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Amsterdam? Amsterdammitt

I believe it was someone who once said, "Nothing gives man perspective like getting high as a turkey on the weed smoke." And so, during a two week jaunt with my brother through seven of Europe’s finest cities, I visited Amsterdam, a city famous for its weed smoke. Now, anyone who’s ever done drugs will tell you that, in Amsterdam, some of those drugs are legal. And anyone who’s ever done anything legal will tell you that, you can’t get arrested for doing it. I hoped the layover would give me enough perspective to get me through the lonely haze of desperation that I live in every day.

But it wasn’t all pot and/or brownies from the start. After we landed in Paris, my brother and I never got over jet lag, probably due to some conspiracy on the part of the Parisians to be rude to us at odd hours. It was hell from there on in. We couldn’t sleep at night and we could barely stay awake during the day. One night in Prague, we slept from 12 midnight to 5:30 in the evening the next day. I felt like the man in that fable, "Fable Man," who woke up after sleeping for a long time and had a great white beard and a pumpkin head! "Where’s my head!? Where is my head!?!" Then he laughs and laughs.

We didn’t sleep the night before in Brussels, and the train ride to Amsterdam pitted us against a pack of squealing Spaniards armed with lisps. It seemed like every word these people used had an "s" in it, because the lisping was non-stop. I could have murdered them all and felt okay about it, but finally we arrived in Amsterdam.

At our hotel, the desk clerk looked us over, making note of our brown skin and lack of a shave. I knew exactly what the bastard was thinking: "Gorgeous Mexican razor blade models. Typical." I just hate that attitude. Look, people, I’m not a model and I’m not Mexican. All handsome people with brown skin are not Mexican models! When is the world going to learn? When are you going to learn? Jerk.

We went up to our room, which consisted of two hard, slim twin beds and a bathroom and everything else. But these beds were slim. How slim? Imagine the slimmest thing you know and multiply that by a lot more slimness. That’s how slim they were. Whenever I tossed and/or turned in these slim beds, I almost fell off them. That’s how slim they were! Goddammit, if I live to be 300, and I will, I’ll never understand the European slim bed phenomenon. Jerk.

I don’t know if it was my inability to stop thinking about bed slimness, but my brother agreed that we should split up for the evening. I was anxious to taste the perfectly legal green candy Amsterdam is famous for selling. And I wanted to smoke a lot of marijuana too. I also had my friend’s novel with me to peruse. My brother, a trumpet player, wanted to take in a concert of the Amsterdam Philharmonic. He agreed to meet me at the hash bar if he couldn’t get into the concert. Otherwise, we planned to meet back at the hotel.

So we parted ways. I went to a coffeshop called The Noon, which "Let’s Go Europe" described as American-owned. "Ask the owners how they got their US flag," the travel guide playfully suggested. The "Let’s Go" people also made sure to caution visitors to Amsterdam to experiment with drugs in moderation. "Thanks," I thought to myself. "But no thanks." I was going to put this town out of business with all the weed I was about to smoke.

I marched into the The Noon like Russell Crowe marching into the rehab clinic, ready to teach those savages a thing or two about recreational drug abuse. I took a moment to appreciate the sweet aroma of burning marijuana, then stepped up to the counter, where I said to the Counter Man, "I’d like to see a menu." I was under the impression that the coffeshops in Amsterdam offered extensive menus, detailing the cost and strength of different kinds of marijuana and hashish. Well the Counter Man/Licensed Dealer just giggled at me. He looked at his friends, who also started giggling. At first, I thought they were laughing at "Who’s The Boss" on the TV in the corner, but I knew that would have been completely impossible.

So I laughed a little bit, then looked around awkwardly, which helped them realize that I had no idea what I was doing. Then they raised the volume on the stereo, which was playing Eminem’s latest album. They started bobbing their heads, playing it very cool. Then I looked closer. Red eyes, the giggles, an overappreciateion for angry American music — these people were Democrats! And they were high! I finally understood where the expression, "High as a Democrat" came from. Then I did what I always do when I meet people who play it very cool. I tried harder to fit in. I started bobbing my head to "Stan" and mouthing the words, as if to say, "Hello. Amazingly, I am also familiar with this tremendously popular song that is played on the radio over and over again. I’m just as cool and obvious as you." Then I thought, "Why would Stan [in the song] write a letter while he’s driving? I don’t buy it." Then I thought, "Will I seem cooler if I ask them where they got their US flag, even though I can’t see it?"

More giggles.

The Counter Man brought out a huge, beautiful Ziploc bag full of marijuana. He let me smell it. Very nice.

"I’ll have some of that, " I said.

"A joint?" he said.

"Okay," I said.

Then he said something in English that sounded like "Seven dollars."

"I’m sorry?"

"Seven dollars," he said again, I think.

"I have to pay in dollars?"

More giggles.

"Yes," he said. "Dollars."

More giggles.

I thought, "Isn’t this a different country? Don’t they use different money here? Where the hell is that flag? Damn you, ‘Let’s Go Europe.’"

I stood there silently, waiting for this stoned Dutch wizard to make sense when a baked, balding Spaniard asked me if I spoke Spanish. Whenever people ask me that I like to play it safe. So, in Spanish, I said, "A little." When I’ve been out of practice, I can hold a conversation if the speed is kept low. Not that it mattered to this bastard, because he spoke as fast as he could. He talked to me for about ten minutes, asked me a few questions in super-fast Spanish. As far as I could tell, he suggested a joint mixed with tobacco, as the marijuana by itself was very strong. I was insulted, but I was also tired of standing and not smoking marijuana. So I paid for the mixed joint and a Coca Cola Light (it’s a tough Marijuana Guy drink in Amsterdam) and sat down at a nice, little table with a large, frightening, stone-carved ashtray on it.

