Greetings from Ho-Land, Part One

(Everybody’s favorite Culturebot contributor Rachel Shukert is spending the next 2-3 months in Amsterdam. This is the first of a series of reports from Old Europe)

Well, it’s been a week and I’m starting to feel pretty much at home again in my erratically adopted city of AmsterDAMN, city of canals, albino children and lactose, of hookers, bike thieves, and casual racism, of singing old men on rusty bicycles and naked young men on the Gays in Space float. And here I am, encased in a canopy of mosquito bedding in my charming antique bed in my charming antique flat in the Jordaan, a neighborhood previously home to the sequestered Frank family of diary fame, writing to all of you in Olde New York. Or, as its really called, New Amsterdam, which the Dutchies never tire of reminding me.

Ostensibly, this sort of column-type thing is supposed to be a weekly account of the rich cultural exchange of artistic ideas between America and the Netherlands, and a play-by-play of what it’s like to work in the utopian Land of Experimental Theater that Pays You With Colorful Papers Known As Money called “Europe.” But since my first week has passed, and I have attended just one rehearsal so far, the actual artistic relevance of this week’s installment will be slight. My apologies. I can say this; I always thought that rehearsals in Europe, with their lavish funding and ample rehearsal time would be obscenely decadent—the director snorting coke behind his clipboard and getting blow jobs from the muscular stagehands, the actors all fucking each other in dressing rooms, passing out drunk before performances and going on to play brilliantly, the tech crew performing pagan animal sacrifices in the scene shop, and best of all, everybody smoking cigarettes whenever and wherever they fucking feel like it. I’ve worked here before, but only with other Americans, and I assumed (correctly) that the run crew and all the Europeans snuck out without us to have the real fun. I figured things would be a little more rock and roll, or at least a little more like a John Barrymore biography. (Or a Drew Barrymore biography, for that matter.) Imagine my surprise when it turned out that the European rehearsal process is…so far…almost exactly like ours!!!! We read the play through several times, at the table, in chairs, moving in the space, standing; we looked at the plans for the set—something I have always found incomprehensible, so I tend to tune out and hope I don’t hurt myself too badly when the set finally arrives, did the usual self-congratulatory conversation before, during, and after rehearsal, then went home. It was all very comfortable. I’m excited about the play, a multi-media extravaganza involving film, raw acting in an unashamedly melodramatic style, and best of all, a sunken pool that I get to submerge myself in post-coitally. (In the scene! In the scene!) I’ve wanted to get in a bath on stage since I saw Elizabeth Marvel do it in “A Streetcar Named Desire” at NYTW so many years ago, back when I first moved to New York, an untried lass. That director was Dutch, too. Perhaps it makes sense. They are, despite their predilections for grinning dildoes and teeny tiny man panties, an extraordinarily hygienic people.
Speaking of cleanliness, I am keeping my beautiful apartment, paid for by the company…ahem…ahem…Europe is AWESOME…SPOTLESSLY clean. The Dutch gezelligheid (or ‘coziness’ which basically translates into being compulsively neat and obsessed with your curtains) seems to have rubbed off on me. I, of all people, am growing lavender in my window garden, which I then dry and sew into dear little sachets to sweeten my linen closet and underwear drawer. Yes, I have a drawer specifically for underwear. I’m moving up in the world.
Perhaps an alien life form has invaded my body. There are, after all, mutant fish lurking in the canals, or so they say, a hellish underworld of marine life filled with organisms so terrifying, so hideous that nobody will actually tell me what’s wrong with them. Suffice it to say, that every couple of years, some stoned American tourist falls in a canal and resurfaces a few weeks later, their bones picked clean.
It isn’t all lace curtains and flower arranging though. Last night I spent a full forty-five minutes before I went to bed obsessing over whether it was safe to leave my window open. I live on the third floor, pretty high from the ground, but some behaviors are so ingrained that I could live in solitary confinement in Antarctica and still horrify myself with scenarios of possible rape and murder. I think I’ll record an album, a take-off on Madonna’s “Erotica” only called “Neurotica” and instead of being photographed in dark lipstick and bondage gear, I’ll be on the cover in my giant bathrobe, looking chubby and insecure. I think it’ll be a big seller. The tracks will just be my inner monologues on all the things that worry me from day to day—airplanes, sexually transmitted diseases, my credit card bill, my mother (the latter two are directly correlated.) Maybe it won’t be such a big seller. Maybe if we put a dance beat behind it, or get DJ Spooky to collaborate. DJ Spooky, if you’re reading this—consider it an offer. Just in case the being famous/Lincoln Center thing doesn’t work out.
And there you have it; an idea inspired by the rich artistic cultural exchange between American and the Netherlands. Mission accomplished. Talk to you next week!

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