Sunday, August 12, 2007

Dirty Sunday

Amsterdam... The morning light fought its way through the clouds. Patches of blue sky were scattered among a canvas of a grey and white sky. 8am on a Sunday in Amsterdam. The dirty streets were quiet as church bells ominously rang in the distance. A handful of elderly tourists wandered around looking for breakfast. They didn't have much of a choice. Only a few places were open. Aside from travelers walking towards the train station on their way out of Amsterdam, the streets were relatively empty. In a few hours, they'd be swarmed with tourists.

The scummy streets reminded me of New Orleans during Mardi Gras. Trash of all sorts cluttered the sidewalks and streets. Every few minutes, I'd step on broken glass, which would make a scratching then popping sound as I crushed different pieces into the cobblestones. Someone puked on the front window of a sneaker store. The dried vomit was being pecked at by pigeons. Most of the stores on the Nieuwendyk were closed, but you could see cats scurrying around inside. That's the old school form of pest control.

The streets were filthy. Did I mention that? Cleaning crews emerged and started cleaning up the mess leftover on a wild Saturday night in Amsterdam. A slippery and soapy film covered some of the cobblestones as guys in orange waterprooofed work suits hosed down the streets with pressure washers. I had never been up that early before in Amsterdam, and it was interesting to see the "morning after" effects of the city.

I rented a hotel room for one day before I was supposed to move into an apartment on Monday afternoon. Since the room was not ready until noon, I dropped off my bags and walked around. It was 8am but by my standards, it was only 2am NYC time. I was wide awake. My flight left JFK on Saturday around 6pm and we got into Amsterdam a half hour early.

The toughest chore was finding places that were open at that odd hour. The bakery I usually bought croissants was closed. I wandered over to a coffeeshop called Pablo Picasso. It opened up at 8am everyday and the clientele at that hour included an mix of travelers getting their last session in before they leave Amsterdam, or junkies who had been up all night partying. I ordered tea and some nugs, and hung out there until the bakery opened. When it did, I bought a chocolate croissant, a plain croissant, and some sort of kaas stick concoction. It was basically long twisty bread baked with cheese.

I walked over to the Jordaan neighborhood where I rented a place. I found the street and eventually the building. My apartment is spread out over at least four or five stories and located on a smaller canal perpendicular to a larger canal (the Signel) on quiet street with pedestrian foot traffic spilling over. The Anne Frank House is about four blocks away, which is a popular (non-drug and non-sex) attraction. I wandered around in concentric circles, walking up and down the side streets trying to familiarize myself with my new digs. Across the canal and down one block is a pub. If you go the other way over another canal, there's a French cafe. And if you walk two blocks (either north or east), you will find yourself by the window girls.

Yeah, there are hookers just two blocks away from my apartment.

I stumbled upon them by total accident. I made a sharp turn down one alley and heard a knocking sound. That's what the window girls do to get your attention. I turned to my right and saw a big black woman in a fluorescent green bikini winking at me. I turned to my left and saw more windows with red velvet drapes. I discovered a lesser known red light district, which was not as popular as the one near Chinatown just off of Dam Square. The women who worked at 9am on a Sunday were not the cream of the crop. Old. Disgusting. Trannies. That is the place were hookers go to die. At the end of the block, there was a window (with the drapes closed) that had two guys waiting in line. I assume that she was the only decent looking one on the block since I passed six or seven of available widows.

Hookers always add flavor to any neighborhood. Mix them with Dutch yuppies and hipsters and hijinks ensue. Should be a fun two weeks.

After I surveyed my neighborhood, I popped into the Pink Floyd, which is an old favorite coffeeshop of mine. During previous trips, I stop by there once a day. I read a book that I brought with me and waited until noon. I headed back to the hotel to check in.

I picked up my luggage and went up to my room overlooking Central Station. It's small by American standards, but large by European standards. I bought Unisom at JFK airport. I intended to pop them on my flight to Amsterdam, but then decided not to. I wasn't tired and KLM has a great setup similar to JetBlue. They offer free inflight entertainment. There's a section of TV shows which are broken into current and classic. I watched one episode of the Simpsons. There's also a movie section that includes the latest releases, new releases, and a classics section.

I watched Blood Diamond with Leo DiCaprio and it was pretty good. I thought it was going to suck. I watched a weird flick with Adam Brody (aka Seth Cohen from The OC). It was called In the Land of Women. He's plays an LA writer who gets dumped by his actress girlfriend. He goes to Michigan to take care of his ailing grandmother. He befriends the neighbor, played by Meg Ryan and a weird love triangle occurs between those two and Ryan's teenaged daughter. It was a lame movie.

I also watched about forty-five minutes of Dreamgirls. It was shown with Arabic subtitles. The guy who wrote the screenplay went to my high school, so I figured I should give it a shot. I knew most of the songs already since Nicky and Showcase sing them all the time! That Jennifer Hudson chick can sing. She blew away Beyonce. Eddie Murphy was good in the scenes that I saw.

Anyway, by the time I got to my room it was a little past Noon. I popped a Unisom and crashed out. I slept for five straight hours (that's rare) and went back to sleep for an hour before I got up around 6:30ish. It had rained while I slept and I had weird dreams, which I wrote about as soon as I woke up.

I showered, then walked over to the Grey Area and bought one of my favorite strains. I sat at a table by the window and ripped bingers while European parents walked past the coffeeshop holding their childrens' hands.

After Grey Area, I wandered over to Dam Square. I sat down at one of those crowded bars/cafes and ordered a huge mug of Bavaria beer. I nursed that for a half hour and people watched. I ordered another beer and then ate some fries with mayonnaise at a stand on the Damrak.

Next up was the 420 cafe. They were one of the few coffeeshops that used to serve beer. Glasses of Amstel were 1.60 Euros. New Dutch law said no more booze in places where they sell weed, so the 420 had to put a halt on liquor sales. Too bad. The place had a homey feeling with a really nice wood bar and old school beer taps.

By then it was 11pm. I finished my book and was starving. Since I woke up, I only ate fries. There were not too many places open. I wandered around and found myself standing at the entrance to Burger King. I loathe fast food and aside from Subway and In & Out Burger, I only eat it as a last alternative. I was debating for a few minutes when a gorup of four smoking girls nearly knocked me over and stumbled into BK. I decided that was the Fast Food Gods giving me a sign. I followed them inside. One girl wore a pink scarf and very tight jeans. They were from Spain (I overheard them speaking Spanish) and two of them were extremely high.

I was going to get a chicken sandwich when the hottest girl in the group in front of me ordered a triple Whopper. What? A fucking triple? I felt embarrassed about my impending healthy purchase. I didn't want her to think I was soft. So when it was my turn, I also ordered a triple Whopper. Just the sandwich. No meal deal.

It took like ten minutes before I got my order, which meant I stood off to the side with the high Spanish girls while we waited. And waited. I forgot what I ordered until I looked down at the receipt. Triple Whopper with Cheese.

I couldn't finish it. I ate about 2/3 which told me I should have gotten a double instead. Wen I walked out, I spotted the table of high Spanish girls. The hot one with the pink scarf crushed her triple Whopper. Daddy and Derek would have been proud.

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