I took out my friend’s novel and a red pen, and prepared to help him immeasurably with his career. I took a sip of the Coca-Cola Light, a few puffs of the joint, and started to read.

Well, friends, I hadn’t slept in 32 hours or eaten in 14. Eminem was blasting and Tony Danza was saying something unfunny in Dutch when the drugs took hold.

Suddenly, the reading got a lot harder.

Then the music got a lot louder and so did the giggling. Paranoia set in, as it can when you puff the weed smoke.

"Oh, God," I thought. "I’m drinking a Coca-Cola Light. It’s even wussier than Diet Coke! My legs are crossed funny! What do I look like!?! A Democrat? Do I look like a Democrat!?!" My inner freak-out contrasted sharply with my calm exterior. Enough to make me feel like I was going completely insane. "This place is getting too small for all of us!" I said to myself, even though it was practically empty. I quickly packed up my friend’s novel and my pen, put my coat on, grabbed the Coca-Cola Light, my only connection to the real world, and headed for the door. I was almost out when the Counter Man and the Spaniard offered a stoned, "Good-bye." Without stopping, I turned my body enough to give a big salute and a "Take care."

Finally, I escaped. I escaped into the fresh, cool air that was vast and endless. "Dear Jesus, I don’t know where I am," I thought. Then I started to walk. All I had to do was get back to the hotel and wait out the storm. But then I remembered that I was supposed to meet my brother outside the hash bar if he didn’t make it into the concert. "He’s going to get there and see that I’m not there," I thought. "Then someone is going to kill him and leave his body in a tulip garden or a windmill and I’ll never see him again!" I visualized meeting my parents at the airport back in the US. They see me come out alone, with extra bags. "Where’s your brother?" they ask. I tell them that he’s in the bathroom. They’re fine with it; then they give me my entire inheritance.

Maybe I wasn’t being realistic.

I was sweating now.

I got to the hotel and decided to wait for my brother outside while I read my friend’s novel. But the reading problem came up again. Suddenly, the "Let’s Go Europe" book was laughing at me, the wind blowing through its pages and highlighting "Be Responsible. Be Responsible. You’re A Fuck-Up. Be Responsible."

I started to remember what sweet times my brother and I had as kids. We used to double up on a dirt bike and ride around at night on my grandmother’s street in Puerto Rico. Once we accidentally knocked over the neighbor’s garbage can and some local street toughs accosted us. My brother cursed at them and ran away, leaving me to get my ass kicked. Hmm. That wasn’t so sweet. Still, if I hadn’t wanted to inhale that evil plant weed smoke monster, my brother would have been alive and standing right next to me, playing his loud trumpet and cleaning the spit valve. Goddammit, shut up! Where does that spit go!?! I need to sleep! Shut up! Shut up! Oh, God, I was going insane.

And I developed the most severe case of cottonmouth I’ve ever had. I started to gag and headed straight for the hotel bar. I politely asked the bartender for some water. He complied. I looked at the people casually chatting. Didn’t they realize that I was freaking out? Why weren’t they helping? I spent what felt like four hours going to and from the bar, asking for more and more water. "What if my brother doesn’t come back to the hotel?" I thought. "What if he’s waiting for me outside the pot joint? Wouldn’t the Counter Man tell him that I had left? No, he hates me. There was so much giggling. I can’t go back there. They’ll eat me alive because they probably take the munchies more seriously here!"

I went back outside the hotel and looked right and left over and over again. I thought, "I can do this for three hours, right?" Wrong again. Then I thought, "If he’s dead now, and I wait three hours for him, that’s three hours we could have had the police looking for his carcass. They should be combing the canals and lakes with nets. Call out an APB! How do you say that in Dutch!?! Oh, God, I’m going to die in Amsterdam looking for my brother! Why did we split up!?! Damn you, Amsterdam! Damn your fine quality marijuana and regularly tested prostitutes! I wish I’d never heard of you!" I was on the verge of tears, short of breath, light-headed, leaning against the hotel, wishing my brother would come back, hoping someone would stop and help and call the police and give me something to eat and put me to bed.

Then I had to pee. Didn’t I read somewhere that a heart attack frequently starts in the bladder? Yes, definitely. I wanted to spend my last moments on Earth in the hotel room, but I didn’t have the key. My bastard brother had it. So I asked the asshole behind the desk if I could have the key to my room. He gave me some bullshit about how my brother was supposed to leave it with him. "He’s dead, you insensitive coward!" I wanted to say. "Who cares about your precious hotel rules! Have you forgotten that I am a Mexican razor blade model?!" Then he had the bartender get me into my room. I was scared, because I got five glasses of water out of that bastard and never gave him a tip. I got into the room, peed, and got into bed, planning to watch TV until my brother came back or the police arrived with the bad news or I slipped into permanent slumber. I started to fall asleep. "What if my brother is dead and while I’m asleep he comes back to li…"

I woke up when my brother walked into the room, happy as a gopher. He said he went to the concert, walked around, and ate twice, the glutton.

I fell back to sleep and dreamed about leaving Amsterdam on a weed smoke free flight, while my brother played taps on his trumpet. Good times.

And that’s the story of the best marijuana I’ve ever had.


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DUCTS summer issue 2001
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