Seems the entire long week-end was struck with time traps and lapses. Like Dr. who we tried to short-circuit the Tardis to make up for times lost. And it seems we did rather a good job. Murphy's law might have prevailed in materiality, Bob's hilaritas prevailed in our hearts.
I drive a van. It's cheap, big enough to drive assertively, reliable and it can move furniture and stuff. But I only have one passenger seat. So I went to look for a method of transportation for the meetup. At first I ordered a large car through the internet, enough to handle about 8 Maybe Logicians with a heavy case of ADHD. It didn't work out, the firm I contacted couldn't reach the 'real' firm, the one that's supposed to handle cars. So I had to accept the next best thing, which was a small vehicle for 5 folks. A quick math made clear we could have a problem on Monday, since 6 MLA members (Bogusmagus, Chris Matthias, Fuzzbuddy, Rev. Clarry, AcrilliQ and yours truly) would show up, and a few (Benedict, AnnedeCroix) might show up at the last minute… But a plan B was set up, involving my pal Wimpie who at the same time might like to join up online.
Day 0. I went to pick up the rented car on Friday the 20th. The lady behind the desk couldn't make any sense of my voucher. She only found my name in a reservation for a large car, which of course she didn't have. So I asked if I could have a smaller one. I could. Fine. Then it seemed my credit card had been billed already, for a smaller car. Belgian bureaucracy at its best. No one knows anything but it all turns out well at the end.
I left home to pick up BM, FB and Chris, but got stuck in traffic on my way to the Bruges station. Now the roads in Belgium are about the only thing (all right, roads and beers. No, wait, roads, beer and chocolate. No, wait, roads, beers, chocolate and the spanish inquisition…) we like to brag about. We have the largest network of roads per square km in the entire world. And the most illuminated one as well, they say you can see Belgium from the moon. So it seemed a bit awkward to get stuck at a strange time (18.30) on the highway towards Bruges.
I found the guys, who seemed happy to be there, we put the bags in the car and left for little stroll. I knew a place that's always packed in the vicinity of the station, but we were happy to find lots of room on the still sunny terrace. "Terracing" is a bit the national sport here during the warmer days, every café or restaurant has its terrace where people enjoy the sun, the refreshments and the company. the place we went is called the 'Stoupa', the name of a buddhist artefact, a structure used for veneration of the Buddha. Originally there were eight Stupas, each of them a shrine to a part of the Buddhas ashes after his cremation. The form of a classical stupa always consists of five parts, representing the five buddhist elements: a square base (earth), a hemispherical dome (water), a conical spire (fire), a crescent moon (air) and a circular disc (space). In Tibet the Stupas are called chortens, and a traveler is supposed to travel left of a chorten, as is explained in Tintin in Tibet. We had walked around a stupa last year in Milton Keynes. But this place is just a big café, with only the tibetan prayer flags reminding of the name. We took seats at a pleasant atrium with lots of trees. The world kitchen provided us with strength, the extended beer menu with the good spirits. But travelling is tiresome. The guys had left their homes a lot earlier that day, so we decided to call it a day. On the way to the hotel in Ghent we stopped at my place for a little stop, enough for Chris to see some pussy or at least to get a glimpse of my not-so social - with the exception of the male Kia - felines. My four female cats, God and her three daughters Namu, Amida and Butsu sometimes showed up but usually took cover behind the walls (or so it seems with cats). After a belgian beer, about which needs to be said that Chris found them generally too sweet - but then he found the home-made absinthe I gave two years ago in Dublin 'a bit bitter but not too much' didn't he, absinth being about the epithome of bitterness; after a belgian beer as I said we all felt it was way past our bedtime so off we went to Ghent where Chris and Fuzzbuddy had rented rooms in a Holiday Inn. Bogusmagus was gracious to travel with us and give me some company on the way back home. We agreed to get the guys at their hotel the next day at 10-ish, since I had had word from both Rev. Clarry and AcrilliQ they'd arrive, the first from Brussels, the second from Amsterdam, at about 11.00 in the Ghent station.
