tue 24 feb 2004 12:00:00 raamgracht
moved to raamgracht
i moved on saturday the 21st with the help of some friends. on sunday we had a little party here with n fly mick dvr jl vivi and her roommate jennifer. got loud at one point and of course i as usual got nervous. toward the end of it they brought out a cake because they thought it was wrong that i hadn't told them about my birthday a few weeks ago.
tonight pani is back in osdorp, theoretically to clean up, but also cuz i think she's getting sick of spending too much time with me.
i now live at raamgracht 17 B, 1011 KJ amsterdam.
tonight is tuesday. on thursday i will be getting internet service, telephone service, and even a combination washer-dryer that will fit in the back of the bathroom.
i have a problem with never believing i deserve anything. i feel a usurper of this lovely view. the fact that my friends are all telling me i'm "a very lucky man" to have gotten this flat, doesn't help matters. on another hand i can say i've spent so much of my life wishing i could be sitting right here, surely i deserve some credit for that.
in fact this was the first place shown to me by the housing broker, donovan. pani was with me that tuesday morning in january. we saw three other places, including two in the pijp and one ground floor in kerkstraat. the fifth one was on egelantiersgracht and had a beautiful back balcony. i wanted that one, and pani liked it too. but after a few days it became clear that the owner, a lady who seemed like she was on sedatives, really didn't want me as a tenant because i was a freelancer. also i think maybe she was being offered more money by some other prospect. donovan was fighting a bit too hard on my behalf and she was looking for a way to weasel out. but anyway, i would have chosen this place if i hadn't seen that one. when i found out i could not get the place on egelantiersgracht, i was surprised that donovan said this one was still available -- almost a week later, and going for only 950. so i told him i wanted it. the owner, michael, was in spain at the time, but said okay when donovan phoned him. we signed a lease on i think tuesday 3 february, the day before my studio shoot for ATG.
for a birthday gift, pani gave me a print of a photo by bernard eilers, which she found at the gemeentearchief shop. i guess there's an exhibit of eilers' photos there now. the photo is "raamgracht in de sneeuw." winter scenes of amsterdam, there's a set of cards too. you can see the zuider kerk and this house in the foreground. in the zanddwarsstraat "loopt een figuur." back then (winter of 1923-24) there was no gable atop the house -- they seem to have added that later, perhaps in the 1970s renovations michael mentioned.
i am on the eerste verdieping, the first floor above the ground floor. the front room is pretty spacious. there are three big windows -- single glazed with mullions. it looks out south onto the groenburgwal, which leads from raamgracht out the the amstel. i'm high enough to see over the big long woonark parked in front at the ligplaats tegenover 17. since the trees are still bare, i can just see mulligan's building on the far side of the amstel at the end. in the foreground there's an arched bridge and people are always going over it, bikes, cars, peds. lots of times people stop there and seem to be taking a picture of me, but they're snapping a view of the zuiderkerk in the background. the other day it was like five young women all carrying single red flowers, carnations i think. and they stopped on top of the bridge to take each other's picture in front of my windows.
the lady downstairs is named betty. i only met her by exchanging note cards.
every fifteen minutes you hear the zuiderkerk carillon play a little tune. on the hour you get a pause, then the dark gonging ot the bell itself. oddly, it tolls the hour a half-hour in advance, then tolls it again on the hour. not sure why. sometimes i also hear bells from somewhere else, might be the mozes en aaron kerk on waterlooplein. they stop some time during the night, but it's 2230 now and chiming again. it's 1030 pm and it just chimed 11 bells. weird.
i am much closer to waterlooplein than i realized. basically i walk to the east end of raamgracht, turn and go up the steps to st anthoniesbreestraat, go down the steps on the far side of zwanenburgwal, and there i am in waterlooplein. the cafe rembrandt [corner] where i've been twice with bill and joanne and then with aj, is right there on the corner. a bit further down the breestraat is fort van sjakoo bookstore.
about the carillon. about the churchbells. it is a sound that always painfully reminded me how much i longed to be in amsterdam. i loved the sound so much, for so long. it was such a rare thing. i didn't hear that in america. heard precious little of it in osdorp too, for that matter. and now i get a superabundance of it. i wonder if i will ever get sick of it. there is something reassuring about it. i will probably get acclimated to that, immune to it, so that if i leave here, the absence of that rhythm will feel like a loss. but for now it feels like i'm getting a little of everything i always never had, always craved.
i did walk through this area once, i think it was last may, late in the day, and thought hmm i wonder what you call this part of town. someone the other day said technically it's part of the old joodsche wijk, but the more tony part. they were isolated here too, i guess, during the razzias. it's an island wijk. you can't get out of here except by the bridges. but then again that's true of all amsterdam. it's just that here i am more acutlely aware of it for some reason. maybe because i can't just cross the street to get there from here, i have to walk to the end where the bridge goes over, and then double back.
there's something pretty dramatic about how the groenburgwal leads straight away from me, the perspective of it. mostly little boats parked along both sides. on saturday we were noticing the colors of the boats in the late afternoon grayness. and the subtle shades of some of the buildings within view too. now it's night and raining. little impact crescents in the streetlgiht, millions of em. the dozen or so gaslights lining each side of the groenburgwal each become a wiggly streak, a brushstroke of pale peach-colored light in the water. (when it rains really hard the canals seem to take on a goldish matte finish in the gaslight -- being pounded with such frequency that all glassiness is interrupted.)
the big boat in front of us, it's really long and has a lot of portholes. on top at one point there are several skylgihts.. maybe it's a nice place to live. cats seem to be related to these house boats; there's one big black one that comes and goes from the long boat here, and sometimes two or three of them seem to run off in the same direction toward some action. there's more than one black cat here, maybe some of them are brothers and sisters.
