Sunday, July 28, 2013

botanical madness in the inner city, part 2

I left you all hanging at Schiphol Airport, but relax, we managed to get home yesterday, or at least I think it was yesterday, jet-lag is doing a job on me.

Mary, the nice lady who lives in the unit next door, watered my patio plants while I was gone, and they're looking darn good, ya think?

Friday, July 26, 2013


Flying back to the U.S. today.  Presumably, that is:  standby, you know.

Not sure if I'm sadder about leaving Amsterdam or sadder about going home.
Added later:  a bad standby day, two flights so far were full and tomorrow isn't looking good either.  If this goes on very long,  I might have to apply for Dutch citizenship!  :-)

Thursday, July 25, 2013

common scents and red lights and a cup of coffee

I write this as I sip a morning latte at Coffee Company, a coffee shop in the next block from our hotel -- a real coffee shop, not one of those Amsterdam "coffeeshops" that exude the sweet scent of marijuana.

Today will probably be our last full day here in Amsterdam, and I always wonder, after many visits, when and if I will ever be back.  This visit has been different from others because it was so unplanned and because we are staying in a hotel instead of on a houseboat or in a rented apartment in one of the quieter neighborhoods.  I admit, it's been fun this time to be in this touristy center of the city, surrounded by crowds speaking every imaginable foreign language and wide-eyed visitors seeing the red-light district for the first time.

The mornings here, though, are the best time, as the city begins to wake up.... And on we go...

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

a twin and his twins

It's not as big a story as the birth of William and Kate's royal baby, but it's a cuter story:

Joe Mauer, all-star catcher for the Minnesota Twins, and his wife are the proud parents of newborn TWINS, born today or yesterday (I'm confused about what day it is in Minnesota right now).

(I stay more updated on the news when I'm out of the country than when I'm home.  Believe me when I tell you that the Edward Snowden story gets different coverage here in Europe that it does in the U.S., and not in a good way!)

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

my knee hurts

uh-oh, not sure where that leads.  Knees are strange, complicated creations and not meant to last eternally.

Otherwise, life is good, and I feel weirdly inspired:  meaning, maybe not in ways you might expect.

Monday, July 22, 2013

life at the Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky

Thanks to a deal on, we are staying at one of Amsterdam's premier old hotels, located in the heart of the old city, just across the square from the Dam (the palace).  We will be in this hotel for five nights.

The day has begun -- it will be another hot one -- and we will head into the neighborhoods that we know well.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

if only i could spend several years in the netherlands

We are having a peaceful Sunday morning at friends' vacation home on the southern Dutch coast.  We spent the night here with them and will take the train today back to the wonderful hubbub of Amsterdam.  It's all good.

Friday, July 19, 2013

spontaneity on a friday night

Despite what I said in my July 7th post, "the boys' embrace of uncertainty", here I go embracing an uncertain uncertainty.

Jerry messaged me from the Netherlands this afternoon, saying basically, Hey, James is going home tomorrow, why don't you come over and spend a few days?  Standby, he says, is wide open.

So I am taking him at his word and am going to try to get on the 9:50 flight to Amsterdam tonight.  Amsterdam, my favorite city, is the draw.  Wish me luck.  If I write an angry post later tonight, you'll know that I'm stuck at Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

an evening with jane austen fans

I have the feeling that I would have appreciated the Guthrie Theater last night more if 1)  I had ever read the book Pride and Prejudice or 2)  I was a fan of the TV series Mad Men.

You see, the theater was packed with lots of people (mostly women) who had read Pride and Prejudice and loved Jane Austen novels in general.  Then there were other people who came to see Vincent Kartheiser, who plays a character in Mad Men, playing the prideful Mr. Darcy.

And this seems to be a beautiful stage production (adapted by playwright Simon Reade) of a 400+-page classic novel.  It's just that for a novice like me, it's hard to remember which of the five Bennet daughters is which and which guys you wish that each would end up with.  So, if you're going to see this play, put yourself in the proper category:  Austen fan, Mad Men fan, or confused and sometimes-bored stranger.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

de-friend (click), de-friend (click), de-friend (click)

Since the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman verdict, I've been dismayed to see how many of my Facebook friends are blatantly and unashamedly racist, and some, sad to say, are relatives of mine.  It's been an embarrassing week to be American.  Thank god that at least I'm not a Floridian.

Monday, July 15, 2013

but the lake is still enormous

Minnesota, you know, is the "land of 10,000 lakes", and I'm sitting on the south end of the. 2nd largest, Lake Mille Lacs, a couple hours north of Minneapolis.  "Mille Lacs" is French for "a thousand lakes", and this lake, at 137,000 acres, is as big as a thousand normal-size lakes.

