'Dutch daze'. They were the days that appeared to be constant, especially during the dreamer's first three year period in Amsterdam. Without fully realising it, (naturally) he seemed to be in a permanent daze. This eventually led him to having quite a serious car accident, and no doubt from then on, at least until he left Holland for Paris, reality gradually began to dawn on him.
But maybe there is something about Holland that has a strange, foggy effect on this particular person, even now. He missed his return flight from Rotterdam recently, for example. A first in his lifetime. Dropped off at the airport in good time, he bought a few things, ate a sandwich, and sat near an information panel waiting for the 'boarding' sign to show up. It never did, so he assumed because of the bad weather that the flight was delayed. The next time he Iooked up, 'Departure' was signalled. He rushed to the gate to be then told that he had missed his flight.
At a cost, and even though it was late, he managed to get another flight for the following day, and then pay the extra costs on his arrival for the additional day of the long term parking previously booked.
But this is now, whereas back in the late 60's and early 70's, he was even worse. Up until the road accident, the dreamer seemed to exist in a muffled brouillard.
Previous to this serious accident, (caused by his being lost as per usual, in the lookalike labyrinth of the then modern suburbia of Amsterdam, after a drinking spree, driving slowly late at night in an old Standard 8 he had recently imported from England, and hit very hard by a flying Dutchman who had the legal right to speed across the junction from a smaller lane from the right) the dreamer had a little Fiat 500. Slowly motoring down a long, newly gravelled lane in the country during a rain storm, he made out the vague distant image of a large lorry coming towards him at full speed. The image was vague, not only because of the sheet of torrential rain, but also because of the cloud of gravel the lorry's tires were throwing up all about it and high into the air. Naturally there was no escape, no way of avoiding the inevitable. Even stationary, the cloud of heavy, wet gravel put paid to the windscreen of the poor little wine-red Fiat with a resounding shatter. The Dreamer's memory of the incident is frozen there and then. What happened following this, is no longer memory banked.
It would seem that during those years he wasn't blest with the best of motoring experiences.
In Rembrandtplein, Amsterdam, there used to be an antique market. Perhaps it still exists. The dreamer still has an old sewing machine that he bought there way back then, and it continues to work perfectly. On another occasion he bought a crocodile skin. It was about two metres long and included the head without the top jaw teeth. Almost a complete skin. It couldn't have cost a lot because the dreamer never had much money in those days, or any other days for that matter. For some reason he had this crocodile skin in his car when he was driving to Munich. Perhaps he was going for the beer fest. Whatever, it was for something he was determined not to miss. Unfortunately however, his car broke down in Arnhem. He managed to get it to a garage, but as he didn't have enough money to pay for the reparation as well as get a return train ticket to Munich, he offered the crocodile skin to the mechanic as payment. The mechanic considered it a fair deal, which no doubt it was.
The dreamer had surprising success with women, seemingly without too much effort, probably because he never did any of the initiating.
In the very first room he rented, he had a weird, one off with the owner of the flat whose husband was a tennis instructor. It's probable that she was simply seeking to even the score of her husband's alleged unfaithfulness on the courts. The dreamer was taken aback, so to speak, but at that time he didn't really object to being so used.
He remembers also a pretty Surinamese girl. It lasted for about a week. Maybe she too had planned it all prior to her leaving Holland, so it was brief but great fun whilst it lasted.
The next affair was more serious. She was married but her husband always seemed to be absent. She spoilt her young lover with delicious grilled steaks, and they blissfully listened to classical music. No doubt it was a very pleasant experience. He never stayed the night, but they had plenty of time to get to know each other well enough. She needed this perhaps more than he did. Their relationship came to dramatic end when she was obliged to have, or so she claimed, a 'termination'. Although he was sure that this was inconceivable, he nevertheless pretended to be noble enough by offering to 'do the right thing' but of course this too was impossible. She, an attractive women, was much older than he was. She already had two children of around 13 years old. The dreamer was insensitive and foolish enough to return to her apartment a few days after the alleged intervention to retrieve an ugly denim coat he must have prized. He then had the vivid impression that she was about to try to massacre him.
By that time being tired and wary of the suburbs of Amsterdam, he had the good fortune of finding a boerderijtje (little farm house) which he was able to rent. It was further out in the country, but not too far from his place of work.