Day 1. All for hoping and making little plans… Bogusmagus and I left home at 9.30. It's about 30 minutes drive. Sadly we got stuck in traffic. Once again. But this time the cars stood still for a considerable amount of time. The kind of traffic line I'm not used to (I couldn't convince my British friends), people just got out of their cars and started stretching, walking their dog, sit in the grass at the side of the road, I even thought I saw people haing a picknick… some just started to walk leaving the keys of the car to their husband or spouse. We got stuck in the sun for three long hours without any water. We kept messaging the Chris and FB, and finally they took the tram towards the station. Meanwhile I had some calls from AcrilliQ who would arrive at 12.00, and I called Rev. Clarry to try to direct him to the buffet where Chris and FB would be waiting. Seems they all ended up finding each other, and decided to try to get to the city centre while BM and I finally entered Ghent. We parked behind the station and after an unnecessary walk (my bad) we ended up taking the tram towards the festival. The place was crowded already, one needs to realize the "Gentse Feesten" is ten days of almost non-stop music, parties, street animations in the entire city centre and at several other locations, and people from everywhere in Flanders go there. The day is for families, the night (from about 23.00 till the morning, 6-ish) is for the 'Nachtbrakers', literally the 'night pukers' (which gives an idea of the kind of healthy fun we have here in the barbarian countries). So there's LOTS of people. By messaging we were able to localize each other and the six of us finally took seats on a terrace for some beers, which was nice after a our warm ordeal.
I cannot remember much of what was said but I remember a funny diatribe of Chris against 'those global warming people". The paranormal crypt we just visited seemed fairly normal, except for Fly's jacket, with keys, papers and … all… who took a life on its own and decided to stay there. Until his master came to find it. People started to get hungry, so we took a little stroll from the Belfry down towards 'Bij St jacobs', admiring the many street artists performing next to the city council. About which later on was thought we could have done something with the lasagna… We struggled our way to a local beerhouse on the 'Vrijdagsmarkt' where they usually sell more than 250 kinds of beers… sadly for the time the festival they could only give us a restricted choice. I always considered a good beer worthwile a fine meal, but everyone else was hungry so I took them to a café-restaurant with world food I used to do lay-out work for during two years. I've lived in Ghent for ten years so even given my hopeless spatial loss syndrome I manage to find my way rather well. We went back to the same terrace from the early afternoon for a good digestive beer (just giving food for sarcasm). Rev. Clarry had to leave to get his train so we said goodbye.
I wanted to see at least one gig so we went towards the main stage at 'Bij St Jacobs' where Belgian electrofolk band Ambrozijn gave quite a good show IMHO. AcrilliQ, Fuzzbuddy and I stayed while Bogusmagus and Chris went to look for a quiet place. Strange idea in my opinion, a bit like looking for a needle in a haystack, while the evening grew darker more and more and more people came pouring in. Finally Chris came to claim he had found such a place. So we ended up at what I know is one of the most famous gay bars in town. Not that you could see it on the outside. And indeed, at the end of a darker sidestreet, we could have a nice little drink (nudge nudge) while at the other end of the street we could watch the uncessant flow of the crowd. The waiter looked like he rowed back in his pirogue from some southamerican tribal village, and had to take out the plate from his lower lip to serve drinks onto. Actually he had been in a heavy fight the night before and had lost some teeth, and that's why his lower lip was so bizarrely swollen. He was almost impossible to understand. I thought of paying a visit to a party 'Freaks of Nature' where a friend of mine, Smurf, was DJ'ing for the local goth scene, but suddenly everyone was strangely tired, yet it was only 1:00, which is still pretty early for a visit to the Gentse Feesten. So, curfew again; we couldn't get a tram back to the car, since hundreds of people had similar ideas, so we walked back. After getting Fuzzbuddy and Chris back to their hotel I arrived with AcrilliQ and Bogusmagus at my place for a good sleep. I checked my mails and a friend from Bruges whom I had messaged during the day to ask where she was had send a mail, writing she had had a few beers too much the night before and had to leave the gay bar she was having a drink at, because a couple of russians had started a fight and even started to punch the waiter so hard he had lost some teeth… During the night Fly had a fight with my inflatable mattress upstairs which made him sea-sick so he slept (not very well I'm afraid) on the couch.
I really need to have a cupper sign made for my front door saying 'Bogusmagus and AcrilliQ stayed here in 2007'.
Day 2. Bruges. At about 11.00 we parked the car just outside one of the medieval gates. Sadly Rev. Clarry didn't show up and I was unable to reach him, so there were five of us. I had prepared a hermetic tour of Bruges. I did quite a bit of research, had had a tour with friends from Bruges earlier this month, but my spoken English is too broken IMHO to hand over all the information I found. I'm busy working it out right now to provide a written piece for MQ12.
