The Rockower Post; National Jewographic;
Reports from the Daily Paulmanac; Foreign Paulicy Review; Tales of a Hunger-Blatherer; The Gastrodiplomacy Chef; Chairman of Paulestinian Authority; the last King of Nepaul
On a grey monday morning, I sat in the awning of the Frisco Inn. The sign for Eggs Florentine had been tempting me for days. The rains started to come down, and I inched closer under the covered awning. A slow steady drip appeared down the corner of the overhang.
The Fiorentino were even better than anticipated. Yellow creamy Hollandaise over cooked green spinach and a poached white egg. The English muffin held just firm enough amid the yolk and Hollandaise drowning to pull through.
I sipped kaffie verkert under The Grasshopper's words Omnibus Idem.
Dear Life Traveler, Take a moment, And allow the sounds of Nature To awaken your inner silence, And take you into your subconsciousness, Where your deepest truths lie. Love your life and its gifts.
Via MK. The words of the prophets are written on rocks.
When all the revelers and whores have gone to bed, an eerie, early calm embraces the city--that is when I love Amsterdam the most.
In the quiet still. as canals create infinite arches with the stone arched bridges, and the only sounds are the bells ringing; birds calling; the street sweepers gently dusting street sleepers.
Filed under: the little things: drinking tap water. Or from the shower. After long periods in Africa, where that is not remotely possible. I love such luxuries.
Amsterdam is Disneyland for big kids.
You'll remember me when the west wind moves across the fields of barley.
Sting, "Fields of Gold"
A la gloria.
Rule your mind, or your mind will rule you.
I love getting to focus on the present. And pay attention to the beautiful contours of a tram as it bends to take a curve.
I love focusing on now.
I had a wonderful moment of blueberry zen in the depths of Frankdaal Park, sitting on a park bench under a beautiful old tree. Its gnarls showed its years. I listed to God moving slowly over the face of the waters by Moby.
I love Amsterdam because I feel the most free here. Holland has drawn a line in the sand of acceptable behavior, and I am on the ride side of that line. It's comforting to know that I have to work hard to do wrong here. If Holland says don't do it, who am I to disagree?
My friend Maddy Clifford, aka MADLines of the NL Team Uganda, works with children incarcerated in the San Francisco Juvenile Justice Center--teaching them poetry, spoken word, MCing and writing. These are their voices; this is her work.
1 euro ($1.09): espresso; 30 minutes internet
1.20e ($1.31): cappuccino; brioche
1.50 euros ($1.64): metro ticket
2 euros ($2.18): cappuccino; scoop of gelato
3 euros ($3.28): pizza fritti at Milano Centrale
4 euros ($4.37): tiramisu at Restaurante Delicado; bottle of cabernet sauvignon at grocery store
4.40e ($4.81): roundtrip train to Milano Expo
6 euros ($6.55) doner kebap, fries and a drink
6.50 e ($7.10): spicy chicken wrap at Chicken Cottage
7 euros ($7.65): plate of Spaghetti al Pomodoro
12 euros ($13.11): fast train from airport to city center
23 euros ($25.13): computer charger
38.25euros ($41.80): 1 night stay at Hotel Del Sud, w/o breakfast
57 euros ($62.28) : 2-day pass to the Milano Expo
Free: 1.5 hour free walking tour; public transit (trams, buses and ferries) on May 31, 2015
60 centimes ($.63): banana at grocery store
85 centimes ($.90): economical Swiss chocolate bar with hazelenuts
1 CH Franc ($1.06): bottle of sparkling water at grocery store
1.80CHf ($1.80): 500ml beer at kiosk
2 CHf ($2.11): mars bar; knoblauch baguette at grocery store
2.25 CHF ($2.38): Frey Swiss dark chocolate bar
2.70 CHf ($2.85): coffee and croissant at McDonalds (don't judge, it was the cheapest coffee I could find AND it came with a croissant)
