Bridge

Today, a new bridge across the river Waal will be officially opened in our city. For a long time, there was only one bridge to get out or into the city — resulting in long traffic jams. The only other alternative was to take the highway, but that’s a long detour if you have to be in the city centre.
The bridge is situated on the site where US paratroopers crossed the river in boats during Operation Market Garden, in an attempt to take the single bridge across the river. (I’m sure you’ve seen “A Bridge Too Far”: they were succesfull in Nijmegen, but failed in Arnhem, over at the next river.)

The bridge is called “de Oversteek” (“the crossing”), after the operation. There was a small monument at the north side of the river where the paratroopers landed, but now there’s the bridge. The bridge also has a light art installation to commemorate the 48 paratroopers who died during the crossing. The bridge has 48 pairs of streetlights, and at dusk they are turned on one-by-one from south to north, at a walking pace.

You can read more in this press release by the Dutch Embassy in the US. The opening will be attended by veterans who participated in the crossing and relatives of the paratroopers who died.

We can’t go today, but tomorrow the bridge is open for cyclists and pedestrians, so we’ll check it out then. Monday the bridge will be open for cars.

Yesterday I visited my parents to fix something for the RGB-LED display I built for my dad. The thing had fallen down and had stopped working, and my dad missed it… He had made a new housing for it, but there were some things that needed some soldering.
In the end, I didn’t do much — I did repair the one panel that didn’t work anymore (loose ground wire), but the rest of the evening was spent chatting and looking through the etch prints my mom made thirty years ago.

On my way back, I listened to the radio. 3FM is holding a “90’s request week”. There’s much from the 90’s that I don’t like, but there’s enough there that I do like — so I listened to that station. I was on the highway, somewhere near Veghel, when they played ‘Cannonball’ from The Breeders (video here). And I was immediately transported back to 1993.

1993/1994 were the best years of the 90’s for me(1). Just before the beginning of the university year, T. had dumped me. I was a bit down for a few weeks, and then I decided I just didn’t care and wanted to have fun. I reconnected with some friends (most notably O., who went on to be one of my two best men at my wedding) and did a lot of social things. It was the one year I allowed myself to take it easy: I almost had my candidate’s exam for Computer Science, and I did not yet study very hard on Cognitive Science.
One of those things was going out in The Swing every Tuesday night. The Swing doesn’t exist anymore — there’s a furniture outlet in the building now, and in the weekends it was part of a scene that I definately wasn’t a part of. But Tuesday was ‘alternative night’, and we went there every single week. Drinking beer, chatting and, of course, dancing. Every week you saw the usual suspects, and it was always a lot of fun.
And ‘Cannonball’ was a song that was frequently played. And I always danced to it, shaking my long hair at the equally long-haired C. who was there too.

Hearing that song back reminded me of how I used to feel at those times: finding myself in the company of people that mattered to me, enjoying myself and simply being myself. It stands symbolic for the fun we had that year.

(1): Of course, in ’94 I met ingiechan. Of course, that was an important moment too. But that is not something I look back to with a feeling of nostalgia, because that’s still going on: we’re still going strong fifteen years later.

The aftermath

This past week, the annual Four Days Marches were going on here in Nijmegen. This is always accompanied by the ‘summer festival’, which means the whole city center is turned into one big festival area — lots of stages where various types of music are performed, and lots and lots of people who drink lots and lots… I’m not a big fan of it, but I tend to go one evening with ingiechan.
However, this year I skipped, mainly because I was tired and a bit overworked, and because of the really foul weather we’ve been having this week. Especially friday, which is the last day of the marches, so lots of people come to the city to greet their loved ones who finish the walk… Festivities are always better with nice weather.

We went into the city centre today. We parked our car well outside the centre, because the roads were an absolute madhouse: everyone wanted to leave, large trucks were on the road to transport the various stages and stands away, and lots of people who didn’t know the particularities of the single largest roundabout in Nijmegen, which ties every road together…
The city centre smelled of the inside of a glass recycling container: all sorts of stale booze, mixed together… We witnessed the cleaning of the central square: a mind-numbing amount of trash had been gathered there. It was interesting to see: some of the walkers (and their supporters) were still in the city, to enjoy Nijmegen one last day before leaving, and slowly the city was picking itself up again.

Recent events

I am recovering from a bit of a summer flu. This past weekend it was at its peak, which (I fear) made me a bit of an anti-social guest at gertvr and xaviar_nl‘s saturday. I’m sorry guys, I didn’t feel too well.

But then again, I’m not even sure they noticed. I had borrowed an extra Guitar Hero controller from my colleague P., and I had taken the PS2 along as well. A non-stop session of rocking out was the result — even babarage who had threatened to boycott the game.
When everyone was tired from rocking out, I got one controller and was instructed to ‘show us how it’s done’. I had planned to show that ‘medium’ was still hard for me — I hadn’t finished ‘Howling at the moon’ — but then I accidentally finished the song and finished the game in medium setting! I think I was more surprised than anyone else present.

Yesterday, kees_s came by to exchange some physical goods, see our house, have dinner and to see the traditional fireworks. His description of the fireworks is here.
Apparently, two people died en route on the first day of the four days marches. 48.000 people, and towards the end of the route (30km is the minimum, and that’s only if you’re elderly!) people started to faint in droves. The organisation has decided to cancel the rest of the marches, due to the increasingly hot weather — a tough decision (the first time in 90 that the marches would be cancelled!), but I think a wise one.
The cancellation had already been announced by the time we reached the city center, but it was only this morning that I heard the news on the radio. The festivities haven’t been cancelled, and I guess that will give a very odd atmosphere to the whole deal.