We'd planned the trip for months. Having received invitations via our connection with Ricardo Calvo (may Goddess rest his soul), Isis, Michelle, dondelion and yours truly were going to travel from Montreal to Amsterdam with a layover at London's Heathrow from November 29 through December 5? (I forget the exact dates) to attend a symposium at the Max Euwe Centrum sponsored by the Initiativ Gruppe Koenigstein. (Photos: views of my Hotel Schmitt room).
All our travel plans were in order - airfares paid for, hotel accomodations secured.
And then, 9/11 happened.
Ricardo and I got into a nasty email fight about 9/11 and I was going to cancel my reservations - who needs the European a-holes was my feeling at the time. Hey, my nickname isn't Patton for nothing!
But under this crusty exterior I'm a softy, and I was eventually prevailed upon from several different directions to attend the gathering; and, being "fiscally prudent", I didn't want to have to pay $100 to cancel the airlines reservations for use at a future date. At the time, I couldn't imagine travelling anywhere overseas ever again and I didn't want to waste good money.
In due course, Isis, Michelle and I rendevouzed with Don in Montreal; we had a one night/day layover there before departing on an overnight flight to London. We travelled on to Amsterdam where we stayed for, I believe, 6 magical days. dondelion gave a presentation on his never-finished always being edited "Fool's Guide to Pawn Promotion." Isis and I also put together written presentations and, together with dondelion's "Fool's Guide," they were spiral bound and we (stupid!) hauled several copies overseas in our luggage! (Photo: view toward the Reicksmuseum from my Hotel Schmitt room).
When we got to the symposium we realized we didn't have near enough copies of our "presentations." dondelion and I had a real adventure running out during the 1.5 hour lunch break, tracking down an "insta-print" place and having to pay for the job in cash (that meant running out and locating a cash machine) - as they refused to take my "foreign" credit card - the jerks! Ever get lost in a semi-circular city? We did - but somehow managed to find out way back to the hotel (no thanks to my never-failing go the wrong way sense of direction) and from there, the few blocks further to the Max Euwe Centrum.
Every single copy of our spiral bound presentations were snapped up - we even gave up our ceremonial keepsake copies (but I stole one back later on when someone's back was turned for an instant and he'd left his copy sitting on a table...)
I'm sure I've written about all of this before - but I'm too lazy to try and track down the back-link - I really must put in some kind of internal search... Here is my absolutely informative, fantastic and innovative paper on Goddess Iconography in Ancient Board Games - should have gotten the Nobel Prize for it, I think.
This was all brought back to mind when I was earlier perusing some photographs from the trip I've got stored on my hard drive. We had a wonderful time in Amsterdam, although I didn't eat a bite at the Saturday night celebratory dinner gathering at an Asian restaurant. Everyone else seemed to be having a rip-roaring time, but for me it was a total bust. When I ordered "peanut chicken" I didn't expect to receive something that looked like slime-coated mush served on long toothpicks. We also received bowls of hard, glued-together, cold, white rice. No butter or margarine available to flavor it. Not a salt or pepper shaker in sight. Strange-colored globs of stuff were presented as "salad." I'm still not sure what those globs were, exactly - probably best not to know.
The Germans seated on my left side steadfastly ignored all my polite attempts to engage them in conversation, the Russians across the table who did speak German but no English were attentive but communication was, by necessity, somewhat stilted since I speak neither Russian nor German. We did a lot of "sign" language.
I gave all my food away to a couple of very hungry graduate students who shared the end of the table with us to my right. They were extremely cute and quite entertaining, so I didn't mind. I left early after paying my bill, using all my available cash and borrowing some from dondelion (this restaurant did not accept credit cards - what?) and with a few more borrowed gilders from dondelion, I stopped at a McDonald's on the way back to the Hotel Schmitt and took a Big Mac and fries back to my room. Heaven!
In due course, I had my 15 micro-seconds of fame when I was mentioned in the Russian chess magazine "64" in an article written by one of the charming Russians who'd sat across the table to my left (Issac Linder, Jr.):
And the group of the American enthusiasts already entirely exceeded in its excursus into the antiquity all fantastic visions:she proposed conference the collection of statements, in which on complete ser'eze is asserted the godly origin of chess. Jain Newton from the state of Wisconsin even did organize during December 1998 discussion on internetu of?Is of chyuess tyue din of to tyue Of goddess?? and it found numerous adherents of view, as if all ancient games were vnusheny to people more than.
Leave it to a man to spell my name wrong! It's Jan - not Jain - even though I suppose I'm somewhat religiously sympathetic to the Jains...
The Babelfish translation is, of course, totally horrific. The original question that got Goddesschess going was "Is Chess The Game Of The Goddess?" - and it was posed by Isis, not by me, at the old Art Bell message boards. But in typical Patton fashion I more or less hijacked, cajolled and cohersed everyone posting there at the time to follow my lead, and about six months after that initial discussion thread started, the very first Goddesschess website appeared. The rest, as they say, is herstory.