Giovanni & Pisbee

When I was about two or three I had an imaginary friend, or actually there were two of them: Giovanni and Pisbee.

People weren’t allowed to sit on the chairs where Giovanni and Pisbee were sitting and my parents would have to hold the door open for them after I had already entered. At dinnertime Giovanni and Pisbee needed to be fed, just like I did and of course they were bathed and tucked in with me at night.

I can retrace Giovanni’s origins, as that is the name of the juggler from one of my favorite childhood books: The clown of God. Pisbee however I can not account for. I can not explain to you the etymology  of his name nor would I be able to give you any description of what he may have looked like, which makes me sad in a way. He was a friend to me and I wasn’t able to hold on to any part of him in my mind’s eye…

illustration by Alex Maw
illustration by Alex Maw

If I look the name up on Google, the only significant result comes from some sort of satirical play referencing Pyramus and Thisbe by naming the main characters Thyramus and Pisbee. So was Pisbee my childhood forbidden love? Did he die tragically due to a tragic misunderstanding, like in the above named saga? Was Pisbee even male?

I do imagine him as a male figure and for some reason I see him as foreign, slightly exotic looking. Some sort of gipsy, maybe? A protector, like Giovanni was too. Did he know any circus-worthy tricks, like my juggling buddy? Were they a travelling duo, like Don Quijote and Pancho Villa? In a way that does sort of fit, as most people only know Don Quijote by name and always forget about his loyal (and more sane) sidekick.

Why did my two buddies stop being a part of my life, turning invisible even to their creator? How did I lose the ability to see them? Did I lose interest? Or were they no longer necessary? Did the world of five senses finally convince me it was odd, inadvertently convincing me to let them go? Did I lose them during our move abroad, which happened around that time as well? Or did I start to bore them and did they just move on to another kid? That would actually make me feel much better…

I can daydream about these types of things for hours! Maybe tonight, when I go to sleep, my two old friends will return to me. All I have to do is remember!

Let me be your Teddybear

“Stones or Beatles?”

I imagine this was a very relevant question back in the days when my parents were in their prime. My dad was most definitely a Stones kind of guy and I think until this day it is the music that excites him the most. So when I read yesterday’s daily prompt I new immediately what to write.

I remember discovering new music myself and wanting to share it with my parents, after which they put on a song of their own to show me. We would then go back and forth like this for a while, until my dad would get too rowdy and my mom would get annoyed by the fact he wasn’t putting everything back in alphabetical order.

All though I could name several songs that are intertwined with my childhood memories, there are two songs in particular that I associate with my father.

The first one is inevitably by the Rolling Stones. I never fully appreciated these guys and I’m sure some of this has to do with these memories. It is the music he would play the loudest, despite the LPs being slightly scratched. It is also the music that was guaranteed to put a frown on my mother’s face within seconds and lead to a riot in the house if it lasted too long. I gave my dad Rolling Stones CDs to replace his old records but he always went back to the (to my ears) horrible monophonic sounds from his LP records (and he still does).

Aside from Satisfaction the song he loves the most is most definitely Wild Horses. It is one of the songs I appreciate up to a certain degree as well, all though I must admit I often prefer to listen to a cover by someone else than the original. It’s also at the top of the list to be played at his funeral some day. Can you imagine that?

The second song is quite different. Sung by the king of rock n roll, albeit a lesser known song by him: Teddybear.

It’s quite an endearing song, isn’t it?

The combination of these two songs pretty much sums my father’s personality. He is as much the passionate trouble maker who will not let himself be dragged away even by the wildest horses, as he is the teddybear that wants to be loved unconditionally.

Doubters alert

The Daily Post suggested an interesting topic to write about last week, titled: “Doubters Alert.”

It took me a couple of days, but I have decided to turn it into a list (again).

All though the items are numbered, the order is actually completely arbitrary. The numbering only helped me keep track of how far along I was and I guess I just like how it makes it look more listy. So, I hereby present you with my top ten denials of common accepted truths.

1. Men and women are equal
They’re not. Do I believe men and women should be given equal chances? Hell yes! I also agree that this isn’t always the case and I’m sure there are women with big ambitions who are held back because of their gender. The fact that more women choose a career as nurses and more men become firefighters however, is not because the opposite sex is being discriminated against. These career choices make biological sense. Don’t make me explain, I know you get it.

2. Disciplining your child is wrong
You’re right, I don’t have kids of my own but I don’t think it makes me any less credible. Even more, my observations are less likely to be tainted by emotions, instinctual protection hormones and unconditional love. I actually see that your kid is sneaky and that you are being played like a fool. I also see that not all kids are like that and that your parenting is to blame.
Loving your child and setting boundaries are not contradictory actions. I believe kids need to be shown right from wrong. I also believe they can cope with hard truths of life at quite an early age and that consequences of bad behavior must be in place. These consequences need to be clear, fair and unnegotiable. They also need to be unpleasant in order to be taken serious by the grown-up-in-training.

