Matthew Stadler

88768662_640My most profound experience in 2012

I don’t think about this category often, but it brings to mind the day I spent in Schiphol Airport with my 13-year old son. He and I had just finished a two-week trip with family, much-loved cousins and uncles and grandma, and after a day on our own in Amsterdam we went to catch our flight home. We were emotionally exhausted and very happy to be going home. We went early to Schiphol and presented our passports only to be told that our flight was not leaving that day. Our tickets were for the next day—same flight, same seats, but in 24 hours. We stared, silent and dumb-founded, and both started to cry.

My son did not want to leave the airport. He wanted to sit with our bags and wait until the flight left. Whereas I quickly thought of a hundred things we could do in the city, fun to be had, friends to phone up, meals at restaurants we had missed. I looked at him, at his fixedness and utter conviction that he could not move from there, and I thought about the arguments I would make, enticements to offer, seductions to wake him from this paralysis and get him back in the stream of living. When I had settled on my strategy and was about to speak he interrupted to caution me: “You said you would keep an open-mind.”

What a challenge! All of my plans and enticements rested on my assumption that life, the city, all of the good things that these 24-hours could bring, began several miles away, somewhere beyond the boundary of the airport, nearer to Amsterdam’s center. I, who have made a million arguments to my son to wake up to the life that is not in the center, was suddenly faced with the question “why leave the airport?” Was the airport not “life,” not “the city,” or whatever it was I sought for this day?

We stored our bags in a locker and began to explore Schiphol. We found rivers of people strolling from shop to cafe to exhausted respite slumping beside big windows. We found a bar that served the “Holland House” cocktail and Fristis, where we sat and played cards, people watching. We guessed nationalities. We found a portable gallery of the Rijksmuseum with a dozen paintings in it, installed in the airport concourse, and spent an hour discussing these paintings. We browsed a make-shift library that included filthy graphic novels that my son loved. We found the “Yotel,” where we could have a “room”—i.e., a plastic capsule with bed, shower, TV, and lights—200 meters from our plane’s gate. We picked a special restaurant for dinner, an Italian place, and then spent the evening playing cards at an “old brown cafe” replica a few concourses away. We watched a cheesy “action” movie on TV in our capsule, and when we woke up, an hour before our flight, we wheeled our bags to the gate and took off.

I loved our day in the airport, and remember it more vividly than most of the intended days of our wonderful trip. My son does too, a special day that we shared and treasure. It never would have happened if he had not looked up from his silence and reminded me “You said you would keep an open mind.” For me, that’s profound.

What I want to bring to the world in 2012

I’m trying to write well. I want to finish a non-fiction book I am writing now, a long essay about urban planning, and write a novel that I have had “on hold” for a while, and I want to do my best work in both. This problem, how to write well, is all that concerns me.

What I hope to achieve professionally

I’d like to ably steward the group of Publication Studios I have helped start into a single infrastructure, a self-sustaining horizontal infrastructure, and help that bigger organism begin a long life. And finish these two books. And continue to meet interesting fellow travelers.

My favourite article

“Spatial Synthetics” by Lisa Robertson.

My favourite community

Revolution: A Reader

A glimpse of an art-form that I enjoy