Friday, July 19, 2013

A Side of Holland-days: A New Amsterdamer in Amsterdam

The following tale contains elements of truth, elements that are blatant lies, elements of writer’s embellishment, elements from the Periodic Table and most relevantly, Strunk and White’s “Elements of Style.” Let us journey jointly and uncover, and discover, the joys, the heartbreaks, the dramas and the adventures to behold in this enchanted, canal-laden land nicknamed the “Venice of the North.”

As proud residents of the American city once known as New Amsterdam, we began our educational excursion at the world-renowned Rijksmuseum, where much can be learned about the metropolis’s culture and history. The name, “Amsterdam,” is derived from the original Dutch word, “Amstelredamme,” meaning “alluring land of beauty and charm, where many unexpected activities are surprisingly legal.” On display were countless artifacts from the 17th century “Golden Age” when Holland was a respected, and even feared, global power in many arenas – it was a commercial power, a financial power, a military power, a naval power – then came the discovery of hemp and the country’s evolution into flower power. And indeed, there is a distinct, 60’s, Haight-Ashbury feel and aroma in the air. Appropriately, many of the city’s women have the fresh-faced, young, natural beauty of the Mod Squad-era, Peggy Lipton, while, unfortunately for them, many of the men have the unkempt, poorly-groomed, up all night and living fast and hard look of Canned Heat’s, The Bear. As one who takes himself to be a sophisticated, never not nattily attired New Yorker, I would be remiss in skipping the observation that in seven days I did not spot a single other human being sporting a tie, jacket or suit, with the exception of restaurant waitstaffs.

The Bear

Peggy Lipton
This refreshing casualness in lifestyle and attitude extends to the busy streets and sidewalks, as well, where Engelbert’s, “Les Bicyclettes de Belsize” has nothing on Amsterdam, for as far as the peepers can peer, one sees a sea of Schwinns, Stingrays and 10-speeds, the main mode of transportation for the indigenous population. Any regular readers may recall that one constant and vexing vacation motif from previous holiday highlights is nycityman’s tendency to be struck by assorted and countless conveyances whilst a stranger in a strange land – and this destination did not differ.  Amsterdam’s  extremely narrow thoroughfares are shared by trams, buses, cars, motor scooters, motorcycles and, like XXX porn for Lance Armstrong, the aforementioned bicycles - thousands upon thousands upon thousands of bicycles. Whenever planning to traverse an avenue, it is of utmost urgency to look right, look left, look right, look left again – and then brace for impact and pray to your deity of choice.

Should you be a traveler of nefarious nature and intent, Amsterdam Airport Schiphol is the international checkpoint for you. I could have been Dexter Morgan transporting Glad-bagged sundry and various body parts, Wiley E. Coyote with Acme TNT in ceaseless pursuit of that annoying, beeping Road Runner, or Arlo Guthrie “Bringing in a couple of keys. Don't touch my bags if you please, Mister Customs Man,” for security was as invisible as the increasingly, angry scientist memorably portrayed by Claude Rains. No luggage was looked at, no questions queried, no documentation displayed. Welcome to Amsterdam, please enjoy a gratis Heineken or Amstel Light.
Arrive in Netherland’s capital already awash in Euros, ATMs are rare and as hard to find as an African-American at the Republican National Convention, a Mensa member at a Sarah Palin rally or a hit show on NBC.  While patiently awaiting a moment with our hotel’s concierge to pointlessly inquire about the locations of these dollar delivering devices, I intrusively overheard his current conversation with another of our lodging’s boarders as he tolerantly, thoroughly and with great detail imparted advice and instructions for peak perusal and utilization of the area’s ladies of the evening.  This morally ambiguous resort additionally afforded accommodations which made one wonder if the owners were once circus folk, as it was home to the tiniest beds since Danny DeVito’s boyhood bedroom. I was surprised that they didn't have cowboy or astronaut sheets on them.

Follow the Yellow Brick Road then turn right
The Windmills of Your Mind - a Day that Will Live in Infamy

 Like a circle in a spiral, like a wheel within a wheel
Never ending or beginning on an ever spinning reel
As the images unwind, like the circles that you find in 

The windmills of your mind! – Bergmann

Drug humor is not something I generally extract from the comedy cabinet. It’s cheap, easy, lowbrow, pandering… and then, of course, there is that pesky possibility of probable health and medical predicaments from abuse. But, we are all adults and it was lawful in this locale, so… let’s have at it!

To honestly answer Jimi Hendrix's inquiry, yes, I am experienced in the ways of weed. It’s practically mandatory in my chosen profession, and any post-lunch foray around our headquarters will reveal a row fragrantly reminiscent of an Allman Brothers Band concert.  And that very fragrance could also be detected wafting from every nook, cranny and corner of our handsome holiday hamlet.  On the penultimate evening of our retreat, it was “when in Rome” time and a visit to The Bulldog was in order.

The Bulldog is the McDonalds of marijuana, a joint joint, if you will, with numerous branches -  bright, light, welcoming and very open and unhidden, with our neighboring franchisee located right smack dab in an outdoor plaza, surrounded by shops and eateries aimed at the tourist trade. It would be as if the Applebee’s on 50th and Broadway in New York suddenly, yet subtlety, added pot brownies to their dessert menu.  By all appearances it was equally family friendly (should one be a member of the Leary or Kesey clans) missing only a coin operated, rocket-ship ride out front, and a merry mascot, Mary Jane the Cannabis Clown.

Upon inspection of the doobie bill of fare, I requested a ganja with a milder disposition, a kind of Bob Ross of reefer, something that might make me envision “happy little trees.” Instead, within mere moments, I was careening headlong into a late 60’s Roger Corman movie. From zero to paranoid quicker than the duration of a teenage boy’s premiere carnal encounter.  This was marijuana of Mephistopheles! And great was my disappointment in the sinsemilla sommelier. After all, who does society afford more respect, regard and reverence to, and put more trust in, than our men behind the dime bag - most commonly referred to as “I got a guy.” 

Where trees are always happy
In prior posts, I’ve alluded to my traveling companion, the preeminent person with whom one could ever “take a kayak to Quincy or Nyack” and “get away from it all,” nycitywoman. Her pick of potent potable was the Space Cake, an intoxicating, yet slow to take effect comestible, which allowed her to ably escort the two of us safely back to our inn, as I was wary of stairways, walkways, roads,  sharp objects, flip-top beverage cans, domesticated animals, celestial bodies, bodies of water,  water fountains, Fountains of Wayne, family of Wayne Gretzky, as well as any and all other members of the genus, homosapien - with the sole aspiration to be peacefully prostrate atop my comforter. Then, when once again securely ensconced in our room, with me executing an unsurpassed sloth simulation,   the Space Cake came alive like a Victor Frankenstein experiment, and  my confidante treaded the boards as if some combination of Juliet Prowse and Ethel Merman,  prancing, pouncing  and pirouetting about our interior, auditioning for a new production of “Jerry’s Girls” or “Flora the Red Menace;” while alternately taking morosely to bed with complaints of a worrisome, slight throat closure and potential airway constriction. What was to be a night of Cheech and Chong rapidly denigrated into a recreation of Sid and Nancy.  I believe she was the eggman, and I was the walrus, or it could have been the other way around, as we sat on a cornflake, waiting for the van to come - goo goo g'joob.

As luck would have it, earlier in the day, we had attended a cheese tasting and visited a gourmet chocolatier, and those provisions, devoured like a Donner Party member happening upon some meat tenderizer, allowed us to eventually emerge from our paradoxical catatonic frenzy to return to a more sober state of mind.

For more folderol about this particular jaunt, featuring our joyful sojourn spent in Muenster, Germany and the enjoyment of a new production of the musical, "A Tale of Two Cities," please follow this link - http://nycityman.blogspot.com/2012/11/ich-bin-ein-muensterer-another-tale-of_20.html

Now, we fulfill the promise of some of the quoted, relevant lyrics, as the wonderful Dusty Springfield performs, "Windmills of Your Mind" and Engelbert Humperdinck serenades us with "Les Bicyclettes de Belsize (co-written by someone I not only actually met, but who hosted nycitywoman and me in his flat for cocktails. Oh, the glamorous and rewarding life of a globetrotting blogger!")

Any comments, questions, criticisms, compliments, candid confessions, cash contributions? Contact me at butchersaprons@mail.com.

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