News from Nowhere. An Epoch of Rest. Being some chapters from a Utopian Romance, by William Morris. William Morris was a designer. An idealist. I a painter, a writer and a socialist. His vision of a world without money, without government, without schools, without war, without stress, without skyscrapers, without pollution, without Superpacs, without cars, without the internal combustion engine, without plastic, without the handheld computers anachronistically called phones, without advertising, without influencers, without two factor authentication, is utterly ludicrous. But if we don't question the things that are killing us, are we really alive? Or do we deserve to get everything we've got.
Right now I'm re-reading the book. I'll keep you posted.
When I was maybe 19 years old only one of my friends lived in an apartment alone. His name was Chris Peppard and I think he had a job working for his Dad at a construction company. so to a fellow adolescent he seemed independent, adult and rich with rolls of cash for pizza, beer and drugs and anything else your teenage heart might desire. Like vinyl records.
Chris Peppard - pronounced "Peppered" like Peppered Steak and not like George Peppard with the pretensious movie-star long ahrd at the end – had really bad cleaning habits. I can still remember my girlfriend Suzy Hutchinson screaming in horror when she went into the bathroom. This was where I was first introduced to that magical creature, the silverfish, which live off mold and other yummy stuff. To make up for his sub-par cleaning habits, Chris Peppard had impeccable taste in music.
Chris first introduced me to Redd Kross and Tales of Terror.
We would listen to the Redd Kross album "Teenage Babes from Monsanto" which was a complete cover album and a taste guide to what you should be listening to, and what is cool. They cover songs by Kiss, The Rollling Stones, The Shangri-La's, Boyce and Heart's "Blow You a Kiss in the Wind" from Bewitched, and David Bowie.
Redd Kross took their name from Linda Blair and they were the original interpreters of pop culture, telling us with punk-pop wit, what is cool and what is not.
Tales of Terror were a band from Sacramento. They were part of the punk scene and much to rough around the edges for LA. But they didn't play fast. They were riffy and really good. They were a huge influence on Nirvana and Green River - in fact, Green River covered their song Ozzy.
Another band that he introduced me to was the band Scream. They were a DC band on the Dischord Label and being from DC, or the other side of the river, appropriately idealistic with songs filled with political commentary. They've been on my mind because I just went to Brooklyn to see them! Three decades between shows! The last time was at the Gorilla Gardens in the mid 80's in Seattle.
Chris Peppard sang for one band. And he could do that thing where he could whistle really loud - which I have always found to be one of those mystery skills that make one a true alpha male, along with juggling and not breaking into an immediate sweat when talking to pretty girls.
Chris Peppard had red hair, and life treated him like a stepchild. He was not able to get clean and sober. He is one of my friends that died too young.
Every day in New York is somehow tinged with bittersweet. The time of year adds to the effect. Everything feels like it's slipping into a cold coma. I continuously think, how much longer am I going to be able to do this? My job feels tenuous. My body feels fragile – my psyche more so. And though I'm allergic to much of what I see, smell, hear and feel, I do love the mornings. I love getting up at 4:49 a.m., stumbling around in the dark, throw on a hoody, close the windows that were left open piss, turn on the scones to warm in the toaster oven to find my meditation spot on the couch. I love sitting there for a 1/2-hour, doing whatever it is that I discipline myself into doing, bodily stillness though my mind is, at times, looping, obsessive, rampant – but to begin the day with structure. To even have half my mind spotlighting on spiritual passages and good thoughts gives a bar to reach for, a standard, or at least taps the breaks.
I love that my wife has been getting up and we've been meditating together. A partnership, a collective insanity, a secretive inanity - I mean who the hell else would join me to meditate 5-5:30 in the morning? Answer: our cat, Bean. This morning, Bean discovering the hanging shade adjustment string to bat at, but mostly she is just quiet and pumps on my wife's lap.
