Our man [formally] of Amsterdam

‘Tender is the Night’
August 29, 2009, 18:52
Filed under: Uncategorized

Begijnhof, a 14th century sanctuary for lay Catholic nuns, now houses some of the most expensive real estate in the city.

‘Tender is the Night’ is the title for the upcoming Waterstone’s Book Club. I saw a sign in their window late the other night. I’d always wanted to read it and what better incentive than to discuss what some argue is Scott Fitzgerald’s most accomplished prose – and meet some literary locals too – in the convivial ambiance of Waterstone’s giant bookstore on the Spui.

Having found a second hand copy at The Book Exchange I headed towards the 7×4 cell and as if by homing beacon, Cafe Thijssen loomed large. I would have kept going, perhaps sought out Cafe de Orangerie instead, but a vacant outside table on a balmy evening was too good to pass by. Had just started reading when the garrulous din of post-work discussions was interrupted by a busker. Tall, thin, bearded, scruffy-looking, the sleeves on his sweater stretched and curled and frayed way past his wrists, and then he broke into song:

There is a house in New Orleans …

His catalogue was classic rock ballads and his voice, like somewhere between Cobain and Orbison, certainly outshone his appearance. The glas of huis rose arrived. Rugged. Gets better with each sip, doesn’t it?

Her body hovered delicately on the last edge of childhood – she was almost eighteen, nearly complete, but the dew was still on her … When she walked she carried herself like a ballet dancer, not slumped down on her hips but held up in the small of her back. Tender is the Night

The glas of huis rose did indeed improve.

This is ground control to Major Tom …

No one paid a skerrick of attention; the forty or so punters encamped on the terrace in the median strip seemed to regard his covers as muzak.

Roxanne, you don’t have to put on that red light …

Was this his signature tune, I wondered? A song for the location: Amsterdam teems with ‘Roxannes’. A short bracket of maybe 10 classics and he was done. Not a single acknowledgement. Next came the collection. While previously oblivious , most dug generously into pockets or purses and handed over coins into his dirtied, stained outstretched hand. He didn’t look at the amount – just shoved the metal pieces into his trouser pocket before moving along and thrusting his cupped hand out ‘for more’.

After that he ‘rattled’ over to an abandoned guitar case and half zipped the cover around his battered instrument, mounted a bike and pedalled off to the next gig! And the punters continued their eaten and drinken as if nothing had happened.


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