As a little boy, I was always fascinated by my father's stories about his own boyhood. While I had to live in dull Amsterdam West, he had been born and bred in mysterious Amsterdam East, in the "Indische Buurt" - where streets were named after islands in the then-Netherlands East Indies (now Indonesia).
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His street was the "Java Straat," and I imagined it lined with palmtrees filled with chattering monkeys throwing coconuts at the occasional tiger growling and prowling down below.
His friend Jan Moerkoert intrigued me most. On a rowing expedition, Jan was sitting in the rear and had grabbed an overhanging branch of a tree when they passed underneath. Instead of releasing it in due time, he had held on to the branch and let the rowboat glide away underneath. So he was hanging there and shouting for the boat to come and get him. "Did you, Dad?" I asked breathlessly, worrying about Jan being picked off by an alligator.
Every couple of days, Jan would throw a fit and threaten to kill everyone around. Whenever that happened, his mother would run to the kitchen and get a pile of old newspapers. "Here, Jan, please tear these up for your dear Mammy!" she would plead, and Jan, with bloodshot eyes, would comply and cover the floor with snippets.
When I was about five years old, and lived on the Admiralengracht, I once met Jan Moerkoert. At least I thought he looked like Jan, and when I asked him, he confirmed it. So taking revenge for all the suffering he had caused my father, I gave him a push down the stone stairs. That took care of Jan Moerkoert and his antics: served him right!
multicultural Java Straat, 2000's - BLO fecit 20060116 - stories