Sunday, May 20, 2012

April in Brussels

So Sabine and I got a long, long, long, long overdue free weekend together. We spent it in Brussels to see Lizz Wright perform. Her first song was a Neil Young cover "Old man take a look at my life, I'm a lot like you were......" She sang it like it was her own words. Very cool. Brussels is a music city (like Vienna), but unlike Vienna classical music is not the thing, rather jazz!

The other thing we discovered in Brussels was - Africa! Really! The stand out food for us was an Ethiopian dinner, and Ethiopian coffee, and Sabine got a nice African necklace at the flea market. And then we went to see a jazz concert which is an African-American art form in origin. Hmmmm.

Actually Brussels has a particularly BAD history with Africa. They plundered the Congo, with no mercy and treated the Africans with less regard then an abused farm animal. The one place you can see the 'evil' manifest is in the palace de justice! It is an overwhelmingly large building (for a time the largest building in the world by some measure like offices, etc.), and the thing is very impressive in the same way Darth Vadar's death star might seem. 

Inside the palace

A detail I found in of the palace de justice was this sculpture in the waiting area of a random office. I think, rightly so, Brussels does have a sense of guilt over its African adventure.

We stayed in a bed and breakfast outside the main city but not far by subway. The owner was very nice, and the house looks like his work in progress, and was tastefully decorated in a modern style.

Another reason Brussels' appreciation of music far surpasses that of Vienna's is breadth of scope! In the subways they play music, the first time I noticed they were playing classical music (not such a big surprise, but pleasant). The next day they were playing jazz. The third day some kind of pop R&B! And all the music was tasteful, considered not top 40 hits, but interesting music selected from the whole broad spectrum of music out there in the world. Very cool.

And to add to Brussels' eclectic tastes, they also celebrate comics! There are comics painted on walls all over the city. We also saw a strange exhibit of art brut and the fantastic figures typical of the art.

Sabine poses with a nice little old monster lady we bumped into.

As far as things to do goes, it seemed necessary to visit the Atomium, a huge structure resembling an Atom of the ball and stick model. You take an elevator to the top where in the top ball there is a rotating restaurant. The whole thing is kind of cheesy, I guess, and smacks of when we all thought the future would hold such promise (you know: free energy from the atom, flying cars, robot maids, etc...). Actually, this feeling of hope in the future reminded me of my 60's childhood, the Apollo rocket to the moon, all the hope for fixing all the ills in our world. It's a nice feeling, although even then this positivity/innocence was shadowed by the assassinations of MLK, a president, the brutality and pointlessness of the Vietnam war, etc... Nonetheless it would be nice if we could all dream like that again.

In front of the Atomium (get it 'be' welcome...)

Down the stairs is the beginning of the old city.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Sweetest Gift Ever

Last month, the girls surprised me with a very unique present for my birthday. Tessa and Anika had both put their talents together and created a masterpiece - at least in my chocolate-crazy eyes. Tessa designed a huge cardboard-Wonka chocolate bar and a colorful poster where she “immortalized” a story that Anika had thought of. The story was built around chocolate bar brand names and even made sense -to me. Here it is: 
Dear Mama,
I bet you are wondering how we got this BOUNTY of chocolate. It is so special that we had to fly to Willy Wonka’s secret factory on MARS. On our trip we went to a new planet called DUPLO (Scientist have not discovered it yet.) I bet you can’t guess who we met there ?!! LEOnardo da Vinci!! He is not dead!!! He lives in space with his cute little KITKAT named TWIX. The problem is da Vinci has terrible MANNERs. (He’s NUTS!!).
We also got to see the MILKY WAY. It’s a very popular tourist attraction; they even sell milkshakes and cow souvenirs, but we thought it was CORNY. The best part of our journey was getting to see the Wonka factory. We’ll bring you along next time!
Happy Birthday! We love you to the moon and back, literally, we saw that, too!
Thank you, family, for making my birthday so special!