Oct. 9th, 2008 11:43 pm
fj: (bqw)
I would like to thank[ profile] bobaloo for all his tireless work on the "No on Proposition 8" campaign in California.

I am angry and heartsick at the prospects of yet another set of my friends' marriages being invalidated. I know some went in thinking it was "Mostly just a piece of paper", but having attended my number of weddings and having thought a lot about marriage, I know that actually standing up there is transformative, that getting that paperwork done and the changes that follow from it actually do make you think of your relationship in a new way, that it is, still, a hit to the brain of "wow, I never though in my closeted kid days we would get there. That this would happen. That we'd be just as real."

I can't stand the thought of that being taken away. Not there, not in the place I was so happy. I can't contemplate that so many people living among my friends would want to take it away from them.

I am not allowed to donate as a foreign national, as I found out, so I haven't. Oddly, it turns out that [ profile] pinkfish is donating more, and at the same time my share of the current bills for The Loft has gone up by the same amount; it is very strange how that works. Yeah, I am still unemployed, but I know I will work again and this money is necessary now. Donate.

If you too want to donate some time in the LA area, get in touch with Bob. He is overworked, and needs volunteers. You don't even need to call people, I believe.
fj: (travel)
I feel I should make a "Where's Larry" link like [ profile] urbear did under every post, but for my location. Especially now that he probably no longer needs it.

So yes, I did arrive in Düsseldorf Tuesday late for my last week, late enough all I could do was go to the gym and get food and hang out. I spent Wednesday in the chic shopping district. I decided with the landlord we'd do the hand-off of keys on Monday instead of Thursday, which meant that after my last day at the gym, I got on the ICE to Amsterdam (2 and change super-speedy hours) without a wallet full of Euros of the deposit but able to leave the icky wet towel hanging in the bathroom. The no-Euros thing was good because The Netherlands was having Sales, and this way I only bought what I absolutely really wanted (one sweater). Amsterdam was rainy, the hotel was way too cheap for its location (PC Hooft) and season (High) which tells me the dollar is really in the toilet and the whole tourist economy must be bleeding, the gym I went to charged too much for a day pass but it was pure nostalgia because it was the one I went to when I was there for a month in 2006. The friend I wanted to see those two days did not call back.

The next day the trams were down, and I had to walk through the city with a heavy bag. Leidschestraat was never that quiet with just pedestrians. When I got to Nieuwezijdse Voorburgwal I saw the problem wasn't the lightning strike I was told had been the issue, but a nr 2 and nr 13 in a configuration that is deviant and unnatural for trams -- must have been a derailment. And when that corner goes out, omg, all the trams in the west side and cednter are just gone. I did get to Central Station huffing and puffing, and then got on a train to spend the next two days at the parental home, being fed, explaining things about Mac OS X to my Dad, ganging up on him with his girlfriend, and seeing some siblings and nephews and nieces who came by that Sunday to just be together.

This was also the weekend an ICE train slipped and derailed and the German railways [DB] took them all out of commission to inspect them, and the thus DB and the Dutch railways [NS} set up transports with busses and normal trains and whatever, but it would take forever. Seeing as my trip was a little time-sensitive Monday morning for the airplane back, I decided on advice of the NS to just not care that my ICE reservation was for Monday morning and leave Sunday night. Hooray, the ICEs were running again Sunday night! Boo, an accident somewhere on the rails near Utrecht means the ICE on Sunday night was two hours late, which for European standards is a total WTF? The NS station personnel felt so bad they started bring us, the people they had seen on that same quay wait for over an hour, coffee. I was all like oh god I don't drink coffee and she went back and got me tea. Once the ICE came it ran like a dream, and I just chose an empty seat, and nobody came by to check tickets and nobody had reserved my seat. Everyone knew this weekend nothing was normal on the railways. Thank god I still had an appartment to go to and just crash. It all worked out after all.

And Monday I cleaned the appartment, handed over keys, and came back to London. No taxi, flight, Heathrow Express, or Tube issues. Taking it seriously easy now. A little shopping. Proper food at good times. A spot of tea. Cold squash drinks. Because, in what seemed like a good idea at the time but I am now wondering what drugs I was on, I am capping off all this travel by getting on a plane to LA and SF. In two days.

How It Was

Jul. 11th, 2008 03:55 pm
fj: (travel)
So, contradictions. Düsseldorf is an impossibly chic little city, but rents in the central area, not at all run down, are ridiculously cheap. Germany is going through a prolonged economic malaise due to reunification, but organic-ish vegetables and perfectly lovely store brand products in my local supermarket cost nothing. And this gig was in Germany and yet I was caught dead doing it1.

This gig for Vodafone was one that my agent has been trying to get me to take fo a while, but I never liked the terms: one had to be in Germany at least four days a week, which means that if you do not move outright for the whole thing, you end up in London only one full day, and I went to London 6 months ago to live there, not in Germany. But after not having worked for a month and a half after that single week with the consultancy, and my savings being equally unhappy after this move, I was more receptive. Then my agent called and said he had talked them down to three days at the office, which means two days of work and weekends at home, plus an unbelievable dayrate as long as I paid my own travel and lodgings, but that those could come off taxes, and I said ok. It's only a 55 minute flight after all.

