Lists are always inviting and almost always dissappointing. “The 100 best jokes of 2010”: 95 of them are not funny, involving mothers in law, the three B´s (Blondes, Breasts, Beer) or software. The remaining 5 you have heard before. Or, for instance, pointless lists of the 100 best rock albums of the 20th century when we all know there are only 5 (exercise for the reader).
The main fail in these lists is that they are too focused on just a single aspect (jokes, rock albums, fruitcakes) of this beautiful thing called life. It would be more interesting to have a list of only three things you love which have nothing to do with each other.
Writer of two novels and a few stories.
I love “Franny and Zooey”, mainly for the dialogue between the brother and sister, and the girl Franny´s reactions to the fakeness of her boyfriend.
But, of course, Salinger´s most well-known novel is “The Catcher in the Rye”. I bought the Spanish version of this book for my girlfriend, with the idea that to get to know me better, she should read this book. She didn´t like the book much at first, until I started reading it out aloud to her. Her commentary was: “That guy is just like you”.
This reminded me of something that happened 25 years earlier when my little brother rushed into my room after having read “De Avonden” (“the Evenings”) by Gerard Reve, exclaiming (it sounded almost as an accusation at that time) that Frits van Egters, the main protagonist, “is just like you”.
Now, I don´t think I have either the sensitive purity of Holden Caulfield (I am an old man and I don´t have a cap) nor the quick repartee witticism of Frits van Egters, but I felt gratified with both reactions and I think I knew what they meant. Holden Caulfield (like Frits van Egters) is a sensitive boy, who is moved by small things, by pathetic things, by sadness. As Sally Sparrow says in the “Blink” episode of Doctor Who (its best episode ever) when her friend asks her what´s so good about sadness: “it´s happy for deep people”. Holden Caulfield is moved by a girl who when playing checkers leaves all her kings on the back row without using them, and he gets upsets when a guy who goes out with her doesn´t understand that.
He not only detests plainness and crudeness, it saddens him and he wants even the biggest moron at his school to understand something, anything, about what he feels. But even more so, he detest phoniness. The phony artist, the phony excentric, phony emotions, phony beauty, phony sensitivity. Saddened by the plain and the common but feeling even more out of place with the cultural elite. Obviously, in the low-down world of whiskies, sleazy bars and prostitutes, he doesn´t fit in either. His only weapon is irony.
I am just an old man who cannot make much sense out of anything but a guy like Holden Caulfield keeps me in check, like a small firefly in a dark tunnel would. It´s the best I can say about this book and this writer, and I think it´s saying a lot.
2. Bo Diddley
Rock ´n roll. “The blues had a baby and they named it rock ´n roll“. We all know the famous licks by Chuck Berry (who nicked much of his guitar style from T-Bone Walker), and we all know rock ´n roll only really got big after some semi-white redneck with a shaking pelvis took their music and for a while tried to stay faithful to it (it didn´t last long). Then of course, in the early sixties, when rock n roll in the USA had bled to death, snotty pimple-faced English adolescents from Liverpool and London picked up on it, turned it into something big of their own and the rest is history.
But Bo Diddley, anybody? An unsung hero. A big black man with a square guitar, a funny hat and a crazy dance. And – basically – one rhythm. It´s a rhythm other people have tried to copy (even George Michael had a go once) but none have been able to equal or exceed it.
The first time I heard it, I was 17. At that time, for young people who liked music, there were two options: new-wave/alternative and “disco”/mainstream. But I had gotten interested in the blues of which I knew next to nothing, except for the cliché of black slaves cotton picking in the south of the US (or in Sweden?) and singing hymns to each other. I didn´t know that had grown into the hard edged city blues of Muddy Waters, Howling Wolf and the like. And I didn´t know Bo Diddley, until a friend of my brother brought the first album of the Rolling Stones along and I heard “Mona“.
I have heard a lot of music in my life but none of it touches this raw, pure, energetic nerve. It has to the fullest one of the basic ingredients of rock n roll: balls. But balls with a feeling. Or, as Keith Richards would say: people remember the rock, but they forget about the most important part: the roll.
Bo Diddley died last year, with his boots on, as they say. Here´s to him.
Most countries have some variety of “pancake”, like crepes, tortillas, or waffles. But there can only be one real pancake and it comes from the country that after Rembrandt and the “kaasschaaf” hasn´t produced much worthwile. The basic dough is made from eggs, flour and milk. It is made in a frying pan, together with fried slices of bacon. And it is served with the ultra ultra sweet “stroop” (syrup and then some).
I love the japanese cuisine, the thai cuisine, the italian cuisine, the indonesian cuisine. But, let´s face it, nothing beats the dutch pancake. Even here in Spain, I am proud to say I have a small fanclub of friends who have developped a strong love for bacon-pancakes with stroop.
If you think the Netherlands is a country full of shit, you are mostly right, especially in these current, confused times. But never forget: we brought you the “spekpannekoek”.