Tuesday, 26 January 2010

De Couch

Formerly a night-club, this house has now become the designated place in town for travellers passing through to rest their weary heads. Rather than just offering respite, it has become a black hole of a place, the centre of which no daylight ever touches (there simply are no windows), and which sucks people in, spitting them out hours, or days, or months later, with an acute sense of temporal disorientation. "Time stops at the door", is what is said of this place. It is paradoxical, because there are so many clocks attached to the walls inside, but each of them is frozen at a different hour.

For the chronically insomnia-stricken like I it is impossible to tell, did I sleep two hours or fourteen? There is always voices in the living room, be it two in the morning or at eight, or at four in the afternoon. Noon may be the only time when quiet and black can be expected (but not guaranteed...).

In the past, before being turned into the squatted social centre that it is now, the place was one of the city's most notorious backstreet dives, a place that with time had got out of hand, and become a den for drug-dealers and mobsters. It was actually closed down after two men had their brains blown out in the men's room in what seemed to be members of the mafia settling old scores.
Right now, the men's room, cleaned out and refurbished, is converted into one of the rooms people live in, and it happens to be mine. I may loudly proclaim my gratitude to some ad hoc deity for the fact that I don't believe in anything like evil spirits.

After being left empty for over a year after the double murder, the old backstreet dive was turned into a squat. Occupied about two years ago, the original occupants of the place were Barry, Nadin and Giel.

Barry is a fellow traveller, a great guy who always has a serene smile on his face and who likes to try out different kinds of attires and headgear which lend him a completely different look every time.

Nadin happens to be the first person I ever met in the city of Leiden, back in June. She is a Reggae-loving gal with brunette rastas originally from Curaçao, today striving to make a living out of recycling rubbish into art. The way I relate to her can be summed up much like the Pixies song:I la-la-love that girl, as well as her funky new "family": the metal-loving boy-friend and the tender pair of cats, "Apple" and "Pie".

As for Giel, he is a lanky and tall hippy with long, platinum blond dreads reaching all the way down to his waist. His frame towers as high as the tall trees, and if he ever tries to hug you, he may just end up flinging his arms around himself, clasping the air above your head, because you just are too low to him.

The current inhabitants include Toni, a Welsh boy of imposing posture with cuddly teddy-bear paws, and his Swedish girlfriend Nina, who steps out of the dark cavern of de Couch in her number nine miner's boots (she wears what she finds).

Residents switch around a lot, though: One person who just left is Greg, one of the many travelers passing through, an almost infallibly happy-go-lucky guy, who yet is perspicacious and acutely observant, and whom we may forgive for this fact his Murkin origin.

Replaced he was by Rob, a bearded man from Scandinavia who with his glasses askew and beat poet books under the arm looks like an intellectual viking, and Tom, a Brit with stunning eyes and slender limbs, who is a musician and whose very gestures seem musical to me.