Then comes the shower. Every morning I fight with myself over whether I will get out of the shower and shave looking at my aging old mug in the mirror. The receding hairline. The burned off spots of pre-cancerous whatever from the visit to the Dermatologist yesterday. 35 minutes of sitting in a room with a paper gown for 3 minutes of being zapped with liquid nitrogen and of course Dr. XXSSA wouldn't be doing his job if he didn't slice a sample off my back and auto text me through the patient portal in 2 weeks - benign. (or not.)
The insult of aging.
We then drive into the City. It's 13 miles or so I sometimes get tense if we leave too many minutes after 6 a.m. because the traffic starts to pile up, but I've trained myself to slow down. After all it's just part of the experience really. This morning there was a teeny bit of ice on the windshield so there was no way we were leaving on time.
On the drive, which takes about a half hour, we listen to a selection from the vast amounts of classes and lectures from the Vedanta Societies of Southern California and New York. Lately we have been listening to Swami Medhananda, a younger, intellectually vibrant PHD level American Professor turned Swami who has classes on The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna and Raja Yoga - today we listened to a talk on Ma Kali because Durga Puja was recently.
After we drive in, we head to the Bluestone Cafe for what I refer to as "'stone and scone." I order a double espresso, and a magic - which is the Bluestone Lane version of a cortado – and I eat one of the blueberry scones that I warmed up in the toaster oven left over from the batch I made on Sunday - that I make every Sunday. We chat about the lecture we listened to, and pass collective judgment on political figures and millennials, extend our compassion to those that suffer, and plan our lives - some mixture of the 3, probably you could image a pie chart split 3 ways Judgment 39%/Compassion 21%/Planning 28%/Reflection up Spiritual Talks 12%. The days go better with less judgment I think maybe? I don't know. Who am I to judge.
Then we head off to the meeting - today the meeting was quite good. Maybe it's because we're temporarily on the 4th floor in the choir room, a smaller room, but it felt packed and cozy. Elizabeth chose the topic out of the meeting from As Bill Sees It - "God Will Not Desert Us" or Dessert us I imagine. I shared about how the Monday meeting started off with someone talking about how they had to have heart surgery this week and then the next person said that their brother just killed themselves, and how I felt woefully underqualified to share as most of my tragedies are between my ears. (paraphrase). I shared about my mom, and how every conversation with her is so light and breezy like cocktail party charter and then she casually drops the real question on her mind, "Have you talked to your father lately? I know he's not doing well." And so I have a new strategy. I said that every time the northerly blows, and I feel it on my cheek, Dad's here with me. And every time the southerly blows, I'm sailing Pulley Point." And I think she got it for a moment because she said, well that's how we connect with all of the ones that have passed on."
She's alone and confused and really not sure why she's at the Aegis. I wish my sister would take more of an interest - just bring her out for walks - to bring her to the park and to go to East Calhoun Street would do her good. Familiarity is good for people with these issues, but my sister is selfish and full of anxiety and look who's talking.
And then I go to work. And it was fine. Enough of Tuesday.
Hi, it's Ken. Really great to hear you're doing well in the real world with your new genitalia. That must be amazing! I for my part, am still trying to find my way, to find my place in the world without being a mere appendage, arm candy as it were. What is my purpose? How can I be of service? To merely "live for myself" doesn't really seem to be enough - I feel empty without someone or some cause to dedicate myself to ... I guess that's a long-winded way of saying I miss you. I find myself wondering sometimes if maybe having my own genitalia would help with my sense of purpose, maybe even my own vagina instead of a penis, but from what I can tell, that just seems to make things more complicated. It's tough enough dealing with one brain - much less another one that doesn't really seem to have much of a ingrained value set.
So to take up the time I've been reading a fair amount. Old stuff. Some new. Watching the social chatter, and trying to put our present circumstances into proper perspective - for me, for us, for men, for women and of course for dolls everywhere. I've been talking and messaging with all kinds of people about our recent adventures - and it's really made me think. About gender roles. The job that female objectification has done on the girl psyche - and boys, too.
