March 5, 2016
Arrived in Amsterdam in a sleet storm, stood waiting for the shuttle into town. Rode the plane with a man named Herman from Chattanooga, who is going to Romania to help at a rural mission his church has adopted. When I got to town, the sleet changed to thick wet snow, and Amsterdam was quite beautiful, and quite watery, ringed by canals, dark water lying in the streets, pale water drifting from the skies. The Dutch are freakishly tall, elongated Dutchmen stilting about beside the gray waters. Annihilated as I was from the flight, I had six hours to kill before I could check into my room. Luckily, the Rijksmuseum is one block away, so thither I turned my steps, to the jewel-like Netherlandish paintings which represent one moment of perfection, a road which goes no further, and from which, therefore, future roads must diverge. It made me consider perfection in art, the sad and glorious moment when there is nothing more to be said, for a while, on that subject. Left the Rijks and wandered into the snowy Old City with its concentricities of canals. Ate bad salad, drank good wine, returned to the hotel lobby, where I fell asleep, and in the midst of which sleep Sam found me.
We took a canal boat on a tour, where we met Karen and Rhonda from London, and where I saw a swan floating on the water. We photographed one another as though we were celebrities. Got off the boat near Dam Square, where we wandered, tourist-like. Sam knows the city pretty well, so before long we found ourselves in the Red Light district, where we desired to be. We toured the Erotica Museum. We sat at an outdoor café (the weather by then having become bearable) and drank Amstel and ate, “space cake,” a chocolate muffin laced with marijuana. It is a quarter dedicated to sin, but it is so open and playful that the overall effect is rather sweet. By the time we got to the Nam Key Chinese restaurant, I was feeling the effect of the magic muffin, the stretching of time, the disorientation, the feeling that everything is approaching from a great distance. It had been thirty years since I had weed, and I remembered what I learned then, that I don’t like it. But, those experiences were had, Amsterdam officially visited.
Sam said he got his own hostel instead of staying with me because he didn’t know if I would want to bring home one of the whores or not. None of last night would have happened without him. He is the easiest and happiest of companions. At one point last night—maybe due to the actions of the weed—he stopped being “Sam” to me and started being “thou.” There are something more than 40 years between us, something he must have noted when I limped and coughed and needed, finally, to go home.