Category: Amsterdam

  • How Does Your Garden Grow

    Mistress Mary had a garden where, astonishingly, silver bells and cockle shells grew. I have a vegetable garden. I have no pretty maids to help weed or water or harvest. It’s a one-woman operation in the middle of Amsterdam. Not quite farming on an industrial scale. In the midst of a pandemic, it’s a comforting […]

  • Re-Entry

    I thought my travel days were over. A 7 month long round-the-world trip should be enough to sate anyone’s wanderlust. And then there’s the pandemic. Today, infection rates in Europe remain at a low simmer with occasional flare-ups in places like Barcelona and Antwerp. By contrast, the US is at a rolling boil with Los […]

  • At the Zoo

    I’m unreasonably excited to visit the zoo. We haven’t been in years though, when the kids were little, we went to Artis almost every week. But neither nostalgia nor a new-found interest in the animal kingdom is making my heart beat faster. It’s the prospect of an outing in lockdown week 13. There are, of […]

  • Private Dining

    As lockdown restrictions ease around the world, restaurants reopen. Take-out is no longer the only dining option. There’s outdoor seating with plastic shields between tables. Indoors, there are caps on the number of diners and a break between sittings to deep clean the restaurant. Fresh from a 7 month long trip around the world, I […]

  • A Covid Conversation

    During our round-the-world journey, we were largely isolated from family and friends. Telephone calls were prohibitively expensive. Postal mail impossibly slow. I learned to rely on email and the occasional video call to keep in touch. Little did I know that I was practicing for a Covid conversation. Let’s define a Covid conversation as any […]

  • Quiet

    The dust falls from our travel boots. Laundry slouches in uncertain heaps. After 7 months on the road, the curious monkey returns to Amsterdam. Everything is the same. Nothing is the same. We’ve come home in a time of coronavirus. It’s so quiet here. The freeway doesn’t hum. The birds no longer compete with the […]

  • My Favorite Things

    I’ve never felt homesick before. Not when I went to China for the first time. Not when I moved to the Netherlands. Sure, there were people and places I missed but I never felt sick to my stomach or anxious or unable to repress a desire to return. These are, apparently, all common ways of […]

  • Deaths in Venice

    In the beginning, there was the novella by Thomas Mann. Published in 1912, it tells the story of Gustave Aschenbach, a writer in the throes of a creative crisis. He needs to get away from stifling Munich. He goes to Venice where he meets 14 year old Tadzio, a child so innocent his mother has […]

  • Mass: Formulae

    Formulae is the theme I chose for last weekend’s edition of VERSO, Amsterdam’s live literary journal. In my role as guest editor, I got to choose the line-up and present my own editorial. For those of you who couldn’t make it, here it is (now cleaned up for publication). Household Gods When I was a […]

  • Female Language

    The bookshop is small but well-stocked. It occupies a narrow windowless space like most places in this part of Amsterdam. At the far end of the shop sits Sheila Heti, waiting to talk about her latest novel, Motherhood. We join the crowd. We are four women in a sea of female faces. Three of us […]