Trains,World Order, and Moms

by bicyclemark 0 Comments

Part of the reason I am such an avid blog reader is simply the fantastic quality of writers presently populating the blogosphere. Some being extremely popular and others seemingly only read by a handful, either way – truly talented and all-around-fun people. In this case I wanted to refer to two such beings who’s recent posts were especially an adventure and a pleasure to read.

First comes Tony Pierce+Busblog’s tribute to his mother on her birthday. Like him, I will someday lay out a huge thank you and tribute to my mother, not mention my father as well, for being the incredible people that they are, and helping me get where I am. (where am I?) But nevermind me, his post is fantastic, not to mention the timeless photos, and I’m sure all of us Busblog readers will be referring to it throughout the blogosphere.

Now I also wanted to point out another insane-genius who does not get as much press: No Coins. This week’s recounting of his city-to-shore MS Bike ride from Jersey to Philly was funnier than funny. I’m not only entertained by his madness, it makes me wish I was there! Now that’s good writing, ain’t it? (by the way, I’m leading the campaign to bring ain’t officially into MY English language cause it adds style and flows well)

The AGVThat being said, climb aboard won’t you, because it’s time once again to talk trains. Now I heart trains, they rank just below bicycles on the “transport that best represents me” list. I love looking at trains, riding in them, and picturing future trains. So needless to say I’ve been reading every little article in today’s FT special on the rail industry. Here are my favorite details so far:

– You thought TGV was hip? Or maybe I did. Well, Alstom has developed the AGV (Automatrice ? Grande Vitesse) which has distributed power and will pull into a station like a warm summer’s breeze baby. Maybe minus the baby.

– The ICE-3 (Aka: Velaro), which can be found in Germany and I swear I’ve seen it in the Netherlands, is a stylish but pricey little serpent. It’s about time I head to central station and hop on one of those. I should also by a ticket beforehand to ensure a comfy and legal ride.

– Automated, Driver-less metros are getting more popular. Paris’s line 14 is what the FT talks about. The first one of these I was ever on was in Lyon, France back in 2000. While I was disappointed that there was no driver (and a bit scared) but I must admit there’s nothing quite like that view sitting right up in the front.

We could, of course, talk a bit about rail travel in North America, but I was hoping to go out on a positive note. So instead I’ll refer to the guy who found a memory card in a taxi and is now creating a story for each picture. Amazingly odd. I just noticed the blog has suddenly been stopped, I wonder if the owner found the photos and got pissed. I would definitely feel a bit violated… but also highly entertained.

Today’s Music: Coheed & Cambria – Delirium Trigger (I’m addicted to Coheed)

Temp Life

by bicyclemark 1 Comment

Sure enough as I’m having a drink with a good friend last night, during stop one of thursday involuntary pub crawl night, she utters the words “What’s a blog?” And boom – as always – I spouted out 10 to 20 minutes of technical definitions as well as anecdotes from my so-called blog-life. Eventually I think ladies will start throwing drinks in my face like I’m Jack on Three’s Company. But astonishingly, she stayed and dare I say it – was intruiged by this blogosphere I speak of.

Speaking of which, welcome to all those visitors from Turkey! Yes.. lots of new visitors from Constantinople this week for which I’m very thankful. I also noticed frequent visitor from C?te D’Ivoire which, as I learned during the Olympics, has legally changed its ENGLISH name from Ivory Coast to C?te D’Ivoire. That should tongue-tie the non-francofones. Mais Oui!

a sky I saw this weekOn the agenda today – Temporary work and Temp culture. I recently signed a contract to work at the U of Amsterdam for another 9 months or so, but I signed this sheet of paper at a TEMP AGENCY. I’m not a real University employee, I’m a big ol TEMP. They can fire me without fear of contract stipulations, my measly wage comes from the agency, they don’t pay taxes or extra costs that would come with having me as an employee. In the end… it’s all cheap and commitment free for them and for me its… well.. a temp job. I know some will remind me its not shameful to be a temp and its a necessary “economic” strategy for businesses or in this case universities (though there’s less and less of a difference), but as I sat in this temp agencies I saw adults (IE-older than me),people with degrees on top of degrees, loads of experience… yet they were at the mercy of the Temp Agency. I asked myself, as Freddy Mercury sang: “Is this world we created?” I mean.. what happens when we’re all temps? Will temp agencies go to other temp agencies to temp-out their staff and workload? And what the hell are businesses doing with all the cash they’re saving?

