A Travellerspoint blog

The Best Places to Visit Before You Kick the Bucket

The Best Places to Visit Before You Kick the Bucket

1. Your head

This is a short list. Honestly, I find I have the best conversations in my head. I told a friend this and she wasn’t offended. She nodded and said, “That’s because you are a writer.”

Right. I write nonstop, following the twists and turns of my brain patterns. Not that I think that I am fascinating, no it’s imaginative moments that transport me into another world right here at the dining room table. The coffee and sugar help.

Do you think you need to write a book? Yes, do it. Why not, the best trip you’ll ever take, even if no one else agrees.

Our new book, “A Sample of Gouda” (a collaboration with photographer Vinita Salome) is coming out in 2014.

Some of my and our jots, notes and whatnots (besides Twitter and goodreads) are located at:

The Bee's Tour With Vinita

A Little Grey Matter

Nectar From Holland, The Bee's Tour with Vinita

Vinita Salome

Sincerely yours,

Posted by apersephone 02:06 Archived in Netherlands Tagged of book sample author gouda writing Comments (0)

The Moo Talk

“Ohyi,” the man said to me on the phone. I had just ended the television subscription. He had followed the company script to the letter to thank me for having participated as a client in the company for a significantly long period of time, and wished me further a fine day. In return I smoothly replied I wished him the same, and added a “Sir” on the end. This is traditional politeness here in the Netherlands. Like many countries in Europe one must add a ma’am or sir or miss to a greeting to make it worthy of notice. (This is not necessary in California but I have noticed in the South this attentiveness counts for something in America.) Then after we had exchanged the formal polite rejoinders to end the conversation, he cheerfully added, “Ohyi!” This slid the exchange into the informal, as in you’re no longer a client and I don’t have to serve you anything over the phone anymore. I thought about saying “Ohyi” back but then I didn’t want to so I hung up instead.

His accent had been a bit Belgian. I wondered if I was talking to Belgium, or someplace in Brabant. Or whether he was a university student in Leiden. Many moons ago I worked in a call center for a period of about two years after finishing conservatory. It was an excellent way to get a steady pay check and cheap health insurance. I believe I worked fifteen hours a week speaking English, Dutch, French, Italian, Spanish and when forced German, the least solid of the languages I speak. The biggest attraction to working in a call center was that I could fill out a form showing when I was available for work, thus working around rehearsal and performance schedules. I opted mainly for the hours late in the evenings or on Sunday mornings so I could read a book (sometimes a German grammar book, just in case) in between customers. This also saved my voice from being taxed by talking too much.

Sometimes I had interesting conversations with people such as a Parisian travel agent situated on the rue du Milan who knew the diva I used to study with living on the same street (she was famous for both her voice and behaviour). Back then I was working the telephone for a hotel chain, and of course the work is now moot as the internet provides all the information clients need to book their own rooms. It wasn’t great work, but the floor was filled with all sorts of international types. The office hired a lot of artists and we generally got along better with each other than the people making a career out of the place. I wonder now what happened to a certain fulltime worker “F.” who so intent on selling rooms booked a room in Brussels for an Israeli couple requesting Paris (sold out), informing them it was only a short drive away. We all found this quite scandalous, but then we as part timers didn’t really concern ourselves too much with our booked rooms to call ratio. To my amusement I had a very high percentage of bookings to calls, my manager would occasionally sit me down for a serious five minute talk and review my performance during which I would nodded back very seriously indeed wondering about the seemingly karmatic ratio of motivations people experienced to pick up the phone to reserve a hotel room and then the percentage of heavenly chance that I might be on the other end of the impulse, hopefully a fully determined type of drive through action. For what it was, I found the job quite easy.

Upon arriving to the Netherlands to study music, due to my musical ear perhaps, I immediately grasped that there are many different accents and dialects in the country. I recognized within a matter of a few days that Dutch people at the conservatory said “Ohyi” in various ways:


This means goodbye and in some ways it does sound a bit like mooing in this cow crazy country, nothing like the “au revoirs” or “a tout a l’heure” that I was accustomed to in France before coming the Netherlands. There’s even a “doo-ii-doo” and various versions of this alternative statement of departure. So here I end: Doowii.

