My wife spent her teen years in a place called Holland, Michigan, home of the annual "Tulip Time" Festival, a mysterious place called "Windmill Island," the original Russ' Restaurant, and reputably more churches per capita than any other place on earth. The local high school's mascot is the "Dutchmen." When Wood was a cheerleader she wore red underwear under her skirt that said "Dutch" in white letters across her ass. Wood's mother grew up in Holland, one of eight children in one of the few Catholic families in town. Wood and her mother both frequently dealt with blonde, blue-eyed Dutch Christian Reformed people telling them that they were "Catholic, not Christian." This drove them both nuts. When I first started dating Wood, her mom and stepdad would constantly make remarks about the "goddamn Dutch people" in Holland. It brought a secret thrill to me knowing that my mother in law's good little Irish girl was dating one of them. Wood's parents would have been so much happier if she would have just brought home a black guy. But finally I was the bad boy. A genetically-ingrained frugality and loads and loads of fundamentalist guilt may not be quite the same as a leather jacket and a motorcycle, but I worked with them best I could to appear a mildly dangerous Dutchman.
And now my mother in law's granddaughter is part them. Moo-hoo-ha-ha-ha.
In some ways though, I feel my mother in law's annoyance with my people is completely justified. I find repugnant so much of my forebears' fundamentalist Calvinism and intolerance. As I've written before, the Dutch people in western Michigan "left the Netherlands because the government was granting rights to Jews and Catholics and their church had grown too liberal. They are perhaps the only immigrant community in North America who left their native land because the government there had grown too tolerant for them." Sure there are tons of cool people in the Netherlands today, and I can't help but wonder if the country is so awesome because they shipped all their assholes off to Michigan in the last couple centuries.
But the Dutch in southwestern Michigan are not without their redeeming cultural institutions, such as the aforementioned tulip festival and, well, the restaurant with telephones on every table so you can call the kitchen yourself and avoid having to tip the waitress. But above all else, the mecca of Dutchdom in Holland is Dutch Village, a theme park designed to resemble a late-eighteenth-century Dutch town. At Dutch Village you can have a pair of "klompen" (wooden shoes) made for you, you can shop for Delft pottery, or dine at the Hungry Dutchman cafe. I have tried some traditional Dutch breakfast dish called balkenbrij, which turned out to be cow and sheep and pig's livers ground into a hash and fried on the griddle, and the waitress told me everyone she'd seen order it had eaten it with maple syrup. I'm sure it warmed the cockles of my grandfather's ghost's heart to see me eating that. That dude just could never get enough liver.
It does cost $10.00 to get into Dutch Village, but the website has convenient answers to the following frequently asked questions:
What are your admission rates? Do you offer any discounts on admission? What if it rains? Do I have to pay admission if I just want to shop? What is included in the admission price? Am I allowed to bring a picnic lunch?
Apparently these are the type of questions that Dutch people ask. Over and over again.
A little more than a week ago, we visited Holland (Wood's mom still lives there). I ignored the little Dutch boy on my shoulder and forked over that $10.00 without even trying for the AARP discount, so Juniper and I were able to spend an hour or so in Dutch village. Wood went wandering around the nearby outlet mall, but later she snuck into Dutch Village without paying. And I'm the cheap one? Well yes, because when she did it I was so freaking proud of her. I haven't uploaded photos in a week, so I'm just getting to these now:
I like the little Dutch boy on this bathroom sign because he's clearly got to go himself. Either that or he already has, and he has just filled his pants. Remember back when people "Dutch rolled" their pants? That's what's keeping it all in.
It's just like Amsterdam, without the hookers and pot. If Amsterdam was built on ten acres in the middle of a vacant outlet mall's parking lot next to a state highway downwind of a Wal-Mart.
My mom has an identical picture of me as a baby sitting in this same stork's bundle. As far as my parents were concerned, this experience was all I needed to know about how babies were made. It's the most we ever talked about sex.
The best thing about the southwestern Michigan is that there is mid-century Herman Miller molded fiberglass everywhere you look and nobody knows that it's cool. consider this wheelchair. I would practically chew off my own leg to get to ride around in one of those. It's an Eames shell chair on bicycle wheels with a footrest. It's like a Duchamp sculpture you can get pushed around in and you never have to worry about your next door neighbor ordering it from Design Within Reach. When I'm old I am totally moving to Dutch Village.
Since this moment, in all of Juniper's dreams, wherever she goes, she is pulled around in a little cart by a friendly dog. I have no doubt about that.
One of the attractions is the Frisian Farmhouse, which is a historically accurate farmhouse filled with old Dutch crap, like the nineteenth-century Bugaboo above and this Stokke Kinderzeat prototype:
It's like a little baby prison, with a pisspot you can change every four hours or so. Modern Dutch design could learn a thing or two from the past. It's really too bad that only the good folks at Graco are still in touch with the important concept of baby imprisonment.
In the background of this picture, you can see some old ladies dressed up in traditional Dutch costumes. Dutch Village is swarming with these old ladies. There are some younger ones too, and they all have real Dutch accents. In the farmhouse I encountered a young college student from the Netherlands who tried to tell me all about the traditional Dutch wares around him. Judging by his stoic performance, they clearly don't encounter a lot of visitors to Dutch Village who are there solely for the kitsch value. He was so serious with me, staying in character, that I started asking all these questions like, "Did you do something bad in the Netherlands? Is that why you're here?" and "Do the bosses make you sleep here?" That finally cracked his shit up. Then he had to go do this klompen dancing thing that totally made me lose respect for him. You just can't take a guy seriously when he's wearing giant wooden shoes.
This old pipe organ provides the music for the klompen dancing. Juniper stood there long after the dancing was over, tapping her palm and demanding "more, more more." I almost bought her some size 4 wooden shoes right then, I tell ya.
Here is a sculpture commemorating Pieter, the little boy who stuck his finger in the dike to save the Wal Mart, the Steak'n'Shake, and the Pier One Imports.