Friday, August 31, 2012

Once in a Blue Moon....

  "August 2012 - is one of these unique months, which will have two full moons. There will be a full moon on August 2nd, and then another full moon on August 31st.
So those of us whom are superstitious in regards to full moons will have two special days in August of 2012. The term Blue Moon can refer to the second full moon in a given month. When people say "once in a blue moon" they are speaking to the rarity of the occurrence of a second moon happening in the same given month."

Full moons are about completion/endings (thus new beginnings).... and MAGIC! I did not know about the one on the 2nd, but it definitely ushered in 50 shades of trippy fantastic that following week for me. (for example, the posts Before Sunrise, Scottish Style and Put a Heart on It)

So I am curious to see what this second full moon, this BLUE MOON, might carry on its wings. I already got a small taste last night and if that's all I receive, its sweetness will keep me satiated for awhile. While waiting for my yoga class to start, I got my first hit on how I might proceed along this new performance avenue when rehearsal starts up again. Apparently, I get the best messages while hanging out in shavasana.
But seriously, I love how I made this grand and official declaration of " I need more theater in my art...or more art in my theater... yada, yada, yada" but with no fucking clue of how to start or what I even want to do. The minute I stepped off that soapbox, it was like 'Doh! Now what?!" .... mind completely blank.  Like when I quit my massage job to become a professional dancer with absolutely NO prospects just a blind faith or egotistical delusion, both I spose. Needless to say, I've been kinda freaking out inside which only gets intensified when people ask " So where ya gonna start? Whatcha gonna do?" ...."Ummm, well you know, I uh, well, I'm.... not sure?"
And I'm still not entirely sure, but at least I've been given a flashlight in the otherwise VERY dark corner of creativity in my brain. ....And let's just say, it may or not not have something to do with 'A Conversation of Chairs' series of photographs I took while in Rome. 
And what better way to celebrate than to get a tattoo with my best girl! .... That mason mark from Rosslyn Chapel... yep. Coming soon to a right calf near you ;-)

While this is short, I felt it important to remind everyone to stay open all the time, but especially to the magic that is the Blue Moon tonight! Try moving through these next few with the ease of shavasana, palms up in a gesture of receiving.


Monday, August 27, 2012

Happy Anniversary.... to me!

        I woke up almost feeling like I was forgetting something about the day. Did I have an appointment or plans later on that I wasn't remembering? .... and then on my bike ride to work, it smacks me upside the head...... A year ago today Rochelle and I were saying goodbye at the airport choking on tears and sudden panic at my 4 month departure. I can't believe it's been a year! It many ways, I can't believe it's been ONLY a year.... Those four months were so full that they could have easily been a year in themselves. Actually the more accurate description is that those four months were flooded, and it took several months after being home for me to able to fully absorb and assimilate it all. The version of Courtney that Chelle hugged goodbye that day is long gone. That adventure showered me with many gifts, the greatest being the strength to each day take a bigger step into my power and true essence. At the time, I was just so proud of myself for making my Eat, Pray, Love dream come true. I remember admitting to Rochelle, "...everything about this trip... I am the woman I always wanted to be when I grew up."  And that's no small thing -- I fell in love with myself in those four months. But now I realize that was just the first layer! I was still filtering and integrating things on my most recent 3 week Euro/UK journey. One example I've already mentioned;
1) The realization that I want my performance work to be more layered... and I still don't know exactly what that looks like but for sure Rina will throw me in the deep end and possibly hold my head under the water till I figure it out.... in the most loving and supportive way of course ;-)
B) The other has to do with the fairly steady absence of my long-standing walls and tricky 'Bar Flaps' and allowing myself to be 'seen'. I mean, hell, writing this blog alone should be proof of that! Even if it is just family and friends who read this, in the past most of this stuff I still wouldn't have revealed to anyone save my mom. Now I'm basically inviting anyone and everyone into my life; owning up to insecurities and faults, sharing hopes and future plans, revealing the smiles and trials of dating and admitting a sizable 'crush' (for lack of a less lame and trite word) on aforementioned Brighton Brit and practicing in equal measure patience and manifestation in order to get him here for more than 2 days :-)  
    Every day I'm peeling away another layer, improving, and exposing more of who I truly am and who I still want to become..... and I've been having some trippy ass dreams to prove it! Half tiger/half dragon kind of trippy.  I even had a Loch Ness dream that had me totally unstitched.... (Thank you again, Josh, for stopping my downward spiral with your brilliant and eerily accurate analysis!) ...until I was able to look at it through a different filter (*ahem, Josh's) and felt very grateful for its message.