Logistics-wise, the gig turned out to be better than I thought it would be. Of course the first week I overpayed for a hotel, not knowing what and where. The next week I didn't because I knew where the Hotel Ibis was, a Europe-wide brand of cheap business hotels near train stations. By the third week, my appartment had been arranged, and that made me the slow one in the office: the MZW agency can do that in a day, and had for most of my colleagues who flew in like me. €580,- a month for a big studio in the center of town. Almost every name on the letterboxes, stuck on with label-maker tape, was Indian. The landlord basically rents to all us temp workers. Only drawback of my lovely space: it's a 6th floor walk-up. Oh yeah. The city was rebuilt in the 50s after the war, and elevators were not a priority.

So, little cheap Bio supermarket on the same street. Streetcar stop on the corner which I could take to work. The Vodafone tower and adjacent buildings are pretty much on the Rhine, and modern and spacious and open. My co-workers were nice, and it was kind of fun to sit in the auxiliary room together with all the young designers from the contracting firms chattering away. The work was perfectly do-able and started out bringing me further along to mastering the bread-and-butter of mercenary UI designers (which I am still relatively recent at) but by the end had me back writing strategic documents about revenue opportunities in new media (which I can do in my sleep if you tell me the focus).

I looked at all the gyms online, visited a few from very middle-of-the-road to very expensive, and settled for a bodybuilder's gym that had a good 3-month rate and was in the city center. I walked a lot with my backpack with this heavy computer and gym clothes, I ended up never buying protein powder but just eating a lot of eggs and chicken and tuna and fromage frais (known as Quark in German).

I settled on a routine for flying in and out on Monday and Thursday evenings. This means Mondays were always chaotic as I had to get ready to leave, spend a lot of time actually traveling (bus from Oval to Paddington, Heathrow Express, Plane, Taxi), and still get a whole day of work in and exercise, while Fridays were a mess while I had to get a whole day of work in, do expenses paperwork and time sheets, and was just a general tired mess from flying in Thursday night. Every Friday night when I got in to bed having juggled and hurried and done everything and eaten and worked out at two gyms and not dropped any balls, I just collapsed, and then reminded myself I'd get to do it all over again in two days. Sometimes with having to go to the bank on Monday as well to travel with €1K in cash, as using my UK and US cards was either impossible or expensive for things like rent or food. Never used it for shopping, though, as I never had time by day. This last trip I was able to just walk the whole of the shopping street and see how for a small city, Ddorf is just really well supplied in high-end fashion, all in a really nice area. Balenciaga's black knitwear for this season is Teh Raumpatrouille Orion Sex2.

The constant planning got tedious. What clothes were where, what should I bring, do I have enough cash for the taxi, what was in what fridge (which is important if you often arrive after shops close), what did I need to bring to work, what would fit in what bag. When I came back in London from having stayed over a weekend to visit my family I learned that Tesco's Finest Orange Juice is not pasteurized: the bottle had bulged, opening it was a plopping adventure, and the OJ had been diligently fizzily carbonated by little entities. The only way to deal with all the planning was routines: everything had to have a place and time, from when I switched currencies, to when and where I would switch keys on my key chain, to when I would pull out my passport and when I would put it back to what I would buy and when I would leave. I couldn't keep track of it all at the same time, so I kept track of each thing as it happened and put it in a place that would be predictable for the next time this part of the routine had to happen. By the end it was actually all really relaxed trip-wise, I just ran through the steps, back and forth, with the only spanner in the works being the damn planes. I only got three outright cancellations in the whole period.

As for visiting my father, one of the reasons I took this gig, that didn't happen because it was really hard to schedule him. He was busy every weekend in May, and I only stayed over on the continent once to see him in June. I will this weekend, but the whole let's go to Rozendaal often just didn't pan out much. The work did, minus two weeks, and the weather was often very lovely. I'd do this again. But now, two days in Amsterdam, and then to Dad, and then Monday to London.

1Ancient Euro rivalry alert
2If you are into paying €1200,- for a sweater, that is.
fj: (travel)
Well, I gave all of fascinating LA up to partly be closer to my family, so I actually up and went to NL for Easter. All my nieces and nephwes are here to do an egghunt tomorrow at my Dad's.

1) Door to door, with all weather delays, it takes 7.5 hours to travel from home to my Dad's home,. A lot of that wasted at Heathrow. Trains all the way gets in that same ballpark then, and is more preditable than air travel, really, with all the security and snafus, even if the train becomes a slow mess after Brussels.

2) calculated that, from my house, it was almost as fast to walk to Vauxhall and take the subway to Terminal 4 compared to whatever means I had to to go to a station to take the Heathrow Express to Terminal 4. And the subway is only one pound for this trip since I already have a pass for Zones 1 and 2. The Express is quite a bit more, even if it is only 15 minutes. I found that a very interesting result.


Mar. 8th, 2008 11:14 pm
fj: (UK)
Spent last night in the new place, uncovered some flaws, which I am able to live with. Like that the Tiki bar downstairs next door plays music on Fridays and Saturdays till 3 AM. No seriously, I live next door to a bar decorated in Tiki-motif, with a DJ who plays music like some nostalgia school disco for 80s kids. Not that loud, and I like living in urban spaces after all because I want to feel life around me.