What I’ve learned in the last three years in the Netherlands and Portugal is that it is NOT, by any means, an American phenomenon. I actually once thought it was. ManPower may be the largest employer in the US, but them and “their brethren” have been immensely successful in Europe too! I sat with the Dean for a bit yesterday and shot the breeze, as we sometimes do, he reminded me that this has been going on since the 70’s in the NL. Hence the famously flexible and successful Dutch economy, as compared to Germany where they have resisted this phenomenon until now. He also expressed a bit of disgust that Temp culture has invaded University culture. I’m really wondering what price our culture pays for all this.

This must be annual report season, UNFPA (Population Fund) released the cold hard population facts. My synopsis:

– 3 condoms per year for every one man in sub-saharan Africa is a global shame.

– Western Europe ain’t that fertile. (gulp)

– Rich-Poor gap is horrendous, and my finger is pointing right at those at the top and those in charge who allow this to continue. Two fingers I guess. Pointing in similar directions.

Just got distracted by an article. I love lock-pickers, especially the NYC kind. You ever tried to pick a lock? That shit is hard. Now a nose.. that’s less complicated.

Today’s Music: The Used – Something to Burn

Overdramatic

by bicyclemark 10,138 Comments

To some extent, it is great not to be in the US on Sept. 11th. I say this because sometimes the desire to remember and reflect is completely overdone and beaten to death via a tacky Newspaper Editorial or political speech. Here in the NL people seem to just go about their business. I suggested to a lovely Turkish student that today is a good day to be a little quieter and pensive, she gave me the interesting response “If we were going to be reflective and depressed on every day that corresponds with a past tragedy, we would have no normals days left.” Of course, for me this one is special due to its proximity to me, like so many people out there. So today I offer some memories of my Sept. 11, 2001. In doing so, I mean to organize my thoughts, get them out on paper, and remember the bad as well as some good moments on that day.

That Morning:

It was one month since getting my bachelors, things in my life were foggy, as happens to most recent grads. I had just returned from Portugal and was working in NYC for Glorious Foods, one of the hippest catering gigs in town. On Sept. 10th I had been working in Manhattan… a posh dinner in a bubble-tent at the Morgan Library. I remember great conversations with my co-workers from Germany and Russia about travel plans and live questions. I worked til late, and commuted via 33rd St. PATH train and then car back to my residence in my home town, Union, NJ. I was working that next night at the Metropolitan Museum of Art or something like that, so I had big plans for sleeping in on that morning.

As I was trying to sleep in.. at around nine o’clock I remember my clock radio switched on, I had left it set accidentally. It was a traffic report:

“All bridges are closed. Tunnels are closed as well. The City is effectively closed, no one should try to get in and getting out is also not possible at this moment.”

Tired Reflex I hit the snooze. In my half-awake mind I thought “Must be some anti-terrorism exercise.”

Then I remember the phone ringing. Sometimes I don’t even pick up when I want to sleep, but on this day I did. The voice on the other side was loud, blunt, and hurried: (this is as best I can remember)

DROCK: “DUDE, What are you doing?”

BM: “Sleeping man… still sleeping why?”

DROCK (working in DC): “TURN ON THE TV… You haven’t heard?”

BM: “I heard they’re doing something in the city, but no.. I worked late and..”

DROCK: “Just turn on the Fuckin TV… the Towers have been hit… and something happened here too. I probably have to evacuate this place soon. SHIT. OK.. I gotta go.. call you when I can.”

BM: “What? Oh.. OK..”

I switched on the TV and watched. The second tower had just been hit. At that point I didn’t want to get all crazy and rush to judgement, I thought “maybe it’s just a fire… they’ll put it out.” Then I heard about the DC news… the Pentagon (a building I hate normally) and they reported that the “Mall is on fire”.. whatever that means. It all sounded like chaos and hysteria. I was stunned. I looked out my New Jersey window and could see the darkness in the sky… it was still recent.. hadn’t smothered the entire island yet, as it later would for days. Phone rings again:

Mom at work: “Mark… have you seen?”

BM: “Hi mom.. yes. DRock just called.. he says theres things happening in DC… he was in a hurry… I’m not sure…”

Mom: “OK. The kids are going crazy. You can see Manhattan from the Gym windows, and some are crying, others are just confused. Lots of parents work in that area. I can’t believe this.”

