Friday, July 25, 2008

my morning biertje

Anyone who knows me knows how strange it is that I've taken up blogging. To sit in front of the computer outside of work, as long as I do now, is simply out of character for me. I don't dig on the Internet and technology, in general. In fact, every hard drive of every computer I've ever owned, dating back to the first Macintosh I used in college, has been named, "Technology Sucks."

So I wanted to examine my recent embrace of web-logging and try to understand what about this particular sort of writing has caused me to take this uncharacteristic turn. Obviously there is a direct correlation between my frequent number of blog postings this month and my lack of job (+blog = -job) but I suspect there is more to my interest than simply having nothing else to do. When I eventually rejoin the workforce, I'm betting that I'll still be blogging like I was born to.

I use the word "workforce", remembering hearing it used frequently on a local radio station (WDVE) during its weekday morning commute broadcasts. I don't remember precisely how it was used-- whether WDVE declared itself "workforce radio" or "the choice of Pittsburgh's workforce in the morning"-- I just remember how strangely socialist the term sounded. It used to make my morning commutes more pleasant, though, back when I worked in Pittsburgh for a brief time, feeling this unity with everyone else backed up in rush-hour traffic on I-279. I wouldn't be getting to the office late alone; I would be arriving late, along with all of my other comrades in the workforce.

Some feel this sense of being a part of the workforce; others don't. A while ago, when I visited my friend Jaz in Amsterdam, I got to experience the sense of how an entire city (and, by inference, an entire nation and continent) does not. After having worked in the hyper-kinetic world of advertising in New York City, Jaz found herself shocked by the lack of dedication and drive of her Dutch co-workers in Amsterdam.

There is no office culture that implies you should continue working after official business hours. Unless there is an urgent project or campaign launch requiring the presence of her co-workers, Jaz finds herself alone in a room of empty desks after 6 o'clock most days. They have no qualms about taking vacation time on a whim, even if it inconveniences their co-workers in doing so, and just try to get in touch with them once they've left on holiday. Unlike Americans, the Dutch sever their connection to the office while away, and since they get 5 to 6 weeks paid vacation (compared to our 2 to 3) on average, it could be a month until you hear from them again.

Jaz told me that it's not only the Dutch, but all of Europe that operates this way, and she left me believing that U.S. and Japanese workers make the world turn while the Europeans sit outside their cafes, drinking beer and smoking pot, wondering if they're just buzzed or if that's the world they feel turning beneath them.

In the Dutch spirit, I'm going to walk away from the work I had intended to do in this posting. I'll put it off for another time; instead I'll just post this poem:

Postcard from Amsterdam

Soaking up a chill autumn
sun in the rolling of foreign
tongues outside the café, I sip
from my morning biertje
as bicycles everywhere turn

The gears of this hub city
in simple machine motion
like a timepiece frictionless
as the Amstel flows, I steer

Lazy eyes over oude architecture
traipsing across raised-neck
gables and the sexy hourglass
shadows they stretch
into the straats below

Where the mongers
are willing to haggle while I
take tactile pleasure
in a pocketful of coins

After loosing my mind
in a shop off Leidesplein
like a kanaal boat
free from its mooring, I wobble

Over cobblestones
through the Red Light district
where the women wave
while shaving their legs
in their windows, shameless

Tourists snapping pictures
like the one in this postcard
worth little more than
a hundred, not a thousand
words as the saying goes.

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