I was first here in August 1978 for a week of staff training at a lodge that I most remember for its great food.  That lodge has been replaced by a bigger, better (?) lodge, surrounded by time-shares and golfers.  The lake looks the same.  You look up at it and can't see across it.  I like it.  It doesn't make me feel like golfing.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

le quatorze juillet 2013

Jerry and James left Paris last Thursday, and it was probably a good time to leave.  As they were leaving, thousands of French people were streaming into Paris for Bastille Day weekend, the biggest celebration in France all year.  It would have been wild but crazy, maybe fun but maybe not for guys who can't speak French, and hotel rooms would have been at a premium, if available at all.

For any French citizens and Francophiles and former French students out there on 14 July 2013, Happy Bastille Day!

For any non-Francophiles and non-former French students wondering what the heck Basille Day is, help is on the way -- just click on the link:

Basille Day on wikipedia

Saturday, July 13, 2013

words from the spyhouse

Various things I've learned this week:

When the blooms fall off lilies, it might mean that the plants are getting too much water or too little water, too much sunlight or not enough sunlight, or it might mean that lilies just don't bloom very long into the summer.

If you are a man in your 50s and you take a boy of 20 on a whirlwind trip to Europe, chances are you each aren't going to want to do the same things 24/7.

I like the stories on Season 1 of The Newsroom except for the mismatched love interests, which are frustrating and eventually predictable.

I need to figure out if I can write my book on Google Drive and whether I should re-think having the word "masturbation" in the first sentence.  Might it set the wrong tone?

It would have been a good weekend to have been in Seattle, weather-wise, but there were only three Delta fare specials this week:  Rapid City, South Dakota, where, even though I've never been there, I might move to one day to live in an apartment over a hardware store to write my book (if Home Depot and Walmart haven't put all the hardware stores out of business there);  Chicago; and Detroit.  I'm not ready to have my Rapid City vision crushed by reality yet, so that was out.  Chicago, now that I think about it,  I maybe should have considered.  Detroit? --  yeah, right.

Some people in my life are just plain mean, and I'm having a hard time dealing with the realization that people that I care about can be mean to other people that I care about.  Where does that leave me?

Even though I've gotten away from blogging every day, I haven't had anybody complain about that to me.
P.S.  The Spyhouse is a coffeeshop on Nicollet Avenue just south of  downtown.  It's sort of part funky, part hipster, and then there's me, but the coffee sure is good.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

laziness and the newsroom

"Summertime.. and the living is easy..."  Maybe it's a little mid-July thing, but I'm finding that once I get home from the office this week, I accomplish nothing and am a total slug... and I don't even care...

As I work up the energy to at least be a couch potato, I've been watching Season One of the HBO series, The Newroom.  I've watched 4 out of 10 episodes and am still reserving judgment on what I think of the program overall, but so far, for a leftie like me, it feels pretty good.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

the boys' embrace of uncertainty

I could have gone -- Jerry wanted me to -- but I just couldn't handle the uncertainty.

You see, Jerry once again has these Delta "buddy fares" for cheap airfares, the downside of buddy fares being that he has to fly standby, which maybe isn't a problem getting on a flight and maybe is.

So he asked James, my 20-year-old nephew, to go with him, and James, who has never been much of anywhere, snapped up the offer, but -- hey -- standby was made for 20-year-old adventurers and kids at heart, like Jerry.

Tomorrow -- hopefully -- they fly off to Europe for two weeks, destinations not totally known.  Depending on which flight they get on first, they will either fly direct to Amsterdam or direct to Paris and from there, who knows?  They are traveling light with no hotel rooms booked yet and Eurailpasses in their backpacks and the continent of Europe at their feet.

They will come back with stories --  all of them good, I hope.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

botanical madness in the inner city

Summer was late in coming, true, but I finally got around to buying some plants for the patio.  Now that I sit here looking at them, I wish I could stop thinking about how short their beautiful lives will be.

Thanks for the help, Nancy and Jon.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

the 4th and the preceding days

It's the 4th of July, one of those let's-get-together-and-have-a-cookout-and-then-go-see-some-fireworks holidays, and we're going to follow those traditions more than we usually do.

My sister Nancy is visiting from North Carolina, in the mood to celebrate the 4th with family and that's us.  She had never spent any real time here in the Twin Cities, so we've had a fun week of showing her around and just hanging out with her.

Right before she arrived, it was Pride weekend -- the biggest yet -- so the days have been full.

Weather is finally perfect, I finally put out some plants on the patio, we'll enjoy it all while we can.  Life s good, and the blog posts will get better.