in the interim.

Yes, there will be more Morse Family Tree entries soon, fret not. I'm meeting up with (follow me here) Ed's wife's (Antoinette) sister's (Ade) son (Joe) in Rotterdam today, and apparently he has been researching his dad's side of my mom's side of the family.


Joe(y) is quite important to my personal history, because he and his brother Chris are responsible for my Introduction to Rock Guitar. I'm guessing it was 1979. I can't quite figure out why this is my earliest memory of Joey and Chris, because certainly I'd seen them before this. Maybe it's because they'd started lifting weights around this time and suddenly out of nowhere they grew into the biggest humans I'd ever encountered, like superheroes.

I always liked going to visit Ade anyway because she had four feisty kids in total (two boys, two girls) who were all older and bigger than me and just constantly giving each other (and me) massive amounts of hilarious shit. This may have been my Introduction to Comedy as well. The anticipation of an Ade visit was great because I knew that my stomach would end up hurting from laughter.

On this one day somewhere around 1979, I vaguely remember being in their kitchen, the scene of many a penny-ante poker game, and Ade saying something like, "Hey boys, why don't you take Markie upstairs and show him your music stuff." I wish you could hear Ade's amazing voice, it's like a Northern drawl. And everyone being like, "Aw, Mom/Aunt Ade, come on," probably followed by ten minutes of everyone giving everyone else shit hilariously.

And then I vaguely remember following them up curving stairs into their attic, possibly ducking under spiderwebs and/or blacklight posters and who knows what else, or maybe that's an embellishment, but then seeing the guitars and thinking the 1979 equivalent of "cool". And it got even better when they turned on the amps.

They played four or five songs, but the only one that is burned into my brain is "Gimme Three Steps." It's such a weirdly repetitive song, with lots of fun little turnarounds, plus four (!) almost identical guitar solos. And I just sat there kind of goggle-brained until they finished, then I think I asked them to do it again, and probably again after that.

I think I even left there with a tiny 8-watt Vox amp (sadly, gone now) and a primitive electric guitar that day, the guitar was some truly crappy Sears catalog thing that had probably been Chris's first guitar, with "action you could drive a truck under" as we used to say (meaning that there was way too much space between the strings and the neck, making it very difficult to play); the kind of painful torture device that, just by virtue of the fact that you keep playing it, proves to parents that you must really be interested in guitar.

Of course I didn't think it was crappy at the time, I was amazed by it.


Chris died of leukemia in 1995. And though I did see him play guitar again in his attic, this time it was after his treatment had started and it was not an entirely happy experience for me. I seem to remember whiskey being involved.


In the tradition of all great parents, mine eventually gave in to my complaints about the Litmus Test Torture Device and proceeded to semi-secretly buy one of Chris's real guitars off of him, a red Fender Mustang which I loved at first and then hated for a long time but which I'm sure in reality was a great guitar. My real problem, which I didn't realize for a few years, was that the Mustang just wasn't made for the kind of music I wanted to play, which was pretty much whatever albums I "earned" as a result of my newspaper delivery route.

That's right, I was a paper boy. Or more accurately, the combination of me and my dad added up to approximately one paper boy. Apparently I had some attendance issues on this job, at which times my already-otherwise-employed dad had to go out before his paying job and deliver newspapers for free. Kind of like a warm-up job. Oh, he must've hated me.

As part of the compensation/incentive scheme for this paper route, there was an arrangement where, based on the number of new subscribers you (or your dad) signed up, you received a proportional number of free or reduced-price LPs (chosen from a catalog).

I distinctly remember Genesis's Duke being my first pick (not because I knew anything about it, I just liked the name), and spending hours in front of the stereo mesmerized by the font they'd used for the lyrics, a seminal typographical experience for me. The music wasn't bad either, although it seemed like I was always waiting for a guitar solo that never came.

And then, I don't remember what I'd intended to choose from the list, but what they sent me instead was Van Halen's Women and Children First. Upon opening the album and seeing the poster of David Lee Roth chained to a fence, my instincts told me that this was going to be quite different from Genesis.

For non-Americans reading this, to say that this album changed my life is going to sound silly. But I was only eleven years old, quite possibly the perfect age at which to appreciate Van Halen (musically, at least...lyrically, it's more like 15 or 16). When the comparatively meaner and more complicated Fair Warning came out the next year, my fate was sealed: I would spend the next three years or so in my bedroom trying to figure out (among other things) what the fuck EvH was doing to his guitar. Around 1984, I finally did, just about the time EvH's own creative spark died out.


I have an unusual relationship with Rotterdam. I've been there 20 times or so, but always for gigs and never to just explore or hang out. I associate it with fun and/or adventure, but I've always been led around by other people so I have no idea where I've been.

Which also means I have no idea where to eat when I'm there. I'm open to suggestions.

UPDATE: After some research, a good bit of research, here's what I've come up with. My requirements were very specific and not very fun: close to Central Station, not-too-expensive, not touristy, not too quiet, and pretty manly. These are all located on or around the Westersingel heading south to Witte de Withstraat.

Boudewijn. Nieuwe Binnenweg 53a.
Belgian pub and restaurant. This is where we ended up eating. Interesting and ample beer selection. Disappointingly slim and safe menu, but the food is well-executed in a home-cooking kind of way. I liked my duck breast with cranberry compote and mashed potatoes, but who wouldn't? It was very Thanksgivingy, and reasonable at something like 16 euros. Seems like this place would be 100% better during mussel season. Good frites.

Cafe Stalles, Nieuwe Binnenweg 11a.
Unfortunately Monday and Tuesday are "Pizza Nights", but looks doable the rest of the week.

Bar Restaurant Sijf
, Oude Binnenweg 115.
Classic Dutch food in a wonderfully dark and totally attractive brown bar.

Tai Wu
. Mauritsweg 24-26.
Cantonese and dim sum that gets great reviews.

Chinees-Indisch Restaurant Hong-Kong.
Westersingel 15.
Pretty much same as above.

Bazar, Witte de Withstraat 16.
Turkish and Mediterranean/Middle Eastern mezze. Pretty space, nice service, good food.

And for another time:

Huson, Scheepstimmermanslaan 14.
Nice-looking Asian-inspired fusion.


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