BM: “Yes.. wasn’t ____ on a plane to San Fran today?”

Mom: “I don’t know… I think it was much earlier. What else have they said about this, because we’re not getting much information here?”

I summarized what I had learned and seen in my half-hour of awakenness.

As a reflex.. despite a bad break..I called ex-girlfriend. She was there. We shared our shock.. comforted a bit.. and proceeded to start calling more loved ones.

I remembered A-L. A-L… my fussball partner…the gal that made my time at the Village Voice so fun and exciting. She lived uptown. I wanted to speak with her. When I finally did get her she was fairly paniced. I won’t replay that conversation. But I just remember her need to walk around talking to people.. and inability to stay indoors.

Then the phonecalls started coming in:

Dad calls from work: Just checking in. I can’t remember much from that call.

Portugal – Grandma: Av? and Av? were worried that I was in Manhattan looking for work. They were terrified.

Boston – HJM calls: She wanted to make sure I wasn’t there. I hadn’t spoke to her in quite some time. Besides the horror of the day, I was so happy to speak with her.

At some point I spoke to BigDaddyJ, this part of my memory is fuzzy. I think I was becoming numb to these calls. Still I remember we spoke that morning.

I know at some point I spoke to IK… I had been thinking about him alot. Worried, because he is Turkish and his father owned a gas station. I had this huge fear for the safety of him and his family. I worried about the backlash. I knew there would be ignorant people with weapons running around. In fact later there were plenty of cases of hate-crimes, but IK and his family were ok.. and we spoke a couple of times that day.

The rest is more of the same. Phonecalls from people I hadn’t spoken with in years as well as people I see everyday. Everyone sort of checking in.. some fearing that I might have been there, others just wanting to talk. Later that night I remember “the boys” asking me, as the resident international affairs buff, questions about terrorism, Aghanistan, and as I recall “What is going on.. what has the US been doing that someone would do something like this to us?” I remember being impressed.. my non-political friends wanted information. They were hungry for facts. Many were, and perhaps unfortunately, they turned to television to get their soundbite information.

When the day finally came to an end, I did lots of writing. Looking at it now.. I was worried. Worried about those who had died and the families. Worried about the backlash against immigrants. And the one theme I kept fearing, was the irrational response. I worried about all the people on the earth who would die from bombs dropped in response to this terrible crime. Of course we’ve now seen how that came true.

And of course as I was sleeping… 4am.. a phonecall comes in – from France. It was the French family I had lived with and become so close with, they were worried about me, they wanted to ask about what I thought would happen next. They forgot there was a time difference.

So despite my distaste for lame Sept. 11th tributes, there it is. Most of my memories from that one day. Working the phones at the bicyclemark family farm just across the river from this massive cloud of despair.

My one wish from all this is that the war on terrorism, would stop going the way its going. Instead of attempting to hunt down and destroy terrorism, which is of course impossible, I wish humans would use their power to investigate WHY terrorism is happening. Who is being wronged… miseducated.. oppressed.. abused. Like addressing crime, you cannot simply try to catch every criminal, you must find out WHY crimes are being committed and address that problem.

Today’s Music: Shades Apart (Just found the CD under some books)

Grab your boats

by bicyclemark 0 Comments

Well, Queen’s day is upon us. 24 hours from now the canals will be filled with bumper to bumper boats, beer will flow through the streets, men everywhere will be urinating in public, pack-rats (Some of my friends as well) will be selling their old shit, and an all-encompassing orange party fog will consume the city. Thus is queen’s day. The real event of importance for me is the arrival of a wonderful friend from London. Together we will hopefully go to the World Press Photo exhibit.

I grow tired of xenophobia in general, but lately it is the UK that has shocked me with the fear of immigrants that the press seems to be alluding to. Immigrants are a vital part of their work force, as they are in the US, Germany, Netherlands, etc. Without this group of brave and modest people, the the UK’s- and the world’s- economy would collapse. Tony Blair should make this clear instead of trying to please the racist, ethnocentric types.

All this buzz because Saturday is May 1st, the day the European Union expands to 25 countries. I’ll post a special welcome for them all, because as a European Citizen, I’m happy to have them along. The more cultures the merrier, and the less borders the better. There’s nothing natural about these borders to begin with, ever stand on the Canadian-American or Belgian-Dutch border? What a plain feeling, a human-made border. Oceans, now those are borders!

Today’s Music: Tahiti 80 – 1,000 Times