The urushi bicycle project - Vanhulsteijn x Sotheby’s New york
“Mohohohoter!” He laughed out the word ‘mother’ as happy as a bird in the morning. He forgot to add the fucker. They do sometimes. The Condor does.
“Mohohohoter! So I was sitting in the car. Just stopped at a gas station. Picked up a snacker and an booster.” (he meant a snicker and a cup of coffee). “Picked up a snacker and a booster. And then. Mohohohoter! Forgot my Fucking cigarettes. Mohohoter!” he slammed another one Euro beer.
“Sir. Can you control your kid?”
We had 22 and a half crates of beer. It all worked out. If it didn’t i would have wrote this account earlier. It has been three weeks now.
“Sir. The kid. Can you control it. Or do we have to kick him out?” Sir left.
Its a sad day. When you have to worry more about kids then grown up man drinking one euro beers.
Golden boy showed us his rings.
“You know what I can do with this?”
He hit his left palm
As long as we gave the Condor and Golden Boy beer they’d be happy. And we ‘d be save.
I guess I was sucked up in the image of the two hippies. In their forties. Their heads screwed against each other. You could imagine the whirlwind their tongs made. There was tekno music playing. There was nobody we knew anymore on the party except the Condor and Golden Boy. That’s when I heard Cupid say it.
“Put down the camera man. The chicks don’t like it.”
Golden Boy’s rings.
Somebody save him.
Again I totally forgot about the Girl With No Face.
This is how my writing here works. I visit friends in Arnhem. They tell me crazy stories, or normal stories on which i glue crazy fantasies. If I don’t visit i call someone. If I am somehow to busy to visit or call the Chief calls me. Mainly with the standard line: “If you’re not taking this serious you can quit every time. I don’t care.” I was very busy since returning from Berlin. I can’t tell you with what. I would lie. The chief didn’t call. Cupid didn’t call. Benjamin still lost.
“He was supposed to call. And come. And pick up your old gas stove.” My woman said.
“I don’t know. Maybe he changed his mind. Maybe he’s sad.”
“If he’s sad you should call him.”
“If he’s sad, he can call me.”
“What about the stove now.”
“I’ll store it. He’ll come.”
Yesterday Cupid posted me a newspaper article on facebook. There was no note. Only the article: bicycle store owner caught by raging bull.
“Bicycle owner caught by raging bull. Friday last week a man got caught while attempting to swim in the river Rhine. While attempting to do this a raging bull attacked him. Sources say the man is know as the owner of a Arnhem based bicycle store. Sources also say the man was swimming all year round in the Rhine. Summer and winter. And that the victim was well known with the fact that swimming in the Rhine is illegal. Police claimed they fined the man last summer for doing the same with less dramatic consequences. The man had to be retrieved by a trauma helicopter because the bull was still raging when they arrived on the scene.”
We count our money till the pot is empty
We´ll count it down till we get friendly
All the way till one of us is rich
All the way till one is in the ditch
It won´t be me
It won´t be me
My pockets are full
My heart is stone
I am the Lehmann brothers all alone
The day was starting waiting for the whistlers train. We found a small café near Berlin-Spandau railway station. No curtains but brown nicotine stained glass. Old people. Mainly old people. Except the bartender. It was a woman. No age occurred. Ageless. Smoking. Not smiling. Not angry nor mad. She was there. Nothing more.
“There are days that my head looks like this” HIM says.
“The guy with the mustache looks like a gay”
“No, man he has a mustache, he can handle it”
“You think he is gay?”
“I don’t care.”
“He’s not less gat than we are…”
“Why didn’t we order beer?”
I know why. But I don’t mention it. Its Belgium Castor. He wants to do it but he doesn’t dare to talk German. Every time he is asking. How do I say this. How that. How he shuts up and tries. Its not that Dutch and German differ that much.
