Thursday, July 31, 2008

Fuchsia Granny

There is a great freedom in not caring what the hell people think. In Amsterdam, you can really let your freak flag fly and no one really gives a damn.

It's ok to be tattooed like a sideshow freak and still be a caring mother. It's ok to actually BE a sideshow freak and still be a caring father. You can be a doctor who has been to jail on drug charges, but your professional respect remains unaltered. Or maybe you're a street junkie/alcoholic with a heart of gold, or a tranny hooker who just loves children. These are all people I have the joy and enrichment of knowing.

Which brings me to Fuchsia Granny. There is a lady in this neighborhood who looks in all ways like a nice elderly Dutch lady with all the trappings of same. She has sensible shoes, granny eyeglasses, an indulgent and generous smile for children, a rolling shopping bag, but get this: She has violently bright pink hair. This is not "oh dear, my hair color came out slightly brassy" hair, this is "Knock my surgical stockings off" punk rocker hair. It's all done up in long braids and piled into a neat old-lady bun at the nape of her neck. No one would ever mention it, point it out, or ridicule it. That's just the way it is here.

It gives me great reassurance to see her. Everyone has a unique way of giving the world the finger for whatever reason they have. Maybe she's a cancer survivor and decided that she was going to do something wild to celebrate her health. Maybe she just always wanted to look like a parrot. No one cares. And if they do, fuck 'em.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Amsterdam Cops

I don't know why, but they are always conducting "routine searches" here in the Dam of Amster. Don't listen to Pulp Fiction. The cops CAN search you. Once we got pulled over when we were in a hurry to get to a doctor's appointment. I was really pregnant, so I did the Lamaze breathing and pointed to my belly until we got waved through by a cop who looked about 10.

It's hard to get respect when you're a Dutch cop. Maybe it's because none of the blondies grow much facial hair, so they look like they should still be in diapers. On the other hand, it's pretty hard to look tough on a bicycle, even if it is a MOUNTAIN bike. If you are hardcore enough to warrant a patrol car, it's hard to look tough in a Volkswagen Golf. Only the mortorcycle cops look cool, because they rate BMWs.

Maybe they get disrespected because everyone is always doing something in the Red Light that's only borderline legal right in their faces. Maybe it's because if a bike cop arrests someone, the partner pushes both bikes while the perp is led to the station on foot, handcuffed, by the other. Which person in THAT scenario is doing the "walk of shame"?

All this contributes to why cops are constantly having their bikes stolen or thrown in the canal when they are distracted; why female police officers get cat-called (Dutch girls are hot, and it's hard to look tough with a blond ponytail...on a bike); and why those cute little Golfs are always being defaced.

On the other hand, I'm told they can be pretty intimidating when they gang up on you with their pistols drawn. Don't ask how I know this...

(Which incidently brings me to a piece of advice... When a friend asks to store 17 kilos of pot in your house until they can be picked up, be sure he said 17, instead of 70.)

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Spoon difficulties

We have these dainty little spoons for coffee.

We used to live next door to one of Amsterdam's most famous coffeeshops (the kind that sell drugs, I mean), and the waitstaff was nice enough to serve drinks right to our windowsill. In nice weather, they'd give us table service when we sat out front in our folding chairs claiming our piece of sidewalk.

Inevitably, some of the cups and saucers never made it back to them, but I don't know what the hell happened with the spoons. We must have 20 of them in addition to our own, but I still have a spoon problem.

We have a coffee maker called Senseo, that makes one cup at a time. I always make a cup, season it, and stir it, leaving the spoon somewhere on the counter so I can use it later for my next cup of coffee. I can never find it. I always see one or two sitting precariously close to the dirty dishes or next to the coffeemaker, and I'm never quite sure which is the one I just used, or if they have been there all night festering. So I take a new spoon. Repeat. I rinse them off afterwards, but they never seem quite clean enough. I shouldn't leave them on the counters at all. I should just use disposible stirrers, or something.

Maybe I can invent some kind of sugar stirrer MADE of sugar so it just disolves in your coffee, solving the problem! Naaaah. I'm just an idiot.

Whew. There's 10 minutes of my life I'll never get back.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Seedy Business

I just got a call from my friend's daughter who is here in Amsterdam visiting her grandfather. This is the most precocious 7-year-old I have ever met. She actually said to me "So I heard you had another baby. How'd that go?"

