By Paul McGuire © 2006
During my first trip to Amsterdam in the mid-1990s, I spent less than a week in the magical city as I filled up a small notebook with notes, thoughts, memories, and priceless quotes from Senor.
On my most recent trip, my notes were barely seven pages in total... not including one page that listed all the strains of marijuana I smoked, one page that itemized the majority of my daily purchases, and another that I used as a scorecard for my heads up Chinese Poker matches against Nicky. That left only four pages of actual notes that were peppered with three and four word entries like, "1:58pm... I thought I lost the hash."
Although I have a camera with video capabilities, I didn't snap a ton of photos. My focus and objective for the trip was more on living in the moment that trying to record what had been happening as I found myself in the middle of a well-welcomed phase of "Live now, write later."
My first meal of the day had been pretty much the same thing for the entire trip. Nicky and I would wake up around noon before heading over to the French bakery off the Damrak. We'd pick up baguette sandwiches and eat them while sitting on benches in Dam Square. We'd made fun of the street performers and shooed away the pigeons that swarmed at our feet as they nibbled at flakes and crumbs that fell to the stone plaza ground.
For about 9 Euros, I purchased the equivalent of a two-foot long sub, except the sandwich is an inch or two shorter on a freshly baked baguette with a couple of slices of ham, salami, and two kinds of cheese... Dutch kaas and French brie. You can order it with Dutch mayonnaise or French mustard (more of a dijonnaise). Sometimes I opted for a chocolate croissant as a dessert, which melted in your mouth. I could not think of a better combination of sweet and smooth Dutch chocolate baked into crispy croissants.
I had a hectic fifteen minute stretch at the Bulldog when I smoked too much Silver Haze as a Paris Hilton song played on the stereo. I freaked out when I thought I lost a baggie of hash I carried in my jacket pocket. I didn't care about the bag or the monetary cost of the lost drugs. I was worried that if I misplaced it then the hunk would end up in the pocket of my jeans or in a different pocket and I'd unknowingly take it home with me and get busted at a security checkpoint or in customs while sweating my ass off like Billy Hayes in the airport raid scene from Midnight Express who had several kilos of hash duct taped to his ball sac.
I finally found the Grey Area in the lower Jordaan district, tucked away on a side street. Grey Area is owned by two Americans and my brother went there a few years ago. It's a tiny tiny tiny coffee shop with a few stools and three small tables painted in a funky array of colors. There was never any space to sit because the place was always crowded no matter what time of day. The crowd was mostly Americans, but there were plenty of potheads from other countries wandering in to buy hash and bud.
The walls were splattered with various stickers from jambands like Widespread Panic and String Cheese Incident, along with a cool Phish poster plugging their gig at the Paradiso in 1996. The second time we went to the Grey Area, a sketchy looking Asian gangster guy was passed out at one of the tables. He looked like he was riding the H train and kept nodding in and out of consciousness.
Some of the best bud I smoked in Amsterdam was the Grey Haze which you can only get at the Grey Area. It wasn't the most expensive at 10 Euros per gram, but it sure was the best high. One bowl got the always-stoned Nicky super baked.
In the late afternoons after smoking tough in hashbars all day, we'd succumb to the munchies and were unable to ward off their advances. We'd find something sweet like a chocolate croissant or chocolate covered waffles to devour. There are two things of which there is an abundance in Amsterdam: chocolate and cheese. Mostly everything has either of the two food items incorporated into it. I also dug the Belgium fries or frites with mayonnaise, of which I can eat an entire serving in less than three minutes.
For dinner one night, Nicky craved Italian food and we stumbled into a random joint. She ordered tortellini with a four cheese creamy sauce while I feasted on pasta with arrabiata sauce that was so spicy that my bald spot became devastatingly drenched with sweat like the Ninth Ward in New Orleans was flooded after Katrina hit.
Paul McGuire is a writer from New York City.