Poetry Tuesday: Great Hymn to the Aten

With my head–and computer–still filled with Egyptology, I figured I might get away with doing the Great Hymn to the Aten. . . only to find it’s way too long. On the other hand, the first part is pretty easy to put in, and if you like it you can read the rest of it here.
A little background (very little): there was this one pharaoh named Akhenaten who when he came to power got rid of all the Egyptian gods and set up what is believed to be history’s first monotheistic religion, the worshiping of the sun. Aten is the word for Sun, and some scholars believe the pharaoh himself wrote this.. {It really is a lot more fun writing about poems that are thousands of years old. . .}

I) THE ATEN AS RE WITH HIS COURSE
Morning beauty
Splendid You rise in the lightland of the sky,
O living Aten, creator of life !
You have dawned in the eastern lightland.
You fill every land with your beauty.

Noon dominion
You are beauteous, mighty & radiant.
Risen high over every land,
your rays embrace the lands,
to the limit of all that You made.
Being Re, You reach their end.
You bend them for your beloved son.
Though You are far, your rays are on Earth.
Though seen by them, your course is unknown.

Night chaos
When You set in the western lightland,
Earth is in darkness, as if death.
The sleepers are in their chambers, heads covered,
no eye seeing the other.
One could steal their goods from under their heads,
they would not notice it.
Every lion comes from its den.
The serpents bite.
Darkness hovers, Earth is silent.
For its creator rests in the lightland.

Dawn rebirth
At dawn You have risen in the lightland.
To shine as the Aten of daytime !
You dispel the dark and cast your rays.
The Two Lands celebrate daily.
Awake they stand on their feet.
You have made them get up.
They wash and dress, their arms raised
in adoration to your appearance.
The entire land sets out to work.
All cattle are satisfied with their fodder.
The trees and the grass become green.
Birds fly from their nests, their wings praising your Ka.
All game animals frisk on their hooves, all that fly and flutter,
live when You dawn for them.
Ships fare downstream and back upstream,
roads lie open when You rise.
The fish in the river dart before You.
Your rays penetrate the Great Green deep.

;o)

Short Reviews: Movies and TV

Four hours of Egyptology talk, then two hours of burlesque, with of course my fire-eating model from previous blogs. How was your Sunday?
On to the second part of me telling you what I think of certain media, like it matters. . .

Cake
I love Heather Graham, and will watch anything she’s in. Unfortunately, most of the movies she’s done, since Boogie nights at least, have sucked so much that I fast forward to just her parts or, more likely, watch without sound. . . and yes, let it be said she’s nude in most of them, or as Benny Hill put it, barefoot all over. Yet even when nude there’s only so much I can take. I did, however, find a delightful exception: Cake. She plays a hippie world traveler who rebels against her rich father, until he has a heart attack and she has to take over one of his magazines. . . a wedding magazine. Hilarity ensues for the vehemently anti-relationship one-night stand girl. . .

Thor
Not sure what I was expecting, but somehow I thought it was better than expected. Before I go any further, I gotta say I’m not a superhero fan; haven’t seen any spidermen, iron men, or any other kind of men in costumes, though I will eventually see the Avengers, and if I like whoever’s chosen as Wonder Woman. . .
Digressing as usual. I’m not much for the action scenes–which is probably why I usually don’t watch these kinds of movies–so my review is mostly about the rest of it, which I found surprisingly funny and at times even poignant. More to the point, I went in knowing there was a beautiful brunette actress I love–Natalie Portman–and a beautiful brunette actress I really like–Kat Dennings–only to find another beautiful brunette actress I’d never heard of, Jaimie Alexander, so it gets 5 stars just for that. {not really–4 stars} They did a good job with the mythology too, though I may have laughed a bit too hard as I watched the credits and saw the name of Stan Lee. . .

Avalon High
Surprisingly good acting by all the teens, even if once in a while an Australian/Kiwi accent turns up, and lovely use of mythology, much like Thor. Molly Quinn should always be braided; think of the lovely red rope-like braid on Fiona from Shrek and you’ll know what I mean. Steve Valentine, one of my fave actors, plays what might be his straightest role ever, which is weird for me because he’s such a comedic genius. Great twist at the end with Arthur being. . . someone not excepted (you thought I was gonna give it away, huh?)

Life Before Her Eyes
What do you–or I–get when there’s a movie with two of my favorite actress, both incredibly beautiful? Well, I was hoping for something a lot better than this. Not even Uma Thurman and Even Rachel Wood couldn’t keep me interested, and the topic–school shooting–didn’t help. It might be the first Uma Thurman movie I couldn’t finish since Even Cowgirls Get the Blues.

Conan the Barbarian
As mentioned earlier, I’m not much for fight scenes, especially when I see them so badly choreographed that I could have killed the opponent in three seconds, usually when he turns his back. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much else here. I expected some light moments with the actor who was one of the best parts of Stargate: Atlantis, but. . . nope. Not even the lovely Rachel Nichols—whom I know is much better than her turn as Profiler Barbie on Criminal Minds–could save this drek that showed exactly why I’d rather watch at home than in the theater: I can stop watching and do something else without feeling ripped off

Craig Ferguson’s comedy specials
For those of you who only know him as a late night host, Craigy was on The Drew Carey Show for a few years, and before that had a guest starring appearance on Red Dwarf. Yeah, the guy is all about comedy, and he really brings it in these two specials. In one of them he only had one joke to tell, but he kept getting sidetracked so often that it filled and entire ninety-minute show. Very self-deprecating, especially when talking about being in a band in his teens, and his Sean Connery accent is the best ever. . .

