Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Together again

It was the first time in my life as an Amsterdammer. I was flabbergasted. When I arrived at Central Station, it was gone. I looked, and looked. Someone even came to help me ("look for a green lock", I told him). But no, my bike was definitely gone. In all my years as a happy biker I had never parked my bike in such a way that 'they' could take it. 'They' are the milieupolitie or environment police. Well, now I had and they did. I was not supposed to leave by bike designated especially for 'bakfietsen' or carrier cycles: bikes with a big box on it to carry groceries or kids. It's mostly working moms that own bikes like that. And yes, they have parking space especially allocated for them.

As I learned from their great radio commercial [Person A says: "oh no, my bike is gone!". Person B replies:"Ah, fuck!". Person A: "Well, there's no need to curse". Person B: "No, I'm not cursing: AFAC, that's where you can pick up your bike".], I had to contact the Amsterdamse Fiets Afhandel Centrale - the Amsterdam Bike Handling Center (sounds very Harry Potterish indeed). Located in an industrial area far from the city centre, I took me a while to get there.

And then I saw it: Hundreds of bikes. Some of them shiny and new. Others dilapidated and long abandoned. It was a magical sight. I walked to the counter, where I was asked to describe my wheels. My description blue (or gray) with a green lock barely sufficed. I was told to follow someone who would point me in the right direction. A guy in an orange overall greeted me friendly and explained that 'this' was a social project. People that 'have difficulties managing in society' work there: they study the bikes and register all their features in a database.

It didn't take long before I saw my remarkably green lock. We were united! I paid ten euro and was given back my bike. A long bike ride home followed. We flew through the sky, mon velo et moi. I was happy with the thought that some people found new meaning in their lives by dealing with all these bikes. And happy to be together again fighting traffic and tourist on the streets of my beautiful hometown.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Couleur Cafe

A few weeks ago, I spent a weekend at the Couleur Cafe festival in Brussels. The festival celebrated its 20th Anniversary and the program was jampacked with great artists. Possibly, this was also its last edition as the location where it was being held will be renovated. That's very sad, because it is a great feast! I have had the pleasure to see and hear; Ben Harper, Oi Va Voi, Cubanismo, Ozomatli, Alpha Blondy, Zap Mama, Solomon Burke and Cesaria Evora.

Solomon invited fifteen people on stage and handed out roses and necklaces to the audience (which we were able to lay hands on too!). The way he performs his songs is amazing: seated in a big chair the whole time, he never ceases to keep the audience involved. His lyrics are great too, by the way. I especially like:

"And there are people still in darkness,
and they just can't see the light.
If you don't say it's wrong then that says it right.
We got try to feel for each other, let our brother's know that we care.
Got to get the message, send it out loud and clear.

It's a simple truth we all need, just to hear and to see.
None of us are free, one of us is chained.
None of us are free.
now I swear your salvation isn't too hard too find,
None of us can find it on our own.
We've got to join together in sprirt, heart and mind.
So that every soul who's suffering will know they're not alone"

Even though she's already 68 years old, Cesaria Evora definitely rocks the stage. Her voice is beautiful and when she sings her (relatively expressionless) face completely lights up. My favorite moment of the concert was when she said there would be an instrumental song, so she could sit down and smoke. And that's what she did: in the middle of the stage, she sat herself down on a chair, lit a cigaret and took her time. "Always enjoy life to the fullest" is what she seemed to say.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

In the now

with a positive take on the past and hungry for what is to come...

This video would actually fit better on my other blog, where I compile thoughts on how to put our ideas into action and how to live a happy and successful life. However, this specific talk by Philip Zimbardo stuck with me. Why? Because what he describes as the right combination of experiencing time is something I have just recently stumbled upon. It doesn't work perfectly yet (sometimes 'negative past' or 'fatalistic present' do still haunt me), but I immediately understood what he was talking about. I had been trying to explain this to people around me, but words failed me. So, to save me the trouble, please watch ;)