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Monday, July 30, 2012

Keepers of a Flame

This post requires no words.
Just Silence.

Music:permission granted by Boudewijn de Groot and De 3 J's.

Music:permission granted by Kevin MacLeod

All art work on this page is either done by 'ant0nj0han'  or JoAnne Lakefield.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Rule Breakers [2of 2]

At the crossing, at the end of the street, I saw a tram arriving at it's stop. I knew now where I was and it would be quite a walk to reach an area that I liked better... Why not, I thought and picked up my speed. Not too much... there's a tram in the direction of the station every couple of minutes, so there's no point in running like mad to catch a tram. The driver however patiently waited and let me hop on. I thanked him and took a seat. I didn't even check the line number. “Second stop” I said to myself. “No matter what stop it is, I'll get out and continue my impro tour of Amsterdam.”
I felt a bit disappointed when I found myself at the Leidseplein, but this time I stuck to my plan. This square is always humming with activity and completely surrounded by large cafes and restaurants. All too obvious, not the kind of small adventures that I'm looking for. I left the square as quickly as I could, taking one of the smaller streets. 
Grotere kaart weergeven

I had left the park, so I was entitled to my cup of coffee, but it wouldn't be in this street I concluded. It held only restaurants offering food from all corners of the world. Japanese, Brazilian, Argentinian and a multitude of supposedly Italian restaurants. It was just after three, but they were all beginning to serve warm meals on the tiny narrow terraces. Waiters were standing outside, watching people walk by. I guess they are supposed to attract customers, a custom I never understood. The ready-made look is more appalling than welcoming to me.
My stomach reminded me that I had taken a tiny and early lunch. Maybe I should look for a restaurant that still served pistolets or sandwiches. After having checked out some of the menu's, this idea was given up. For this street anyway. As I walked on I tried to recall which streets on my way to the station could have one of those typical “brown cafes” that would serve just those items.
From the corner of my eye, I noticed a pair of dark brown ones. They belonged to a waiter of yet another Italian restaurant. I wanted to ignore his look, but he didn't let go, he asked me a question with his eyes... I shrugged to tell him no. He shrugged too. “Have it your way” it said. What was happening here? We were having a private conversation, no matter how short. I slowed down. Halted. And turned. “Why not?” I thought and asked if he could serve lunch for, while being pretty sure it wasn't on the menu. 
He said I could and invited me in. Presenting me the dinner menu....  it took some explaining in broken english on both our sides before I finally got what I wanted: an off the menu lunch, befitting someone who likes to stay off route in her life whenever she can.  Life's a journey, not a guided tour right?

After a great lunch... big enough for dinner... it was time to pay up. This time comes always, whether stay on or off  the menu. The risk of off the menu meals is... you don't know how much you will be charged. But at this restaurant, Porto Carrara, they were real modest, more than fair. I was prepared to give my kingdom for such delicious capuccino's. Yet I had to pay even less than ten euro!
NonchalantIy I drew my bank card from my wallet. I only carry enough cash with me to pay for the use of a toilet. Emergency money. I saw the boss frown at the waiter. I couldn't pay by bank card, the waiter explained. I waved my credit cardquestioningly. The men shook their heads. "Is there a cash machine nearby?" I replied.
"And then you'll come back to pay?" the waiter completed my plan. Of course, that's how we do things in the small town I live in. He nodded in agreement and explained to his boss. But this man frowned even worse. Started an argument about me leaving behind my identity card -or was it some other card?-  In a language that was definitely not italian. The outcome was that the waiter walked with me to the cash machine. It was still early, no customers besides me, so he could be spared. While we walked the length of the narrow street, the waiter, greeting a great number of colleagues at other restaurants, shrugged. "My boss wanted you to leave your credit card with him." The waiter was against such distrust and had talked his boss out of it. "So stupid," he went on shaking his head, "taking no risk over such a small amount of money."
"You're right." I gave a short laugh. "When you don't take risks, you rob yourself of good experiences." The owner of the restaurant had just robbed himself of experiencing the honesty of another human being. He didn't believe in honesty and missed out on proving himself wrong. 
The waiter, Bruno, nodded agreeing wholeheartedly. He didn't need my explanation. He had taken risks: he came from eastern europe a month ago to start over in my country. Already knew a lot of people who were obviously fond of him. He drew customers to the restaurant by breaking the rules: daring to go off the menu.

