American Dream Not My Dream

My escape from Switzerland led me first to the Netherlands, to Amsterdam of course, the center of hippiedom, manna for my soul. I got invited to live on houseboats, so cool. Later I shared a flat on Prinsengracht with an assortment of international folks. We would evacuate the space for a nearby coffee shop most mornings so that Roland could practice his yoga in peace and quiet. Later we would head out on black, step-through bikes across town to the Boelhood, our macrobiotic restaurant and health food store, where we would create wholesome, adventurous meals for a small clientele for most evenings. Those meals always had 5 components to them, a whole grain (often brown rice) beans (Azuki were a favorite) a small fried something from leftovers, roots or vegetables of sorts (sometimes pickled) and a slice of freshly baked brown rice sourdough bread. A pot of grain coffee spiked with Juniper berries on the side. We made it all ourselves, never used any sugar or salt, but sweetened with soaked dried fruits, lots of raisins and apricots, out of good size buckets.

Rui from Funchal, Portugal, a tiny, wiry man with long black hair and deep dark eyes and a great sense of humor, intent then on avoiding a draft, made pear tarts with arrowroot glazes and distributed those all over town. A Dutch man, a short, solid and sturdy curmudgeon with a cuddly gray beard, pink cheeks and sparkly eyes, built us an oven out in the tiny yard and baked most of our breads. Ah, sourdough rice bread fresh out of the oven, with miso, tahini and a slice of local farm cheese, to die for. Those were good times, so good that at the end of the day we did not want to part, but would want to hang out a bit longer, except for Friday nights when we all would go free-form dancing at Het Cosmos, Amsterdam's new age center.

At the Cosmos is where I met Roland during "push hands" in Tai-chi class. Joe Onvlee, our teacher, a former sailor, with greasy black hair and what looked like a beer-belly, made it a point to come over to us to demand that we talk. This particular exercise he claimed demanded that we speak to each other. Joe had not just a little bit of Gurdjieff-style mischief in him. Neither one of us felt like being verbal, but as good students we complied and spoke introducing ourselves. I learned that my partner had his own healthfood store and restaurant and I was welcome to stop by. That is how I got to work for 5 guilders a day, food, and a place to stay. I still remember my first day at a long wooden, blond hand-crafted bench and table, when Roland took my hand, guided me over to the store section to choose some veggies and instructed me how to cut them up properly, meaning with the smooth movement of the Japanese knife leading away from me. Having been guided by hand, literally, startled me and endeared him to me.

At the Cosmos is also where I learned Swedish massage from an American bi-racial, gay, male couple from New York, great teachers. I still remember my fear of touching a stranger and possibly causing hurt and pain. I had reasons for my reluctance, my expressive art teacher had claimed that my innocent enthusiasm had caused injury to his collar bone. I needed a lot of encouragement to touch another and trust that my power was therapeutic, rather than mistakenly hurtful.

By profession, I have been a mainly self-made, process-oriented (aquatic) bodyworker/massage-therapist. After more than three decades, struggling mostly in private practice mostly in a small town in an economically depressed state I found myself severely burned out. I am a drop-out, a new age hippie that followed my bliss that incidentally never led to the pot of gold (as New Age philosophy would have wanted us to believe.) I am a first generation immigrant, bewildered by the society I find myself in. I have outgrown my anti-establishment stance, but have not figured out what to replace it with, or how to fit in with the world around me.

I supposedly achieved the American Dream when I got to own my own home, a tiny, less than 600 square feet open space studio on the other side of the tracks, then in the so-called barrio, now in a favorite high-priced 'hood. Yet a home of my own was never really my dream or one of my aspirations. It just seemed to be something that made financial sense. It ended up being the best financial decision I ever made and yes, I made some dumb ones. Meanwhile, I have not achieved my dreams. I lived blissful bits and pieces for moments in time, yes, I did. And those moments were glorious, yes they were, but none lasted. These days I no longer hold any dreams for myself, none. They say never give up, persist, it's never too late. Nope, not for me. There was a time and then it passed. Time moves on, things do change, sometimes inexplicably. My dreams are gone.
Part 2

Part 1

 to be continued

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