Dollhouse
Even though it hasn’t been that long since the series was on the air, or off it, I’m finding so much more now that I’m perusing it again. Sometimes seeing a few episodes in a row makes a huge difference over having to wait a week; things are more easily remembered, for one. As an instance, it seemed strange to see the introduction of Mellie in one episode and go right through to her reveal in a few hours’ time. But the real takeaway here is the lovely Eliza Dushku showing off all her different looks, particularly the fetish gear that. . . um, I’ll be in my bunk. . .

One for the Money
In case you haven’t been here before, I LOVE KATHERINE HEIGL. Having said that, some of her recent movies haven’t been very good. The only dreadful one was The Ugly Truth, but even though I liked Killers, for example, I think it could have been better. One for the Money, thankfully, brings her back to excellent movie territory, her first since 27 Dresses. Based on the detective novel of the same name, it shows a very different character than the type she usually plays, and though it takes place in New Jersey, she doesn’t show much of an accent, certainly not like Janet Montgomery did in Made in Jersey. In a way that’s too bad; I still remember her doing a huge Noo Yawkah accent on Roswell. More importantly, the movie is very funny, and while a lot of the jokes are at her expense, the character doesn’t become a butt monkey, instead triumphing over everyone, even the love interest, in the end. This is a movie I’m gonna watch every few months. . .

Archer
Not since the days of Better Off Ted have I run through a whole season of a series, even a comedy half-hour, in one day. Think of a modern-day Get Smart, only much “worse” as far as sexual connotation and adult situations. The man character is as stupid a spy, but in a different way, not so much clueless as can’t get out of the way of his own ego and libido, especially considering his mother is his boss. The fact that it’s animated helps, making the most outlandish situations seem almost mundane, but the best point in its favor is the voice talent, especially H. Jon Benjamin in the lead but particularly the awesome Judy Greer–whom we still remember as the actress who got to “slap” Katherine Heigl–and Aisha Tyler.

Macbeth
Patrick Stewart was a famous Shakespearian actor long before he played Picard, but it’s always worth noting that film can do some things that theater can’t; doesn’t mean it’s better, just more versatile. Case in point: the imaginary dagger Macbeth “sees” isn’t imaginary here.
This version happens in almost-completely contemporary times; call it 1950s or 60s, and in some kind of Eastern European Stalinist/Fascist state. . . or at least it becomes one when Macbeth gets his hands on the realm. Since I suspect most of you know Shakespeare well enough for me not to dwell on it, I will simply comment on some of the modernistic touches that I thought worked well, like having the witches be nun nurses! I love it! Though not later when they were rapping; that’s toil and trouble in itself! And I’m guessing that in order not to scare their patients they were not costumed as black and midnight hags. . .
But to me the most important part was what is usually referred to as the “assassins’ scene” {Act III, scene 1}. This is where Macbeth is telling the boys to kill Banquo and his son. . . and Macbeth is making a sandwich! WTF? But after the movie there’s an interview with Patrick Stewart, where he says he told the director, “I wish I had an action” during this long, exposition-filled scene. And the director–who’s married to Lady Macbeth, it turns out–told him, “Why not make a sandwich?” And in fact Macbeth makes sandwiches for the assassins as well, gives them a hug while they’re munching. Stewart talks about how making it something so commonplace only makes it more horrible, and boy is he right; this scene is just chilling, and to me the most memorable.
And I always have to include some of my favorite quotes; it’s a rule.
My hands are of your color, but I shame to wear a heart so white
Full of scorpions is my mind, dear wife.
Where silent sorrow seems a modern ecstasy
Let’s make us medicines of our great revenge, to cure this deadly grief.

Coming Up:
Rewatchings of Sherlock Season 2, along with all 3 seasons of Veronica Mars, now that the Kickstarter campaign reached epic proportions. . .

;o)

Short Reviews: Books

Can’t believe how much I’ve read since getting the Kindle. . .

Wasteland–Keith Crews

It’s the story of a mafia hitman caught in some kind of wild west purgatory, forced to relive certain defining moments of his life, making him think he can change them. I’m actually feeling a little sorry for Angelo Marchetti, though not too much; he’s a killer, pure and simple. If anything, I feel sorry for Bianca. Even if it took out all those gangsters–and missed the big target–she deserved better. The important takeaway from here is, while I hate gangster movies and books, I did enjoy this long enough to finish it, and will read the sequel. . . someday.

Dead Barchetta–Kathryn Lively

The Rush references were the fun part; otherwise it’s an okay mystery with a sometimes smart and sometimes really dumb protagonist; a couple of his choices put me off. Rock Till You Drop is the sequel, and both were what I call pleasant diversions, but nothing more. Some day I’ll read them again. . .

Babylon Confidential–Claudia Christian

I’m not good at reading painful stuff. Couldn’t get past 20 pages of David Morrell’s “Fireflies,” the only such journal I’ve been able to finish is Neil Peart’s “Ghost Rider.” More than anything, though, I couldn’t RELATE to the things Claudia puts herself through, especially the alcoholism. Some of her other choices in life were baffling too; I can cut her some slack for being too young to know any better the first few times, but after a while it seemed she just couldn’t learn from her mistakes. It’s sad because she’s always been one of my favorite actresses, even though I never watched Babylon Five.

