September 30, 2005

Club Vegas

There is an article in this week's Amsterdam Weekly talking about the end of Club Vegas on Sunday nights at the Winston. It's written by the woman who's hosted it over the past few years and she recounts some of her favourite memories of the dance night. The night's main aim was to host some unique DJs and acts along with some freaky videos, while encouraging the partygoers to dress in a Vegas style. That was to be interpreted how you pleased: you could go classy 40s style, psychedelic 70s style, pimped out, skanky, flashy.... whatever. They were happy if you made some sort of effort. Though according to the article, one guy asked if his birthday suit fit their dress code and they decided it did, and that doesn't really take much work.

Anyway, so a few years ago I decided to surprise O for no real reason except I had the idea and couldn't wait 3 months til it was his birthday to execute it. I booked us for a Sunday night at the Winston Hotel and also planned to go to the Club Vegas night dressed up. He wouldn't know about any of it beforehand though, so I had buy his stuff for the club in a couple of shopping trips on my own. This was easier then cuz he still worked shifts, so there were more opportunities for me to sneak into town on the weekend and he wouldn't know.

I decided to get some 70s, slightly pimpy stuff for O. I found a pretty cool old polyester shirt at Zipper, and added to that a gold chain and 70s sunglasses. I couldn't do much more than that since buying pants and shoes without him trying them on would have been near impossible, plus for one night I think what I got was enough.

I wore a dress I'd already had for awhile that's knee length, with buttons all down the front, sort of wide lapels, and a slightly Oriental print of big red flowers on a black background in a silky kind of material. I bought some fishnet stockings and borrowed a feather boa.

So I hijacked O into a cab on a Sunday afternoon and we checked into the hotel and I told him about the plans to go to the club night as well. It gave him the evening to adjust to the whole idea. Then that night we dressed up and headed downstairs to the club where our outfits got the woman at the door's stamp of approval. Yay! We had some cocktails and watched the whole scene for awhile. After an hour or so, the hostess announced that they'd be having a contest for the best outfit that night. She started calling people onto the stage and to my amazement, I was one that she was calling for. Unfortunately at that moment I was back at the bar getting another round of cocktails. After some nervous moments cursing the bartender under my breath to go faster, I got our drinks, threw them on the table in front of O, and headed onto the stage. The hostess then did the thing of pointing out each person on stage and having the audience vote with applause and cheers. I was first, and I don't remember the room being particularly loud for me, but it was all a blur anyway. After going through the line of us, she said basically, "well, I don't care what you all think, I'm going for the classic fishnets and boa." And I won! I absolutely could not believe it. I almost still can't, like I must just be thinking how I wished it turned out. But no, she like personally picked me, heh. It fucking rocked. My prize was a bottle of champagne. I can't even remember what the other people up there were wearing, except there was a woman in a 70s style, bell-bottomed body suit. So the music started back up, O and I had our drinks, then we hit the floor and had a great time dancing. It was an awesome night, centainly not something we do often, or really have done since. I'm sad Club Vegas is ending, but I'm glad it gave shy little old me the memory of a brief moment in the spotlight.

September 27, 2005

More tickets

Ok, yes, my idea to see the Decemberists in Nottingham was a bit silly. So I decided to go see them in Cologne instead. I bought the tickets tonight. It'll be my first proper visit to Germany. Seeing two Portland bands within a week and a half, but hundreds of miles apart from each other. Whoo!

In Sleater-Kinney-in-Glasgow news, it is not easy to get there cheaply. Direct flights with KLM cost 200 euros. Easyjet won't go there anymore by the time November rolls around. So we are actually considering buying two tickets through easyjet: one from here to London, and then from there to Glasgow. Price per person: less than 90 euros.

September 25, 2005

A date is set!