As the rent was more than he could comfortably afford, he proposed to share it with a Bavarian girl that he had met where he worked and got on well with. He considered their relationship to be purely platonic. In fact for him she was more like a sister. She was good company, spoke English with an American accent, and she deep-fried battered chicken (southern fried) to perfection.
He was therefore quite unprepared, and as always naive, when one night after a few weeks, and not long before she was due to return to her Bavarian homeland, she slipped into his bed. One thing led to another, and this perhaps in more ways than he would like to imagine.
Next door to his farmhouse lived a skilled mechanic who worked for Fokker Technologies. He was very kind enough to offer to repair the dreamer's Fiat 850 coupé after the crankshaft broke. A friend of this mechanic was very fond of the Bavarian girl. There was a tangible feeling of tense animosity that this friend had for the dreamer, and innocently the latter wondered why this was so.
Years later he accepted an invitation to the 50th birthday celebration of an English artist friend who lived in Munich. At the party there was German artist he also remembered from his early Amsterdam days. The artist was with his wife, and if looks could kill, she would have done away with the dreamer then and there. Again he wondered why. Could there be a reason that he continues to be quite oblivious about?
After being discharged from hospital several weeks after his car accident, another 'friend' and his wife kindly offered to put him up in their apartment where he could convalesce for a while. Although he had been advised by the hospital not to drink any alcohol, they nevertheless drank a few beers one evening. This caused him to have a splitting headache. He was tired and wanted to sleep. During that night however, his friend's wife came to his bedside terribly distressed. She claimed that her husband was sleeping with another girl who was also staying with them at the time. In spite of his splitting headache the dreamer was nobly considerate, or naive enough, to want to console his friend's wife. He had absolutely no intention of helping to even any scores on this occasion. He would have been completely incapable in any case. He was less sure about her intentions, but he just wanted to sleep.
After half an hour or so, suddenly the person whom he thought was a caring friend simply being unfaithful, made a dramatic leap up from under the bed where he had been hiding, no doubt falsely imagining that his wife and the dreamer were in the throes of adulterous acts, and a theatrical scene then took place. It ended with the dreamer getting a black eye and a late night taxi ride home. Needless to add, it wasn't the most appropriate manner to convalesce, but it's another authentic episode of the dreamer's early, fateful history.
The dreamer's hazy period lasted into the first winter months in Paris. He drove his Fiat 850 coupé down from Amsterdam. The drive down was hair-raising enough because there was black ice on the then cobbled roads of Belgium. This caused him to skid hard into a curb, and the shock broke the right front disk brake. It meant that he had to drive the rest of the way, even on the motorway, without being able to use his brakes. The only means of eventually slowing, if not stopping, was the hand brake. Miraculously he arrived safely at his destination, thanks also to the fact that it was very late in the evening.
In Paris at the Alliance Française the dreamer studied French on certain days of the week, whilst he tried to freelance during his remaining time. He had some success. There were kind employers and unkind ones. At that time in Paris one would either be helped or hindered. An example of being hindered would be in trying with one's last, precious 'jeton' to get in touch with a would be employer via a telephonist perhaps more interested in varnishing her nails than doing what she's paid for, and totally unaware of one's desperate situation.
He met a pretty Spanish girl who was also studying at the Alliance. They got on very well. She rented a very small chambre de bonne for the short period she was in Paris.
Unaccountably he contracted a severe throat infection. So severe was it that he was unable to continue his diet of baguette, tomato and sardine sandwiches. Tomatoes and oranges, etc., cause him so much throat pain, that he was barely able to eat.
Eventually he had such a high fever that he needed urgent medical treatment. Somehow, blindly, incredibly, he found a doctor who graciously received him and cured him totally free of charge. It's probable that just the mere glance of the forlorn young figure at his front door was more than enough information for this most considerate French doctor. Yet the dreamer was at that time in no condition to know who the doctor was, or where he was located. And to this day he still hasn't got the foggiest idea.
All this may sound like strange scenarios for a soap drama series, but unrecorded memories that represent a particular period in one's life, especially when it's the life of the dreamer, might otherwise be long forgotten.
Text and image © Mirino. September, 2015