Thursday, November 25, 2010
We have a big family, and it used to be in years past, that we'd ALL go to one house, pig out, and let the kids run riot while the parents fell asleep in front of the football game.
Last year my mother had it here at her house. They always used to call on Thanksgiving day and pass the phone around to any cousin, aunt or friend who wanted to say hi. Every year I'd fight back homesickness tears, telling everyone how great it was going, how well the kids were and what we were doing for the holiday (which in Holland is called "Thursday").
Last year hearing all the familiar voices echoing off the walls of my own house with the dogs barking and kids laughing, I had to bite my mouth to keep the tears from heaving out. I'd just lost my job at the coffeeshop because of my ex's criminal record (yes, the cops actually fucking collaborated with city hall to have me fired), and had just started unravelling the truth about my ex's "friend." (Again, for the record and those of you keeping track - shorter, fatter, uglier, and older than I am; married to a cripple with whom she had three adult kids. That's nice.)
When I've come to visit in recent years, my family has usually been nice enough to indulge me by making a Thanksgiving-style meal for me, since there is something fucking wrong with turkeys in Holland. I think they are more like game birds - very tough, dark-meated and chicken-sized. You have to order "American-style" turkeys specially, and they cost a fortune. It would have been nice to have one, maybe one year, but my ex couldn;t seem to spare the dope money.
So I'm MAKING my mother have Thanksgiving here this year. Not everyone can come, but I'm sure as shit getting my fucking turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce on this side of the ocean this year.
Sunday, August 29, 2010
I'm still pretty well conditioned from cycling, so I figured it would be hard, but nothing too awful. Fuck, man, did I have my ass handed to me? Yes, I did.
Spin class scoffed at my Dutch biking experience. (OK, maybe I DID bike with a joint hanging out of my mouth, and occasionally with an open umbrella in one hand, but I'd like to think that coordination counts for something. I've even seen people in Holland bike while reading the newspaper. Young couples bike holding hands. Dorks.)
Here are a couple of things I realized:
-There are no hills in Holland, and "creating" a hill by turning up the bike tension is just fucking stupid.
-There is no reason to EVER bike at speeds that high (I mean, would I be getting chased by something? I'd let the fucker catch me, if biking like that were the only alternative.)
-Sitting UP on a bike is much more comfortable than hunching over one.
-When you stop pedaling on a bike in real life, you coast. Ain't no coasting in spin class. Stop pedaling and your feet fall out of the foot straps and you look like a douche.
I thought I was going to barf about 10 minutes in. To be fair, I DID pedal the entire class without cheating by turning down the bike tension, but I could NOT bounce up and down and stand and sit in the trained-seal way everyone else did. The teacher said I did "awesome" for my first class, which I'd like to think she meant, but wow, I was shocked by how hard it was.
I was so happy when it was over, and I felt that great "having-exercised" high. The trick then became not going into Dunkin' Donuts next door for a celebratory coffee roll. Sigh.
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
My ex used to take every opportunity to screech to a halt and bounce out of his car in traffic. Sometimes he'd kick in a door, but his signature move was reaching in through the driver's window, pulling the guy out by his collar, then punching him in the face. Ah, Amsterdam. At least people don't tend to carry guns as often there.
Today, by the Boston Museum of Science - a shit traffic location any way you slice it - I got totally cut off by a woman determined to hit my car if I didn't let her into the line of traffic.
First, let me tell you about my truck. (And it IS a truck. Not some whiny little top-heavy SUV built on a car chassis.) My father bought this truck in 2000, I think, shortly before he died. It was a beautiful, top-of-the-line, all-the-options model. Twelve years ago. Now it's a hulking, rusted monster with giant bumpers, a huge engine, and completely inadequate brakes that we just don't have the heart to say goodbye to.
It screams "I don't care. Stay the fuck away - I have no insurance, no money and I'll crush your tiny, shiny piece of Asian crap into origami and use it as a hood ornament."
And it's WAY bigger than a garden variety SUV. As my friend at work said "It's just so honkin'."
So you'd really have to be a special kind of moron to jump in front of this thing.
This dumb broad had her kids in the car (which I didn't immediately realize, or I would have had a little more self-control. I'd like to think so anyways...)