Took the subway back to the crappy room near Belsize Park to empty it, and, after handing in my key and getting my deposit back, I processed the awful news of Fred Huntington's sudden death while waiting in front of the church on Belsize Square for Nigel.

He had offered to pick me and my luggage up so I wouldn't have to repeat the back-breaking travel with The Hippos, as Helen christened my rolling suitcase monstrosities. He was driving his classic huge black Citroen so it all fit. We drove from NW3 to SE11, delivered my suitcases upstairs, and then I said I wanted to take him out to lunch to say thank you. He started talking about value for money, I told him my father finally found a way to foist money on independent me, who always politely told my dad when he makes such an offer that whatever the reason was that he thought I needed money it was already taken care of, which it always was until this move when I carelessly blurted out on the phone I was starting from scratch and transferring money around accounts for that, so he got me because of course I couldn't say no because I really didn't have any cash liquid just that specific week -- a situation that would have been rectified in a couple of days -- for IKEA, and he saw his chance so damn the guy finally got me in a way I couldn't refuse, so Nigel shut up already and let's go spend the money I am embarrassed to have received on one of the things my father loves and Fred loved: good food. It's a moving expense, after all.

Lunch in the brasserie of the OXO tower, overlooking the Thames, was lovely. My brain kept reminding me of the happy fact that, holy shit, I live in London now. Getting out of that temporary rented room fliked a switch of permanence. I go to work in London, I take the tube and bus like Londoners do, I eat in London, I have lunch with friends in London, I am decorating my rented flat in London, and I have to rely on friends with cars like most people here*. God, I really do properly live here. The the next penny dropped that I actually could upgrade a little of this furnishing project now -- because he will ask what I spent it on in order to enjoy it with me -- so Nigel drove me to Canary Wharf so I could buy huge towels and a lovely tea set at John Lewis. Like people here do. Especially, by the looks of it, gay people.

*I could actually legally drive here for the next year on my US license, but since I can't really even safely cross the street, I don't think I will try. No. Not a good idea.
 Besides the whole transmission thing.
fj: (travel)
It's not the kids, they are behaving and mostly between cute and tolerable. They are often sweet.

It's not my siblings, they are behaving between being interested and distracted by the kids.

But the visual queues in this holiday park in the woods of Eerbeek, geared entirely to keeping kids entertained for their parents to watch over with some wine, queues formed in the early 80s by using stock material in the most common way possible in a very Dutch landscape... the trees, the counter-tops, the shape of the faucets, the radiators, yet the always cold floors, the cold moisture in the air. Visuals of childhood changes, of being stuck, triggered by confrontation with the lines of the stock objects this country was built on for decades after the war. You know why there is such innovation in Dutch Design? Because we all want to get the fuck away from the ubiquitous shower faucet that followed us all our wandering-temperature showering lives.

18 months I didn't notice them, now my fingers and feet are permanently cold here again.
fj: (travel)
All is fine. Wallet delivered. Waiting for delayed plane.

Edit: I see my voice post never made it, so this means squat to all of you. My wallet dropped out of my pocket on the shuttlebus to LAX. After the panic subsided, I was ready to fly pennyless with my printed boarding pass and passport to London and see if they could print my boarding pass to Amsterdam based on my last name alone, because I would not miss my father's 75th birthday he has been planning for months. And oh, on the way back, enter as a tourist and then apply for a replacement greencard, because that is in my wallet, breaking I do not know how many Immigration rules.

The United ground crew were completely unhelpful, but another FlyAway bus stopped and gave me the number for the dispatcher. He radioed the bus I was on, but that driver did not find my wallet when she pulled over on the highway. When the bus arrived to the depot, the dispatcher did find it, and drove the wallet up from the depot in Long Beach back to LAX to hand it to me. I was never so glad to, when he said he would arrive in a Gold Cadilla, to see one of those enormous gas-guzzling airplane-arrier-sized 80s Caddies in gleaming gold in my life.

Now that he brought it to me ten minutes before the gate would normally close, we are all waiting for a part to be flown in from San Francisco to put in engine nr2. We will be delayed two hours -- oh well, I guess I will get the next flight to Amsterdam in London. I wonder if they can re-book me over the phone right now.
fj: (Disney)
Our group was to consist of a number of adults, of which two were Disney employees with silver passes, and three children. In between our passes and some left-over guest passes I had -- you get two every 6 months when working for Disney -- we could get everyone in. I was basically going as a favor, I think. I did want to see the "Submarine Voyages" ride that had been retrofitted to become a "Finding Nemo" ride, but that was about it. Maybe find some other friends I knew would be in the park that day. I felt no great desire to do rides or anything. Just get some friends in to save them some very expensive tickets. Because I am kind of pissed at Disney.

