How High’s The Water

As I got on the international train from Brussels to Amsterdam, I knew it would be packed and bursting at the seams with people returning home from their weekend in Belgium. And this day was no different, with people huddling in the space between train cars, struggling to find a spot just to stand and read their magazines in peace.

I’m an international train veteran, so I used my secret methods for getting myself a seat. And as luck would have it, the person sitting next to me was a gentleman heading to the Hague on business. Not just any business… urban planning to deal with rising water levels! Who did he work for, as I surely asked, the government of London!

Fancy Mushrooms at my cousins'.

Amazingly before I knew any of this, we started chatting casually in between his soduku and my final chapters of 4th of July, Asbury Park. He was asking about the train, and what time it actually arrives in the Hague. It eventually evolved in how the city is layed out, and more generally, the ol’ “how the dutch have built the country in unorthodox ways.” We spoke of the taking land from the sea and building below sea level. And it was right around there where he smiled and said “Enjoy while you can, because things will certainly change.” And right there we got into the rising sea levels and the struggle to keep water out; he then explaining what he was doing for the city government of London.

Among the interesting things he pointed out to me, were the cases of London as well as New York City, both of whom are in need of plans to deal with sea levels that are definitely rising. Apparently his work was to address the problem for his city’s context. And I wondered aloud about what New York City could possibly do to protect against water rising up and swallowing its streets.

He wasn’t big in offering me solutions. It was, as he said, the purpose of his meetings in places like the Hague. I asked if he would be heading to New Orleans, he said he very much wanted to:

“That’s really what the future is about… mass movement of people, away from situations where they must leave in order to survive. Cities must all get into planning for it… how and where to move mass amounts of their populations.”

Eventually we got to the Hague and he wished me goodluck with my journalism endeavors.

When I got home I went right to my boat and started taking the water out of it.

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Don’t Wake Me, Amsterdam is Sleeping

“Again last night I had that strange dream, where everything was exactly as it seemed. Concerns about the world getting warmer, people thought that they were just being rewarded. For treating others as theyd like to be treated, for obeying stop signs and curing diseases. For mailing letters with the address of the sender, now we can swim any day in november.” (Postal Service)

I think about that song alot while cruising down the canals or playing a late night of ultimate during this Amsterdam indian summer. Seems like every year this happens. The fall barely exists and we have summer in september and then switch instantly into winter at some point. It would seem that global warming, at times like this, makes this famously bad weather city, into a tropical paradise. That is, of course, as long as you ignore that the water levels are rising and they’ve announced the big dijk that keeps the ocean out, up north, has to be re-enforced and heightened. And of course they’ll do it in a grand way with all the latest whistles and bells as only the Dutch can do… but at some point you have to wonder how long this country can hold its breath against the heating of the earth that threatens to flood it all.

Yet another reason why I live here now. Situations like this, you can’t wait til later, cause there may not be a later. Next time someone asks, how long will you stay in the Netherlands, maybe I can be annoyingly clever and answer “Til global warming swallows it up.” (then I’ll finally move to Berlin)

One classic moment that pretty much represents my life over here came last night, and I thought to share it in this post. I’m cruising towards home after an evening of sailing tamisevans around town, and I receive an sms from the MacDocMan. I call him and he says “Why don’t you come join me for a drink at So-and-So bar.” And I say, “OK, I’ll park the boat and run over there.” To which he replies “Ok, Ill put your name in the book cause its members only.” And I look at my sandles and dirty sleeveless frisbee shirt and I tell him “Wait, I’ll never get in that place. They have a guest list and Im coming in dressed like a beach bum.” He immediately shouts back, “PLEASE, you can wear whatever you want, this is a total leftist club that doesn’t give a shit.” -click.

And indeed, it was.

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