The Hague, Holland
Holland makes my face hurt. First, my teeth go numb, and then this pressure in my sinus becomes more and more intense, until finally I have to leave. As long as I cross the border of Holland into a different country, the pressure releases and I'm fine.
This is what I was thinking about as I was sitting with Laurens and we were yelling at his laptop to somewhere across the seas, back to Canada to where Mr Ballsy sat with his public relations team.
Laurens kept referring to me as "my design team", to which I'd agree and name-drop my big clients, "oh, yes, this reminds me of something we worked on with Adobe, you know, ha ha, the guys that make Photoshop and all that mmm…" and "right, yes, similar to a launch we did with Patagonia – you know, those expensive puffy jackets, I'm sure you have those in Canada, ya, mmm…"
When my value is in question, I go shameless.
Laurens has the kind of ADHD that really productive geniuses have. The kind that makes me a bit jealous, really. His mind is switched on in countless directions simultaneously. Talking with him is like navigating a tropical storm. Ideas are flying. He's a testicular cancer survivor, and he has become a poster boy for the Movember movement.
Laurens, a Movember mascot in The Hague
So, Laurens, the Dutch mustachioed Movember man is on a conference call with Mr Ballsy, the North American face of testicular cancer. Mr Ballsy rolled an 3-foot, pink testicle-ball across the continental United States, getting celebrities and newscasters to sign it. They are devising Mr Ballsy's Dutch tour. Laurens has an organic catering food truck, and they are working out the logistics of PR, interviews, major cities, routes… and dudes need some BRANDING.
Mr Ballsy goes Dutch?
Catchy. But I think it means something… else. We're brainstorming. Mr Ballsy has a surprising number of "PR" team members, all of whom are bubbly, fast-talking females who burst into the conference call with things like "hi gentlemen, I'm Cassie, I work on the social media for the Mr Ballsy street team, and we are working on some hashtags — Laurens, can we shoot those over and you let us know what they sound like in Dutch, great."
The call goes on and on and Laurens makes us cocktails. A women walks into the office — Laurens has converted a floor of an old school building into a few large offices and kitchen spaces. Laurens leans back in his leather chair, props his cocktail on his sternum and says, "Mr Ballsy. Guys. I'm sorry but Jamie Oliver Magazine is here to interview me. I have to run." It's a beautiful statement, and his social value rises exponentially. He looks at me and winks. I'm proud of him.
Team Ballsy promises to work out more logistics and get back to us. We were discussing the entire month of August where Mr Ballsy will walk his huge testicle across Holland, flanked by his PR team, Laurens in his Manic Organic food truck, and me, riding sidecar as the brand ambassador. I'm worried about my face. I've been in Holland only two days and the pain is already building. Half my molars are numb. In a few days I won't be able to function without pain. I'll need a steady dose of painkillers. What is it about Holland that does this to me? The low elevation? Does this happen to anyone else?
Laurens engages in a sprawling, energetic interview with the Jamie Oliver Magazine journalist completely in Dutch, so I sip my screwdriver, enjoying it's pain relieving effects.
"She wants a few photos – I told her that you're a photographer," he says as she pedals away.
"Sure. Do you have a camera?"
The next morning we go to the beach. A bleak winter day, where the white sky is sewn shut by clouds and pressure. The beach is so long and flat that it disappears into the curve of the earth. Laurens runs up and down, playing with strangers' dogs, wearing recycled wooden sunglasses.
The words Manic Organic really sum up Laurens. He is passionate about organic, farm-to-table food, and he cooks and mixes drinks with passion.
We spent some time discussing his logo, and ultimately I refined what he had existing on the left, to a more distilled vision on the right.
I visited family friends near Rotterdam for a few days until the pain in my face was unbearable. I was on the paracetamol full force, and I couldn't pretend that I wasn't in excruciating pain all the time. We still managed to visit the Cube Houses by Piet Blom and eat sinfully sweet stroopwaffles and drink soul-warming glühwein in Rotterdam's Markthal which had recently opened.
I don't know what happened with Mr Ballsy. He didn't make it to Holland, and Laurens didn't seem very interested in following up. I headed south to Switzerland to visit an old friend in Basel. The minute I crossed the border, the pain eased up.