Apr 28, 2013

Crazy weather

As GABROEN posted last week (see the post Floodgates), it felt as if someone up in the heavens was pouring his/her/its heart out - I guess the gender of that someone is a matter of religion, belief system or personal preference. Anyway, we got over 4 inches of rain in about 16 hours, strangely but fittingly coinciding with the last 16 hours of Marjolein's life. That amount of downpour was too much to handle for the surroundings, and we got major flooding.

We came back on Thursday from a second trip to the homelands in two weeks, and there still were some flooded areas, but most of the water had drained and saturated the dried out soil around here. Since GABROEN's return, the weather has been pretty nice. Spring has reluctantly sprung upon us. Not that the trees have any leaves yet. But there is a certain balminess in the air, and daffodils and hyacinths as the first spring flowers. But the most obvious sign of spring: we have lake effect fog. Every spring, when the land is warming up but Lake Michigan still is cold as hell, we have days of dense fog for about a 1-mile stretch along the lakefront. So lakeside living does have its downsides. The weather around here is crazy, but not boring.

Apr 26, 2013

Someone is getting some sun

I don't think many people know this, but our fifteen-and-a-half (writing it out in full is only fitting for such a respectable age) year old Mexican Hairless has a last name. Actually, she also has a first name; Ruba is just her given name, given by GABROEN when we got her, now fifteen-and-a-half year ago, as we didn't picture ourselves calling her by that pedigree name: Girassol Gonzalez.

I'll first explain how we got from Girassol to Ruba. When we got her as an 8 week old little gremlin, now fifteen-and-a-half years ago (repeating this so often is only fitting for such a respectable age), the little hair she had on her head was as orange reddish as a carrot. Girassol, Spanish for sunflower, just didn't seem right. She was a redhead, a red dog, which would be 'rode hond' in Dutch. Oddly, 'rode hond' is also the Dutch name for rubella, one of the childhood diseases characterized by red spots. The origin of the name 'rode hond' has nothing to do with dogs whatsoever; it is derived from the old Dutch 'huin' meaning impurity or blemish. Apparently there was an old English word 'hun' with the same meaning. Anyway, we liked the reference to 'red dog', but thought that naming a puppy after a childhood disease, in particular a puppy that looks like a gremlin with many pimples and zits, is a bit awkward. So we ended up abbreviating 'rubella' to make it sound friendlier, e voila: Ruba. Certainly has a better ring to it than Girassol.

Her pedigree last name, Gonzalez, turned out more fitting than we thought fifteen-and-a-half years ago. Reminiscent of her fellow Mexican cousin, the cartoon mouse Speedy, Ruba turned out to be surprisingly fast. Now that she is fifteen-and-a-half, she lost most of her speed. She hasn't lost her love for sunbathing, and moves around the house with the turning sunlight. So perhaps Girassol wasn't such a bad name after all. Also, she hasn't lost her pigmentation, and still tans incredibly fast. So fast, that even the little winter sun in Illinois apparently has some effects on her. We only realized that when we took her shirt off. At her respectable age, she has outgrown her gremlin looks. Instead, she now looks like a Tour de France cyclist.

Apr 18, 2013


The Dutch are renowned for their water management and their down-to-earth nature in claiming land from the sea, aptly summarized in the proverb "God created the world, but the Dutch created The Netherlands". However, the severe thunderstorms that are dumping inches of rain on us today are a bit much even for a Dutchman to cope with.

It almost seems as if the flood gates of the heavens were opened yesterday over Northern Illinois, and that someone up there is pouring his or her heart out. The weather is fitting for our mood, as GABROEN received the sad news that our dear sister-in-law Marjolein passed away today. That news is a bit much to cope with as well; it feels as if the floodgates to our hearts and souls have opened up also.

Sweet dreams, dear sister.

Apr 10, 2013

The big C is a B

I believe it was ubercowboy John Wayne who first coined the phrase "the Big C" when he was battling cancer, perhaps making reference to the rival sports club from his college town. In his classical way, he stated in a press conference that he "licked the big C". Well, I would argue that the Big C is a B. B as in bitch. GABROEN received the shocking news on Saturday that our oldest sister in law is diagnosed with cancer, the big C, the B, whatever you want to coin it, and that it is incurable. We are in The Netherlands to be with our family in these difficult times, which turn out to also be very valuable times.

Our sister in law is brave, sweet, loving, in need of loving, all at the same time. She needs care and caring, but is also sending tons of loving to her loved ones, first and foremost to my big brother and their 4 kids. It is beautiful to witness and be a part of.

Today we learned the diagnosis is a recurring melanoma, and the prognosis is bad. But at the same time we are glad to be here, on the same emotional roller coaster ride with our loved ones. On the roller coaster, our sister in law sits in the front cart, and we join her and support her, going wherever the disease and the emotions are taking us. Roller coasters always have this compelling and thrilling name. I think we'll name this one "The Big B". Keep on riding it, sweet Marjolein, and know we have your back.

A bitchy melanoma cell (melissa-melanomasucks.blogspot.com)

Apr 6, 2013

Rusty Gold

After all the walking on our first day in San Francisco, we planned to take it a little slow on Sunday. The weather was not really enticing for another 7 mile walk either, so we headed to The Presidio and iconic Golden Gate instead. Everyone has seen the bridge, or at least pictures of it, so there's not much I can write here to add to that visual. However, actually being there is very different from looking at a picture, because of the other senses contributing to the experience. From a distance, such as from Baker Beach on the Pacific Ocean, the bridge is as beautiful and sleek as ever. But if you actually cross the 1 mile bridge on foot, it's a whole different play. You are walking right next to a 6-lane highway, providing a sensory overload that's worse than an evening in a discotheque. Also, what I thought was a muted warm red color turned out to be a browny rusty hue up close. So is it worth walking the Golden Gate Bridge? For the view on the city, bay and Alcatraz: yes. To see the dolphins hunting fish a couple hundred feet below: definitely. Just be sure to bring ear plugs.

Apr 5, 2013


Sore calfs and painful knees from all the walking through the city during the weekend made us take it down a notch on Monday. So while the ladies hit the local salon in Potrero Hill for a mani-pedi, the gents did SF's Museum of Modern Art. The building seemed to be an odd mix between a contemporary white and airy space and an ancient sarcophage with black and dark gray granite. It's closing for renovation through the next 3 years, during which they are adding hypermodern metallic floors on top of the building, so we'll see what smorgasbord that will turn out to be.

We explored the exhibit of Garry Winogrand, an American photographer known for his candid and spontaneous street photography that broke with the orderly rigid optimistic mainstream of the 1950s and 60s. Beautiful work of an immensely prolific artist; he left over 2500 undeveloped rolls of film and almost 300,000 unedited images at his death. His style is easy, which seemed so easy to imitate with an iPhone camera. Not the case, to my disappointment. As a consolation, the museum bar served chocolate cakes with figurines copied from a famous Winogrand picture, and lost all spontaneity and candidness in the process as well. That said, the Winogrand cake looked a lot more appealing than the Rothko toast or Mondriaan lemon cake.

Unfortunately we were not around to see the girls stroll back up the steep Potrero Hill on flipflops, nails freshly colored and no doubt shiny in the Spring sun. That would be a topic worthy of a Winogrand inspired street shot, spontaneous or not.

G. Winogrand's beautiful shot on Rodeo Drive