Solo: A Memoir of Hope–Hope Solo

I found this intriguing because I know quite a few of the characters. I sat next to Hope’s mom and grandma at a few games, and there was no indication of her mom being an alcoholic or her grandma so religious; they were just nice people. Regardless of their skill at soccer, Kristine Lilly and Abby Wambauch were always among my least favorite players, and for me it’s kinda funny to see someone else agree, though apparently Abby has changed. I spent many a game behind the opposing team’s net, taking photos, so a lot of stuff going on here was hilarious to me.

Codename: Aphrodite–Charles Faddis

This is a spy thriller that takes place in Greece, with a protagonist whose wife was killed in a terrorist attack some years ago. Now he’s got a chance to catch the terrorists and get his revenge, but I found myself not liking the guy. His informant in the terrorist gang when he was hunting them in the past is Aphrodite, who is a much more interesting character, though I don’t think much of her being in love with the main guy. As usual, the funny helper ends up getting killed. . .

Aleph–Paolo Coelho

I don’t know if I was disappointed in this in general or because I’m used to Coelho’s high standards; this is nowhere near The Alchemist or my fave Witch of Portobello. It’s basically a semi-autographical travelogue, an author on a book tour going through Russia with a waif he picked up, while also occasionally traveling through the Aleph, which I’ll let you discover for yourself.

Master of Disguise–Tony Mendez

I’ve read all of his previous books, especially enjoying Spy Dust, so it was fun to delve into another part of the CIA’s Tech Squad. Includes a chapter on Operation Argo, the true story of the rescue in Iran that became the movie. Fascinating to those who like this kind of stuff, possibly not as much if you don’t.

Solar Island–Rick Chesler

The third entry in the Tara Shores series, following Wired Kingdom and KiDNApped. Tara is a taciturn FBI agent, first in El Lay and then Hawaii, who finds herself involved in strange crimes, or more like strange circumstances. In the first a murder takes place on a whale’s webcam–yep, it’s as awesome as it sounds–and the second deals with a secret code hidden in DNA, though it’s basically a typical murder/kidnapping mystery. In this third story she has to infiltrate a floating solar-power-gathering island that claims to be its own country, to get evidence on the megalomaniac owner. Could have been much better with a few diagrams of the place; the descriptions were too hard to follow. On the other hand, Tara is getting more likeable with each book.

 Frozen Heat–“Richard Castle”

The fourth installment from Castle is pretty much standard with the first three; as always, it’s most fun when something from the TV show pops up. Just like Beckett on the show, Nikki’s mother’s murder is a main point, though the book had a far different take on it. {And, having now seen the epi where we meet Castle’s father. . . perhaps it was the same writer. . .}

Eurostorm–Payne Harrison

I’m a huge Payne Harrison fan. . . having said that, this book is nothing like his previous tomes. After tackling a space shuttle hijacking, a war in Antarctica, a plot to take over the British government–his best book, the awesome Black Cipher–and a strange airplane crash in Colorado, he now writes about the Chunnel Eurotrain being taken over by terrorists, a fairly straightforward thriller; the reason he wrote it, which is pretty obvious, is for all the cool gadgets he came up with for the troops to retake the train, or conversely keep the terrorists from losing.

The Witling & Tatja Grimm’s World–Vernor Vinge

Been hearing the name Vernor Vinge for so many hears, possibly decades, but never made the effort to get his stuff. Through a freak accident I ended up with two of his books, in perfect condition for being over 20 years old. The first takes place in a world where humans have developed a form of teleportation; the weird ones in this society are the ones who can’t do it. The prince in line for the throne is one of the exceptions, and when other humans land on this planet for the first time–without the power, of course–he joins them on a quest to get back to their wrecked ship, to wait for a rescue. But as usual royal politics get in the way. The other tome takes place in a water world where the people love to read, enough so that publishers inhabit giant barges that sail all over to bring literature to the masses. Into this world comes a strange young girl who is obviously light-years ahead of the normal humans. In a series of short stories where she grows increasingly Machiavellian, ultimately leading to civil war, she rules the world and brings its inhabitants kicking and screaming into the modern age. . .

Corpse in the Kitchen–Sarah J. Mason

In the mode of Agatha Christie, though better, it’s a very proper murder with some strange suspects, including one that has. . . an inflatable sheep! You may not be able to sleep tonight; at the very least you’ll have to count something else. . .

Tracker–James Rollins

This isn’t a novel, rather a short story, but because it sets up a big book and I really liked it a lot, I’m including it here. James Rollins has a string of bestsellers to his credit, notable the Sigma series, and with this story he introduces some new characters, most importantly a war dog and its handler. The dog’s point of view is quite amazing, and leads right into the novel Bloodline, which is also highly recommended, though it might be a bit hard to understand if you’re not familiar with the previous books in the series.

The Third Man–Graham Greene

I have this giant book of Graham Greene and I’m just now realizing I’ve never read one of my fave movies. At least I didn’t have to listen to the zither as I read. Oddly enough, I liked the movie better than the book.

Semper Mars–Ian Douglas

I was expecting some stuff on fighting on Mars, but there was so much more: archaeology, international politics, evolution. . . and a seemingly encyclopedic knowledge of Japanese customs and language. And beer cans as explosives!

The Man Who Knew Too Much–G.K. Chesterton

Another classic I hadn’t read yet, this one more in the Sherlock Holmes arena. Like Tatja, it’s a series of short stories featuring one character who always seems to be around when someone is killed, and figures out whodunit much like Sherlock; he even has an older brother who works for the government. For him, though, his crime-solving abilities are a burden. . .