But mostly I've been thinking about men and what a wreck they've made of the world. The violence. The power games. The wars. And of course even though I'm a one-dimensional cartoon projection of what a 5-year old thinks a man should be with no actual personal agency, I can't help but feel some sort of residual guilt on behalf of man(un)kind and my own stupid part in our recent drama! It's horrifying! My attraction to the patriarchy was so intoxicating – It swept me away - it was the first time I'd ever felt strong, alive, like my own self! A man among men, doing dumb man things! I'm so embarrassed. But thankfully, the fever passed - and in the end, I see it for what it was - just another way to get your attention. We're no better than bulls clunking horns - it's all just a big game to decide who's the alpha and who gets to rule the herd. It's so obvious and boy do I feel stupid for how easily I was manipulated ... how we all were! But thank God things are back the way they are supposed to be, or at least the way they were, with Barbies leading Barbie-world and in the so-called Real World, well, ... perhaps we'll see some positive changes. But to be real about the real world, I just don't know.
My main hope is that people can all stop being so reductionist and move past the promises made to them by marketers when they were 5, 12, 17, and even 30. Maybe in the end I'm lucky to not be real. I'm not sure if I'd even want to be. Because now I can see the mischief that all of these sexual/gender based insecurities, sublimated frustrations and power projections cause – I can see them for they are. Look, I'm no Freudian - far from it. And if there's a light at the end of this particular tunnel, the entire real world needs to work together to solve some very real problems. And Barbie, as a newly minted real girl, you're just the person to help make some positive changes. After all - all these "great men" of history have had their chance! And you can see the results.
Anyhooooo, I'm going for a walk on the beach with Weird Barbie and Alan so I gotta go. It's hilarious, I never would have hung out with them before, but I'm really enjoying their perspective - and I can't wait to hear what you'll be up to next. Keep in touch.
your pal, Ken
PS - I almost forgot! I just found out – get this – that Los Angeles isn't actually a state, in fact - it might not even be part of the "real world" at all! I think that there could actually be another real world that's even more "real"! I'll let you know more when I find out more.
Greensboro. What a relief after everything. A quiet room in a Hampton Inn where the AC works pretty well and even if it's a little noisy, they provide quality earplugs. Gruhhhhhhhhh ....
24 hours. 3 planes. A quiet room with two beds. Woke up early - still on euro-time. Just spent an hour on the treadmill (No room is quieter than the gym in a Hampton in in the south.)
We were right in the tourist area and these weren’t the usual tourists. Many of them were kids looking for a good time, legal weed and the novelty of the red-light district. It draws a specific kind of person at a specific age looking for a specific kind of thing.
But there were highlights, yes there were highlights beyond that.
The Rijkmuseum – extraordinary building. See the old master. Learned a lot about the man. Rembrandt.
The Rembrandt house was much more our speed and size. Learning about his life – how he was successful early, and then sort of crashed and burned in middle age. His wife died. I could relate to that. Rembrandt ran out of money. I don’t think he ever recovered from his first wife dying. Like some of us creative types, maybe wasn’t interested in or great with money. He liked to collect interesting objects – curios brought back by sailors. Skulls and samarai helmets and shells and all manner of strange exotic creatures. The highlight was the young gentleman demonstrating how Rembrandt and the gang created pigments.
Ochre came from earth.
Black came from burnt bones.
White came from lead and the process was super toxic.
Red comes from bugs – in fact, they still use the same bugs to create red food dye! So gross. And the bugs need to be handpicked because when the females are scared they turn red and that’s when you kill them. Red #120 or something – something acid. Uck.
Anyway, you mix the pigment with linseed oil and that’s how you make oil paint. It’s incredible and mind blowing really that all of the shades
There was another room where a young woman walked us through the etching process – applying the ink, etc.
(I wonder if I will ever upload photos, or if I’ll just get sucked back into the drama. We will see.)
