Ode to Louise

Day 1 of my (own twist to the) Three Day Lyric Challenge.

A song my father introduced me to is a song by Leo Kottke about a lady called Louise. Small town gossip said that “she’d act the little girl” but that in reality she was “a deceiver” and that we shouldn’t believe her, because “that’s her trade”.

The song describes how Louise received gifts from men, whose “intentions were easily traced”, insinuating that she was either stunningly beautiful and would lead men on with her appearance, or that perhaps she was even a prostitute who inadvertently had some male “fans”.

Halfway through the song Kottke describes how people thought it “kind of sad” when Louise was found dead in her room. The song paints a picture of a lonely and misunderstood woman who ended up taking her own life.

Kottke bids her farewell at the end of the song with the words “the wind is blowing cold tonight. So goodnight, Louise, goodnight”.

Leo Kottke’s guitar intermezzo is mesmerizing on its own, but with the lyrics he really tells a tragic micro-history. I am not sure when I really started to see the whole image but when I did, I really felt for Louise.

A second song has recently entered my life that has a similar effect on me. After having given it some thought I realized that it is actually the same story, but this time from Louise’ point of view.

The first time I heard the song it stopped me dead in my tracks and I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. This had to do with the singers vocal range and the pain he put into the song. It was only later that I learned that it is actually a cover of a Nina Simone song, called “When I was a young girl”.

The song, in the version of Marlon Williams, is over six minutes long and can be summed up by the last 4 lines (which he manages to spread out over two heart-wrenching minutes)

When I was a young girl I used to seek pleasure
When I was a young girl I used to drink ale
Out of the ale house and into the jail house
Right out of the bar room down to my doom

Be sure to listen to Nina Simone’s version too, which is beautiful as well (but less haunting).

Whoever this young girl is, all I can say is: I am sorry the world wasn’t kinder to you. Good night, sweet girl, good night.

 

 

 

 

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The benefits of alcohol

I went to a family (in law) get together last weekend. It was the first time I met many of them and I felt quite welcome.

However, looking back on the evening later, I realized there had been several awkward moments and slightly tense exchanges. Everything was resolved quickly, as the general atmosphere was good and there was genuine love present.

civilized wine drinking
…or not.

I came to the conclusion once again that most of the irritated glances and insensitive remarks had one thing at its core: alcohol.

This morning, as I strolled through my news and blog apps, I stumbled upon several alcohol related stories, finally ending up at this one, describing the health benefits of wine.

And I couldn’t help but cringe… No matter how intellectual people get about what “good wine” is and what foods you can (or can’t) combine it with, the conclusion for me is always the same: it is poison.

Don’t get me wrong, I know there are situations in which alcohol can be used for good; as a disinfectant for example. I also know alcohol acts as an anticoagulant, which I suppose can be positive for some people. I guess snake venom and plant toxins have been used for medicinal purposes since the beginning of time, so why would alcohol be any different?

The thing is that most articles and blogs I read about the benefits of wine (or other alcoholic beverages), to me, are just sorry attempts of drinkers trying to justify a bad habit. I truly believe more bad comes of it than good and hardly any drinker consumes their poison to a degree that is beneficial to their bodies, let alone their spirit (no pun intended).

coca cola harmless

If I ever were to bring this up at a party (risking acute ostricization or eviction to pariaville) I imagine one of the reactions I would get, would be “That Coca-Cola you are drinking isn’t exactly good for you either”, which would absolutely be true.

I was going to say that drinking Coca-Cola may harm my health but at least it doesn’t turn me into a shitty person, but I guess diabetes can make you kind of moody too, so I’ll have to rethink that one…

But you catch my drift. Alcohol is not cool. It’s not good for your body, your self-esteem or the general atmosphere in the room, and I think you know it too.

 

Hutspot, herring and happiness!

It’s the fourth day of Blogtober and I have published a blog only once (but this will be two, as soon as I press the button).

A bad start? Maybe.

Leiden-geuzen

But I have a good excuse. I live in a Dutch town called Leiden, which explodes every year around the 3rd of October, when the siege and relief of the city is commemorated and celebrated. It’s a actually a very interesting history that you can read more about here.

The 3 October festival is something kids and grownups from Leiden and surroundings save up for all year in every sense. People go CRAZY!

There is a huge funfair with rides and attractions throughout the city center. There are several parades, food everywhere and a fireworks show at the end. The traditional dishes, for historical reasons, are herring on white bread and “hutspot”, which is a dish made of mashed potatoes, carrots, onions and a sort of beef stew.

masher.jpg
A masher; kitchen tool to mash potatoes with.

This year we celebrated by eating hutspot in our new neighborhood. About a dozen volunteers had made their take on the meal and a jury of local restaurant chefs decided which version would take home the golden “masher”. The winner ended up being an adventurous neighbor that decided to flavor the hutspot up with some asian spices.  Yummy!

Besides being a super handsome and historically interesting city, Leiden is also has the oldest University of the country, which the city was gifted by Prince William of Orange for the city’s perseverance, suffering and bravery during the Spanish sieges in the 16th century.

For students and outsiders, the 3 October festival is something they love to hate and hate to love. Most straight out hate it and flee the city, as the University closes its doors during these days anyhow.

kermis leiden.jpg

After having learned the hard way that trying to get from A to B was futile during these two days of local insanity, I embraced the celebration and am now a big fan, which is actually surprising considering I am not a drinker and the whole city is completely WASTEDDDDD for two whole days.

So, I am in doubt if I should recommend coming to Leiden during the beginning of October or not… In the end it’s actually about personal preferences. You have to be able to see and hear the beauty of it all, amidst rowdy crowds, flashing lights, annoyingly repetitive funfair music (and all other types of music) and stale beer. I love it!

Read more about the festival here.