December 15, 2006


By Paul McGuire © 2006

I didn't sleep much the night before. I spent those insomnia-driven hours between 4 and 6 AM playing online poker and writing from the desk in our room at The Victoria. I eventually passed out around sunrise, which is, like, close to 8 AM in Holland.

I woke up starving a few hours later after smoking myself sober for the first time in days. Nicky and I headed out to Dam Square to take part in what had become our daily ritual. We bought kaas sandwiches on baguettes and a chocolate croissant at the French bakery and sat on benches in Dam Square warding off the attacks of hungry pigeons and watched all the other tourists mingling around. Like everything European, even the pigeons in Amsterdam seemed way more sophisticated and cooler than their American counterparts.

We had no set plan for that Thursday. We spent the better part of Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday afternoons around the Southern Canal belt over by the museums and Leiseplein Square. We had already visited the main attractions: the Heineken Brewery, the Rijks Museum, and the Van Gogh Museum and were not interested in the Anne Frank House, which I had seen twice before. That left the entire day free... and the best activity I could come up with was, "Hey, let's go to ten hash bars today."

Nicky shrugged her shoulders and motioned, "OK."

I didn't think we'd actually do it and when the night was over, we'd go to twelve in all. Twelve hash bars in twelve hours? I'm glad I did that because records are meant to be broken. The intent of the plan was to visit different coffee shops that we skipped on this trip or that I had never been to before.

12:15 PM Abraxas

One of those new places was Abraxas, located just steps away from Dam Square. I went there on my second trip to Amsterdam and got lost trying to find it after that. And it's not easy to find, hidden off a twisting alley on Jonge Roelensteeg Street which was tough to pin point even with the help of Google's maps.

Maybe it was because I was dead sober or perhaps it was luck, but we found Abraxas and walked inside as the sliding glass doors opened in front of us and the aroma of pungent marijuana instantly greeted me.

Abraxas is a two story coffee shop that consists of several smaller themed rooms. The first room that you walk into is a lounge area with the weed counter close by. I purchased one gram of the Kushage for 10 euros while Nicky went into the next room to buy drinks at the bar. The bar room also had a few computers so it doubled as an internet cafe.

After Nicky paid for our drinks (coffee and hot chocolate), we wandered up one of two sets of spiral staircases that were located on opposite ends of Abraxas. We settled on the Turkish themed room with colorful couches and benches.

When you walk into a hash bar in Amsterdam, you'll almost always meet other American potheads. Not that time. The room was filled with Europeans getting hammered. The Greek guys next to us rolled a joint the size of John Holmes' crank. They never finished it. The table across from us had two Swedish girls who couldn't stop giggling the entire time. And a Euro-wookie with newly formed dreads sat by himself while he rolled two joints mixed with tobacco, hashish, and weed.

1:20 PM Grey Area

Our second stop was the Grey Area, which had become one of my favorite coffee shops because of their house strain called Grey Haze. That instance I wanted to try the Recon, which sold for 12 euros for one gram compared to 10 euros for the Grey Haze. The Recon is a hybrid of the L.A. Confidential Strain and something else (I forgot the name). It had a sweet taste and a stoney high, but it wasn't as good as Grey Haze.

During our previous visits to Grey Area, I had to stand while Nicky took the only remaining stool by the wall of stickers. More good luck came our way when the corner table opened up. There were only three tables in the tiny hash bar. The entire operation could fit inside the bathroom in one of the suites at the Bellagio.

Two American wookies sat at the table next to us. One was a young guy and the other was a little older and looked like Lou Reed circa 1977, except with dreads. They kept taking bong hits. Since Grey Area is owned by Americans, several glass bongs were on hand for bong-centric Americans.

The other table opened up and a fat guy from Staten Island and his wife lumbered in. He looked like an extra from The Sopranos. Imagine Big Pussy walking into a hash bar in Amsterdam, with some bling dangling off his neck and wearing a black leather jacket. He bought something at the counter and packed a bowl in one of the bongs. He took two quick hits before he got up and brought the bong back to the counter with about 75% left of that bowl still fresh and green. Then he left.

We stayed at Grey Area a long time because we had prime seats. When we finally left, we wandered through the quaint and quiet Jordaan neighborhood, parts of which reminded me of the West Village in NYC. Those empty streets were free of tourists and I got a glimpse of the subtler and serene side of Amsterdam. I snapped several pics of houseboats, trees, and slanty buildings before I glimpsed at the map to navigate our way back towards Central Station.

