7. Coming home

Seeing Jalana waiting for her at the airport with a tiny bunch of flowers behind the railing in the arrival hall that Sunday morning, Keke Juchtleer was struck by her excessive make up, and, once they started talking, by her talent to bicker. She almost had forgotten about that. Keke and Jalana were always bickering, they had been bickering forever. It seemed an integral part of marriage, but one could say it was always Jalana who started the argument. Now it was about whether or not to have coffee at the airport, where to have coffee and whether or not to accompany that coffee with a pastry or two. It didn't matter what Keke wanted: Jalana wanted the opposite, and, more worrysome, she would start a fight about it that often turned ugly. This time, Keke was too detached, too exhausted, to care. New York City had sucked all energy from her body, all thinking from her mind, all spirit from her soul; but here was the thing: she felt euphoric. The so called business trip turned out to be the most intense week of her life, in all aspects. After an awkward long silence behind an overheated cappuccino, Keke slowly ticked off the items on her agenda. Keke had thought up such detailed lies about the Conference on the Future of Literary Criticism, such excellent lies in fact, complete with names of speakers, titles of seminars, lists of Recommed Reading, and so forth, that she had to share them, if only for her own entertainment. 'Don't fuck with me, Keek,' Jalana intervened after a while, chewing on a dry blueberry muffin, 'There was no fucking conference, there was no literary fucking criticism, there was no fucking nothing. Not in New York Fucking City. But I don't care. As long as you've had a good time, I had a good time.' A few days later, back on the Brouwersgracht, in their beautiful apartment, where Keke had lived practically all her life, the last ten years with her lawful wedded wife, she told Jalana with a confidence that surprised herself that she had decided to go back to New York, back to Bedford Stuyvesant, to start a family.

6. Mythic banality

Keke Juchtleer had not found it necessary to bring any travel guide on her first trip to America, because she assumed that America would be self evident. And to a large extent, it was. America seemed to be as mysterious as a cupholder in a Ford Focus. Everything you ever knew about America, through whatever channel: it was all true. What you saw was what you got. Transparency, facts, the unquenchable thirst for certainty. Which often had the opposite effect, namely paranoia and anxiety. The number of people here who think alone, sing alone, and eat alone, talk alone in the streets is mind boggling. And yet they don't add up. Quite the reverse. They subract from eachother and their resemblance is uncertain, Keke read aloud from AMERICA by Jean Baudrillard, a book she did bring on her trip. 'Who the fuck does this guy Baudrillard think he is?' Cab Calloway, Keke's host for almost a week now, asked. 'Obviously he never been to Drummer's Grove.' Keke read on: More sirens here, day and night. The cars, the advertisements, New York is wall to wall prostitution. 'Hell, I ain't no pimp,' Cab interjected. 'That is, if yo no ho, hè hè.' Keke, and Baudrillard, weren't finished yet: When I speak of the American way of life, I do so to emphasize its utopian nature, its mythic banality, its dream quality and its grandeur. That philosophy that is immanent not only in technological development, but also in the exceeding of technology in its own excessive play, (...), not only in banality, but in the apocalyptic forms of banality, not only in the reality of everyday life, but in the hyperreality of that life which, as it is, displays all the characteristics of fiction.

5. Hoochemecoochie,

Sorry I haven't written to you earlier. New York is so much fun. I mean, in stores, restaurants, the subway, wherever: everyone's talking to me like they know me. Of course 'where you from' is the easiest converstation starter in the world, but still, I wouldn't know a better one! (Except, perhaps, for 'is that handkerchief hanging out of your backpocket or are you having a cold?' but somehow it doesn't work here. I haven't seen no kerchiefs hanging out of no pockets. So much for the international language of love!) Answering the roots-question however can become a little bit tedious after a while so now I automatically shoot back: where do you think I'm from?, which leads to all kinds of hilarious geographical idiocy. One big guy on Ocean Avenue thought I was from Ecuador. 'Cuz you look Spanish.' Try Europe, I said. He: Egypt? I kid you not, Jalana. (BTW can you name the capital of North Dakota? See?) Whatever, I really feel at home here. The New York Review of Books Conference on the Future of Literary Criticism is so interesting. So well organised. Such engaging speakers. And don't forget the networking. Basically, everything is networking, even among literary critics, and believe me, you can't do all of it through F-book. (Thanks, by the way, that I had to learn through that channel that your ex came over for dinner last nite, Jalana. T.M.I.!) Anyway, long story short, I'm seriously thinking of moving here. Here, mind you, is Brooklyn. More specific: Bedford Stuyvesant. Listen to the name of that 'hood, sista! Don't you love it? I know I do. And I'm sure you do too, if you finally get that smirk off your face! Later, sweetie pie, yours forever, tongue in your ear/toe in your armpit, etc.