    If I hadn't just been fed by my 3 amazing weeks of magic abroad then I might have been feeling more wistful on this year anniversary. Instead I already know that said magic will continue to play out in ways I can't even imagine yet, just like last year. My wings have been exercised, so I'm good to feel my roots again for a little while allowing the next chapter to unfold. I'm learning that I am someone who needs both; roots and wings. I wouldn't want to travel forever, without a place to land, reconnect and recharge.

      Part of my re-rooting/chapter unfolding process is going to be yoga teacher training in 2013...March to be exact. In my research I found that most trainings are all day Saturday and Sunday and last about 3-4 months.... yikesabee! I need my weekends. period....for rehearsal, for fun, for whatever. I know myself well enough to know that I would go into that kind of schedule already resenting that "lost" time. I love yoga, I love the way it has made such an impact on my I want the training process to be equally joy-filled. Then I began looking into intensives and immersion trainings, and even then they were 4 weeks straight.THEN I found a 16 day residential intensive off the San Marcos Pass north of Santa Barbara. (which is how I get to rehearsal :-) ). The name sounded familiar, and I remembered that one of my favorite dance teachers went through the very same training. I quickly emailed her to get the low-down, and she couldn't say enough about how incredible it all was. She and I have very similar sensibilities and she felt confident I would have the same kind of experience. I downloaded the application and will fill it out this week. I feel like asking for 10 days off of work 7months from now is feasible :-)

      I don't know yet exactly how yoga will factor into my life after the training, if I will immediately try to start teaching or hold off. All I know is that I've been entertaining the idea for awhile, and then one day in class while in downward dog it hit me. It was as if my higher self had already made the decision and in that moment chose to let me know "Oh, by the way... you're totally going through teacher training this year or next." ....Uh, yea...okay - sounds good to me...
Other than dance (for which I don't have a degree), massage (for which I have no more desire), writing (for which I don't have a degree) and art (for which I have no real talent) I am more or less without any sort of viable skill. Go me! ;-)
This just feels like the next right step for me, a natural transition into.....
and something I could take with my anywhere.

Food for thought:
Where were YOU this time last year? did you change?
My favorite song right now:
It just fills me up and makes me smile :-)



Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Put a heart on it....

       Since there was so much ground to cover in my last post, I didn’t even touch on the festival or the city itself. Shows first. Given that we usually only do a 3-4 show run at home, this was an interesting experience. Just going to and from our theater each day had us walking 3 or so miles, not to mention the added mileage every time we went out to see a show, and then on top of that were all the bloody stairs! There are 3 flights up to our flat and 4 to our venue space.   I think if we would have been here for a 2-3 week run we wouldn’t have been so wiped as we were for those first 6 shows. Most days I had to come home and crash out for 3 hours. Now all that hoofing it, hills and stairs ain’t no thang  and I have the saggy jeans to prove it :-)  
     According to most of the Fringe veterans we spoke with the average audience is 6 people. That’s because there is something like 200 venues and 2000 shows!!! There were only 2 days where we only had 10-15 people, the rest of the time I would guestimate around 30-50. One day we even seemed half-full and the theater sat 160. Soooo, not too shabby! Unfortunately though there wasn’t even one show where I wasn’t frustrated with my personal performance afterwards. I felt old and slow. Partially that is due to the fact that I haven’t been taking regular dance classes at home. I don’t really care to, but I’ll get to that in a second. I hike and do yoga. That’s been it. Add to that the fact that we were just livin’ and lovin’ life, aka drinking beer, for the 2 weeks beforehand. There were only 2 days where we put ourselves through an actual warm-up and rehearsal. 
The combination of our dance performance and the other shows I went to see, helped cement a shift that has been coming for a looooong time. I am getting bored with JUST dance. I don’t care. It’s why I can’t really drag myself to a class.  I saw a total of 7 shows and 5 of them were brilliant, the common denominator being the fact that they were all some form of physical THEATER. For those of who don’t know or remember, Daughter of Zion did a show called ‘Everything is Prelude’ in January of 2010. Rina took her grandfather’s book of poetry and turned it into a script more or less and layered in aerial dance and basic movement. Boom! - Physical Theater. When the idea was first presented to us, I opted out. It didn’t feel like my show, but that was just because it scared me… although I didn’t recognize that at the time. A few months later we all took a workshop together that made me change my mind, and I jumped in with both feet. That show really changed me as a performer. I had found my niche, but still I wasn’t quite prepared to embrace that truth. Chelle, you've been right all along ;-) After finding myself kind of ‘checking out’ in rehearsals, and like I mentioned having no desire to take class I began to assume that my time as a dahn-cer was coming to a close. I was struggling with that because I do love performing and being on stage. I've also been experiencing the opening of my ‘director’s eye’ and a stronger push to create something of my own, incorporating my own writing, etc.  Then being actually being here and going to see these other shows, the shift was complete. I have no idea how this is all going to play out or look in our future rehearsals, but Rina knows where my head and heart are now and she’s 110% on board. Gawd bless her!  To get a better idea of what lights the fire in my belly, please check out

