bye bye Europe
In 1997, the Czech environmental group i had worked with for years decided to change our strategy in how to fight the Temelin reactor. After we had brought thousands from across Europe to block the construction of the reactor for a few days each summer, we went to a domestic lobbying and public education approach. My job had been to bring internationals and to stage direct actions. And so with this shift i was out of a job.
Hawina and i had been discussing a 6 to 9 month trip to YankeeLand for a while before this. Hawina was interested in going to a place where she did not have to work for money. I had to explain to my Dutch girlfriend that America was not really set up like this. She was persistent and i ceded that there were a couple of places like this and i gave her Kat Kinkade’s book second book on Twin Oaks, “Is it Utopia yet?” After reading it Hawina said that this seemed like an interesting place for us to spend our sabbatical from Europe. Six months became a dozen years and we never really made it back, except for some vacations, including this one which just ended.
A couple of years before i left that time, Wieneke and Micha asked me to help them have a child. Wieneke and i had been lovers for a few years before she and Micha had gotten together and Micha was actually the one who suggested me, knowing i would not get attached and that i had reasonable genes. After a year of trying and a miscarriage, the day before Hawina and i caught the Polish cargo ship from Rotterdam to Cleveland, i spoke to Wieneke on the phone and she told me she was pregnant. It was not until 2002 that i would meet her son Fabian.
Some things you do on instinct. When Wieneke and Micha asked me to help i was both flattered and sure it was the right thing. Of course you cant really know, but i never doubted and in this case i was right.
We’ve been in Arnhem for the last couple of days. Micha and Wieneke and Fabian have skipped work and school to take us to the various sights in the area. We went to the Burgers’ Zoo yesterday (i will spare you all the animal photos) and to the huge playground outside Venlo today.
As a funologist i take special interest in playgrounds. This one we went to held the worlds record for the longest slide and the highest swing. Both of which were impressive, but i dont think the highest swing was actually much higher than the Swing of Affliction at Twin Oaks’ own Playground of Death. Tho it was done in this cool way with used tires going up a parabolic slope on both sides so you could follow the sides up and down.
The longest slide was a tube which kept the surface dry despite the regular Dutch rain. There are some physics involved in slide design. You want to make sure that you dont eject small children onto the hard ground at high speed. This is complicated by the different types of clothes they might be wearing. Slick rain paints will have longer and faster rides than wet jeans. The Venlo slide was understandably designed for safety. Both with a long flat landing end and with a shallow angle incline as you approach the end. The effect however is that you dont actually emerge from the final portion of the tube. I think this is poor funological design. Besides emerging into the light being a dramatic conclusion to this long ride, being left inside the tube is awkward for larger riders who have to shimmy out and potentially scary for little users who may have either a claustrophobic response or a legitimate concern that the next rider will crash into them before they can get out.
i leave Europe certain that i will return. Feeling like part of my complicated family is here and that i find many aspects of the European temperament (and dare i say it’s civilized nature) preferable to the land of my birth.