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April 16, 2005


Spacecakes are aptly named. I asked the barista at Coffee Shop Route 99 if they were strong, then explained I had an 11-hour train trip ahead of me. You better eat two, she said. Why was I leaving Amsterdam in such a hurry? I had arrived just 28 hours earlier and here I was leaving on a delightfully grey rainy Saturday morning with many unvisited art exhibits circled in my Amsterdam Weekly. Lately, my judgment hasn't been so great. Something was pulling me toward Praha--or, more precisely, Jakub, a village about one hour southeast of the capital where I share a house with my friend Mirek. The cakes did the trick, got me into a weird mental space. Maybe not so weird. I started drawing comics, fiddled with illusions of depth on the page even as the scrolling view was reduced to the two-dimensional window plane (and now I'm relating all this within the flatness of a laptop screen). I'd walked Amsterdam with nothing on me but a notebook , pen, and camera. But the camera bored me. Photography is a reductive lie, the movies I make are not much better. I wanted to exist in three dimensions. All the drama was in the moment but I still felt bad when I missed "capturing" it--the backwards glance of a garbage man craning his neck for a glimpse of passing ass, a tram ringing its bell to warn two pigeons off the tracks and the look on the driver's face uncertain if they'd got away unscathed (they had), a truck inching around tight corner, its bed fractions from scraping a bollard, a street sweep driver getting out to feed his whirling vacuum vehicle a sheet of newspaper out of reach of his brushes, the high pressure hose man blasting cobblestones in the rain. The people seemed self-contained and I wanted to be that way. The good news is Amsterdam is littered with flat cans same as everywhere else and I came away with a big collection.