Saturday, April 30, 2005

Only at Home

As long as I can remember April 30 has been "Konininginnedag", the day the Dutch celebrate the birthday of the queen. Queen Mother Juliana's birthday was on April 30th. Her daughter Beatrix, the present queen, was born in January. Since that month hardly calls for outdoors festivities (unless there's enough ice on the waterways for the "Elf Stedentocht" the famous ice skating event, that takes skaters by eleven towns in Friesland), the queen let the people keep April 30th as Koninginnedag. Everybody is off, and all of Amsterdam turns into one huge yard sale, bringing people from all over the country to town.

Today Beatrix van Oranje celebrates her 25th anniversary as Queen of the Netherlands. The NRC, one of the leading daily newspapers placed a call for its readers' personal memories, anecdotes involving the queen. Do I have one? You bet I do.

In December 1986, six years into her reign, the queen honored everyone involved by attending a performance of "The Blacks" by Jean Genet in the Soeterijn Theater in Amsterdam.
During the summer, co-director Henk Tjon, actor Maarten van Hinte and I had worked on a contemporary translation and adaptation of the original French play. I also met regularly with the late Rufus Collins to discuss my set and costume designs for the same play.

I was so involved, that it was hard to understand why Otto Romeijn, the co-producer of the play didn't allow me to be part of the royal moment, when Queen Beatrix came on stage at the Soeterijn theater, to congratulate the ensemble with a job well done. I have to admit, I sat sulking in a chair in the front row. The queen complimented Rufus with stage direction, set and costumes. Without any ado Rufus called out my name and pulling me onto the stage said, "this is our designer."
Ah, the satisfaction!
Queen Beatrix told me my designs were inventive.
I wondered whether calling her "Ma'am" was the correct address to thank her, when I heard actor Arnie Breeveld's bass, "I hear Your Majesty likes to act as well?"
"Only at home," the queen said with a big smile. And then we all laughed.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Alfa Bitch

The owner of "Pawsabilities" called Little Dog a dominant bitch. "She sucks up to your man doesn't she? Has she given you that look yet, that you're old and that she'll take your place?" he asked.
The nerve! How dare he call my dog a dominant bitch! I felt a growl rise in my chest, when I realized that dominant bitch is a qualification, not an insult, at least not for a dog.
Last night, on our walk around the block, LD and I ran into another woman with her dog. Talking loudly on her cell phone, she dragged a black labrador/ pit bull mix across the street, and out of our sight. LD started an aria I know to mean, "Want to meet, want to meet." We rounded the corner and found the duo waiting for us. With a nasty sneer on his face, the dog lashed out at LD.
"Wait a moment," the woman said to the person she was talking to, tossing the phone on the grass. In one swift movement she landed on her knees, pulling one of the dog's front legs back and over. As he landed on his chin, she straddled the beast. "Submit!" she said, reaching out for the phone. "Sorry about that, I've got to show my alfa male dog to submit to a little dog that wants to say hi."
LD carefully smelled the woman's pant legs, the dog's butt and his face. Then she took on her "I want to play", butt in the air position. The male, in submission, released his muscles.
The woman, resuming her telephone conversation, got up as sudden as she had got down, walked off without having granted me one word. The dominant bitch.

All Rights Reserverd © Judith van Praag

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Transportatino in Las Vegas II

A few hours, a swim, and a nap after our arrival at Palace Station Hotel and Casino, we boarded the Palace Station Shuttle Bus with FIL, PHD's sisters and their spouses and our athletic nephew. Dropped off at the Tropicana Hotel & Casino we could have walked, but instead we took two separate cabs to the Bellagio, where Cirque du Soleil performed "O", their modern water ballet. Hurricane strength desert winds nearly knocked me off my feet as I struggled to the entrance of the hotel. Dazzling interior, plunging necklines, bra-less miracles and couples with generational gaps larger than the number of years I've been out of kindergarten, made for a satisfying opening performance to "O", the show.

I'm not going to write about the show now (or ever), but afterwards we met with PHD's Clever Aunt and Cool Uncle, who live in Las Vegas part of the year and are avid poker players.

CA and CU took us out for breakfast at the cafeteria of the Monte Carlo Hotel and Casino. At the next table over "O's" four Malaysian contortionists showed a good appetite. On our way to Palace Station CU attempted a short-cut which got us to see more of the city than the city planners like tourists such as us to see. PHD and I love getting lost, it's got us to get to know places much better.