     As for the city, here is a list of my favorite booze and food:
  • Beer :
    • Tennents
    • Caledonian (Edinburgh's beer -- DE- ricious!)
    • Magners (cider)
  • Food/Restaurants:
    • Nando's for Peri Peri chicken... sooooo good
    • McKirdy's Steakhouse for the best fillet EVER, it's like meat  butter seriously. Also the best haggis and black pudding!! For those who don't know...
      • Haggis = organs and oatmeal made into a little patty. Black pudding = ox blood and grain. Hey don't knock it till ya tried it ;-)

     Seeing as how Kevin and I have to have a cab come get us at 4am, I had my last official night out last night. The plan was to meet Adam from C.V to see The Room…. that weird cult movie that has had billboards all over L.A for yeeeaaars, a modern day Rocky Horror type phenom, but alas we both got the day and time wrong. So I went out drinking with the boys instead (or rather watched them do most of the drinking), laughed my ass off of course especially as they all got increasingly more lit, and got home at 4:30am.
So then today is my last full day here in Edinburgh. The weather overall has been amazing, sunny and warm most days or at least not raining. This morning however perfectly reflected my mixed bag emotional state…mostly overcast, bordering on stormy, but with patches of blue and sun. The first time I set foot on United Kingdom soil, I felt home and I cried like a child when I had to leave.  I have butterflies in my heart and stomach about leaving again.  I am satiated and hungry at the same time. I am infinitely grateful (to Rina- my heart and soul sister) for such an amazing opportunity and one of the greatest trips of my life, but I am equally sad. I am in love with and heartbroken by everything I’ve seen - history, art, theater, cities, and cultures... the people I’ve met, and the revelatory gifts I’ve received …. I miss everyone and everything already. It sounds overly dramatic I realize, but it’s nonetheless true. It’s an achingly beautiful feeling.  My cup runneth over. 
While at Rosslyn Chapel (my 3rd time) yesterday, I was reminded of a Mason’s Mark that to me symbolizes that statement. 

    For those who’ve seen my picture album: 
there have been hearts everywhere on this trip… it got quite funny and almost ridiculous…. But like in the Dali exhibit where once Rina and I discovered that first ‘bean’ … we saw them in all his paintings…  Portlandia’s ‘Put a bird on it was superseded by my  ‘Put a bean on it’ ....

…and now ultimately by the Universe’s Put a heart on it

Till next time my loves....from the Left Coast


Sunday, August 12, 2012

Before Sunrise...Scottish style

     This whole trip has been inside some kind of time warp… a brilliant one, because it feels like we’ve been gone a month plus vs. the two and a half weeks. I LOVE when that happens! We have covered so much ground and seen so much just since my last post that I’m a little overwhelmed as to where to begin.  When we last spoke, I left you all with the brilliantly uncouth statement of “Germans…. They’re not all Hitler.” And as it turned out, I was right! Both Rina and I fell in love with the Germany we experienced while in Dusseldorf; the people (for example, Boguslaw the sweetest and funniest desk clerk ever who’s actually from Poland, but whatever) the Rheinbahn (the awesome public tram system, #74 or #77 from Holthausen to Heinrich Heine Allee, our route of choice) Old Town, the Altstadt (the beer), and yes even the language. For two girls who prefer and can more easily navigate the likes of Spanish and Italian, we assumed with good reason that we would be totally screwed when and if the time came when we would have to sprechen any Deutsch.  We both downloaded a German phrase app on our fancy fruit phones, and were cracking up as we listened over and over again to sounds our minds couldn’t even begin to comprehend imitating.  In the end though, we actually mastered the obvious necessities like;