The owner had eyes that watched... making sure he wouldn't get hurt. Shutting out life.
Bruno, his waiter, had eyes that see. They saw me walking by and recognised me as a fellow rule breaker. We communicated without words, got to know bits of eachother and had one of life's small adventures. The positve experience of meeting Trust and Honesty.  

Trust and Honesty... they go off the menu too you know. They are rule breakers themselves! 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Rule Breakers [1 of 2]

Instead of an email

I went to Amsterdam two days ago, to escape the four walls that I have spent so many hours in this summer. Because the rain doesn't seem to take an end. I craved to see people, meet strangers. So I took off for Amsterdam, the city with the most diverse collection of people, the city of silliness, tolerance and humor. And creative thinking. I've spent several hours in the center with it's buzzing shops and cozy cafes and went home with fresh energy.

Today I had to go to 'Mokum' again, for manual therapy. Normally, I turn a visit to my MT into a day out, tasting this bustling city. But since I had already been transgressing two days before, I told myself not to do so today. I made myself swear a vow to go home straight after my visit to the MT.
So... after I closed the door of the physical therapy center behind my repaired back, I set out for the nearest tram stop, simply glad the rain had finally come to an end. I honestly meant to take the tram to Central Station. Yet... a side street was beckoning me with a row of beautiful 'brownstones' and an unpredictable bend. [Vondelstraat] 

'Remember your promise' I told myself. 'Stop being so priggish.' was the reply. And my feet chose the side street. My back wanted to try out it's new [com]position and urged them on.
I like old houses. I like them so much that I chose to follow the street and not go into the park through it's entrance between the well cared for brownstones. I could hear the high trees of the park, behind the row of houses, anyway. There was a strong wind making them sound like the sea. Beautiful, this sound in the midst of a city. Sea sounds and singing birds. An unexpected gift I accepted gratefully.
My jaw only dropped once, when I reached the end of the street. The bend was a 180° turn... I found myself standing at Overtoom, with right across the street the MT's place. OK, off for the tram stop again. And once more... a side way, lined with old townhouses. This one turned … out to be a dead end street. I had no choice but to enter the park. It's just the Vondelpark I thought and shrugged. A tiny detour.
I've only ever seen a small part of the park. Thought that that was the entire thing. Today I discovered the park is huge. I got lost. But that couldn't disquiet my happiness. I was seeing a part of Amsterdam I had never seen before. I was enjoying the kaleidoscope of people. Tourists feeding pigeons, joggers, people on bicycles - old ones, rented ones- , tourists kissing, locals walking their dog, hard workers checking the stage for an upcoming concert...

