When you go from France to Holland by train, you might wind up losing your respect for the Wermacht's exploits, occupying European countries in days or weeks. Everything there is so boring. Everything is so small! I had just popped open a bottle of beer, and suddenly the freshly painted, intolerable Belgium is knocking by with its own French-style stations. Knock, knock, "The Hague" or something like that, "Brussels." You've got enough time to notice that the same international conglomerates trumpet their wares here as they do in France. Belgium is basically geographical nonsense; in one part of the province they speak French, the other Flemish, and that seems to be a Dutch dialect. In Belgium, the French established its royalty almost on the nose of the twentieth century. Next to the Place de la Concorde, on the Seine, there's a monument to Belgian King Albert I in a long French robe.
After Belgium, I opened the second bottle of beer, and it knocks around right by a Dutch platform. Holland, in fact, is just a cement dyke connecting France and Germany. 20 million skinny ascetic divider-men and round-assed white-skinned women live along that dyke. The Dutch have long words, just like the Estonians and Finns. My publisher's publishing house -- the publisher was Jos Kut -- was called "Wereldbliioteek" or something like that, I remember meeting those doubled-up letters not just two or three times. The train to Amsterdam goes through flat despondent houses, parking lots, and the countryside reminiscent of a field, some sort of hummock. And that is Holland -- a land of fields. There are all these identifying names on white hanging boards above the platforms in a blue font: "Harlem" for example, and we even recognize "Amsterdam" that way. New York at the very beginning of its existence was called New Amsterdam.
Stations fly by. A depraved pimply girl is constantly licking her lips, a brazen red skinned Indonesian is chewing his gum frantically and looking at the pimply Dutch girl at her right where, under the fabric of her skirt, her sex crack is. A gray elongated man next to the one with red skin is looking over as well, but he is judging the girl and the red skin by the silence of their copulation. And I'm going to my publisher.
Their villages are careful as a plank; they repeat the figure of a statistically average Dutch. I pondered and observed all of this -- that's how I traveled.
Amsterdam's train station is disgusting. Gypsies, children, wind, dust, cups from McDonald's, empty cans -- why so much filth? Respectable people travel through airports? Reassuring posters for an exhibition -- a van Gogh retrospective -- steamed over everything. Vincent with a cut-off ear.
On my second arrival on December 6, 1990, I went to search for Amsterdam's port.
"There is no port, Edward!" Jos Kut sadly informed me.
I didn't believe him. There is a Brel song "To the port of Amsterdam! To the port of Amsterdam!" about a poor abandoned sailor -- in short, it's a great song. And in those years I felt myself to be a poor abandoned sailor because I wore a pea coat -- those were the years of the pea coat -- and I felt myself abandoned. I felt myself abandoned because at that time my love with Natasha died -- stretched, tortured, slowly and with languorous and foul joy. I left her myself, straight ahead into the black hole of war and revolution. I couldn't keep my balance, it was difficult for me; there was that temptation. I born for war and revolution -- wasn't I? -- and they hadn't happened. And I took off with a joyous smile only when I was 48-years-old, straight-ahead, into war and revolution, to their needle's eye of death. And at Natasha's, there were only female organs. And all that she was able to do was to lower herself with some rogue. That's what she did. And I returned from war and imagined myself an unhappy sailor, and all the pipes, all the flutes and drums of Brel sounded to me in my ears when I left the next day from the clean hostel room, already drunk and going to search for the Porte d'Amsterdame...