From the desk of The Irrational Library, Joshua calls out to you Haarlemtown. For the last 16 years he has been among you, seen you and has gotten to know you. And now from the depths of Haerlemse Bodem he will rise to meet you, Haarlemtown. To once a month share and deal with you a little slice of life here in Haarlemtown. A slice of life taken from our communal feast. One for all of us to be nourished upon as we go about our Haarlemtown days.
I write this piece in a place of tranquility and quiet while in the midst of a thunderstorm far from home. I have been allowing my thoughts on this subject to come and go as I float in a mildly chlorinated pool and bob up and down in the surf of a pebble strewn beach. I am at rest but feel restless. So I reach out by going inwards.
Chris Cornell, the lead singer of the band Soundgarden and Audioslave apparently committed suicide last week. A friend of mine alerted me to this sad news via a Facebook message the morning the news broke. At the very same moment I received this news I was busy contemplating the news that my neighbor Sandra had suffered what would turn out to be a fatal stroke at the age of 44. So when the news about Chris Cornell hit me, I was already deep into a mental terrain that well to say mildly, was quite melancholic and relatively confrontational.
Ok, I did not know Chris Cornell, never met the man, but did have the chance to see the bands he was involved with perform live. I have listened to and still do enjoy a good amount of the music that Chris Cornell played a part in creating. I don’t think the music he created helped me get to know him but in many ways that I won’t get into here, it did help me to learn something about myself. I believe that is what music, like so many creative art forms, can do for a person. So upon hearing about his death, I was saddened. In one way or another I had spent countless hours of my life with him in my head. Seemingly more so than I had spent with my neighbor Sandra.
I mean I knew Sandra but did I know her? We always said hello to one another when we passed one another outside our homes. We always “proosted” in the middle of the street at midnight on Oud en Nieuw while all the fireworks her husband and son set off whizzed by. I had spoken to Sandra the afternoon before she had the stroke. She had been busy cleaning bird shit off of her car and I was dumping a bag of dog shit into the garbage container. We chatted about the just passed Bevrijdingspop. Sandra said that she had seen me on stage. My brain rushed to think, oh cool, what did she think of my gig with The Irrational Library band?
Sandra thought it was super cool to have seen me dancing on the stage during the PALMTRA DJ set on the Plein van de Vrijheid stage and how she had turned to her friend and said “Hey that is my buurman there!” Sandra had told me that she had a great time dancing in the crowd that night, that there on the Plein van de Vrijheid she had enjoyed the best part of her Bevrijdingspop. I had to laugh at my own self-centeredness. I rushed off to throw out my bag of dog poop and then scurried back into the house. I was suffering a bad headcold that day. Before I went back inside I wished her good luck with cleaning her car. That night after her nursing shift, she was gone. Sandra left behind a loving husband, son and a shit load of friends and family stunned by her sudden passing.
Growing up, death luckily never really touched me except for the normal stuff. Grandparents, great uncles and aunts, house pets dying from old age. But once I set my roots down here in Haarlemtown, as time went by, death just became part of life. Sickness, suicides, age and accidents. I have bared witness to the passing of some fine people in my last 17 years here in Haarlemtown. Life, like death, is what connects us, confines us and in the end concerns us all. Death reminds us to live, plain and simple. No need to be overly dramatic about it. No bucket lists, forget carpe diem. Life is about recognizing who is there for you on the outside and who over the course of your life you allow to get inside.
Do you know that saying about there being six degrees of seperation between all human beings on the planet? That six persons seperate you from anyone and everyone else. I know someone who knows someone who played music with Chris Cornell. I may have heard more stories about this person than I actually know about my neighbor and she lived across the street from me. Ok, maybe now I am being a bit dramatic. I mean I had plenty of nice detailed talks with Sandra over the course of almost ten years of being neighbors. We had spoken about our kids, vacations, work, the shop, life in general. I know that we knew one another but sometimes it is easy to forget that. And then in some ways I feel like I had more of a connection to Chris Cornell, this guy in a fantastic rock band, more than the woman who lived across the street from me. This idea leaves me saddened but I understand it. And of course I know why this is. Be it the power of music, the distance of intimacy or the spaces we share while living so closely apart. Whatever it is, it is confrontational, if you are aware of it. And one relationship has nothing to do with the other. It is just the idea that sometimes we tend to feel more connected to strangers than to the people most often around us. How it is that we relate to one another as people, as individiuals, as neighbors can sometimes be very peculair. Heartwarming and sometimes heartbreaking. Closeby but maybe never close enough. Unfortunately, reflections like these too often come only after darkness has settled over the light.
May 2017, Parga, Greece