day 2.5 – sweet EU
By God, we’re finally in Europe! It’s taken me months – or maybe years – to write down two days of travel, but we’re finally on the ground and ready to blunder our way through the crazy four-dimensional jigsaw of Europe. You’re reading Travels With Greg, the story of my six-week documentary shoot through Europe in the fall of 2004. If you’re new to the story, check out the Table Of Contents here.
We carted our 3-d Mondriaan mobile of luggage out to the car park, where the Saab waited for us, a slate-blue station wagon with wide seats and a German engine peacefully asleep beneath the hood. Barring the occasional Porsche Cayenne, it was the biggest vehicle we would see for the next six weeks – but fitting in our pounds of lighting and camera gear was not going to be simple. Greg opened up the back and meditated on the available space
Let’s pull down the seats, he said.
We poked around, pressed numerous buttons, pulled several levers, but none of them succeeded in releasing the back seats. Greg’s face was turning pink, the shine on his temples part frustration, part flop-sweat. Mildly curious and concerned passed by, slowing their walk in case Greg succumbed to a fit of screaming or a heart attack.
I think I can do this with the seats up, he decided, and we began to arrange the pieces of luggage into the most compact form possible.
We’re going to do this every day for six weeks, Greg said, and we’re not going to get it right until the day we pack up for the airport.
But maybe we’ll figure out the back seat by the time we hit Austria (spoiler: we didn’t).
So where to? Asked Greg.
Our hotel is located in beautiful downtown Hoofddorp, I said, spreading out the map and studying the spaghetti loops of highway splattering out from Schiphol.
Hofe-dorp? Greg repeated.
I looked at the call sheet. Hofed-dorp. It looks like an airport service town.
As long as we’re only there for one night.
Hoofddorp was a stone’s throw away, which simultaneously pleased and disappointed me. It was nice to have a hotel close at hand, but the undergrad in me wanted to drive straight in to the middle of Amsterdam and find a walk-up sandwiched between a hash bar and a tranny brothel.
A NOTE ON HOTELS
Our company has one priority for hotel bookings, and it can be summarized thusly: what is cheap? I mean, really really cheap? We always have the option of seeking better accommodations on the road, but it’s usually not worth the extra effort, especially after a day of air travel. In a way this makes it remarkably easy to spot our designated hotel: drive to the general area, scan the skyline for something that’s clearly a hotel, then look for the crumbling shack next to it. That is usually where our reservations lie.
Fortunately there is a countervailing principle that usually rescues us from the dregs, which is: what is the most convenient thing to book? Picture the poor production coordinator at her desk, tasked with finding hotels sprinkled across a country or a continent. In these cases she will almost always find a reputable but affordable chain and attempt to stick with it wherever possible. For this reason I often ended up feeling, as I jumped from one hotel to the next, as if I were stalking the trace of some family on a doomed road trip.
Our hotel turned out to be a Best Western, which meant that we could expect a restaurant of passable meat, overpriced croquettes (Netherlands only) and recessed lighting.
What are croquettes? I asked.
The waiter, who had been entirely fluent in English up until that moment, furrowed his brow. They are little… fried… things.
What are they made of?
A smirk suddenly creased his professional face. You don’t want to know, he said.
I ordered the Nasi Goreng, which is apparently piped into every restaurant in the Netherlands from a central utility somewhere.
After the meal we busied ourselves with arranging the film equipment in the blond-wood shoebox of a room we had been booked into. My nerves were thrumming with the seven-hour shift in time, and my mouth had a bitter lactic tang. I skipped through the TV channels and discovered that Dutch television shows subtitled English programs. A season four episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer was playing, and I started to watch the Dutch subtitles, trying to map the vowelly, trowelled-out words to the dialogue. At one point a character enters a vaulted library and exclaims “You could hold the Nuremburg rally in here!” I wasn’t sure exactly what the subitles were saying, but it definitely had nothing to do with Nuremburg. It looked like casual TV references to the Nazis were verboden.
Tomorrow: Day 3 – the first interview.
*A prize to anyone who can tell me what episode of BtVS I was watching and which character made the strange Nazi crack.
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