Tuesday, April 15, 2008
3:30pm, Tuesday afternoon. I'm sitting here in Cafe van Zuylen, across the street from G's mother's house enjoying a cup of coffee and glass of fresh squeezed orange juice. The girls to my right smoke Gauloises blues from the same pack, one after another, as they slurp their cappuccinos loudly and twitter on about their hectic schedules and a shared hate for Freudian theory. I'm with you, girls. To my left, three unshaven yet well-dressed boys discuss their plans for the evening. There's mention of a girl named Angela and the fact that she won't be taking part in the pending festivities. Each time her name is spoken, one of the boys seems to grow more and more quiet, his eyes darting from the ground to the window to his gray sweater and the tiny spot on it's sleeve. Catching wind of this detail, I do my best to observe the boy further without making it too obvious that I am doing so. I wonder who this Angela is and what this boy's relation to her might be. Is she an estranged lover, a mere acquaintance, or is there something more to his seemingly misplaced discomfort at her mention? Is he harboring a secret affection for her? Did they share in intimate moment unknown to the other two boys at the table? Or is it that he simply doesn't get along with Angela that well, that he finds her boring or arrogant or completely unremarkable whatsoever?
It's a fascinating thing how every city seems to have its own charm, its own way of pulling you in or pushing you away, how every place, no mater how similar at first glance, always reveals, with time, the tiniest of elements and intricate quirks that make it unique and that make you appreciate it in a fundamentally different way. Amsterdam is a city with many of these quirks. Around every corner and gently twisting alleyway there seems to be a plethora of peculiar characteristics that are both unmistakable and easily lost on the untrained eye. The way that the city seems to live and breathe in leaps and bounds, yet how time unfolds on a tempo all its own is mystifying, and the ease with which everything and everyone around you seem to melt together to create the bigger picture is undeniably extraordinary. If nothing else, Amsterdam is a paradise for the silent observer, a seemingly endless playground of people watching and voyeur. It is, quite literally, a place to lose yourself completely in the conversation fragments and curious behavior of every passing stranger, allowing you access to a whole new world of cautious speculations and clever deductions. After only a few hours here, it's impossible to deny the growing feeling that you've managed to become as much a part of the passing flurry of activity as those you observe. Your inquisitive glances are either matched or shrugged off impassively, as though this mutual observation is all part of the process of everyday life here. An everyday life that feels just about everything but everyday.