2:30 PM Pink Floyd

We turned a corner and stood right in front of the Pink Floyd. My shortcut worked thanks to the accurate street map I bought last year. We had plenty of weed to smoke but were almost out of hash. The Pink Floyd was the home my favorite hash... Umma Gumma. Ironically, it was the only Pink Floyd album that I never bought on vinyl, cassette tape, CD, or on iTunes.

With Umma Gumma in hand, we went up to the third story. We visited Pink Floyd everyday and always hung out downstairs. I opted for the third floor to mix things up. The second floor overlooked the bar downstairs and had a couple of huge couches and an area with a computer station. The third floor consisted of six tables and two couches by the windows. We snapped more photos of the street. I took what ended up being my favorite picture of the entire trip and one of the Top 10 photographs in my life.

What's great about it is that the average person will think it's ordinary and nothing special... which is why I love it even more.

We continued our marathon game of Chinese Poker and I fell behind early when Nicky scooped two hands in a row and took a 8-1 lead. I came from behind to lose the session by only one point as we smoked tough and dented the hunk of Umma Gumma that I had bought an hour earlier.

3:50 PM Doors

The Doors was one of those places we skipped every time we walked by. I did not intend on going but when we saw it on the corner, Nicky said, "Hey, let's stop by there."

The Doors reminded me of a dive bar in Seattle with hardwood floors and an actual bar that is almost a hundred years old. A group of Brits sat at the big table in the front sipping on beers and cokes while we sat down at two empty spaces at the end of the bar. We didn't buy any smoke there and settled upon two pints of Heineken for 7 euros.

An old blackboard behind the bar doubled as a menu. In pink and blue chalk, they listed all the drinks and their prices. I chuckled when I saw, "Whiskey (Good) 3.50" and "Whiskey (Better) 4.00." Yeah, for 3.50 you can get Jack Daniels and for fifty cents more you can get Johnnie Walker. They did have a tap of SoCo ready for AlCantHang's next arrival.

Nicky was fascinated with MTV that played on the small screen above the bar. She watched an entire episode of Yo Momma with Dutch sub titles while I rolled a joint mixed with Umma that we smoked at 4:20.

4:30 PM Pablow Picasso

We got our friend Pablo a souvenir at Pablow Picasso. And no... it was not hash or weed. Picasso was another one of those hash bars we'd walked past a dozen times and never went inside. I'm glad we did because I enjoyed the relaxed vibe of the place.

The Dutch guy who worked the counter wore a ruffled purple shirt ala Austin Powers. He bowed to us before he took our order. I wanted the house bud, Picasso, but they were virtually out of it... with only some shake remaining. That was fine since I wanted to roll joints. We wandered up to the second floor which had several tables with chess and backgammon boards embedded into the tables.

I bought enough shake to roll two fatties. A middle-aged French couple sat at the table next to us and they smoked hash while we played another round of Chinese Poker. Someone's dog ran up the stairs and hung out by our table for a while and would disappear and reappear sometime after.

A long-haired American at an adjacent table and talked shit about politics. The other American at the table didn't care and seemed like he was just placating the guy who ranted on and on about the latest election results. He then proceeded to tell the guy about his idea for a comic book involving demons and ghost hunters. That's when I guessed correctly that he was older than me, living in his mother's basement, and flew to Amsterdam to get high and bang a few hookers during his vacation.

7:05 PM 420 Cafe

With five hash bars out of the way, we took an hour off to find food. After our break (I ate fries with Dutch mayo and a half baguette sandwich), we went right to Nicky's favorite spot, the 420 Cafe. They serve liquor there and have SoCo. The 420 Cafe is an Amstel bar which means no Heineken. It doesn't matter which beer they have... the Heineken and Amstel out of the tap taste much better overseas.

My favorite hot Dutch bartender worked behind the bar as we walked past her on our way to the back counter to buy one gram of the NYC Super Diesel for 10 euros. I went to the bar and bought a round of Amstels while Nicky waited for a vaporized balloon, a cool contraption where they hook up a big baggie to a vaporizer. All the smoke inflates the balloon and you inhale from the end of it. Because it was vaporized, the smoke is much purer and you get higher than usual.

A group of American kids sat at the table in the back and they talked about how much better the coffee is in Europe. The stuff we'd get for 1.50 euros in hash bars was better than the stuff you get at Starbucks.

7:45 PM Dampkring

The Dampkring was always a popular hash bar that grew even more famous after Soderberg shot a portion of Ocean's Twelve inside which included the hilarious scene with George Clooney, Brad Pitt, and Matt Damon. Because of the new found popularity, the place was swamped.

