Christmas Day: Amsterdam

Lectori Salutem:
There is that anxious moment of isolation in every trip when I wonder what I am doing there . . . wherever it is. Museums burdened with the past seem suddenly absurd and pompous, the Gothic cathedrals bastardized, and the grand plazas made only for political strutting. The façades of old houses are impenetrable blanks; smoking buses, honking taxis are muted and distanced by the fog. The water in the canal is black and forbidding.

People in the streets walk securely on native ground. But I am footsore and weary, no longer responsive to antique seductions. In or out of the museum, the Dutch are in their world. They are inside the Dutch house in the de Witte painting on the museum wall. There, kitchen doors open upon inner yards and again into other rooms. Before me are endless duplications of interiors in which figures move and disappear behind doors, down corridors, behind drapes, into the...

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