On Saturday WA and her daughter Amazone Couz returned in AC's car to show us around town. PHD and I wanted to ride the Monorail. Surprised CA and AC said they had been wanting to do that forever, so this was their chance. AC parked her vehicle at the Sahara Hotel & Casino parking lot, which was near our Palace Station Hotel and Casino, and from there we got on the elevated. A ticket good for one entree only cost $3, PHD and I each bought a day pass for ten bucks.

The concierge of our hotel told us a cab ride to downtown's Fremont Arcade would cost $10. The (our second) Russian cabby told us not to mind his meter, he charged a flat rate. "Ten bucks," he said when we got out at Fremont. PHD fingered the change in his pocket for a tip. The look on the cabby's face that of a dog who hopes you have a treat in your pocket, while knowing he already had one.

The African cab driver who took us back to the hotel that night, did have his meter running, which showed $8.40 upon arrival, we rounded it off to ten. The first guy's flat rate had included a tip! From the hotel we walked to the 7 Eleven to buy a few things. Our African cabby greeted us as if we were old acquaintances.
"I guess we could have asked you to take us here," PHD said.
We all laughed.

Sunday morning we discovered the Monorail's daypass was good for 24 hours! Of course. New York may be the city that never sleeps, neither does Sin City.

All Rights Reserved © Judith van Praag

Fremont Arcade

Fremont Arcade, originally uploaded by Luna Type.

Dr. John

Saturday, April 16, 2005

SPANAKOPITA (Greek Spinach Pie)

INGREDIENTS (1-9"x9" pie pan):

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 bunch green onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 pounds spinach, rinsed and chopped
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
8 sheets phyllo dough
1/4 cup olive oil


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly oil a 9x9 inch square baking pan.

2. Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Sauté onion, green onions and garlic, until soft and lightly browned. Stir in spinach and parsley, and continue to sauté until spinach is limp, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

3. In a medium bowl, mix together eggs, ricotta, and feta. Stir in spinach mixture. Lay 1 sheet of phyllo dough in prepared baking pan, and brush lightly with olive oil. Lay another sheet of phyllo dough on top, brush with olive oil, and repeat process with two more sheets of phyllo. The sheets will overlap the pan. Spread spinach and cheese mixture into pan and fold overhanging dough over filling. Brush with oil, then layer remaining 4 sheets of phyllo dough, brushing each with oil. Tuck overhanging dough into pan to seal filling.

4. Bake in preheated oven for 30 to 40 minutes, until golden brown. Cut into squares and serve while hot.


Talk to Strangers

I visited the One Day Show of "HOME" at the Henry Art Gallery. Before the presentation and lecture started in the auditorium, there was a reception with FareStart hors d'oeuvres, white wine and water in the Gallery Cafe.
Picking a spanakopita triangle from the server's tray, I commented on her voice, she sounded hoarse.
"That's how I was born," she said.
No, her vocal cords weren't too short, she was born a premie and the oxygen tube they fed through her tiny throat was too big, so it hurt her larynx.
"These days they make tubes that are small enough," she said.
"Thanks to you, your example," I said.
"Yes, perhaps," she smiled, "have another hors d'oeuvre."

I didn't know anybody at the reception. I matched names on the program with those on name tags. Others did the same. I saw people glance at my name tag in passing. Not recognizing my name, they decided they didn't need to know me. Eyes would jump from my tag to my face, they'd smile and walk on. Did I do the same? Do we only talk to people we know or need to know at a charitable event?

I chatted with all the servers.

All Rights Reserved © Judith van Praag


Where the heart is. Nicholas Prior's heart is clearly in the photographs he took of homeless people and their shelters during a four-day photo shoot in Seattle in 2004. An artist since birth (his words), he had not been in the habit of photographing homeless.

In his lecture at Henry Art Gallery Prior pointed out how we take pictures to create myths of ourselves. In our pictures we perpetuate a positive thought of ourselves. In our albums we don't cry. But when our camera is pointed at the disadvantaged, we don't want them to fix their hair, we don't want to disrupt the scene. The result a colonialist point of view.

Getty Images and FareStart combine forces.

CEOs and employees of Getty Images have been giving financial aid to FareStart (see links in side bar). Wanting to give more than money, Getty Images sent art photographer Nicholas Prior on assignment to Seattle. Prior's objective was to meet as many homeless people as possible and to show that homelessness is not a matter of class, that the line that separates the homed from the homeless is much thinner than we generally like to believe.