We couldn't find a seat and stood in the middle of the Dampkring. I bought another gram of Buddha's Sister which only cost me 9 Euros. Aside from the Grey Haze and NYC Diesel, my other favorite strain was Buddha's Sister. We smoked a bowl in the middle of the bar while several flat screen TV's played the Dampkring Scene from Ocean's Twelve on a loop.

8:10 PM Bulldog

We quickly left the Dampkring because of lack of seats although I wanted to stay. We headed back to the Bulldog to play more Chinese Poker. A group of older Americans sat next to us. Two of them were a forty-something married couple who had not smoked up since 1989. I listened to parts of their conversation and figured out that she was a college professor of sorts. The hash hit her hard and she kept singing along to the music playing in the background.

"Oh my, Prince! I haven't heard Raspberry Beret in years!" she screamed.

We spent over an hour at the Bulldog before we exited and eyed Haagen Dazs, which is actually not a European ice cream like you think. It was invented by a guy from the Bronx in 1961 and they employed foreign branding tactics to market the high end ice cream. Sorry for that odd tangent... I ordered two scoops of Belgium chocolate and I nearly had an orgasm by the second bite. Get the Belgium chocolate overseas. You won't be disappointed.

We sat in front of the ice cream shop and watched the late night scene unfold before we walked around Leiseplein for a bit. We almost went into a bar with live music, but the fiddle sounds scared Nicky.

9:45 PM Rokerij

Rokerij is a popular hash bar chain. I went once and but hadn't been back to the main one since because I couldn't find it. A newer franchise sat next to the Doors but we skipped it. We stumbled upon the original hash bar on Leidsestraat Street by sheer accident and were happy we did.

The weed counter is the first thing you see when you walk inside the place designed to look like a temple out of the far east. I bought one gram of Sour Diesel. Showcase gets that stuff in Hollyweird from his medicinal marijuana source and it's a high quality buzz. We eventually found seats at the bar and I ordered more beer while I rolled a joint.

The bar is long and dark with a DJ mixing delicious tunes in the back room. The floor is covered in mosaic tiles with Hindu and Nepali artwork adorning all the walls. There are tiny stools to sit on near the floor and tables with chairs along the wall that runs parallel to the bar.

The Rokerij was the party place out of all the hash bars we visited that night and packed with travelers, tourists, locals, and wookies. Maybe I was super wasted at that point, but with all the random and odd characters mingling around, the Rokerij reminded me of the Cantina Bar in Star Wars IV. The only thing missing was Greedo's dead body slumped on a table in the corner.

Because the scene at Rokerij was hopping, we stayed a little longer. Plus they played the best music (aside form Pink Floyd when they actually played Pink Floyd) and it was difficult to leave the warmth of the place. I joked around with Nicky that some of the bands that we like to see such as Particle, STS9, and Lotus are bands trying to replicate those same beats using a live band instead of a DJ with a mixing table.

11:15 PM La Canna

The hoods had invaded La Canna and every night they take over the top floor of the three story coffee shop. There are pool tables up there and the entire place was packed with lots of Dutch immigrants from West Africa. We weren't getting a good vibe from the place and got away with sitting down and not ordering any drinks. La Canna is more pricey than the rest of the places we hung out at.

We didn't buy any bud there either since the smallest amount you could buy was 20 euros worth. We smoked the rest of the Buddha's Sister and the Umma Gumma before we made a quick exit. We saw one guy who was getting in a fight in front of La Canna on our way out.

11:35 PM Kroon

With ten hash bars in the record books, we wandered into Kroon, the first coffee shop we visited upon our arrival almost a week earlier. We had not been back since and the stoned cat still slept on the counter.

I bought 1.4 grams of AK-47 for 14 euros and we rolled a couple of joints. By that time, we were both exhausted from all the walking and smoking and our colorful conversations died down to next to nothing as we listened to the gangster rap that blasted on the speakers.

12:05 AM Kadinsky

The twelfth and final hash bar ended up being a tiny coffee shop called Kadinsky located in an alley off of Dam Square. I wanted to go because it's named after one of my favorite painters, Kandinsky. Their sister store is a much larger bar just across the alley. We sat in one of the smallest hash bars in Amsterdam. Yes, there was an place actually smaller than the Grey Area.

I bought the Kadinsky Special which was one gram for 7.20 euros. I rolled up a joint and we were the only people inside. We sat up front by the window and watched the people walking by in the alley.

By the time we stumbled out of Kadinsky, it was way past midnight. I suggested more hash bars and Nicky insisted that she was done for the night. On our way back to the Victoria Hotel, I stopped off at McDonald's and ate a McBacon which cost only 2 Euros. McBacons are the perfect late night Euro-stoner food.

Paul McGuire is a writer from New York City.

No comments: