Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Ramble on...

So yesterday morning, sometime between 7:30 and 9:30 am, someone decided to add the front wheel of my bike to his or her collection of odds and ends that belong to other people. Hmph.

Knowing full well the flawed mechanics of pedaling a bike with only one wheel (no unicycle jokes here, please), I had to go Medieval and walk wherever I wanted to be. And since I had class today at 1:30, I decided I wanted to be at the school building which is a 25-minute walk from where Helen and I were spending the morning.

My Nano was loaded and ready. I glanced past my stilettos toward my sensible walking shoes. Off I went.

My God, what a fabulously beautiful day today. The kind of day that has you walking even if you have both wheels on your bicycle.

25 minutes. I pass Centraal Station. Pass the Red Light District. Pass the Sea Palace (a ginormous floating Chinese restaurant...likely the eighth wonder of the world). I start to gain a little more understanding - just a little - for the pedestrians who seemingly place themselves smack dab in front of wherever bikers are trying to ride. As it turns out, there isn't always sidewalk enough for foot travel. Noted.

I arrive at the Zeemanshuis, the building which is home to my history class. Discussion over the crazy brilliance of pianist Bill Evans. Sadly, it's an old story...musical genius, heroine, cocaine, early death, and the stamp of history marked "tragedy," or "a shameful waste."

I walk out the door and out of habit, go the way of the bicyclists, not realizing there is a shortcut for walkers. But as I said, it's so lovely out, I'm not bothered.

As I'm crossing Prins Hendrikskaade, I notice I've gathered a hitchiker. A tiny little red fellow with black spots. I kindly explain to him that, in the realm of ladybug distances, I was going to be landing in another galaxy before stopping. He offered no response and I took that as acceptance. Off we went together.

Nano on. 54 tracks of Led Zeppelin in the cue. The music that tells me it's great to be young, it's great to be old, and it's an even better ride in between.

Left. Right. Left. Right.

Last week, my harmony professor compared the aural experience of "predicting" the final cadences of Bach's chorales to the phenomenon of crossing a street, knowing full well with which foot you will eventually first step on to the other side.

"What? You don't do that? Perhaps it's just me, then."

That was a funny thought. I don't know anyone who has ever brought this concept up with me before. Then again, no matter what you predict, when it comes to your feet, you've got a fifty percent chance of getting it right. You could prove a lot of things that way.

I check in on the ladybug. He's still there. Hiding under the lapel of my jacket now. I try not to care that he's there...try to act non-chalant about my hitchiker, but I keep an eye on him inbetween tracks.

Dazed and Confused. Friends (I love the strange mode or altered scale that this song uses). Almost home.

Pass the Floating Miracle. Pass the hookers' haven. Pass the mayhem known as Centraal Station.

As I turn on to Herengracht, I notice a Canal Bus gently bumping into a bridge as it makes a sweeping 90 degree turn. I'm on the home stretch. Half expecting to see my front wheel come tooling down the street toward me ("guess where I'VE been?!"), I see the gate in front of our huis.

"Final destination." I prepare the hitchiker for landing. Our gate is not exactly a Four Seaons for ladybugs, but I hope he's not too sorely disappointed. I did warn him, after all.

Opening the door, Dave, Rem and Helen greet me. So great to walk the world. Even better to be home.

Monday, March 19, 2007

MBS is back on the air...

I still have much to learn about my husband's Jewish heritage, but if there's one thing I have indeed picked up on, it's the value of gathering family and friends to eat great FOOD!

Of the few Jewish delicacies I have tasted, however, one in particular has had lasting impression: matzo ball soup.

Starting last fall, Dave and I began a tradition of having matzo ball soup every Sunday night: thus, MBS (Matzo Ball Sunday) was born.

I got my matzo legs after a couple of tries and realized this would be a great thing to share with our friends (see above: tradition noted by this goy observer).

And last night, after a month off due to house stuff and travel, MBS was back on.

We welcomed Carly and Bas for what was a stellar round of MB's. Timed just right. Seemingly overwhelmed by post-MB-consumption joy, we struck up a couple rounds of Yahtzee (or, as the Dutch say, "Yaht-ZAY") and bubbly. A fun night was had by all. (Thanks for coming over, C and B!)

