Tag Archives: netherlands

Follow the parrots

Screen Shot 2016-02-24 at 2.57.31 PM

Watercolor rendition of the Hague parrots.

I can’t explain why, but I’ve felt a connection with birds (all birds, but parrots specifically and much moreso than birds of prey) my whole life. Nothing really makes me happier than parrots. Some of my friends call me “the parrot whisperer,” and I somehow always manage to find the wild parrots in the most unexpected urban areas. So far I’ve tracked and observed flocks in Brooklyn (NY), Austin (TX), Barcelona, Paris, Dubai, and more.

A few days ago a friend and I were walking around The Hague, a city in the Netherlands perhaps most known as home to some of the foremost international peacekeeping organizations int he world. After leaving an artist co-op, when we happened across a park neither of us had before been. The entrance caught my eye the previous week when it was pouring down rain, but I was too wet to explore. That day the skies were gray but the weather was calm, so we wandered in and found ourselves amidst a Dutch wonderland—a juxtaposition of carefully spaced trees and rugged overgrowth, bell-shaped flowers and purplish leaves smearing color across the green backdrop. Cubed metal sculptures doubled as a play gym for kids, imposing modernity upon the aged backdrop of regal brick buildings bordering the park.

We walked along the path and through the grass, admiring nature, when I started to tell my friend about the wild parrots of Paris. Seconds after the words left my mouth, a flock of green parrots flew directly over us, chattering distinctly, and landed in a tree next to the path ahead. I stopped in my tracks and pointed up.

“OMG they’re here too!” Their squawks were unmistakable.

“No. Really?”

“Yes, look!” We watched them swing around the branches and fly onward. Looking up to the trees, we noticed new flocks joining, dozens of little green rose-ringed parrots.

Screen Shot 2016-02-24 at 3.11.44 PM

Though I hadn’t consciously heard their calls before spotting them, maybe part of my brain is always listening for them, a remnant of growing up with a little flock of my own.

A smile spread over my face as my eyes darted around the sky, observing these carefree creatures in their pre-dusk clamor to regroup the flock and discuss an impending rain cloud over a rare assortment of tree nuts. They swung upside down from tree branches, chasing each other flirtatiously, finally landing in groups of two. I was momentarily jealous of the simplicity of their courtship rituals: pick your most genetically compatible bae and snuggle up on a branch for eternity? If only it was that easy.

My friend and I perched on the stone steps leading down to a pond patrolled by a fanciful duck, the parrots flying overhead in coordinated formations like miniature fighter pilots. It was as if nature was giving us a private show in our own secret amphitheater. We watched them until we felt rain drops and then moved on, passing cotton-tailed bunnies on the way out.

I’m beginning to notice a pattern of parrots picking the lushest and most serene environments to gather within urban landscapes—something noticeably lacking from my life, spent mostly online and within the confines of human architectural creations. I think I’ll make it my goal to find the parrots in every city I visit.

I will leave you with this video, shared with me by three people independently of each other this morning (thanks Dave, Evan, and Pilar!), featuring a member of the Saskatoon Parrot Rescue and his friend Pebble making a statement about confining captive parrots in circular cages. It may seem a bit extreme, but it is well-documented that parrots, if contained, prefer rectangular or other polyhedron-shaped cages so they have corners to retreat into. A circular cage can actually be quite damaging to a parrot’s mental health, as they leave the birds feeling exposed and deny them agency over their interactivity with the surrounding environment.

Advertisements

A Tourist In A Dream

This post was originally published on Beacon Reader, an experiment in crowdsourced publishing that has subsequently ceased to exist. RIP Beacon Reader. 

For the first time in six months of traveling around the world, I’m not sure I should be leaving the place where I am. There’s usually some gentle force in the environment pushing or pulling me to my next destination, outweighing the static force that holds me still. But here I am, leaving the Netherlands tomorrow, and all I want is to do is stay.

