Ontij – Untide

Impressions from a big city’s seamy side.

(Dutch: bij nacht en ontij – at night and at dead tide – the shady hours, the time all good people are asleep & dreaming, when the seamy side becomes the mainstream, the fringe is more apparent than society’s main fabric and untidy is the norm not the exception).

What never seizes to amaze me, is the amount of “stories” behind people.

This blog is a collection of just a few “excerpts”.. just small details of the lives of random people I meet, my impressions of the atmosphere of an old, decaying city, its underground music scene and the crazy world we live in, where people try to carve out their own niche, survive.

I live in a big city. A Metropolis. I live in a neighborhood, a poor neighborhood which, for years now, is subject to gentrification. Still, there’s a lot of so-called “alternative” projects, and a strong DIY scene, with (legalized) squats, collective gardens, lots of small venues & pubs with their gigs & parties, and quite a few parks and other green areas. It’s a city with a lot of forgotten places, where nature grabs hold in the cracks, where individuals make their mark and move on. I love just walking around, and let my surroundings “work” on me, observing, collecting these moments.

This city smells. It’s dirty. It’s poor. It’s hard to make a living. At the same time, it’s colorful. It lives. It expresses itself at every corner. To me, it’s home. It’s where I thrive. Where I come back after traveling, in a crowd dressed in different shades of faded black, weirdo hairdo’s, dreads, colors, big boots or high heels, band t-shirts or layers of worn-down cloth. Where people either pretend a lot, or nothing at all, since the thin layer of varnish of civilization has evaporated a long time ago by the hard art of living. There’s beauty in decay.

The “fringe”, the seamy side, of society is very visible in my neighborhood. The beggars, the homeless, the drunks & the junks, the people that “just didn’t make it” are as much a part of that neighborhood as the artists, the musicians, the walking fashion shows. The place where the woman behind the cashier at supermarket has pink hair, or you get your drink served by an elderly bald guy full of piercings & tattoos in an apron, where you walk in a busy street and all of a sudden, you realize the guy you just past, is walking around naked as if it’s the most normal thing in the world.

I participate in a few of aforementioned projects, such as a give-away shop, and an initiative to save food & redistribute it.  These kind of initiatives attract a very wide range of people – for example in age and background -, but at the same time, probably a very specific, & not the most mainstream, group of people.

These are probably people I would have just walked past, ignored them, on the streets.  But because of those projects, I meet them, and talk to them. And now share their stories, those small excerpts of their life, the impressions they made on me.

Though I’m not a big fan of humanity as a whole.. this kinda of encounters.. well.. it’s the small things, the individual? that matter? And which we forget, or chose to ignore, in the rat-race our society has become? Not to forget the scenes I thrive in prolly attract the people that have “lost” in the rat-race…