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Rock me Amadeus

October 12, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

I wake up a couple times per night to the sounds of a crying baby. I eventually go back to sleep thanks in part to the loving, calming lullabies from a nurturing mother.

Forget what you’re thinking. Jenna has not given birth since we arrived, nor have we adopted. The noises emanate from the flat below from our neighbors, whose every day affairs are audible through our thin walls.

Above us, at nearly the precise times every morning and night, a woman turns up her classical music so loud you’d think the New York Philharmonic was practicing in her living room. As I told Jenna, at least she’s playing good music — that fact alone has prevented me from walking to her door and asking her to turn it down (that and I don’t know how to say turn it down in French).

Throughout the months I’ve formulated a hypothesis about this neighbor. One day in July, before the weather was cold and rainy like it is now, I was sitting on our balcony when I heard Beethoven rolling up in a small two-door coupe. It was this very same neighbor, and what was truly extraordinary was that the music was extremely loud DESPITE the fact all her windows were rolled up.

When she opened her car door — with the music still playing — you really could not believe how loud the music was. I think a deaf person would’ve asked her to turn it down. And that got me thinking … maybe she is partly hard of hearing and thus has to play the music that loud in order to hear it? That’s the only plausible explanation I’ve come up with.

In keeping with the theme of today’s blog, here are some more random thoughts and events from the past week or so … buckle-up; this is a long post.

> Remember the first mobile (or “cell” for you Americans) phone you ever had? Well, it was recycled and resold to me as my mobile phone here in Brussels. The phone I got here is extremely clunky and is so old it still prefers tapes over CDs (it hasn’t even heard of MP3s). I could write an Oscar-winning screenplay faster than I could type a text message on this phone.

Thankfully, after half-an-hour on the phone with AT&T customer service and multiple hours researching on the internet, I found a way to unlock the mobile phone I brought with me from the states and can now use it in Brussels. I will never take technology for granted again.

> It’s well known in the animal community that entry into the Shaw household will get you the same result as a consultation with Dr. Kevorkian. Sad, but true. We’ve had dogs die normal deaths — getting run over by a car after it found a hole in the fence — and abnormal ones: finding our black lab floating in a pond after receiving a fatal bite from a water moccasin (that one was particularly gut-wrenching).

I was traumatized for weeks as a 5-year-old when watching a previous black lab break the neck of my pet rabbit Fred; we’ve had multiple pet birds get eaten by our pet cats; and we’ve hypothesized that the disappearance of one of our cats was the result of that cat getting eaten by a coyote. Don’t ask us to pet-sit for you.

But before you get worried, our cat Charley is doing great here. The fall off our balcony has motivated him to play it safer (which means eating/sleeping more and gaining weight, but at least he’s happy an still unaffected by the Shaw pet syndrome).

My point: What the animal kingdom already knew, the plant world is quickly finding out. First, it was my bonsai tree that dried up despite drinking more than a sailor. For Jenna’s birthday in August, I bought her five pretty flowers and planted them on our balcony. One has since died, three are wilting, and the other one is making a courageous attempt to stave off death. I think it wants to survive long enough to warn future Shaw plants of their fate.

The hydrangea we got in early September is now a skeleton of its former self. And this indoor, low-maintenance plant we bought has since organized a colony of small black bugs under its leaves. If any of you have a green thumb, we’d both love to get some advice — do it for the plants’ sake.

> One of the small perks of international travel is getting those stamps on your passport. For some reason, we can’t merely tell people where we’ve been; we have to back it up with the seal of a customs department. Well, that small joy in life is gone for us.

Today Jenna and I picked up our residence cards at our local commune, which is essentially our city hall. This card now supersedes the need to carry a passport when traveling to other European Union nations. I guess we’ll have to take more photos and buy more souvenirs to replace the stamps.

> Jenna and I really do like our flat (and our guests have been kind in their remarks), but even after a couple months here, it still didn’t feel “homey” in Jenna’s words. So what’d we do? Added more Ikea furniture and decorations to an apartment that already modeled an Ikea showroom.

But it worked. Amazing what plopping down a rug in the entry and a few superfluous pillows on the couch will do to a place; it truly has given us a level of comfort we didn’t have before. But really, the rug really does bring the whole room together.

I’m sure this story didn’t capture your complete attention, but when we don’t travel much, you’ll have to suffer through stories about trips to Ikea. Living in Europe ain’t so different from the states, is it?

> A friend I made while working at the newspaper in Corsicana once told me his goal was to retire early enough (or make enough money) that he could afford to play golf every day of the week. He made that happen by his late 30s, but I never thought I’d live this dream so soon in my life.

However, I’ve since made a friend who achieved this dream years ago, and now I’m living it too. He goes by “Easy Ed,” and even though he has about four decades of life experience on me, he still beats me by 2-5 strokes every time out. And because of Easy Ed (really, he goes by this nickname; when he calls, he’ll say “Hey Jake, Easy Ed here”), I’ve started playing golf much more frequently. Since he has a membership to a local course, I can get on at a much cheaper rate than what I’d normally have to pay.

Nevertheless, my scores continue to hover in the upper 80s/lower 90s. I don’t think that will change no matter how long I live this dream.

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Categories: Uncategorized
  1. mom/mil
    October 15, 2009 at 11:13 pm

    What I remember from your upstairs neighbor is not just loud Classical music, but her early morning habit of walking back and forth over and over, heels clicking on wood floor – it was amazing how many “trips” she made! Great, newsy blog today!

  2. bryan
    October 20, 2009 at 9:48 pm

    Easy Ed sounds like my kind of friend…

  1. October 19, 2009 at 12:54 pm
  2. May 6, 2011 at 9:27 pm

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