  • Ich kann kein Deutsche sprechen – I can’t speak German
  • Entschuldigung – I’m sorry!
  • Kannst du Englisch spreachen? – Do you speak English? (To which everyone except for the ticket dude on the train said Yes)
  • Fleisch – Meat
  • Gemuse -- Vegetables
  • Bier – Beer
  • Bitte – Please
  • Danke – Thank You

At some point, we both commented that something had shifted and the language had become lyrical and quite lovely to listen to …. In fact, I actually would really love to learn German now. (added to the list of Italian and Nepalese)  It is an absolute must that I make my return at some point, and really dive into Deutschland.  
Our day of travel to Edinburgh had us
)   A)  Leaving from an airport in East Jesus Nowhere, 80km outside of the city …  
    B)  on every form of transport, save a boat, and even a bus I could have sworn was the one from the 5th Harry Potter movie.
But we finally found our flat, got our keys, and spent rest of the day settling in, carrying groceries in the rain and planning our route to our theater, C-Venues, for our 5:45 am (the hell?!)  teach/dress rehearsal call the next morning.
After our first performance on Monday the 6th, we headed out to the Royal Mile where everyone and their freakin’ brother… and their brother’s wife’s cousins are out flyering (yes, that’s  a real word – at least here at the Fringe) for the innumerable options of shows to attend. We ended up meeting the director of a comedy sketch show called ‘A Kick in the Teeth’ by the troupe, Casual Violence. Such a rad name right?! He was clearly 20-nothin’ but such a cool, got- his-shit-together kind of guy, giving us some great insider tips on the best dance spaces, and it was such a genuine connection and conversation that we felt the strong inclination to check it out. We’d been up since 4am and the show wasn’t on till 10pm, so it was back to the flat to take a serious disco nap. Best decision ever – going to the show…. and as it would turn out, the disco nap. The. FUNNIEST. Thing. I’ve. Ever. Seen. A brilliant, hysterical, and ridiculously clever group of six guys aged 22-24. Rina and I were falling the fuck out for the entire 60 minutes! They are a modern Monty Python for sure… and dare I say in many ways, even more clever.  Their humor is on the dark/twisted side, tragicomedy as they call it. Their acting skills, accents, and facial expressions are priceless.  I have never laughed so hard so consistently. I was borderline embarrassed for us (Rina and I). Afterward, we grabbed a pint at the venue’s bar and ended up meeting the entire cast; Alex, Adam, Greg, Luke, Dave and James – what a cool group of dudes!!! They are all 20-nothins, but other than the fact that as you get older everyone in their twenties looks like they’re 12, you’d never know it by talking to them. I swear to gawd, they sure do grow em different over here…. There is clearly something in the water. Each of them is unbelievably well spoken, smart, quick, engaging, interesting, interested, and just simply lovely! AND they all wear suits on stage… I frickin’ love that! We had a blast and ended up closing the bar together. The three of us more or less stumbled in around 2:30am. Feeling pretty crappy and ass dragging, we actually put on a pretty great performance that next morning. And gawd bless him, true to his word, Alex the director came to see us! As it turned out, they were also offering 3 free shows Wednesday afternoons, a greatest hits show if you will…. Without missing a beat, off we went. We ran into them outside as they were headed in to set up, and all of them seemed genuinely excited to see we’d come back. Very untrue to most British form, we even got a hug from Alex.  I have to amend my previous statement because actually this show, Om Nom Nominous, is The. Funniest. Thing. I’ve. Ever. Seen. Period. Followed by an infinite number of exclamation points.  I didn’t think it were possible to laugh/cry any harder than I did Monday night, but I was oh so very mistaken. My abs and cheeks were sore and my mascara had all but completely been cried away. I think they thoroughly enjoyed our hysterics and the basic incapacity to hold it together or maintain ANY semblance of composure.  In chatting with them afterwards Adam invites us to meet with them again after their late show. Rina and Kevin were headed to a physical theater performance at 9, while I opted to stay home and tortuously roll out the tight muscles that were torqueing my pelvis. But like the nerds we are (translation: like any good stalker) we arrived at The Caves at 11p. The boys weren’t out yet and as we were sitting down with our ciders, I suddenly say what I can tell we’re all thinking,  “I know Adam invited us, but isn’t it still kinda creepy that we’re here again? What are we, Fringe stalkers…Casual Violence groupies?” We all laugh, but quite seriously quickly get up to go take a walk around the block, kill some time and then we’d casually roll in later hopefully feeling slightly less stupid. But just as we were heading out, we got stopped because of our open containers and they were walking in. The best part?  The one who actually invited us wasn’t even there so we totally had to play the “We were just in the neighborhood, blah, blah…oh and Adam really did invite us” card. Yep…. Like I said, nerds. Gotta love us.  I know I do.
  • There were a couple camps of conversation, Kevin in one and Rina and I in the other and I noticed they had a ‘new’ guy among their crew that night….didn’t think much of it (other than 'Who's the handsome newbie?') till later as we were all sharing a long bench this new guy starts engaging me in conversation. He too is from Brighton, knows C.V from University (Sussex), and also quite hysterical and charming… and equally young. Yep. 22. They were all surprised to learn that I was 32 and even more so that Rina is 42. Gawd bless em, and go us! ;-) (Let me just state here, American 22 and British 22 are WORLDS apart. Both still ‘young’ in obvious ways but the chasm between the emotional maturity and integrity of each is staggering ) He’s asking Rina and I all about our show and the kind of work we do, then precedes to insist he’ll be there the next morning to see it. I, of course, do not believe him because  
  •  I was operating from American male 22 assumptions
  •  Figured he was just being polite… being a Brit and all
  • He got into town at 7am that morning after an 11 hour bus ride, and it was clear their night was long from over and it was already close to 1am… so there was no way he was gonna actually wake up in time to come see a dance performance of people he’d only been talking to for a ½ hour.
On the way home, both Kevin and Rina wink, wink , nudge, nudge saying “Hey, that guy was pretty cute (or ‘fit’ as a Brit would say) and obviously totally into you.”  
Cut to 11am as they’ve opened the house. I peek out to scan the crowd, and am pretty sure I recognize his profile and glasses.  I nervously laugh and say to Kevin, “I can’t tell but think my future ex-husband actually showed up.”  He replies with a look of “Ummm yea he did, dumbass” but instead says “I’ll look to confirm, want me to tell you for sure?” … to which I adamantly shake my head and crank up my pre-show playlist. As we took our bow, I saw him straight on.