A couple of months ago I mentioned really wanting to get a tattoo, if only I could decide what to get. In the meantime, I've settled on a second idea (though I still plan to eventually get the first idea I had), scoured the internet for images similar to what I have in my head, and debated about where on my body I should get it. I had already settled on the tattoo shop, House of Tattoos, on the Haarlemmerdijk, which didn't look dodgy and had some glowing reviews from customers. I was going to wait til my birthday at the end of October to make the appointment, to be sure I was letting the idea settle, but I couldn't wait any longer. Especially since I had the feeling that they are quite busy and the actual appointment would probably be a few weeks after I scheduled it. So I went in yesterday and spoke a bit with the owner of the shop, Sjap, about what I wanted and he recommended I have Claudia do the tattoo because it fits more with her style and specialities. That was perfect since I'd already decided from looking at their galleries that I liked Claudia's work best.

I went back to the shop today because she works on Sundays, and I talked to her about the design. I had planned to bring in some of the photos and art I'd found online that is along the lines of what I have in mind, but our printer decided to stop printing black last night (even though it's only a few months old). So I'll have to email her the stuff, which is fine, I can explain things a bit more that way. Anyway, she was really nice, a bit chatty, but really easy to get along with straight away. We spent about 15-20 minutes griping about how hard the govt makes it to get your permit here (she's Swiss). But regarding my tattoo, it was so cool how she seemed really excited about my idea, especially since she'll have to pull it together herself from the photos I send her. She's a true artist, and I'm happy to give her a challenge (as she said, "not another little tribal tattoo" =) and I am so excited to see what she comes up with. The appointment to see the drawing and get the tattoo (well, probably just the outline first) is Nov 2. 5 weeks! It'll be a hard wait...

Bloody tour planners

Right, The Decemberists have finally listed their European tour on their website. The closest to here that they play is in the Hague at the Crossing Border festival, which I don't consider a normal type of show since I've gone to Crossing Border before and the bands play short sets and everyone talks (more than normal) the whole time. Gah. So my idea to go see them in Nottingham 3 days after seeing S-K in Glasgow is back on. O doesn't want to go with me. I'm fine to go on my own. I really am that desperate to see them. Perhaps tomorrow tickets will be purchased...

September 24, 2005

Cafe Mozaiek

A couple of months ago a cultural center opened in a former church in our neighbourhood. Renovations transformed the church into a theater space and cafe, along with offices for a couple of doctors. I was really happy with the plans, since we don't have many places like this out in our part of Amsterdam and it's only a few blocks from our house. So tonight we tried out the cafe restaurant, which has been buzzing since the new building opened, especially on nice evenings since they have a lot of tables out on the spacious sidewalk. It's just so happening and busy, so different to how this neighbourhood usually feels, and it's great for us to be able to just walk to a restaurant.

Our experience there was mixed, but overall positive enough that I think we'd go back. But we'd return with the knowledge of a few lessons learned.

Lesson one: go early. We got there just after 7, and it was fine, we had a good pick of tables, but an hour later it was packed.

Lesson two: go when you have plenty of time to spare. We were there about 2 hours, and not much of that was spent eating. This was mostly due to the waitresses; more on them in a sec.

Lesson three: skip the dessert. The main course was quite good; not so for the desserts we had. I had chocolate mousse with fresh fruit. The fresh fruit was some slices of banana with a bruised bit on the side and a couple of past-season strawberries. The chocolate mousse was the lightest shade of brown I've ever seen mousse be and it had a weird texture. O had what was described as waffle with strawberry ice cream, srawberries and chocolate sauce. We both imagined a Belgian-style waffle with ice cream and chocolate sauce over it. Instead the waffle was the wafer-thin stuff like in kid ice cream cones, with ice cream layered in it. The chocolate sauce consisted of some chocolate the strawberries had been dipped in. Not at all impressed.

