I’m doing the evening jog with my Team Kelme neon cycling shirt, and I’m heading in the direction of my beloved JavaEiland. I love the side which has no houses and is just a patch of grass, benches, and beautiful views. It’s wonderfully peaceful. As I stand there, all I normally hear are boats passing by, wind, and the occasional jogger.
Well today as I’m getting closer to “my end” of the island I see a huge white wall cutting it in half. Preventing me to get to my peaceful side. I can just barely see over the white temporary wall and the private security goons, but there’s no mistaking the gigantic three mast state-of-the-art Royal Navy supership. I also see people dressed in fancy clothes, and cameras, and red carpets. I look at the security goon and I say in Dutch — “This is my park! This is public!” And either because my accent is horrible or because he doesn’t care, he ignores me.
But then a truely Amsterdam moment occurred. An old man, probably around 75 years old, rides up to me and says in Dutch — “Looks like they’ve taken away our public space? It’s a royal navy ship… British.. see that flag.. and this flag.. and notice that this whole ship is automated. Automatic sails.. no crew necessary. Isn’t that rediculous?”
I was in complete agreement with him. And we swapped stories of what we like to do in this open space. I spoke of running and Taekwondo, he spoke of sitting on a bench in the sun and just thinking. I knew right there I had met a great human.
I asked about the Afrika Squat, which has been in a struggle to not be torn down by fancy developers for the past few years. He bowed his head in defeat, “They lost… they all lost. Everythings being torn down. Who knows where they’ll go. It’s all new buildings going up. Each one taller then the next, and none of them are being rented.”
We spoke in-depth about all the new buildings and apartments going up which no normal person could ever afford. As you can imagine, I’d throw in my two cents about how people are being driven out and cities only cater to the wealthy. But the wonderful part was, besides that he never once flinched at my dutch conversation about economics, the way he began to point to all the surrounding neighborhoods. Amsterdam North, JavaEiland, Centrum,…. he spoke of the ship building industry of the Netherlands in the 60′s and 70′s. He pointed to band new luxery housing and how you used to see hoardes of shipbuilders in overalls and heavy gloves in that area. I swear I saw a tear in his eye as he told me of more plans they have to build along the waterfront. “It’s unbelievable how fast things change young man…. and it’s even more unbelievable when you think about the few people that benefit from these changes.”
Ms. Thingk is back to blogging and back in DC. She reminded me of this issue. About how DC is getting popular, no the average person can’t possibly afford to live there. Hooray for progress.
—–Oh, and a sidenote — he said he hoped to speak with me again one day as Im jogging by him in deep thought on his favorite bench. That is, if they don’t sell it off before then.