One of the most amazing things about this volcano crisis is that, for all the damage and money lost and upheaval for so many people, to my knowledge not one person has been harmed. Incredibly lucky that this has not turned out like so many of the other recent global disasters.
But it has brought out something else. Our propensity to look for cause and effect, to “connect the dots,” and to reason our way out of a jam. Maybe most of all to think we can find a solution to this situation which is so much bigger than ourselves. The scene here in Amsterdam was probably typical. Stranded travelers huddled together sharing travel horror stories and rumors about what’s happening. One guy I talked to at the bar had a plan the first night to rent a car and drive to Barcelona overnight (I have a feeling it would take longer than that, but anyway) and then get a plane ticket to Madrid and on back to the States. I have no idea if he did it. I hope so. But I woke up the next morning and the ash cloud had clearly overtaken northern Spain. Another guy told a long story about a buddy of his who hitched rides and made it to Calais, where he sneaked a seat on a train through the channel tunnel. I felt like an extra in a dystopian Terry Gilliam film. “It’s worse than nine eleven!” exclaimed a British guy I could hardly understand. Of course, there was no shortage of drinks going around so the problem could have been on my end. Then things started going in a more tinfoil hat sort of direction. People with theories proving (or disproving) global warming, el nino, and Man’s enraging of mother Gaia. It was kind of fun for the first night.
But it has worn on. Over the course of the week there were more and more people without a place to stay. I was in touch with musician friends all over Europe who were stranded or had gigs canceled. I was lucky, I had a roof over my head the whole time. And I have some friends to visit here. I got to have a lovely cup of coffee made by Misha Mengelberg. And Michael Moore and Jodi Gilbert serve a mean Balinese chicken. Thanks! Also some bands came by the Bimhuis (They were touring by bus!) and I got to hear John Scofield’s band and I’m going to hear Jim Hall tonight. That’s a rare treat.
And the flights are leaving now and I have a ticket in my hand that says tomorrow. Direct flight to San Francisco.