Posted by apersephone 04:46 Archived in Netherlands Tagged the netherlands language center dutch call Comments (0)

The Curve Ball that Sets You Straight

Sometimes life throws you a curve ball that you really don’t want to see coming. Then, upon seeing that it’s not possible to ignore it any longer, you reach an understanding that it will soon hit you in the head, and so you start moving to preserve your skull. I must admit I have had a privileged life in some ways; I’ve traveled to many places in the world, I’ve been able to explore what some call hobbies, music and literature, but when I look around me, and Facebook is a superb perch to view people and their interests, the level of interests and quality therein, I realize that I am more than above average in artistic inclinations. I am an artist, I think like an artist and I work like an artist. I also get paid like an artist. I am not self-sufficient; however, circumstances being what presently they are, I need to become self-sufficient or I need to significantly lower my standard of living. I know many people, like me trained and practiced in the arts, who have chosen one or the other way to facilitate a lifestyle.

I’ve worked in offices before, mainly as in between functions to support myself while finishing Conservatory. I’ve worked, for instance, as an Assistant Registrar and as the Assistant to the Associate Pastors at the American Church in Paris, and to this date I still work an office job. Part of my routine or daily work is handling business at Violinist in Balance which provides custom made chin and shoulder rests to violinists. (An occasional viola sometimes shows up too.) I actually enjoy office work. It’s generally quiet and I get a subtle kick out of organizing things in a confined space for purposeful fulfillment of set tasks.

During these past few months kind friends and acquaintances have suggested all sorts of things to secure me a steadier income. Depending on how they see me, they either suggest something musical (for example teach a load of pop style classes to kids) or writing per page for cash. When I mention that I’d like to find an office job, they become confused. Surely, they are thinking that I am not qualified to manage an office. When was the last time I was in an office? Here’s the point to this blog: I am an office. I am an artist and therefore a product and therefore I need an office, thus I am my own office. Big time artists have offices behind them, small time artists are both the artist and the office and, let me say this, it’s hard work to set up everything so that you can carve out creative time to produce a product worth some quality whether it’s a concert or a book.

It’s gotten easier to be a credible Artist with Office with the advent of computers and computer programs. Making flyers, programs, power point presentations, excel sheets for taxes and various projects, agendas, communication, etc. is readily available. And most artists I know, musicians, visual artists, teachers, writers, etc. are very interested in these types of programs and, usually being creative and curious, learn to use them quickly. To boot we love things like blogs, soundcloud, twitter, Google Plus – in short any media platform is intriguing. Why then, I ask myself, do people not involved in the arts have difficulty seeing the skills that we artists have developed not for a corporate world, but for the basically “non-profit” world?

A singer recently commented to me, he has a consultancy business to earn a pay check that covers the rent year round, that his business clients and contacts found it difficult to digest that his LinkedIn profile not only stated that he was in the corporate world but also working as a tenor, paid in professional shows on professional stages. I suppose this all has something to do with translating skills across different mediums, but there is also the inclination to believe it is linked to profit credibility.

Posted by apersephone 09:33 Archived in Netherlands Tagged amsterdam life being artist abroad an working expat Comments (0)

The Two-Way Mirror at Amsterdam’s Hermitage

Many of us know that to visit a city, a trip to a fine arts museum is an elegant way to pay homage to a world class location. In return, offering a peacock display of recognized quality is the quintessential whiff of museum musk needed to stimulate tourists to sniff out the art scene in Amsterdam. Of course, the other side to admiring this city is to simply slowly walk along the streets. Then, in fact, a visitor is meshed among the city’s highlights and spatially places themselves within the geographical context. However, by merging history in the form of an historical building and world class art an opportunity arises that should not be considered lightly. Amsterdam’s Hermitage showcases traveling exhibitions, as well as an incredible room with a view of the Amstel River featuring a row of splendid canal houses on the other side, occasionally interrupted by a passing barge. You may sit in that space in a chair holding the view for a fair amount of time. I find such outings most inspirational. Here follows a trail of visions of the current Gauguin, Bonnard, and Denis exhibition.

Standing Nude in Modernity

In this salon the colors unimaginable,
We are led to look at it in sterility
The lack of molding, curls and corkscrews
Tear the shadows from the stars
No rounded lamps with frosted glass
No moon to dazzle our eyes.
They so unveiled do tell of cypresses
Green, it is true, in the museum
Everything is but half, the air conditioning
Turned up to frigidity, the bronze cold to touch
The beauty iced, am I to believe here is the wealth
Of Greek Pans?

