The Session, The Amsterdam Session, Summer 2009


Some time ago I was asked to fill in a short questionnaire for a magazine. It were the usual questions like:

Who are you?
Where did you study?
Why do you do what you’re doing today?
Who do you admire?
What inspires you?

All pretty banal questions, but oh so nice to answer if you give it some time and thought. I was allowed to use only three hundred words, which isn’t very much. I know myself. I can fill up much more that that. I need more words to describe such delicate matter. Naturally, I over did it and wrote too much, which obviously led to the magazine publishing a shortened down version of that questionnaire. My answer to the What-inspires-you question, a carefully composed list, was missing completely. Therefor, I’d like to share this here, and explain a little where I think maybe needed:

Weekend-trips, hard to define groups of people (like the way exchange students sometimes can cling together, or a bunch of first year students sometimes can make a uncomfortable impressions just being stuck with themselves, being spotless first-years), spying, rumors, Claude Closky, Harmony Korine, Erlend Loe, Albert van Westing (Dutch photographer), Dazed & Confused (the movie, not the magazine), Moonstruck, The Hotel New Hampshire (the movie, I haven’t read the book, although I know I have it somewhere), all movies by M. Night Shyamalan (except for The Sixth Sense), coincidence, public transport, summer jobs, language, old acquaintances, hotels, skylines, bridges, zoos, Hello!, captured moments, talk-shows, tourism (I am fascinated by it, the clumsiness, the general look of it all), one-liners, biographies, sundays (used to hate ‘em as a kid, but learned to love and enjoy them now that I’m older), tv addictions, friends, routine (its destructiveness is equally fascinating), camping, magazine covers.

This list gives a quick impression who I am and what I like to do.
On Facebook I describe myself like this:

Restless graphic designer.
Healthy snacker.
Friend of the stars.
A keen observer.

I wrote this on 14 november 2007, the day I signed up for an account and haven’t changed it since. It still reflects me, somehow.

Something else.

Shortly after graduating the Rietveld I shared a studio with friends in Amsterdam Noord. Through the grapevine we’d heard that this was going to be the Kreuzberg* of Amsterdam. We figured it would be good to move there early, get a good spot and just wait for the rest to follow our wise example.
A year later nothing much had happened and we decided to move back into town. Within a year Amsterdam Noord had not succeeded in becoming a cooler part of town. None of the other expected designers, artists or what ever cool crowd had moved there.

* One of Tijmen van Grootheest’s reasons to move the Rietveld Academy to Bos en Lommer was because he’d heard — through that same bloody grapevine, probably — that within years Bos en Lommer would develop into an area comparible to Kreuzberg in Berlin. I like to think that’s not going to happen. It’s just not kind of town, man!

I sometimes miss those short boat rides to the North. They were a refreshing break, no matter what terrible weather it was, or how worried I was about not having jobs at all. Being trapped on that ferry for a good three minutes always worked well for me. I liked listening to other people’s conversations and checking them out. It simply inspired me.

One slow Saturday afternoon* not so long ago, alone at home, I got all melancholic, when I decided to get back on the ferry to observe the crowds crossing the IJ. I stayed for a good four hours going back and forth inbetween Central Station and Buiksloterweg.

*and another hour on an Monday morning, ‘cos that Saturday afternoon didn’t deliver me with enough material. Besides, I also needed to experience the vibe on that boat when a complete other crowd makes use of it.

I found myself a good spot where I could stay for a while and from where I could overlook the deck. When the ferry was heading Noord I was on the front side of the boat, and as it would travel back to the station, I, automatically would be in the back of it.

Here’s a short list of people, things that catch my eye.

A typical student type of bloke is bullshitting to three older Danish ladies about the ins and outs of Amsterdam Noord. The ladies nod their heads and listen carefully.

A full on tattooed redhead in a faded grey wife beater with a frightening looking dog on a leash. It’s a boxer.

One of those small motor-scooter engine driven cars drives up and parks on the ferry. Chain of Fools by Aretha Franklin blasts from its tiny speakers. The driver gets out, walks to the back of the car and opens the trunk, in which two platina blond kids sit all cramped up. They look as if they have to be shut off from day light. Like little vampires.

Two born and raised Amsterdammers meet accidentally and talk loud about how busy it has been on the Albert Cuyp market the last few days

I bump into Laurenz Brunner and Julia Born who are taking Julia’s mom and dad for a scenic bike ride along the IJ.

A handsome young couple (tall, blond, probably rich etc.) with an unfortunate looking baby, that wears a silly cap.

A black lady smelling of rosy perfume covers her mouth with a hanky to protect herself from the exhaust fumes of the small motor-scooter gang in front of her.

