We all need a reason to get out of bed in the morning.
Today’s reason, I’m tired of feeling tired. I get so lost sometimes, I don’t know how… but it happens like a bad habit. Assessing and reassessing my situation, planning for the unknown.
What should I be doing? Am I standing still? I think the solution is to do what feels right but when day light creeps in through the window it’s a reminder that work needs to be done, money has to be made, and a stomach needs its feeding. As I pour through empty thoughts from last night I’m wondering… do I get enough sleep? do I sleep too much? what happened to time? I think back to a time when I didn’t need to ask these questions… the flight towards Amsterdam, just before dawn with a buzz from Krakow. I’ve got a small bag, some clothing, a notebook, camera, iPod, savings and no responsibilities. Destiny pulls me in any and every direction.
From a bird’s eye view, Amsterdam looks like a plaid sweater sewn into the earth. The kind of sweater no one buys, an ugly blue/green/grey that ends up forgotten in a thrift store. As the plane touches down I feel an overflowing sense of time from my pockets, I’m twelve hours early for my meeting and I can splurge on a good meal, a cheap Heineken, and a long nap.
I exit central station and march through the caverns of a commercial district. The shopping center is littered with souvenir stores and coffee shops. Every so often, you hit a square that is surrounded by a big clock-tower, a church, and a crowd of tourists aiming their lenses at these massive architectures. I follow the canals to the next point of interest. The canals are unique to the city like the imperfections of ladies leg with varicose veins, scars, and cellulite. The air is damp, with the occasional gust of grease or hypnotizing scent of sweets. The energy of the people feels familiar with faces from all across the globe; a small scale manhattan wearing a european fashion brand. You could call it “a touch of dutch”.
It rained everyday but the rain was ok. There were many times of wet rain, the rain that really gets you wet, but that was ok too. The only exception to my high tolerance of discomfort was when moisture had soaked through my socks and into my skin. With each step, I began to think like I might be able walk on water. The seriousness of the situation had escalated to code red when I could not absorb any more water. Just one more pint and osmosis would beset me. So, I had to seek sanctuary from the showers. By good luck, I had an audience with an old high school mate. We got to know each other riding the F train and sharing the occasional lunch during our adolescence. Years had passed us but nothing much had changed. Having secured a roof over my head I’m not looking to spend money, just looking for a good time. It’s a nice way to live in the big city as a small timer. I’ve experienced new tastes, spread good nature, and made sense of myself.
When I met my friend, I foresaw adventure and light hearted trouble. If you could imagine two old pals riding a shotty bike through town, swerving in and out of traffic making animal noises and heavy metal screams than you can imagine the joy of letting loose in a strange land. I could’ve cared less if a police man reprimanded us for driving recklessly and the heckling at no one in particular. We were wild and very much alive… like birds in the rain, circling around, close to the ground. When we weren’t chowing down over-priced burgers in de Pijps or socializing at the pubs and clubs we stayed home and relaxed with cable televisions all-day Simpsons marathon.
Riding 2nd class on a bike is just another way to get around the city. Or you could walk… because it’s free. So I walked everywhere, in times of rain and shine. Well, what to do in Amsterdam. Do drugs and fuck a hooker. I couldn’t afford to spend money on the museums or the hookers so I spoiled myself with a joint. At 3 euros, it seemed like the most fun I could have. I thought I would smoke a joint, walk around, observe and write. If and when I got the munchies, I would eat something nice.
“Walking through the streets of Amsterdam where no one gives a damn. My senses are shocked as far as the eye can see, but it goes further. It gets darker, over here you can get away with murder. The kind of place, like living in a day dream. I’m not busy with anything, I’m not occupied. Just thinking presently. I’m a cowboy in the streets seeing everything as it seems. Walking through the fire, the gateways into new senses. A city inspiring the dark sides. Resisting temptations, challenging morals. Where do you stand? Here and there, where is your line and how far will you push it? In this moment I do not see. But only feel, a sense that is not real. Here I am, writing away and what do i have to say. Is there anything I want to say? Just writing and writing away. I think about it. But I don’t. What do I say, what do I say? I can say anything, everything, whatever I want. So I write and write.. it’s alright, then I read again. This voice in my head. Writing whatever I have to say. It says anything. It says whatever it wants to say. It does anything, anything it wants to say. Noise, sounds, and visions. How the hell is this happening. I’m whatever I want to be!”
The most vivid experience is seeing women sold as commerce. Red-light women market themselves like chops of meat at a butcher. You got filet mignon, porter-house, ground-beef. There’s a disconnection when snake eyes tempt you to the dark side. The whole scene is curious, empty, and a bit uncomfortable. For those frequenting, flirting back and forth, they haven’t a problem doing business with the stutes. I cannot take it all so seriously. It all seems so unreal, a false sense of reality. Some of these women are gorgeous, others are trash… I’m intrigued by the scene and walk around. I think what the hell is going on here. I observe the sex machine. Prostitution is a career choice that revolves around the beauty and mystery of women. I can’t remember how many times I’ve heard the phrase “sex sells”. Pleasure is big business here and I imagine all around the world. Since the beginning of all desires, men are drawn to the nature of women. It has inspired so much passion, action, and creation. Is there any shame in buying a prostitute? I had to ask this question and agreed that you would have to live with that dehumanizing feeling. These women are human people, mothers, sisters, and others. Primordial pleasures should be treated with a bit of sanctity. When you eat, eat presently with appreciation for the many flavors in every bite. When you make love, be present, respect, and appreciate your woman. You could say “well, fuck that”. And well… that’s just like… your opinion.
