Moving Experience VII and Last

Last full day in Amsterdam. I arose about 10 and had coffee, read, wrote in my notebook. Kathryn arose about noon, then Ash and Ira and Hans put in appearances. I talked to Larry on Hans and Ira’s phone. After a sufficiency of coffee and more excellent bread and cheese, Ash and Kathryn and I walked to Beethovenstraat so Kathryn could find some thin wool socks. We wandered around a bit and finally located a Hema, one of the few stores open on Sunday. Kathryn said it was a bit like a mini-Target. But a very, very mini. The selection of wares seemed limited by our standards. Ash looked at men’s sweaters. I don’t think there were more than a dozen to choose from. Kathryn had a bit more luck with socks and did eventually find what she was looking for.

We returned to Casa Salsa and took a cab for “The Mandala of Cooption,” a performance art piece assembled by Sanford Biggers.

And what a marvelous piece of theater it was. During the first hour he spoke about his connection to Buddhism and showed video of previous installations. Two stuck out: the first was the use of the tree as a symbol of growth and life – and of horror and death. Pictures of lynchings, accompanied by Billie Holiday’s rendition of “Strange Fruit” elicited gasps from an audience that had almost certainly never seen anything of the sort before. The tree also became the backdrop for a piano in various guises.

The other knockout was a lotus (eighth image down) composed of petals he drew from the model of a slave ship packed with bodies. A metal version of that one now adorns a school.

And I loved the temple bowls made from melted “bling.” He showed a photograph of “The Making of In Fond Memory of Hip-Hop Bell.”

This entry is already going to be too long, so I’ll move along to the second part of the program. MC Kima, Babeth’s son teamed with various rap artists, musicians and dancers, including his sister. Chanting was never like this before. The most impressive part of this portion was the group of break dancers who made fantastic use of the mandala that Biggers had constructed on the floor of the performance space. The young men connected the pieces of the mandala with their bodies and when the images were projected on the screen above the stage, the mandala looked as though it was flowing from one place to another.

I retained that sense when we returned to the Tuschinski and I saw projected on the wall in the lobby images of ripples on water and of autumn leaves falling and of butterflies wafting on gentle breezes. These images showed up in a number of places over the weekend, so I assume they symbolize iimpermanence and flow.

The walk to the Tuschinski took us through an unpaved street, piled with sand. (In the lawsuit happy States it would have been blocked to pedestrians as well as motorists.) We stopped at the falafel stand on the corner with its sign reading “Vegetarian” in huge neon letters (more marketing to English-speakers with the muchies?). Babethe paid for everyone’s dinner, which involved getting a falafel and then receiving a large container for as many types of additions as one could imagine. Besides the usual lettuce and tomato, they had pickled eggplant, and pickled beets, and regular pickles, three types of olives, and untold types of hot peppers. Sauces included very hot hot sauce, tahini, garlic sauce, etc. etc.

The food was delicious, but I noticed again that the Dutch have a much more a casual attitude toward hygiene than we do. I didn’t see a single bottle of hand sanitizer till I got on the plane home, and the sneeze shield over the salad bar was so high as to be useless. People had left handles for the tongs in the food. I skipped those but realized every item was probably contaminated.

We sat in the lobby of the Tuschinski to eat. And boy, was it good. And satisfying. I didn’t think I could finish it but I did.

Ash and the woman who had photographed the performance art got into a tech-talk conversation. I walked past at one point and realized they were speaking English, but I couldn’t understand a word. Then Babethe pulled Kathryn and Ash off to conduct the interview that they were supposed to do on Friday. Zenju and I spoke again. She said that before embarking on a macrobiotic diet, one is supposed to go to a practioner who will prescribe what foods to eat and what to avoid. They do it based on the shape of your palm, the relative size of your lips, and so forth. They can even tell what the client’s mother ate while she was pregnant based on one’s appearance. (God, I hope I don’t look like endless cups of black coffee and three packs of unfiltered cigarettes!)

Ash and Kathryn decided to watch Howl, a film that expands on Allen Ginzberg’s poem. As I had a flight to catch in the a.m., I said good-bye to everyone and stumbled around looking for a cab. Finally went into the Ritz Carlton where the very nice Vietnamese (?) woman called for me. She told me to wait inside because they would charge less.

The cab arrived quickly and I returned to Casa Salsa without incident. Hans and Ira had just returned from dancing – said they only stayed for one set. We chatted for a bit and they gave me three DVDs and a CD of their work including Our Latin Groove, featuring Dr. Salsa. Then I took myself off to bed where I stayed awake all night. But successfully caught the return bus to Schipol. Sat next to a delightful woman from New Zealand. She and her husband were golfing around the world and were headed to California, trying to get into Pebble Beach.

Bought Larry his souvenir T-shirt and Deb her souvenir shot glass.

Uneventful return flights, again with an empty middle seat. But at one point all of coach only had one working bathroom. The forward one didn’t have enough pressure so it wouldn’t flush. The attendants resolved that by pouring lots and lots of bottled water into the tank. Problem solved, though the water wasn’t the usual dark blue. The other facility, toward the rear, had no running water in the sink, so they put either wipes or hand sanitizer. On the plus side, they again remembered my veggie meal.

Got off the plane in Phila. and Hallelujah! the phone worked! Called Larry and texted Ash that I was on the ground in the States.

Came home and stayed up till 9 pm. (3 a.m. CEST). Slept 12 hours and woke up with a cold that finally disappeared two days ago.

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