poetryrepairs 15,01:009

NORMAN J OLSON : Impression of Ostend
NORMAN J OLSON : A Trip to Ostend
VALERIE DEATON : Beaufort County Fair

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Impression of Ostend

the carnival ride was called, “Mission Space.” set up in empty space in front of the old cathedral, it whirled people in a red and blue circle almost as high as the old gray gothic towers… a fat lady in a low cut black dress with round rouged cheeks and scarlet lips sashayed by looking for an Ensor painting to jump into

poetryrepairs #208 15,01:009

A Trip to Ostend

I love 19th century art… of the few artists who survived into the 20th century who interest me, James Ensor (1860-1949) is my favorite and I urge anyone who is interested in art to make the trip to the Getty Museum in Los Angeles to see Ensor’s wonderful large painting, The Entry of Christ into Brussels… Ensor lived in his parents’ house in Ostend Belgium, a small resort city on the ocean until 1917 when he inherited his uncle's house nearby where he lived until his death… I have seen the famous photo of him playing his harmonium in this house… the harmonium is against the wall on which his very large (ap. 8x14 feet) masterpiece is hung… so playing the harmonium, Ensor’s nose is maybe two or three feet from the painting… anyway, as an admirer of this great artist, I made the trip to the Getty to see his masterpiece and for the past few years, have had a trip planned out, to go to Ostend to see the house that he lived in… which was made into a museum which does not have original art but has the accoutrements of his life… I enjoy reading artist biographies and have read Ensors, which is an interesting one… and enjoy these small out of the way museums… so, on Sunday (Oct , 12 – 2014) Mary had the upcoming week off work and the flights to Amsterdam were open, so we flew to Amsterdam on the ten pm flight getting in at 1:30 pm on Monday… we took the train directly from Schipol with connections in Rotterdam and Brussels to Bruges Belgium which is close to Ostend… we did not know what to expect in Bruges except we had heard that it was a very beautiful Medieval city that was not destroyed in the wars of the 20th Century… we got to Bruges in the evening and for a few euros took the bus from the train station to the Market Square which is the center of the town… I had found a hotel just off the square that was cheap (63 euros a night… which is cheap for Bruges) and we had to go up a flight of circular stairs, across a so called sun deck and then up another flight of circular stairs to get to our room… the room was sprawling and had six beds… the clerk said that it was the only room available that day at the cheapest price… but the two beds we chose were very comfortable and after an evening stroll around the square and down one of the side streets, we found a Chinese take out restaurant where we got enough food for dinner for less than $12… everything is expensive in Europe, but Bruges seemed especially expensive… it was raining while we were there, and the busy summer tourist season is over but there were still a lot of tourists… although we did not see any Americans… we could not afford any of the restaurants on the square where we figured an ordinary meal would have cost us at least $50… but we managed mostly to find good meals in out of the way places for around $10… so it was good… Bruges is a wonderful city to walk around in… it is very old and clean… the streets are all cobblestone and there are all kinds of shops to cater to the tourists with beautiful chocolates, fashionable clothes and souvenirs… nobody seemed deterred by the rain, more of a variable mist than a downpour… we had read the forecast and so had warm clothes and an umbrella with, so we were comfortable… I had forgotten that one of the very rare statues of Michelangelo is in Bruges… I had never thought much of the Bruges Madonna which always seemed kind of clunky, stiff and unbeautiful to me, a very minor work of Michelangelo… so Tuesday morning, we walked from the hotel, stopping in every chocolate shop along the way, a few blocks to the canal where we took a canal boat excursion around the city which has numerous canals… it was great to see all of the old brick buildings, mostly houses, three and four stories high with stepped gables in the front… and it was especially beautiful in the hazy mist that came and went… during the boat ride, the guide pointed out the huge steeple of the church of Our Lady,
which housed the Michelangelo statue and as that was only a short walk from where we got off the boat, we walked along the canal to the church and went in and paid our one euro!!! to see the Michelangelo statue… what a wonderful work of art this is… I was amazed, over- whelmed… it is just breathtakingly beautiful… carved in gorgeous white marble and lit by the vast windows of the church, the image seemed to glow in the wooden alter where it is displayed… it seemed much smaller but far more beautiful that I would have imagined from the photographs (and there was a time in my life when I was deeply immersed in the art of Michelangelo and studied all of these works as much as I could via photographs)… anyway, it was a wonderful experience and I stepped to the side and made a small sketch of the statue to help me see it and remember it… we then walked around the town for the rest of the day, stopping for a free harp concert which we saw advertised… which was very nice… we saw the famous bell tower on the Market Square at night, looming huge and gothic, with arches and balconies dark against the lighted brick façade… and got back to our hotel with tired legs after a day of walking… the next morning, after the wonderful breakfast provided gratis by our hotel… delicious bread fresh from the oven with honey and jam, slices of ham, what Mary said was the best coffee she had ever tasted, hard boiled eggs, cereal, dried and fresh fruit, etc. etc… we went to the famous market which is held every Wednesday in Market square… it was a farmers market with tons of really nice looking produce, fresh meat and fish, flowers, and those lovely small European strawberries that are so sweet like the wild strawberries I remember picking as a child in Wisconsin… Mary loves produce markets and this was a spectacular one… then after checking out of our hotel we caught the bus back to the train station and took the train to Ostend just 20 kilometers away… we walked to the Ensorhuis Museum along the fishing docks and got there at a few minutes after noon only to learn that the Museum was closed from noon to two pm every day… so, we found a nice gyro restaurant and had lunch… then walked up the incline to the promenade which looks over the beach… the beach is very broad and although it was chilly, maybe 60 degrees Farenheit, the sun was shining that day and so it felt very nice to sit in the sun and watch the people walking along the beach… then at two we went to the Ensor house… it is a small green house of maybe four or five stories two blocks from the beach… the man who sold tickets told us that due to all of the tours of school children scheduled for that afternoon, the museum was full and we could not go in… I explained that we had come a long way to see the Ensorhuis and could not stay until the next day as Mary had to be home to work on Friday… he was kind enough to let us in if we would look around right away, so we walked through the group of school kids and went up to the second floor… there the two front rooms were open to the public and decorated as they were when Ensor lived there, the walls covered with reproductions of his paintings and in the front room, a smallish room flooded with light from the south facing windows, was a vast life size reproduction of The Entry of Christ into Brussels exactly where it was from 1917 until 1930 when it was taken out through the front window… the elderly docent in the room explained to me that they had to dismantle the balcony and open the wall to get the picture out…. the artist’s easel was in the corner and some items of furniture although the room was mostly open… I could picture old Mr. Ensor playing his harmonium in that light… then the group of school children filed in… and so we went back downstairs where the artist’s hat and overcoat were hanging on a coat tree… and, after thanking the ticket guy profusely, we left… we walked down that street which was a main shopping street through crowds of shoppers… a few blocks from the Ensorhuis, a carnival was set up with garishly colored rides and food stalls… one of the rides swung people on huge metal arms in the square in front of the cathedral at about the height of the cathedral towers… then we took the train back to Schipol with stops in Antwerp and Rosendahl… the Flemish countryside is very flat and green with many cows standing around munching grass as they do in Minnesota… and very prosperous looking farmhouses and villages… neat brick houses with lace curtains… along the tracks in may places are the bicycle highways where bicyclists pedal along rain or shine… and since it was misty or rainy for most of the train rides, the neat farms and lined up rows of trees with the occasional patches of wooded areas were suffused in soft light that seemed to make the greens, grays and blues especially intense… since the flights to MSP were pretty full, our best chance was the very early flight to Detroit, so we got up at five a.m. Thursday and caught the Detroit flight, then on to MSP where we arrived about 2 pm on Thursday… it was a short trip but we saw a lot…