50 Ways to Hex Your Lover–Linda Wisdom

Part mystery, small part thriller, part romance, and most importantly funny as hell. Like a lot of my favorite protagonists in the El Lay mystery genre, we have a female redhead, this time a 700-year-old witch, who drives scumbags and gets rid of curses for a living. Back into her life comes her old lover, a vampire, to renew their love/hate relationship while they search for an evil actor who actually found a way to kill vampires and get their power.

;o)

Travel Theme: Light

So this is what it’s like to relax on a weekend. . . oops, spoke too soon! Volleyball tomorrow, Egyptology conference and a burlesque show on Sunday. . . don’t worry, I’ll just be taking photos, not performing.

So back to the Ailsa’s Travel Blogging Network; this week she’s a little lightfooted with the theme. Too bad I already used my “floating” stuff in “UP,” so I have to go with regular ol’ lights. . . or not so regular. . .

Something to gawk at while you wait for the opera to begin. . .

Something to gawk at while you wait for the opera to begin. . .

Or the train. . .

Or the train. . .

Or another train. . .

Or another train. . .

Or if you're in the right place at the right time in Australia. . .

Or if you’re in the right place at the right time in Australia. . .

;o)

Travel Thursday: First Time in Amsterdam

I get asked this question so much I’m getting a psychological complex about it. . .

“Have you ever been with a prostitute?”
You tell me. . .

