2013 was the year I got serious about weightlifting, shot a gun for the first time, took my first private writing retreat, visited Poland, Greece, Spain and Denmark for the first time, saw Einstein on the Beach live, cried in a movie theatre not because of the movie, forgave myself, forgave others, made some new friends, reconnected with some old friends, started smoking again, switched to e-cigarettes, quit Facebook for good, started buying better wine, went to the Venice Biennale, tried to learn Dutch, went to Paris and didn’t go to a single art museum, tried to figure out what love is, ate many beautiful meals in many different cities, hosted a Canadian Thanksgiving dinner at my home, decided not to employ unpaid interns on my curating website anymore, took the very early morning train back home after a late night in Rotterdam a few times, started shooting real film again, started (sporadically) meditating, felt physical and emotional pain, felt joy, worked hard, and decided to make art again.
The tumbleweeds that blow through this blog… Shocking, innit?
Well instead of belaboring this point or dragging out the I’m-so-busy excuse, I will simply point out that it’s been about a year and a half that I have been settled here in the Netherlands. I love it. I delight in all the cultural discovery that there is for me here. I have fixated in particular on a child star, Danny de Munk, as one of my Dutch cultural investigations.
Danny de Munk was a child star in the 80s. He seems to have floated along, with one failed album in English, but otherwise reigning as the highest-paid Dutch singing star.
One tune from his youth, Mijn Stad (My City), stands out for me. The lyrics for this song are astounding. Here is just a small sample:
Hier heb je alles wat je hartje bekoort,
wat ruzie en inbraak, en soms ook een moord!
Je krijgt op je kanis, je fiets wordt gejat,
maar wat moest je doen, als je Mokum niet had
Want Amsterdam, is poep op de stoep,
en haat in de straat, je bent op je hoede,
vooral ‘s avonds laat,
en Dansen bij Jansen,
kapsones in zuid,
een steen door de ruit!
Which translates roughly as:
Here you have everything your heart desires,
Fights, break-ins, sometimes even murder!
Your bike is stolen, but what would you do, if you didn’t have Mokum.
Amsterdam is poop on the sidewalk, and hate in the street
You’re on your guard
Especially late at night, dancing at Jansen,
strutting in the South,
a brick through the window!
I can’t help but love this child star and the culture from which he springs where a song called “My City” is so equally disparaging and loving. Poop on the sidewalk! An honest appraisal, delivered with that eerie whistle that I find escaping from my lips more than once as I idle here in fine fine Mokum.
Do yourself a favour and watch this great video from 1985 of Danny himself singing about Amsterdam’s crime rate and poop on the sidewalk problem:
Postscript: It’s perhaps worth mentioning where I found this song in the first place. In 2004 I was at the Dutch Electronic Art Festival in Rotterdam and heard a presentation by Merijn Oudenampsen, in which, as I recall, he scathingly took down the I AMsterdam campaign. Of course in 2004 I had no idea that I’d be living in Amsterdam in 2011. All those years later, I remembered the presentation, and found that it had been adapted into an article in Mute. In the article, I noticed the Danny de Munk song lyric, typed that into YouTube, and discovered the video above.