A visit to Amsterdam's Oudmanhuispoort (2019)

Gordon Meyer Old Man's House Passage

Oudmanhuispoort (Old Man’s House Passage) was part of an 18th Century senior citizen’s home. We learned about the place during a late-night “ghost tour” and vowed to visit the ancient market when it was open for business. Not too long after, a rainy day provided the perfect excuse.

In the mid 1880s this passageway became a place for vendors to sell music, books, and prints. That’s still going on today, although during our Tuesday morning visit most of the stalls were closed. One booth that was open sold nothing but used dictionaries — of every kind imaginable, such as “Biblical Greek.”

It’s said that Amsterdammer Vincent van Gogh was inspired by the Japanese prints he saw here, forever changing the course of Western art. The print vendor open on the day we visited had many great pieces to choose from, at very reasonable prices. Two (a Pooka, and a Water Fairy) will be making their way back home to Chicago with us, which poses a new challenge for our luggage situation, but we’ll do our best. (Update: We visited again, and while more booths were open that time, it was still fairly sparse. Perhaps September is off-season for the market.)

Gordon Meyer Old Man Prints Purchase

The shop’s owner was a charming lady whose only U.S. visit has been to Los Angelas, so she had a few questions about Chicago, which she said was one of her best-selling old map prints.

Postscript: The passageway and surrounding buildings are now home to the University of Amsterdam’s School of Law, which makes clear their view of interlopers in classic passive voice:

Gordon Meyer Amsterdam Schol of Law

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A true story from Amsterdam (2019)

Gordon Meyer holding a guitar pick

We had a “date” to meet Kay and Flo for drinks the day after our joint nighttime dinner cruise of the Amsterdam canals. Gale and I arrived early and settled in at “Bar Americain” at the American Hotel. (The fact that we were early will surprise few of you.)

The walls of the bar are filled, corner to corner, with framed 8 × 10 photos of celebrities. Gale immediately recognized a few — such as Boy George — and as we waited for the arrival of the server we tentatively identified several more, including Slash.

Our server, Roger, confirmed many of our guesses and explained the photos were all taken in the bar. (I was wrong about Lenny Kravitz, it was a Dutch singer that Roger assured me I’d never heard of.) Gale and I were both surprised at how bad Billy Idol looked and would have never recognized him. And of course there was no mistaking the boys from Texas, ZZ Top.


One of my favorites, which Gale spotted, was a young Dweezil Zappa.


Dweezil Zappa photo

Kay and Flo — who were staying at the hotel — said they heard that it was soon to become a Hard Rock property. Which makes sense, given the rock star appeal. A guest book in the lobby displayed the signatures of UB40, who were playing in town that weekend.

Roger did a good job of keeping us well served and told us, when asked, that he was a true native, having been born just a few blocks away. He also offered Kay and Flo a couple of tips for their next destination, Barcelona.

As we left I gave Roger a Bucktown pin, and he gratefully reciprocated with a Bar Americain guitar pick.

We had a great time visiting with Flo and Kay. We left them well after dark (despite intentions otherwise) and had a long walk back to our canalboat, in a heavy rain. But it was worth the experience and friendship, both new and old. I’m hoping we get back to see Roger again before we leave.


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Time Traveling in København

Our first encounter with the future, on this very strange day, occurred in the Assistens Cemetery (c1760). We were playing the fabulous Shadow's Notebook puzzle walk and it led us to the grave of Andreas Morgenrødt.

Andres Morenrodt Grave

According to local lore Andreas made at least four trips back in time and eventually perished in a forward jump, in 2064, as noted on his tombstone. Or, at least that's what I think the story is, as the scant info findable online is in Danish.

That evening, at Tivoli Gardens, we encountered a tightly packed array of wildly spinning and tumbling time machines. Every one had a bright red LED display that indicated the relative year for each pilot. Above the carriages, a giant mechanical clock ticked backwards at a steady cadence.

Tivoli Gardens Time Machines

Tivoli Gardens (c1843) is said to be the inspiration for Disneyland. That may not be verifiable, but it is easily believable, as the attention to detail and whimsy is apparent at every turn. Also notable is the tenor of the rides — they operate at speeds and heights that no lawyer would ever allow in the US.

Tivoli Gardens Ride

Our third and final time-shift of the day happened in Tivoli’s homage to Danish back alleys. There we ordered two delicious “toasties” for dinner. It wasn't until after finishing our sandwiches that we noticed this, below the cash register:

Sign in Tivoli Gardens

Not entirely sure of its meaning, we took it as a sign to bring our day to a close.

Postscript: After telling the above story to our friend George (Hi George!) he correctly prognosticated that our time travel would continue the next day with a visit to the 1970s at Christiana — the autonomous commune/utopia within Copenhagen. Groovy, man.


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A true story from Shetland's only town

gordon and goat

Standing outside the Lerwick store that specializes in goat’s milk soap, Connor the goat and a ruddy one-toothed man raise money for the regional hospital to buy an MRI machine. Last week, Connor raised nearly £2,000. Connor’s human friend loved the Bucktown pin that we gave him, after dropping some coin in Connor’s collection plate, of course. In retrospect, Gale observed we only assumed that Connor and the man were together. He might have just been standing nearby.

