I'd like to take Europeans out to breakfast. All of you. It's a great meal; perhaps you've heard of it. An egg or two. Perhaps some meat. You don't have to get crazy like the English and have every part of all your domestic animals in one meal, but it is possible to make it to lunch without feeling faint. Just after I got to The Hague last night, the trains shut down. The snow and cold had frozen the relays, the joints where trains switch off from one track to another. In such a tight system, many trains use the same tracks. The locals were indignant, saying they had promised that this wouldn't happen again this year, that they had fixed the problem.
Imagine the subway shutting down in New York City. It's how they get around. Still, when people start complaining, my eyes glaze over. I'm just so damned grateful to be alive and here we are with a guitar and a case of beer; whatever will we do?
The trains are running again today. I have to get to Switzerland. It's eastern North Dakota-flat here, a snowy pool table, but the Dutch fields are gorgeous, laced with canals, dotted with fat sheep, the picture of efficiency. In a land with so little room, rural land is sacred. There are little subdivisions of cottages in places, organized communities of gardens for people who live in apartments in the city. The plots are cheap and people use them well, growing flowers and vegetables and keeping the garden sheds loved. What a singular joy it must be to dig in the good earth when you live in a closet. To trade the songs of birds for the flushing of your neighbors' toilets.
We just passed through the largest greenhouse complex I've ever seen. Square miles of them, centrally heated. I could see the beating heart in the middle, a small silo, an office, and a plume of steam.
I had a nice tour of The Hague this morning on the way to the train station. We passed the International Court of Justice, where countries can take each other to court to settle fishing rights, borders, and other sticky issues, in a civilized fashion. My host said, "There are 9 judges. They are paid an enormous amount of money and they work about three months out of the year." When I first saw it, I thought it was a cathedral. Stunning.
Later, we rounded the corner and she said, "These are the royal stables." A stately city block, with double wooden doors two stories tall. "Of course, they keep cars in there now. Not the queen's personal car, but the official ones."
"This is one of the royal lanes in The Hague. At the end there is the Escher museum." There was a large, famous piece rendered large outside, the one where a flock of geese become farm fields. "The balcony there is actually gold leaf." Which was obvious. She didn't have to tell me that.
And then the parliament building. "The oldest part, where you see the towers, dates back to the 11th century."
We turned left and there was an enormous concrete block, six stories tall, with narrow windows and no visible door. The front entrance was shuttered with metal armor. Around it, there was a high metal fence, surrounded by a moat, surrounded by another high metal fence. I said, "That must be the prison." She said, "That's the American embassy." I laughed out loud, not because it was funny, but because it hurt so much.
I think that building could be converted to a diner, and the Dutch could be converted to breakfast eaters. Six stories of hash browns, scattered, smothered, and covered. First, we take The Netherlands. From there, we can dominate the continent with beautiful calories. We'd have to give up our terrible coffee, though. That's where the partnership is formed. Our food, their coffee. We can make history. Or at least breakfast.