But what was particularly bad, almost to the point of being funny after awhile, was the incompetence of the 2 waitresses. I know not to expect too much out of Dutch wait staff, but this was just absurd. They fortunately were pleasant enough, so that was one thing in their favour. First we noticed how they couldn't keep track of where the dishes were supposed to go. They constantly were taking a plate to a table, saying "did you order whateveritwas?", getting a shake of the head, and then going back to the kitchen area to figure out what table it was supposed to go to. Their timing with things was horrible. Apparently the couple sitting behind me, who O could see, were getting very antsy with their starters not arriving yet, though we were well though our mains (and we arrived around the same time). Yet, in the end, they managed to get their bill, pay, and get out before we did, though they ordered about the same amount of stuff. The end of our meal was unbearably slow. Flag down and wait to get the menus to order dessert. Wait and wait to finally get around to ordering dessert. Then we were done with dessert for ages, one of the waitresses finally asks if it was ok, we say yes and ask for the bill while she's there. She goes off, without taking our plates, and never returns with the bill, while others are getting theirs all around us. We finally ask the other waitress for the bill and she returns soon enough. But a hamburger that we didn't order has snuck onto our bill. Fucking hell. Fortunately, minus the food we didn't have, the total is a nice round number and we don't need change. We didn't walk out immediately, we did wait a bit in order to explain that there was a mistake on the bill, but not even some money sitting waiting there for them attracted either waitress. So O scratched out the hamburger on the bill with his fingernail and we took off, no one seeing us leave. Oy. It was just painful. You can tell that they just have no real experience with waiting, and it was all just a mess the way they'd wait on all of the tables together instead of splitting them up. But yeah, like I said, I would go back, because they have a good international menu, and it's nice to take advantage of a place in our area. We just might turn and run the next time if we see the same two girls waiting the tables...

September 23, 2005

Secret note

I just started a new book, A Fairy Tale of New York by JP Donleavy. I bought the book over a year ago at a used bookshop, knowing nothing about the book or the author. I pulled it off the shelf because it somehow caught my eye, then the blurb on the back sounded quirky enough. But what made me decide to buy it was the note I found on the title page, written in a messy cursive handwriting:

Dearest Debs,
JP. Donleavy has always touched me more deeply than any other novelist.
When you read Fairy Tale of New York, as you laugh out loud, as a tear comes to your eye, I will hear your laughter, see the tear glisten, feel the glow of your soul's beauty warm my heart, where I hold you close.
I wonder what happened to Debs and John that the book ended up in a used bookstore. I certainly couldn't pass up buying the book, especially since it was only a few euros. And now I'm finally reading it. (Not for lack of books to read, since O just bought a pile of books, but I felt like putting off for a while longer some books that I really want to read. I can be a bit of a masochist sometimes.) I've only read two short chapters so far, and the writing style is quite confusing with changes in points of view (as far as I can tell) and a distinct lack of question marks where they should be (Mr Donleavy seems to be also allergic to commas, since they seem to be only used in very rare cases). But hey, there's eventually a character called Fanny Sourpuss, so that's at least something to look forward to.

September 21, 2005

Moving on

I turns out that two people at my work, both with the same first name, are soon heading back to their respective homelands of Australia and New Zealand. The Kiwi one is a close friend of mine and I've known for most of this year that she would be leaving. I only found out today that the Aussie is also going back home. It was a much quicker decision for her, spurred on by being in Sydney recently for a business trip. She has a Dutch partner and she wasn't 100% sure he would come with her to Australia, but he is going with her, which is good. It's kind of funny because just a couple of weeks ago I was telling her about my plans to go to either Australia or New Zealand and about why I wanted to see what it was like to live there and talking about having Dutch partners and how we feel about living here and trying to figure out where home is. I can't help but be jealous of both of my co-workers, first of all for them to have a home they're happy to go back to, and that they've reached the time when things come together and allow them to do so.

At least they are going back because they want to. Some people don't get a choice, thanks to an incredibly cruel law in the US. I've read about this before, but heard about another example when I was reading Willamette Week yesterday:

Turns out that Vat [& Tonsure] owner Rose-Marie Barbeau Quinn, a Canadian national who's lived in Portland since 1976, faces a forced return to her native land. Quinn's immigration problems stem from her marriage to longtime Vat partner Mike Quinn, just before he died in 1991. Their union didn't last long enough for the feds, a problem she fended off with help from Oregon's congressional delegation. But unless lawmakers act again, she must return to Canada by the end of October.
Apparently if you have a green card in the US based on marriage to a US citizen, if your spouse dies and you've only been married a couple of years (I forget the exact length of time), you lose your right to remain in the US and must go back to your home country. Never mind any house you may own, any job you may hold -- or in the case of the woman in the WW story, the fact that she's lived in Portland longer than I've been alive -- not to mention dealing at the same time with the loss of your spouse, the US wants you out. I shouldn't be surprised really, since after a few years of experience with these types of immigration laws, it is obvious that the governments have no interest in kindness towards even their own citizens who happen to have foreign partners. I've been lucky so far, but if anything about our situation changes, it could always have consequences for our possibility to stay together as "easily" as we do now.

September 20, 2005

More Sleater-Kinney

It's official: I'm falling in love with The Woods. There is hardly a song on it I don't like. The band is going to so fucking rock live. I can't wait. In the meantime I should get around to watching the live DVD that came with the CD. Yes ohyes ohyes...

Some Portugal photos

Not to get your hopes up; the photos from Portugal still aren't ready and online yet. So, in lieu of photos of Portugal, I thought I'd post photos of things I bought in Portugal. They are all of pieces of ceramics, which is a well-known product of Portugal and a typical thing for tourists to load up on to take home, even though it's bulky and fragile. We went to a great shop in Almancil called Sesil that had all types of pottery in all types of painted designs (and a kind store owner to boot). I think all of it was handpainted by various artists as well. All of us were wandering around the store for quite some time looking for things to bring home (except O, he didn't have much interest in the whole thing). In the end I kept my spending in check, and stuck to things that would be easy to bring back (though I really wanted this simple blue pot that only cost 10 euros. O convinced me I could get something like it at home. I have yet to see if this is true).

I got these two small tealight holders... The fish seemed to make them a bit more Portuguese. The top one is for O and I, the bottom one I'm sending to my parents.

I felt like this mug was a way to bring a bit of sunny Portugal back to usually-gray Amsterdam. I got to use it already for tea when I was sick last week (I don't drink tea very often). (Speaking of tea, I had some last night that was sooo good, and I'm not that big of a tea fan. It was Bengal Spice from Celestial Seasonings. Spicy, yet sweet. I have to get me some.)

This one I just couldn't resist becaue it was so cute. It's now hanging on the wall in the kitchen, and I suppose can be used under hot pans. The shop also had cheese boards by this same artist, with cows and ewes and rams, but since we never buy cheese, I didn't think it was very practical to get. Still, I like this one.

One other thing we brought back was a small bottle of orange liquor. I'm not sure what to do with it, but it's in a pretty stoppered bottle that I can use after it's empty.

September 17, 2005

My world's gonna be rocked

They arrived in the mail today: two tickets to see Sleater-Kinney play in Glasgow on November 11. Oh yes, for the first time in 5 years I have Sleater-Kinney tickets. And it feels good.

What doesn't feel good is that they aren't coming to play in Amsterdam, or anywhere else in Holland. They haven't played a non-festival show here in over 5 years. So I must go to Scotland to see them. I'm still debating whether to also see them on November 10 in Nottingham, where I lived for a few months years ago, but it would involve transport issues, more days off work, etc. For now, I'll content myself with the Glasgow tickets.

In completely other news, I bought a rather nice, used flat-screen monitor from some guy offloading it because he was leaving the country. He was kinda freaky though, nice but chaotic, and I think his life revolved around clubbing, smoking pot and scuba diving (yes, in the Netherlands). Since O and I both have new monitors, we have our old ones to get rid of. Anyone want a good quality Ilyama monitor, one 17", one 19"? =D

September 16, 2005

Men, tired of pants?