Berlin is a collection of cities. We bike from one to another. Every time wondering where we are. What are all these cool places everybody is talking about? Will we find out? I wonder. We bike about 40 K´s a day. This city consists of freeways. With people. Walking. Driving. Drinking. The buildings all look the same. Can we enter them? Is it a bar? Is it a party? We ignore. We renegade trough the city. A club of circus clowns. A band with no instruments.
The biggest rubber dick the whistler ever found was about a meter long (read previous story to understand). A grown up man couldn’t wrap his hands around it.
The trip. The train. The impossibility to chill with these guys. It is chaos all over the place. A strange way of philosophizing the fantasy world around us.
The camping theme. I exaggerated the idea of this camping. Water, sun, a biergarten. Nothing more, nothing less. A sweat oasis in the centre of Berlin with a supermarket next door to buy the beer necessities. I speak out these thoughts to HIM. HIM replies with his idea: The camping ´ll probably be a swamp kind off field. Mushy to the knees with our mattresses floating on the mud and next to that an area for people who hate everything and express this feeling by sleeping in a caravan. Laughing at our wetness, cheering with the sight of our wrinkled bodies trying to keep the water out. The first thought.
The second was more a kind of invention. It was all about the money pump. What’s the idea of a money pump. Well, image a pump like device. Only instead of water or oil, money is coming out. Probably not in a physical way, but more in a numbers on your bank account kind of way. Doesn’t sound bad at all does it?
Sketching the outlines of these two ideas took us approximately five hours. The camping is not exactly an oasis. It isn’t a swamp neither. There certainly isn’t a money pump around and the first signs of broke friends are appearing on the horizon.
Today the whistler will arrive. For a fact we know that he graduated on potatoes. Works in a paper factory were on a regular basis he finds fake rubber dicks. And he is a cycling maniac.
Last night. Just before we went to bed a hobo came out of nowhere. Since we are in the middle of a river he must have come over the water. But no one saw him coming. With a crazed smile he shouted:
¨Can you name five boroughs of New York City! Can you name five boroughs of New York city!¨
¨OK, someone has to get rid of this guy¨, I said.
¨Do you speak English¨, he said.
¨Yes, fuck off¨ HIM said.
The memories of Cannes and Milan are still not erased from my mind. It seems only days ago that i was cycling past the blue ocean shores. The fake movie stars. The warm beer. Only weeks since the design fair in the cold wet north of Italy.
“These people are crazy.” “This is the biggest collection of nut cases I know.” “What are they doing with my life.” “Before I knew HIM, I didn’t even like cycling.” Friends heard me say things like this with blank faces. Not knowing excitement, laughter, sleepless nights, blabbering over half emptied beers like I know them.
Berlin. Every day this week i’ll post a short story. For as long as the trip lasts. Me, cupid, the whistler, belgium Castor, no name and HIM.
No, the great wall of China wasn’t constructed in a day. And all the emperors must truly admit that it didn’t even look good in the beginning. A wise man once said about the first wall: “it looks like shit. You can jump over it if you want. But at least it will give us some time to kill them before they kill us.” Those first structures were not more then sand and rocks between two wooden walls. All not much higher then a big man’s shoulder.
“Give me the fucking peanut butter”
“You ain’t getting no peanut butter until you finished cleaning the kitchen”
Writers of the early Vanhulsteijn history concluded that this must have triggered Slave Number Two to start his great works. Slave Number Two later said: “it bought me some time you know. Not that the emperor will suddenly pay me, but at least it will give him something to think about. The shit is just unethical.
In the dynasty’s time to come the Chinese slowly but steadily built their wall. Sand and stone. Bricks and mortar. It even started to look better. Every now and then a modest tower or some pieces of Ming decoration would appear. Among the men of arms even some admiring words could be heard: “at the start I thought: this is a typical fucked up idea brought upon us by the big people in Beijing. But now, when I look at it. Its starts to make sense. Can’t jump over it. Can’t Burn it. Gives us a nice lookout and a good place to shoot them northern tribes. I mean, it is not my fault that they keep try to invade us.”