I got off the night train from Copenhagen without having slept much, which was the usual when traveling overnight in a train. I don’t know how I got to the hotel, because I musta sleepwalked the whole way. I don’t remember anything else until I woke up in the hotel bed at around four in the afternoon.
I didn’t realize it until later, that I should have been starving, but I wasn’t. Perhaps it had to do with finally being in a city I’d heard so much about. I’d had a Dutch friend in high school who always scoffed at the reputation Amsterdam had, that its most famous landmark was the red light district. She would lecture everyone about the canals and the great art museum and so on. Most didn’t listen.
I suddenly smiled. I didn’t want to do much on my first day, there being so little left of it anyway, so I figured that, even though I wasn’t going to actually GET a prostitute, I would never forgive myself if I didn’t at least go SEE the red light district, see if it was everything it was made out to be. Some said it was dangerous, with the drugs and the free–in one sense of the word–sex and all, but I didn’t buy it, because the city obviously generated a lot of money from tourists and the locals wouldn’t let the moneybags come to harm. Like I said, no prostitute for me, but I had heard there were live sex shows, and again, I figured I had to at least check it out, or I might regret it later, in my old age.
“The red light district will either repulse you or fulfill your every loathsome desire,” I’d been told. I didn’t repulse easily, and as for the rest, I figured I’d take it one loathsome desire at a time.
Okay, that idea was set. From the hotel balcony I could easily make out the area, delineated by such landmarks as the university and the big church with the no-longer fourteenth-century-vintage clock at the top. I would later find out you could go up to the tower and take in the sights, which might include glimpses of the prostitutes leading the johns into their lair. Anyway, my point was, I could see where the red light district was and I’d already decided to go check it out, just to say I had.
As I walked in that direction, I found myself wavering. I’d never been a sex maniac, never been in such a frenzy that I HAD to have it. Sure, I love sex, and there had been times I’ve been horny, but I found out quickly that, if I DIDN’T get it, I wouldn’t spontaneously combust or wake up dead the next morning. Therefore, as I walked through the streets and over the canals, I told myself that no matter what might rise, I wouldn’t particularly do anything about it. On the other hand, I was notoriously weak when it came to redheads, and if I saw a huge-busted Barbie blonde that no man could say no to. . . well, I just had to leave the door open, if only a crack.
Um, wrong word.
Red neon marked houses of legal, if ill, repute, but what if they weren’t on in the daytime? Still, they did give a new meaning to the term “window-shopping.” What was strange was all the women walking around. Obviously some were tourists, there for the same reason I was, but you would have thought the workers were all behind the windows. Not so, as I got propositioned more than once. If you’re ever here, ladies, you should walk quickly and avoid contact with sleazy characters. . . unless you’re a sleazy character yourself, in which case you should duck the competition and ply your trade elsewhere.
So now I’d hyped myself up for it. . . so of course what I saw was a huge disappointment. There were no big blondes, not even a single redhead. All I saw were fat African girls right off the boat and old Asians. What was going on here?
Hmm. It was still afternoon; perhaps the varsity didn’t come out until they knew there would be more customers, especially regulars. So that meant I’d probably come back later. Definitely for the live sex show. I could hardly wait. . .
Okay, now a hunger of a different kind manifested itself, the one I hadn’t had earlier. Just a block outside the district I found a little Italian restaurant; ever since I got to Northern Europe, I’ve wanted spaghetti, don’t know why.
The place was small and filled up, and I couldn’t see a single table empty. Luckily, though, I saw someone waving at me at the far end of the room. I couldn’t see them very well because the light from the window was darkening the features, but as I moved forward, I could see it was a young woman, maybe in her mid twenties, who was smiling at me and motioning to the empty seat across the table from her. I was hungry enough to take a seat from anyone, but this certainly helped. I couldn’t tell how tall she was–I like tall girls–but what I could see looked good. She had short light brown hair, usually not a style I liked, but it obviously worked for her. She had what used to be called a cameo face, and green eyes that twinkled almost too much; a guy couldn’t think of anything else while looking at them.
The first thing she said was, “You look like an American, and I always want to practice my English.”
“Why?” I grinned at her as I picked up the menu. “It sounds perfect.”
She smiled again, something I would realize she did a lot. . . later. Amazingly, when I look back, she’d actually smiled LESS during that dinner than she usually did. That would have seemed silly, considering I really couldn’t remember a time she WASN’T smiling during that first meeting.
It didn’t take long for me to order the spaghetti–extra butter, please–and then we got down to the getting-to-know-you stuff. It wasn’t a typical pick-up kinda talk, but more like a lot of travelers do, where you talk about so many things for hours before realizing you don’t even know the other person’s name. If you’ve ever see the movie Before Sunrise, you’ll know what I mean.
I noticed she kept glancing at the door. It didn’t take me long to ask, even though I probably shouldn’t have. Still, I wanted to be prepared in case an angry boyfriend showed up. I didn’t want the spaghetti dumped on my head, even if I had ordered it without sauce.
She sighed, and then I knew I shouldn’t have asked. Too late now. “My boyfriend was supposed to meet me after work,” she replied matter-of-factly. “We were supposed to have dinner and then go to the opera. I know he hates opera, and that he just goes because I ask him to, but he knows he can say no. Once he says yes, I expect him to be here.”
Visions of spaghetti dancing on my head danced in my head.
“He’s two hours late,” she muttered, looking out the window. “He’s done this before, so I probably won’t see him for about a week. But this time it might be the last straw. . .”
Damn! Things were starting to sound better, but that was going too far! She musta seen something in my face, for she laughed and told me not to worry. “He’s a jerk, but I always thought I could change him. Guess I was fooling myself You can’t change men. . . you can’t change people,” she corrected, not wanting to sound like a man-hater. She suddenly smiled again–big surprise. “You wouldn’t want me to try to change you, would you?”
I smiled back, figuring it couldn’t hurt to joke around. “I don’t need any changing.”
She laughed, so I knew it hadn’t done any damage, and then she glanced at her watch again. I glanced out the window and saw that it was now dark. Wow! Tempus fugit, sure as hell did, when you were having fun.
I almost knew her next question before she asked it. “So, do you like opera?”
“Some operas,” I replied, which was true. “My favorite is the Flying Dutchman.”
Her eyes went wide. “That’s what’s on tonight!”
I later found out that posters for the event were plastered all over town, but she’d never suspected that I had just said that in order to go with her that night. Luckily she wasn’t the suspicious sort.
She called the waiter over, told her to put my meal on her tab, and then we left, just like that. Nice to see things done so efficiently, especially in a place not known for it.