And you don't want to shell out for, nor wear, yards of tartan (and you aren't Scottish, so you don't have a tartan) and all those other things you're supposed to wear with kilts, there's the Utilikilts. Be comfy while working or exploring the outdoors.

September 15, 2005

Sick and tired

O and I are both home sick today. It's been a long time since he's had a cold, and I don't think we've ever been sick at the same time.

We were rudely awoken this morning just before 8 to the sounds of a chainsaw cutting down trees in a neighbour's backyard. Not fun when you're sick and trying to sleep awhile. We both managed to get back to sleep even though chainsaw kept going sporadically for a couple of hours. And it's sad, the trees that were cut down. This neighbour had little Amsterdam backyard full of rather tall evergreens, which is pretty unique. It was like a mini forest. I totally wished I could have it and sleep in a tent under there when it was warm and forget that I was even in a city. But now it's all gone and we can see neighbours we never could before. I wish they had left just one, I don't know why all of them had to be cut down. Actually, at least one was cut, I'm pretty sure, while we were gone to the US. We came back and I felt one was missing and the neighbour had built a little pond in the corner of the yard with a bloody fountain that runs 24/7 and either makes you feel the extra need to pee or makes you think it's raining. I wonder if, now that all the trees are gone, some major landscaping will take place, and if so, I just have this suspicion that gnomes will be involved.

September 13, 2005

Algarve, Portugal

In many ways this was a different holiday from what O and I normally take. We were travelling with others, we were in a house instead of a hotel, we had a rental car, we weren't concentrating on one or two cities... In some ways these things made me feel more distanced from where I was. I felt like I wasn't really seeing Portugal, but just bits of it. But if I let all that go and just enjoyed the sun and the lack of pressure to do anything, it was a great time.

We were a group fo five: O, O's mom, O's brother and his girlfriend, and me. We stayed in a posh resort area about 20 km west of Faro called Quinta do Lago, not far from a small town called Almancil. In reality the resort wasn't as snobbish as I'd imagined it'd be, though some parts were dripping with rich people, particularly the areas filled with big villas. Our area was fine though. We were in a smallish, but comfortable, house that had a nice patio and was very near the pool. The area was all very green and shaded, and the house, made of tiles and stucco, stayed a constant 20 degrees C. There was a bar/restaurant nearby and the pool had a cafe. There were days we'd go out seeing other towns, together or in separate groups (we had two cars), but there were many days or afternoons when we'd mostly be sitting on the patio or by the pool reading, going swimming, or playing pool. We played a lot of pool. I don't want to know how much money we spent on playing pool. At least we were old enough to be able to drive away. There were many British teenagers stuck there with their parents and there wasn't much to do but hang around, drink beers and... play pool. I was bored after awhile, I can't imagine what they were going through.

The first town we visited was Tavira, to the east. A nice place to wander around, it had a bit of old castle that was on a hill above the town which provided good views, and you could take a boat (only 1.50 euro return) to islands that had beaches. We didn't go all the way to the beach, but it was nice to tour around on the boat.

One thing that I found strange in the Algarve was that the ocean always seemed rather far away. Few towns are truly on the water, and the main highway and freeway are miles away from the coastline. To get to the house we stayed at, you had to go quite a bit south from Almancil, but you were still about a 5 minute drive from the beach - and even then, once you parked at the beach, you had to walk on a very long bridge across a river/marsh and cross some dunes before you even saw the water. It was days before I saw the ocean and then it was still far in the distance. Much different than going to the Oregon Coast and driving most of the time near the ocean.