“When I came working here everything was flowers, and zebra’s and that pink animal from teddy ruxspin who dances under the rainbow waterfall. Whats his name. Everything was sweet. It felt like i was in love with him. He was so sweet and his bikes so beautiful. And I just wanted to stay here forever. But now man. He treads me like a slave. Trying to invade my personal space all the time. Without me he would be nothing. I have to make that clear. Gotta change the game.”
In conclusion, after the Vanhulsteijn dynasty was taken over by a guy named Cupid, all the historians agreed that the building of the peanut butter wall by Slave Number Two was the first sign of the emperor losing control. Personally I only saw the wall a few feet high. But there are reports of customers who couldn’t reach the store front anymore unless they fought their way through multiple layers of empty, sometimes foul reeking, peanut butter jars.
There are two stories about why and how Benjamin disappeared. I wasn’t there. Chief and Slave Number Two (hereafter SNT)where the only ones present. And they both tell me a different story. Probably they both tell half the truth.
The story according to SNT:
Benjamin wasn’t motivated any longer to be a slave under the Vanhulsteijn rule. Nobody disagreed with him. Working for Vanhulsteijn in general is hard work for no pay. Slow pay if you’re lucky. It was 0900 when he entered the shop. Acting all normal. Which is kinda special, for Benjamin almost never acted normal. He told Chief and SNT good morning and started brewing extraordinary strong coffee. The smell alone gave Chief and SNT stomach cramps. Once in a plastic cup the plastic became weak under the coffee’s weight. “We almost had to chew on it”, SNT told me later. No wonder they had to shit like animals only a few minutes later. This is when the chief went to the workshop toilet and SNT took a deep plunge in the store toilet.
Benjamin didn’t hesitate. Within minutes he had both the doors blocked from the outside. He took with him a backpack, all the pornographic magazines, a sleeping back and an ocean blue Vanhulsteijn.
A note on the table read the following: “So long. I’ll be taking a big cruise. To hell with your crazy working schedules and insane bike design. We’ll see if this piece of junk gets me back to the Mediterranean. I’ll be a hell of a free commercial for you, riding along that coast. This ‘ll be the i do for free for you.
The story according to Chief:
Benjamin and Chief had been talking about crazy guerilla campaigns earlier. So it didn’t surprise Chief that he brought it up once again during the first sunny day of the year. Actually the snow hadn’t even vanished yet. Not That Benny cared.
After a short talk they agreed on the following: Benjamin would take a sea blue Vanhulsteijn and cruise Europe for the period of a year. He would cross every big city on the way and spent at least an hour per city on the main square. In return he could do what the bike what he wanted after a year, plus he would get a sleeping back and a porn magazine. You can say what you want about Chief but he doesn’t lack generosity.
Within an hour Benjamin was in Nijmegen, within a day he crossed the border with Belgium. Within two days we lost contact. There are reported sightings in belgium and the north of France. A retired movie producer told us he saw Benjamin in Cannes. But that guy couldn’t be trusted. Personally I think he immediately sold the Vanhulsteijn and went to have a vacation with with the ghost of William Burroughs in Tangier.
Belgium Castor started his relationship with Frida during a nightly summer festival. It was a bit strange for it was actually the night that I agreed with him to see how far we could carry it. Well, not that far. We met Frida at a big rave were there were more 15 year olds then there were people. Frida loved it. Frida adored it. Frida danced the night away. Frida took the children by their hands and swept them around the dancing floor. Their were big flocks of kids surrounding her. Clapping their hands and yearning to be next. Frida took Belgium Castor by the hands and kissed him. The sky turned purple. The audience started applauding. I asked Belgium Castor if we could go. He said it sounded like a good idea. The moment we went Frida grabbed his shoulder. Turned him around. Slapped him in the face and yelled: “You don’t leave me! You’ll get to know me Belgium Castor”.
Belgium Castor made pumpkin soup with all kinds of vegetables. When he mixed it the soup turned brown. Nobody believed him when he said it was pumpkin soup.