I was first in Downtown Disney, which is a retail area, managed by Disney, between the parks and the Disneyland Hotel. It has shops like a Lego store and Department 56 and a bakery restaurant. [ profile] timfogartyfeed, also known as Daddy Tim that day, was coordinating everyone, so he told Regina and Karen, her neighbour, who were coming together with Regina's son and her nieces, where to find me. We met, we introduced, I met the son J who was 4, and the two girls who were 7 and 9. Regina and Karen had to go to the restroom. The kids were asked if they had to go. They did not. They were ok. Off the women went, leaving me suddenly in charge of 3 children. This alone should probably have Regina removed from custody, but ok, I guess nobody warned her that of all of Daddy Tim's friends, I was probably the most child-unfriendly. "Behave or I'll sell you into white slavery," was probably the first thing I said when we were alone. Which is ill-chosen because by US standards, the girls register as black. We chatted some while waiting, as much as one can chat with a 7 and 9 year old who wonder who you are and a 4 year old who wonders if you are safe to talk to at all.

We hang. We wait. We wait. Women, restrooms, of course we had to wait. And J., of course, who had been asked 5 minutes ago, and vehemently denied... never mind. He had to go. So did H., the seven year-old. I am in the middle of a retail area with three children in need of a restroom. I have visions of taking these children to a restroom and setting off a three-fire Amber alert when the mother and friend return to not find their children they left in the care of a virtual stranger. Hasn't it been hours since those women left already?
-- "Oh god," I almost panic, "where the hell is your mother?'
H looks up at me: "You said the 'h' word."
I am already unnerved from having had to watch my language.
-- "Which one is the H word!" I cry.
"'Hell'," H. whispers with a look that tells me this girl, barring any major trauma in her life (which is about to happen under my watch I am sure omygawd) is going to grow up into a Sassy Black Woman. By next week.
-- "I won't tell if you won't," is my only response.

H. has a phone number. I call it. It's Karen: Regina has already left the restroom and should be on her way. I do not see her. The boy is grabbing his pants. I call another number H. reads from her slip of paper. A man picks up, clearly not Regina's cell-phone. I apologize and hang up. H. looks at the paper again and asks "Is this a seven?" I turn my head to her incredulously. It actually was a seven, though.

I make an executive decision, having peeed my pants at a birthday party when I was 6 for having been too shy to ask where the restroom was: we're going. I go to the sunglasses kiosk to ask where the nearest restroom is. The retail worker points in the direction that materialises my darkest fear: it is in the Disney store. I am to guide three single-digit agers on a time-critical mission through a toy store.

"Ok, we're going. Follow me." I wished I had leashes. I have to both guide and make sure they don't get lost on this very busy crowded day. This means a constant craning of the neck and hoping the nine year old, wise beyond her years I can already tell, keeps the two in line in front of her. We enter the store. We walk through. I keep trying to not bump into things as I check back to make sure the plushy toys do not distract them. Where is that damn restroom? I brusquely cut ahead in a cashiers line to ask. The cashier points me to farthest end of the store. I manage to get all three of them there.

I look at the girls: "Do any of you need help?" They look at me as if I am insane. OK, I say, "We're meeting here!" in a firm tone of voice and point to the ground, here in the hallway where the restrooms are. I resign myself to letting them out of my sight and supervision. They go in. I take J. into the men's restroom. "Do you need help?"
Pleasedon'tneedhelppleasedon'tneedhelppleasedon'tneedhelp I mantra in my head; I am a gay adult man, unrelated to you, who will have to handle your four year old genitals in the United States of America, a country that still thinks in every homosexual, if not every adult, lurks a pedophile, if you need help here. Basically, if you need help, thirty seconds from now as I do whatever it is one needs to do to help you do your bathroom functions, I will be one temper tantrum of yours, right there, right then, away of being on a sex-offender registry for the rest of my life.
His answer: "Yeah. Which stall do I use?" They are both busy. One opens up.
-- "That one!" Seems to be all the help he needs. I watch through a crack next to the door, he seems to be ok standing up, whizzing oh god I am watching a 4 year old I do not know urinate through a crack please no one come in play it cool play it cool lean agains this wall keep an eye on him if they do come in of course you are related thank god I am as blond as him. He is ready and comes out, pants properly closed, walks to wash his hands. He is too short to both push the button to make water flow and was his hands, so I lean over to push it. This should be an endearing photo-op, a snapshot memory, but I want it to be over. Fuck soap, let's hope his mom washed his dick this morning, water will do; I grab a paper towel, hand it to him, and go. Outside, another fear calmed: the girls are indeed there and waiting.
"I didn't have to go, I just made that up," H says.
-- "I hate you," is my answer. I put enough Disney-Channel sitcom-mock in my voice to amuse them both. Or at least not make them cry. Whatever.

We walk back in formation, but I decide to get out of the store faster and walk the rest through the plaza instead of the store. I walk beside them now.
-- "J, can I carry you?"
"No," he says.
-- "Ok, can you walk faster then?"
This seems to amuse him to no end and he starts frog-marching at insane speed. For a four year old. We get back to where we were supposed to meet: the women and the gay adult men are now all there. Daddy Tim laughs at me when he sees my pissed off face -- he knows I do not do children. Moments later, as we are sorting out day passes and silver passes, I tell Regina that I used the H word.
"H. already told me you did. And that you hate them."