Oh my God. I honestly didn't know I could swear like that. It was like an out-of-body experience and totally surreal. She had her window down - like most people - and halfheartedly waved out the window to me, so I know she heard the onslaught. I think I called her stupid. And maybe worse. I'm might have used the c-word, and I KNOW I used the f-word. Then I was really cute and said something like "I'm sorry! I'm so sorry! I didn't realize you had your kids with you! I'd fucking hate to see how you drive WITHOUT them in the car..!"
I swear in front of my kids. I used to try not to, but I've developed Tourette's Syndrome since becoming a parent. I'm a firm believer that kids should hear swears once in awhile in order to understand when their use is appropriate, and learn not to use them inappropriately. At least I tell myself that to justify my potty mouth.
You see kiddies...It's ok for grown-ups to use the f-word, because we're important and we know more than you do. And sophisticated, mature adults sometimes call each other names in traffic, because it's the calm, mature and level-headed thing to do. And sometimes your dumb, fat, ugly f*cking c*nt mother deserves it for endangering your little ugly bastard lives.
Saturday, August 7, 2010
There aren't words to describe the depth of the tragedy and its impact on, well EVERYTHING relating to the lives involved, not to mention the future of the business.
As I made dozens of phone calls with the sad news, and called customers with cars still at the shop, I felt like compiling a hit list of assholes with big fat stupid mouths who shouldn't be breathing the same air as the wonderful people I work for.
Me: "I'm sorry we couldn't complete the additional work you requested, but your brakes are finished and your car is ready for pickup"
Him: "You really didn't fix the door?"
Me: "No sir. Yours was the last car (the son) worked on on Friday (the day he died) and he just didn't get to it."
Him: "I thought he said it was a quick fix that would only take a minute."
Me: PAUSE (Really? Am I ACTUALLY having this conversation?) "That may well be, but he just didn't get to it." (You know. Before he DIED.)
Him: "Well, are you going to be getting a NEW mechanic?"
Me: PAUSE. PAUSE. PAUSE. (Stay professional. This is their business. Be respectful for them.) "COME PICK UP YOUR CAR" *Click*
I'll couch this by saying that MOST people were extremely sorry, understanding and sympathetic. (One guy whose appointment I canceled said sheepishly "Geez, that sure puts my stupid air-conditioning problem in perspective") But they sure make the jerks stand out like sore, retarded asshole thumbs.
And the details. The pushing and pressing for details. "What happened? HOW did it happen?"
Why? Why, oh why? Does it matter what happened (aside from - perhaps - the concern that no one else was injured)? A 25-year-old kid has died. A friend of mine. The part owner of the business, son of the dear old man beloved to everyone who meets him. Brother of the sweet, beautiful girl who runs the shop. IS THIS IMPORTANT?
Here's a question asked to me repeatedly at the funeral home: "Why is the casket closed?"
Why the fuck do you think it is, you insensitive prick?
One person started to speculate about the circumstances of the death and just how that would affect the head, face and body of this kind, hard-working kid. And not subtly. I saw my other coworker's nostrils flare at this comment and I said to the man quickly "Stop talking. Right now."
At the very least, I hope that fielding the questions of these moronic douchebags spared the family from having to hear and answer them.
I'm not sure when the shop will open again, or even IF it will. I don't know if my boss can face working next to his son's empty garage bay every day, or if his daughter will be able to go back to work in the same place where she and her brother grew up together working on cars.
But I know one thing: I SURE AM SORRY we didn't get to fix that door for you. Prick.
Monday, July 12, 2010
I'm working at a temporary job, getting my kids up and running in daycare, and trying to find something more permanent to do. I am like a weird little oddity at work. All the customers want to know who I am, why I am working instead of the usual girl, and once I start answering questions, things just get weirder and weirder.
No, I'm not a member of the family (like everyone else there). Yes. I'm a friend of the family. No, I'm not here permanently. Well, I'm an editor. Yes, still looking for something in my field. Where was I working before? Um. Holland. Well, it's kind of complicated. Yes, I am living with my family just down the road. No, I left the bastard in Holland. Yes, I speak Dutch. I agree, it IS a fucked-up language. Yes, I speak Italian too (like everyone else there). And Spanish. Yes, I probably should get a job using my language skills. If you have one to offer me, get to it, otherwise get the fuck away from my desk.
I should pretend I'm a deaf-mute.
Random people keep moving into my mother's house.
I used to miss American television, now I can't fucking stand being forced to watch things like "Real Housewives" and cooking competitions. It is a whole shitload of inane bullshit.
