On Tuesday I got a message from a friend asking if I could account for my whereabouts after the book-signing event on Sunday. He attached a link to a local news story. A body had been pulled from the water in Amsterdam’s Vondelpark, very near the site of a similar crime scene almost twenty years ago – a crime scene that inspired my debut thriller Calvin’s Head. The book I spent Sunday afternoon signing. The book that begins with the grisly murder of a man called Valentine, whose remains are discovered in a Vondelpark pond.
The dog days are done. They arrived somewhat late a month ago while I was still in northern New Hampshire, followed me to New York City and out to Long Island’s North Fork, back up to Boston and across to upstate New York. Now in Brooklyn, I’ll soon head home to Amsterdam. For me the dog days of summer correspond to the seasonal transition from one place to another – and not only geographically.
Ralph and Gypsy in the White Mountains, Swee’Pea in the Catskills, Jackson and Lily in Clifton Park, Max at Mirror Lake, Parker and Monk on Long Island, and Leo in Brooklyn. Connect the canine dots and you’ll find a dog days map of my summer journey, roughly shaped like the constellation Canis Major. “He really likes you,” I’m told again and again. It’s reassuring to know I’ve not lost my empathic bond with the descendants of Sirius, the Dogstar, brightest beacon in the night sky.
Amsterdam Gay Pride is in full swing and once again I am elsewhere. I haven’t minded missing the celebration the last couple of years. But this year I wish I were there. My former employer is sponsoring one of the eighty boats in the Canal Parade in honor of some very special guests – eight young LGBT activists from parts of the world where being gay can be a matter of life or death.
Radio Netherlands Worldwide (RNW) has always been openly supportive of the international LGBT community. In the late 80s, producer Pete Myers began covering stories about gay social issues on his weekly show Rembrandt Express, long before other mainstream media. When I took over producing an arts and culture program in the early 90s, he encouraged me to talk with as many LGBT artists, musicians, writers, and filmmakers as possible. Three programs I produced between 1998 and 2004 that were honored with NLGJA Excellence in Journalism Awards are part of his legacy.
Watching the Eurovision Song Contest on my computer yesterday in the middle of a sunny afternoon in New Hampshire was odd. It’s the kind of live event for which people in Amsterdam and all over Europe have parties, or gather in bars to drink and scream at the television. It’s the most kitsch, gayest, pop-culture must-see TV of the year. And an audience of some 180 million people in 45 countries watched as a torch-singing bearded drag artist from Austria took home the coveted prize.
Here in the USA most people have never heard of Eurovision, or think it’s a brand of eyeglasses. And it’s hard to explain. “Like American Idol?” they ask. Um, no. I tell them it launched the careers of Abba and Celine Dion. “Like America’s Got Talent?” Nope. I try to make clear national pride is at stake, with a geopolitical element in the voting that runs parallel to the music competition. Their eyes glaze over in confusion. Not for the first time in almost thirty years of living abroad, I feel more than a little European.