Sunday, September 30, 2007


"Ah nee he,
niet nu,

"{sigh} No,
not now,

Saturday, September 29, 2007

King Circum

Now I'm the king of the swingers
Oh, the jungle VIP
I've reached the top and had to stop
And that's what botherin' me
I wanna be a man, mancub
And stroll right into town
And be just like the other men
I'm tired of monkeyin' around!

- "King Louis" (junglebook) - Written by: Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman -

Friday, September 28, 2007

Crazy auntie Mien

My grandparents always had an open house. It was not unusual to meet other people there when we went to visit them, also many older people (at least they seemed old to me).

One regular was auntie Mien, who was married to my grandfather’s brother Levie. Levie was cattle dealer, and always walked around with a big pile of cash in his pocket and just like my grandfather always had a big Willem II cigar in his mouth. They had gotten married when their son was already in his thirties, something rather uncommon in those days. We all had our doubts about auntie Mien’s sanity, a feeling only reinforced by the one and a half teeth she had left in her mouth and a whinnying laugh.

I remember one day at a cosy family gathering, Auntie Mien explained that, now she was widow, it was not economical too cook for herself. What she did was to cook a dish and freeze it in little cubes. Then she would take from the freezer what and when she needed it. I remember the laughs we had about the silliness of this when she left.

It was some 20 years later that , in my supermarket freezer section, I found little cubes of spinach.

I bet she is laughing above now.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Secular bar mitsvah

We are preparing our youngest son's bar mitsvah and we expect at least 100 people in the synagogue. With some luck we'll have minyan too.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

My birthday

This must have been the first year that I didn’t dislike the fact that it was my birthday. It always emphasized how little real friends I have. Also the fact to be reminded getting older was also something I didn’t like. I guess I found peace in my situation as a lone wolf.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Singing with grandpa

Grandpa was the tamed wild extrovert rogue while grandma was the silent intellectual. One of opa’s joys was singing with his family and oma would watch us with a smile on her face. “Als in een emmer een gat zit” ("If there's a hole in my bucket") was the name of his favourite song. A song where the family would sing/ask questions and he would sing/answer them:

It went like this:

"If there’s a hole in my bucket dear Dorus, dear Dorus,
If there’s a hole in my bucket?
Dear Dorus, what then?

Then you have to fill it, simple Liese, simple Liese
You have to fill it simple Liese.
Simple Liese, fill it.

With what I’ve to fill it, dear Dorus, dear Dorus.
With what I’ve to fill it?
Dear Dorus, with what?"

The rest of this question and answer song went like this:

Dorus would suggest a cork,
Liese wondered what to do if the cork was too big,
Dorus suggested that she’d cut it,
Liese wondered with what,
Dorus suggested a knife,
Liese wondered what to do if the knife was too blunt,
Dorus suggested to sharpen it,
Liese wondered with what,
Doris suggested a grindstone,
Liese wondered what if the grindstone was too dry,
Dorus suggested to wet it,
Liese wondered with what,
Dorus suggested with water,
Liese wondered how she would get that water,
Dorus suggested a bucket and then Liese would get back to her first question that what to do if there was a hole in the bucket.

And we’d all end this song singing the first part again with a smile.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Do you speak Dutch with your kids at home?

"No, we yell in Dutch at them."

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Belgian breakup?

I don't think it will make a difference to the disposition of the average Flemming if, or when, the country gets divided. They only have to find a new main focus to abreact their envy, inferiority complex, xenophobia and other frustrations. From experience I can tell that Holland is a serious candidate.

Birthday at Yom Kippur

Cheapest party I ever gave.

Friday, September 21, 2007

There's money in textile

My grandparents had a little shop in a working-class area in Amsterdam selling textile by the metre. At the back of their shop they had a little garden and in the summer they would place a zinc tub in it filling it with water so I had a little pool to play in. In the back of the garden was a little barn that was loaded with textile. It was nice to dive into that barn and climb and dig into the pile of textile. When I close my eyes I can still smell the distinctive scent of it.

My grandmother mostly worked in the store while grandpa was at his stall in a nearby market selling the lesser quality. The market was opa’s passion, no matter the weather he would be there, with the inevitable Willem II sigar in his mouth. In his booth he had a special section with little cloths and leftovers that he would sell per piece. Prices he asked for these were something between 25 cents and 5 guilders each depended on who was inquiring.

