I'm behind on my life when it comes to the blog. Even when I was being good and blogging every day, and even having made the executive decision (though not always well followed through on) to blog about things instead of states of mind, I was usually behind on the things, and now I'm super-behind.
So now, to blog about something that happened the weekend before last. It was the F-word's birthday so I took him on a weekender to Antwerp to eat sushi, which is both lousy and expensive in Brussels. Belgium has a reputation for being a lovely place to eat that I didn't fully understand until I realized that it was due to the Flemish region - you know, the one I don't live in. But enough complaining (besides, what other country could I have lived in for three years during which there have been seven governments without being worried about getting shot? BTW the government is falling again). Antwerp is a really charming city, and we had a fucking STUPENDOUS meal at Zaowang. Had the maki sashimi boat with an extra order of dragon eyes and were wildly satisfied, I very much recommend it, book ahead.
Otherwise we rented bikes and went all about the place, admiring the orthodox Jews out in their Saturday finery, getting sunburns (yes - sunburns - oh spring I fucking love you so much) and more and sundry, but the piéce de résistance of the weekend was cycling out to the abandoned village of Doel.
It was a 22 km ride along the river Schelde, past countless filthy, farting, belching petrochemical plants, and you know what, I rather enjoyed it. First I should point out that the 22km figure is utterly unimpressive as the flatness of the poldery countryside makes a pancake look like the Appalachians. Second I should point out that there's a part of me that loves looking at industrial rot. It's so interesting, such monstrous shapes, such a shocking and revolting abuse of existence in such a massive physical form. And I tell you I'm now just trying to enjoy all the industrial decrepitude while I can, since once we go to Australia I'll have to restrict my environmentalist horror to open pit coal mines and monoculture tree plantations, I'm assuming, anyways.
Anyways I've uploaded some pictures of Doel the F-word took, I think it was the awesomest place I've been to in ages. Full of graffiti. The Olympics logo one was my favourite I think . . . in the photo you can see the guy who's been painting it taking a little rest and talking to some tourists. The town was full of them - graffiti artists and tourists. I'd been a bit hesitant on the way, wondering if it was a good idea to bring rental bikes we'd had to put a deposit on to an "abandoned" village full of desperate, lawless squatters - that was reckoning without the endless bourgeoisity (lord love it because I sure do, without the bourgeois we'd all be eating chips and thinking U2 was the best band ever) of the Flemish people. Families with young kids, pensioners with sticks and in a couple of cases wheelchairs, everybody had turned out on the lovely sunny day to look around the village and oooo and ahhh over the nice graffiti. The desperate, lawless squatters were themselves largely families with young children who had re-opened a couple of businesses to cater to the tourists and who kept at least some of the houses in tip-top shape, and then we found many of them weren't squatters, but had been there since the government tried to shut everything down in 1978 - the year I was born.
As I wrote in one of my comments, I can't imagine wanting to live in Doel, or to repopulate it, not where it is in the midst of the stinking farting petrochemical plants, nor next to the nuclear plant. But at the same time it's wrong to force dispossession on people who have roots in a place. I've always admired roots, having none myself, but beyond that, it's a self-evident truth that you do not force people to leave their homes because you can make more money with that place if they're gone. And in any case Doel is a piece of art now. Human decency aside (where it is so often placed) it would be a criminal act to tear it down because somehow the spray artists have taken this crumbling little burg and made it into something really lovely.