Just outside of Almancil was a karting track, so we went there - twice. First it was just O and I, then the rest joined us a couple of days later. I was not so good - I got lapped twice the first time I went - but it was still really fun. But so much work! My arms hardly made it through the 10 minutes they give you, and then they were soooo sore the next day. My butt too, from being thrown around in the hard plastic seat. It was a good track, some nice sharp corners and quite long. We saw some spinouts when we were watching some other groups go.

A unique thing that we visited was a festival of sand sculpture held near a town called Pera. The sculptures had been there since May and are there til the end of this month. In looking online, it seems this is the 3rd year they've done this, and the theme this year was Lost Worlds. Mostly this meant lost civilizations - Roman, Greek, Aztec, Sumarian, Mayan - but there were also dinosaurs and depictions of early man. It was quite an impressive show of work, done by people from all over the world. Many a photo was taken, which can do more justice to the whole thing than me trying to describe it, so you'll have to wait for those. We timed it just right, going on the first sunny day after we'd had a couple of days of cloud. I felt like I was in the Sahara, surrounded by all that sand (which incidentally was nowhere near the beach, it was all trucked in).

The favourite town of mine that we visited was Lagos, quite a bit to the west of where we were staying. It wasn't too long of a drive though via the freeway (which is scary to drive on; the Portuguese like to drive fast and with a limited thought to the rules of the road). Lagos is mostly on a river that heads out into the ocean, but it is quite near the ocean as well, so there were some lovely views of blue water. The town was nice to wander through, we headed off on some little side streets that climbed uphill to a church. It was always fun to head up one of the side streets and see what sort of houses or people you'd come across. I always found it a bit weird too that you'd be on this tiny, quiet street but still find businesses tucked in there as well. I guess it makes sense, but in my mind I wonder how anyone finds these shops and other businesses we came across. I think it's just a different way there, that you live somewhere long enough to know where things are or you find it out from your neighbours.

Near Lagos there are many small beaches, small because this is the "rocky Algarve" where cliffs of rock come down to the water, instead of the east half where there are your normal long sandy beaches. So hidden along the rocky stretch are all sorts of caves and small bits of beach. Some are fairly accessible, like the one we saw that had stairs going down to it, but others I think you can only get to by boat. I just like the whole idea, being on a little beach all tucked in between rocks that you could go exploring in and on. It'd be great to have a boat there.

Unfortunately I didn't get to try much traditional Portuguese food, mainly because we didn't eat that much. Also one traditional dish, seafood cooked in a cataplana, a metal pan that closes like a clam and seals shut, is for two people and O doesn't like seafood. So I didn't get to try it, though I have a cataplana of my own that O's mom bought for me the last time she went to Portugal. We did however have some Portuguese pastries, brought out to go with the drinks we ordered at a pastry shop. One very typical one is called pasteis de nata, a little custard tart which was really yummy. It's too bad that the most memorable meal I had in Portugal was actually at an Indian restuarant, which was one of the best Indian meals I've had. With all the British tourists in the area there's quite a proliferation of Indian places.

I hope to post a video or two soon, and maybe some photos. I'm sure O will put up a photo or two in the next few days as well.

September 12, 2005

I've returned

Late last night we arrived back in Amsterdam after a week in the Algarve area of Portugal. It felt like a long week, which I suppose is good. I could have done with a day or two less. And no, that has nothing to do with the fact that I was vacationing with my in-laws. =P

I return with a nice tan and re-energized after having a lot of sun and relaxation. More details of the trip will follow; I wanted to write about it today, but I didn't get up until 11:45 and then was catching up on email, and I've been in a bit of a haze all day, so it'll have to wait. The photos will come at some point when O's done editing them. I took quite a few as well this time because I lugged our G3 along, mostly with the intent to use it to take little videos, but then once we were there I was like, "hey, I can take photos too, I was interested in photography before O was afterall." Mine may not be as good in general, but some came out pretty good. And I'm not sure where to put some of the videos I took. I might post them and have the file available for awhile and take them down in a month or so.