He showed.
He came alone.
He dressed up.
He came over to give me a hug and tell me he really loved the show…and meant it.
Then he asked me out.

???? Right?!
Kevin is the only one to have a working cell phone over here so we exchanged numbers, and decided to meet up that afternoon for a show.
I’m sorry… Huh? What? Who? 22? Did I just score a date with a fit, smart and funny  Brit in Edinburgh?? …. Ummm, yessum I did. I gotta say, I kinda gotta give myself props … “Mama still got it.”

We met back at C-Venues at 2:15. That the question, “So what are your plans for the rest of the day?” turned into 12 hours of wandering Edinburgh, talking-laughing, seeing shows, talking-laughing, drinking coffee, talking- laughing, eating pie, talking-laughing, drinking pints, more talking- laughing, more wandering should say something. I completely forgot about the 10 year gap because we not only have so much in common, but was able to have conversations of which I never expected a 22 year old to be able to relate. Like I said, they grow em different over here. I felt immediately at ease with him, totally myself and was looking forward to having someone so cool to hang out with the rest of the week. But as it turned out, his wallet got ‘nicked’ a couple days earlier including his original bus ticket and he was set to return to Brighton the next morning on the 7am bus.  As he pointed out though he was supposed to have arrived in Edinburgh 2 days earlier, and if he had he wouldn’t have been with Casual Violence that previous night when we met. Cheers to the partners in crime of divine intervention and the tail end of Mercury Retrograde!  Come morning, even though he was running low on the cash friends lent him till he could get home to his new bank card, he chose to miss the bus and stay an extra day. I suddenly felt like Julie Delpy in a combination of Before Sunrise and Two Days in Paris….only you know, less French and blond.  My life is always blessed, but when I travel the Universe always seems to reward me with an extra megadose of magic. I have met the most incredible people while traveling this past year, the footprints on my left arm are a mirror of the same ones on my heart. The magic I am privileged to experience is the chocolate covered cherry on top of the cherry on top. And THIS was a Chocolate Line (See the Fluffenstuff - Glockenspiel post if confused) covered cherry on top of the cherry on top. I now think the Universe was leaving me hints of said magic in all the hearts I ended up seeing ev-er-y-where. It also was a great reminder and perfect example that “If a man wants to be with you, HE WILL.” We as women all tend to attach stories or make excuses to ourselves or to our friends as to why a man isn’t ‘showing’ up…. in whatever definition.  But the bottom line is… If a man wants to be with you, then like in this case with only 30 quid in his pocket he will book a later bus to spend an extra day with you.
He did truly have to leave yesterday morning. We were both infinitely grateful for the brief time together while still wishing it could have lasted a little longer. As is most things in life, tis bittersweet.  It is an amazing experience, wonderful and strange, to have an immediate and impressive level of intimacy and ease with a complete stranger in such a compressed amount of time. Let me put it in specifically Courtney themed laymen’s terms…. He made it through the bar flaps unscathed. And NO that’s not meant to be a dirty innuendo. My ‘Bar Flaps’ are the varying degrees of walls I usually keep up, leaving most people to find me aloof, etc. They weren't there with him and he saw ME. It is equally wonderful and strange to be saying goodbye to them, almost as quickly as you said hello, not knowing if you’ll ever see them again…sincerely thanking them and wishing them well. Yes of course, this is the age of all things social networking and most of us all reside in the Book of Face….as we both do. The requests have been sent and accepted, photos tagged, etc …. so we can quite easily stay in touch, and of course I would love to see him again...but still you never know. All I can do at this point is sincerely thank the Universe for stealing his wallet and bringing us together for 2 fabulous days in Edinburgh.... and let the chips fall where they may.

“Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Some people move our souls to dance. They awaken us to a new understanding with the passing whisper of their wisdom, and make the sky more beautiful to gaze upon. Some people stay in our lives awhile, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never, ever the same.”

Josh from Brighton, your footprints have been added to the trail on my heart ....

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Fluffnstuff? ...Glockenspiel?

   Tomorrow will be one week that I've been here, and I'm amazed at all I've seen and done thus far. It feels like two. So on Sunday, two of Kevin's friends met us at the house and we took off for Bruges. The Belgium border is only a half hour away from Asten. THIS IS WHY I LOVE EUROPE, an entirely different country and culture a half hour away! Neither Rina nor I did any research for Amsterdam. I didn't because with all the goings-on around my birthday, etc I just didn't sit down and take the time. And as we know, my preferred M.O is to have some sort of idea of where I'm landing and a general, even the vaguest, sense of what I want to see especially when I only have 24 hours...I'm fine if that general plan goes to shit, but I like the comfort of that initial knowledge. And I'm sorry, but when I've been on a plane for 10 1/2 hours and awake for right around 36 at some point I'm gonna get a little cranky when we're on our third aimless circle of the city. Rina gets the same way...Hence, the night before we left we were online getting together a list of points of interest. We totally geeked out over the discovery that there was both a Picasso and Salvador Dali exhibit still running. Clearly, that would be our first order of business. The trip only took us a couple hours, and as lovely as Kevin and his friends are, Dutch can be a tiresome language to listen to..... because it is based so much in the back of the throat, it sounds like a lot of f&*kin' work! But because they had not seen one another in so long there was much to catch up on. I get it, totally. But also, clear radio stations were few and far between so there was a habit of constant channel changing. The option to merely turn it off did not exist apparently. (One of the things I've noticed is the lack of silence...something always to fill the void) Between the frenetic radio, an exhaustive language, and some residual jet lag my little brain was starting to short circuit and smoke. I could see Rina's eyes similarly glaze over so once we found the hotel and dumped our stuff she and I were practically running into silence mind you....toward the silence of a museum. As divine order would have it, the Picasso exhibit was the first marker on the map. Enter Heaven. For those who do not know, my Senior thesis was on Picasso. Not to mention, my earliest memory is of seeing a print of Hand with Flowers from my crib. Many people do not realize what a prolific artist he truly was. This exhibit had whole series of etchings, drawings, paintings, and ceramics I had did not know even existed or had only seen in books during my research. And yes I did see the original Hand with Flowers, it was much smaller than I anticipated but infinitely more powerful than I could have ever expected. The exhibit brilliantly flowed between Picasso, Salvador Dali, Dora Maar, into Joan Miro, Rodin, Chagall, and Matisse. All the pieces displayed showed the influence this network of brilliance had over each other.....absolutely stunning.
That exhibit made it into my Top 5 All Time Favorite art exhibit list...sadly pushing out the Van Gogh exhibit at the National Gallery in Scotland. Stunned into silence we continued on towards Markt Square to find the Dali exhibition. Once again, I saw another side... or rather several other sides to another of my favorite artists. I wanted to combine these 2 exhibition halls, and then move in! They had several series of illustrations that Dali did for various books, like Alice in Wonderland or costumes he designed for ballets. There was of course a whole section of his brilliantly weird and sexually explicit drawings. While most of those might not be the prints I'd choose to have on my walls, you gotta almost respect a mind that is THAT twisted.... I mean, that kind of f&*king imagination is to be commended. And like he used to say, "The one thing of which the world will never have enough is exaggeration." I started noticing that he included some kind of bean, seed, kidney shaped thing in many, almost every single one, of his pieces. Sometimes big, sometimes small ... but it became like 'Where's Waldo'. It made me think of that Portlandia skit and tagline 'Put a bird on it.'

