Its warm in this cafe. It's pouring outside, just as it would inevitably be in Eugene in the winter. But rather than being damp and sweaty and smelly it is warm, with a cool breeze from the cracked window next to me and it smells like citrus perfume, coffee and my apricot tart. The sound is the most lovely, it is loud with voices speaking dutch and english and it is just a quiet murmur for a minute and then it all picks up again… or perhaps thats just how I hear it as my attention fades in and out. From my perch there is a perfect viewing of street life and indoor cafe life. There are kids in jelly boots running rambunctiously around the large table in the center of the room and I can see the waiter in the corner of my eye on his tippy toes avoiding them. It is as if I am in a cartoon and everyone is beautiful and happy and there is nothing particularly horrible about life at all. It is all warm and dry and smelling of coffee and citrus. And I am smiling for now, because it seems that I have been able to let myself be swept up in the dream and not remember that I have to get back out on that bike I forced myself here on and try and tackle the road again (I am a bit petrified of it today.) What if my brilliance last night of finding my way and leading our little caterpillar-trail of a group back through the crazy streets was all just beginners luck and I had been just inches away from my death by cab, or bike, or moped, or building and I was just too naive to notice?
There is a giant stroller next to me now and a very beautiful man is here with it and his three children. There is a blissful infant on his lap, a boy about 3' next to him eating a salad and omelette and a blonde ponytail across from him eating tomatoes and something steaming. Why does it seems as though he totally has it together!? All these people look like they had some magic crew of people wake them after a rejuvenating night of sleep and given them the hollywood treatment, delivered them by chauffeured car to this cafe just to be seen by others. In any American city you can find these same people. They all have three kids, except the infant is screaming and there is goop dripping down its face, the boy is throwing a chicken tender at me and the ponytail is texting. Finally someone's child at the other end of the table screams…phew. But I still believe that the beautiful man probably biked here miraculously pulling the stroller along the cobblestones attached to the back of his bike by some fantastically machined clip that hooks on in one-fell-swoop and he and all his babies bike away, holding hands and avoiding every raindrop.
Perhaps this is all an exaggeration but today, my damp frizzy hair and anxious heart are in awe of this place.
Today was great! We had a visit to the Van Gogh museum, then got our bikes and headed out. It was the most terrifying and exhilarating ride of my life. Everyone is zipping by you going a million miles an hour and all you can do is just hold on for dear life and stand your ground/road. There are pedestrians shooting out everywhere, cars zooming, and the worst of it is mopeds are allowed in the bike lanes so they are coming up behind you fast and weaving all over the place. It is crazy, but it all works and I have yet to see anyone run into anyone else. The locals avoid us like crazy because they know we are on rented bikes and have the potential to kill them at any moment by completely freaking out and loosing control. Needless to say, I don't blame them. Have you seen that William Whyte video about how people move through the plaza at the Seagram Building? Well he describes the way people move through space as a dance and that is exactly what this is. I think I was getting the hang of it by the end of our ride today and I could feel myself trying to listen more carefully to my own natural reactions... slowing down, speeding up, avoiding obstacles. Moving gracefully, cautiously and calmly through traffic got easier.
I just can't believe how beautiful each street/canal is.
There is the most dramatic compression and expansion of space here. You are passing through tight spaces and then all of a sudden you happen upon this big open space (which still is obviously contained by buildings) and you feel like you are inhaling a huge amount of air upon seeing it. Then once again you are confined until it happens again and it seems like each moment you witness it is more beautiful then the last. I am finding all these little picturesque compositions everywhere, mostly around front doors and the big windows of shops. I want to take pictures of everything. I want to move here. I don't want to leave.