Excerpta Medica

Lydia and I moved to Amsterdam in July of 1979, and, soon after, I visited the American Consulate just off the Museumplein to ask if they had any suggestions as to where I might be able to find some work. They did: Excerpta Medica, an onderafdeling (or division) of media giant Elsevier, which publishes medical textbooks and conference proceedings in a babel of languages.

I made an appointment, went to the company's offices at Keizersgracht 305, took a proofreading test and walked away that same day with a stack of pages to read at home for an hourly wage. Pretty soon, I was working in the Special Projects office every day, assisting full-time desk editors Sheila Davie (from England) and Maria de Bruijn (an American of Dutch ancestry) on assorted projects. Eventually, I was put in charge of a number of books myself — H2Antagonists was my first solo effort.

In 1980, I got my first teaching assignment with the University of Maryland's European Division, which meant that for eight weeks I drove into Germany every Monday morning and returned to Amsterdam on Thursday evenings. Peter de Ridder, my boss at EM, graciously allowed me to come in only on Fridays during that period: each week, I'd drop off the work I'd done while away from home and pick up a new pile for the coming days. After my assignment ended, I went back to Excerpta on a basically full-time basis ... although I was still being paid as a part-time-hourly contract employee, there was always plenty for me to do. In 1981, I took three months off to teach in England, and, in '82, when I was sent off to Greece, then Spain, then Bahrain — a trip from which I never really returned to Holland, I left Excerpt Medica for good.

Boring work, really — I have no interest whatsoever in things medical, and editing the writing of doctors and researchers really ought to be outlawed under the Geneva Convention as torture — but it paid the bills, and the people I met there (Sheila, Maria, Alfie Dyer, others) were wonderful. That's Sheila at the far left of the black-and-white picture, and me (very tanned, for some reason) at the far right, with Peter just to the left of me. Maria and Alfie unfortunately don't appear in this shot.

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