We strolled in Bruges in a shamrock tour, every time approaching the belfry in the centre in the distance from another angle and walking away from it. Bruges is a small city, you can walk from one side to the other in about 1 hour or less. So we walked a lot. Happily, I had looked for enough terraces to visit during the warm journey. After a little intro in the lost history of the city, passing the house of the pious executioner, the masonic lodge, the house of the witch, we found the Two Towers of Bruges, two immense churches build there by competing parishes in the 7th century which reminded me of Tolkien. We stopped for the fine story of the chapel hidden in an chocolate shop, went to see the smallest window of town, walked in the circle of the four horsemen of the apocalyps, watched the facade of the seven works of Mercy, and sat down for a beer (again) at the fish market. Then it started to rain, so we had yet another beer. My friend Wimpie joined up and we strolled along by the waterside. Next was a small tour of popular Bruges, with little streets in strange angles, and we found ourselves in front of the church of Jeruzalem. We were even lucky to enter this most bizarre piece of templar architecture, still mysteriously privately owned.
We walked on, following the path of the part of the "Reie", the river flowing in curves through Bruges shaping the form of the town, ended up in a pizzeria along the path which Bogusmagus discovered had housenumber 23, and was located in the 'Academy' street. Wimpie left us then, agreeing to travel with us the next day towards Amsterdam. We went on towards the opera building, where masonic symbols were hidden. It might be an idea to make a tour in which people have to search for the hidden symbols. We strolled along towards the market where we finally got facing the belfry. There are many buildings with templar and masonic motives, sadly most of them are restaurants and the frescos are hidden by the sunshades. Anyway we went on from the meridian of Bruges towards the very core of the city, the "Burg" with the city council filled up with symbols and the chapel of the Holy Blood in the corner. We finished the tour visiting the undrground remains of the St. Donatius cathedral, which was build on a much more ancient carolingian 8-sided basilica. Then we had little drink in a small café situated in the narrowest street of town, and finished by having a meal again at the inside terrace of a restaurant. I might add my British friends found it very funny every time I mentionned the use of torture. Strangely the people from Bruges on the tour last month didn't react to it, but it seems every single one of the stories I told involved some sort of painful bodily damage in one way or the other. Gave us some good laughs when it came at the very end. Seems the Spanish Inquisition (here they are again) never came to Bruges. It was much worse already and they probably pitied the poor heretics.
We ended the day at my place, where everything was made ready for the ritual provided by Chris. But first we had a little stand-up cut-up poetry with Fly reading bits from Anthony Burgess "Here comes Everybody" interrupted by me reading bits of Bogusmagus' English version of René Daumal's "A night of heavy drinking". Resonated quite well, we sorta made up a new book combining Joycean scholarship with a dadaïstic stream of consciousness which might be called "Here comes a night of heavy drinking, everybody.
Chris had brought a can of Guinness, symbolizing Owen who organised the first meeting in Dublin two years ago, a bottle of Australian Chardonnay symbolizing Dan who was there too at the first meetup, then he made a Miniprop as he did last year in Milton Keynes for Propaganda with twigs and a pine cone, and an effigy of Minimindy as well with a pink tutu and a tattoo. I used some MDF bits to make a Mininonprophet. We took the picture with symbols of money and power in my kitchen, then went on to make a pentacle in my back yard, where Chris provided each of us with a virtual academician, and we ended up disposing of the bunch appropriately. The first to go was Miniprop, then Minimindy, while we disposed of Liquid Owen and Liquid Dan. But even with gasoline the tough Mininonprophet wouldn't burn completely. Kinda good omen showing his strength even in difficult times.
Day 3. Amsterdam. Wimpie came to my place and we left with the frozen lasagna with two cars towards Ghent. The road directions in B elgium are usually rather good, except when they just start working on the road. Which is what they did, so we lost about an hour trying to get at the hotel, driving around in circles finally after discovering a very small sign. We tried to leave but got in the same strange loop, discovering yet another small sign towards the highway. We drove on towards Antwerp, crossing the border with the Netherlands and got horribly lost. I assumed the road signs would help us find a big city like Amsterdam but they didn't. And it's generally a very bad idea for drivers to phone to each other without the use of a handfree set, especially when the Dutch police is watching on. So we got busted (luckily before leaving Amsterdam…). After paying the fee we asked directions to the cops who very friendly send us into a completely wrong direction. Pigs. We stopped at a gas station, Chris bought a map which I might have done in the first place and we reached Amsterdam at about 13.30 where we got lost again. It all started to look more and more like a Cheech and Chong movie. Now Amsterdam is rather a large city. Every parking lot is very very expensive; but Fly showed us a good place in the residential area where it was a bit cheaper. We chilled at his place, where he showed us the original maquette he used for the MQ11 cover. It seemed we wouldn't meet up with Propaganda as we thought of, and the mysterious AnnedeCroix had send a post on the forum saying she wouldn't be there either. Then Fly casually mentioned the Hermetic Library (actually the 'Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica', situated Bloemgracht 15), just two streets away, of which I had read it was almost impossible to get in, he just pushed the bell next to a very small sign on an anonymous facade and we all went in without any problems.
