – or, rather, coolish, as people here don’t really do ice cubes much and iced tea or coffee is just something in a rapidly warming bottle – and just watching the world go by. Occasionally one must needs move upwind of a smoker, but people strive to be courteous, because the third space here – the social space that is neither work nor home – is part of what makes The Netherlands work. It is apparently THE most densely populated country in Europe, but it doesn’t feel like it (outside of horrifyingly busy Amsterdam). Even the locals are content to simply BE.
One of the other things we noticed is that there are all kinds of bodies here, and people aren’t trying to hide them. Americans, by virtue of their Puritan fore-bearers, have such a vastly different relationship with their bodies that is kind of calming to see people just… using their bodies and getting on with basic indifference instead of …shame emotions or even much interest. Everyone is out – old, young, middle aged. Beautiful and wrinkled, sagging, slack arms and legs, heron-thin and angular, solidly fat, with rolls and bellies, children pudgy and leggy, clumsy and graceful, people walking, talking, cycling, chasing babies, attempting bad cartwheels and handstands in the square and enjoying. People seem to be simply inhabiting the moment and their bodies and DOING things, and it is …not our American experience, in many ways.
We met a sixteen-year old Dutch girl two years ago in California as an exchange student. She was a sweet kid, but we lost touch. T made an attempt to track her down, and let her know we were here, visiting her country. We offered to meet her somewhere, but she has instead arranged for us to meet her parents, attend church with her, and go out in her father’s boat. It’s a three-hour train ride, so we’re going to spend the night, and that’s our plans for the weekend. Until then, we have Thing 1 visiting until Thursday, and plans are afoot for a bike ride (if it’s not some ghastly temperature), paddle boats, record shopping, and visiting the best vegetarian restaurant we’ve found, Hummus. (Yes. It has hummus. ALL KINDS. It’s so good.) Until then, we’ve got laundry and shopping to do (but not as much cleaning, as the apartment comes with a cleaner! Vacation perks). Until next time…
This weekend’s vacation achievement unlocked: we learned hot to use the shower-sauna! Electric showers, with all the fancy buttons and symbols are interesting but the ones in this flat didn’t seem very useful at first. However, after a bit of study yesterday, we are happy to report that we figured out how to make the water hot, something one might expect to be somewhat self-explanatory (sadly, no) and how to make the jets of steam rising from the floor act like more than intermittent volcanic exhalations. We are rather proud of ourselves. Of course, we’re mainly showering with cold simply because it’s so incredibly warm here.
It’s been unbelievably balmy, and today it was nearly 80 degrees. It’s a little different to experience that kind of warmth in humidity, but the sea breezes kept coming, and there’s plenty of trees in this green and pleasant land, so we were mostly fine. After the slightly terrifying day we had in Amsterdam – with several trains and miles of walking and seeing so much artwork and architecture and riding in a cyclecab through insane traffic, littered with bikes and cars and buses at rush hour on a Friday – today we kept it simple and tooled around Delft. We visited Nieuwe Kerk, Oude Kerk, and people-watched, enjoying the vibrant outdoor weekend life of this busy little town.
Delft’s “Marktplaats” is in the center of its medieval downtown, loosely bracketed by the oldest church in the town, on one end the “new” church, and opposite that their city hall. The market square hosts two weekly markets, the first on Thursday, with a huge flower market, the second on Saturday, with a vast antique/flea market. At both, fruit, veg, candy, clothes, household goods and sundries can be purchased. After a leisurely breakfast we began our day with Nieuwe Kerk.
Nieuwe Kerk has two viewing galleries open to the public (there are a few other doors which are locked, on the long climb up to the top). So, of course, despite the rather warm day and the D. had to climb them. This resulted in some fabulous photos … but, as D. said when T. texted him to ask how it was going, “Terrifying. Coming down now.” The ledge is about 2 feet wide and the railing comes up to about 10 inches below D’s waist. Fiddling with multiple cameras (yes, multiple: a Canon 80D, a Canon M3, 4 lenses, plus the cell phone because it does panoramas so well), in the breeze, at the top of one of the tallest churches in The Netherlands is a bit fraught, particularly when there are other visitors who want to get past. Was it worth it, to get a picture of the flat we’re staying in? Perhaps. We’re staying in the pair of windows with the sheer curtains drawn, right in the middle of the photo below.
There are apparently 377 stairs to get to the very top, with about half of those being as nice and spacious as those pictured below. The rest are narrower. Passing your fellow tourists going in either direction is also not anything to want to go through again.
The view is, of course, wonderful. Here’s the town hall, just across the town square from Nieuwe Kerk.
And, after visiting Nieuwe Kerk, we went to visit Oude Kerk. Thankfully, there doesn’t seem to be a publicly accessible gallery, so D. had to be content with photographing other things.
Tomorrow may involve riding a canal boat, going to several museums, and hopefully a return to the fabulous Stadsbakkerij de Diamanten Ring for more tasty treats (and, perhaps, to contemplate the mural telling us that William of Orange’s assassin slept here the night before he shot William.). We shall see.
Our friend L leaves the day after tomorrow and our friend Thing-1 shows up that evening. We shall endeavor to take plenty of photos, of course (we’re up to 449 photos and a half dozen or so videos, since arriving late Wednesday night … so, 3 days of being tourists). After Thing-1 leaves we’ll make a point to spend time away from Delft (Gemert, with friend S and Wannepeerven & Gierthoorn with D & fam) because the Delft Fringe Festival begins, and it’s already lively enough, being so close to the pedestrian center in the marktplaats!
-D & T