This is my pathetic attempt in describing one of those days that you just had to be there for. This post might crash on it’s face, but I think you’ll like it.
I’m on a high speed German train (my favourite) in Amsterdam that is on it’s way to Rome. I am completely shattered from last night’s experiences. I am weak. I was shaking all through breakfast. My eyes are inexplicably white, considering that I had only 2 hours of sleep last night. I’m hot in the face, but I don’t feel sick. I’m typing considerably well, considering that I’ve been dropping things all morning. Yesterday, in a single day, I decided that there was a third place I could consider living other than America and Japan.
This was my second time in Amsterdam and the reason I came back was to meet up with a few friends that I missed the last time I came here. Mainly my friend Dave from England (that I met in New Zealand), but also Sanna, the Dutch gal who I walked the Great Wall of China with. Who I would meet in the process was the real adventure.
An Aussie, two Slovenians, a Romanian, a Finn, and an Israeli walk into a bar………..
Sounds like a joke right? Not when you are traveling 🙂 These were a few people who I had met in my hostel the night before Dave arrived. The most clever, the Israeli. The most arrogant, the Aussie. The Most talkative, the Romanian. My favorite life lesson from the night, “Yes, I know.”
The 24 year old Romanian girl was old friends with the 29 year old Israeli guy and she was making jokes about him. Everything she could find; she poked and prodded. “Look at his big Jew Nose.” “He has such a small head.” “His ears are huge.” and all he would reply with was “Yes, I know.” accompanied with a subtle smile.
You see, he had wisdom far beyond his years. He knew the phrase to end any criticism, argument, or bully. “Yes, I know.” and then there was nowhere left to go. I wished so badly that entire cultures and nations could adopt this. It’s simplicity seared directly into my long term memory. But it takes true confidence and self worth to use this tactic.
Just as the wisdom was shinning, the Aussie drops an entire pint on both of my shoes, instantly soaking me in the 50 degree night. He was too drunk to hold his beer. Instead of apologising, he thought it a better idea to try and have me stay by insulting me. “Aww come one mate. Don’t be a pussy. Be a man. Look at me. I’m Aussie. I got a little wet and you don’t see me crying. Come on, It’ll dry.”-In his most lazy and uneducated (don’t believe me? He asked the Israeli if “most of the people in Israel were Catholics”) accent.
“Yes, I know.”
I then walked home to get some rest. The next day was going to be the best day in Europe yet.
I started with breakfast. Sitting to my right were three young Israeli girls and their mother at the table. To my left were the two Slovenians from the night before. Dave was sitting across from me. Before sitting down at the table, one of the Israeli girls asked if she could join us. I jokingly said “Yes, but you are going to have to stay on your side of this.” As I placed a salt shaker between the two of us. She laughed as her two other sisters filled in. When the mother got to the table, the girls chattered in Hebrew with her. She looked at the salt shaker for a split second and snatched it off of the table, like only an Israeli would. We all had a laugh. I promise that you and I would have simply moved the salt shaker forward to gain more space. It’s proven time and time again, that the Israelis are an out of the box thinking people.
After breakfast we went to the park with the Slovenians for what else, but to smoke a joint. (Well, everyone, but me). We laughed as I tried to learn Slovenian (which is an epically hard language to learn.) But it wasn’t too bad because they spoke perfect English.
Later, we went to a square with the Slovenians to watch some live music. Up on the stage was a band playing Snow Patrol songs so well that I seriously wondered if we had stumbled into a major concert. When the band switched over to Cold Play songs, I realized that it was really just a great cover band. Somewhere in the middle of the laughing, dancing, lights, and trams that practically drove through the concert, I felt like I was outside of my body, watching the events unfold with great appreciation. It wasn’t the classic “appreciate it once you don’t have it.” The grass was not greener. It was all here. I thought to myself, “Ya, I could do this more than for just a few days.”