I'm still a bit lonely, and imposing myself on friends and family way too often. I hope I'm not that annoying-but-nice friend you feel bad for but still wish would go away.
Yesterday I bought 5 pair of underwear at Victoria's Secret for $25 and got a free pair of flipflops. God Bless America.
Saturday, April 24, 2010
Marathon day was awesome. The runners come right down our street, so we're forced to have a party every year, whether we like it or not. The kids had a blast. Not my kids. The relatives' kids and random people's kids.
My little one was sleeping. It was the day before his second birthday, and we were going to have a cake to celebrate, but he slept right through it.
My big one managed to loosen up and have some fun, despite other people wanting to use his toys. There were many tears, followed by locking up his prized go-cart in the garage, so no one could enjoy it.
Being Dutch, he felt compelled to pick up the runners' cups when they dropped them. Not ALL of them, just the ones HE had personally handed out. Very responsible. God, I love the little kid. He misses his dad, though. I can't blame him. I miss Holland too.
On my son's second birthday, I cried all day. I was so sad about the loss of our lives in Holland, and the traditions we had started to make there, that I felt like I couldn't catch my breath. I was crushingly sad all day - a day only made bearable by the efforts of my friend, who took us all to the beach, and did her best to make us all feel a little less dejected.
When we walked to the water's edge to wade and collect some shells, I got that freaky, weird, out-of-body feeling thinking about the water reaching all the way back to our beaches in Holland where we spent so much time together pretending to be a happy family.
Why the fuck do the right decisions always hurt so much?
Saturday, April 10, 2010
I have a new part time job, starting on the 26th. I found daycare for the kids. My friends are all happy to see me. Guys unabashedly check me out in this country, which I love (Dutch guys - I swear - don't bother to look at girls).
People love my kids. I mean it. Friends keep saying things like "Hey, let's take the kids camping/fishing/hiking/to the museum/aquarium/fire station/playground." It's like everyone I know has been looking for an excuse to do kid stuff and just needs a kid or two as a beard at the Children's Museum or park. I don't recall people calling me up to drag me around when I was single with no kids. It's weird. But nice.
OK - I'm going to bed early. Long day of friend-induced kid activities tomorrow, so I need to rest up.
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Compared to Holland, these places look like rundown third-world orphanages. Even the better ones seem grubby and picked-over, poorly maintained and depressing. And then there is the pricetag...
I suppose that it isn't really much more expensive than in Holland, though the facilities are horrifically lacking in comparison. The major difference is that the governmental childcare reimbursement pays a huge portion of whatever a family's daycare costs are. Even with two incomes, we were reimbursed for about 75% of our costs - and that is immediately, not at the end of the year. The government actually pays the childcare center every month, and you just pay your own portion alongside that.
To send both boys to a preschool/daycare here for three days a week - HALF days, mind you - will cost more than my monthly salary in Holland. More than I made IN A MONTH.
I suppose the fact that salaries here are higher would compensate for it, but I don't have a job yet. Oops.
On the upside, grocery shopping is now taking me less than two hours a trip. So, I've got that going for me.
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
I can't stop shopping like I'm in Holland. My brother-in-law asked me today "Why don't you get more stuff at the supermarket, like five gallons of milk instead of one?"
The answer is that I can't pull the trigger. I buy one box of kleenex, one pack of toilet paper, one half-gallon of orange juice, a pound of coldcuts, etc., etc.
The result is that everyone is running around going "Where's the rest of the kleenex?" How can we be out of turkey?" "Who drank all the orange juice?"
I just can't get used to the idea that I am going to load it all into the SUV (well, I'M not going to load it...it gets sent underground via a conveyor belt to a drive-thru where they load your car while you sit behind the wheel) instead of carrying a bag in each hand, or loading the bakfiets with as much food as will fit beside two children.
Every time I go to the supermarket it takes me like 2 hours. I can't get used to it again. EVERYTHING I need, and tons of stuff I don't in one convenient location. Informative staff. Courteous cashiers. I walk around like a deer in the headlights with glazed-over eyes mindlessly filling a shopping cart big enough for my whole family to sit in.
I guess I just question the wisdom of buying jumbo-size crap. That's how we all get the jumbo-size asses.
Speaking of that - I have a friend (yes, you) fixing a couple of old-school English 3-speeds for me. I am so psyched. I can't wait. Now if ONLY I could get the bakfiets here...Well, I'm working on that.
