Tuesday, August 02, 2005


Men, Museums, Bicycles, Food and the Concertgebouw

The centerpiece of the day today was a happy every-six-weeks-or-so ritual: lunch with fellow Boston Blogger Karl. We're blessed to work relatively near each other in Cambridge in an area saturated with decent places to eat. "Where" is always the big question but Karl solved it in record time by dropping the words "curly fries." They are not, perhaps, the very worst food item you can put in your body, but to quote a famous Marlon Brando movie line, they "coulda been a contenda." For me they're something of a fatal attraction, so we followed the trail of the curly fry to Boston Common, a bar with food just north of Harvard Law School which Karl single-handedly keeps running like a well oiled machine. During lunch the recent big trip came up and I thought I'd share a couple of more stories as they're a good deal more pleasant than the latest about gay teenagers hanged in Iran for being gay or Bush's nominees to positions where they can wreck considerable havoc.

We were looking for a breakfast place one morning in Amsterdam which is not the easiest thing to do before 9 or 10am. The Dutch eat at home. Hotels serve breakfasts to their guests, but ours began only at 9, which makes sense if you figure that the majority of its clients would have been out to the gay saunas and clubs until the wee small hours. So we set out on a bit of a walk and found a sports bar that was serving as of 8am.

We took an outdoor table next to a good-looking, outgoing guy with whom we soon struck up a conversation. He asked where we were from in a pronounced German accent; we replied and tossd the question back. "San Diego," came the reply. "But where were you born,?" Fritz asked. He stood his ground, accent and all, with "San Diego." Now this seemed strange, so Fritz mentioned having lived near San Diego for a year in a well-known town--of which our new friend knew absolutely nothing.

Before any more questions could come up, a slender and boyish black man came from the bar, sat with him and the two began making out passionately, which they would continue to do at intervals all throughout breakfast.
Despite the frequency and intensity of their public displays of lust, their conversation clearly indicated that they didn't know the first thing about each other. We finished and left, much amused, with the distinct impression that their association had begun no more than about five hours previously, and that just maybe our German-accented "boy from SoCal" was a hustler giving the boys what he thought they might want to hear.

Interior of Amsterdam's famed Concertgebouw

From breakfast we walked to the city's major concert hall to stand in line for the few day-of-sale tickets to an otherwise sold-out concert by a very good visiting French orchestra. We were first in line, shortly to be joined by an attractive young man with whom we had a most pleasant conversation. We got our tickets and headed to our museum stop of the day at the house of Rembrandt.

The great painter did very well in his time financially,
but his tastes outran his income by an big margin and he went bankrupt after several years in this big, expensive house with
a fleet of servants required to run it. Since the Dutch keep exquisite records of everything, the auction of all Rembrandt's possessions in-
cluded detailed descriptions of what everything looked like and where
in each room it was placed, so restoring the house to look exactly as
it was when he lived there was an easy job.

He kept a studio full of what we would call "props" to use with his models
when setting up a painting. He had an extensive collection of plaster busts of Roman emperors, sea shells, exotica from the orient, and good fabrics.
One room is given over to the process of printing his famed engravings and etchings, complete with an ancient roller press on which an exact copy of one of his copper plates is used to strike off a print.

Rembrandt's House

One interesting feature of the house is that there were no bedrooms as such. Most of the rooms, particularly the entrance parlor and what we would call the living room, had handsome deep cabinets of luxuriously carved wood that opened to reveal a double bed. Any room in the house could become a bedroom when needed simply by opening up one of these box beds.

The afternoon was given over to a Yellow Bike Tour of the city. Amsterdam is full of bicycles, more bicycles than I've seen anywhere else, with only the possible exception of China. Fritz had done a Bike tour when he went over for his neice's wedding and thought it would be a great way to get some exercise and see parts of
the city we hadn't gotten to yet.

I'd ridden a bike as a kid and then again for several years when I bought my house, but it's been a while. Add cobblestones, tram tracks set into cobble stones, narrow canal-side streets choked with ars, trucks, and lots of other bicyclists impatient of anyone not able to navigate as eaily as they, and it turned out not to be my finest hour. Fritz later said he wished he'd had a camera to record my looks of stark terror.

On the other hand--I didn't fall, I didn't hit anyone with my bike like the young man from India who rear-ended his girlfriend at one point, and I had a lot of fun with it in the quieter sections of town.

After dinner (Greek, not bad at all, but the REAL cuisine to have in the Netherlands is Indonesian) we headed back to the Concertgebouw for Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto and Berlioz's "Symphonie fantastique." Thrifty as always, the Dutch waste no money on ushers. The rows and seats are numbered and you as an audience member are assumed to be able to read. Shortly after we sat down, the young man from the ticket line that morning and his handsome boyfriend settled in next to us and we ended the day with good music and good conversation.

Bicycle parking lot at the Central Station

Just wanna say hi..and I definitely think that you have an awesome blog..uhmm..take a look at my
profile and my webpage, got there hot cool stuffs..

Hey Will - thanks for the recouting of the trip. Almost makes up for my own lack of vacation - but not quite :-) :-)

Seriously, great prose as always - thanks again!

I need to get to Amsterdam.

MMM - now I want more curly fries. For any readers curious about the fries...the restaurant is Cambridge Common (not Boston Common).

You'll love them!
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