Next we went to meet up with Sanna who has just returned back to Holland after traveling for 9 months through Asia. She and Dave got along just great. But both of them are such competitive talkers, that I ended up just enjoying some silence from my own voice. They went back and forth in heated debates. In a moment, Sanna broke eye contact with Dave and flashed me look. In only knowing her for 5 days in China, I knew exactly what the look meant. “I am so sorry that this Dave guy is talking my ear off. I wanted to catch up, really.” But she couldn’t resist a healthy debate. So weird that I could tell all of this, but I guess context helps quite a bit too.
After we chatted with Sanna, we decided it was time to do something really touristy.
So we were in the sex show sitting at the cramped bar that set a 10 foot perimeter to the smaller than life stage. As the first dancer came out, I looked at Dave and said “Is this just a strip joint? I didn’t come all the way to Amsterdam to see something that I avoid at home. I haven’t been to the strip joint since my 18th birthday that was a total novelty.” Dave replied with “Really? I go all the time.” Just as the girl is dancing on stage, two girls sit next to us at the bar. I looked over at them and said “Where are you from?” They said “Philadelphia.” “Ahhhh, that answers my real question of why you are here. The answer, I am assuming, is the same as ours. To do the touristy thing and check it off your list of things to do before you die.” (I don’t actually have a list by the way. Lists are work, and I am retired) “Ya, exactly. You can’t go to Amsterdam and NOT go to a sex show.” One of the girls said.
We spend the next few minutes completely ignoring the show and remarking about how disappointed we will be if is no actual sex on stage. We were on the same page. All of a sudden, the dancer brings a volunteer up on stage and proceeds to conduct the “tape measurer act” where she proceeds to pull literally 30 feet of cloth measuring tape out of her vagina to Bonjovi’s song “Living on a Prayer.” The four of us pounded on the bar and screamed with glee. Fist pumping and singing along to the music, I yelled “marry me” at least 12 times. “Now that was worth my 25 Euros!” “I just want to know how she fit all of that up there.” Were some of the comments that we were shooting off at the stage.
For as big as you picture this place, make it twice as small. We were cracking up the bar tenders. Enjoying this experience with a few members of the opposite sex who were my same age made it just a tad bit less soul crushing.
The next act involved a gal who I could dance much better than, but I sure couldn’t draw a penis on the chest of a volunteer with a magic marker jammed up my vagina as well as she could. A few more shouts from the 4 manned peanut gallery “My little artist.” “She’s so talented.” “Was that an original work?” “Best profile pic ever!” “Don’t wash your chest man! Tattoo over that shit!”
The next act involved three volunteers and one of them ended up being a real asshole. Somehow, the argument got down to the dancer taunting him into showing the audience his Penis. The bartender/DJ, a heavy set 45 year old women who was super nice to us because she realized that we were being respectful while having a good time, was on the microphone taunting the asshole. The four of us in the back of the bar were screaming “we want to see some non professional cock on the double.” (Ya, what happens in Amsterdam…… Just gets posted on the Internet to damn my character for all eternity 🙂
“I hope it’s tiny” one of the Philly girls said. “Me too. Teach this asshole a lesson.”
Eventually we all break him mentally and he pulls it out. The crowd goes wild. It wasn’t even average sized. I yell out “Dude, your going to be impotent for at least a month after that beating!” “You’ll never use the public urinal again!” I’m surprised that I didn’t get fought for that one. The crowd goes wild.
“Well this has been great, but where is the actual sex?” Said Dave. Just as he says this, two performers make their way to the stage. They proceed to have sex in 5 or so different positions. All of which without a single expression on their faces. It was grim. You could tell that it was a job. They were practically counting the pumps until they were free to leave the stage. The bar tender said “They do this show 9 times a day, you’d count the pumps if you were in their shoes.”