Later I get told, again, this time for using the F-word. F-word? I did not! "Fool." 'Fool'? Am I going to have any of my vocabulary left in front of these girls?

We get in the park, and somehow we end up directly in the line to the Nemo things. Daddy Tim frets a bit, the line will be long, this might take an hour, the children will be bored. They see live mice scurry in the bushes, they get a quiz to read, they talk to mom, Tim explains to them that part of Disneyland is standing in line, we constantly move, the other adults in our group get out of the line and buy them flashlights and hot dogs.
-- "Don't worry. Years from now this whole thing will be a fond memory of Disneyland. They'll forget all about the line in no time," I tell Daddy Tim. "I, however, will resent you for decades to come." Later, during another conversation, I will confess with broad hand gestures and comic intonations that "I am just not one of his supportive friends."
fj: (Default)
My High School years were spent in the upper middle class part of a town right outside Arnhem, a city in the middle of The Netherlands. We lived in a detached 3-story house, probably built in the thirties or forties. And we had a Cheese Guy. He'd come by every Wednesday in his minivan, ring the doorbell, take an order (two dozen eggs, half of a ball of aged Edammer, a quarter wheel or so standard Goudse), go to the van to get it, come back, get paid, and be off. We did this week after week, year after year. The question might be why my Mom did; she went to the supermarket often enough to get cheaper cheese and eggs, and as a mother of four in an expensive house she was deeply fond of economizing: our chocolade hagelslag was always the store-brand, so cheaply made it wasn't even legally allowed to all itself chocolate. (Why this did not get us kicked out of our show-off neighborhood, I can only fathom is because my whole family fit in so well otherwise in the tennis-club and society. My mom turned this kind of selective cheap chic into a badge of honor among her friends.)

The answer was in something that she one day said on that topic of managing a relationship with the Cheese Guy: during the Winter of Starvation in 1944, when the northern part of The Netherlands had not been liberated from Nazi occupation and was going through worse hunger than ever in the preceding 4 years, it was the previous and ongoing relationships with tradespeople and suppliers -- in this case the farmers outside of town the children had to bicycle to on wooden tires -- that would create the circumstances that would give a hungering family a break. Another egg. A tiny bit more of milk. Any food at all, even if it had to be travelled miles for.

And it worked out in present day as well: on days that my mother did not open the door beause she was deep in her nap -- she went to bed for a short nap every afternoon since she became a stay-at-home wife after her marriage -- and no kids were home, the Cheese Guy would just leave our order in the garage, with a note that he would collect payment next week. After some years of occasionally having to do that, and only very occasionally since my Mom preferred someone was home to deal with him, he didn't even bother with the note. Also, as an Executive's Wife she entertained -- a lot -- and she worked with him to develop an almost signature collection of specialty cheeses to serve after dinner based on her tastes and his recommendations. This too came to the point that she would just mention there would be a party next week, so he could be prepared for when he came by next week, and the specialty cheeses would end up in the garage in the box with the standard order if I had forgotten it was Wednesday which was his day to come by and I had already gone to the library, where I spent my life. I am now realizing that we lived in a neighborhood where we left the garage unlocked by day.

The point to this is that her attitudes have shaped mine towards tradespeople. I want them to love me as a client. I want them to be happy to walk through my door and feel they want to do the best job for me. I have a carpenter right now, a friend of a friend, turning into my friend. That's a pitfall in itself, having a contractor who is also a friend, but fortunately I love his obsessively perfectionistmeticulous work. So say I need another thing done, which I do. I fully intend to stay in this loft, but even if I do not, that just means this place needs to look even better for a sale. This utter craftsman (be kind about the website, the editorial text is not finished) writes me a quote. I know where this guy lives, he is in a relationship with one of my local friends here, which is how I got him. He has proven himself as a contractor who shows up -- in between acting jobs, he finally got his SAG card -- and, get this, home-remodeling veterans, finishes the job. I thought I was doing a FOAF a favor with a carpentry gig, turns out the man had a practice in New York doing set construction for high-end magazine shoots and 6-figure Park Avenue remodels, and he came to LA to have a new life which is why I get him as he starts out in new careers.

He writes me a quote for this latest thing, asks for 50% upfront. I know most of that goes to materials, so I write the 100% amount check, just to get that money off my books, and know what my budget is without future surprises. Off, gone, no worries. This makes me an 'awesome client'. I understand why, but am still baffled.

In the grand scheme of real estate and remodeling, it is a minor amount, two days of work. He tells me the big jobs sometimes were awful, awful, awful about paying for his hard work. I don't get that. Good craftsmen and contractors, who show up, sober, and work, are hard to find, as I learned during The Great Fenway Bathroom Remodel (a.ka. Those 2.5 Months Were The Longest 4 Weeks Of My Life). Masterful guys who listen to what you want, design, and then execute, are even more rare. So rare that Apartment Therapy is devoting a whole blog post to the one guy in New York City who seems to qualify. Who the hell would treat a guy like that poorly? Who the hell would treat someone who is doing repeat gigs in your house, and doing them well, poorly?

