Sunday, August 26, 2007

Last Days of the Dam and How I Almost Shit My Pants


After I returned from Sweden, I cranked out a solid amount of quality writing and caught up on work in the small window of time before Nicky arrived on Thursday morning. On Wednesday, I uploaded pictures to my Flickr gallery and completed one column for Poker Player Newspaper and wrote two-thirds of my column (due in two weeks). I edited 75% of the September issue of Truckin' and also penned the first draft of a "On the Road" type of magazine column for a new client which is due in the first week of September.

I lived my first week in Amsterdam in a murky haze. The weather was grey and hazy and my mind was foggy and groggy. It was nice to just let loose on an old-fashioned bender without worrying about responsibilities. I needed that. Once it got close to the Sweden excursion, I scaled back the partying a couple of notches, although I saved myself for one last wicked three-day bender when Nicky arrived.

She nearly missed both of her flights. LAX was backed up and she barely made her connecting flight to Minnesota, which also arrived just in time for her flight to Amsterdam. When she called me from LAX, I was walking to dinner with Benjo and RK. We craved steak all day and Amsterdam has an abundance of Argentine steak joints. We picked one near Rookies in the Leidseplein. I ordered a hefty 33 Euro steak. On our way home, RK noted that I walked at a super brisk pace.

"I have to go to the bathroom," I said.

"We can always top off at a pub on the way and we can also get a beer," he mentioned.

"Can't," I said as I picked up the pace. "I ain't taking a dump in a bar."

When we reached the church behind the Anne Frank house, I knew we were less than five minutes away. I also knew that I couldn't hold it any longer. I was ready to explode. Thank God that it was night time. I ducked behind two parked cars and dropped my pants with my ass facing the canal. What ensued was hideous. Think about the scene from American Pie when Finch had explosive diarrhea in the girls room. That was me, except, I was in the middle of Amsterdam, shitting my brains out in between two cars. Luckily no one walked by. Not one boat drifted down the canal. Not one person on a bicycle whizzed by.

RK and Benjo were a block or two behind me. When they caught up to my spot, they looked over in amazement. They couldn't figure out what I was doing. Luckily, I had tissues and a few napkins on me and able to clean up without any problems. Disaster averted. Although I busted ass on some dude's back wheel... I wonder what his expression was like when he left for work the next day?

You never know how you will handle a crisis until you are faced with said situation. It was a complicated matter... and a worst nightmare for some... the fear of shitting yourself in public. Luckily, I had developed the necessary survival skills and knew my body so well that I held out for the last possible moment before the inevitable occurred. When you have to go... you have to go.

It was embarrassing to say the least. Slightly humiliated, I was in near tears as I walked back to the apartment. But I couldn't stop laughing either. It could have been a disastrous moment and even worse. Luckily, I managed not to shit myself.

* * * * *

I woke up early on Thursday and wrote for a little bit before I walked to the train station. I got caught up in a wave of people exiting Central Station on their way to work. I bought a croissant and then boarded a train to the airport. I listened to my iPod and read a Dutch newspaper. I looked at the photos. When I got the airport, Nicky's flight info was updated. She arrived fifteen minutes earlier that scheduled. I told her to meet me at the red and white checkered cube near the ticket window, but ended up bumping into her as soon as she cleared customs.

You can never gauge how much you miss somebody until you finally see them. I had one of those moments.

We took the train back to Amsterdam and made the fifteen minute walk back to the apartment. I taught her how to climb the stairs of the canal house and gave her a quick run-down of the apartment. It was still before noon, and although it was like 3am for her via Left Coast time, she was still wide awake. We went for brunch at Haarlem Cafe and soaked in street scenes. We hit up Pink Floyd, which was one of our favorite places to hang out and play Chinese Poker during the trip in November.

After a nap, we woke up and headed out to dinner, followed up by a coffeeshop and a bar/cafe a couple of blocks from the apartment called De Vergalde Gaper. The main menu there was in Dutch, which meant it was a total local's place. They had outdoor seating with slanty tables and chairs. We played Chinese Poker and the cards kept falling to the ground. At one point I bent over to pick one card up and leaned the wrong way. I started to fall and was forced to make a quick decision. I could have balanced myself by grabbing the table, but that also meant I would have spilled our pints of beer. I decided to take the fall and tumbled sideways onto the cobblestone street. Someone on a bicycle swerved out of my way. I popped back up as the waitress rushed over to ask me if I was OK. The owner and her stood near the entrance and saw everything happen. He said something to her in Dutch that maybe I was too wasted. Far from it. I was relatively sober and the waitress told him that she had just brought over my second pint.

That could have been embarrassing... falling down in front of a restaurant full of people. But since the "almost shit my pants" incident, falling down was minor.

In my notes, I scribbled down...
11:20pm... fell out of chair playing Chinese Poker.
After that bar, we headed to another place that we drank at a week earlier. RK wanted to do more Absinthe shots. Even for fake Absinthe, those get me super wasted. Nicky had never tried it and we gobbled down two rounds.

Fake Absinthe

We watched TV and EuroSport broadcasted Sumo matches from Nagoya, Japan. RK and I wagered on a dozen or so. Since we had no idea who was who and the majority of sumos looked alike, we'd shout out, "Guy on right!" or "Left!" to indicate who we picked. After a while, I had all the guys on the left of the screen, while RK had the guys on the right. After several exciting matches, I had pulled ahead by four units. Yeah, my sumo guys won four more matches than RK's.