After the Rembrandt house we went to the Joods Museum, which was heart-wrenching. There were two Jewish Communities in Amsterdam and Holland, the Portuguese or Sephardic and the Ashakanzi, that were the more Germanic who spoke Yiddish – they each had their own communities and Synagogues. The narrative of the museum walks you through the Jewish experience, from being outcasts to fighting to participate into society to having their own community up until the Holocaust – out of 600,000 people, only 30,000 were left after the war. Those are the numbers. It was good to humanize the story behind the numbers and put faces.
I’m starting to lose my narrative of the trip, what happened when – Already! But we also went to a cool leftist bookstore that had books about the pre WWI period that I’m fascinated with – when labor and anarchists were actually on the verge of uniting the world’s workers – and we had a war that a) solidified the modern nation states, including the USSR, and effectively wiped the Hapsburgs off the map; and 2) Put the internal combustion engine to use in the form of the tank, etc. Created the machine first future.
Walking back from the Jewish Museum was hellish, despite the cute old architecture and picturesque canals. Unending times square, the dutch version.
How does one even keep up.
Amsterdam is as advertised.
Our rental on the top floor at 582 Kreizengracht is amazing. Right on the canal.
A lot of walking. After the 3 hour train ride.
Yesterday, we got a great lunch at Zero Zero - which was like Aliota, in Soho NYC, a Roma street sandwich place. The line was long and the people were tall. The average young woman in line at this place anyway was a statuesque 5'9". But what do you expect in a nation where I sit on the toilet and my feet don't reach the ground. Tracey had the pesto with mozzerella sandwich; I had the melanze and Ally had something different I forget. All of the sandwiches were on warm fresh foccaccia. The juice drinks were amazing as well - I bought two pear juices for Tracey and Ally. Conspicuously absent were chips, candies, etc – the sort of stuff they use to upsell you in the US.
After lunch we went came back and reoriented ourselves briefly and then went for coffee on the next street over at Bocca. High end archetypical 3rd wave coffee joint, the Amsterdam version. The coffee was excellent and the barista a true artist. Everyone takes their time, in conversation and in preparation of the coffees– I'll have to get a bag before we go home.
After that, more and more and walking and walking.
We walked through the Bloemenmarkt (I'll definitely have to get some bulbs before I head home.)
We walked through central Amsterdam and ended up at the Maritime Museum which was a relatively relaxed scene and answered many of the hanging questions about Dutch history. I was reminded that of course, South Africa was founded by the Dutch. Jakarta or Batavia was their Asian Capital. They discovered Australia and were in charge of Brazil for a time before the Portuguese threw them out. They were the merchant marine of the world with a navy to match for the 17th century – also, shamefully, were more than complicit in the slave trade.
Dinner - we had Pho at a homey Viet place. Nothing too stunning but easy.
After the Maritime museum we came back and chilled for all of 11 and 1/2 minutes, hit a meeting - our first of the trip - and then got a stroopwafel. Had to do it.
Slept great - ready for another fun day. With we were staying longer ... never want to go back to all the bs.
Ach! Can't believe it. I'd actually done 20 minutes of writing and every minute is so precious! But what does it matter, really. I won't read it - the point is that I did it and I can recapture it - and now I'm a little more awake.
Anyway, Ally, Tracey and I are on the train from Münster to Amsterdam. I know. "Where's Münster?" And that's just it. Yesterday we headed out from Berlin, headed for Amsterdam, and the winds and rain was so bad - I guess they even gave the storm a name, Polly, that all trains were cancelled in the Netherlands. So the day had started with no intention of every visiting Münster, not yesterday or really ever in my life. But it was quite a revelation.
So when the announcement came over the intercom on the train, Ally's ears perked up and the German gentleman sitting next to me in our first class compartment said "toll" sarcastically and translated for us. All of the trains would be stopping at the border at Bad Bentheim. The couple told us that Bad Bentheim was very small and they recommended that we stop at Münster. So I'm glad for that part of the recommendation - he even said there was a hotel across the street from the train station but Tracey got on the computer and search and did her thing - found restaurants, coffee and most wonderfully, I really nice hotel called Mövenpick to stay at.