.....I now prefer - 'Put a bean on it'

   We stumbled out of Dali onto Markt Square, looked at one another at the same time and pointed toward the nearest cafe.... We needed to sit down, have a little coffee, a little chocolate and let everything we'd just seen steep. We were both very emotional and overwhelmed. Caffeinated and chocolated, we headed back out to the Basilica of the Holy Blood, a Gothic chapel that simply sounded old and gothic and cool and appealed to our basic historical nerd sensibilities. The lower level was simple and austere and took our breath away. I lit a candle, as usual, and had to take a seat....Then we walked outside and to the upper level. Just walking up the stairs with the ribbed ceiling our breath got shorter and heart beats faster. You just have to look at the pictures to even begin to entertain the thought of understanding how ridiculously beautiful this was.....It too was simple in that it's ornateness was painted.....the pillars, the wood paneled ceiling, the altar..... Again, I was left without breath and resigned to take a seat. We made yet another ungraceful exit as we stumbled back out onto the square only to be greeted by a trio playing a suite of Vivaldi.....cue the looks of "Are you freakin' kidding me?!" ... Talk about sensory the best possible sense!!
   At this point, we decided 'Finite'.... and looked for a place to crash out for dinner. Feeling dazed and confused, we were soo grateful to a waiter who made the decision for us by saying, "You need a beer?" Why yes, good Belgian sir - we do indeed!! We weren't quite ready to meet up with the rest of the gang as we wanted to dissect everything we'd just seen, compare photos (of course we took all the same ones) and marvel at one of the greatest days ever all while drinking some damn fine Belgian brew....  Not to mention the inevitable necessity of entertaining the crap out of ourselves by giving our best Dutch impersonations, so basically the repetition of words like Snuffleupagus, Fluffnstuff, and Glockenspiel. I don't know what it is about when Rina and I get together, but we come up with some of the best one-liners that I swear I'm gonna write into a play for us to perform sometime. 
Hilarity like; 
Speaker 1: "Is it mystical?" 
Speaker 2:  shrugging and passing a platter "Yea, sure... rib?" 

and... "Did I ever tell you about my first fanatic?"
to ...
Speaker 1: "Fluffnstuff?"
Speaker 2: head cocked to one side, arms up in question, "Glockenspiel?" 

This all started at 5pm while still sunny.... Cut to a little rain, or rather quite a bit which a beer or so in we couldn't have cared less about, amazing roast chicken and rabbit 'on flemish way', our love affair with our wait staff (specifically our waiter Tom and his fabulous arse), a couple more beers, the reunion of the entire group, lots of laughs because we're obviously so hilarious, our waiters introducing us to chocolates from The Chocolate Line (gawd bless em!), a couple more beers, the desertion of the rest of the group because obviously we're too hilarious, more laughter, and finally being moved inside as they closed the patio... it is now 11pm. We bid our sweet Tom Simons adieu and with great confidence headed in what we thought was the correct direction of our hotel....... Being the 'sober' one, I took charge of the map yet for the life of me could not figure out how to get out of that damned town, and unfortunately we kept walking deeper into that Belgian labyrinth where the side streets no longer showed up on our dinky little tourist map. It took us 2 1/2 hours and a cab ride to get to our hotel which was 2 minutes and 2 streets away the whole time. Yep.
    The next day sent us off toward Ypres (Ieper), yet not before making one last stop in .... wait for it..... The Chocolate Line. Dominique Persoone is the real life Willy Wonka. He opened this store in 1992 and I believe was one of, if not THE first to really bring gourmet chocolate to the forefront. Gourmet meaning he creates beautifully stamped or painted chocolates with flavors like bacon, wasabi, persimmon, violet, limon vodka, etc. His big break came when the Rolling Stones discovered him and he created a desert for one of their birthdays essentially poking fun at their former cocaine addiction. You actually had to snort a line of the chocolate, AND it actually did provide some trippy effects. Chocolate in tow, we were off toward Flanders Fields. For those who don't know, a few years ago Rina created about a 10-20 minute piece titled Flanders Fields.....about having done some research and being very intrigued. Two of the performers even recited the John McCrae poem: 

