Wednesday, November 21, 2001

Flea Markets, Van Gogh, and a Good Drunk

Flea Markets, Van Gogh and a Good Drunk

Our mission after breakfast was to find a post office. According to Mr. Map, there was one a block from where we are staying. When we reached the corner, there was no sign of a Post Office. Mr. Map checked the coordinates once again, then showed the map to me to confirmation that the map did indeed indicated a post office should be situated on this very corner. But there was no post office there, so much for map accuracy. We started asking people as they went by to work or wherever, but no one knew where the post office disappeared to. Finally this little old lady who was riding her bicycle was able to tell us that the post office was one block over the next bridge in a glass building. Since she looked honest enough even if she did not rely on a map to give us these directions, we decided we could trust her. Sure enough, she was correct and we mailed our things off.

It is always very interesting to me to see how agencies and post offices work in other countries. Some are open all day on Saturday and Sunday, some have twelve hour days, and some are open twenty-four hours a day. In addition, many of them have a great way of lining up for services. Here, you take a number. As a worker becomes free, you hear a bell and the light board tells you the current number to be served as well as which counter number to go to. In the meanwhile, there are greeting cards, books, maps, mailing supplies, and other assorted goodies that you can look over to bide your time away constructively. When we finally got to the counter, I had asked for twelve postcard stamps. I was told that they only come in books and not individual. Fine, I will take three books then. Ron asked if there were any Christmas stamps or any special commemorative stamps that we could buy for our album. We were told that they no longer have those and all stamps are sold in booklets since everything is scanned into the register. Individual stamps cannot be scanned, so they were done away with.

Outside the building where the post office is located is the daily Waterloopein Flea market. This is the flea market where I purchased the very same black leather jacket that I am wearing on a daily basis, back in 1984. Unfortunately, many of the booths were not open yet, so the shopping was not that extensive, but it was fun to see that it was still there.

From there it was just a short walk to the Van Gogh Museum. Since I am not a great lover of impressionism, I thought that I would be in and out of here in an hour max, but I could hang out while Ron took his time. Are you ready for some shocking news about this? It took me longer to go through this museum than it did Ron. I covered all four floors in depth. Surprised? Me, too! It was really a great learning experience and some fragments of Art History 101 from college did get caught in the gray matter after all and came back into the forefront as I was reading the descriptions.

I did learn some new things as well as remembered other tidbits of art history. Van Gogh really covered an impressive spectrum in his experimentation of his work. He broke away from the realists, as did a number of others of his time, creating the Impressionist movement. Art that resembles what is painted, but it not so precise an accurate representation as the previous artists demanded. Many of the impressionists were not financially successful during their lives and fame followed death. Van Gogh actually committed suicide since his brother Theo was his financial supporter. He did not feel that he would ever make anything of himself and did not want to continue to be a burden to Theo and his family. Van Gogh is the one who cut off his ear lobe, not the entire appendage, during a fit of depression, which he fought a great period of time throughout his life.

Impressionism started in 1820 and mainly consisted of landscapes, scenes from contemporary life, and still life models. It usually consisted of bright colors applied with swift brush strokes. The emphasis was on light or a particular moment of day with a lesser emphasis on detail. The play of light was the primary focus. By 1885, the impressionists changed their use of color, making more use of darker colors moving away from the bright shades. By 1887, they reverted back to the lighter colors.

In the 1880s, the pointillists took impressionism to a new dimension. They applied small touches of color in close juxtaposition so the viewer’s eye could merge the colors. They also like using colors that were in contrast to each other. Van Gogh had one painting with red shutters on a house, but the panes of the window were painted in green. Pointillists or Post Impressionists used smaller dashes of color, cutting the length of the brush stroke shorter sometimes to actual points, hence their name.

Some of the paintings you may identify with Van Gogh are his ‘Irises’, ‘Sunflowers’, and ‘Self Portrait in a Felt Hat’. Anyone interested in seeing more of this museum can point their browser to Note that the extension is nl and not com.

One way for an artist to be come well known was to have their work accepted by “The Salon” in Paris. This was a judged exhibition that was set as THE place to be shown. You’re your work was accepted into the Salon, you were guaranteed success. The Salon was started in Paris in the 17th century and funded by the French government until the 1900’s. In 1863, a protest group held the Salon de Refuses, which included 3000 pieces of work that had been rejected by the Salon.

There was still time to do a quick run through of the Stedelijk Museum of Modern Art. Now this is one place that I was sure I really did not care if I went into, although the Modern Art museum in Glasgow turned out to be a gem and we had coupons for free admission, why not? A special exhibition was on display called ‘Eye Infection’. Silly me thought it was art work related to retinitis, glaucoma, or amblyopic problems. In actuality, it was artwork that could cause an eye infection if you spent more than an hour looking at it. One major exhibitor was Robert Crumb, who some of you may recognize as an artist from Philadelphia who basically drew crude, but poignant comic strips. We had seen a documentary of his life in Modesto a few years back, so that assists in understanding his work. He had a bizarre life till the end. Without this previous knowledge, I would be close to shocked at the artwork.