Random Season

We’ll no longer go to the Bonnard in winter
Wet spring approached and said soggy things
Then left, and I know the summer will shine
Beyond my wildest hopes without you on the other side
Swinging slowly back and forth under the savage cherry tree.

The Frosted Glass Door

The frosted glass door
Does not equal the Gauguin.
It would be futile to think so.
The doors are not an aesthetic reference
To any object a messy painter’s studio has construed
In the fine reflection of the golden blob on the toile
I sit on mustard upholstery and think about
How tasteful my ass must be to rest here.
Rebuke, rebuke Paris the city before me,
The horse shit on the unpaved street,
The chestnut roasting soot insinuated,
The grimy cloth flowers on fancy hats
Positioned like already eaten pastries,
The remnants in reconstructed oils before me
And my ass sits primly still
On mustard watching the
Donkey pull the cart across Paris.

The Blood that Comes Out No Veins

Bordering on kitsch one train rolls through the gallery cubicle
A recording, a loop of heavy sounding wheels
In the prelude, representing landscapes, one heard snoring
-- it was a relief from the Debussy track --
Labeled with proletariat orange plastic tags the gold frames
Prick-screwed endure this venom cast into the wood’s rings
- sliced and aching veins --
(Premenstrual paragraphs loom heavy as apple full breasts,
Extended hip bones anticipating the fall, behind Venus’ mound.
Enhanced night for visitors, the train set circling around all those lost
Creative eggs a squall equaling the dumping of humanity,
A revolutionary honor, senseless culture renamed for ownership.)
Did they serve the old toothless folks
Those soft and puffy buns on occasion
With that droopy slab of fatty young cheese
Glistening in the aluminium tea canister’s reflection?
The museum is the museum of Dutch imprisonment,
A collection to demonstrate the taking of a city
A place beholden to old lusts, deserted and blood bound
Rendered gentle by paid hands that wash your hair.

Posted by apersephone 00:56 Archived in Netherlands Tagged hermitage paintings amsterdam poetry gauguin Comments (0)

Tale of Kale – A Two Part Special - Part Two

Unbeknownst to me, the cute little cabbages I’ve seen in cozy pots and prone on window ledges are actually kale. I admit I am really a poor judge at identifying plants when they have not been cooked and dissected on dinner plates, however I have always been attracted to the fanciful French can-can look of the cabbages in flowerpots. Knowing now that they are kale, I may appreciate them further because kale is trendy and I can feel thus redeemed upon my continuing visual admiration of kale.


All this week people kept coming up to me to tell of their successful “I cooked kale and ate it” stories. Utterly brilliant, of course. So look, I even found pictures of lovely blooming kale on the internet. Much like when trying to eat kale, the best bet of getting a lovely purple kale to settle in your garden bed (or stomach), is to plant it not too long before winter. The purple colour only comes out after a frost has occurred. The frost also dampens the bitter flavor of kale. “Ornamental cabbages and kale can last throughout the winter, but their appearance depends a lot on the weather. Too hot and they will bolt, too wet and harsh and they’ll look tattered.” (info lifted from About.com)

Bolting cabbages? I learn something new every day. Not only am I a poor judge of species but I am obviously an inept gardener. Even zucchinis refused to grow for me, and I would go out and talk to them, encouraging them to flourish, but to no avail. I wonder now if they, disappointed by my conversational topics, bolted during the night. Tattered is something I easily achieved in the garden with the aid of a million snails.

It must be noted that Keukenhof does not feature cabbages in their flowerbeds. Pity. Too out of season for the tourist season. Cabbage Dolls, they were once trendy too, but they were somewhat insipid looking. Remember them? They’re vintage now and demonstrating over flowing abundance on eBay. Why there’s even a place in Cleveland decorated with Cabbage Dolls.

Where was I? Kale. Trendy stuff for home deco. Right. Take it out of your refrigerator and admire it. Maybe it’s a whopper. The Biggest Kale for the year of 1995 was one of 28.75 lbs grown by Mr. John Evans, who enjoys producing giant legumes. It must have been quite a display. But, here’s a thought – can you wear kale? I’m not talking about how I wear kale, as it’s immediately rejected by my taste reflexes, but as an attractive manner of personal decoration. What about frou-frou kale headbands or corsages for weddings? Yes, indeed lots of bridal bouquets featuring kale are happily available for order, and they look lovely; lacy, frilly and tacit. So unusually sweet.

Posted by apersephone 13:27 Archived in Netherlands Tagged cabbage decoration dolls kale Comments (0)

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