Even at the age of 7 or such he let me run that section when I was there to visit them. I could even make my own prices. He only forgot to tell me that I wasn’t allowed to sell anything from the other section with better merchandise and one day when I was “helping” him he had to leave for a bit leaving me alone at the booth. A woman came and I sold her a few meters of some textile from the other section at the price I felt I should ask for it. I remember clearly how proud I was to tell it to him when he came back and the dressing down I received.

Another thing I liked being with him at the market was that I could rummage through that pile of little cloths because there was sometimes loose change to be found. Coins of five, ten or even 25 cents that I could keep if I found them. One day I found a note of 1000 guilders, realizing how old I declare myself with this but 1000 guilders was a fortune in those days. I didn’t really see the humor of it (then) when he told me to give it to him laughing with the other market vendors how he fooled me.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Fishing with opa

One day, I must have been 5 or so, I went out fishing with grandpa and I caught a lot of eels. Every time I caught one, opa let it go free and put my line back into the water again. When I wondered how all these eel were almost identical he told me that that was only normal because they all look alike. I found out much later that he had borrowed the eel from the fishmonger’s shop next to his and that I must have "caught" the same eel at least some 10 times.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Stay healthy!

My grandfather was a real patriarch. I remember him standing at the head of the table, a big man, cutting the meat for the family. Eating at my grandparents was a major event in our family.

I still cherish the memories of these occasions, mostly on Sundays, where the whole family gathered. The men smoked big Willem II cigars, filling the room with a visible layer of smoke, the women drank egg-nog with whipped cream and the television was always on the sport channel. No matter if it was a major league game or some obscure clubs playing, when it was soccer it was watched. My cousin and I, somewhere in our early teens, were playing waiter and waitress, taking orders what everybody wanted to drink. The table was stuffed with all sorts of sweets and cakes (the cakes baked by my grandfather).

While the men where in the front room watching television (black and white of course - my grandparents bought their first color television in 1974 - I remember coming special to watch the miracle of colors on tv and at that particular evening in the news there was a story on the musical "Oh Calcutta" where the actors were nude.... and color it was. The wonder machine wasn't working well yet and what I saw was purple naked people dancing on the screen and the news' anchorman's head was orange) anyway... while the men where in the front room watching tv or playing klaverjassen (an old Dutch card game), the women made big salads or as they called it "hors d'oeuvres" and prepared the meal, cooking all dishes except the meat. To prepare the meat was my grandfather's task.

The diner started, and some 16 people enjoyed a copious meal ending it with loads of ice cream. Then my grandfather would say a blessing in a sort of Dutch/Yiddish dialect ... I don't remember exactly anymore what he said or who he addressed it to but it was something like:

"Ich habe gegessen
Ich lüste nicht mehr
Ich danke lieber Herrn am deze keer
alle jiddische kinderen op slobkousen
omein wir omein
blijf gezond"

Which translation is something as:

"I have eaten
I don't want anymore
I thank the dear Lord for this time
all Yiddish kids on gaiters
amen and amen
stay healthy"

Then the table was emptied, a newspaper was spread out in the center and a big pile of peanuts was dumped on it. When the table was emptied for the second time we all would play a card game called "negenmalen". Some simple gambling game and we would play for money... cents of course. The day, no, the week, no even the month was great if I won half a guilder.

Now being parent myself I want to create such atmosphere for my kids too. Our house is an open house, people are always welcome and at least once a year we have a big family gathering in our house in the style of my grandparents with warmth, joy and lots of food of course. And to keep the tradition alive I bless my kids every Friday night, not exact in the same words as opa but still....

What matters is that I wish them to stay healthy.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

My wife has family...

... if you know someone who is dead they know someone who is more dead.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Thursday, September 13, 2007

If I was god, I would say: (01)


(I got real sick of all your moaning, complaining, bootlicking and begging. Especially the glorifying pisses me off as if you see me as a child that needs its self esteem to be lifted up by your compliments.)

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Hasidic rock star Matisyahu refuses multi-million dollar offer to sing on sabbath

(tiny marginal comment: The offer came from the reporter David Letterman and not from Bill Gates the billionaire.)