Tuesday, March 07, 2023


When I woke it was with a dream about the Valkenswaard years still in my head. Ever since returning to the States there has been little contact with the people I knew then, due to the complete inability of the Dutch to write letters, and my own failed social instincts. But I still have a fondness for the place. North Brabanders are a queer lot. They were fun to be around, but once you're gone, you're gone.

The two most notable North Brabanders were Pieter Brueghel the Elder, born in the vicinity of Breda around 1525, and Vincent van Gogh. The evidence indicates that they were odd.

Neither the water nor the cuisine were in any way responsible.
I blame the social environment for that.
It's closed, obsessive.

Of course, the landscape and natural circumstances of the province probably also greatly contributed; both men painted grim outdoor scenery, howling wastelands, and and horrendous climactic conditions, and were notorious alcoholics to boot.
Their paintings bear testimony to that.
The vicinity of Breda, which shows up in illustrations by Brueghel.

My ancestors in the Dutch side of the family came from that region, from the village of Deursen. In 1630 Abraham Pietersen van Deursen, a third generation Haarlem exile from Brabant, established himself in New Amsterdam. Mill Street in New York is named after his business there, and his most notable achievement was possibly selling bad beer which he made to the governor of the colony, Peter Stuyvesant. He was one of the notables of New Amsterdam, and among his descendants were President van Buren and Presidents Teddy and Franklin Roosevelt, as well as a fellow who had twenty five children that lived to adulthood with three wives over a long life. To whom I am related.

[In his day both central heating and television did not exist. Winters were cold]

Here in the United States I know very few Dutchmen, especially ones with a New Amsterdam lineage. Most of them are super intelligent, as well as a bit peculiar (or a lot). When one of the languages in which you think is comprised of hairballs being hacked up, loudly and painfully, naturally your mind goes furry. And often sideways.

I do not seek out the company of Dutch speakers.
It's quite enjoyable, when it happens.
But they're goofy.

My fondness for sausage, and meatballs, is probably due to having spent sixteen years living there. As well as pastries. Dat is allemaal Bourgondisch, weet ge wel.
Oh, and sambal. In nearly everything.

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