Memory Canals

In the traditional sentimental journey along memory lane there are very few canals and fewer draw bridges.  This meandering through the streets, along the canals and on the beaches was more than sentimental — this was home.  Some years ago I was born here and some images from my childhood are hard coded.  The organ grinder with his monkey waving the tin cup.  The incessant cycles of the tides as the winds white-crested them from the North Sea. The music that floated across every event and religious demarcation.  Pole vaulting across a canal holding on for dear life to the arms of my uncle. Returning to den Haag I found all varied by time and memory.

The organ grinder had upsized to a trailer mounted organ with a variety of discs and a tin cup rattling associate working the crowd.  Memory had the largest “music box” a kid had every seen.  Balanced on a single stick while the “player” continued to wind up the spring so the tunes would continue in time and on time.  He was known as the organ grinder and his monkey with the tin cup was so cute you dug deep no matter how often you had heard the song.

Walking along the strand in Scheveningen there was the dark clouded awareness that even the winds and the waves obeyed the Will.  It was a cold coming as Eliot puts it.  The wind drove the chill spray through the layers of clothing.  The infinite horizon told stories of all who had “gone down to the sea in ships” and all who had gone down in ships.  There were no war planes — yet the stories of memory pasted them in the skies like a Ukrainian recall.

A coffee and an orange iced pastry (Tompouce) to celebrate the King’s birthday.  It was 10:30 and our pause for coffee as child, student, parent, grand-parent was woven into/the epi-genetics of the DNA.  Margaret still declares coffee time no matter what!

Along the beach monumental buildings tie the dunes to the strand.  Each brick meticulously mortared into place and preserved for memory intact.  As I walked along the beach I considered all the stories of war and all the stories of peace.  When I saw the den Haag Buskers playing in the city square I was reminded of all those protests and anti-war marches and draft-dodgings and knew that memory prevailed to build and rebuild connection.  From the organ-grinder to the busker each song is always prologue.


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