It's not just that my carpenter is a cool guy (we end up at the same parties for example). It's that you never know when the war hits, whatever war it is, and you need a little more, a little extra, just a small break. Or just keep the good work coming.
fj: (Default)
Crap. Thanks to my fever I forgot to call my family during dinner today, as they were together for a memorial dinner for my mother. I called home and got my eldest sister, turns out it was 1AM, but both she and my father were still awake from having driven back from the restaurant. We talked for an hour or so, a lot of it me trying to explain LA.

6 years since she died. We all have different ways of dealing. I know a lot of them are date-oriented, the day means something special to them. Me, I have to ask ny father each year what date it was, because her death is always a background hum, although it does spike around this week. I like that he respects all the different ways our brains work, that some of us do not organize everything in our brains around dates -- in fact, I barely remember birthdays and anniversaries. Now people know that, you know what, FJ!! 's gonna be a bit late with this. Or early. This was not always the case in my family.

Still bothers me that I forgot, I know they care about it.
fj: (Disney)
When I sent mail to my family about our impending move, with the congratulations came two mentions that 14 days was a really short time between jobs. I giggled and aswered that I haven't taken 14 days off consecutively in eight years or so. I have been really enjoying doing nearly nothing. We staged the house a little, which means some ordering and culling of posessions -- [ profile] textiletart is getting a ton of technical books for her library -- and touch-ups on the paint. I go to the gym. I see some people. I sleep. I go through some relocation forms. I sleep.

And try to stop myself from taking it all too seriously lest I forget that I am actually ready for this.

I fly Friday at 6.35 PM, land at 9.30. Temporary housing has been arranged, as has the rental car. Since the package falls under benefits I cannot discuss it too much, but let's just say the company has its act together.
fj: (NL)
Less than a week left here. I leave Monday. Suddenly everything seems urgent, including the work I was supposed to have finished here. I made good headway, but March, my last full-time month in Nokia, is going to be busy if I am going to leave these sites in a good state for people to manage their own pages themselves. Fortunately the system for doing their personal pages works and is being used.

I am somewhat bothered by having talked to two retired high management types, one of them my father, about how I am supposed to structure the coming months. They knew I came here to orient myself a bit on the European job market, but the meeting in Helsinki before I landed here put a stop to that, and I knew that would happen. Instead of slowing down for this project, we chucked a whole subsystem because it would not adequately support our users, and I had to develop something along the very early plans instead -- 4 months behind.

So I tell them about the cicumstancs, and they both, independently, said, well, I advise you to just do less of the work and start working on your positioning and re-invention in these month instead on Nokia's dime. This after I tell them that thanks to severance and being in a dual-income household, I have plenty of time. And thus I have to re-iterate, that I made commitments and I intend to keep them. And that these aren't random customers I am building for, these are my friends here inside Nokia. And that when someone calls for references, I want them to be able to say, yeah, FJ!! keeps his word.

It's been on my mind that keeping a commitment and managing your own reputation as reliable had to be explained to both these former industry types. Well, it does explain massive amounts of crappy colleagues everywhere.
fj: (Default)
The writing on Battlestar Galactica is slipping. I know this because I finally had time to catch up with the first three episodes of the Spring season. I had time, sitting in a train from Amsterdam to Maastricht (change in Sittard), two and half hours to, and back later at night. I sunk down into the chair, built for a people all my size, put on headphones and just watched the hours away. I have seen the landscape outside often enough. It's gray and rainy here anyway this month.

My eldest sister picked me up so I could spend time with her and her children, just doing stuff in and around their home in a small town in Belgium. We went to the stables where they are learning how to ride horseback. Got some nostalgia from when I learned as a tyke, in Colombia. I never got to riding saddle, the instructor had this thing of having the kids get a feel for horses by doing a year of vaulting first, but before I could graduate to proper riding, we moved continents. So yes, my eight-year-old self knows how jump on a trotting horse, how to stay on his back sitting on my knees, sitting without a saddle, turning to sit without a saddle facing backwards, standing upright (you can hold on to the mane for balance, they don't care), but I have no idea how to make a horse go forward when in a regular saddle holding regular reigns.

You never knew this about me, did you? I kind of forgot myself, and horseback riding just doesn't come up in conversation much in my life. I can vaguely remember I actually once did do proper horseback riding as an adult, but it must have been slow and short and on a really nice horse.

So my nephews, between 11 and 8, do know how to saddle up their horse (or pony, so cute), how to ride, do the little bouncing thing. My sister and I watched their lesson through the windows in the canteen, while we talked. No mishaps, no stalls, btw. We went home, I stayed for dinner, I showed them my phone, my laptop, we talked some. My eldest sister worked really hard to call me (Uncle) FJ, which wasn't easy for her. I can't help thinking someone must have talked to her. I do not think I expressed enough how much I appreciated it.
fj: (Default)

Van Die Gezellige Nieuwbouw! / Guusje In Ijburg
"Van Die Gezellige Nieuwbouw! / Guusje In Ijburg", Nokia 6680, Amsterdam, 2006

fj: (angry)
Obviously my siblings have to get used to me again.

First of all, I am not supposed to care what they call me. My sister, whose vacated appartment I am in, just very explicitely told me that. Even asking is a form of aggression. Asking again seriously was anti-social.