When I met her, she was 3-and-a-half, and I was single and childless. I'd been invited on a boat trip by some Americans who chartered tourists around on pot tours. About 20 of us were crammed onto an open boat along with Rage Against the Machine (the band, not the CD), and this little girl's grandpa who had a group of marijuana devotees following him along. He is big in the seed business.

So about an hour into the weed version of a "booze cruise," this tiny girl comes up to me with a bag of chips and says "Can you open this for me?" I got a little nervous, thinking that her mom might be one of the hippies aboard with grandpa who would look up in shock from her power hit and start screaming that chips weren't part of her all-vegan, organic, lacto-ovo-creepo diet, or something, so I said, very nicely "Is it ok with your mommy if you eat these?" (I seriously had a friend growing up whose mom wouldn't let ANYONE smoke cigarettes in the house. Marijuana was ok.) The little girl sneered at me and threw her shoulders back and said, like I was an idiot, "My mom's in SPAIN." Alrighty then. I opened the chips.

Her mom and I became good friends when she eventually came back to Amsterdam, bonding as fellow Americans and bemoaning Dutch ways during our almost-simultaneous pregnancies and child-rearing.

So, mom is back in Spain, and her daughter, visiting grandpa, wants to know if we'll accompany her on a boat trip tomorrow. In the meantime, I've had two kids, and my stepdaughter is the same age as she is. Is this life coming full-circle, history repeating itself, or deja vu?

What the hell was I thinking?

I was all jazzed about starting a blog, then I realized that I don't even have time to shower.

Today is different, though - I have FOUR kids. F is here for summer vacation and her friend is visiting too. I tried to keep them busy with some crafty projects (that's why they exist, I've found out. For kids, and bored housewives in the suburbs who make hideous wreathes for their friends), but I ended up trying to paint a magnet with one hand while breastfeeding. Not recommended. And we just cleaned the rug, so I was terrified they'd spill on it and I'd have a mess to explain to D. I'm already not Housekeeper of the Year. Technically I should be doing some dishes or something now, maar ik heb er geen zin in.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Dutch TV sucks

Dutch tv sucks. All the shows are American or British imports and they are all about 10 years old. We get all these stupid series that were cancelled 100 years ago, like "Two guys, a girl, and a pizza place." Remember that one? You're right. Nobody does. How about "According to Jim"? Another fat, unfunny guy sitting around in his Lazy Boy while his hot wife tries to figure out why her character would ever stay with such a loser. "Fresh Prince of Bel Air"...ok, that one's good, but still so old. No wonder everyone in the US thinks that Europeans dress like the 1980's. That's when all the shows are from, only no one tells them.

There are hardly any decent home improvement shows either (not even "Home Improvement" with Tim Allen...see According to Jim comment above...). I desperately miss TLC and HGTV. I never thought TV would be on my "top things I miss about America" list, but yeah, it is. On the other hand, people don't tend to watch tv much because there is nothing good on. Ever. Instead they cook dinner, go to the park after work to play with the kids, hang the laundry, or something else Americans have forgotten all about.

Which brings me to washing machines and dryers. Why can't we have good ones here? The clothes stay dirty because all the machines are front-loading, water-conserving, low-heat models. The electricity needed to run dryers costs so much that people usually just hang the laundry. I have forgotten what a soft, fluffy towel feels like.

We have a washer-dryer in one machine which does neither well. We end up hanging almost everything, since it's actually usually faster than the frigging dry function. That's irony.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Good Morning

It's the day after coming home from Efteling. Baby M sits on my lap with a Pardoes bag looped over his wrist by big brother V. "Baby M wil dit vasthouden." If you say so, honey.

Honestly, it was a great time, but it will take us both a few days to recover schlepping three kids all over the fairytale forest and beyond. By the second day - desperate to get our money's worth - we were encouraging our exhausted kids into every attraction that we passed. "You're going to have fun, damnit!"

Only Baby M stayed in a good mood. He's three months old, and inexplicably cheerful, no matter the circumstance. He's a fairytale baby. He just loved having his butt changed in the pouring rain outside Little Red Riding Hood's grandmother's house while getting dripped on by a leaky umbrella while we all bitched at each other. Fabulous!

2-year-old needs me. Back later. Maybe. I hope.