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

A new sense of place

Ask a European to draw a line that symbolizes his life, and provably he will show you a straight line, horizontal, or in a slope. Maybe a curved line or with waves for ups and downs. Some will paint a rainbow.

Ask an Asian person the same question and most will draw a circle.

I ask it to myself, this question, too often. I offer you this suggestion:

It would start off with a series of dots, unconnected, bouncing like marbles on a stone floor, rolling like sand on a wet beachfront.
The dots then would connect into a shaky solid line. Solid is too big a word, more like  an anxious trace line, skating over the paper, zigzagging, first wild and wide, then more regular and finally with a sense of direction. Then comes a firmer hand, comes traction, comes steadiness, comes confidence. The line goes cruising forward, but inevitably the edges near, so it shoots in dramatic angles, up to the sky or down from heaven, perpendicular, suddenly, unexpectedly, unsettling. And then the line doubles and combines with other lines, and they twist and weave and synchronize and intensify and resonate and other lines join the race and webs create, and the line gets entangled and gets netted and fenced in by ever more lines that bounce it back against big fat fonts or that overrule it in darker ink or smother it in colors. And then it sharpens and speeds up and escapes and confronts and slaloms and on and on it totters and it fights back from its corner, against the red-lines and the reporting-lines and the sidelines and the cross-lines and the firing-lines. And finally, one would hope, it finds an open field, from whereon it slows down, no longer strong, but no longer shaky, no longer sharp but with a firmer grip leaving a deeper print.

And on it tracks, and one would hope, there is one other line intertwined with it still, and whilst it flows and sails along, it also slows, it sometimes halts, and pauses, then moves again, more carefully, respectfully, reflectively.

Gradually , hardly noticeable at first it begins to skate, first with soft vibrato, then edging, then hurtling, then a stumble, then a fall, then faster and faster until finally it flies off, sharp and jerky, and the line becomes a heartbeat. It goes bong-bobong- bobong-bong.
And then drops off.
And disappears
a full stop.

And what remains are incomprehensible scribbles to some or a picture to others, to look at and pass judgment on and then to forget.
And that may not be a happy ending…but what I only wish for, is a happy ride!





I’m on a plane to Berlin with a suitcase full of questions. I didn’t pay overweight even though the questions were really heavy.  When I studied veterinary medicine and was treating pets I gauged myself completely irrelevant. I wanted to treat world hunger, not a dog’s flea itch. And then I specialized in livestock parasitology and became a buffalo doctor. And after that I went into the pharma business and brought new medicines to all corners of the planet. Eventually I saw less and less animals of sorts and increasingly more people of sorts. And along the way I solved some of the questions in my bag while adding others to the pile. One specific question posed itself increasingly louder and became increasingly harder to answer.  To stop its nagging and gnawing at me, I decided to travel farther and work harder and meet even more people of sorts. And I met many people who were arguably very important, and then I met many people who were arguably very rich because they had always been arguably so very clever, and then I met arguably happy people. OMG! How arguably  happy these people were and what arguably interesting lives they all had!  Pitiful poor little me! And then I spent sleepless nights and weeks and months trying to be just like them;  I stopped saving the world or anything or whatsoever and focused hard on being very important and having money and happiness and pretending to be oh so clever.

Yet the question lingered.

And here I am sitting on a plane to Berlin. The city where my mother was born on the eve of Crystal night and where my grandfather held her tight,  crouched under the dining table, while bloodthirsty animals of sorts ran havoc in the streets below. And I was thinking how incredibly relevant it was that a grandson would go back there and work and dine and sleep in these very same streets and that a grandson could make his voice be heard in this very same place that had tried so hard to erase us, to deny us, to wipe us from existence.

And two seats away from me  I recognized a young Belgian musician called Stromae, who is famous in my country and well on his way to become famous in the rest of the world too.  And just beside me sat his manager,  Dimitri. They were friendly and easy going fellows and we started talking. So they told me about showbiz and I told them about buffaloes and about pig business and in the end our jobs didn’t seem to be too different.  And we talked about our travels and I had seen more than them but they had been seen more than me. And we talked about our children and I had more than them but they were just starting. And then I thought about Berlin and about my grandfather and I told Dimitri that I was proud of him and proud of  Stromae because they had united Belgians of all races and languages and beliefs. And he thanked me and he brought his hand to his head as if to support an idea that was too heavy for words alone. And suddenly, there it was, leaving his lips and hovering midair between the palm of his hand and his forehead; the question that continued to weigh down my luggage ever since I left school twenty five years ago. Dimitri had almost whispered it, more to himself than to me:” It is all about how to keep the passion!”

And I will continue to travel, searching for relevance and meaning and I will meet people of sorts and new questions will come and some will get solved and most will never. But to know the young and the bright around me sharing this same quest with the same hunger and ambition is just great! It is simply and not at all arguably “Formidable”!

Alors on dance!

Black hole

There are no doors in a black hole

Only nothingness,  blackness and gravity.
It must be very scary to fall into as there is absolutely no way out.
It is like falling into a mirror. Not through it, to the other side of it, but into it, into the inside.

Imagine you would see your friend fall in, reaching out to you while he gets sucked in further, his outstretched arms reaching for your outstretched arms, and all your fingers can touch, is the cold, cold glass.

Black holes scare me much and there are three lessons I’m trying to teach myself so I can steer clear from them.

My first lesson was the hardest but I think I finally have it down! It is “to never chase your shadows”.

The only  useful rear-view mirrors are the ones on a car. Gone is gone, done is done. Cherish the sweet memories and bury the bad ones. The good ones adorn your dreams while the best thing about the bad ones is that they belong to the past.

The second lesson I’m in process of learning right now is “to live from project to project.”

As long as there are new projects to realize there is a future to be had. Yes, I thought I had to build a cathedral so that I would be remembered. Now I understand that even termites are better builders. Their constructions surpass our wildest experiments, we are mere ants compared to them.  Now that I understand that, and I curse myself that it took me this long, I  let you keep your houses and your careers, your titles and your money. I now know that I chased them only for hapiness but that they only bought me comfort. Now I’m going to turn the tables around. I’ll take that bit of comfort I worked so hard for all my life and I’ll use it to to buy me what I really need for my soul: a sun setting over the Marmaris sea, to follow the  condor’s flight over the Golan heights, to greet the giant fish in the blue ocean and to kiss the snowy mountains of the Alps. I haven’t been around much and I am not a great adventurer, I know that, but I feel privileged and grateful for for every chance I get.

Finally, I’m still a long way off but I will learn it, I will learn ” to die a happy man”.

I remember a moment in younger years when I was quite ready. A moment when I realized I had accomplished some childhood dreams. A moment just before the rest of my life caught up with me.
I hurriedly tried to find some new dreams to chase, but what is prepared in  hurry, is mostly shallow and meaningless. At last, I became hungry for real dreams again, and hunger sharpens the mind.

So here I am, on the road again. I have chosen my companions, I have readied my bags, I have mapped the course.
I’m ready and when I die somewhere along this way, I know that I will die a happy man.

Have you never felt it, flying over the snow covered mountain peaks, shining like a thousand suns into the clear blue skies above? Some days are good days to die, even if you live on for another hundred years.

So if you ever walk past big pools of murky water, with surfaces full of dark shadows that mirror nothing but itself;  be weary and stay clear and remember;  there are no doors in a black hole.