Thursday, February 25, 2010
I am glad to report that the kids are getting more attention and affection than ever before. I've even found a little Dutch school for them. Hearing all the teachers and parents speaking Dutch made me like, reverse-homesick. It was weird.
I have been eating breakfast cereal like a pig. Somebody stop me.
Tuesday, February 2, 2010
But let's get to the important stuff.
Can I still be an Amsterdam Yankee? Will anyone care? How long until I start to suffer from Americ-ass? Can I afford to have my bakfiets shipped here?
Will I tire of grocery shopping? Will I ever start my new intercontinental Amsterdam-Boston project? (Very hush-hush. Will update as I progress. If I progress...) Can my children go to Dutch school? (Yes, they can. It's a rhetorical question.) Will I be happy in my mother's basement? (I think we can all answer that now.)
Will I still have any friends here? (Hi, Pat.) Will the 14-year-old truck's brakes finally give out once and for all and leave me in a twisted, fiery mess avec crotch fruit? (God, I hate French.) Can I find a job, social life, peace of mind in the cradle of my home town? Will I have a freakout and go back? Is there a better cookie than a stroopwafel? Must I make it my duty to find out?
How many breakfast cereals can I eat until I get tired of them? (So far I've killed Frosted Mini-Wheats, Honey Nut Cheerios, Lucky Charms and Fruit Loops.)
Let's just try to avoid the obvious.. How much longer until I have a nervous breakdown? (10...9...8...)
Saturday, January 9, 2010
Funny. As. Shit.
When good service, and Stroopwafels, go bad.
I submit this guest entry to my favorite blog.
I recently had an amusing grocery experience of my own, with a tangential
My girlfriend Kate and I went to
Next morning, it’s pretty clear that we both have food poisoning. She has it bad, I have a mild case. Unfortunately for her, the taste, smell, texture – the entire experience – of 4 days of food poisoning (2 bad days, 2 recovery days) were Stroopwafels.
Unfortunately for me, this meant the end of my love affair with Stroopwafels. I am expressly forbidden to have anything to do with them, and the several packages I already had in the flat there had to go. The sight, let alone the smell or taste, of them could no longer be tolerated.
I understand. We’ve all been there – some food or drink that serves as a visceral reminder of that Retroperistalsis disaster.
Stroopwafels are not a common find in the States’ grocery aisles, but recently have become more available. On a trip to Trader Joe’s months after the event, I saw they now carried them. Having the diminished memory capabilities that often plagues my gender; I expressed an interest, which earned me frozen-stare look of disbelief from Kate.
Oh yeah, right… I remember… I don’t get to like those anymore.
Fast forward a year. It’s a late Sunday afternoon, and she wants to go do a major Thanksgiving shop (one of several). I balk. It’s about the last thing I want to do. She comes up with a surprising, unbidden (heretofore unheard of) suggestion: “Why don’t you have one of your special cupcakes from the deep freeze, and keep me company?”
Oh yeah... those... Done! Off we go to Trader Joe’s. Great store. It's the kind of place I imagine just doesn't exist in
(I imagine someone walking in with a ski mask and a bloody ax would be greeted with a big smile and a genuine suggestion of "Hey, I just tried this new food product that goes great with fresh blood! And, if you're face is dry from the cold we have this great face cream!")
I grab a package of mini Stroopwafels, and pay for them at a checkout counter. Just the one item. It raises several eyebrows. I tell the cashier that I'm going to continue shopping, is it cool if I walk around chowing them? This is funny to him, no worries.
I proceed to joyfully pop waffles. I carry my open bag around in front of me, carefully avoiding the aisles Kate is loitering through, and offer the bag and a smile in silent greeting to just about everybody who enters my orbit, staff included. I chat with two staffers for a bit, named Mark and Tony. Nice guys, and we entertain each other for as long as they are able before briskly walking to their next task.
(A note on the Trader Joe's staff: there are a lot of them for a relatively small store, and they all walk around quickly, with purpose. It's something I never see at any other grocery store - heck, just about ANY store. Employees so motivated about their retail job that they literally run around a store with a smile, stocking shelves, and generally helping folks out?