I do not accept advertising, but the Amazon want you to know that some links may contain affiliate codes that dangle the promise of earning me a few pennies towards running this site should you happen to purchase a qualifying product. Humbly, Gordon Meyer

A true story in which I become an object in a scavenger hunt


coffee at Tate Modern

As we were leaving London's Tate Modern, a British woman approached. “Sorry to bother you. We’re on an office scavenger hunt and need a photo with a bearded man.” She added “It’s a competition,” likely as clarification in case “scavenger hunt” was a foreign concept.

(Gale and I exchanged amused glances. Five years ago, in Antwerp, a young woman who was participating in a bridal scavenger hunt sought us out as I was writing in my notebook because she needed to take (and keep) a ballpoint pen from a stranger.)

I told the lady that she was in luck as I happened to fit both her criteria. She snapped a quick selfie with me, then departed with thanks. Behind us, Gale noticed that her colleagues, watching our exchange from a few yards away, were shaking their heads and waving their hands. “You have to shake hands!”

She had left out that requisite characteristic, so she apologetically asked for a mulligan. This time Gale snapped a photo as the two of us posed with clasped hands and big smiles.

I quickly gave her a Bucktown button before she scurried off to join her coworkers for their next discovery.


I do not accept advertising, but the Amazon want you to know that some links may contain affiliate codes that dangle the promise of earning me a few pennies towards running this site should you happen to purchase a qualifying product. Humbly, Gordon Meyer

A true story from Liverpool

“Can I ask you a question?” The ruddy mid-thirties man said eagerly, waving as he approached across the busy Liverpool town square. I don’t know what expression I gave him, but he quickly added “I’m not going to hit you, you’re bigger than I am!” Now within normal speaking voice range he asked Gale and me “Have you got a sense of humour?” “No” and “Yes,” we answered respectively and simultaneously.

Taken back only a moment by Gale’s response, Paul introduced himself and proceeded to tell us about the self-published humour magazine he “and his mates” were selling. He had a lot more to say, but I was lost in his verbal freight train of familiar syllables that only occasionally coalesced into recognizable words. Trance-like, I smiled, nodded, and decided I liked him.

After exchanging a fiver for two issues (one pound in savings!) I presented him with a Bucktown badge. As we parted ways with handshakes all around Paul leaned in and whispered to me “they’re good bathroom reading.”

Gag Mag Covers

A few steps away, we turned back and Paul was approaching another couple, now wearing our pin on his chest. Gale said “Too bad that he lost his job after the brain tumor.”

What? Apparently, I had been smiling and nodding throughout his sad tale.


I do not accept advertising, but the Amazon want you to know that some links may contain affiliate codes that dangle the promise of earning me a few pennies towards running this site should you happen to purchase a qualifying product. Humbly, Gordon Meyer

A true story from Wales

In the ruins of the old Roman fort called Caer Gybi stands the 13th century Saint Cybi’s Church. A sundial on the face of the chapel is inscribed in Latin, “Life though long it stay will end in night and day.” (Thank you, Wikipedia.)

Saint Cybi

As we explore the medieval grounds a middle-aged Welsh couple approaches and the man warmly asks “Are you locals?”

The woman’s name is Ann, we learn. The man’s name will remain a mystery, after two repetitions and my unsuccessful attempts to say it back he kindly lied “Yes, you got it!”

We continued to chat, with a few more linguistic puzzles being brought forth, then Man offered us a religious tract. “We are Christians,” he said, then clarified when asked, that they are not members of the church where our impromptu meeting was occurring.

tract

I immediately remembered the Hare Krishna we met on Portobello Road and offered one of our Bucktown buttons (“badges,” they call them here) in exchange. This time, it was accepted.

Later, in the town of Holyhead, we see Man and Ann across the street. We exchange waved hellos.

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A true story from Dublin

The Temple Bar
(Dublin, August 1, 2019, early afternoon)

A tall slender dark-haired woman with exotic eyes rises from a previously unnoticed floor trap in front of the beer spigots. Her sudden graceful and seemingly unannounced ascent, not unlike Salacia rising from the sea, surprises all the patrons crowded around the bar top. She, as well as her coworkers, are unperturbed as she quietly closes the hole in the floor and begins to draw an ale.

In the corner of the room, a singer plays on.

Dublindiptic

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A true story from Portobello Road, London

The robed Hara Krishna follower approached me with an outstretched hand holding some sort of sticker. “Gift. Gift.” He said, gesturing with whatever it was.

I reached into my right pocket and his eyes crinkled with a smile. I extended my hand, offering him a “Bucktown” neighborhood button that we commissioned for our trip.


Bucktown Button


“No. No.” Shaking his head he thumbed the edge of his robe to indicate he wouldn’t, or couldn’t, pin a button on the saffron garment.

I extended my hand again, asking him to accept it anyway. He turned and briskly walked away saying “No. No. No. No. No.”

(July 2019)

I do not accept advertising, but the Amazon want you to know that some links may contain affiliate codes that dangle the promise of earning me a few pennies towards running this site should you happen to purchase a qualifying product. Humbly, Gordon Meyer