It all seemed so chaotic, all the people, the tourists, the locals. The city center is really on a hustle. I think about what do most people want? All those people on the street, at the supermarkets and at the cafes? I think everyone just wants peace, some kind of shelter, food on the table, and to feel loved. My crush of love came while eating french fries with mayonnaise, some lady had the gall of telling me I’d die of a heart attack. Well… I guess. Consuming two weeks of fat in two minutes might cause mild traffic in the arteries but this is a one and done deal. She also babbled that I’d better watch out for thieves. Well.. I guess. I was more preoccupied with trying decadent dutch pastries from the one and only dutch oven. I recommend everyone grabbing a piece of dutch honesty.
A demonstration in Copenhagen took place today where about a thousand or more citizens showed up in the blistering cold to voice their opposition against the danish government selling a percentage of energy stocks to Goldman Sachs. I’m pleading ignorance because I don’t know what impact this deal would have on the danish people. In simple terms, I think that having a piece of the pie gives you say on the value of the pie and the ability to choose how you want to distribute your piece. So, energy prices could go up at will. I assume it’s a money thing because as with most corporations, the main agenda of these power brokers is to make the most profitable deal even if it undermines public opinion. These corporations and governments are wealthy beyond our understanding and do not need to concern themselves with pleasing the ordinary person. This is a conversation of money and power beyond god. If you really want to change things than it’s going to take more than hand-written signs and political conversations. The wind chill could make bare hands numb in seconds but fortunately I brought my gloves and took advantage of the hot coffee some political groups were handing out. I thought that was nice. Walking among politically active people sharing their agendas was nice too. I felt a bit of nostalgia towards the Occupy movement. But, this isn’t my fight. I’m just an observer in solidarity with humanity, dignity, and having a voice.
Heading up north at a steady pace while fleeting greens and yellows fade along the way. We pass cement block houses, old iron works, and unknown industrial factories. Just a few hours later and we’re at the border of Czech Republic and Poland. Crossing the border, a thought enters my mind that I should probably explore Poland more. When I step off the train I recognize everything known and unknown, the buildings are familiar and memories all too vivid, particularly being able to enjoy restaurant food and get a taste for the night-life. I’ve had some delicious food and drink here with my family. Getting back on track, I grab a Prince Polo and meet a devoted friend at the Adam Mickiewicz statue, we sit and watch people pass with the hero of romantics. “Hey”, “Hey again”. After a long journey, proper food is in demand so we visit a shawarma guy and grab the most disappointing Zapiekanka I’ve had in my whole life. All bread, no substance, it deserves the name “Crapiekanka”. Along with our foolish food impulse, drinking beers on a full stomach had us stumbling and bumbling around town in style and grace We meet more friends, drink more beer, and the reunion has transformed me into one big bourgie mofo. At home my wallet simply wants to be left alone and live a reclusive life but in eastern europe the leather wants to be seen on the scene. I guess it’s about enjoying how far your hard earned money will take you.
Walking out the door what do you expect. I just want to walk around, see things, maybe eat something good, look at the people, share a joke. Maybe meet someone interesting… like those 3 construction workers, the Italian guy, the American guy, and the Polish guy. So, they’re working on a high-rise building and during lunch break the Italian guy says “I’ve been eating pasta every single day, if my wife packs pasta for lunch tomorrow, I’m gonna jump off this building”. The American guy says “Yeah, my wife, she brings me hot dogs everyday, If I get hot-dogs tomorrow I’m going down”. Polish guy says “Yeah, if I get kielbasa tomorrow, I’m jumping”. The next day, the Italian guy goes “Thank you God, a meat-ball sandwich” the American guy goes “Ah finally! A cheeseburger” And the Polish guy? He jumped. Why? Well, I don’t know why, he packed his own lunch. Almost all Polish jokes end up with a punch-line that implies Poles are dumb. And if stereotypes don’t provide enough evidence than I guess the screen-door on a submarine is just Polish ingenuity. That was a joke and there’s much more to every culture then at first glance. Almost immediately we make assumptions and comparisons which most people will accept as “that was my first thought, so it must be true.” But I think we need to take one step forward and two steps back, detach a bit, get new angles and perspectives then make a judgment call.