I've made it about half way through my bag of caramel goodness, with a few folks helping deplete my bag (people who accept just-opened food from strangers in grocery stores is a sociographic study in itself, and something that I do on occasion.) My goal is to polish off the bag before checkout time, and I'm going to need help from fellow shoppers to do it. My thirst for Stroopwafels is finally, scrumptiously slaked.
I see the peanut butter filled pretzels low on a shelf, and bend over to get a few bags of a favorite snack. Out spill the mini waffles, in a pretty semi-circle around me.
My first reaction as I quick-scan: "Where's Kate? Am I busted?" It appears I'm safe. I put down the three packages of pretzels, and begin collecting the waffles in a squat. I have them all in my right hand, and I have the first cupcake zone-out. I'm caught in the image of my right hand, filled with mini-waffles, and another person's right hand next to mine, the owner out of sight above me. It is an odd image, and it takes me a full second or two to release the golden texture of the waffles, the familiar hand, and the unknown hand, and zone back in.
I look up. It's Mark, waiting patiently for me to... I can't quite snap to it.
"You want me to throw those out for you?"
"Oh, yeah... I was just wondering whether... I guess I do, huh?" Looking for reassurance.
"Yeah, you probably do." Laughing that it appears not to be a no-brainer for me.
(In my head, I agree that I probably do, but it's not a sure thing. I have no problem eating food off just about any relatively clean looking floor. I understand this puts me at a behavioral fringe.)
I carefully transfer the waffles from my hand to Mark's. I give him the bag too, with a few remaining waffles in it. "Better just toss it all. I'm stuffed anyway."
He trots off to the unseen, unknown depths of the back rooms. What goes back there? They must have a monster freezer for all this frozen stuff. How big is it? It'd be cool to get a tour...
Kate appears, and I fall in line with her, trying to hide the smell of Stroopwafel on my breath, looking for the next thing to entertain me.
After a few minutes, Mark strolls toward us, holding a new bag of mini Stroopwafels. Kate recoils in horror. She looks at me, back at Mark, and watches dumbstruck as Mark casually tosses me the product. I look at Kate, struck wide-eyed, at Mark, and just as casually, toss them back to him.
"What do I want with those?" I attempt. But it's clear that Kate has the whole thing figured out already.
I am busted.
I'm laughing so hard now I can't articulate something that would resemble a excuse. My laugh is infectious, and she and Mark are joining in, as Mark enjoys his unwitting part in some inside joke. He tosses them back - we are now technically quite good buddies, haven chatted, helped the other out, and now playing catch. "They are already written off. You have to take them."
"See! I have nothing to do with this" I exclaim, vindicated. "He's forcing me to take them!"
She's having none of it, amused by my latest inept machinations. "You can not bring those out of this store. You know that, right?"
I put on my mock sheepish air. "Maybe I'll just follow Mark around until you're done. How long until you're done?"
"About 10 minutes."
"Mark, how about a quick tour of the biggest freezer you guys have here until she's done?" Then in loud whisper: "I'll give you a bag of Stroopwafels!"
Laughing, he says, "Sure! Follow me!"
The unknown depths of Trader Joe's all become known to me. I cruise up and down the compact aisles of the massive freezer, efficiently packed to the ceiling with reasonably priced food that needs only a microwave to make any person a competent chef. I'm ecstatic.
I meet up with Kate half way through the checkout process. I try to explain the new bag of Stroopwafels in my hand has been paid for, but that I don't want them. This concept causes some confusion, until the cashier points out the cute "No Charge" sticker on the bottom, cleverly affixed by Mark. Unfortunately, I exacerbate the confusion by attempting to rid myself of the package in the 60 seconds I have left before we leave the store.
Ever try to give something of value away for free? To a whole bunch of people? Sometimes it just doesn't work, and it didn't then.
After announcing to the entire checkout community: "Would anyone like a free bag of Stroopwafels? Brand new? Anyone? Free? No? Really? They're good..." it seemed that the offer must be suspect. Katie is in hysterics.
I catch Mark's eye as he trots up an aisle. He waves and gives a nod (we're buddies now, and buddies can give the cool chin-bump "hey"). I give him the nod back, and casually toss the package over the heads of the folks still dumbly digesting my outburst -- a perfect connection, an instinctive passer-receiver intimacy. He catches it one handed without skipping stride, gives a final smile.
I'm out through the sliding doors, Katie shaking her head, leaving the masses to wonder what they're missing and, I imagine, thinking "What's a Stroopwafel?"