I'm not quite sure how, exactly, our interpretation and frequent utilization of the matzo ball fits into Jewish tradition. But from everything I've experienced with my in-laws thus far, laughing and loving over some tasty traditional food is a beautiful part of being Jewish.

So come on out and join us...Dave, Rem, Helen and I would love to see you as our next MBS guests!


p.s. - Maybe we could have a Lefse and Hot Dish Tuesday as well???

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Happy Birthday, Maddy!!!

My niece Maddy turned FOUR last Monday! Here are a few pix my mom sent from her party at pre-school and gift opening at home.

Hope you had a wonderful birthday, Maddy!

"Uncle" Lynn

Het kruiden van het leven...

A peek inside our spice drawer:

Dille: dill
Gemberpoeder: ginger powder
Kaneel: cinnamon
Knoflookpoeder: garlic powder
Kerriepoeder: curry powder
Koriander: coriander
Sesamzaad: sesame seed
Majoraan: marjoram
Rozemarijn: rosemary
Nootmuskat: nutmeg
Paprika: red pepper

A 40-step program...

Dave had the perfect question the first time he went to the gym here..."When you live in Amsterdam, why would you go to a gym to work out on stationary bikes and stairmasters?"

It is a bit of a mystery. Everyone bikes everywhere they go. I myself am pedaling around 40-50 minutes each day.

And as for stairs? There is certainly no shortage of stairs in Amsterdam. Tall, skinny old buildings. No where to go but up. And elevators were just a glimmer in Otis's eye when these places were built.

Our new house (which I will call "Helen" from here on...it just seems to suit her...she needs a name) has forty steps in total. From the main floor, five going down to the kitchen, six up to the guest bedroom, five more to the guest bathroom (we're at 16 now), 10 beyond that if you want to go the master bedroom, and a heart-thumping fourteen more to get up to my office.

40 short, steep, windy steps.

I have the serenity to accept that which I cannot change: Helen is a gal with great verticality. And my quads shall burn with affection when I'm in her presence.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Rubber hits the road...

After three months of learning, tweeking, erasing, editing and re-copying, I had a chance to hear my first big band piece played today. An arrangement of "Stay Awake" (the lullaby sung to characters Jane and Michael Banks by Julie Andrews in "Mary Poppins") fused with some respectfully disturbed quotations from the adagio cantabile of Beethoven's Sonata Pathetique. The original version of this I wrote ten years ago for piano and voice to be sung on a cd of lullabies for my then-soon-to-be-born niece Alaina.

One of the conservatory's big bands did the honors this afternoon, under the direction of esteemed band leader and bass trombonist Erik van Lier (who has toured with the likes of Vince Mendoza and Dizzy Gillespie). Granted, I was only given enough time in the rehearsal to run it twice - so there were some missed notes and entries, it was enough to whet the whistle and have me wanting more.

From the first utterance of the saxophones, I was hooked.

And beyond the coolness of having my writing performed, I got to sing and play piano with the whole thing. And let me tell you, singing with a 25-piece band backing you up is a ton of fun.

With any luck at all, this will become a habit.


Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Three's company...

I was biking home from school yesterday when I saw a woman in the not-so-far distance walking not one but TWO little Shelties. I caught up with her and started asking all about her dog relatives. Her name is Marry (yes, with two R's) and she and her husband got their first Sheltie ten years ago (a little sweetheart named Katootje..."little gift"). Katootje was so wonderful, they decided to breed her. Enter: Lotje (short for Charlotte). Marry wanted to walk her girls over to our house to meet Remmie.

So there they were...mom, daughter and an all-enthusiastic Rembrandt...in our living room. Remmie was beside himself. He was so excited and yet a total gentleman. (You have to wonder if dogs and cats have special affection for animals of the same breed.)

I forsee a beach or park date in his near future! What a fun afternoon.

To R-moe, with love...