It's only open on Mondays and Tuesdays. Two floors filled up with books in categories ranging from kabbalah to alchemy to gnosticism… I want to live there!!! There was a little exhibition of medieval books and miniatures on alchemy. I have no idea how long we stayed (too short IMHO), but i bought the catalogue and a book about a previous exhibition about kabbalah and the hermetic philosophy.
Their website can be reached here.
Then we went to have a few bagels and strolled on, entering the occasional shop to buy anything but coffee. It feels great to walk in Amsterdam smoking whatever you want, where in any other city you might get busted. We still had the big lasagna throwing to do, so we walked towards the big park called Vondelpark. Lots of paths, water, trees, not too many people. But we had to be careful, the catapult provided by Chris looked like it was able to work at quite a distance, and we didn't want to end up hurting someone. It takes three people for a throw: two to stand in front holding up each side and one who walks back and goes down to release the projectile. At the first place we found We first tried with a rock which went very far behind the trees. Luckily no one threw a bigger one back. We were all set, Chris found a good place to try, although what looked like the same stupid bird kept following us getting in the way. The anti-lasagna volatile patrol trying to claim monopoly on the air? finally the LSD (Lasagna Swirling Department) was able to get in place, everyone took his place for this memorial event, Fuzzbuddy on one side, me on the other, AcrilliQ and Wimpie watching from afar, Bogusmagus filming the event. Then Chris released the slimy less-than frozen lasagna which went up a little bit and dropped just a few meters in front of us with a loud splash while everyone was looking in the air. unexpected as it should be. It started raining a little bit so we went for shelter in a strange mushroomlike building in the middle of the park, where we stayed for a few hours while it kept raining. What was said got a bit lost in the smokes I must admit, but I remember a few ideas… Like how this building looked a lot like a gigantic periscope coming up from a hidden space below Amsterdam, and how i remebered Amsterdam being partially build on the water and the marshes. Or how Chris proposed to change the ritual next year, as to involve a complete meal starting with throwing of the soup, a glass of water, sidedishes, the main meal and the dessert - to which I added the waiter holding up the bill. Or Wimpie's idea who got the meaning of the lasagna quite right, as to do a show next year at the Gentse Feesten as a street performance, with lots of gymnastics involving a catapult, and when enough people are looking suddenly getting out a lasagna, throw it smashing into the facade of the city council and spread away very fast while everyone stands there puzzled looking at the bits falling off the wall. Oh, and Chris taught us the body language for bullshit.
It stopped raining and we went for a nightcap at another very cozy coffee place. It was time to go back home. We said farewell to my now new neighbour, AcrilliQ and left the city. I was tired beyond imagination but had kept enough energy to drive the 3 hours back home. It was then that it started raining again. We had no trouble until the border, but then in Antwerp it seemed like Noah's flood. It was very hard to see anything and the roads were partially under water. So it took a bit longer to get home. I know my British friends won't believe me, but this kinda downfall is really exceptional in Belgium. Actually almost nobody was crazy enough to drive on the highway at times like this, except a few crazy critters coming from Amsterdam, protected by Ole Bob's Hilaritas. Really I expected any time a grand piano would fall off a plane right in front of us, and yet we still would have kept our good spirits. After some aquaplanning we finally reached the hotel, where I got Chris and Fuzzbuddy safe home and where we said goodbye. I got home to meet with Bogusmagus and Wimpie again who had driven my car at a much higher speed, but then he's a much better driver than I am.
The next day Bogusmagus offered me some fantastic books, for which I cannot thank him enough, then we got to the station in Bruges, where he would meet up again with Chris and Fuzzbuddy in Ghent for the long trip home.
Those days passed as one long stream of consciousness. Regardless of the lack of enough sleep and the anecdotical fatum, I think I might claim we all had an excellent time together and I thank Bogusmagus, Chris, Fuzzbuddy, Rev. Clarry, AcrilliQ and wimpie for this. Certainly the highlight of my holiday, I hope me meet again next year.