I walked and walked, the sound of traffic getting closer. I passed a garden restaurant and, untypical for me, decided to leave the park before stopping for a drink. Just at that moment a group of tourists stopped me. The young man was holding a workbook with some loose papers and a pen. He gestured for me to take them. One of the younger women asked me whether I was dutch. “Yes” I admitted, “but I'm no from Amsterdam”. The older woman cut in. I had taken the others for eastern Europe, maybe middle east, this woman had Asian, or maybe south American, cheekbones. An odd couple, but nice looking an friendly. In English the older woman explained that they were doing a 'quiz tour' . The questions were in Dutch, and the answers had to be Dutch too. Could I please write down the answer for them...
I took a look at the paper. The question referred to a statue and it was to be described on several dotted lines. The three quiz tour-ists pointed a little further away from us. I saw a ring of people, more tour-ists, and peeping over them the pale grey stone eyes of a girl with pale grey hair. The statue in question.
I grinned awkwardly and tried to hand back the pad and paper. I didn't feel like doing their thinking for them. I was about to suggest they'd ignore the rule of answering in Dutch and write down the answer by themselves as an idea came up...why not interview those who asked me? 
Why don't you just describe the statue and I'll translate for you.” After all, I work as freelance translator (and writer).
The idea was accepted unanimously. 
I could hear a multivoiced “I see a naked lady”, “the lady is naked” Obviously her most prominent feature. At least they considered the girl to be a lady in spite of this. When I had penned it down, I asked for more. “She is standing” “Her eyes are open”
“Her hair is drawn to the back of her head” “She is gray”. All facts, which I deftly put down. But it didn't satisfy me, the teacher in me came up. “Are there no emotions?” The women caught up with my question. The girl was open, spontaneous and one even found her to be proud. The gray eyes and poise of the head, all I could see, definitely showed self confidence, so penned it all down, in dutch. Then I handed back the paper, content. After all, the quiz was to make the spectators look at art as an expression of feelings or ideas. To make them see! And my question made them pick up the notion.

I left the park and my feet steered me through an expensive shopping area to the vicinity of the Museumplein. That wasn't what I wanted, so I chose a few smaller streets, leading me right through several groups of children playing outside. After School Care in action. They looked like regular schoolkids during their break. Traditionally, the boys were playing football -socker, I should say- what the girls were doing was less obvious. Some ran past me, giggling. Only one, with reddish blond hair, halted and looked at me with blue, serious, eyes. “Funny, we are playing lions right now.” The confession like nature of her approach was to be taken seriously, but somehow I felt I couldn't see her point. Leaving me at loss for words. She pointed to my T-shirt, “Jesus the Lion of Judah” and I looked down... a full blown male lion and the orange sky made up of another, transparent, lionhead. [ I dress to impress :) ] How could I forget? I laughed, opened my mouth to say something back to her … no need she was already called away by her playmates. I like that, those short fleeting moments of communication that leave an impression you can carry with you. 

Grotere kaart weergeven  

I came from the street on the right side of the photo, and took a turn to the right. Which is the left side on the pic.

To be continued ....

Look Watch or See

Before you even try to read my next post, please study this one carefully. Put the message in your [mental] pocket. To take it out once in a while to play with it. So you will get to understand and know it. 
I used to compare three verbs that are not as much alike as they seem at first glance.

to look                            underscores were placed by JoAnne Lakefield

1 often foll by: at to direct the eyes (towards) to look at the sea
2 often foll by: at to direct one's attention (towards) let's look at the circumstances
3 often foll by: to to turn one's interests or expectations (towards) to look to the future
4 copula to give the impression of being by appearance to the eye or mind; seem that looks interesting
5 to face in a particular direction the house looks north
6 to expect, hope, or plan (to do something) I look to hear from you soon, he's looking to get rich
7 foll by: for a to search or seek I looked for you everywhere
b to cherish the expectation (of); hope (for) I look for success
8 foll by: to a to be mindful (of) to look to the promise one has made
b to have recourse (to) look to your swords, men!
9 to be a pointer or sign these early inventions looked towards the development of industry
10 foll by: into to carry out an investigation to look into a mystery
11 tr to direct a look at (someone) in a specified way she looked her rival up and down
12 tr to accord in appearance with (something) to look one's age

to watch

1 to look at or observe closely or attentively
2 intr; foll by: for to wait attentively or expectantly
3 to guard or tend (something) closely or carefully
4 intr to keep vigil
5 tr to maintain an interest in to watch the progress of a child at school

to see [sees, seeing, saw, seen]