Belgium Castor was a fanatic. Once he said he would stop smoking. He actually stopped. But he also stopped eating fat and drinking beer. Within month he looked so sick that even his best friends started avoiding him. When i told him what the deal was he started. He started good and he came back with a vengeance. He didn’t sleep for days. Spend al his money on cigarettes and booze. Dragged his friends with him until they ran home crying. Within a month he turned from looking sick, to healthy, to even sicker.
But above all, Belgium Castor was famous for laughing. I know people who, when they heard him laughing, turned around and took a different way home.
Sun Tzu sais:
"Trust no one. Not your friends. Not your family. Not even the people who tell you that it is possible to take your bike on a train from Milan to Arnhem…"
"… Because you can’t."
Sometimes you have to let Benjamin take photographs of women to get things organized again. As a matter of fact, sometimes you need women to get things organized again. The one on this photograph for instance. She will make sure that I will more often blog. And not only that. I’ll try to give you more insides on the bike shop. So not only the clan of five will be spoken of. Not only the girl with no face and the tired jellyfish will appear. But also the occasional bike will show. Or a preview of our new shop.
I’ll try to give you full coverage of everything happening in and around the shop, but promise you’ll get by one of these days. We are even better looking in real live. And so are the bikes,
This one goes out to a friend of a friend of mine. He was dating an other friend once. But the other friend was dating another friend. Which didn’t work out, by the way. To make things less complicated: the guy lost the girl to another guy. But it was his own fault. The following is a description why.
We saw him walking the street one day. From a distance. Backed by a gray wall. This so that we could analyze him better. We were drinking beer and didn’t want to invite him. Which is strange ‘cause normally we invite everybody to drink beer. “Why?” I asked.
“Look at the guy. He walks like a tired jellyfish.” Destructo said.
Destructo was right. He didn’t only walk like one. He acted like one. Imagine a hippie on morphine talking about his love for flowers and batik t-shirts. And how combining these two and give them away for free could change the world forever. That’s how this guy talked when he was sober. But he talked serious. He would say things like: “I really like to go out on friday. There is this DJ spinning in the club. He is amazing. Wanna join?” But he would say it like: “I re-al-ly liiiiike toooo go oouuut on fri-day. There-eh is thiiiss dee-jay spi-nn-ing in the-eh club. He-eh is-eh ma-zing.” Short: like a tired jellyfish. When his relation sank to the bottom of the sea he said something like: “I feel-ey so-eh se-ri-ous-ly bad-eh. eh. eh.” Then he smiled. I couldn’t believe what i was seeing. Couldn’t believe what i was hearing. Did he kind of laugh?
“You know what this guy reminds me of” Cupid said.
“Reminds me of a Jaffa. You know the Jaffa? Its a very sweet, seedless, orange from Israel”
He was still walking along the grey wall. The endless ocean. The swimming Jaffa.
It was an early morning in Arnhem. A late evening. This was when the boss and me decided to give Benjamin a well deserved piece of advice. The boss couldn’t smoke anymore. It made him sick. He smoked for twenty years. Then he became sick of the idea. I smoked. Nothing fancy. A cheap local brand of rolling tobacco. It gave a very romantic smoke curtain. We had quite a nice feeling of drama those days. We would put hats on and pretend we were gang leaders. But the boss didn’t pretend anything. He was the boss.
Benjamin came in.
“Take a seat Ben”
“Yeah, take a seat”
“Why are you here Ben”
“Well, i thought i’ve got to tie some loose ends. Thought i might find a knot here.”
“Knots are difficult things to make Ben”
“Yeah Ben, sure you’re ready for it?”
“I was born ready. Huh huh.”
He asked me for my cigarette. The boss. He inhaled once. Twice. Started coughing. Benjamin couldn’t keep from smiling. The whole scene was ridiculously romantic.
“let me give you one advice Ben.” Said the boss.
“I advice you to stop this nonsense. I advice you to take the slippery course.”
“Yeah Ben. Take the slippery course.”