“I think Jamaica!”
Couch magazines, a bookcase or two; cozy, like a snook in a country pub. Swizzle sticks of smoke rising to twist the room; walls putty brown, painted in the viscous of nicotine. Behind the counter a blackboard, a gaggle of consonants, next to which seemingly reasonable prices. One side a list under Aanbieding, the other under the word Wiet; red and white and although none were familiar clearly these were the local wines.
Jotting down their choices a bald giant of a man wore an earring and flower-decked wooden clogs demanded something by finger and thumb, presumably glass or bottle, then marched to the corner, pulled the stopper, filled his lungs and whistled their order down an old ship’s telegraph.
“So, what do you think?”
Before Jake could comment a woman dragged by an enormous moth eaten Borzoi tumbled into the coffee shop. Of the entire bar the four inches between the boys was the spot for her. That is until the dog’s preference for hagelslag yanked the old dear clear off her feet. Slight thing, in her dotage, with sparse wire-wool protruding from an overcoat that wrapped her like a bandage; back on her good leg, fussing with leader and purse she again lunged for the counter, her enthusiasm bringing the dog to Dosey’s crotch and a grocery bag more characteristic of the Harrods food court, canned goods, to Jake’s kidneys.
Drying glasses on a threadbare tea towel the bartender relieved the woman of her well creased punch-pass then, light footed for a man his size he trotted off down the bar passed jars of loose leaf tea and a dome of sponge cake and chocolate chip cookies, to a wilting display of leaflets informing one of the best cause of action should your dick have just fallen off or you be dying of an overdose. From where he retrieved a large plastic box; fingers playing the many compartments he chose a small Ziploc bag and returning to the woman, who in his absence had not moved as much as a ganglion, announced the next one was on the house.
Eyes turning to English, to Jake; blonde, slim wrists, long limbed. Nodding her agreement, a burnished widow’s peak fell center parted to curl torn jeans. Her table of four boys a clutter of tea cups and maps, guidebooks and Velcro tipped wallets.
“Why I ask, you seem… you okay?”
Corner of his eye; “Bit vague… why?”
“I don’t know, I just figured we’d be doing more, that you’d want to go do stuff.”
“Dosey I am, look at me, I’m doing it, I’m travelling!”
“See for me I can sit home and drink coffee; can’t do it, be here without wanting to know why, how a city founded by puritans is drowning in liberal? Need libraries, museums; find out why, what the link between then and the legislature of today? I mean don’t you want to know, or would you be happier keep staring at that chick’s tits?”
“She’s not wearing a bra!”
“Remember listening to you go on about the tourists in Spain; never go to a bullfight, travel from the coast, wanted fish and chips instead of paella, couldn’t speak a word of the language, beer not sangria, yet here you are and all you see is the neon.”
“Oh don’t, please… not the giant chocolate colored I told you so?”
“Depends… whether you think sitting in a toxic cloud of drugs in the middle of the day having just walked passed enough flesh to put a Dachshund off humping lederhosen is actually travelling. I guess I’m frustrated, see this for me is a waste of time I need libraries, museums, I need to know how that morphed into this; how it’s gone from frock coats to whacky-backy, from world leader to world experiment.
“I know then, I know three hundred years ago this town was the arc of the refugee, a magnet for immigration. I know that right here out of religious persecution came the gospels of the John’s, the Social Commandments of Locke, Rousseau and Rawls; each a disciple, each extolling the most dominant parable of the day that it is Man’s responsibility, his moral obligation to form a society.
“I know that as the Italians had Leonardo, Michael and Raphael so the Dutch had Hobbes, a Cathar who believed in Manichean dualism. Out of the Dark Ages into a world of ethics and philosophy, the man who wrote the first Social Contract since Socrates; did it here, the path of freedom, the philosophical revolution started here! With Spinoza an excommunicated Jew, Descartes a man who saw God in geometry…”
“Old René Snail Biter liked him.” Stealing a glance across the way at their over-flowing ashtray, their paraphernalia of travel; the corridor that separated them, wishing he had the courage to simply stand, smile, pull up a chair; “I think… therefore I am.”
“Actually it was dubito ergo cigito ergo sum.”
“Or in your case, I think therefore I am, I think!”
“Why I thought you were here, so we could cram, get ready for Cambridge. I had no idea the estate, the will, the pressure you must be under. But… just for a second Jake step back, let’s think about this, that everything has changed but has it?
“I understand, get away from it all to go lie on a beach, but a day a week my God it would drive you nuts. It’s here our generation’s greatest challenge; we live in a world that’s dying, where society has become redundant, so complex there are no simple answers, that all the get out of jail cards that came with the game we’ve already used.
That the shitty backstabbing… my God how many times have you told me, ranted about the twisted system populated with apparatchik churning out petty laws to justify their own existence… this is the world we inherit, one of broken empires, realigning loyalties, of an ever accelerating cycle of not new but convenient social contracts, where today the main function, the only function of leadership is not protection but repression.
“Here is where it started, where it will start again; Holland is a nimble intelligent country, the little country that can! Per capita the most populated in all of Europe, half the size of Scotland, yet the continent’s largest food exporters. Has a quarter of the greenhouse acreage of the entire planet; a planet I might add that’s been around for about three billion years we’ve managed to suck dry in about three hundred.
“A country with a radical solution… one where they and the earth actually attempt to live in harmony, solving pollution not creating it; their energy expended for the good of all, taxes spent on those that paid them, not on political gain, where the onus is ecological not economical. Of communities built self-contained, without propinquity; units within the whole, each with their own schools, hospitals, fire stations, shops, parks.
“Very organized, very egalitarian; for the new demographic, the thirty-something with kids, baby boomers not satisfied with the status quo. Families disenfranchised from the Anne Frank ideology of their parents generation; that don’t want the smog and crime of cities, don’t want the commute. The androgynous of the rain, dissidents of a different revolution; men, women willing to sacrifice a generation, their generation, so that down the road their children might have a damn sight more than the perpetuity of being taxed.
“When I got your letter, the situation with your father, then when you called, I thought this was what you wanted, that you would see this is the future; the rich helping the poor, that the pieces… failing communism ailing capitalism the pieces are right here in front of us, now our generation, we have this unique opportunity to create a new doctrine.
“I know dedicating your life to saving mankind from the jaws of ethical darkness is not nearly as exciting as slinging booze to drunks down sunny Spain but me, having gone to one of the elite public schools, attending a college of such example I do, I feel it is our duty, our destiny to solve today’s riddle; that without shattering society or breaking the system we can find a new way, a new social contract. Where the prize is a world free of discrimination, a world of altruism where we, all of us black white yellow and… blue live in harmony with Mother Earth, where green technology bears the brunt and Man finally can evolve into the animal he is meant to be.
“Wouldn’t that be a life worth living, wouldn’t it be grand to look back and know you had helped create not a hierarchial but an open plural socialism; one governed by committee not decree, consensus not edict, by discussion not ideology; a world where Holland as a city is capital of this futuristic Zion?”
“She’s not wearing a bra!”