The River

Monday, April 21, 2008

A walk on the paranoid side in Amsterdam

The Netherlands, Part Six

By Mack White

The rain got heavier as I made my way north across the canals into the party district of Amsterdam. I took a break from the rain and stepped into a pub for a beer. In a little while, the rain let up, and I resumed my walk.

Tucked here and there among the restaurants and nightclubs were coffee shops. A friend had recommended two shops I should look for, and I had their addresses, but in the dark and confusion of the street it was awkward to consult the map. So I just walked around, hoping I would happen across one of them or, failing that, maybe find another one that looked right or had the right vibe.

I saw one that radiated bad vibes. Can't remember the name, but it was too big and crowded, too much flashing neon, loud music, large tv screens tuned to sports. No, I was looking for something something quieter, relaxing.

I found a few of these, but in each case grew indecisive before going inside. So I walking, kept looking. In a little while, I saw a closed sign on the door of a coffee shop. Uh-oh, I thought. I’m running out of time. I started back to one I had just seen, but now I couldn’t find it. Oh well, I thought, I'll just try the next one I see and hope for the best, if it's open.

The next one I saw was Stix, lit so dimly I wasn’t sure it was open. But when I tried the door it opened and I went inside. Very stark décor, black walls, and small, with only a few places to sit, one booth and some benches with ashtrays on tables. The booth was full (two couples talking American, something I hadn't heard in a while), but there was plenty of bench space.

A young man stood at the counter. I asked him what he recommended. "Do you want to get stoned or high?" he asked.


In that case, he recommended the Diesel. He opened a cigar box packed full of thick fuzzy aromatic buds and held it up to me for inspection. Without hesitation, I said I would take five grams, the legal limit. He tore off a big beautiful bud and dropped it into a small zip-loc bag. I paid my 50 Euros (ouch), then sat down on a bench, rolled a joint, and lit up.

Two or three hits into the joint I realized I had not only spent too much money, I had also bought a lot more grass than I could possibly use. This was about a month's worth of smoking for me. Unfortunately, I would only be in Amsterdam for 36 more hours, and no way was I going to try taking this home.

It was also so strong, I realized, that if I smoked the entire joint I might have a hard time getting back to my hotel. So I smoked half, then dropped it into the zip-loc bag with the bud and stepped outside.

Now, which way had I come from? I couldn’t remember. My sense of direction was gone. It seemed like I had approached the shop from the left. That would mean I should turn right to go back the way I had come. This I did. But after walking a couple of blocks, I began to think I had made the wrong decision. Or had I? I couldn’t be sure. I kept walking. No, I'm going the wrong direction, I decided. Nothing looked familiar. And yet, maybe it only seemed unfamiliar due to my high state. The Diesel was powerful stuff. Under its effect, my own hometown would seem unfamiliar.


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