Brian & Ann's European Experience

Sunday, January 23, 2005

My Hometown

Talk about surreal.

I’m riding my bike home from the train station in Dordrecht at 5:30pm on a Sunday night. As it is a Sunday, all the residents of Dordrecht are required by martial law to shut themselves in their homes and remove all traces of life from the town.

It’s dark, and I’m gliding through the empty wet streets (winter isn’t snowy here, it’s just wet) when I swear I hear the chorus of Bruce Springsteen’s “My Hometown”.

My frist thought is, “oh my god, I made one too many joke about the voices in my head, and now they are really there…” But as I pass onto the ghost-town-ish main shopping street, I slow down and take a second look around.

There under the awning of one of the stores is the Minstrel. The Minstrel is a Dutch man of African descent who can be found every day in a three block radius of the town square, standing in his green rubber galoshes, strumming a very worn-in looking acoustic guitar, and belting out classic tunes from the Beatles, Dylan, Tom Petty, Neill Young, and various unknown Dutch folk singers. He’s not a bad singer. He’s not great either, but he can carry a tune. He’s also probably fifty and always looks like he just got out of bed.

I give him a wave as I pass by and think to myself how weird it is to be a foreigner in this town, expecting to be a stranger in a strange land, and to hear a song that makes you think of college, your best friends, Americana, and New Jersey’s favored son.

“My hometown. My. Home. Town. My hometown. Myyyyy… home… town….”

Just one of those weird things. He was playing Bruce in the middle of a deserted street in Dordrecht at the exact moment that a foreigner from New Jersey was riding by on his bike. There was no reason for him to be out. It was cold. It was wet. It was Sunday. There was no reason for him to be playing Bruce. I had never heard him play a Bruce song before.

But he was there. And he did play it. And I rode by just then. And thought of home.


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