Month: May 2014

Paradise lost

Dust we are and to dust we shall return.

Walk  through the ruins of Pompeii and use your imagination. The sun is scorching the valley and the Pompeian citizens flee to the coolness of their well insulated houses. Its a special day today. Election day. There is excitement in the air and everybody is feverish and tense because the result will decide the future of daily lives of many of Pompey’s inhabitants. Taxes, that is what is foremost on the mind of Maximus Cercus. He has spent sleepless nights counting his money over and over again, calculating the worth of his possessions,mainly vineyards and lemon orchards. Its precisely these goods that causes him to loose appetite. What has he done to deserve this? He doesn’t mind taxes, but if the Prefect gets elected and imposes another hike, he’ll simply will get robbed off his livelihood.  It’s a complot against the Jewish merchants. Maximus gnaws on a slip of his tunic, he should have seen it coming, he should have known that this new vogue of politics meant trouble for hard working businessmen like him. For a long time he had managed just fine. In exchange for offerings to their pageant Gods and contributions to their Gymnasium and sponsorship to their gladiators and chariot races, the plebs had left him alone to his trading with the sea faring foreign ships like the Europa, and they had tolerated the foreigners and they had left the sailors to enter the city unharmed. Everybody won, even whores and some slaves eventually could save enough to buy their freedom. But this new Prefect is a populist if ever there has been one. He understood as none before how to divide and rule. “Citizens of Pompeii” he had declaimed just days ago, in the poet’s theatre. ” Do you not see that your wealth is at stake? Can you not feel that you are being screwed over by a small group of unusually rich people among you? Who is enjoying the benefits of your bitterly earned money? Sure, they pay taxes, just like you do, but they have ways to make that money return to their own pockets. Listen to me, I am the son of a simple road worker. I have not had any of the privileges of these rich men. But I have studied their ways and behold I tell you, they use your money to enrich themselves on. It is time for change and your time for change can start if you vote for me, Weberamus Bartholomew!”

He had spared no costs,  the walls of Via Stabianus were covered with his slogans and he had found allegiance with the extremists whose agenda it is to ban sailors from the city accusing these foreigners to corrupt our values and our mores. What mores? Haven’t we always taken over the best of all worlds and merged it with our own culture to make it into something  typical Pompeian? Are not our temples adorned in Corinthians and Dorian styles, are not our houses painted and decorated by artists from all over the world and are we, the Jews, not the ones who have brought citrus and other fruit to this valley? If Bartholomew gets more power, he will use it to destroy us, and the people will only figure out what they’ve done after it is too late!

Maximum sunk to his knees and started to prey with the words that he remembered from his own ancestors. He tore a piece of his tunic and wept bitter tears.

And high above the city, riding on the warm wind, vultures circled over one of the most powerful cities in the Roman empire.

And Mount Vesuvius whispered and then grumbled between clenched teeth, and let out a roar!


Blue Bar

There are places you want everyone to know about. A great restaurant, a good show, an interesting exhibition. But there are also places you want to keep to yourself.

Risico2cropped               Last night, with Vera and the kids, we went  to our homey brown bar a few streets away from  our house. We ordered the usual, spaghetti’s and a  nice glass of wine for Vera, a Dubble Westmalle for  myself.  The food is good, not grand cuisine, but just good. One doesn’t  come here for a  culinary experience. We are here to relax, alone, with ourselves as company.

This bar is perfect. It is dark enough yet with sufficient spots of light and with candles to  throw off the right amount of shadows too.  Also the noise level is just loud enough, a comfy rustle of syllables with the occasional cling of glasses and clang of laughter. And even the smell is right, especially in wintertime when the stove is sizzling and waves of smoky wood chips play through our nostrils. The owner is my age, so the music is a mix of my favorite classics, with Pink Floyd never far away.

The owner has seen our kids grow up in his pub. He must remember how they used to  climb on the high stools when they were just ten and twelve years old, and I can see his smile as he watches them now at the table, taller than their parents beside them.  I see him smile, and so do I.

I smile and  remember. My memory is like a Dutch Gouda, I have holes where my recollections should be. What day of the week are we? What  happened just the other week?  That is why I started writing this blog, after all, to remember.

risico4croppedBut,  looking at the three persons around me, laughing and chatting away, snickering like little girls, word smiting  jokes in three different languages, giggling and even singing to each other, so loud that I have to ask them to quiet down while I look apologetic to the other guests, who never really seem to mind, I do remember and remind myself that it is good to spend some time, from time to time, with the ones you love, in a Brown bar with Blue music and Amber beer or Burgundy wine, winding down.

risico3cropped Here is a place to breath, a moment to bury the  hatchets and drink the peace. Just outside of the  door, the rats race on. And soon enough we will  join them again. But now, just for an hour or so,  we take refuge, These are the times  to repair the  sails, to map the new course, to agree on the  game plan. Because when we get out, and the gale  rises, we better be ready, lest we drift off in  different directions.

So, drink your rum mateys, it’s all hands on deck again soon, and I want to see you all aboard when we sail that ship in.

‘t Risico
Address: Jeruzalemstraat 53, 8000 Brugge, Belgium
Phone:+32 50 49 11 69