Dear Dave,

While you're out right now working hard, shaking hands and exchanging cards with hundreds of Euro business folk in France, I'm here at home in our beautiful new house, working unabashedly on my musical craft. I'm overwhelmed by the passion and fun in our lives right now.

Thank you for always supporting me, always encouraging my dreams and desires, and for working so hard to provide a great life for us.

You're my hero, sweetheart...


Sunday, March 11, 2007

Another quiet Sunday morning...

Rem and I took another leisurely stroll around the neighborhood this morning. Sundays truly are the fairest of them all. I grabbed my camera so I could share with you a few more visuals from "onze buurt" (our neighborhood). Canals, store windows, sidewalk gardens, our favorite bridge, our bikes tethered together outside our door.

Dave and I had a well-balanced weekend, full of many of the things we love - fabulous friends, good food, great movies.

Not wishing for a thing on this perfect Sunday.

Here's to a great upcoming week for all.


Wednesday, March 7, 2007

It's been a hard day's night...

All this moving has left everyone in our house completely zonked. Rem and I fell asleep on the couch without even knowing it. Dave had to carry us both to bed that night.

The Brenninkmeyer Brunch...

Good friends Fiona, Damien and little Anya Brenninkmeyer came over for a Sunday morning brunch. Anya and Remmie are becoming fast friends.

The third degree...

I am absolutely thrilled with my school experience here. In recent weeks, I've started to realize just what a gem of an experience I am having.

It's taken me many months to be able to identify just what is so enthalling to me about the study I'm doing there. After all, the subject matter is not entirely new to me. I mean, truly...Just how much harmonic analysis can one endure in a lifetime?!

And Bach? Mozart? Old hat. Been there, done that.

Or so I thought.

As readily as Americans recognize freedom as a core value, my European colleagues can spot erroneous parallel octaves a mile away and understand rules of counterpoint to be virtues. As much as we, as Americans, are intrinsically drawn to good service and big cars, so too are my musical neighbors magnetized by Bach's tasteful modality.

And the motivation for musical pedagogy here is quite grand, I think. Music theory is not a widely recognized field here where professors are awarded large grants to pursue the placement of a line or dot in a Schenkerian analysis of some long-lost piece found in the misplaced trash can of Mr. Schubert. Rather, this is the craft of their soil. Their not-so-far-away neighbors. Their interest in the greatest composers of all time is entirely organic.

So here I am, being taught and surrounded by those who are the grown children of the Viennese School. The distant cousins to the Masters studied all over the world, but who can only be claimed by the Western Europeans. Mozart is as closely-related to musicologists here as Elvis is to a Memphis-ite...Although they may not share a direct bloodline, there is definitely some kind of earned ownership present.

And I am lucky to be invited for a deeper look.

If you are interested in being taken in by some music, or if you would simply like to pay some kind of homage to the rich musical traditions which gave roots to most of the beautiful music we know, take seven and a half minutes out of your day to listen to the alto aria from the St. Matthew's Passion by Bach titled "Erbarme Dich." You can purchase it on iTunes for 99 cents (I particularly enjoy Helmuth Rilling with the Bach-Collegium from Stuttgart).

Forgetting whether the text means anything to you religiously, just listen to way in which the violin and the soloist work off of each other. Listen to how the accompaniment pulses steadily and unabtrusively in the background. Perfect elegance and sophistication. Perfect.

Of course, there are thousands of pieces out there worth listening to. This one has had particular impact on me lately, so maybe you'll get something out of it as well.

With love and inspiration,

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

It takes a worried man to sing a worried song...

A long-anticipated dinner at a Dutch neighbor's house.
Bright red leather chairs mingle with three-hundred year old hand-me-downs.
Wine poured. Venison shot and served.
Discussion over hunting, golf, the War.

Keith is an artist.
His daily feed is writing, guitar and painting.
He played flamenco for us tonight.
Nervous in some ways, but all together perfect. No need to be nervous, Keith.

It takes a worried man to sing a worried song.

Agnes is a healer.
Strong convictions and soothing words.
She is an artist's mouthpiece.
Her table, a bubbling fountain.

Great surprises behind the doors of neighbors.