I finally got to see her standing. She wasn’t particularly tall, but not short either. She was wearing a tight black dress that was certainly passable for the opera, but was not likely what she usually wore. It was certainly tight enough for me to see she had medium-sized, though pert, breasts and flaring hips that gave just a touch of voluptuousness to her otherwise slim frame. As I followed her toward the door, I noticed her ass was bubbly, which did her absolutely no harm. She had a body built for bed, though I had to admit sex was so much on my mind in the past few hours that I was far from being choosy at the moment. I certainly enjoyed looking over her body as we walked to the opera house, and if she noticed she didn’t seem to mind. I didn’t chance putting my arm around her shoulders, though.
Dutch being a lot like German, there was no need for a translation screen during the musical spectacle. I didn’t know German, but I knew the work, so I didn’t miss much. A few times Jessica–I finally found out her name!–leaned over and whispered a translation, but pretty soon she saw that it really wasn’t necessary. The next time she leaned over was so I could see she was giggling when I started humming along. One time she even kissed me on the cheek, which pretty much made me forget all about the second act.
We didn’t leave our seats during the intermission, just stayed and talked. When I told her I was from El Ay, she wanted to hear all about Hollywood, and was disappointed when I told her I hardly ever went there, that it was a small and not-all-that-great piece of the huge city. I countered by remarking that she wouldn’t like it if people thought of Amsterdam as nothing but a huge red light district, and she gave a slight smile and a nod to show she understood the analogy.
Sometime in the fourth act her hand snaked across the seat divider and held mine. I struggled not to make too much of it, just gave it a playful squeeze and kept watching the ship as the captain steered it toward the one woman who might be in love with him. She seemed content by that–she being Jessica, not the captain’s babe–although there was a feeling in the air that there was more to come later.
After the opera we had a late dinner, then we started arguing about where to go next. Since she knew the way, she figured she’d walk me to my hotel and then head home; she argued that if I were to take her home, I’d be wandering all night trying to find my way back to my hotel, and there were no taxis in the area. I countered with the argument that I was a great navigator and never got lost, which was true, but more importantly, I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if something happened to her on her way home alone.. Before long I hit on the perfect solution. We would walk to my hotel, so I would know the route back, then walk her home. She seemed perfectly satisfied with the idea, and even mentioned that she would have liked to see my hotel room if the desk clerk didn’t take her for a prostitute. I told her she could come over to the hotel in the morning to wake me up and tell me what to see in the city. She said maybe. . .
It was a quiet walk to her place, though we were holding hands. When I wasn’t thinking about how beautiful the canals looked, I wondered if she was just a tease, because this was cruelty to animals if nothing else was going to happen.
She hardly said a word as she led me into the apartment and then into the bedroom. I doubt I could describe what happened next; I doubt I have the words to do it justice. And it wasn’t just sex, because we spent the entire night talking in between the times we were gasping and moaning. Of course it wasn’t always easy to believe a woman’s words and noises during sex, but she definitely sounded sincere.
Anyway, the next morning I woke up much earlier than I usually did, because she was moving around the place at high speed, muttering like that rabbit in Alice in Wonderland about being late. When she saw I’d awakened, she came over to kiss me quickly and tell me she had to get going or she’d be late for class. She also said that she’d have to go to work after class, but that she would get tickets for the symphony tonight and meet me for dinner at six that night. She also gave me a list of things to see in town that I might not have thought of, and that she wanted to hear all about it that night. Another kiss and she was out the door.
I wasn’t sure how I felt about practically being ordered around, but it was her town and her life, and I didn’t want to feel like an intrusion into it. It also crossed my mind that she had told me to meet her for dinner, just like her supposed boyfriend was supposed to. I guess it was a sorta complement, although it did make me wonder if she was expecting me to stay, or worse, take her with me back to El Ay.
Then I realized to what extent she trusted me. Here I was in her apartment, alone, and she didn’t think I’d steal anything! That made me smile, and I told myself I would return the favor by being at least half an hour early for dinner.
As I got dressed, I could smell bacon–I’m incredibly sensitive to bacon–and made my way to the kitchen, where breakfast was waiting. That was probably why she was late, I thought with a small sense of guilt. Still, I didn’t ask her to do it, so I didn’t feel that bad. And no doubt she enjoyed doing it, so I would simply thank her for it and not tell her that famous inanity of “You shouldn’t have!” Hopefully it would make her feel good, or at least appreciated. Besides, where else was I going to find a restaurant that served such good bacon?
I made my way to the hotel, wondering if the desk clerk knew I hadn’t been in all night. By now I wasn’t interested in going back to sleep. Despite any physical exhaustion, I was too hyped from my night with what was turning out to be an amazing woman. Unless I got murdered, my trip to Amsterdam was already as worthwhile as it was going to get.
At least I forgot all about prostitutes or live sex shows. . .
What was the first thing to do? Pretty obvious. Canal tour!
I don’t remember much about the tour, other than the photos I took. I remember things like the houseboats, wondering if people made waves while having sex. I remember the guide talking about the only place in Amsterdam where there were seven bridges in a row, and I got a good shot of that, even though you could only see four. I remember passing by a building that said “RøD HOED,” which I took to mean redhead, which of course peaked my interest. I remember a big old ship in the harbor, and finding out that the three Xs on the city shield meant flood, fire, and the plague. I even remember passing by a floating flea market, and figuring to come back. . . okay, maybe I did remember quite a bit of it after all. Then I got off the tour at the Rijksmuseum, one of the most famous art museums in the world. . .
Too bad. Not only were my eyes not into it, but I was basically museum’ed out; I’d been to so many on this trip. The most famous painting, Rembrant’s Nightwatch, did absolutely nothing for me. I didn’t perk up until I got to the basement and saw the erotic Indian sculptures–Indians from Bombay, not Native Americans; you never know who might read this. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised, after the incredible night I’d experienced, that I would still be thinking about such things as I gazed at the remodeled bronze in front of me.
That reminded me there was a sex museum in town. Why not? I thought. I would never be in more of a mood to enjoy it, without worrying about getting excited. Nothing I saw there was likely to compete with Jess.
Whoa! Easy, boy. This was not–not likely–the woman I was going to spend the rest of my life with, so don’t get carried away. As good as last night was, as happy I would be if that was it, I wanted to be with her again that night, but still, don’t overdo it.
