“so for 50euro…”
Next morning, Katie met me at Mac Bike, the premiere bike rental shop. As I had mentioned before, usually in Facebook status updates, I planned on doing Amsterdam right- on a touring bike. And I’m telling you- there really is no other way to experience Amsterdam. Tour buses and rental cars can suck it; walking can suck it; everything can suck it- except for biking. The overall atmosphere of Amsterdam seems to much more upbeat, and I don’t think because of the dope, but because of the natural endorphins everyone has flowing through their bodies from riding bikes all day. I mean, really, look at this:
This is just the 1st level of a multi-leveled bike-parking area next to the canal. EVERYONE rides EVERYWHERE and it’s absolutely fantastic. This ultimately only leads to a few people driving, but from what I experienced, you can get everywhere you need to go on a touring bike. I was only on one for a few minutes when I realized how awesome the day was going to be. It just helps you feel really good because you get exercise, you’re not causing extreme pollution, and quite frankly, it’s just a a lot of fun! I could have rented a moped or gas-bike, but eff that, man! You gotta experience things as everyone else does them! Otherwise, what’s the point in going places, you know?
Katie finally showed up and it was really nice to see her again. We first met in my first year of college; we were in the same FIG (Freshman Interest Group) and from there, got her hooked on Smallville, so lest-be-said, we were pretty good friends and to see her again- well, it was really nice. Quick hug and we were outta there! Since I was still carrying my big-ass backpack, we road across town to her apartment to drop it off before we got going to a small coffee bistro, since Katie hadn’t ate all day and she had been riding for about an hour or so before she met up with me. It was here that I would have my first bit of legalized herb while Katie ate her bagel. Now, a slight history with me and this stuff: I’m not a big user. In fact, the times in which I had partaken in college really didn’t get me feeling as if I should ever do it habitually. This, right now, in this country, was something to add to my growing collection of “live-in-the-now” experiences and boy- Did I live in the now! Katie warned me though, smoking (too much) and riding was on par to drinking and driving, and I trusted her, so I took it easy. I mean, I did have the ENTIRE day…might as well pace myself…
Shortly after we had sat down, one of the workers came out and yelled at us for sitting in front of the store, so we packed up shop and got back on our bikes to go to another coffeeshop that Katie said had reallly good hot chocolate. I never really believed hot chocolate demanded the use of an exaggerated “really”, but she was right! At first I thought it was because we got it in a coffeeshop and she was more or less probably stoned whenever she got it, but nah man, this stuff was legit! It was steamed milk with cube of Dutch chocolate shucked on the end of a fondue stick that we had to stir in ourselves. Of course, because Dutch chocolate isn’t as sweet as it is stateside, each mug came with some extra sugar, but I didn’t mind the bitter darkness of the choco. It was almost as smooth as it was bitter…I know, I can’t really explain it, but it was! We sat there a bit and enjoyed the hot chocolate and the atmosphere of the small store before Katie looked at me and asked me if I felt like a beer.
It' was 11:30; of course I did.
We rode over to a small lunchtime bistro and had a lager while Katie explained to me how horrible customer service in Holland really wasn’t the best. Typically, you have to stare at the waiter while they walk toward you, not back down, and essentially grab them to get your order. 30minutes later, you had food. Luckily, all we got was a brew while we shot-the-shit, so we didn’t have to experience the horror of Dutch customer service. Here was where we planned out the next couple of hours, including a trip to the most popular farmer’s market in Amsterdam, a photography museum, and a canal tour.
After we had locked up out bikes outside of the market, Katie began telling me a bit about the cultural aspect of Amsterdam, particularly about the racial bigotry that has lately been coming about with the immigration of a lot of Turkish people. She told me that although her Dutch was relatively pretty poor, what could gather, would –as she put it- make my ears bleed. She compared it to early American racism against African-Americans and almost said it was more blood-lusty than that. I would say it was interesting to hear, but at the same time, saddening to hear that one of the happiest places to live in the world had been infected by the disgusting disease of racism. It’s interesting because from what I learned prior to my visit is that Holland, in it’s immigration, won’t allow anyone in the country who wouldn’t assimilate perfectly into their culture. Unlike the States where we embrace cultures of all varieties, the Dutch enjoy their already progressive society and don’t really like radical changes. For example, I believe- believe- that at one point, a questionnaire asked potential immigrants if they could tolerate gay persons kissing in public, and if they couldn’t, they wouldn’t be allowed in the country. I could be wrong and that might have actually been just a radical example of the immigration standards of the country, but from what I saw, it really wasn’t far off.
After Katie bought a t-shirt, we took a walk around the park (which was absolutely stunning) and went back to the bikes, where we then proceeded to Foam, the museum of photography. Foam’s current display featured the life and work of one photographer- W. Eugene Smith. His work as a photojournalist was amazing because at first, he took pictures because he felt a calling, but soon he started to take pictures for causes- namely WWII, Vietnam propaganda, human rights, and lastly to explore the humanity in people. Check out the link and check out what you can, because this dude was phenomenal.
Foam really brought me around to think of how I can use my photography for similar causes and not just for taking photos that “look cool”- but then I realized, I liked taking pictures that “look cool” and I’m fine with that at the moment; and then we got GIN. And not just any gin- the best gin in Holland! I mean, seriously, this shit was legit! This company, Wynand Fockink, is the premire distillery of Holland and has been since 1679; their products ranged from straight-up gin to mix-and-matched flavors. I, myself, had mandarin and creme brulee gins. The neat part about it is they came in fancy drinking glasses and filled to the brim with delicious liquor; however, you couldn’t pick up the glass without sipping it down first. It’s kind of like a blowjob at a bar- no hands policy- but after you sipped it down a bit, you were good to go. Check it: Katie and I classing up at Wynand Fockink.
The dude behind the counter was a curious sort, but was very good natured and if you do go there, you have to go with enough time to talk with him because it’s one of those places that…you just do. Don’t be the dick that gets a drink and leaves. Totally sweet spot that EVERYONE needs to visit in Amsterdam.
Before we got completely snockered on delicious gin, we decided to hit up the canal tour. The canal ride was nice because I got to see the areas of Amsterdam that we wouldn’t have been able to reach in the one day I was there. The worst part was when AN ENTIRE CLASS OF HIGH SCHOOL KIDS GOT ON THE BOAT; they were loud, annoying, and got in the way of ALL my shots. Those little bastards nearly ruined my canal ride, but luckily Katie was able to provide the information that I couldn’t hear from the actual guide. I didn’t end up taking many pictures because of the kids, but it’s alright because the pictures I did take were worth it.
After the canal ride, we made for one of Katie’s favorite pubs in the whole of Amsterdam. I don’t know what it was called, but all I know is while she bought cigarettes, I bought a wood pipe for more Julio. She couldn’t help laughing whenever I lit up because she admitted she had never seen anyone, ANYONE smoke from a wood pipe. My response?
Now, for anyone following this asking themselves “Where is the part about the Red light District, Mike?!”
It’s right here: the pub, get this, was right down the alley from the Red Light District. Katie told me to just walk around and check things out, see it for myself. And I’ll tell you what- there are, in fact, women in doorways with red (more like hot-pinkish) lights around every door. And I was NOT ready for how pseudo creepy it was! I mean, there are WOMENin DOORWAYS with NO CLOTHES on! I mean, all throughout Europe I’ve seen uncensored mannequins in windows, but I was not ready for them to move- nonetheless wave at me! And they were EVERYWHERE! Left, Right, Up, Down…everywhere! And in some places, there were TWO of them in ONE ROOM! Given all my boyish excitement, I will admit I made a couple of laps through the district and for some reason, I heard a bunch of knocking whenever I would walk by. As Katie would later explain to me, that’s when the ladies had a particular interest in a fella. So it goes to say- I felt pretty special at hearing so many knocks my way. But then again, they are prostitutes that want to be paid, so, I’m not trying to give myself jazzhands over the knocking.
sooooooooo….we left the Red Light and got some Schwarme (?) at a Middle Eastern restaurant and then booked it home to have a couple more drinks and relax before my long-ass day of traveling tomorrow.
FAST FORWARD TO THE FOLLOWING MORNING
Before I got on a flight, I had a very Dutch meal of croquettes, which were deep-fried gravy rolls on bread. This, I believe, marked my return to the obese nature that is America- nothing like deep-fried fat on a stack of carbohydrates! And since I wasn’t prepared for it, I actually burned the roof of my mouth quite badly-which sucked. To add onto it, I got through security with maybe half-filled bottle of water and at the end of it, the lady wouldn’t let me take it with me or empty it out and refill it later. I mean, I understand the new international rules surrounding boarding flights and what not- but a dually hungover guy with a burnt mouth-roof needs water; I needed that water.
And here is where my European adventures come to an end- hungover and a burnt mouth-roof. Good thing the most of my trip in Amsterdam was spent in an unspeakable bliss or I’d have been pisssssssssed!
Submitted for the approval of the Midnight Society…Mike’s taking of Amsterdam: COMPLETE.