Wednesday, August 15, 2007


"This house was built in 1650. You can see the floors. It is the original," the owner of the building told us.

His name was also Paul and we bonded as he showed us the five story flat in the Jordaan neighborhood which included a basement with a washer and dryer and an attic, where I told him that we would hide little Jewish girls from the Nazis. He smirked when I said that. He mentioned that he didn't like the Germans and that his parents and grandparents had to eat tulip bulbs during the Nazi occupation of Amsterdam during WWII.

Three of us shared the apartment including my friend Benjo, a journalist from Lille was a well-known poker journalist in France, and his good friend RK, who happened to be an poker pro from Australia. For under 60 Euros a day (each), the magnificent place was ours. It intersected two canals and around the corner were the window girls. Bars and coffeeshops and cafes were all within a ten minute walk.

If you have not seen a video of the apartment, click here to take a quick tour.

Taken right in front of the apartment

Benjo took the downstairs bedroom. RK liked the one on the 4th floor and I took the top floor. It had the most space, a TV, and access to the attic and roof. Except it was a bitch to get all of my luggage up five flights of stairs which was more like a ladder. I had to make two trips. The stairs are tricky. There's not much foot space on each step and you almost have to climb sideways while holding onto the hand rail. I banged my head a couple of times. By the third day, it was a lot easier.

The owner went through the entire apartment with us and told us about the closest market. He even circled the red light district on the map just in case we were looking for entertainment.

I knew the surrounding Jordaan area somewhat well. Our place was about the same distance from two of my favorite coffeeshops. We would wander around and hang out at some places I knew about and a couple of new places I walked past but never went into. One of those places was called Amnesia. It's decked out in all red with comfortable chairs. Their specialty is shakes, particularly the chocolate shake. We've stopped there three days in a row for a shake.

Amnesia's shake

We also went over to Rookies and Grey Area. I stopped off at Barney's to pick up Willie Nelson. We drank a lot at random bars.

I've been sleeping an amazing amount. The first three nights in Amsterdam, I slept at least six straight hours and racked up over 22 hours total. I haven't slept like that in over a decade! The combination of Unisom (first two nights), hashish, tired legs from lots of walking, and a giant bed has allowed me to catch up on all the sleep I lost over the summer. Last night I only got five and a half hours. Normally, that's a lot for me. Here, it's not a good night. If I can keep up that pace... I'll catch up on all the sleep I lost for the entire year.

I can recall a couple of individual days this year where I slept a lot. Once was in LA the day after I got home from Australia. Another time I crashed for almost ten straight hours in NYC shortly before I went to Florida. And after a week long assignment in Monte Carlo (where I was working like 21 hours a day), I crashed hard for one night... so much so that I extended my trip for an extra day just to compensate for the day I lost from sleeping so much.

Normally, I'd get bummed out if I didn't write and read as much as I would like... but in this instance, I have a rare opportunity to catch up on sleep... which has not presented itself in several years. And old hippie I once met on the road told me that you can do a ton of drugs and party your ass off as long as you drink lots of water and get enough sleep. That's the secret to surviving the road. Then again, if I slept less, I would get less done.

Anyway, I dig Dutch TV. They have weird game shows and dub the most random shows like Smallville and King of Queens. The first night I watched The Office (US version) and The Simpsons as I fell asleep. Both had Dutch subtitles.

My roommate RK has been playing in a series of online poker tournaments that start at 3am Amsterdam time. RK crashes around 11pm or Midnight and sleeps for a few hours before he wakes up to play poker then goes back to sleep when it's done. That's when Benjo and I have been going out for a late night walk.

We had been around our surrounding blocks a couple of times to recognize the different shifts of day and night hookers. In our part of town, they are sketchy looking. Tired. Worn out. Most of them are old and skanky. During the daylight hours, they sit with their doors wide open. Most of the ladies are on their cellphones or reading the news paper. One hooker was on a laptop and checking her email. The atmosphere is more laid back and the clientele is mostly locals with the occasional tourist.

One night we ended up at Rokerij and last night we wandered around the neighborhood in the rain. I woke up early this morning and read on the roof since it was no longer raining. I'm re-reading Dharma Bums) and was listening to my iPod.

When RK woke up we headed out to a Euro sports pub for lunch and beers. We saw the schedule of games that they were going to be aired. One of them was the local team... Ajax. We found some available tickets for tonight's game. The local record store a few blocks away sold them to us. They had seats in a decent section near midfield for 50 Euros. It was a bit steep but I had never been to a proper European football match, so we went ahead about bought tickets. The game is tonight and I hope to take some pics.

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