3. Praying helps
prayer-purposeI do not believe in prayer, unless it’s just to meditate and self reflect. If there is such a thing as a god I can’t imagine he (let’s just refer to this god-figure as a he from here on , for practicality, but you can read it as she if you prefer) needs people telling him how almighty he is. I also simply can not accept the idea that he would be such a fool that he would grant some ass wipe who prays daily access to his super cool heaven club and deny it to someone who is clearly an awesome person, but doesn’t mumble some words several times a day.

4. Self prescribed diets
I believe in moderation. Too much of anything can become a bad thing and it may differ from person what “too much” is. I’m going to sound like an old sock now, but in this day and age I think a lot of people are blaming nutrition for physical complaints that are actually caused by stress. I believe some types of foods are easier to digest than others but I don’t believe this means we are not supposed to eat the stuff that makes our intestines work hard. I believe it keeps them vital and yes, this means that sometimes you will fart more and the color and smell of your poo may vary.

If you’re on a diet on doctor’s orders: different story all together, obviously…

5. Giving money to the homeless is a bad idea
homeless handThere are many reasons why a person could end up living on the streets, all though mental illness and drug dependency will often play a roll. I know there is a big chance the money I put in the hand of that smelly figure in rags will go into sustaining a drug habit. Call me an enabler. I don’t believe that denying that person the couple of coins I have in my pocket will encourage them to get clean. You have to be truly desperate to walk over to a complete stranger and ask them for money, knowing what they must think of you.

My policy is as follows:

  • Never ignore someone who asks you something in the streets. Even if my answer is no, they deserve to be acknowledged at the least. This also applies to people trying to sell you something.
  • Be genuine in your response. I once said I didn’t have change on me, even though I did, and I felt crappy straight away. There is nothing wrong with saying: “Sorry, not today” or “I’m tight for cash myself at the moment”, rather than lying about it.
  • If I have an unopened bottle of soda or water on me, I will give them this rather than money.
  • If I have some spare change on me I hand it to them
  • In a rare case I could walk over to a nearby shop and buy them something.
  • When I do grocery shopping I sometimes buy something extra like a sandwich or a bottle of juice, with the homeless person I just saw in the back of my mind.
  • Wish them good luck.
  • Don’t let others change my mind about this.

6. Taking selfies is normal and OK

Again, old sock talking here, but this self absorbed modern day habit is so incredibly stupid, I don’t even know where to start. The eternal posing, the duckface, the angelic girlie look, the nonchalant glance out of the window, the looking up into the camera so they can look down into your cleavage, the confused frown, pointing at food, pointing at a friend, posing with a celebrity in the background trying to mind his own business, sticking out tongue, the peace sign… It all just makes me want to roll my eyes.

7. Plastic surgery is a healthy way to deal with low self esteem (and then lying about it)
My nose is crooked and relatively large, I have the typically protruding chin that runs through my family and have been mocked for my pointy knees. Sure, I have my insecurities. The fact that we can fix some (all?) of these features is admirable. I’m sure there are situations in which a visit to a plastic surgeon can be a great idea and improve lives in a major way. I also understand the growing old isn’t fun. I do. I don’t blame you for trying to fight it, but what’s up with all the denial?? And why take it to such an extreme that you stop looking like a human being all together ?

8. “The one”
love isForget the Matrix, there is no such thing as the One. The idea of there being one single person on the planet that matches with you for the full 100% is bull crap. First of all, everybody has their flaws and  in every relationship there are bound to be struggles. Besides charming your prince in shining armor will also have some ugly traits, as do you. This doesn’t mean you’re not good for each other. And if your individual traits clash more often than anticipated, there’s nothing wrong with calling it quits. Don’t worry, it’s not a sin or whatever you want to call it. There are billions of us on the planet. There are people in all shapes and sizes. There are bound to be several that fit your mold and chances are the person you end up loving the most, ticks none of the boxes you once fantasized your soulmate would have.

BTW, Tim Minchin wrote quite a cute song about this.

9. It is normal for love to fade
Despite the fact that I do not believe in “the one”, I do believe in true love. That this true love can be felt for different people throughout your life is beside the point here. What I want to debunk is the idea that it is OK to settle for a mediocre relationship and justify this to yourself by saying that every relationship loses its spark after a while. I disagree! Love changes, I’ll give you that. The passion might not be there with the same physical intensity it started out with, but it must still be in there somewhere. Staying with someone out of habit or pity or fear of change is a waste of your time. If you are not happy with the relationship you’re in, time to get up and leave!

no mediocre love 2

10. If you don’t have anything nice to say, better to say nothing at all.
Speaking your mind is never a bad idea!

Museum to make the world awesomer

Today was the official opening of the Engelandvaarders museum in an old bunker, once part of the Nazi’s Atlantic wall.  Our jolly king did not let the weather bring his spirits down and had no trouble putting himself second to give the amazing volunteers and veterans that made this museum possible a moment to shine.

Eng vaarders museum Willem opening

All though I might need some more time to come up with a decent blog on this topic, I did want to post this today, also in response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Generation XYZ.”

You see, this new museum in Noordwijk is both a tribute to those who gathered up all their courage and decided to risk their lives to make freedom possible for themselves and the rest of their countrymen and -women during WWII as it is a reminder to younger generations that every single person can play a role, take a stand and make a change!

As German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer said:

Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.

And as far as I’m concerned it’s not any deity that you are accuontable to, it’s all of us. It’s society. The world. Mankind. Give it whatever name you want. Show you know right from wrong, by speaking up against injustice or malice. You’ll see you’re not alone. Be inspired and inspire others. We can do better than this.

Quoting Kid President: What will you create that will make the world awesome?

Bathing in the purple rain

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Your Number One.”

What was the #1 song when you were born? Write about how the song relates (or not!) to your personality.

On the day I was born, Prince was leading the charts here in Holland with his heart wrenching song: Purple Rain.

I am not completely certain what this song is about and as far as I can tell, neither is the internet.

Purple rain, whatever it is, is supposedly a good thing. He sings about wanting to laugh, bathe and be in this blue-red precipitation. If purple rain is happiness, I think it must be the kind of happiness a manic person must feel during their peeks. Glee with a touch of insanity.

I think this song always makes me feel a bit uneasy. But it’s the kind of uneasiness you sometimes feel like feeling, you know what I mean? That edgy, dark feeling that may seem somber to some, but isn’t really.

So, do I relate to this song? I really don’t know… I do have the following image as my desktop image, and I do identify with the crazy kid soaking up the rain there, laughing at the grumpy man pass by. Coincidence?

enjoying the rain

For the rest, this song plays no particular role in my life, even though I appreciate it in my own way. My parents do have a soft spot for good ol’ Prince, but not like they do for say, Bob Dylan.

If there is any parallel between this song and me then it may be the crazy romance between my parents. They have the type of relationship that only they can understand. They make each other miserable like you wouldn’t believe, but have a passion for life and each other that some might envy (not me though 😉 ).

It’s definitely never boring…

Heal the world

Imagine walking through the desert. It’s hot. You’re thirsty. You see something glistening in the sand… Is it water? A mirror? Is it your imagination playing tricks on you? No, it is actually your lucky day and you’ve just stumbled upon of those super rare genie bearing lamps! What were you doing out here in the desert anyhow and why are these things always found in the middle of nowhere? Nevermind… Quick quick, rub it and see how many wishes you’ve been granted….

POOF! A genie! But not just any genie… This one went to University! That’s Dr. Genie for you! And you get ONE wish. A very specific one too, it’s all in the small lettering at the bottom of the page, I assure you… The bill will be sent to you in a couple of weeks. Now please sign here…

The instructions: You may name any disease or ailment, physical or psychological and the world will be rid of it.

Such a precious wish. But it’s just the one, so you must choose wisely!

There are so many diseases cutting valuable lives short. So many wonderful people being taken from their loved ones. Sure, some of them are probably ass holes but they still didn’t deserve to die like that, right? According to this list the top ten deadliest diseases are:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Still, I would not name any of these diseases to be annihilated because I am one of those horrible beings that believes people need to die at some point. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t enjoy losing people, I cry at funerals and hope those I love live as long and prosperly as possible. My dad has (had) at least three of the ailments from that top ten list and I’m glad they didn’t kill him (yet).

Making these diseases disappear will decrease mortality rates and only increase the world’s population. Sure, It will prevent some individual’s personal losses and hypothetical traumas. They will not thank me though. They will not value the no-longer-dying person more, nor will they make the most of the time they have just won. They probably never even knew their time was running short. And even if they did, you don’t know what you’ve got ’till it’s gone anyway. They might never value life like they would have if they’d had lost their mother, brother, father or child to that mortal disease.

Now that all of you think I am a horrible person I could go on and say that I wish to rid the world of hatred, or I could go full blown hypocrite and say that I will eradicate cynicism but I’m not here to troll.

The ailment that I wish to wipe out is depression. I’m sure some will say this doesn’t qualify as a disease, but I disagree. Seeing people I love suffer from depression is the worst thing. I have never been depressed myself and am quite certain I never will be touched by this dark demon but I do see its shadows in my environment every now and then. It’s horrible horrible horrible.

