Fighting, Baking Lab, etc
Hi, my love.
Another gray Sunday here in Hamsterdance. Evening now, wüdbürner roaring.
Though I’m adjusting, the gray is a bit of a shock for me because this time last year we were blessed to land into an uncharacteristically blue skied Amsterdam. This, coupled with the symptomatically Dutch warm winter (it never really goes below 50 here, god bless y’all), was a most welcome respite from the absolutely anarchic New York City we fled.
We kept expressing confusion to everyone who would listen, wondering why people complain about Dutch winters. Kept marveling at this little slice of paradise we had fallen into, an eternal fall dream for months.
And everyone kept saying back, “Just you wait.”
Oh, my Dutch brethren.
I have waited.
I have lived to see another of your winters.
And I finally get it.
For those of y’all who don’t know, allow me to catch you up:
An oppressive slab of slate gray seems to roll across the Netherland-ian sky from late November until whenever this winter ends, seeing as it’s my first one after all. Occasionally it’s punctuated with robin’s egg blue lasting just long enough to tease you into forgetting you are in a groundhog day of monochromatic depression fare. Then, of course, a fox’s wedding turns into a hail storm and we’re back to the old familiar gray.
And though I’m down for the cozy vibes of my wüdbürner, a whole week straight of this has gotten me a bit down.
Weather aside, the week itself was wonderful. I threw an epic birthday for king JJ including a visit to my favorite place on earth, the kinderfeestwinkel, where we picked up a glorious birthday sign to accompany his cake.
The requested cake was a “black and white cookie” cake, so beneath that chocolate buttercream is also a layer of vanilla buttercream. Because I am nothing if not absurdly extra and down to please.
Back to pie now, working on one for my dearest Tisha who requested the rose cardamom pie from ttalk last week and will get it because I am nothing if not absurdly extra and down to please.
(Tisha, by the way, has a new song that is SO GOOD it will make you weep salty tears.)
(Stand by for whenever it is released, I will let you know and you will thank me.)
I am happy to help Tisha with both the song and pie because (1) that song is an absolute pearl that the world deserves to hear (2) I love edible petals of rose and (3) their pie request meant I got to take another trip to Baking Lab today.
We’ve talked about Baking Lab a bit before, a perfectly Dutch little slice of heaven. The kind of place that LA and Brooklyn hipsters dream of, where exquisitely milled European and American flour is sold by the gram.
I go weekly to fill up my paper bags of flour. Recently I was told that I am their only customer who, to close my bags, twists the tops up and grabs them with my full hands, in their words, “like Mr. Monopoly money bags.”
(Apparently the other customers are classier than me, and simply fold said bags before daintily returning to their homes.)
(I will not be deterred. Mr. Monopoly money bags of flour or NOTHING.)
It is also pretty far for me, all the way in Oost where all of my favorite food things live. To get there of late I’ve been availing myself of Amsterdam’s tram system, an above ground feat of genius that makes you just … wonder how a country has gotten something so right.
But I’m also the descendants of two of the most physically fit people in the universe, and am at a real low when it comes to fitness in these ol’ pandemmie times. So today I made the decision to do the half hour each way bike ride to get my money bags.
You may recall, if you’re a longtime reader of these here ttalks (thank you!!), that this bike ride legitimately took. me. out. a year ago today. I cried the not good kind of salty tears trying to be an Amsterdamian biker. But over that beautiful blue winter I got better, eventually good enough that the ride to Baking Lab was no big deal.
Today was less so. Not cry or scream level and also decidedly far from “no big deal.”
I huffed and puffed the entire way there. Midway through, I had a hilarious run in with a Karen.
(What do you call a Dutch Karen?!)
(I’ll just go with … Dutch Karen).
Dutch Karen was having a day today. Perhaps she has this day every day. But today, when I met her, she was furious at the couple ahead of us, who was on a leisurely Sunday bike ride and was also the cutest.
There was absolutely no reason to fuck with them on this glorious gray Sunday, but who knows, Dutch Karen had places to be I guess. She had her blonde ponytail up high, her lululemons on tight and her nikes strapped on.
In other words, Dutch Karen was ready for a silent passive aggressive fight, my love. But unfortunately because of the way the bike paths are designed here, the fight she was looking for was de facto gonna have to be with me.
Yes, as Dutch Karen kept sighing with increasing volume and sharply craning her neck, we were going over a beautiful bridge.
Narrow bike path.
Gorgeous Dutch water to the right, tram tracks to the left.
Cutie couple ahead of us.
And Dutch Karen, saddled up within a few inches of me.
