After showering and running a squeegee on the questionable non-sloped floor in Amsterdam’s Bed and Coffee, I ditched my airplane clothes and slimmed my backpack down to hit the street. I took an endearing last look at what surely would be my looted belongings. As my sandals hit the pavement, three young guys were entering the hash house right across the street that Alexandra (the owner of B & C) had highly recommended. I had an inkling to walk up and give Today Coffeeshop another look, since their White Widow was the decapitating culprit last time around. I crept by at first, feeling shy as hell, far more shy than last time. The legality of marijuana consumption was too wild of a concept to comprehend for an American. It looked pretty empty in there since it was only three on a sunny Monday. I circled back and walked down the little ramp past a couple old video games and three high round tables with chairs. Two younger guys were slouching on the bar staring at a hung television while a tall, dark haired girl in her mid-20s worked the place.
It's funny how Dutch law prohibits coffeeshops from openly displaying their marijuana menu until being asked for it. At Today coffeeshop, they toss the one page laminated menu on the bar top with a huge fucking scale on top of it. Talk about covert! The guys stared me down as I said hello and asked her if I could see the menu. She lifted the crusty scale up to reveal a hash heavy list with only three weed offerings: Jamaican, Orange Bud, and that notorious White Widow at 7 Euro a gram. I went with the house special and she weighed it out for me. The guys said something to her in Dutch about me. I added an espresso to the order as she rung me up.
I sat at a high table near the door, examined the purchase, and then loaded one into my clean chillum. Got high on the very first hit. Stared at the same page of my Joe Strummer biography till I realized no reading was going to get done under these circumstances. The White Widow soon had me in a slightly paranoid dimension, with the full realization of being in a foreign country with no knowledge of the prevalent language setting in. I was afraid to be put in a position to order lunch even. I was hungry, especially after the frustrating baggage-loaded power walk up and down Scheidelstraat.
The Euro disco sounds finally hit the speakers after some soppy, pop opera ballad. A mother came in and made her little pigtailed girl wait at the top of the carpeted ramp. She ordered something to smoke. Her daughter started coughing on my smoke. She looked like a little warlock up there. I felt guilty. It was time to return my espresso cup and leave.
Back out onto the neighborhood streets in perfect afternoon weather, I stumbled by sheer accident upon the raging, open air Albert Cupystraat Market. A serious farmer's market, complete with meat, fish and artisan cheese purveyors, where they slice those massive rounds of Gouda of all ages right on the street. I didn't envy the men at the fish booth. Thugged out swans of sorts were waddling and viciously lunging at them and their products on hand.
I bought three cheeses from a man who clearly wasn't too into America, plus some pesto marinated olives that I forgot later at the Wijn bar at Rustenburgerstraat after sipping on an oxidized Albariño with hot, well dressed women on all sides of me with a collective disinterest in this solo traveler. I wearily strolled back to Bed and Coffee with a wine glass I bought from the liquor department guy at Albert Heinz for a Euro. He was really cool, asking where I was from and citing Robert Mondavi's recent death and apologizing about it. I noticed later that there were lipstick marks on the sucker and a bit of red residue. The bottle I picked up from him was a 2003 Cairanne Grand Reserve Rouge, certain to rock with the three cheeses and the bread I picked up. If I kept up a dietary agenda like this all week Alexandra better have a plunger handy.
With no signs of the woman of the house, I lurked into Bed and Coffee and got into my room undetected. She’d certainly made it clear that morning that I was not only a guest but on her snowy-snouted agenda. I set up the cheese and wine spread on my little table and attempted to work on a book-in-progress, but as is often the case I picked up an unsecured wireless signal. I snacked and uploaded pics I took of the cheese stand at the Albert Cupystraat Market, and the ceremonial first night feast arrangements too.
I smoked the rest of the White Widow and agreed: Today coffeeshop has the line on a great grower of that strain. To beat the jet lag beast, I found it was best to push through as late as possible on night one in Europe, until at least 9 PM, to condition you for the next day. So I walked across the street with my diary to Ocean Coffeeshop and asked the guy for an espresso.
“Just a coffee then?” he double checked with me.
He helped a working class black woman next to me with her order of a heavy slice of one of the seven hashes on the menu. The guy sliced it like a shimmering chocolate cake! Then he rushed over to the espresso machine and rocked me out an Americano. An older teacher type woman was quietly at the bar with a burned-out cone blunt between the same fingers that gripped her cup of tea. The soundtrack from the classic Jamaican film “Rockers” seemed to be playing. There was a buzz about Lee “Scratch” Perry being in town to play the next night at the Melkweg. Again I found myself in A'dam alone with a great show I ought to go to and probably wouldn’t. I ordered the NYC Diesel for 11 Euro and smoked more of the White Widow to pair with that cup of bitter coffee.
Sometime around three in the morning, I heard a tapping on my door. Even at my age, I chilled up into a massive goosebump. My mind was flooded with scenarios and touristy terror. What the fuck? Who was out there? Alexandra? Light footsteps followed a couple minutes afterward but I didn't hear a door close. It took a few heavy puffs and my earphones to fall back asleep.