October 21st, 2008


Cross-Eyed in Amsterdam

We have arrived, tired and cramped and chilly, but happy as clams at high tide. The apartment we're house-sitting for friends of friends is at the top of the building, light-filled, charmingly furnished with toys (the couple who live here have a 6 year old son) and a lipstick-red plastic chair that folds into a lipstick-red ball and many English books, including a complete set of Gerald Durrell's animal-collecting travelogues (a favorite of my own childhood) and a well-loved TLOTR and a bunch of other books I either have read or would like to read. Clearly, we have a great deal in common with our absent host and hostess.

Julie Phillips (of the Tiptree bio fame), who set up the house sit, met us here, let us in, and sat round the kitchen table with us, drinking tea and talking. It's still fairly early here--11:15 am (we got into Schipol at 8 or very near--it was still dark out). Now the clouds are scudding by the window, dropping a thin, chilly rain that will probably be a whole lot less charming to stand and wait for a trolley in than watch out the window. But we're in Amsterdam, Amsterdam, and I am perfectly happy.

I'll make more sense tomorrow. Probably.

Edited for accuracy 9/24.

Tram Story

A small adventure on our way to lunch with an old high-school friend of Ellen's, who has been living in Holland for many years now.

It's a little after noon. We've just got up from a too-short nap, navigated the rather complicated directions to the tram stop, determined from a friendly by-stander that we're heading the wrong way, crossed the street, and are swaying gently as we wait for the No. 14 to Artis, the Amsterdam Zoo. Ellen sees a frites stand across the street. Shall she? Dare she? Will we make it to lunch if she doesn't? No.

So she dashes across the street, purchases the frites (without mayo--we're on our way to lunch, after all), and dashes back as the No. 14 pulls up at the stop. And then the fun begins.

"No frites on the tram."

"I'll put them in my bag."

"No frites on the tram. You must get off."

This went on for a couple more exchanges. The words "Read my lips" were actually uttered (not by Ellen). I grabbed the frites, ran for the garbage, stuffed the frites into my purse (thanking heaven there was no mayo on them), ran back, leapt onto the tram, thanked the conductor for waiting. He scowled and muttered in Dutch something that sounded rather uncomplimentary. Apparently, Ellen had had to restrain him from closing the door and leaving me there on the Westmarkt bridge without clear directions to the restaurant we were meeting Heather at and a mobile phone with no time on it.

When we got off the tram, I opened my bag, pulled out the frites, and handed them to Ellen, who said (and I quote): "I didn't know you had it in you." But I did, and soon we both had enough frites in us to allow us to find the restaurant despite having written down the address wrong.