It’s a disease that doesn’t kill you, but makes being alive feel pointless. All the beauty of the world is lost to those suffering from it. No “I love you” ever enters their heart, no matter how often you say it. They still feel worthless and alone, no matter how tight you hug them. I hate that bloody disease and would ask the genie if I could give that wretched black mut of a dog one last kick in the balls before he blasts it off the planet.

Doing nothing

This blog is a response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Nothin’ But A Good Time.”, which read:

Imagine that tomorrow, all of your duties and obligations evaporate for the day. You get the day all to yourself, to do anything you please. What types of fun activities would make your day?

This should be easy, but for some reason it’s really hard! Why is that?

  • It’s just one day and many things that I really really want to do require more time than that. Even if the activity itself doesn’t take up so much time, I’d rather do it if I have a day or two extra to recover / prepare.
  • I have many things on my to do list I would like to tick, but they could be considered to be duties and obligations and aren’t particularly “fun”, so they don’t count in this hypothetical situation.
  • There is so much to choose from that I’d almost rather not choose at all.

What I would probably end up doing is nothing, firstly because it is something I actually love doing and secondly because I am actually very good at it. Lastly I think I would do absolutely nothing because I suck at making decisions and I sometimes just freeze up in the face of too many options and end up not choosing at all, which results in well… me doing nothing.

A storm is brewing

buienradarIt’s been a pretty warm day, for Dutch standards. I’d say it was somewhere around 30 degrees celsius.

The image you see on the left here is of an impressive weatherfront, holding some intense rain and thunder heading slowly up north. I’m in the midwestern part of the country now and expect it to break loose any minute now.

Excited as I am about the flashing and rumbling, it does mean I won’t be able to see the Perseids meteor shower, which is really a pity… But oh how I love a good summer thunderstorm!

Bedtime stories and the mind of a child

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Bedtime Stories.”

Bedtime stories were a serious matter in our household, as I remember it. My parents are both lovers of books and good stories and hardly a birthday or Christmas went by without me getting a book. They were also very picky about the illustrations. I remember spending hours (or perhaps it only felt like hours) in bookstores with my mother and she was def having a lot more fun than I was.

It became a running gag, that whenever I received a present I would study the package and look at them mysteriously and say: “let me guess……. is it a book?” And we went on saying this even when the gift was oddly shaped and very obviously NOT a book.

When it comes to bedtime stories though, my memory is blurry. I didn’t even realize this until some years ago when I was telling friends how my father would always tell me stories before I went to sleep, to which my mother responded (with quite some disappointment in her voice): “That’s not true! I read to you every single night! Your dad was often not even home yet when I put you to bed. I think I can count the amount of times he read you stories on two hands!”

Now of course, that last part was obviously an exaggeration (I think), but her point was that she was the one putting me to bed and reading me stories every night and all I remembered was my dad’s stories. I guess the reason those times stuck with me is precisely because it happened only occasionally. The fact that they broke the daily pattern made them special events, in comparison to my mom’s stories, that were just part of the normal routine. (Sorry mom, I’m sure your stories were awesome too….)

I remember there being a couple of books that I enjoyed the most.

It’s actually interesting that the first two are christianity based readings, as I was not raised to be a Christian. I did have a fascination for these things though. Another thing that I find remarkable is that they were actually quite dramatic stories, not necessarily with a happy ending. What I remember of the children’s bible is that I enjoyed the first part, but not so much the second part, being the story of Jesus. No clue why, especially since a lot of the characters in the first part ended up dying or killing each other as well…

clown van godThe Clown of God is a story about a juggling clown named Giovanni, who used to be legendary for his skills. He would travel from village to village and juggle his colored balls to the amazement of the crowds. And the finale of his act involved adding the golden ball, which sent Ooh’s and Aah’s through the crowd. They would applaud him and pay him generously and some would even invite him to dinner. He was very much loved and lived a simple but happy life, until he grew older and people grew bored of him. He became clumsy and started dropping his balls and people drove him away from their homes….

And then one day he arrived in a village with a beautiful church. On a rainy evening, Giovanni entered the church to seek cover and was captivated by the statue of the virgin Mary holding baby Jesus. It struck him that the baby’s face looked so sad. So Giovanni painted his face, took out his colored balls and started to juggle… and he felt his old strength come back to him and he did his act so marvelously, like back in the days….

The next day when the villagers entered the church they found the clown on the floor… dead…. And when they looked at the baby in Mary’s arms they were astonished to see that he was smiling! And in his hands, he held the golden ball……

Isn’t that dramatically beautiful? I still have the book and never saw it anywhere else. This story made such an impact on me as a child that I actually had an imaginary friend called Giovanni. I guess he made me smile too!