Leaving me in the hilarious/undesirable position of somehow being the one boxing her in, because I didn’t feel like aggressively/dangerously passing the couple on my bike as I huffed and puffed.
Dutch Karen really played her cards wrong today, because I’m on day 8 of full gray days and am from New York fucking City, you feel me? I was delighted to go nice and slow, focusing on the energy of the cutie couple instead of her passive aggression.
And it was going nice, if dysfunctional is how you want to define nice. We were cruising toward an actual fight instead of a passive aggressive one. I was absolutely certain I was in the right and was happy to have words, should it come to words.
(Please. Try me, Dutch Karen. I have. all. the words for you. Today.)
And then I looked to the left, toward this city that has held me so beautifully.
I thought of how fortunate we were just about a year ago today to find refuge here, how much I love everyone for letting that be the case.
And I realized the lyrics that were playing in my ears, from the song that you helped me finish a few weeks ago.
(Many of you have asked what happened to that song, wings pricking at shoulders and all, from a few weeks ago.)
(Apologies for leaving you hanging!)
I did indeed finish the song, got the lyrics exactly right, even put a taali choir on it all from our little vocal teepee. I don’t usually collaborate on my choirs, but this time I had the benefit of JJ running the computertron so I was open to a change. His Quincy level ears afforded a new choir dimension that, if I’m flattering myself, threw the song delightfully into Fiona “Hot Knife” territory.
(If you don’t know that song, what a day for you, I’m referencing 3:15 onwards.)
(Another ADHD sidebar!)
(Speaking of music - JJ suggested, brilliantly, that I create a Spotify playlist of songs that have been top of mind while you’ve read taalitalk. It’s called … taali talk [decided to get original on the titles!], will be updated every week, and is available below.)
Back to songs and Dutch Karens.
The song morphed. It became less and less about the physical element of flight.
Less and less about my inherited Jewish need to move, and more and more about giving up the urge to fight.
Oh, that counterintuitive benefit of walking away from a fight.
So difficult to do and such a doozie, one I’ve wrestled with in my lyrics before. I got to where I wanted, to some extent, in my song “I have seen it for myself” (whose beat, a co-creation between Josiah Kosier and myself, I’m still enormously fucking proud of.)
But listening back I can hear that I didn’t get fully where I needed. Back then there was still so much mishegas I was holding on to. When I wrote those lyrics, I meant fighting myself. I meant getting out of my own way, I meant taking my death grip off of things and seeing what happened.
Now, with almost every narcissist I could afford to cut ties with out of my life, “fight” has a new meaning. I have a different kind of fight I need to let go of. The concept has been bubbling up in me with no words to do it justice, so I did what I often do:
Write a song that seemed like it was about something else.
Give up on it.
Furiously/dramatically proclaim to my husband/label co-founder that the song shouldn’t be on the album and is a worthless pile of flaming garbage.
Get to work again.
After all that I watched the lyrics take shape, with you alongside me, into a new anthem for letting go. The song, in a beautiful way (if I may! say so! myself!) considers a third option in the fight vs. flight dichotomy:
What if, instead of fight or flight, you could fly?
Its lyrics now encourage me to take to the sky instead of avoiding or engaging in things that are grounding me in the wrong places. I realized, as I moved those little sheets of paper around on the big piece of paper, that I’ve been stuck in a fight for my entire life. Fighting to be taken seriously as a woman, a musician, a businesswoman. Fighting to be known outside of the shadow of my currently more famous husband. Fighting to be loved, fighting to matter, fighting to, to, to.
I don’t want it anymore. I don’t want to choose fight or flight.
I want to fly. Want to emulate this moment of zen JJ captured in Greece this summer, from a recently developed disposable.
I want the air on my back, I want to be free of this endless and exhausting struggle that serves nothing and drags me down. And yet there I was today, listening to the song in my headphones and in a full on silent fight with a woman I had never met and will never meet again.
So I looked over at her, and we made eye contact.
Her eyes were beautiful, steely blue.
I saw panic in them more than anything.
When we got to the bottom of that bridge I slowed down, waved her forward, and decided to fly instead.
I got my flour, sat for a bit outside Baking Lab and envisioned the team I’m dreaming of when this album finally comes to fruition. Good god I’m so excited to finally have a team after an entire career of doing it all myself. It gives me excitement beyond words.
I can’t wait to get this album to you after all this talking about it. Can’t wait for this song to be in your headphones so that maybe you, too, can rise above the mishegas of it all.
Until then I’m sending love and the promise that we are one song closer to that reality. Thank you, thank you, thank you for helping me get there (and let me know what you think of that playlist!)
Till next week.
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