someone with a dark umbrella and a tan hip-length jacket jogs up to the bridge and crosses over the arch, slowing to a walk.
i notice the windows a lot now. i always did notice that as you pass by people often seem to lead their lives as if in little theater stages, with the curtains open and the lights on inside, as if they are not shy at all. but that was always as i was walking around. now it happens at home as i'm standing still. i am in my kitchen and i look out the little side window over zanddwarsstr and see the guy across the way, a bit hazy through the steam or maybe gauze, deftly preparing a meal. you can tell by the way his hands move, and by the way he leans to look at this or that, that he is serious about cooking. and when i look out the back bathroom window, above is a partial view of the church tower, and surrounding me in the shaft between buildings there are many windows looking schuin into different rooms. and the thing is the rooms are all so close. i spy down on two people sitting at a table, i think they're having coffee after dinner? but there are two oranges sitting on the table. i can read the word FILM on a book lying on their table. i can make out their faces. they are close. the spaces between things are not too big. if i look up from there i see two rooms one above the other, on which what look like fanciful paintings using a lot of red are hanging. but i can't see into those rooms, i'm only skimming. and to my left there's a little window revealing nothing, just that maybe someone's bathroom is there, or part of a flight of stairs.
at night, we seem to be spending a lot of time in the front room with the lights off. maybe just a candle or two. or just a bit of light in the kitchen. in fact there is a lot of lighting in this front room, i just haven't used much of it. even when we had our little party on sunday night, we used little tea lights and only a bit of electric light. but don't think i'm saving on the energy bill. i'm using a lot of heat to keep the place warm, with these big, thin single-glass windows. today it was max 5 degrees out, windy and creepy-chilly-rainy.
i also go in the back room a lot to smoke. i felt like i should confine the smoking to one small area and not the main part of the flat. but i get this weird feeling if i sit back there for half an hour, like i'm wasting something. that if i am here i should be out in the front looking at the precious view. like what am i missing? as if i am going to the concession during the film and might miss something while i'm getting my m&ms.
on sunday i saw a just the shape of a swan lazily navigating the groenburgwal, with the sun blindingly twinkling behind. occasionally grooming, dunking ...
tonight we ate at the engelbewaarder, philip turned us on to the place the other night. bit of a clubhouse feel, long big bar with an upper level behind with tables for eating. had tagliatella with smoked salmon. pretty good stuff. but it feels like everybody there is dutch and knows each other and socially it doesn't (yet) feel very penetrable. i would have to spend a lot of time there to see if anybody started to like me. it's a little unusual cuz you order food at the bar, get drinks at the bar, but eat in another room. someone brings you your meal but can't for example bring you drinks, you have to go back to the bar for that it seems. but i might be tempted to spend some time there anyway, specially since they call it a "literair-cafe" ...
the last few weeks have been mad busy for me. today i finally got draft 2 of the avid script in to jab. so tonight i am breathing. but because i was without internet and phone, i'm a little scared about the progress on that. am i really gonna leave on a plane in a few days, and haven't booked yet?
tomorrow (wednesday the 25th) i should go try to make some of my registrations again. and maybe try to get a nameplate for the front door.
monday i took tram 2 out to johan huizingalaan to report to the vreemdelingendienst, as i'm pretty sure i was instructed to do by stans goudsmit immediately upon verhuizing. once i got there, they told me i didn't need to come there at all, i just needed to go to the stadhuis. which is around the corner from where i live. fuck. so i came back to town and did my coa-stuff with the postoffice, mailed a couple kits to lgf and m as well. that incidentally took care of my bank account, they had a special form for postbank. but there are a bunch of other guys i should inform directly of my change of address. i also put in for telephone service. but bizarrely, got *rejected* by vodafone, with absolutely no explanation why. i may not have an account with vodafone. seems to have something to do with what i said while being interviewed for what i didn't realize was a credit application. hg thinks maybe i should try "orange."
today after i got done using hg's computer to email my file, pani and i went to a store "it's" which is an appliance store near here. bought a coffee maker, and a was-droog combinatie which they said they will deliver on thursday (probably right while the cable guy is here doing the chello install).
it occurs to me, now that i am spending most of my time in the center, that the little impedances to smooth navigation are most of what give charm. the lumpy sidewalk, the weirdness of a particular outdoor flight of steps, the fietspad surprise, the fact of seeing where you want to go right in front of you but needing to go find the nearest bridge to cross over to it. those things make life a bit jagged and bumpy for those of us who are still getting used to it. it's not straight like in the "modern" world. even though they do try to keep everything pretty opgeknapt, amsterdam has still got this fundamental bump and jag to it.
now i'm thinking i should revise the thing i wrote about amsterdam and turn it into a movie about being here. a little diary film sorta thing, or maybe an explanatory how to thingy. not sure where to go with that. but it would seem kinda silly for me, a writer filmmaker designer, to sit here with a camera and a copy of final cut pro in the center of the city of my dreams, and not do something cinematic about it. not sure what more it could cost me except the tape.
also the "outtakes" of same could be their own product. just gentle sights and sounds of amsterdam. relaxmovie thing.
[...] also should i go to the herdenking of the februaristaking? yes i should cuz it would be silly not to. it happens a few minutes' walk from where i live.
the occasional cat screeching, or waterhoen clucking in the canal during the night. it's almost two in the morning. the church bells have stopped for the night.
at the engelbewaarder tonight the bar lady was quickly handing a beer to a patron beside me and spilled a bunch of it on the thigh of the woman sitting there, who seemed to take it with a good natured surprised smile.
sound of an out-of-tune bicycle rattling up the canalside in the night. silence and the clock ticking.
i have not changed the battery on that clock for as long as i can remember. for some reason those little clocks last a long time on one double-A.