1 to perceive with the eyes
2 when tr, may take a clause as object to perceive (an idea) mentally; understand I explained the problem but he could not see it
3 tr to perceive with any or all of the senses I hate to see you so unhappy
4 tr; may take a clause as object to be aware of in advance; foresee I can see what will happen if you don't help
5 when tr, may take a clause as object to ascertain or find out (a fact); learn see who is at the door
6 when tr, takes a clause as object; when intr, foll by: to to make sure (of someth.) or take care (of someth.) see that he gets to bed early
7 when tr, may take a clause as object to consider, deliberate, or decide see if you can come next week
8 tr to have experience of; undergo he had seen much unhappiness in his life
9 tr to allow to be in a specified condition I cannot stand by and see a child in pain
10 tr to be characterized by this period of history has seen much unrest
11 tr to meet or pay a visit to to see one's solicitor
12 tr to receive, esp. as a guest or visitor the Prime Minister will see the deputation now
13 tr to frequent the company of she is seeing a married man
14 tr to accompany or escort I saw her to the door
15 tr to refer to or look up for further information see the appendix
16 (in gambling, esp. in poker) to match (another player's bet) or match the bet of (another player) by staking an equal sum

If I may roughly describe the differences between these three ways of making use of 'vision', I would do it like this:

The definition of looking is often about guiding either the eyes or view [def. 1, 5 ,11] or the attention [2, 3, 8a, 9] or even conclusion [3, 4, 12] into a certain direction.
But what about result? There are no guarantees: we either hope [6, 7b] or search [7a, 10], without a note about how it ends. Even having recourse to something is inconclusive: it means one is able o make use of something but that doesn't mean he will [8b].
So looking is definitely directive and suggestive, but it is inconclusive.

Watching sounds a lot more careful and aimed at detail, but I sense something stressed or negative too. It's mostly like keeping an eye out for danger, for things to be wary of, to make sure things won't go out of control.

wary: watchful, cautious, or alert;  characterized by caution or watchfulness

Seeing ... now that is beautiful!
It's about life: about sensing, perceiving and experiencing; physical or mental [1, 2, 3, 4, 8] or even with an abstract subject [10]
It's very decisive and includes the outcome [5, 6, 7, 16] or urges you not to just cast a glance - a look- at something but to study it. To undergo it !! [15]

I left out definitions 9, 11, 12, 13 ,14. They are all about seeing a human being. Let's play with it.
Seeing is about experiencing or undergoing. Or about doing a thorough in depth research for a conclusive answer, right. Keep that in mind when you look at these phrases....

I cannot stand by and see a child in pain Beauty... we are obviously sharing the child's pain, we are empathic.

to see one's solicitor Not for a cup of coffee and a chat, but for very solid advice
the Prime Minister will see the deputation now Again: not for a cup of coffee and a chat

she is seeing a married man ...
Is she looking at a married man? We all like to look at beauty, right. No harm in that.
Is she watching a married man? Is she afraid of him, or does she suspect him of a misdemeanor and wants to catch him at it?
No, she is 'experiencing' him. They are sharing some special  part of their lives....

I saw her to the door now that's a funny one. Isn't it enough to direct someone to the door? The indecisive directing as in looking. “I looked her to the door” :))
No, I saw her to the door.... because I wanted to make sure she would leave!! Not a very sympathetic expression. But some people just ask for being seen to the door.

Cameras, our mechanical eyes...

How do these things relate to our three verbs?

The easiest one is watching... can we use camera's for watching ? Definitely, they are called security cameras.

Can we use a camera for looking? Oh yes we can. It is the type of photography I'm not keen on. Just place a sound-activated camera in a crowd, like at a party, and it turns directed by the noise... or cameras with facial recognition technology. These cameras decide when and or how to make the shot of the subject they 'pick'. And snap... it makes a shot. Rather snappy. The outcome might be nice, but 9 out of 10 (999 out of 1000?) it will not be really worth while. Yup, that is looking : it has both directing and uncertainty about the outcome.

Now for the prize word: can we use a camera for seeing? What a question, that's the ultimate use of a camera. Seeing is an art word, photography is [or can be] an art.
Where most people look, or watch, or even scrutinize, a photographer may see something that the others overlooked, failed to see. The photographer uses his camera to emphasize or explain what it was that he saw. The photo may help us, overlookers, to focus and we might perceive the 'unobvious' too. If we take care to really study the photo, let it sink in...
Like I try to pass along ideas, visions and feelings with words, a photographer uses his pictures...

