Saturday, November 17, 2012

My Next Ikea Home

Sunday morning walk in Amsterdam. There's a smell, warm and not entirely pleasant, like old cooking oil. Cymri suggests a mix between chocolate chip cookies and wet dog. In any case, it's definitely a post-Saturday-night kind of smell. The city is still sleeping at 8:30, and everything is extremely quiet: the parks and streets are empty, the only things open are a grocery and a coffee shop. Just me and the ducks and the dog-walkers.

The best part of walking these streets is admiring the apartments on the canals. The Dutch seem to have a penchant for display, at least in Amsterdam. All houses facing the street have large picture windows, streakless and clear, providing a full view of an entire home (and its inhabitants). I can't imagine being so comfortable with that kind of public exposure, but then again my home doesn't look like these: stainless steel cookware, walls of books, flowers and bowls of fruit placed casually on a table next to the window. My first thought is that they are all restaurants. Then I think that maybe all these places are model homes for sale, with the furnishings tactfully suggesting, this is what your life could look like if you lived in Amsterdam and weren't such a slob.

But I did see a man last night watching TV on his couch, so I have to conclude that people here just don't mind living their private lives publicly, and that leads to all sorts of questions. Is constant exposure a way to show off wealth and status? Or to show you have nothing to hide? Or is it the kind of thing that brings people and communities closer together--offering your life freely to your neighbors and maintaining (in return) a certain level of cleanliness and order in your lifestyle? Maybe slobs are the weak link of society.

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