Prior thanked his two collaborators and partners, FareStart graduate Derrick DeJesus and FareStart employee Patricia Gray. Derrick showed Nicholas the places he had been on his homeless journey and Patricia opened the dialogue with the people Nicholas wanted to photograph. They presented people with FareStart sandwiches and explained how FareStart empowers homeless and disadvantaged people by giving them training, a place to stay and help them get a job after graduation. Often people would consent having their picture taken.

HOME. Yesterday I posted the when and where the photo series will be shown in greater Seattle.

All Rights Reserved © Judith van Praag

Friday, April 15, 2005

Prior Happening HOME

HOME: April 14 at Henry Art Gallery; April 15-30, 2005 St. Mark's Episcopal Cathedral; May 2005 Seattle City Hall; June 2005 2100 Building in Rainier Valley; July & August 2005 Washington State Trade & Convention Center; September 2005 Bellevue City Hall; October 2005 Kirkland Performance Center.
Questions: What is HOME? Or, where is HOME? Who is HOME?

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Las Vegas Transportation I

FIL e-mailed PHD that a hotel shuttle would take us from Las Vegas airport to Palace Station Hotel and Casino. If only traveling was that easy. You land, you exit the terminal, someone opens the door of a car and you're whisked off to your destination.

In Vegas they're not in the business to show you a free ride. A heavy set female guard, called me Sweetie and pressed her body into mine while pointing at the far end of the hall. "That's where you take the escalator down."

After we crossed the spacious hall and descended one level, a limo driver holding up a sign with a foreign family name, told us to go upstairs. We took the first escalator in sight, which delivered us one floor higher than where we wanted to be. Another one took us down one floor. A helpful shuttle bus driver pointed at bus stop #22. "But we're looking for the Palace Station Shuttle," we said. The man shrugged, pointing at #22.

At the bus stop, a man with an airport badge informed us that bus #22 departed only once an hour. Next question, had the bus just left, or would it be there in a minute? If we just missed it, we could be waiting 59 minutes. He nodded, understood our predicament, but didn't have the answer. We were joined at the stop by another couple. The man discovered only quarters were accepted for the bus fare. Leaving his wife to guard their bags, he galloped back to the building. Looking at each other PHD and I decided to take a cab.

The cue at the taxi stop folded back on itself three times on the wide side walk. The result a six person wide line moving about in a steady fashion. Vegas entertainment starts right there. People from all over the globe come to Sin City to spend money, gamble away their family home, or their kids' college fund, or win it all back and more, or in our case, see a couple of shows and help celebrated PHD's dad's 70th birthday.

Traffic was heavy and our Russian cabby took advantage of the long stops at the traffic lights to practice his riffs. He kept his small size guitar on the floor board of the passenger seat beside him. Each time we stopped, he opened the window on his side, so he could stick the neck of the instrument outside. Without any aplomb, he played some delicate Jazz rifss, then inched into a Bossa Nova, while our gazes were fixed on the nearly live size photo of chorus girls' bare buttocks on the rear of the car in front of ours.

All Rights Reserved © 2005 Judith van Praag

Las Vegas Monorail

Las Vegas Monorail, originally uploaded by Luna Type.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Fools and I

"Ik zei de gek," or "Me, said the Fool," was my mother's favorite way to point out that one (I) shouldn't start a sentence with I, one (I) shouldn't be too quick to respond (except for in class), to volunteer (with the exception of offering help doing dishes, digging dandelion roots for the rabbits, picking up my horse's droppings), to get a cookie, to put oneself (me) in the spotlight.

Btw I could have written, "'I' said the Fool," above, but hey, I learned from Bobby Mcgee and Me. Thank you Janis Joplin.

Around the time that I started listening to Janis, and Jimmy, and Les Flute Indien (the first record albums in my collection), my mother expressed the hope I would find my place in the limelight.

Question was, how do you acquire that spot without actively promoting yourself. In other words, how do you get attention without saying me, myself, I?

For one, a writer takes his pen (thank you Stevie) and writes the words again (Yes!), can write about himself, without ever saying, "Hey Y'all, it's me," while he writes in 3rd person.

Leaving it up to the others to say, it's all about, who again?

All rights reserved © Judith van Praag