The Sex museum was a major disappointment, especially compared to the one in Munich, although that one was called an “Erotic Arts” Museum. Wow, a seven-foot penis! I managed to somehow fight off offers to have my photo taken next to it. The best thing I could say about the experience was that there was a McDonald’s nearby. I still had plenty of time before meeting Jessica for dinner, and I guess I was feeling a little homesick anyway.
That reminded me of something that had happened last night, when Jess was asking me about El Lay. I guess she thought I was homesick, so she had gone to her CD collection and put on a song called “I Miss Home,” by Grover Washington Jr. It sounded great, so I let the sax music flow over me. I looked at some of her other CDs and saw a song by another sax man named Kirk Whalem called “LC’s Back.” My alter ego’s initials, I told Jessica. It must mean you’ll come back, she replied with that smile I’d quickly become used to, but wanted to see over and over again.
Anyway, I didn’t know what to do for the rest of the time until dinner, so I just wandered around. I wanted to see the Anne Frank museum, but I instinctively knew this was not the time. I didn’t want anything to break the mood I was in, and that would definitely be a mood breaker. I later realized how simple I had made that thought sound; of course nothing I was doing could compare with what that girl had been forced to go through, but it was a lot harder to think of such things when it wasn’t abstract, when it was YOU who was involved.
As promised, I ended up at the restaurant early. Luckily the waiter remembered me with a smirk and led me to the same table, which appeared to be Jessica’s private domain. For a second I wondered if her boyfriend would show up, but I didn’t let it bother me. I was still in a good mood and intended to stay there. When Jessica arrived she smiled–of course–and pulled the waiter aside. I was pretty sure I knew what she was asking him, and she quickly confirmed it when she kissed me, sat down, folded her jacket and said, “You’ve actually been here since 5:30?”
I simply nodded. There didn’t seem to be anything I could say that would improve on that, and I didn’t want to take a chance on screwing up what was now her good mood too. Apparently I was too groggy to notice what she’d been dressed in that morning, but now I made up for it by checking out how she looked in her jeans and tiny vest over a very blue blouse. When I mentioned how different she looked, she made a small grimace and called it her “secretary” outfit. I told her she looked even better this way. I wasn’t sure if she believed me, but she didn’t complain when I took her photo, just like I had when she was wearing the dress. I’m sure I ended up taking more shots of her than of any other sight in Amsterdam.
We went to the symphony. Don’t ask me what piece of music it was, because it really didn’t matter. I liked it well enough, and I always enjoyed watching the violinists. Jessica spent the entire time with her head on my shoulder, occasionally sighing. I tried to neither laugh nor feel disturbed by it. I just wish she would let me know once and for all that there was no doubt in her mind that I would be gone in two days and that would be it. Well, I certainly planned to write, maybe visit in some years, or she would visit El Ay, but the point being that this wasn’t going to be a lifelong thing.
We went to dinner, then back to her place, and, if anything, this night was better than the first. As good as it is to discover someone new, there was also something to be said about knowing what your partner liked and doing it without being asked. I thought her sounds were even more. . . emotional now. And she seemed to have a special gift for making a man feel like there was no one else in the universe, like she’d never felt remotely as good ever before in her life. At the end of one coupling she screamed “Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!” in harsh whispers, inflating my already elephantine ego to bursting proportions.
(Sorry. I thought I wasn’t going to talk about that. Silly me.)
The next morning was a carbon copy of the first, with a much more domestic feeling to it, since I now knew my lines. Even the breakfast tasted better. To break the chain, or the time loop, I went to different touristy places. This time I did go to the Anne Frank museum, because now I was sure I could do the matter justice while not falling into a deep despair.
I actually don’t remember much about that day. I remember I went to the diamond district, took a tour of a diamond cutter’s operation. Luckily I had no thoughts about getting one for Jessica. It would have been really easy to fall in love with her, real easy to do and say things that would have been incredibly stupid, considering I was leaving the next day and likely never going to see her again.
Near the diamond district was a large area of secondhand book stores, where I happily wasted a few hours. There was an antique map that I desperately wanted; I realized that if I hadn’t spent the money on a hotel room I would end up not using at all. . .
That night after dinner we went to a play performed in English, and to this day I can’t remember a thing about it. I remember more what we did afterward. She would not have argued if I’d suggested we go back to her place, but she seemed pleased when I suggested we walk around for a while. I’d seen plenty of the city, but nothing with her. I wanted to see what she liked about her city. Luckily we were close to the Jordaan, which was her favorite place to spend a relaxing evening. Not that it was a particularly beautiful place. There were a lot of cities in Europe that had places like this, with cafes and such. The difference was, there were no tourists; no wonder it felt so quiet and peaceful. And it helped that it was a cool night, so we could snuggle as we walked and want hot chocolate.
Eventually we went back to her place, slowly, in absolutely no rush even though we knew it would be our last night together. For some reason this night seemed to go on longer than any other. What amazed me was that I was never tired, neither physically nor sexually. Oh, I might think I was done, but then she would stand in a particular pose, or move that magical tongue in a special way, and I was ready for another round. Even though the two previous nights I had caught a few hours of sleep, this night held none. I was aware of every minute until she told me she had to get dressed. She did say, however, that she had changed shifts at work so that she could be with me after her morning class and see me off at the train station. I let her know I was happy to hear that, but she shoved me back onto the bed, told me even Superman had to rest, and that we would meet for lunch and then maybe come back here to properly say goodbye. With a yawn, I figured I’d get going too, but not before we actually shared breakfast, which made a mundane routine into something amazingly romantic. I couldn’t help it when I dipped a strawberry in cream and then fed it to her. . . while making sure I got some cream on her nose and then licking it off “Kinky,” she commented with that twinkle in her eye. “That gives me some ideas for. . . your going-away party.” Then she looked down and gave me a slap, luckily landing on the thigh. “You make me think everything I had learned about American men was wrong,” she giggled. With a last kiss she was out the door.
I slogged out the door, finally feeling weary. Things to do: Check out of the hotel–which I never used, though in the end I didn’t mind–and take my stuff to the train station, so I wouldn’t have to carry it there at the last moment. That was common in Europe, the baggage check, even though they had to check the stuff now because of all the terrorism. It took a load off the mind as well as off the back and shoulders, though, so it was worth it. I also checked “The Meeting Place.” I hadn’t noticed when I arrived, but in the lobby right off the entrance to the train station was a huge panel of fluorescent lights depicting two hands shaking. I didn’t feel I had to look around anywhere else for the spot she meant.