3 CHF ($3.18): cappuccino at grocery store
4.40 CHF ($4.65): small beer at Tidbits restaurant
4.50 CHF ($4.77): bottle of coke at store that I laughed when I saw
5 CH francs ($5.28): Tip for guide for free walking tour
5.5 CHf ($5.81) glass of house white wine
6.5 CHF ($6.90) cappuccino at Starbucks that I wouldn't dream of buying
6.60 CHF ($6.98): train from airport to city center
8.5 CHF ($8.98): Falafel; large 500ml beer at fondue restaurant
9.5 CHf ($10.04): best Lebanese shwarma ever
9.80 CHF ($10.36): chicken schnitzel in a baguette
12 CHF ($12.68): Kirsch (cherry brandy)
12.5 CHF ($13.26): hamburger at a outdoor cafe that was far too rich for me
15 CHF ($15.85): breakfast at the hotel [no thanks!]
17.5 CHF ($18.56): fajita wrap at cafe that I couldn't afford
18 CHF ($19.06): Swiss Army knife
23.10 CHF ($24.41): normal sized plate of veggie food at Tidbits restaurant
26.50 CHF ($28.01): Fondue at local restaurant
78 CHF ($82.44): room for 1 night at Hotel Krone, shared bathroom and no breakfast
On the beach at night alone, As the old mother sways her to and fro, singing her husky song, As I watch the bright stars shining, I think a thought of the clef of the universes, and of the future. A vast similitude interlocks all, All spheres, grown, ungrown, small, large, suns, moons, planets All distances of place however wide, All distances of time, all inanimate forms, All souls, all living bodies, though they be ever so different, or in different worlds, All gaseous, watery, vegetable, mineral processes, the fishes, the brutes, All nations, colors, barbarisms, civilizations, languages, All identities that have existed, or may exist, on this globe, or any globe, All lives and deaths, all of the past, present, future, This vast similitude spans them, and always has spann’d, And shall forever span them and compactly hold and enclose them.
-Walt Whitman, "On the Beach at Night Alone"
For my last meal on my Zimbabwe-Zanzibar-Zurich adventure, I decided to go out for the Swiss specialty of fondue. I had never tried the melting cheese pot before, and figured this was an opportune time. Besides, there was a place close to my hotel that came recommended by the city walking tour guide as one of the best in Zurich.
I meandered my way over as the sun was beginning to fade on my last day in Switzerland. As I left my hotel, a dark cloud began to pour over the otherwise sunlit city. I threw over my hood and wandered up the cobble stones to the recommended restaurant. There was a table just under the canopy that was waiting for me.
The dark skies passed, and the sun began to shine again on the yellow and blue pastel buildings behind us. As I sipped a mug of light Swiss beer, in the distance a giant arc of a rainbow filled the darkened sky, and I smiled at this fortuitous sign: Aloha Switzerland.
I watched the showers pass the bubbling cauldron of four cheeses mixed with garlic and kirsch came my way. With a long silver fork, I dipped little bread cubes in the bubbling cheese stew and washed it down with a Swiss white.
The skies darkened then lightened again into a vibrant arc of yellow rainbow across the sky.
I finished as much of the bubbling cheese stew as I could, and asked the waiter for a digestif.
Grappa, I requested. But he recommended that I stick with kirsch since there was already cherry brandy in the fondue.
I asked him if he knew of rakija. At first he didn't understand me, then he didn't understand why I knew of rakija.
Duka, was his name. He was Yugoslav of Albanian origin, from Kosovo. He had come to Switzerland after the war.
I mentioned my work in the Balkans, my love of what was Yugoslavia, and the Yugoslav sticker on my laptop.
He gave me the same melancholy sigh I always get.
We had everything. We were rich, but we didn't work so hard. We had the best, and we lost it.
We chatted of favorite rakijas. Viljamovka--pear. Dunja--quince. Of his Serbian neighbor who would slip him slivovic when he was in trouble with his parents or out for a good night.
Giveli--cheers we wished each other in melancholy cheer.
When the bill came, he saw my last name and asked how it was pronounced. Rockower, or rak-over--just passing through. He laughed and replied toda rabah. How he picked that one up, I'll never know but no more random than an American who knows his rakija.
He bade me goodbye and wished me well. Inshallah, I said, we will meet again for rakija. He laughed, and replied Inshallah.
"We are a mixed salad in the Balkans," he laughed as I left. Yes, you were and perhaps still are.
You were once fondue, but that sadly didn't last.
PS: My final thoughts are on the irony that I can't get out of my head is that I write this from Switzerland: a country of three languages (maybe four) and strong, differing faiths (Catholic and Protestant cantons), and somehow they have kept it together against the odds in ways that Yugoslavia could not. Somehow the tragedy of Yugoslavia feels more profound from Switzerland, and so much more sadly avoidable.