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

It's a beautiful piece, one of my favorites actually. Naturally, since we'd be so close she wanted to go. The In Flanders Fields museum is artfully done, rich, and very modern as it is completely interactive. You receive a bracelet upon entering that you register and then based on your language and where you live, it will provide additional information pertinent to your country and culture making it a very personal experience. It is, as one would expect though, very intense and emotional. Luckily we also purchased the Beflry Tower entrance in our admission, because it was a much needed palate cleanser. Climbing to the top and looking down on the whole city was gorgeous and fascinating. With all the orange tiled roofs, I felt like I was experiencing the same view as the one from Willy Wonka when they're in the glass elevator. (the original obviously, not the Johnny Depp atrocity) In the bell tower, where the organ is, people signed several bricks over the years....the oldest ones I saw were from the 40's. 
If and or when we ever perform that piece again, it will be with a much deeper appreciation.
    From Ypres, we headed to Antwerp.... and all I gotta say is, what a weird energetic in that city!! We were staying in a hotel close to Central Station and the Zoo, and not only did I have no idea where in the world we were because it was such a hodge podge of people and cultures in a one block radius but also because there was a strange aggressive, creepy vibe. I held extra tight to my shit and was prepared to clock anyone and everyone that passed me.... at certain points the energetic was so intense it made me feel like I wanted to be the one to start a fight.... I've traveled all over and even been in some shaaaaady parts of Bangkok man and felt completely safe and at ease, and nowhere near as skeezed out. I mean, WTF?!?! We ended up having dinner in a half block version of Chinatown at City Palace across the street from a gay porn movie house, Gay Ron.... so yeeeaaaa. I'm all for the randomness like that of big cities, I usually love it.... but it was that aggressive energy that was trippin' me out so much. That first night I had to keep grounding myself so as not to preemptively jump the people clearly up to no good and who looked at us suspiciously. 
The next day Kevin and his friends wanted to go shopping and the center was more neutralized... probably because it was more homogenized. Rina and I were maxxed out however, and opted to just camp out at a cafe till they were done. Eventually though we started walking the main drag and discovered a second Chocolate Line location.... inside rooms of Napoleon's Palace. Damn we're good! This store was 2-3x the size of the one in Bruges and gloriously painted and ornately outfitted as one would expect of Napoleon's Palace. They had even restored his kitchen and one of the original stoves! You are able to walk into the kitchen and see the whole process. I went to take a peek and in the side hallway, I see none other than Willy Wonka himself!!!!!!!!!!!! Dominique Persoone had stopped in with friends to show them around and was quickly heading back out. I run to find Rina in the other room, "Hurry! HE'S here!" I did not purchase anything in the Bruges store but in this situation I was not about to leave empty handed. That made Antwerp worth all the weirdness bar none. 

    We are now back in Asten, and during our two days in Belgium Rina and I made the executive decision to definitely head over to Dusseldorf on our own. We'll spend Friday and Saturday there, then fly to Edinburgh on Sunday. It's not that Asten isn't nice, but it is super small, i.e. there is nothin' much to do or see, and rather than have Kevin feel like he has to continue to entertain us we decided we're better off entertaining ourselves. And since she and I are cut from literally the same cloth, I mean it's nuts, and especially so in what we like to do/see and how we like to travel it was a no-brainer. Besides, if I'm really being honest, my experience of Holland and the Dutch so far (and I realize that I'm over generalizing based on a limited time frame) is that they are a bit their landscape. I do not intend that in a mean or judgmental way at all.... I just mean that,...well let's call it like it is, I am made up of some edges...some hard, some soft...I got a lot of dimensions going on and thus far I haven't found a way to connect....or at least one that stimulates me enough to want to stay the rest of the week. (Kevin of course I love, and his parents are so kind, sweet and truly lovely.) 
     I do have to confess here though that Germany has never been high on my list of places to visit because of their obvious history. That's very narrow minded I admit, which is why I want to get a taste of it. And as I have previously mentioned, I happen to know a very lovely German  (albeit Colombian German) and that makes me even more curious. While Rina and I were researching the city last night, sharing our experiences of various cultures, and somewhat shamefully confessing this very same German prejudice, I so articulately said with such political correction, "Germans....Well they're not all Hitler." .....So Germany, here we come baby!

Get a better idea of what I've been yammering on about: