My first 25 years in Amsterdam I was employed by four universities and dozens of foundations to teach courses, analyze textbooks, write English, crunch numbers, and criticize policy. Despite it being a distinct academic and particularly Dutch tradition, no employer has ever presented me with a farewell party. When searching for explanations I usually arrive at my essentially proletarian belief that most employers are selfish brown stars who are happy to be rid of the likes of me and my disdain for authority.
I first met Lea in a bar in 1979. She was 19, out with one of my students, and quite wild. She did an amazing flirt with me, mainly to dash most claims her 'boyfriend' had laid upon her. We had occasional and cordial contacts with each other the next six years. By 1985 she had become very much a lady. She was living with mutual friends around the corner, and I had developed a whole repertoire of reasons to visit. In late May I finally found her home alone: her partner was in India riding out their latest crisis and no one else was around to sound the alarm. We went out to a film, went home to our separate beds, and after two days of reflection we hurdled all barriers. We have been together ever since.
Quite regularly I simply flash through in fast-reverse and marvel, 'I'm really having a great life!' I'm certain that only a tiny fraction of mankind has had as much luck as I.
No longer have I faith in my capacity to play piano like Nicky Hopkins, sing and move like Mick Jagger, reflect like Michael Walzer, calculate like Garry Kasparov, and empathize like Lea van Dongen. Even my ambition, when I first moved to Europe, to write like Ernest Hemingway has been dismissed. But I still covet the prospect of someday composing a piece of literature, that will still be read with interest and pleasure a generation later.