I arrived at the decision to travel here in a seemingly random manner. But there’s actually a methodology to my plan that goes back to the most stable activity I engaged in in New York: going to my favorite bar in Brooklyn on Tuesday nights. I never went to bed at the same time, woke up at the same time, or went to any place in the city with any kind of routine—except for the Larry Lawrence. That’s where I met Tom Smith, chatting across a tea light and drinking away the burden of knowing too much.

We barely got to know each other before I was at his going away party. He was moving to Austria to work for a company that figures out how to keep us all from annihilating ourselves with nuclear weapons. I went to his going away party at our old wagon wheel bar and ate one of his Star Wars cupcakes. We messaged each other intermittently over the years, and then all of a sudden I was being propelled from Berlin to Amsterdam and I messaged him to see if he was still in Vienna. “Come to Amsterdam, I have a place to stay in The Hague.” And so I did.

When I saw him, he was greyer than I remembered, but it may have been a reflection of his suit. His eyes drooped with sleeplessness and pure exhaustion. He told me his work had been killing him, and I assured him I was a low-maintenance guest as we traversed the wavy Dutch cobblestone paths through the city center. We ascended the two elevators to reach his penthouse apartment in the fourth-tallest building in the city. He apologized for the place being a mess, as he hadn’t had time to unpack since he’d moved in. There were boxes, papers, tools scattered over every available surface, from kitchen counter to coffee table. I told him I’d help him get settled.

We went to dinner in China Town that evening and regained some semblance of our past selves. We talked about the guys in our lives, and gossiped a bit about our mutual friends back at the Larry Lawrence. I told him I was digging the lifestyle in Amsterdam, and he told me I should go to a place called “Kramers” that was a coffee shop on one side and a bar on the other.

The following day, I walked all around town and ended my trip at Kramers. I tried to buy weed but they wouldn’t let me because I didn’t have a Dutch ID. New law as of a few months ago says they can’t sell to foreigners. I looked around the smoke-filled bar at all the grungy hippies and middle aged men, wondering which of them would be the one to offer their spliff to me. I sat drinking a Leffe at the bar, returning emails from a mid-day New York City on my smartphone when I caught a burst of blonde hair out of the corner of my eye. I turned my head to glance at him, and he looked at me and smiled a smirkish, cocky smile. I turned my head back to my phone before I smirked back.

A minute later, an arm reached past me on the left and grabbed a jar off the table filled with dried green leaves.

“Hey what is that?” I asked the arm, following it up to glimpse the face framed by two asymmetrical swathes of blonde.

“You don’t know?” he asked, piqued by my naivete. I shook my head. “It’s like an herb. You mix it with weed instead of tobacco,”  He started to walk away and then turned back to me. “You can come try it if you want.”

And that was how it started: the most insane fling of my life. Inside the little glass room meant for smoking cigarettes, which we occupied against its purpose to smoke this novel concoction, Nicholaas and I blazed and he asked me how old I was.

“How old do you think I am?” I asked.

“23,” he replied.

“I’m 27. How old are you?”

“23.”

“Wishful thinking.”

“What?”

“Nothing.” I smiled smugly and he stared at me intently with his wild blue eyes.

His English was good but not perfect, but still he spoke it effortlessly. I didn’t plan what would happen at that point, I simply opened myself to the possibility of it by conducting myself as someone who had made up her mind that it wasn’t a good idea. He was too young, too cocky, and he ran out of Kramers to meet a friend at the train station and left me standing there holding the burning spliff. Flaky.

Three days later, we were fucking on LSD on an island North of Amsterdam while everyone back home was eating Thanksgiving dinner.

I have been living the dream here, existing in domestic bliss with an awesome gay man and having some of the best sex of my life with a 23-year-old Dutch god; managing my publication online and organizing the apartment while Tom does his part to save the world. Tonight when I was packing, he told me I was like Mary Poppins for him, and that this was the first time he wasn’t lonely since he’d moved here. His eyes welled up, and I realized that he looked vibrant and rested and healthy, a different person from when I arrived. And I’m packing, and packing, and I can’t bring myself to finish packing. But I guess I should go and preserve this memory forever, carrying it with me as I traverse the other side of the world as a new standard for what life can be if I follow my impulses.