Tattoo Stories Part 1

So I almost got divorced the other day. Let me explain. Me and my best buddy Paul were in this tattoo shop in Brussels (because that's how we roll/get down/boogie/out our secret gay love triangle/start our career as Dutch national soccer players/ah hell, I guess you know what I'm going for here/because I don't really/are you still with me/I was going for… oh, right, because that's how we roll/or whatever rockstars say these days/I haven't watched MTV Cribs in ages so you just have to imagine that I am saying something cool here, with a # or something) and there was this female tattoo artist there (her customer almost ran away after he saw me fall over (it's ok, the freshly tattoo'd arm took the impact and that already hurt so it was kind of efficient), she ran after him screaming "That doesn't happen to all our customers! He just has a deadly disease!", and she got him back so I can tell the next part) who was tattooing a customer that almost ran away and then we noticed just as Paul was trying not to scream (it is amazing, our guy was so soft and sweet and small but the moment he got a needle into your flesh he was super super intense (and you try not screaming when a tattoo guy gets intense)) that she had a portrait of Tom Waits tattoo'd on her arm (we even asked "is that him?" and she said "of course, who else?") and I of course had no choice but to propose to her but I am married and I am just realizing that Iris reads this as well, so. So, we went to Brussels and got inked together and it was cool.


I got my first tattoo about, I think, 15 years ago. At the time, I knew only one other person who had one; my sister. The question I heard most was: "Why did you get one?" Now the first question is: "What does it mean?", and if your answer isn't philosophical enough, beware. Gone are the days where you could wake up with a hangover and an odd itch on your chest, and discover a bird or anchor there, permanently (this neary extinct cultural idiosynchracy was nicely paid homage to in the cult classic "The Hangover"). So my latest tattoo has four parts, honouring the evolution of public opinion in the western world over the past century or so (I just made that up, but it's actually quite fitting). One part was conceived years ago, marking both a milestone of sorts in my development as a zen buddhist as well as a unique artefact of the friendship between Paul and me, as well as being a joke that is understood by very few and found funny only by me. One part was conceived months ago, and narcistically is about one of the greatest compliments I received, which I want to keep reminding myself of as I think I'll need what it stands for. One part was thought up on the spot and the prettiest part was made up on the spot.


Maria has kindly agreed to write a guest blog about the second part, the compliment, which is the rest of this post. I would give her a proper introduction, but this paragraph took me an hour to write already, and I'm about to throw this eyegaze thing out of the window, so Maria, the floor is yours:


A “thank you” rather than a farewell

It was almost 4 months after the first time I met Garmt. After several “milestones” had been reached within the ALS initiatives running in the company, he wanted to organize a get-together dinner to thank all of the people that worked with him in his effort to kick ALS in the balls. It was also a bit before little Zoe would come to life, so it was a good occasion to spend some time with the whole team, before he would take some time off to focus on his most valuable team, his family. And so, his favorite restaurant in Utrecht got reserved for the whole night, we (the “company team”) arrived around dinner time and the wine started coming smiley


What Garmt didn’t know beforehand, however, was that we also wanted to prepare something for him and, as the Dutch saying goes, put him in the spotlight (still not quite sure that he didn’t know, though – this guy seems to know everything going on around his teams). The plan was to make a piece of art on-the-spot for him. The idea was that each of us had a word or expression in mind that best describes Garmt. Our task was to *somehow* describe all these thoughts on a paper/artistic way and put them all together in a mobile that Garmt could take with him. Keep in mind that we are talking about business people that were asked to create art, and you can get a picture of how the “describing” part went; colors all over the place, glue around tables, and engineers wondering what is the best way to glue a candle on a horizontal position (true story, don’t ask). But, behind all of these improvisation efforts, there was something that all art in the world could not express clearly enough, and this were the concepts that people came up with to describe Garmt.


So this is why you are reading this post right now. When Garmt asked me to make this blog post for him, it was because he wanted to make sure he can remember all these words that people said about him and the meaning behind them. So I will be as analytic as possible about describing the word that I used, even though I know that generally he would insist that it’s best to say things in short points.


The word that I think of when I think of Garmt is the Greek word “θάρρος” (thárros). It is not easy to translate it in just one term, you could say it means “courage”. But it also includes a number of other things, such as guts, bravery, ardour, dignity and -possibly- a bit of arrogance as well (in a good way J). I was lucky enough to work with Garmt as my first manager in my first job, and these are all the things that he taught me and the reasons why I look up to him. He is fearless to cope with all difficult situations and he never gives up, needless to say. But he also inspires others to “go for” things and see life in the same way; it sounds like a simple deal but, if you think about it, it’s not.


