Isolated Somewhere in Portugal

by bicyclemark

The family upstairs lives in Switzerland. The other family upstairs, their car has French license plates. Apparently the other apartment that’s for sale in this modest little building, that guy is Canadian.

We’re all Portuguese, mind you. But this is the reality of Portugal, especially in the summer. A population that probably has more people living outside its borders than the 9 million+ living within those borders. Where every town has its emmigrants, who are like clockwork when it comes to being present in the summer time.

While the alarmist and often xenophobic governments of European nations scramble to adopt some tough policies against refugees. Following the alleged death of the proposed European Consitution. Despite all the hoopla about how Europe isn’t really one block and the dream is far from reality… many of the Portuguese are living the reality. Beyond Europe, they have long made the globe their menu of destinations, in search of a better quality of life, or… just better paying jobs.

Out of the criticisms one can have of Europe, and I’m aware of how long that list is. The one thing I see first hand, almost everyday whether I’m in Lisbon or Amsterdam, is that people are making it their business to be European. Politicians and Diplomats can and will continue to sit around pouting about things they won’t budge on. Disagreements regarding foreign policy or mobile phone roaming costs may go on indefinitely in parliaments. But outside, multiple generations, including my own, are exercising our freedom and ability to move country, learn languages, and then move again if we so choose. At some point we cease to be just Portuguese or French or Maltese, we gain a second if not third identity. It is not one of patriotism or nationalism or even supranationalism. It is the freedom from old borders or language barriers or cultural limits. We have become the living breathing myth that so many so-called important people denounce… European Citizens.

If I can find internet, tomorrow I’ll talk a bit about Raul Castro and how I like his baseball cap.

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.

bmtv12 Berlin Flashback

by bicyclemark

It’s Friday and Madge Weinstein the purple Lumox is here all weekend. So my post is a vlog I put together from unused Berlin footage. Nothing too ground breaking, but this was my most favorite day from my Berlin trip. I’m working on getting back there later this month in time for Christopher Street Day which I believe is the Gay Pride festival of the city. Sounds like great fun and hey – maybe I’ll meet the mayor. (in case you don’t know, mayor of Berlin is gay.. so is the mayor of Paris, come to think of it. Just two more reasons why Europe rocks!)

Watch the Video