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dutch masters, ribs and self-pity


As one of Van Gogh’s neighbors, it would be remiss to visit Amsterdam and not see his museum.  Museumplein, home of the Rijks and Van Gogh Museums,  is a few blocks away, so I slip out before the Kellys are up.

I remember the Van Gogh museum from my last and only visit 20 years ago as the most spectacular museum ever. Max advises me that it sucks compared to the Rijks.   He also corrects my pronunciation of “Van Gogh”  (sounds like “Van go”)  with a harder slightly Germanic, totally Dutch “Van G-ahck,” which sounds like it’s stuck in his throat.   But he’s right.   Van Gogh was Dutch, after all.

I hate to admit that Max’s 8 year old impression of the Van Gogh museum is more sophisticated than my 20 year old memory, but he was sort of right about that too.    I love Van Gogh’s art but the crowd flow is awful. The lighting is dismal. And most unforgivable of all, the Auvers portion is scant.   But the fourth floor makes it all worthwhile.  It’s more personal, with his letters, sketches as well as  Van Gogh’s attempts at copying other artists’ paintings. It’s kind of like watching U2 cover Dylan, the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Cole Porter , and so on. I especially like Van Gogh’s interpretation of Japanese prints.

Van Gogh does Hiroshige


portrait of van gogh by gauguin

There’s also Van Gogh’s art collection, consisting of gifts from other artists as well as trades.    Some wonderful portraits and self portraits of and by various artistic icons.

But here’s the real surprise as far as Amsterdam museums go. I like Rembrandt. A lot. I always thought he was dark and dreary, but he’s pretty awesome. The way he captures light seems almost magical.

When you’re up close and personal every line has power. And his subjects’ faces express more still than most peoples’ faces express in motion. (and I’m not just talking about botox users). I wonder where he died. Maybe I can go live there next. I run a quick check and find he died in Amsterdam. I can deal with that. I’ll become a dead artist groupie. My specialty will be Dutch artists, which will necessitate long stays in Amsterdam.


And speaking of  Dutch masters, who knew their spareribs would be timeless works of art?     Not your basic barbeque sauced to death American ribs. Perfectly seasoned lean but juicy spareribs made in a dark Dutch dive called the Klos, right off the leiderhosensplane. We ate outside, practically on the street where Max could practice his unicycle in between courses. Pretty blissful.

On my final day, Blake, Al and I go to the Oudekerk (old church in Dutch) to see a display of the top world news press photos.

In the 1300’s they started burying people under the church and there are over 10,000 people underfoot.   Some still haven’t been identified.   The inscriptions are all over the smooth stone floors, which are works of art in themselves.   I almost miss the art on the walls completely

Photo taken by Trey Ratcliff fromstuckincustoms.com.   Check out all his pictures of Amsterdam.

Some of the photographs are pretty stirring. Particularly the Iraq war widows and earthquake victims –those poor Afghanis just can’t catch a break. But for some reason, the photos of the evacuation of Gaza stir me up. Look at these religious nutjobs rending their clothes and wailing at God about the inhumanity of it all because they’re being evicted from their illegally obtained homes and getting PAID by the government to leave.

They aren’t fighting for their own survival even, yet they’re acting like they’re the only ones whose suffering should matter.

What about the Iraq war widows who lost their husbands for the wrong cause? What about the people in Darfur who face unspeakable horrors on a daily, no, hourly basis and keep going. How about the Iraqis? Or the Afghanis who have known nothing but war, famine, earthquakes and just about every other curse that can be put on a people, and these stupid settlers are just being relocated and you’d think it’s the holocaust revisited.

What is wrong with those settlers? Isn’t it time they get a grip and realize that they don’t have it so bad?

When we leave the church the sun is shining and I’m feeling lucky to be living in France and visiting friends who are living in Amsterdam.

And just at that moment, a cloud skittles across the sun and I feel a chill of fear.

I vaguely recollect that something’s not right in the world.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot.  I lost my apartment in NYC.   All my stuff is being moved into storage this weekend (a place called ASS storage in New Jersey, which seems very appropriate).   In four months I’ll be homeless.   It’s costing me a fortune in moving and storage costs alone(at least the Gaza settlers got paid to leave).  Mentally, I’m rending my clothes and wailing to the heavens: ‘Why must I bear such a burden? When will it end? Why me?’

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