I got back to Paris yesterday. I've been spending most of my time sleeping, as I hadn't been doing much of it for the last week. I also spent part of today writing music for my August 3rd gig at the Luggage Store Gallery in San Francisco. While I was in the Hague, I went to two of the Sonology final exams. These are concerts, because it's the conservatory. The last piece on Wednesday night was exceedingly stressful sounding and went on for quite a long time, I think around 17 minutes. t changed very slowly to my ears as it went, but I think by the end, it was less stressed than at the beginning. I felt less stressed than when I went in. Judging by their music, the Sonology students are an angsty lot. I should fit right in. Anyway, somehow, after 17 minutes of stressful music with a possibly calmer ending, I found myself feeling relaxed. So I thought I could write something similarly calming, which I'll call "Music for Panic Attacks." I can't tell if I've got the end right because the middle part feels like ball peen hammers pounding on my spine and I had to walk away from it for a while. Um, anyway, you all should come to the concert and I won't play it unless it actually has a relaxing ending. Otherwise, it's like some of my political music from last year. I seem to want to write stuff that kind of hurts people. Sorry. Anyway, 32 bit float distortion of high pitches is a lovely way to introduce piercing stress into any piece.
So upon my arrival in Den Haag, I went right to Sonology where I had no appointment and nobody was there. I emailed a prof who said they were giving final exams and I should come to those. I spent much of the rest of my day wandering the streets of Den Haag. Everything closes on Monday. Everything closes at 5:00. On the other hand, everything is open on Sunday. The next day, my host (actually the host of Cola and I, since we were both there) took us to try the new herring.
In the middle ages, herring was mostly caught in the North Sea and sent down the Rhine river to Cologne, where it was graded and packed into barrels with salt. From there, trade associations shipped the barrels all over Europe. The Cologne stamp indicated it's quality. Thus because of trade along the Rhine, and especially fish trade, Cologne was the most important city in what is now Germany. This according to the woman who ironed my hankerchiefs in Cologne and I can think of no greater authority.
Um, anyway, apparently the annual catch of herring is usually in the Spring, but this year it was delayed and the new herring has just arrived. What perfect timing! I did not sample the herring, but Nicole did. When I explained to Sasha that I was a vegetarian and thus would not try the fish, he said, "oh, you're lucky" with genuine envy or a very very dry delivery.
The herring came on a hotdog bun, covered in onions. To get the taste out of his mouth, he went to get something called "karne milk" (or something similar). It's basically sour milk. So apparently if you start every morning with a raw fish on a bun covered in raw onions followed by a sour milk chaser, you'd better hope the worst of your day is over.
the North Sea
Cola and I decided to go see the North Sea. He suggested it was not a proper beach and we should got to Delft instead. He also left us the keys and said he was going to Paris. Despite his advice, we persisted in our plans and rode the tram out to the end of the line at the sea.
It's not overly obvious at the end of the tram line and so not disconcerting, but in the Netherlands, the sea is higher than the country. So you walk up a big sand dune and down a much smaller slope to get to the ocean. It was lovely. Sandy. Full of sea shells. Cold water. Reminded me of Santa Cruz. We walked for a long while along the beach and then turned to the marshes inland. It was not a long walk before we were out of sight and sound of human activity. It maybe took half an hour in all, counting the tram line. Twice away from a city in a short period of time. I'll get spoiled. We walked for several kilometers and then took Sasha's advice and rode the tram to Delft.
You know those white tiles with blue pictures of windmills or boys peeing that middle class americans use as bathroom decorations? Those are all (in concept at least) from Delft. It has old brick buildings, and squares and canals and churches and probably windmills and many many stores selling white tiles with blue pictures of boys peeing onto windmills to tourists, but all of them closed at 5:00. We got dinner and then rode the trolley back to Den Haag to go a final exam.
Because I'm going to the school next year and my ignorance of possible political consequences, I want to be vague about the concerts. Every piece had good moments. Many went on a bit too long (which is normal for student concerts). The first piece of the first concert however, was extremely brilliant. It was called Contact by Jeroen Liebregts. The composer built this thing with florescent bulbs in it, or rather those long buzzy beams that you see in offices and classrooms. All of his beams were near death and thus very buzzy. He attached contact mics to the beams and amplified and filtered them. His piece was a liver realization as the computer stepped through different combinations of filters and on and off lights. The connection between the visual and the sonic was strongly evident. The visual was fascinating, but not overly in front. It was extremely excellent.
As I was putting on my hat to leave after the concert, a person said, "Are you Celeste?" It was only the second time I've been recognized from the internet and the first time was Sophie's ex-girlfriend, which is not exactly from the internets.
Sergio actually recognized me from the weird picture in the corner of my blog. He left a comment a few weeks ago telling me to try PitchShift for my recorder project. Whoah.
I went home and discovered my leg was red and swelling up and became alarmed and blogged. In the morning, I sought aid and then got on a train to Amsterdam. It is less than an hour train ride from Den Haag to Amsterdam and the ticket prices are not high, although many of the tourists are.
Cola and I went to see the Homomonument. It's a series of three pink (marble?) triangles embedded into a square near the Anne Frank House. The triangles remember queer victims of the holocaust and other violence past, present and future. As far as I know, it was the first such monument in the world.
The square was full of women in couples, looking at the monument. I realized that a lot of queer women outside of France are much more easily identifiable. They may be more out, or I may not understand French social cues. It is really a relief though, walking down the street and seeing other queers.
The last time I was in Amsterdam was 5 years ago. I got the best haircut of my life in a gay leather hair salon that had several larger-than-life statues of Tom of Finland Characters. There was a sign on the door that said "men only," but I didn't see it until I left.
I found the same salon again, although now there is just one Tom of Finland statue. I got a damn good haircut. Finding the same salon was almost as surprising as being recognized from the blog.
Hopped on a train again. Saw more concerts. Went to "coffee shop." Got home. Nicole began consuming recently purchased item while I checked my email and became very alarmed at a comment on my blog. Took a xanax. Blogged again before it worked (I should not do that).
Honey, I'm Home
The door of the flat opened and Sasha's husband announced he was home early form his trip to Berlin. We must have looked startled as Nicole was freshly high and I was waiting for the xanax to work.
Yeah, anyway, I calmed down and Nicole sobered up and we had a long and charming chat with him about his days working at Apple in Cupertino. Remember the protest when Apple killed the Newton? (yes you do, you big geek.) He was the guy whose picture you remember from the Mercury News story covering the event. (When is Apple going to bring back the Newton? Never. Alas.)
The next morning, we got on a train to Paris and then went to Solène's concert in the evening, which was perfectly lovely. Her father was there, but she didn't introduce me for some reason.
You are now up to date on my recent activities, although I still have not blogged everything about Germany because I wasted most of my blogging time being worried about tick diseases. To find out what Sarah Dotie would do, I sent her email and learned that she has had more than three thousand ticks attached to her person at one time. I'm thinking perhaps my WWSDD approach should not be followed 100% of the time.