* * * * *

On Friday, I woke up early and read for twenty minutes. I wrote for a bit before I headed to the market to buy croissants and juice for everyone. When Nicky woke up we headed out to a few coffeeshops. I took notes on the various music playing as I walked into each place.
Cofeeshop Sountracks:
1. Grey Area (Public Enemy)
2. Rookies (The Dandy Warhols)
3. Pink Floyd (Led Zeppelin)
4. Siberie (Chemical Brothers)
5. 420 Cafe (Bob Dylan)
For most of the afternoon, we played more Chinese Poker as I rolled more blunts that I have ever done in my life. I'm a novice, but like most things in life, you can only get better if you practice.

We met up with RK and headed out for dinner. He had been reading a book called Dice Man, where the main character becomes obsessed with dice so much so that he carries around dice and rolls it to make decisions. When we couldn't figure out what to eat for dinner, RK assigned each number a different type of food. 1 was shoarma. 2 was Chinese. 3 was Indian. 4 was Italian. 5 was fast food and 6 was "roll again." We stopped on a canal bridge as he bent over and rolled the dice. it spun on a cobblestone and then stopped at 1. Shoarma for dinner!

Since we also ate near the Leidseplein, we wandered over to Rookies to continue our Chinese Poker match. We alternated between coffeeshops and bars and eventually found ourselves in the Red Light District around Midnight. Prime time. Hordes of horny wasted guys wandered up and down the streets looking for action, while curious tourists sauntered by, and there was even a tour group going on at that hour. The women look more like animals in the zoo and have become part of the freak show. They should get a cut of the tour group fees. But then again, I'm the last guy who should be standing up for hooker's rights. They have unions for those sorts of things.

* * * * *

I woke up on Sunday with that somber feeling I get whenever I have to leave a place I really wanted to stay. Amsterdam has taken over the second place in my favorite cities rankings (behind NYC). At one point New Orleans, then Las Vegas were my second favorite cities. I'm not jaded by Amsterdam yet. I wish I could stay here longer and live here indefinitely. Alas, my holiday is over. I have about two assignments ahead of me and a couple of days before and after each gig to explore Barcelona and London. I am excited about both of those cities, but I'm also going to miss Amsterdam.

I will not miss the mosquitoes that dive bomb my body during the few moments of slumber. My right arm looks like I've been shooting junk with all the little red dots. I also got bit on my ear and it's itchy. Bastards.

In November, Nicky and I hit up 12 coffeeshops in 12 hours on our last day. We vowed to break that record. We got off to an early start and showed up at Amnesia (1) around the corner at 12:20. I bought Sweet Tooth. At 1:30, we walked up the street to Siberie (2), followed by Picasso (3), and then a smoke-and-run at a crowded Barney's (4). We were seated at the Pink Floyd (5) by 2:50pm. By 3:45pm, we hit up our sixth place... Grey Area which is home to my favorite strain in Amsterdam... the Grey Haze.

We took a forty-five minute meal break around 4:15pm for pizza and beers at an Italian restaurant nearby. After our break, we headed to Rokerij (7) a few blocks away from the apartment where they played weird Euro trance music. We were still super wasted by that point and hopped on one a tourist canal cruise boats to kill an hour as they took us around the city. I snapped a few photos and we passed our building at some point oon the cruise as we floated down the Singel.

It was 6:40pm when we wandered into the 420 Cafe (8) after the cruise. We stayed there the longest. It's one of my favorite places with cheap drinks and a decent selection of product. We played Chinese Poker for almost ninety minutes before we wet to Any Day (9), which is about three blocks from the apartment. I picked up Stella Blue Sour in memory of Jerry Garcia and sat down at a table outside to roll up a doobie. As much as I wanted to avoid big chains, we ended up at Grasshopper (10). As soon as I walked in, I got a flashback to almost 11 summer ago when I arrived in Amsterdam for the first time with Senor. That Grasshopper was the first ever coffeeshop I got shitfaced in. Fun times.

Benjo mentioned to me that Quentin Tarratino hung out at Betty Boop (11) when he wrote the first draft of the screenplay for Pulp Fiction, while he lived in Amsterdam in the 1990s. Nicky and I checked out that place. Nothing special. We tied our record at Abraxas (12) and sat upstairs near a window overlooking the alley. Since Kandinsky was our 12th place in November, we went back there for coffeeshop #13. It was 11:30pm when we walked inside to break our record. Just 11 hours earlier we began our adventure. I now have a new goal of 14 coffeeshops inside of 12 hours the next time I'm in town.

On our way back to the apartment, I snapped two pictures in the red light district, right around the corner from the apartment.

A brothel around the corner from our apartment

A couple of johns cruise an alley around 1am in the Red Light District

By the way, I jotted down the music that played as I walked into various coffeeshops on Saturday. Here they are:
Coffeeshop Soundtracks:
1. Amnesia (Miles Davis)
2. Siberie (Buena Vista Social Club)
3. Picasso (James Brown)
4. Pink Floyd (Rush)
5. 420 Cafe (Van Morrison)
6. Abraxas (Gypsy Kings)
7. Kandinsky (Karl Denson's Tiny Universe)
I packed about 90% of my gear before I crashed for the night, which means that I'll have a couple of hours to write and go for one final walk on Sunday morning before we head to the airport.

Next stop... Barcelona

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