Being so overcome with the artistic impressions that were being portrayed, I became weak and faint with excitement and passed out dead away on the steps in a smaller heap than I would have created two months ago. Rescuers tried in vain to bring me to, but they were unsuccessful until the closing warning bell rang signaling that the museum was about to close. Weak with regrets that my free admission coupon was wasted we left the museum as they were locking the doors behind us. If reality were to be told, that was all a small skit in my imagination of what I wished had happened, but didn’t. I pushed my fortitude in trying to understand why some kindergarten children’s refrigerator artwork has not been sold for thousands of dollars, since I have seen some of them that are far better than what was on exhibit here.

Some of the paintings were huge and completed by a San Francisco artist. They looked like they were done with cans of spray paint depicting bizarre themes. The only one that had any image that was recognizable was the painting of former President Regan eating a sandwich filled with $5.00 bills. That is my caustic take on it, but of course, Ron thought it was brilliant. He could not explain why a large painting that looked like a crossword puzzle painted in black and red squares were brilliant, but beauty is in the eyes… I chose to run through the museum like a wood nymph that was being chased through the forest by a satyr.

On the tram back, there was some living modern art. It always amuses me when someone has done something totally outlandish to their body, by the mode of modern living and then stare at you as if to say, “What are you looking at?” Well, I am not quite sure myself at times and that is why I am looking. I am trying to figure out what your motivation and message happens to be. If there was supposed to be one, why do you look like this? Back to the guy on the tram…he was sitting calmly in a seat as if this were normal everyday Dutch clothing. Ron and I looked at him and then at each other and had to suppress exploding into hysterics. This young man in question was about twenty-five years old and wearing a jester’s hat with the pointed, curved cones that hang over the head at various points. It was gold and silver with thousands of sequins. Orange and purple fake fur spotted with lime green leopard markings made up his jacket, but it was further accented with silver foil stripes. His pants were nylon, lime green with ripped clear netting trying to cover the shade of green unsuccessfully. To complete the outfit, he wore orange and lime green sneakers that had three-inch soles.

This night was our candlelight wine cruise, which meant a nap first. We left the hotel at 8:00 pm, to be at the cruise by 8:30, but of course the trams did not cooperate. We thought all of that wine and cheese was going to leave without us, but we made it and were surprisingly one of the first to board. The last time I had done this trip, it was with my friend Kim. After we finished the two bottles of wine that they provided, we went around and gathered the bottles from the vacant tables. We had a great time that night, never hearing any of the commentary, but we laughed until our rib cages were aching. After recalling this to Ron, he had high hopes that the canal boat would be fairly empty.

Each table is provided a bottle of white wine, red wine, a plate of Dutch cheese, and a bowl of assorted nuts. Then they spoil the whole thing by putting four wine glasses as well. How far can two bottles of wine go if you have to share with two others? The boat filled, but no one had to share their table with anyone that they did not come aboard with. The wine was flowing before the boat’s engine was revved into action. I am not a wine drinker, but in the absence of beer, I will succumb to white wine. Red gives me a sinus headache in minutes. That is the only reason I had to snarl at Ron every time he gestured that he wanted to sample the white. I softened for a moment and let him taste it. He then went to open the red, which was already uncorked, but in pulling out the cork, it broke in the neck of the bottle. He went into a panic and treated me like I had special favors with the wine steward for about ten minutes. That only started after he tried chewing the cork out and then attempted to push the balance back into the bottle. Then he noticed that the couple across the aisle from us had the same problem and received a new bottle. The commentator/wine servant did not remove the first bottle from our table as he delivered the freshly uncorked bottle. We each showed our appreciation of their fine wine selection by finishing off our two bottles. I drank the white with abandon, though I could not taste it, I did have a great thirst that night. Since I could not smoke, the assorted nuts were my oral substitutes and you can imagine how thirsty they can make you. The cheese and nuts were in place of having a dinner and neither of us had eaten since breakfast that morning. The cruise lasted for two hours, but we started having fun immediately. By the end of the cruise, we were definite fans of the Amsterdam canals and the sights to behold in the moonlight. Of course, it was raining and there was no moonlight, but after a half a bottle of wine each, who pays attention to details? The wine steward/commentator was very accommodating at replenishing everyone’s plate of cheese and filled his or her bowls of nuts for a second round.

As we pulled into dock, Ron said he wanted to be last off of the boat. He wanted to acquire the bottle of wine that had a broken cork. I waited for him on the dock as he emerged from the boat with his arms held tightly around his chest. It was cool that night, but not cold enough to be clutching your torso for warmth, it occurred to me that he ahem, had a glass, heating bottle under his coat. I said, “You stole that bottle of wine.” Being the king of rationalization, he corrected me by stating that he was only borrowing it.

Being a bit pickled, we went to the EasyEverything to check the mail and we have no idea what our responses to those e-mails were like, but we do know that the spelling mistakes that were made did make for a good laugh. What was even funnier was each time we tried to correct a mistake, it only got worse. It was not long after going to bed that I paid the price for my night of cavorting. I never mastered the art of being a good drinker and at this stage of my life, I guess I won’t try to be successful now.

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