Tag Archives: barr brothers

canal boats, dad jokes, and an expat gathering, part 2

…a few hours later we were back on the bikes again.  a quick 5 minute ride over to a friend’s house for a dinner party.  I made sure I wore the only collared shirt that I currently have, as I didn’t want to make a bad impression on sam & jenna, because apparently most of their friend group would be here tonight.  I put forward my best “friendly face” (many of you know that isn’t always easy for me…) and ascended the stairs to the dinner party.

at first, I really just wanted to observe the scene.  there were a lot of big personalities here and I didn’t really want to offset the balance.  I often consider myself a bit of a chameleon socially;  I can become whatever the conversation is lacking.  If there’s no firestarter, I can be the one who gets things going, if there’s no funny guy, I can tell the jokes, if there is no quiet contemplative listener, I can shut my mouth.  so I was waiting for my self-designated role assignment when I realized that this group really had balance.  everyone in the group was smart, witty, funny and fun. they all had different perspectives and opinions that were never horribly off-base by any means.  ahh screw it, I thought, just jump.table 1

the person i immediately got along with most easily was one half of the evening’s hosts, mark.  he and his wife marije have a wonderful, spacious place on the top floor of a really badass building with a rooftop patio that overlooks the city and, you guessed it, a canal.  I immediately fell in love with their place, but anyone would.

anyway, mark has a larger than life personality with a very perceptive whip to boot.   never one to let an opportunity to laugh go by, he garrulously facilitates any conversation he’s in with a patient energy that provides a wide open landscape where one need not worry they’ve overstepped their boundary

pierre hams it up while mark is engaged in other conversation
pierre hams it up while mark is engaged in other conversation

with a topic, but you better believe that if you speak arrogantly or incorrectly he will call you on it.  Just my kinda guy.  mark is actually an american expat who is a successful entrepreneur/venture capitalist with a very shrewd business sense.  Not much gets by him.

His wife marije perfectly compliments him.  She has a slightly more delicate nature about her and a very subtle (at first) sense of humor.  You don’t see it right away, but eventually you can tell she’s paying attention, waiting.  Being the only real native dutch person in the group, and if I’m being perfectly honest, I really just thought she kind of quiet at first.  But then right when I thought I had her figured out, she drops a hilarious joke in mid conversation that immediately got everyone’s attention in the party and had us laughing for what seemed half the night.  Eventually I talked with her a little more, learning that she was extremely well traveled and had lived in quite a few places all over the world, and also had some entrepreneurial ambitions of her own.  She also can COOK.

marije looks on in the background as her delicious appetizers are served
marije looks on in the background as her delicious appetizers are served

Oh my god, I don’t think I will eat as well at any other point on this trip as I did during my time with mark and marije.  she made us a three course meal that culminated in a ugandan stew she learned to cook during some volunteering she did for a few months with a small village down there previously.  when asked, mark modestly shared some stories with me of some of the ways they made a difference with this village, chiefly by purchasing a cow for them which drastically changed the future for these people by stimulating their local economy and food production through dairy and producing more cows, etc.   truly way more ingenious and affective (effective too, I suppose) than donating money or just doing vacation bible school for the kids, like most churches do when they perform “missions work.”

riordan points a finger after a typical mischievous pierre joke
riordan points a finger after a typical mischievous pierre joke

I also met riordan and Justine.   Super fun people, I got to hang out with riordan and chat enthusiastically about the virtues of the gopro camera.  Riordan and justine were also both from south Africa, and he was a surfer.  So he has a much more practical need for a gopro than my nonsensical videos that I produce.  Riordan has a really fun energy with a great appreciation for laughter as well.  He has the ability to go on tangential jokes where you can just take a scenario with him and he’ll play it out with you til it gets to its most ridiculous point.  We had a couple good laughs on the rooftop of the house while mark barbecued.

pierre was also there (whom you know from the previous post on the boat canal ride), but there was also charlotte, yet another south African who shared some stories with me about Budapest when I mentioned I was thinking about going there.  She got really excited and then told me she had some transit coins that I could use when I go there.  She made a note to bring them to me before I left Amsterdam, which was very kind, considering she had only just met me.  We also

charlotte tells a story while justine and riordan listen intently
charlotte tells a story while justine and riordan listen intently

chatted a little about how she had spent some time living down in Houston, texas.  It had been awhile since she had been there, and unfortunately I’d only been there once for a wedding last year, so really all I could joke about was how hot it was down there.

