Speaking of freaky-deaky Dutch

Got this challenge from my friend Geoff and even though it’s supposed to be “played” on Facebook, I knew I was going to have too much to say. So here’s the extended response to this pretty straightforward challenge:

“This is a game to Keep Art Alive. Click “like” and I will assign you an artist. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know their work. Just search the World Wide Wisdom machine-ulator, find a piece you like and post it on FB with text similar to what you’ve just read here.”

The first thing I think of when I hear the name “Van Gogh” is not the usual: sunflowers and irises and severed ears.

Although on that ear … there’s some debate as to how it happened. Convention has it that he went apey when his pal, fellow artist Paul Gauguin, threatened to leave after an unsatisfactory painting retreat, showing his displeasure by lopping his lobe and handing it to a prostitute (further evidence that the Dutch are sub-par tippers). More recently, German historians have argued that it was most likely an altercation between the two that led to the cranial redecorating, as in: Gauguin knocked it off with a sword and the two decided to keep it on the down-low.

If true, that’s an extraordinary display of friendly discretion. Which begs the question: Were they friends? Rivals? Lovers? I’ll never tell.

So what is the first thing I think of when I hear the name?

How P pronounces it: Fawn Gauchhhhhhh (the “ch” is more of a gutteral, back-of-throat, aged-feline-with-an-oversized-hairball kind of sound; you’ll know it when you hear it).

To be fair, he speaks Dutch. Enough to be able to go to a market and buy, say, 150 g of mussels, which is of course what you do when you’re in Amsterdam with your mother and your prudish Canadian girlfriend. Dutch was the second language he learned, after Spanish, and before French, and later, English. Can you believe that in the 10+ years we’ve been together the jerk has never made a single spelling mistake? Four languages. No typos. So not fair.

Because he speaks Dutch, it’s not Goo-dah, it’s Ghow-dahh. It’s not “The Hague,” it’s “‘s-Gravenhage,” pronounced “chlaaachchcttllllaaach.”

As for the art … beyond the numerous self-portraits, the flowers and orchards and wheat fields, there are likely a number of Van Gogh pieces you’d recognize. Because I’m paranoid about copyright infringement, here’s my own version of “Starry Night,” as rendered in the once-popular app “Draw Something:”


I know, right? I’m shockingly talented, really.

To my eternal regret, we didn’t manage to see Starry Night when we were in Amsterdam, because the Rijksmuseum was closed for renovations (also because it’s at the Museum of Modern Art in NYC).

Largely unappreciated during his lifetime, Van Gogh died at age 37 “from a gunshot wound, generally accepted to be self-inflicted (although no gun was ever found).” This is disconcerting on two levels: 1) I am 41 and decidedly less famous, 2) I’m pretty sure this is where that hack Chekhov got his idea about guns (and possibly where he got a gun).

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