Thursday, February 21, 2008

Wanderland

By Pauly
Amsterdam

Days and nights in Amsterdam tend to string together in a blur. Some memories stick out, while others float away, never to be heard from again. Short term memory loss is a given. I blame the local coffeeshops. They vacuum away millions of thoughts and ideas every day from faded hash heads.

I lose dozens of amazing ideas every day in Amsterdam. Concepts for paintings. Books. Screenplays. Photo projects. Essays. Business ideas. Most of them never come to fruition, because I lose them all in a hazy cloud.

The small notebooks help. That is, when I remember to write in them. Sometimes I'll go hours without writing anything. Or other times I'll sit and let my brain wander and try to jot down as much as I can. Attempting to keep up with a racing mind jacked up on Neaplese hashish is never an easy task. It's sort of like sprinting across Grand Central Station during rush hour.

The first day was a blur. It took a couple of hours to get used to being in Europe again. The mannerisms. The style of dress. The accents. The vibe. I eventually wamred up to it and adapted as quickly as possible.

I hardly took any notes. And the ones I took were awful. Lots of one and two word entries. They must have meant something when I scribbled them down. But I can't figure out the meanings... now... while glancing at them two days later. I was on another planet when I wrote them originally.

I know that the first two stops for me were the 420 Cafe and Grey Area. I lived a couple of blocks from the Grey Area last summer. It's one of my favorite coffeeshops in Amsterdam... mainly for the product. Derek told me about it and I first checked it out in 2005. I've always made a point to hang out there on every visit to Amsterdam since then.

It's small. Three tables and a couple of stools. And it's usually packed with American tourists. I dig the Grey Haze. Best value in all of Amsterdam. Nothing is better. When I lived around the corner, I used to pop in every day and take something home. Just like buying milk or bread.

I left the the Grey Area and rounded the corner onto the Signel. There was a single black dice on the ground with faded white dots. It was on "five" and I wondered if I missed an illegal dice game. Heck, there were hookers down the street and hash around the corner. Why not dice? For a triad of vice?

I took a nap. I barely slept on my flight. I fought a cold and took medicine. That combined with the smoke made me very sleepy. I set my travel alarm and crashed for ninety minutes. On some instances, that's 75% of a night's sleep for me.

After the power nap, I was ready to rage solo. I wandered over to Pink Floyd. It used to be called Pink Floyd before the Dampkring company bought it out and expanded their empire. The upstairs was being renovated, like most of Amsterdam during the winter months. I got acquainted Laughing Buddha and sat at a table adjacent from a trio of Germans.

I forgot how weird it is to be shitfaced and hear people speaking in tongues. It can freak you out sometimes. At the 420 Cafe, there were a table of French girls. They were all adorable and totally wasted.

I wandered over to Barney's. They have won many Cannibas Cup medals for their various strains. It was too crowded and I left. I had to wait a few days to get the G-13 or Willie Nelson.

I passed Dam Square. It was cold and windy and nearly empty. I wandered down a side street and ended up at Abraxis. I hung out there for a bit until inspiration struck. I returned to the hotel and wrote.

I slept for almost three hours. I woke up for an hour and smoked to fall back asleep. Then I crashed for another five hours. The final tally? Eight hours of slumber inside of an nine hour stretch. That's a great night's sleep for me! There are times when I get that much sleep spread out over three days. I usually sleep well in Amsterdam. A day of tough smoking knocks me out good.

I woke up by 9am and wrote for an hour. I bought fruit and a croissant for breakfast. I headed right to Siberie. It's a locals coffeeshop, located a block from where I used to live. The menu is in Dutch and you only see a handful of tourists in there. I like their large tables. There's lots of natural light, so it's a great place to read. And they always play great music, especially lots of Jazz.

Last summer, Siberie was the coffeeshop where I started my day. They have an amazing mint tea. They basically toss fresh mint leaves in hot water. Yummy.

When I walked in they played Miles Davis on the stereo. It was one of the tracks from Miles Smiles. There were a table of Dutch house painters sitting next to me. They looked like they were on their lunch break.

I intended to edit my manuscript at some point in Amsterdam. I didn't touch it on Tuesday. It never left the hotel room. I brought it with me on Wednesday. I hoped to start it in the afternoon. But that never happened, once I found fungi at a local smart shop.

