The Haves and the Have Boats

by bicyclemark

I’m going to save the discussion about the terrible war crime that the Israeli military committed today by bombing the UN observer post. Someone in charge has clearly lost their mind and must be arrested and face charges in the international criminal court. But again, thats for a future post, so save the comments on that issue.

ams070617Today’s issue starts with a story. A few hours ago, as I cruised in from a leisurely boat ride around the Jordaan and Prinseneiland, I noticed a boat-owner-neighbor parked a few spots up from me, standing in his boat waving to me. “Nice Lamp” he shouted in Dutch, referring to my pink colored lantern that gets alot of comments somehow. I thanked him and began to tie my ropes and chain to the usual places on land. The man’s smile changed when he saw this, and he gave out a warning “make sure you lock everything up and chain it properly, this guy who usually parks between us had his boat stolen last night”. Stolen? I stared at him in disbelief. Thoughts of what a nice neighborhood we live in, and why would anyone want to steal that boat which I remember being fairly unremarkable. Are you sure – I asked. A boat stolen, here? He started laughing and went on to talk about how easy it is and how our neighborhood is not immune to theft of anykind.

Which reminded me of larger issues at play in this beloved city. Amsterdam has tons of beautiful things. Whether you cruise down on bike or on boat, you’ll be able to see people sitting in their luxurious houses, or cruising by in their fancy boats. In terms of haves and have nots, this city’s haves like to flaunt what they’ve got.

Of course, this is what you see on the surface. If you go out to the far off neighborhoods.. things are somewhat different. People don’t have as much to flaunt, and thanks to a number of different issues and circumstances, many decide that stealing from the haves is a good way to acquire some quick cash if not thrills.

While I don’t like the idea of my stuff being stolen, especially my boat which spends many hours out there on the water, alone… after observing Dutch society over the years, I’m not so surprised. Matter of fact, it seems inevitable. With all the in-your-face luxury of this city, that a relatively small yet very visible population exhibit. Combined with lots of disaffected youth, with limited prospects for fullfilling or even just earning a higher standard of living then the one they’re born into. That my boat or my neighbors boat, regardless of weather he and I are fairly financially well of or not, might be targeted…. not that much of a surprise.

People talk alot of Europe’s safety nets. Some of it warranted. Much of it has been picked apart and made more difficult to attain. Quality of life remains high, and poverty is of course not as prevelant as it is in most other countries… but still… one thing is certain… if the political and social winds keep blowing the way they’re blowing.. the Red August is gonna need thicker chains and a bigger lock.

Leaving for Portugal in the morning.. see you on the other side!

Like a Heat Wave, Burnin Through Europe’s Heart

by bicyclemark

Well.. another successful day without spontaneously combusting. I’m sure you probably heard, here in the Europe, there’s another one of those heatwaves where everything gets messed up and some people even die.

Believe what you want about global warming. But I’m telling you Amsterdam can’t handle this, so something must be up.

If you wander through the usually green and lovely Vondelpark, which is like our Central Park.. it is now one big cloud of dust. It is as if thousands of pigpens have ascended on the park and kicked up as much dirt as possible. After a leisurely jog through there Im sure my face turns a shade of brown.

But nevermind the surface details. This heatwave really slows down the normally bustling pace of life in the netherlands. At work these days, we’re told to go home at four oclock, because the hot weather and lack of air-co is considered dangerous for our health. Whenever I hear this I think of all the little chinese children in factories who make my clothes… they would probably find this policy amusing or simply.. hard to believe.

Fortunately almost no one has airconditioning anyway, and a majority of this city’s citizens ride their bikes as the primary mode of transport. So at the very least, we’re not responding to a temperature crises by putting extreme strain on the power grid ala France or Florida. Oh wait.. we probably are anyway.

Tonight at the vlogger meetup, Gabe B spoke of rain tomorrow night. Rain, I laughed, it will never rain in Amsterdam again… thats so pre-global warming.

Berlin Really Is Addicting

by bicyclemark

I know some of you are waiting for me to talk about CocaCola and denounce them for their human rights violations in various countries, not to mention their questionable economic practices. But to be quite honest, I´m too busy enjoying the city and learning all I can from the good people I know here. Do me a favor and don´t load up the comments with links because at that point you should just blog it, plus, there is a means to an ends my white friend… a means to an ends. So be patient.
Meanwhile my friend Tim continued the mission today, based around the one question he asked when I arrived–what do you want to see? And of course, I asked for Leftover East Berlin Shit, and sure enough… I’ve seen lots of wonderful bullet-hole riddled buildings as well as eclectic squat-looking apartments that would make Amsterdam blush.

When I walked into the CCCB on Sunday, I asked the wonderful hackers who were hanging out, “Isnt Berlin experiencing gentrification just like all the popular cities of the world. Aren’t squats going to be evicted to make room for fancy condos?” Their collective answer was — NO. Because: Berlin has lots of room. There is enough space for expensive fancy houses and eclectic affordable housing.

I was surprised at the time, perhaps because in Amsterdam and even back in New York City, I have long heard and seen the tales of former artist communities and cheap improvised housing being bought up for the higher income brackets to buy their own ticket to coolness. But walking around over the past few days, and only having seen the tip of the iceberg of the former East Berlin neighborhoods, I understand more about their answer. Moreover, in many ways, this city could outdo some of the things I love about Amsterdam.

Shocking. There may be better cities out there. I may need to learn German.

THIS JUST IN: Look for me in the crowd of the Angola-Iran game in Leipzig… Ill be sporting black and red.

Ij Summer Evening PhotoEssay

by bicyclemark

It’s the busiest weekend of the year for me. Which means, while I’d very much like to dig into the issue of Europe’s shameful collaboration with the CIA secret torture flights and prisons, and I’d like to talk about my worldcup fantasy team and why its interesting, all of that will have to wait until the weekend winds down. Til then… here’s a photoessay of one of the events I organized for this weekend… a cruise on the Ij.