You could see all these attributes of Garmt reflecting on his “team”, the people that were there for dinner at Utrecht that night. Garmt was the one who wanted to say “thank you” for our support, but I think -eventually- it was a “thank you” from all of us to him, for all the inspiration he gives us. Garmt also supported back each one of us individually through this course of time and, probably, he was not even aware of that.


What I will keep from this event is that it was meaningful and it was fun. It was a sober way to say thank you for simply being there. The “piece-of-art” may have not been the prettiest thing in the world but it is clear evidence of how one man’s courage can touch so many different people’s lives and the reasons why we will always be thankful to him.


As a closure, when we say in Greece that someone has “tharros” it means quite something. If you search for the description on the Greek wikipedia, “tharros” translates as “the strength that someone has so that he can cope with dangerous situations, either without fear or by winning over this fear”. And I believe that this is what Garmt always does.

                                                                       Maria – Garmt’s team member J



The first letter of Tharros


"I like pleasure spiked with pain

and music is my aeroplane

it's my aeroplane


pleasure spiked with pain

That motherfucker's always spiked with pain"

(Aeroplane, Red Hot Chili Peppers)


Want waarom zoeken naar woorden als iemand anders het al eens beter heeft omschreven dan jij zelf zou kunnen? Spiked with pain, zoals je cola spike't met rum, of zoals je in pudding een punaise verstopt om hem interessant te maken. Overigens is Aeroplane een van de weinige nummers van de Peppers die zonder John Frusciante is gemaakt en toch de moeite waard is. John was ten tijde van deze cd even zeven jaar op drugsvakantie om uiteindelijk door een Nederlandse fotograaf teruggevonden te worden als junk waarna hij als Mozes van de berg kwam en volledig clean de beste albums aller tijden maakte. Maar ik dwaal weer eens af. Pleasure spiked with pain dus. Een goed thema voor de afgelopen weken. Ik heb een hoop fragmenten te delen; meestal zijn dat niet mijn beste blogs maar ik moet het toch kwijt, en ik moet oefenen om met minder letters meer te zeggen (tekst tikken met je ogen is klote), dus hieronder: 10 losse mini blogs achter elkaar. Een beetje als six word stories met pleasure spiked with pain als thema.


Paul gooit tweejarige Jet hoog in de lucht en vangt haar vlak boven de grond op. Ze praat tegen hem. Ik kijk toe.


We worstelen en komen samen boven, metafoor, maar we worstelen wel samen, allebei een rood hoofd en allebei nauwelijks controle over onze armen, tot ze haar eerste boer bij me laat en ik haar niet heb laten vallen. Haar kotsvlek is een welverdiende medaille.


Ze worden zo snel groot, en je denkt dat dat betekent dat ze voor je het weet 18 is, maar het is veel letterlijker dan dat; na 2 weken weegt ze 4200 gram. Iedere snelle hoofdrekenaar weet dat ze in dit tempo op haar eerste verjaardag (((((4200-3468)/3468)+1)^26)*3,468)= 504 kg en 86 gram is.


Bob kwam een jaar geleden naar me toe met een ideetje, hij noemde het Xavier en het persrapport een jaar later is centimeters dik, meer dan 100 kranten hebben geschreven over zijn prototype. Hij vertelt er schitterend over op radio 1 en in een van de artikelen word ik zelfs genoemd.


Het is op van die zeldzame rustige momenten, dat je haar vast hebt na een voeding en ze met ogen dicht nog even nasabbelt, staart naar die zachte volle wangetjes, en uit het diepst van je hart een paar woorden omhoog komen: jij dik, verwend mormel. Een bonusknuffel.


Na de emmer ijs droogt Iris me af en ik merk dat ik voor het eerst in lange tijd helemaal rechtop sta, borst trots vooruit.


Ze is een week of vier en plots realiseer ik het ontbreken van iets kenmerkends: onrust, drive, er-moet-iets. Zij moet niets, ik heb een raar vertrouwen dat het goed komt met haar wat er ook gebeurt. Ik ben ook altijd (bijna) rustig in haar buurt. Met haar komt het zeker weten goed, met haar is het al goed, met haar zal het altijd goed gaan, met…of zonder mij.


Van verschrikking naar velossing… Eerst moet je absoluut niet denken aan een hulpmiddel en dan kun je ineens niet wachten tot het er is. Ik was zo verrast blij, ik bewoog zelfstandig in de buitenlucht zonder angst voor nieuwe hechtingen… in een scootmobielproefrit. Twee maanden terug overwoog ik nog een Tesla als nieuwe auto, en nu…Hey, dit is ook een FEV (fully electric vehicle).


