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Our 'Dam Life*

July 16, 2003

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We went looking for Uncle Jimmy's place, somewhere up the road from Rembrandtsplein, along the #4 tram route. It was a coffee shop that served just coffee and desserts, and when we had been stuck here some years back during a heat wave, Jen had wandered in looking for a respite one morning. He wasn't really open, he had told her, but he let her and the girls in anyway, and fixed her some coffee. He told her it would be all right, that what she was doing was really a good thing for her daughters. He was a black man, maybe in his 60s, and told her he used to tour around Europe doing a burlesque show with his twin brother. The brother was dead now.

After that, she went there every morning, and got to know the people in the cafe, who also assured her that she was doing the right thing. On the last day, he gave her two crocheted caps for the girls to wear. He crocheted them himself.

Now, she was back, three years later. About six blocks along the tram route, she spotted the coffee house on a side street. An old black woman was sweeping up inside. She hoped he wasn't dead. Hi, she called in. Is Uncle Jimmy here?

Who, the woman asked. Do you mean George? I think he's on the phone. She called upstairs, George, there's some people here to see you!

She looked at me. George? Was it really Uncle George all these three years, not Uncle Jimmy?

A window flew open and out came Uncle Jimmy's head. Hello? Who is it?

Hi, she called up. Remember us? We were here about three years ago? You crocheted some caps for the girls. We're from California.

Who? Yes, yes, of course. Crocheted hats. Wonderful to see you. Are you in town? Why don't you come by tomorrow? I'm on the phone. Bye bye!

After that, we walked over to a park to let the girls play off their dinner. I asked her if she wanted to come back tomorrow. No, she said. I came back. He was on the phone.

Click on the thumbnail of the panorama shot at the bottom of the page to see a really wide shot of the spot where we stayed. Our place was the ground-level flat in the white building on the corner at the far right of the photo.

(* With apologies to Sean Condon, author of the hilarious, My 'Dam Life.)