A tall thirteen year old Indian girl wears thick architect glasses and a nerdy t-shirt that reads International School Champion...
I’m unable to read the rest, ‘cos the rest of the shirt is tucked into her trousers. Damn.

The captain of the boat is inviting a lady up to the control room. It seems as if they’re having an affair. The woman has amazing teeth.

A tanned couple wearing identical t-shirts that read their names: Petra and Sepp. On the back of the shirts it reads Dem Land Tirol Die Freude. It’s a little intimidating.

A blond woman in a ankle high KLM-blue summer dress that looks a little unflattering but oh so comfortable.

A Tiger Woods look-a-like

A small group of very young kids, just out of babyhood, carrying balloons of the Dutch socialist political party. None of their parents are anywhere to be seen. Strange.

An aggressive looking fellow smoking a joint, wearing a black Nike cap and an oversize sports jacket. He also wears a t-shirt with Batman graphic fighting typography (Kapow, Pow, Zlonk, Flrbbbbb!)

A mother and two teenage daughters – let’s say they’re twelve and fifteen years old. Although mom keeps up a smile, it’s obvious this is going to be a dreadful afternoon.

An older man accompagnied by his wife, another older lady and a small girly dog. It seems the man makes no distinction in the way he talks to the women as he does to the animal. As one of the ladies walks off, he shouts: Hey you. Yes. Here. Sit!!!

A man comfortably smoking a cigarette as he carefully checks the receipt of something he has just bought. Nice.

A kid in a boy-scout uniform, like the one I use to have when I was a boy-scout. It looks stupid, and I quietly curse my parents for having me run around in such a hideous color for so long. Then again, this mother seems to be pretty proud of her little man, so, maybe my parents were too.
He sits on the back of her bike. In a seat.

A mother and her uber-hip teenage son. She must have been very young when she got him, ‘cos they could also easily be a couple, if he wasn’t so damn queer looking.

Three little black girls wearing flip flops are running hysterically around the deck of the ferry which makes an insane racket, like castanets.

A sympathetic looking vehicle that says Clean Cab. It looks like a golf cart and it seems to be for rent.

A cute cross-eyed boy that was in the Rietveld in the same time I went there, but who I haven’t seen in years. Now that he’s older, he looks even cuter.

A man with a tattoo on each arm looking like this:


A tall Dutch guy who once probably had a proud head full of dreads, has now cut them all off, except for one. This left-over dreadlock probably has to remind him of himself in those days. It looks as he’s got to proof that somehow he hasn’t lost his wicked ways. Slightly tragic.

Inside the ferry, a bit of a slutty looking fifty year old lady in full make up is reading a Lonely Planet of Ghana.

That Monday morning at around 9.30 AM (is this rush hour? I’d like to think so) I wrote down these few observations:

A attractive hip looking man in his thirties, but with an unfriendly face.

A man is listening to music and sings along quietly while he stamps his foot to the rhythm of the music. It makes his entire bike move. I’m so annoyed by him that I have to sit somewhere else. Curly black hair and glasses.

A pretty Moroccan boy reads the newspaper.

Lots of pedestrians on the boat today, The few bikers on board unite and complain about them.

Pleun Blom, with whom I used to work at a call-centre. He’s wearing a fine pinstriped suit and holding a small briefcase which obviously contains his laptop. I used to call him Pommetje.

An Australian guy, I’ve seen him before, is chatting with a funny looking kid who has messy sideburns and big headphones hanging round his neck. Both are cute, in their own way.

I’d like to add a short list of youth hostels in the centre of Amsterdam. I have never recommended one of these places to anyone, but I’ve had this list for a long time and always liked it. Can’t really explain why.

The Shelter City, Barndesteeg 21 – NJHC Stadsdoelen, Kloveniersburgwal197 – NJHC Vondelpark, Zandpad 5 – Hans Brinker, Kerkstraat 136 – Anna’s Youth Hostel, Spuistraat 6 – Flying Pig Palace, Vossiusstraat 46-47 – Flying Pig Downtown, Nieuwendijk 100 – Inner, Wanningstraat 1 – Meeting Point, Warmoesstraat 14 – Arena, ‘s-Gravesandestraat 51 – Arrive, Haarlemmerstraat 65 – Boatel Amstel, Pier 5 De Ruyterkade – Euphemia, Fokke Simonstraat 1 – International Student Centre, Keizersgracht 15-17 – Bonaire Budget, Raadhuisstraat 49-53 – City Budget Hotel, Utrechtse Straat 2 – International Budget Hotel, Leidse Gracht 76 – Hotel Tamara, NZ Voorburgwal 144 – Travelhotel, Beursstraat 1 – Van Onna, Bloemgracht 102