And answering the suggestion that I should babysit 3 children between the ages of 1 and 5, without her even knowing my experiences with children, or even my life for the last ten years, with "No fucking way" is overly aggressive too.

Well, so I sat down and asked her to tell me what she was angry about, and I got crap for all week. I shoudln't care what my name is to my siblings and all their children. I only see them two days a year anyway. I seem to not have been happy enough when she comes in every two days in the appartment for an hour with husband and two children to check internet and messages during my workday at 11AM. And when she was on the phone here just now with my father, my answer of "It doesn't matter" to his question whether he should buy something special for me is to her a total indication that I am anti-social, and she had to wag her finger and tell me five times that I'd better be nice tomorrow. I cut her off the sixth and told her she had no clue how I was around him.

Now I am supposed to sit in the train for 3 hours to Belgium to be with another sister and her children, the one who told me to my face that wanting to be called FJ is a denial of my family. She said it with a smile of course. She always does. That means she isn't being aggressive, you know.

The notion of being social today seems to be to explicitely allow them to define what should be important to me. If the consensus is that something should not be important to me, it isn't. Of course she lorded the gratitude I should feel for letting me stay in the appartment. She even brought me a desk chair so I could work.

My real problem is that I am not playing their game, but showing my emotions honestly. Always have.

I want out of this appartment. Now. I can't, but boy does it feel tainted to me now.
fj: (travel)
Cuz I am travelling again soon. And this one has me on pins and needles, and not just because of the ridiculousness of the schedule -- utterly self inflicted, I stress -- but its implications.

Jan 13th - Jan 16th Washington DC. Attenting a gay men's leather event.
Jan 16th - Jan 20th Helsinki. Yes, I land in Boston from DC in the morning, go home and get the 2nd Big bag, and go back to Logan airport to fly that evening, because the steering group of the current projects wants a meeting. I fly to Helsinki over London, which means that on the return I can...
Jan 20th - Jan 22nd London ...not get on the next plane but spend some nights in London, after which...
Jan 22nd - Feb 27th Amsterdam  ... I actually do not board a plane to Boston, but spend 4 to 5 weeks in Amsterdam, in my sister's appartment off the Haarlemmerdijk, finding out what it means to to be Dutch in the Netherlands again.
Feb 27th - Feb 28th London Then back to London for one night, to get my return leg back to...
Feb 28th Boston

I will be working all this time, remotely, on the projects -- note that most travel is on the weekends -- as I will be employed by Nokia through March, and I need to guide the last transition of the sites to new systems, and finish documentation of my part of the system. My sister has ADSL working in the place, and I will be able to see my family and friends just like as if I lived there.

Yes, I am not just spending all that time to quell some homesickness. I am spending a big chunk of time in Europe to orient myself on the European job market for mobile interaction designers. [ profile] pinkfish will not travel with me to NL on this trip, but is very ready to hear from me where I have selected I want to work next, so we can make it happen. 10 years was enough for him too.


Dec. 26th, 2005 02:54 pm
fj: (smug)
I always think gifts on Christmas or Birthdays to close loved ones should be personal, luxurious, and fun, or at least as close as you can get. Stuff the recipient would never buy for hirself. The only time I planned on giving anyone socks for Christmas was a pair from the Armani store so the recipient would stop boasting he never wore a name designer and didn't participate in that frivolity, much like The Onion's Area Man Who Constantly Mentioned He Doesn't Own A Television.

I am not as organized as my eldest sister who keeps a running list of gift ideas for everyone in her daily planner, adding to it as soon as she comes up with something new, but I do keep my eyes open for [ profile] pinkfish's needs. And act on them. He, however, has always had problems in this department. The whole gift thing is just not in his nature. He wishes nobody ever gave him anything but a card. He hates the shopping, the worrying if it is the right thing. He has a couple of standards for me, but otherwise I know the whole thing makes him kind of annoyed. But this year he completely got with the program.

I gave him an external hard drive he can keep at home to store all his media, since it doesn't fit on his work laptop, and a black 30GB iPod for when he is away from home. He's been needing one for a while, but he didn't know it. I know he had bought some music on the iTumes Music Store, but he has another music-management problem needing solution: no more rifling through CDs anymore when he has to put together a play list for a folk-dance calling gig at the last moment. And he'll even be more flexible at the gigs because now he can decide on the spot to teach any dance he remembers, and have the music he wants to use available. And on all his consulting travel he will have all audio he owns, and video if he decides to transcode anything. I got it all together in time and it all arrived and it seems to work. I had to tell him last night that really, it was ok to let the iPod sync all his music, it will fit, there's no need to stop the transfer. I am our home's sysadm back-up manager, I know how big his music collection is. At a whole whopping 7GB, it will fit fine. ("I only have 7 gigs of music?").