poetryrepairs #208 15,01:009

Beaufort County Fair

Caroline at eight still rides kiddie rides and smiles. Big black women with huge butts wave to their children as they sail by. Laughing faces, taken in by the smells and the sounds, and the lights. Forgetting to see the dirt and the tattoos, looking only at stuffed dogs and unicorns, sawdust-filled bears and cotton candy. Fat men in blue work shirts with their name sewn above the pocket grip Marlboro cigarettes in toothless grins, their stomachs shaking with laughter as the kiddie cars pass around again. Almost laughter, not quite sin. Women in new sandals, tight skirts, and ratted yellow hair stand by the livestock pavilion, curse their children, and try to light matches in the wind. Over to the livestock pavilion puppies, bunnies, kitties, name it, they?re all free. There's a woman in a wheelchair And she yells at her costumed dog to ?stay,? The dog?s dressed like Mrs. Drysdale. Obedience is hard to photograph in black and white, and the newspaper man wanders back towards the midway. The carnival smells of unwashed socks. And Caroline tells me ?Look, look now...There?s two, I saw all both of them,? and I stare as the midway hocks up its riders and they spew from pandemonium back into the night. Beaufort County Fair Caroline at eight still rides kiddie rides and smiles. Big black women with huge butts.

poetryrepairs #208 15,01:009

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REPAIR: resort, frequent or habitual going; concourse or confluence of people at or in a place; making one's way; to go, betake oneself, to arrive; return to a place; to dwell; to recover, heal, or cure; to renew; to fix to original condition. -- Oxford English Dictionary


Self-taught Beat generation artist NORMAN J OLSON kindly supplies the cover art for POETRYREPAIRS. OLSON is also a poet who regularly contributes his life vignettes and poems for our pages.

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