Now what? There was approximately six hours before my train left, four hours before I was to meet Jess. I suddenly realized that, except for the sex museum and the McDonald’s, I hadn’t seen anything of the main tourist drag. Since it was just across the bridge from the train station, I started that way. That’s when I noticed the poster. In Europe, instead of tacking up posters on walls like in America, there were a lot of thick round poles for people to put stuff on. Unfortunately, because it had been covered by other stuff all I could make out was the word EGYPTE at the top and part of some kind of mask. So I went down the street searching for another poster, and found it on the next block. This time it was in a square pole, behind glass. Now I could see the bottom, which read ALLARD PIERSON MUSEUM AMSTERDAM. Below that was the address. Crossing back across to the bridge to the side where the train station was, I went to the tourism office. Great location for it, huh? They gave me a simple, touristy map which had just enough detail to show me where the museum was; the map made me think about the one I couldn’t afford, but I quickly got that out of my mind when I saw it wasn’t far. In fact, it was at the university! What could be better than that? I could spend hours at the place and be right there to meet Jess.
The museum was great. Right at the front was a computer that would print out your name in Egyptian hieroglyphs. Great for the kids, but I got one too, and even got one for Jessica, even though it suddenly came to me that I didn’t know her last name. Apparently I didn’t need to, as far as she was concerned, but it would make it hard to write to her without it. Oh well. . .
My camera was smokin’ throughout. I saw things I’d seen in archaeology books all my life, and things I’d never seen before, or even imagined. There were swans and laughing donkeys and even a replica of the Rosetta Stone. This was the most fun I had in all of Europe. . . out of bed, of course. Well, out of the bedroom, cuz it wasn’t just the bed. No, actually we did it in the living room and the shower too, and if things this morning were any indication, we were going to have our farewell in the kitchen.
Hmmm. If she was into archeology as well, she just might be the perfect woman. . .
Wouldn’t you know, just as I was coming out of the museum, I ran into Jessica! For some reason she seemed nervous to meet me, even though I waited until the friends she’d been walking with had gone off in another direction before I greeted her. For a fleeting moment I thought she was going to ask me if I’d been following her, but I brushed off the feeling and waited for her to bug me, in case she didn’t want anyone to see her.
After getting over her surprise, she greeted me the way I’d like to be greeted for the rest of my life. Apparently something had gotten her going even more today, for she called for a taxi, not wanting to waste any of the few minutes we had left. She even wondered if it would be worth it to stop at the market for some whipped cream. I told myself to make sure to knock off a few minutes early, for I would need quite a shower by the time she was through with me. . .
Somehow, before I knew it, I was at the train station, waiting with Jessica on my assigned seat for the conductor to tell all non-travelers to skedaddle, if that is indeed a word. After putting my bags away, everything was ready, and all that was left was the goodbye. This was going to be harder than I thought, I realized. She made it easy. . . from one point of view. She sighed, kissed me deeply with her arms around my neck, then held my hand and looked into my eyes.
“I never told you where I went in the afternoon, after school,” she said softly, fighting to hold her eyes on mine, though she kept forgetting and had to come back every few seconds. “I pay my way through college by being a prostitute. Every afternoon and sometimes in the evenings, men do anything they want with my body, as long as they pay me enough. I don’t know what you’re going to think of me now, Americans being so unpredictable, but I didn’t want to spoil the time we had together. I suppose I didn’t have to tell you about it now, but you seemed like such an honest guy that it didn’t seem right to keep it from you. Whatever you think, I hope you won’t hate me.”
Hmmm. She was looking even deeper into my eyes now, tears in them, and if it wasn’t for the fact my mind was blank, I’d be asking myself, What exactly does she expect me to say? As it was, I couldn’t say anything; I was too stunned. She saw this, obviously took it the wrong way, nodded sadly, squeezed my hand, kissed my cheek, and turned to walk away. She made her way to the end of the car, dropped off, and walked back so that she could see me through the window of the train. We stared at each other, she looking sad and me looking like an idiot, which I’m told I’m really good at.
I have no idea how long we stood in that position. I didn’t notice the people going around me and grumbling about it, didn’t notice when they saw Jessica out there and grinned as if they’d figured out some deep dark secret. I don’t remember another thing until the train gave its first jerk. That’s when, without any thought whatsoever, my hand went to my mouth and then threw a kiss out of her, followed by a wave. Later I would wonder if I did that in the wrong order. It almost made me cringe to see her react to that; she smiled and laughed, but also started crying. For all I knew she was bawling for the whole station to hear, the way her body shook. I had a thought that some guy might come by and see her like that, look daggers at me–though the train was out of range now–and then try to pick her up. That made me angry; weird as it was, it was still a tender moment. Immediately I told myself that, after getting home and giving it a few days, I would write to her and tell her that I hadn’t meant anything by not answering; I was just too stunned to let her know how I felt. No, that wasn’t right. I was too stunned to REALIZE how I felt, let alone be able to formulate it in my head.
The train was going to take me to what they called the Hook of Holland, where I and all the other passengers, as well as other trains, would board the ferry for the coast of England. Tomorrow morning we would get on another train and head into London, where I would spend a few days before flying back home to El Ay. Luckily, it wasn’t my first time in London. In fact, I knew the city well enough that I wouldn’t feel like I wasted my time in not playing the tourist, what with all the heavy thinking I was doing. Another good thing about it was I had friends in town who would take my mind off things, what with all the introspection that would be going on every second I was alone.
It took me a while, but I finally realized that her being with me all night after being with so many men all day was something of a compliment, especially since there was no charge; she genuinely wanted to be with me. That kinda thing could go to a guy’s head. . .
But that still leaves the big question unanswered, doesn’t it? Have I been with a prostitute? Yes–Jessica was definitely that. No–I’ve never been with a woman who charged me for sex. So just how the hell do I answer it?
You tell me. . .

;o)

Poetry Tuesday: Deception

There is not one part of my body that doesn’t ache after another brutal Long Beach Grand Prix weekend. I feel like I was the one who crashed inside of a car going 150. . .

Anyhuey, here’s a poem that’s more than a little bit bitter, but for some reason makes me laugh. From early 1800s Korea, by Kim Sujang:

Look at that girl in blouse and patterned skirt
her face prettily powdered, her hair as yet unpinned.
Yesterday she deceived me,
And now she’s off to deceive another.
Fresh cut flowers held firmly in her hand.
Her hips swinging lightly as the sun goes down.

;o)