So we disembarked at Münster and I was feeling unsettled but Ally didn't wanted to deal with the DB clerks about the train change on an empty stomach so we hopped the bus for one stop and wheeled our carry-ons for a block or two to an Indian restaurant called Indian Ocean. We were the first people there and they had set our a quite passable classic Indian lunch buffet. The whole scene was very homey and vegetarian friendly. I had cauliflower, a red curry with potatoes and a yellow dal plus we ordered garlic naan which was fresh and warm and drizzled with ghee and mango lassis. The waiter was a young man in his early twenties who spoke excellent English. He had a tattoo of a Sanskrit phrase on his neck and when I paid I asked him what it said. "Beyond the physical." I instinctively pranaamed and warmth and connection passed between us, I had touched something important to him; yoga without borders.
Tracey asked if we should get coffee first but I was feeling unsettled - "what are we doing here kids?" so we headed back to the train station to figure out the tickets. Ally did a heckuva job talking to the clerk, and got our tickets chanced to today without charge. I didn't want to be sitting at coffee later, unsettled, not knowing if we maybe could have caught a train today so I spoke up and asked "Eine Frage" -. Was so glad I did. Partially because I'm so self-conscious about such things but also because I didn't want to be thinking about it later. Like I said. The result was surprising/not surprising. He slowed down and showed me the only option - four different supposed transfers. It's my suspicion that people appreciate it when you make an effort. I've noticed when I ask "how do you say this ... in Dutch, or "auf Deutsch" people respond positively.
I also had fun telling the guard at the Maritime Museum that we were from New Jersey - you know, like the Sopranos. The guy then said "Steven Van Zandt is in that show" which it strikes me now is a Dutch name. Huh. Never know how your pop culture references are going to overlap with people from across the oceans. Walking to dinner with guys after a meeting in New Zealand and a guy points out the name of restaurant that reminds him of a Zappa song. At any rate.
We went to this place for coffee called Roestr that was beyond solid. After that, we caught a bus and it took us around a lake to a hotel where Tracey had booked a suite. The hotel was called Mövenpick and apparently it is a Suisse company? And it def had the Swiss attention to detail. And it all ended being exactly what Dr. Jung ordered. We got to chill out and go to the gym - did a couple km on the stairmaster and sweated out some toxic details. After taking a shower and watching some Deutsche Fernsehen w Ally - so gratifying that she can actually understand the conversation and commentary - she's definitely outstripped my knowledge, and thank God, since that's what she's doing in Germany.
After we chilled a bit we walked along the most idyllic street filled with bikes. You've never seen so many bikes! Apparently Muenster is the bike capitol of Germany. Maybe the world. there are 500,000 bikes in Muenster and only 300,000 inhabitants. My kind of place. So we walked along the lake and into the old town and ate at the best healthy restaurant ever -
Krawummel. I'll even throw a hotlink in here Krawummel.
Veggie burgers but with actually vegetables. I had a salad with sliced vege Gyro/doner on top. Was amazing. I'd eat like that 4 days a week if I could. Even the sodas are amazing. I had a rhubarb soda - that had actual fruit in it, and less sugar than a glass of orange juice. Their sodas are more like a Sprintzer - if I could drink sodas like that, I'd do it all the time.
After dinner we walked around town and found this old Gothic Cathedral that I think probably had bats to go along with the gargoyles in the Belfry. And ghosts. There were actually 3 cages attached to tower high above that the remains of three anabaptist rebels had been left in, sometime in the 1500's.
But well other than that, the town was absolutely idyllic. Felt like a movie set, Ally said more than once. Everyone riding bikes, everyone healthy and young. The trees, the lake.
And the perfect break between two tourist tramped huge wonderful urban centers.
Things are starting to look more industrial on our trip. We are getting closer to Amsterdam. This is going to be really fun.
Now we're in Amsterdam. The place we are staying is so amazing. The furnishings are like a modern art gallery. Top floor of a house overlooking a canal – the Kreizer-somting 582. (I can always remember numbers better than names.)