I got, of course, my box of Leonidas. And the complete Aeon Flux, since I have been Fluxless since 2000 when I took my Aeon Flux DVD to my then-boss's millennium party, and never saw it back. The soundtrack to "Noir". And then there was a small Gucci box under the tree. I can't believe he even though of something for me from there. But in a perfect understanding of what my needs were before I did, in the box was a black leather wallet. "Because your own is falling apart."
-- "Well," I said as I pulled out my current one, "it's not that ba-- never mind." I had worn it to smithereens.
It's sleek. And gorgeous. And not at all blingy, it's not made of a logo fabric, just black leather with a small ribbon on the back with the house colors. It has a coin-purse, which is hard to find in US wallets since the people here seem to prefer having their pockets jingle with every step and spread around coins all over when they lie down or drop their paints on the floor over having to reach for their wallets for some change. It takes all my essential cards, making me edit down a bit further -- I don't really need to carry my vision health plan card everywhere I go. It is so pretty. Everyday chic. I am going to wear the crap out of this one.
fj: (health)
Somehow I remember chocolate as really restricted when we lived in South America. Just not something we had often. When we had it, as opposed to something chocolate-flavored, it would probably be in the Netherlands, and be real chocolate. Verkade. Thick bars of real chocolate. There were of course the chocolate sprinkles for our open-faced sandwiches -- it's a Dutch thing, you wouldn't understand -- but those don't really hit the chocolate jones.

(En mijn moeder was dus het soort moeder die altijd zei van "Ze proven het toch niet", en dus nog goedkoper dan Albert Heijn huismerk kocht. Nog minder cacao. We woondden goddome in Rozendaal maar aten alsof we in Velp Zuid op de flat zaten. En ik hoor haar nog zeggend dat "Ik dat geld liever besteed aan een mooiere vakantie," maar nu denk ik van hoeveel geld hebben we het eigenlijk over? Ik ben dus nu een van die mensen die gruwt van het woord "cacao-fantasie".)

The chocolate sprinkles -- I am now overwhelmed by memories of the packaging of the Albert Heijn brand, the tall boxes in red or blue with those very strange clowns on them. The family we spent a lot of time with when we visited the Netherlands -- the father was an old college buddy of my father's -- bought that brand, the real stuff. I am now walking that trail of memories of being seven or eight and eating them, and feeling so lucky. That galle kitchen, that smell of the carpet, that round wooden table, the steps to the back door. I need to tell the mother this. She'd hear me out, and laugh, but understand about a little ball of place and moment opening now in my mind, flowering briefly.

In both bars and sprinkles, I always preferred milk chocolate: it seemed smoother, softer, friendlier, and thus actually richer. Dark just seemed sharp. When we moved to the Netherlands, I ate candybars mostly. Verkade just seemed so plain. The candybars had the same brand names as in the US, Like Mars and Milky Way and Snickers, but I found out when I moved here that, at the time, the brand names were used differently in Europe than in the US ("Hey, where's the caramel in my Mars?") Around the age of 12,  I used to use my allowance to buy some, a highly forbidden act because it was a) candy, which was bad, and b) a terrible waste of money. Most sweets were frowned on at home, except for the cookie or two with the post-school tea. Needless to say, when I started living alone, I spent the first week exploring having dinner on just ice-cream, or a bag of Snickers minis and tea to dunk them in.

At 35 I have now fully grown out of that, I need real food for dinner, or actually all during the day every 3 hours. Even having cereal for dinner just will not do anymore, not with my physical goals and the demands I put on my body. But I do know where having terrible dinners come from. When I hear those "confessional" Lean Cusisine commercials in which people admit their dinner was a bag of Doritos and some cooking chocolate, my first thought is "Sure. And damn did it feel good."

I have lost much of my appetite for chocolate-flavored things, except really inetnse ones. Mostly when I want chocolate, I want the real thing, a bar. Not even bon bons, much. I want to sink my teeth into a bar and break of a thick full piece, and have it melt in my mouth. I may even take a swig of sweet hot tea to make it melt better and faster. I will chew and I will think of all the good chemicals inside chocolate, and not sweat the sugar and cream since I have made space for them in my regular eating plan. Basically, Friday night, when we have friends over, is the night I have large quantities of dessert. Since this is planned and incorporated in the overall weekly cycle, there is no guilt or sense of transgression, just pure joy in the food I enjoy most, dessert sweets. I still prefer milk chocolate, but if it has been very long since I have had any, I will go for dark chocolate. Recently, when Dean is away and we do not have anime night on Friday I have been having thick real chocolate with toffee centers, and that's been really making me happy. Or a block of Valrhona, from the Whole Foods chocolate counter, where they have broken blocks off the huge industrial bars and wrapped them in plastic wrap. Totally decadent mouthfeel to have one big bite after another, and I chew down on them after dinner, by myself, with utter satisfaction.
fj: (anxious)
And just like when you were alive, I almost forgot your birthday.

And I feel guilty. For forgetting a dead woman's birthday. I can't call you, I can't SMS you, sending a card would have been morbid, and Dad already said years ago he didn't expect to be called on this day anyway. Yet there is that familiar grip on my heart: OMAIGAWDIFORGOTTHEBIRTHDAY and with the time difference I can't call! I only get that for my siblings and your now widowed husband these days -- I trained all my friends that forgetting doesn't mean I hate them -- and I was hoping that guilt would end at some point too. Guess not. Geeez.

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