Is being a 'visual thinker' or 'picture thinker' a prerequisite to being a good photographer?

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Inheritance

It was like a bad dream, she thought as she made a mental list of the things she had to do. She became slower and slower in working things off her list, yet new tasks kept on adding to it at the same old speed. After enumerating the fourth post haste job, she already felt as if she was buried alive. Buried in the in the facts of life, the consequences of being human, of being a single mother. She stopped thinking. Thinking only led her to feeling paralysed. What she needed was action.
She placed her mug, bowl and spoon, her breakfast tools, on the kitchen counter, piling them up on the plates, mugs and glasses of yesterday. Then she went downstairs, to the bathroom. A shower would be nice, even though it would nibble at her time to get things done.

The shower might have washed away her negative thoughts, but as she came downstairs and entered the living room that had been her mother's, they washed right back over her again.
The room was now used for drying laundry, exercising and even as a workplace. Her mother's furniture had been taken away by an estate cleaner, except for a huge bookcase and an old fashioned roll top desk. She hadn't had the heart to let the thing be taken away. Her mother had always believed it was antique, an original 18th century cylinder bureau she had inherited from her grandmother, who had it from … who had it from … It was her mother's wish that she, Hannah, would inherit it. The desk was just an imitation, not worth a lot and so large, it determined the atmosphere of the room, in spite of the rack filled with dry laundry and the turned up bicycle that she hadn't been able to repair. She had been able to increase the damage.
She sighed walking past the bike and mentally calculated when to iron the laundry as she swallowed down her regret for not having taken the bicycle to the repairman when the wheel could still turn.
She halted at the end of the room, at the door leading to the garden. The rabbit, a liberated, wild spirited creature, was munching on the remains of a sawed off rosebush. Too much for the big garbage bin. She might have to hire a dumpster, if she wanted to get rid off the thorny twigs in one swoop. If such a thing was available, she might as well get rid of the other things in the garden: the rusty bicycles her son no longer used, the old dead Christmas tree, the numerous empty flower boxes. The rosebushes and flower boxes had been her mother's choice. Hannah herself definitely had no 'green fingers'. But even is she'd had them, there was no time for keeping up a garden. At least it was a great place for the rabbit. That animal... it was one of the first signs of her mother's decline. Her mother had bought it in a weak moment, but never ever looked after it. Not even paid for her food, in complete ignorance of Hannah's financial problems. The rabbit had become Hannah's responsibility for the full hundred percent. The woman raised her hand in greeting as the rabbit eyed her, wondering if Hannah's appearance at the door might mean food. At least the rabbit managed to make her smile. The animal hadn't been locked up for over a year now and was probably the most wise and healthy of all the occupants of this plot. She'd gnawed at the wire mesh of her enclosure, creating two more exits, for just in case. Rabbit Architectural Instinct.
She turned her back to the messy garden, facing the laundry rack. Now, if she would fold it all that would be one thing less on her list. She remembered her mother;s habit of wanting everything to be washed, ironed and back into the closets before leaving for a holiday. Why? So she wouldn't lose the holiday feeling after crossing the threshold of her old life?
Hannah's holiday was coming near now, would she get all her laundry done before that? She duly started to pick items and started to stretch them – to reduce the creases- and folded them neatly. If she skipped ironing them, she might get everything piece of textile back into the closet before leaving. Hannah was so short, she had to stand on her toes to lift sheets from the rack without letting them brush the floor.
Maybe, she thought pausing the folding of a sheet in midair, her urge to have things done, have clean and neat surroundings, close to perfection... that was her inheritance.
Inheritances could be refused. They could even be refused after taking inventory. She gave a short laugh. She didn't need to take stock, she knew she would reject the inheritance. Time to live her own life.