We stay in a penthouse outside the city and whenever there’s an event to attend the tram is always there to give us a ride. Looking out the window, what do you see. Walking down the streets, who are you hoping to meet? At the supermarket, on top of a mountain. Making eye contact and looking away. Smiling or scowling. Every single day. What to do. What to do. It’s a cliche and makes me sound like a puff but how about sharing a beautiful view and depositing a smile in to your memory bank. Nature has that effect, I wouldn’t want to half-ass the description of this area but it’s some kind development 10 minutes outside of central that has turned into a natural lake. Elevated cliffs offer a long view into the vista for many kilometers. A location fit for a lakeside king. The nature of this area is hilly terrain with wide valleys that carry fresh water from the mountains. Southern Poland sees lots of evergreens cozying up together surrounding townships scattered about the planes. You’ll see the occasional castle, spot a McDonalds somewhere along the road, and even see a couple grandmas walking to church.
Krakow maintains a history of higher education and serves as a cultural collision point between artists, musicians, and poets of all ages and all backgrounds. For centuries it had been a cultural mecca centrally situated to Prague, Budapest and Warsaw. The city is well-preserved in its history which permeates a tradition of resilience and self-improvement. Krakow continues to grow and the ingredients for a rich city are seen on the streets. Many young students, artists, and musicians attend higher education in the city and create a vivid city life amongst professionals, craftsmen, and seniors whose integration into the local fabric maintains the cities character and feel. The expression of the local people shows a deep understanding of artistic traditions and a desire to push ideas further. The National Musuem highlights 17th, 18th and 19th century works by polish painters and sculptors.
A night out with the king of krakow couldn’t have been scripted. At first glance their suits reeked of zloty but when the bill had arrived we were all equal. We talked business, life, wives and children while each round of vodka came swinging like a boxer, fortunately for me, the Danish system had conditioned me to walk toe to toe with the heavyweights. Poland’s citizens are known to be heavily favored when it comes to last man standing. In drinking wars, they’re the special forces unit in general alcohol’s army. And so we hopped from an art-deco bar to an exclusive night club with long lines and beautiful people. A rare treat for the underemployed adventurer intent on maximizing his enjoyment. My alcohol soaked thoughts and observation of local social interactions tempted me to push the envelope a bit. There’s a genius at work when punches are being thrown in another direction while I’m directing the mockery of the entire social scene. There’s genius in all the truths and all the lies when you’re dancing with the wolves. Knowing what is acceptable and what is not acceptable takes a wise guy wherever he wants. From the first handshake to the final farewell, we ran with the wolves and it was fun as hell. It was fun to be exclusive for a while at least for the duration of our engagement, afterwards, I’m ordinary like the rest of em.
Where do you go when you don’t know where to go. I guess Kazimierz it is. With freedom from friends, some money in my pocket, and the force of gravity moving me towards this or that. I might like to write a bit, drink a delicious drink and have a conversation. Talking nonsense can satisfy me more than the whole let’s go through the facts. “Yes, I’m from New York, yes, I’m traveling, yes I’m also Polish” and “Yeah, it’s cold, yes, it’s night” After answering the same questions, my character development needs to keep things interesting for myself. “Why yes, I’m from outer space, I’m an inter-galatic alien traveling the seven wonders of the world and Poland happens to be number two on the list and yes these nipples are pepperoni and they could cut ice but hey who turned off the lights!” The script only gets better or worse depending how far down the weirdo chain you’ve fallen. Based on social experiments, those of us at the bottom produce favorable results in shared gratification among the jiving community, an experienced jiver can hang with the plebeians and mingle with the chiefs. And there’s nothing better than drunk jiving. Under the influence, I’m following my instincts and I find myself pursuing the sound of the city. I’m at a music club called Mezcal and it’s really happening. There’s about a dozen in the crowd and the music is alive. Its an improv with a interesting cast of players. A mix of mustache, gray beards, and peach fuzz. Before the 2nd number ends, Police interrupt the good vibrations and kill the sound. Tensions between artists and authority are hot but after some “it’s we’re making good music here” and “every polish person is one familly” and , the officers leave and another jam starts up. I volunteer for some soft drumming as not to disturb the local authorities and I find myself in the middle of an exciting spontaneity. Led by a blues vocal that saws through a funky bass line with sloppy southern licks getting people wet. I chop beats with hip hop feet and we take a walk in each others shoes. A beer is shared off stage and smiles exchanged. I love it. One more Zapiekanka for the road and a four am cab right to the airport.
I’m tired, sleeping at the terminal with only 3 regrets… drinking screwdrivers at the house of beer, eating a crapiekanka from a kebab shop, and being too humble… like not spending enough money and painting everything red, white, and blue. Ah wait that’s not true, I did tip the cab driver more than you would.
Here’s a piece of free writing from Alchemia a cool spot to grab a beer and write.
In the city of today
No one knows your name
Having a pint on my own
With belief in another day
All the people around me
Touching and talking
In different tongues
Im stuck inside my head
Thinking too much now
Screaming politely, how?
This overdose on thoughts
Is pushing me deeper in
But I can see the way out
Through a scream or shout
With a pint and pen
I bleed, I write
Thinking, how’s it gonna be?
Krakow, I must leave