4. Identification

An hour later, at a luscious bachelor pad in Bed Stuy, Keke was enjoying a glass of absinthe. Her home made business card, that said DRS. KEKE JUCHTLEER, KRITIKA, was lying lonely on the spotless coffee table. Her host, the man in the white suit who had saved her, did not look like Duke Ellington after all, as he had explained elaborately, but like Cab Calloway – a name he had officially taken since the original Cab Calloway died, with permission from the Cab Calloway estate. Most walls in the room were filled with Calloway posters; in the course of thirty years he had collected over a thousand Cab Calloway-parafernalia; one of his favorite objects was a small urn with a tiny bit of Calloway's ashes, that he had purchased from the family. When he offered to sing Minnie the Moocher, Keke said: 'Maybe later.' She wondered why a person like him would want to be the person he so much admired. What was the point? She had no inclination whatsoever to be any of the writers she reviewed. If asked to name her favorite female writers, she never knew what to say. When her editor had made the off the cuff remark that women couldn't write, period, she was furious, but the remark kept coming back at her. When Cab Calloway, number two, was in the kitchen, Keke finished her absinthe and shouted: 'Anyway, Cab, if you want to fuck me, forget about it, because I'm a lesbian.'

3. Downfall and resurrection

Keke closed her eyes and danced. Keke closed her eyes and danced like crazy. After dancing like crazy for two, three hours, and getting hotter, and frenzier and crazier, the drumming stopped. Like a zebra taken by the throat, Keke slowly fell to the dusty ground. The mostly black audience ignored Keke, embarrassed by the scene of a grey faced, turkey necked, red haired woman in her late forties, perhaps early fifties, who had reached some kind of private trance that got slightly out of hand. But they had seen this many times: the white woman, mostly of European origin, who suddenly, and quite dramatically, and mostly much too late in life, discovered her 'inner rhythm', danced like crazy, and eventually passed out. The drummers started packing up their drums. Except for one man, or should I say gentleman, dressed in a white suit, white loafers, white hat, who walked to Keke with a plastic bottle of ice cold mineral water, kneeled down beside her and in a delicate way, like a doctor, squirted some water in her face. Keke immediatly sat up, rubbed the water out of her eyes and blurted out: 'Excuse me? But? Who are you? You like Duke Ellington!' The man in the white suit smiled, and said, with a Barry White bariton: 'I am no Duke Ellington, missis. I'm the leader and founder of the drumming circle, and whether you like it or not, I am the man you just fell in love with.'

2. A potentially life changing event

Keke Juchtleer immediately fell in love with Manhattan, but due to budgetary restrictions she had to move to Brooklyn fairly soon. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise. In Manhattan she stayed at the Jane Hotel, a tip from a collegue at Holland's leading feminist publication. When she opened the door of her 'cabin', still high from the feeling of being in New York, The Center of The World, Crossroads of the Universe, etc, etc, for the first time, she was shocked by the size of the room where her American Dream was to be fulfilled. It was the size of a midget's shoe box and it smelled of cigarettes and detergent. When she arrived, two days later, in the NU Brooklyn Hotel, conveniently located across from the local penitentiary, she missed the city already, even if not her shoebox and its odor, but when she asked for a nice place to go for a walk, the friendly person at the hotel reception directed her to Prospect Park, and the whole world lighted up. In this park, that she didn't even know existed, she stumbled upon something she immediately recognized as a potentially life changing event: Drummer's Grove. Fifty, mostly black people were drumming on congas and bongas and claves and steeldrums and what have you like there was no tomorrow. Keke accepted the invitation. She felt home. Finally. Waken up by the improvised, syncopated beats, every part of her body wanted to let go, let go of all inhibitions, al burden, all shame. One could call it dancing, but it was no dancing what Keke did. It was more like having sex with each and every drummer that laid eyes on her.

1. Conference

The thought that, during her professional life, she had never made a business trip abroad, and her wife, her wedded wife, had traveled all over the world, made that Keke Juchtleer, a greying but cheerful 47-year old, born, raised and, as a matter of fact, still living on the idyllic Brouwersgracht in Amsterdam, made up a conference for herself in New York City that she had to go to. Jalana, who had never stayed behind before and, perhaps because of this, was looking forward to it, had not asked any questions about this conference, what it was about, why now, whether it was worth it at all, how she knew about it, and so forth, but in case she would ask those questions, Keke had her answers ready. It was The Future of Literary Criticism, hosted by The New York Review of Books, that Keke, being a literary critic herself, albeit of a struggling weekly, simply had to attend. Her work, if not her life, depended on it. Jalana, a 33-year old camera woman who did not have time to read, took her ambitious lover to the airport in her worn out Peugeot. They kissed on the asphalt of the temporary parking area near the entrance of the airport. After days of depressing rain, the sun was shining again. 'Prepare yourself,' Keke whispered in Jalana's ears. 'I might be another person when I get back.'