Monday, January 29, 2007

Bright lights, cute city

It ain't hard to fall in love with a city.

A city will change with its people; a city will have different face at night than it has by daylight; a city will have a different voice in the description of each of its inahbitants; a city can bleed and a city can smile. A city will always be a challenge but the level of it's complexity will be a function of my desire, courage, energy for something new. I can skim through and live at a city's surface (hiding in it's shops, visiting familiar places) or I can hunt down deep (for hidden treasures, chance meetings, some small collectors' gem). There is ample supply of new wild cities to draw on, Mexico City, Manilla, Mumbai, to paint a picture. A city can't get angry, or hurt, it can't go anywhere; yet a city will reflect my mood like the surface of water, a city will feel grey or elated or nervous or absolutely terrified with me if I so order it around.

Then how come I never pictured Amsterdam? at all? untill I was practically dropped on the Leidseplein, untill the grachten were thrown in my face and I stumbled upon an inner city maze (my favorite thing! getting lost!).

This place is no Rome, no foreign metropole, it's not outside the known zone. But it's close. Twice, I ended up receiving directions in French (those boycotters of the English language). Many times, I was comforted by the familar sight of American college kids reassembling, never failing to act exactly according to their inherited stereotype (those that have not one doubt on their perception of Europe as one indescernible entity). Somewhere around New Year's, I identified a group, not Italian, not Spanish, but Portuguese (those un-travellers, those safe&sound).

Best of all, my American cover has been nothing but succesfull in this environment. Dutch and Americans alike buy into my un-Dutch-ness, when I refuse to speak and retreat to English. When I am done, bored, angry with this country because I expect more, I can hide away, disappear, run for cover. In Amsterdam.

2 comments:

Carlos said...

A city inside me - Cities are born and built and destroyed inside me. This weekend my city changed but it is me who has changed more. As a city I have my own highways that speed things up, my little dark streets which I am afraid to visit and to find its dead ends their dark way back. As a city I have these pleasant half illuminated places where I can stay forever thinking and dreaming and drinking tea and reading my own stories. My city has its light and its sunny days as well as the misty and cold ones, just like any other city. My city has its people and they tend to move closer or farther not only outside me in this real world but they move in my own city too. Sometimes they move far from me but in my city they are lovely neighbors and friends. Other times they move closer but in my city they live in the other side of a hill or at the end of a hidden street I haven’t seen before. As a rule people move but the houses they lived in stay, there are then some inhabited and empty places outside and inside me. I sometimes wish I could move the city I live in to another place and follow its people not only with the heart of my own city but for real. The buildings around me are as hard as they appear to be but my city is full of false walls and imaginary roads all of which can be re-discovered and transformed. There are other real roads in the city inside me that I can’t change and they are as real as the walls of this room I am writing now. My city somehow controls me but I control my city too. It is a matter of perspective.

Hannah said...

Welcome, Carlos!

Your city sounds like fun.