TIME:  1984

PLACE: HOTEL BALFOR, AMSTERDAM, HOLLAND

Winter in Amsterdam, 1984-5: A minute single room with a narrow bed on the back side, second floor at the Balfor Hotel on Surinameplein. While living there I’d wake very morning in the dark, go to the breakfast room for a Dutch buffet breakfast of breads, butter, strong coffee, cheeses, meats, yogurt, honey, chocolate  ‘hagelslag’ (sprinkles/hailstorm) to add to buttered bread, sometimes a soft boiled egg. Then (it’s still dark) I’d grab my coat, notes, pen, tape recorder and walk rapidly along three or four very long streets until I reached Woesduinstraat 86 where I’d resume working with Miep and Jan Gies in their living-dining room on what would become our future book “Anne Frank Remembered“. Over strong coffee and something sweet, we’d fish all morning for long-ago memories, then lunch at the same table on which we’d gathered, dictionaries and other references on it, now covered with a starched white tablecloth, silver (unmatched) napkin holders encircling Miep and Jan’s white napkins, mine simply folded beside — a glass of milk, two kinds of bread, soft butter, cheeses and/or meats. Afterwards I’d bid them farewell.  Quite often (by way of the #2 tram) would visit Leidseplein area, would raid second-hand bookshops, wander friendly Dutch streets. Later on, as the day darkened, I’d rest on the number #1 tram until the very last stop, disembarking in darkness as night had (again) engulfed the day. Back in my tiny room, I’d go over my notes, skim whatever second-hand books I’d purchased, then (more often than not) play a cassette by Philip Glass titled “Glassworks” using the same little tape cassette recorder on which I’d recorded that days interviews, also on cassette that would be ver precious in future times. Lying on the starched, white sheets, I’d listen to this music and gaze out at a small fur tree at the entrance to an old age home. In December a modest string of white lights were strung around this tree. I spent almost half a year in that room listening  to, never tiring of ,“Glassworks” — repetitive, melodic, swirling, avalanches of melodies, contrary arpeggios, rehashed patterns, solo piano, ensemble pieces — the only music I possessed during this consequential time.