Tering mensen, wat een leercurve, dat tikken met je ogen. Kleine delen van deze post zijn met mijn ogen getikt, en dat tikken zelf gaat prima, kijk maar hier: abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz, ook nog retesnel. Concentreren als een gek op de letters, dan heb je alleen geen brainspace meer over om bij te houden hoeveel haakjes open je nog moet sluiten. Laat staan dat je na kunt denken over wat je eigenlijk aaneen aan het rijgen bent. U ziet het wel aan deze paragraaf denk ik.


Tijd dus om af te sluiten! Tot snel!

Our miracle drug

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Little Wonder

Filled with little wonders, this first week.


Her age is measured in seconds and I manage to keep myself from fainting – just barely.


Her age is measured in minutes and she is lying on Iris' breast. I want to touch her white little arm but am afraid to, afraid that it will be too much, that something inside me will burst if I do. Shortly thereafter I feel her naked warmth on my chest and it's the best sensation I've ever had. I use a lot of superlatives but this time it's very simple: it's the best sensation I've ever had. A little later they come to draw blood from her and I realise for another very small fraction that she has her own blood, that she is her own human.


Her age is measured in hours and she is asleep on my chest again. She is dreaming, her eyes move beneath her eyelids and I see the emotions fly across her face. What is passing through her minds eye? Something serious, something funny, something to get angry at, something to wonder at, something tasty (breasts!), it al passes by in just a few minutes.  


Her age is measured in something between "this many hours" and "this many dayparts" and her lips and tongue flawlessly locate the nipple, right through the t-shirt. She begins to suck and faces one of the first disappointments in her life: a man. No milk to be had from my breast, sorry. I laugh like I'm on drugs – perhaps that's the hormones? Iris takes over and gets to work. Every young dad feels useless and powerless; perhaps this is why I have coveted breasts for so long? Iris's deserve an eleven by now.


Her age is measured in days. I am seriously considering to never blog about anything except her, her fingers, her neck, her crooked nose, the unique sound she makes when she sucks on her hand. Every little thing she does is magic. I always got annoyed every time some young stupid parent couldn't stop talking about their stupid child; luckily this is completely different. Com-ple-te-ly different. The next day, I notice with surprise that she shares some characteristics with the concept of a baby. I wasn't thinking of her as a baby but as something unique, a phenomenon.


Safely strapped to my chest in an intricate origami of elastic bands, I have her close to me and my hands free. This feels good! I move to get up out of my chair and hear a wet whisper: "Are you sure? Is that a good idea?". No. It isn't. I halt my attempt, defeated, the room gets dark, the voice that only I can hear continues its undeniable drawling lisp: "I thought three days of happiness was enough, so… I'm here again". The age of my ALS diagnosis is a few days short of a year. Its teeth nibble my earlobe, it curls up in my lap, continues: "It's not a good idea to walk with her. I would make you stumble. I tell you what, it's not even a good idea to be home alone with her. You see, Garmt, I've made sure you can't take care of her. And I'll make you feel that. And you know, don't you, that no matter what tricks you pull out of your hat, I'll keep her from having the dad she deserves. The biggest criminals can appeal for the right to see their kids unsupervised, but me, I'm beyond appeal. The only father-daughter moments you'll ever have will be through the mercy of others helping you. She'll only get heavier and you'll only get weaker. And now, I'm going to make you feel how love hurts." And I cry, I wail. Pain in my chest. I don't want to cry with her this close but this is too much for me. God, this hurts. So bad. Today is the first day that ALS hurts, gives me pain. So far, it was annoying, irritating, infuriating, interesting even, tiring, bruising, demoralizing. Today it hurts, in a way that no song or poem can describe. I don't even have energy or room to get angry or be mindful of my pain.


That takes a while to clear up.


Next day. Iris feeds her milk and I feed her music. A few hours each afternoon, as she snoozes on my belly, I play her some Steve Earle, some Black Keys, a bit of Bonnie Prince Billy, even that forgotten Springsteen album "Devils and Dust" (I cover her ears for the second track), a quirky CD by The Notwist, a country album Ben Harper made with his mum. Now, Aloe Blacc sings "Who can help me take away my sorrow / maybe it's inside the bottle", as I feed her. He's right; I am smiling again. Inside that bottle is Iris' milk, that I am also feeding to our daughter. Spirits are high again, but damn, that was a rough day, yesterday.


I go in to work for a half day to talk about the fund and evaluate eye tracking stuff (a post like this takes three days to type). I shame myself; it feels so good to be in the office again and experience some old productivity that I miss my opportunity to give her the daily bottle. That's a mistake I won't make often… She changes every day and I don't want to miss any of it.


Her age is measured in weeks; 1,05059 weeks at the time that I write this, to be exact. In a few hours, we will celebrate her first week-birthday; in proper style, with Dom Perignon and the last leftover piece of our wedding cake (style over substace; it's been in the freezer for two years…).


The official announcement and her name will follow soon – for now, you'll have to make do with just one picture:

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