But overall, I was struck by how open this group really was.  None of these people had known each other before Amsterdam and now here they were, sharing food at a house together, not bothered in the least that a stranger was amongst them.  I drifted along with the ebb and flow of the conversations listening to the stories, enjoying the laughter, trying to soak in each person as they spoke.  eventually the boys escaped to the rooftop for drinks and cigars and stories of ridiculousness, while the ladies stayed down inside and most likely talked about much more civilized, classy things.

the dam crewEventually the night had wandered off into the dark, and people began heading back to their own homes.  We thanked mark and marije graciously and headed back to sam & jenna’s, surrendering for the evening.


staying with the theme from the previous post, we’re staying with the barr brothers.  if the first track i posted hasn’t convinced you, this one will.  enjoy…

canal boats, dad jokes, and an expat gathering, part 1

the next morning I awoke to an eager sam & jenna.  they were ready to go already.  they had a surprise.  we headed for a local grocery and picked up some juice and fruits, some fresh bread, a few deli meats, tomatoes, lettuce, and mustard.  never forget the mustard.  groceries into the carriage box on the front of jenna’s tank of a bicycle (this thing doesn’t need a bell on it because you can hear it coming from a mile away), and we were on our way again.  10 minutes later we pulled up to a little dock, locked up the bikes and stepped out onto the water.  we had rented a canal boat for the morning.

glassy canals in amsterdamone of sam & jenna’s friends, pierre joined us after a couple minutes and then we were on our way.  we cruised around, lazily motoring up one canal and down the next, watching the maze of moored boats tied to the canal walls drift by, admiring the diversity of style among them all.  pierre, sharing my enthusiasm for capturing the moment on film, joined me in obsessively snapping photo after photo as we made our way along.  the sunshine was perfect with nary a cloud above, providing ample opportunity for viewing and exploring.  eventually I put down the camera and decided to just enjoy the moment.  I swung an arm out and hooked it over the side of the boat and took a deep breath.  I didn’t really ever want to exhale.

smiles on the seaafter a couple hours we returned the boat and stopped at a cool little bar in the area that sits right out over the water called “mata hari.”  instead of a parking lot for cars, this place has about 5 spots where boats can pull up and get a beer.  well, the passengers can, I’m not really sure why a boat would be drinking beer.

and I’ve just worked my first “dad joke” into a post.  check that one off the list.

as we sat on the comfortable patio furniture, I got to know pierre a little better.  A soft spoken gent from south africa, pierre managed some sort of logistics or something or other for a company here in amsterdam.  he had a gentle approach toward conversation, never needing to be the dominant personality and always patient to hear what you were saying.  as the day wore on he became more comfortable with me, I could see his sense of humor slowly making its way out as he got more and more goofy and enjoyable.  I could also sense that he was loosening up a little throughout the day because he was actually going on his own vacation the following day to greece.  I expressed my jealousy.

after the, we parted ways with pierre and planned to meet up with friends later over dinner.


today’s audio gem is from my favorite band right now:  the barr brothers.  their new album, “sleeping operator” just came out yesterday and it is a solid album, top to bottom.  their first album is also incredibly underrated and i highly recommend it as well.  they’ve got a great rootsy americana sound, complete with slide guitars and mandolins and rusty background sounds, accompanied by thoughtful lyrics and catchy melodies.  enjoy…