Next came the tape measurer girl again and we realized that the whole show was on a 30-45 minute loop. I proposed to leave to a different bar, but the girls wanted to watch the tape measurer lady just one last time. Dave and I realized our school boy error and agreed to pay homage just one more time. I know what you are wondering and the answer is YES, it was just as impressive the second time. 🙂
But believe it or not, this was not my favorite section of the night. As we left the sex show we passed through the bouncers who were groomed like porn stars (clean cut, not too short hair with a lot of jell in it. Leathery tanned skin. And a clothes that didn’t even attempt to fit correctly, as if they were going to be ripped off any second anyway.) But they were Dutch and that meant that they were overly helpful and courteous. Wether at a coffee shop, or a sex show, Dutch people are just charmingly mellow with a slight sweetness in their voice. It doesn’t matter what they look like, they are all have the same tone in their voice.
I feel safer in Amsterdam that I do at home. Just as I felt this way, three very large black men were walking our way on the side walk. They were dressed like gangsters and Karry kind of freaked out as she passed by them. It was the classic, “each person tries to step out of the way at the same time, and leads to an awkward shuffling at each other. Only one of the men just stood still when it got to that critical point, to let Karry just get squeeze through the hole in between him and his two other friends.
This is how I saw it of course, because I am completely infatuated with the Dutch culture. She, thought she was about to be mugged. Her and her friend had only been in Holland for less than 24 hours after all. I felt I had to tell her that she had nothing to worry about here. She was so safe around these people that she might has well be in Thailand. But I can’t blame her. They were huge.
We arrived in a bar called San Fransisco where we had a few drinks and Joints. Low and behold, an old man from Washington DC that I later named George would own me. He was high on something or other and took a special liking to me. “You are so disgusting with those wild accusations!” He said in a muddled voice, as he started spitting out random statistical facts. “Columbia is the 3 largest producer of bananas in the world. I was a professor in the 70s. They threw eggs at me. I had access to all the information.” I love the crazies in Holland because they are still harm less enough to fuck with. “Blue whales have been extinct for 30 years. The population of San Diego is 1.3 million”
“Excuse me sir but you are wrong.” I Said “It’s 1.7 million.” This set him off. “NO, No No No.” “How dare you make these accusations young man, you consider yourself a US citizen. Have you ever even read the constitution?”
An eruption goes out across the bar. I had been owned. He was not going to take my communist shit for one second. But this bar was closing so we had to find another place. We went all around, but it was 3:30am on a Sunday.
“City that never sleeps, this is bullshit.” Dave said. “Uhh I think that’s Las Vegas.” We walked up to a few clubs that looked pitch dark inside. We asked the bouncer if it was open, and he replied with a sweet “No.” as the lights on the dance floor periodically flashed behind him and we could see a packed dance floor. “But it looks like it’s actually going off in there?” I said. “Ya we don’t let anymore people in once it hits 3am.
We tried to talk our way into several clubs until finally I was able to crack one of the bouncers and we were able to get in just long enough to dance our faces off to Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror.”
After that it was 4am and there wasn’t a single bar open, so we went to the park in the Museum district to climb the giant “I Amsterdam” sign. As we climbed up onto some of the letters, there were some local kids that politely and sincerely yelled “Please get off of the letters. They are not designed to be climbed on.” We wanted some pictures so we kind of ignored them and their cries became a bit more desperate, “Please! That damages the letters!” We jumped off and felt terrible, but still hung out. Within 5 minutes the locals were ready to leave and climbed the sign themselves, jumping from letter to letter.
“Those sons of bitches! They were so convincing!” “We’ve been duped!”
The another local guy came bye and jumped on the letters with us. He must have been on something because he was belting out all sorts of things at the top of his lungs between singing an impromptu song about being on the “I”. (You really had to be there for that). We all proceeded to play in the children’s playground and hurt ourselves profoundly on the dew soaked half pipe in the neighboring skate park. We made it back to the Hostel at 6:30am that morning. And in 2 short hours, we are reborn. I am off to Rome, Dave is back to work at his IT career in England, and the Phillie girls are off to finish their very American, 9 day, super circuit of Europe, only to return to chase and cultivate their careers.
“Breath, Stretch, Shake, Let [them go].”
As I’ve said before “I am learning that this year has become one big long exercise on how to let fantastic people enter and exit my life.” Call it a way to appreciate impermanence.