I was out of cold medicine. I went into a local drug store chain. I asked for night time cold medicine. The girl behind the counter did not understand what I wanted. She handed me a box of pills. Everything was in Dutch. It seemed like it was aspirin, vitamin C, and caffeine. I figured that would not be good for night time. I bought it anyway. I dropped off the meds and changed jackets. It was colder than I thought. I left the script and just took my camera and Gracie's book with me.

I went into Central Station and bought a tram pass. It cost me 6.90 Euros for 15 rides, or something like that. By then, the funji had kicked in. I boarded on tram to Leidseplein. It had been a while since I rode the trams. I had gotten used to walking all over Amsterdam. Since it was cold and I was feeling blah, I decided to ride the trams all afternoon. I went past Leidseplein and stayed on the tram for another fifteen minutes. I was in a part Amsterdam that I had never seen before. I got out and walked around for a few minutes before I grabbed the tram back to Leidseplein.

I headed right for Rookies and picked up something called Power Plant. Guns and Roses played on the stereo, as I sat down in the corner next to a couple. The guy looked like Charlie Ward. I mean, I know what he looks like and the guy was a dead ringer for the former Heisman trophy winner and former NY Knicks point guard. Except it wasn't him. Charlie Ward is a Jesus freak and I never expected to find him sitting in a coffeeshop in Amsterdam.

The guy and his girlfriend were both British. They were friendly and we started a conversation. He told me that his favorite band was the Allman Brother Band. He asked if I wanted to join him for a volcano hit. I agreed.

We played some pool. I went 1-2 and got my ass kicked I only won one game because he scratched on the eight ball with three of my balls remaining. In the last game, I hit five in a row to start and he took just two turns to win. I was lucky we didn't play for money.

I watched the guys play chess in front of the Hard Rock near the Paradiso. I wandered into the Van Gogh museum. I went through very fast. I had seen almost everything before.

I grabbed the tram back to Dam Square. I wandered inside the Grey Area. I bought something called Big Buddha Cheese. An American stoner-kid worked the counter and made sound effects whenever he did something, like seal up the bud, or open the cash register, or to hand me change.

I sat down and rolled a blunt. They berry flavored blunts came in packages of two for 2 Euros. A table of Brits asked the kid behind the counter if they sold any blunts. They didn't. I offered them my extra one. I told them it was flavored. They didn't mind and asked me to join their table.

I rolled up one for me and they rolled up one for three. They were pretty cool. Two guys and a girl on a holiday. The girl looked like the actress who played Blossom, but with a British accent. They were shocked that I was going to smoke one by myself and they were going to share one among the three. We all took turns sharing both. They never finished theirs. They offered it up to me. I declined and left.

I went into Barney's. There used to be a cafe on the corner and a coffeshop next door. The corner cafe was closed and looked like it was being renovated. I asked one of the guys who worked in the coffeeshop about the cafe. They used to have the best omelets in Amsterdam. I was told that the building was so old that they needed to work on the foundation and strengthen it. Some of the buildings in the neighborhood are over 350 years old. They were going to finish that project, then turn it into Barney's coffeeshop, before starting work on the foundations at the coffeeshop and eventually turn that into a new cafe.

"In three years, if we are lucky, we will be finished," the guy joked.

I bought some G-13. The Dutch guy behind the counter said that he smoked so much of that, he needed to stop. He's been on a Willie Nelson kick. Both had won strain of the year for Barney's.

I walked inside the 420 Cafe as "I Am the Walrus" played on the stereo. I read the Michael Chabon book that Gracie gave me.

Things got blurry. I stopped taking notes. I know that I stopped at the Rokerij, Pink Floyd, and Grasshopper. There were hot Italian girls smoking in the Grasshopper. They kept singing along to the Beyonce song that played in the background.

It was around Midnight when I spoke to Nicky. She had gotten off of work in Copenhagen. I told her about my zany day riding the trams. I never got a chance to edit the script, and I only read a few chapters of Gracie's book. Somehow, I managed misplace thousands of thoughts during that 12 hour stretch.

I decided to crash. I was running over budget and most of the coffeeshops had closed. Besides, it's rare that I can find a place to sleep comfortably.

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