The last night in Amsterdam. Dan has a friend that’s been here for several weeks and hanging out with some touring crew. We meet up with them by the hotel they’re staying at, the bar is closing down so we down one bear. They talk about the head shops and I tell them about the edibles we had taken, the guys graciously offer me the magic truffles they purchased, a handful of which I throw in my mouth. Tastes like dirt.
We then roam around to find a local bar that’s still open, finds a place in the alley that seems hoppin' and walk in. It looks kinda like that Circus Circus scene from "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas." Acid vibe is further enhanced with the music selection by a DJ that stands 10ft above everyone on this tiny booth, swapping vinyls and putting up the "Now Playing" in a methodical manner. Seems serious. Then comes a round of shots, followed "Waiting For An Alibi" by Thin Lizzy blasting off the speakers like an alarm that shit's about to go the fuck down. Of course me and Danimal proceed to go berserk. Then I turn around and find a tall lanky air-guitarist with a Slayer T-shirt on, just going off three times as hard as we are. Danimal proceed to air-guitar battle with him for a few sec, we chuckle and raise our glasses.
He says his name is Thomas and is literally from this neighborhood, a rare breed that's becoming even rarer as I'm sure in any major city you can think of. He's been coming to this bar, which he calls "The Drain" (because all the drunks that close out the nearby bars end up in here) listening to this particular DJ for all his adult life. Says I'm the first Asian person that he got to talk to, then proceeds to basically tell me how Amsterdamers do; like he might not walk straight when he's piss drunk but can ride a bicycle better even when he passes out on the handle. Or that when you go up to a bartender in a place like this, don't bother asking for a specific brand, just tell them "get me a beer," they'll figure out what to do. Or, how they don't really care what others do; if I don't dig what you do I just walk away and go about my day. No need to get upset. If you dig what I do, come join me and have a beer.
Nothing special, anything that any decent humans would do. Yet, many drunkards fail to stick to it, especially visitors.
This could be said about all the cities I’ve visited; if you see a dumb drunk, most likely s/he’s a tourist. Especially in Amsterdam, most locals (that I could tell) enjoy their drinks without being douchey, probably because the reputation and stereotype of the city brings in those who come for escapism and ignore that these places are homes to many, and just trash. Thinking we're only here for a week. Japanese, used to be known for their misbehavours back in 80s when they started to explore the world, have the phrase "Drop your shame when traveling" which basically is their What Happens in Vegas... quote. If you know anything about Japanese and their shame, this hits hard. #zerofucksgiven in its worst form.
Back to Thomas. Just when we establish this, "my" group decides to change scenery. We ask Thomas to come along, so we stroll onto the late night streets. Mostly quiet, until we run into some commotion; an ambulance, big crowd and a few motorbikes storm out of the scene. Girls in short skirts yelling in English. Keep walking, then we see a club with a Hollywood-style huge line. I hear that bass. Might be Despacito or Tiesto, I don't remember. Guess we were trying to get in here but of course at this point no one wants to engage in something that looks and sounds too familiar, so we decide to head back to the hotel and hang there. Thomas grabs me and asks if we, as in me and Dan want to come to his place where he has a bottle of vodka. Alas, by then Danimal is already inside the fancy hotel lobby chatting up with the crew ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
We add each other on the Book of Faces, and bid farewell.
Once inside the hotel room, tight but nice and with a window out to the alley, they put on some tunes and start rolling joints. Probably too loud for the neighborhood at 5am, especially with the windows open, and just when I pop my head out, the employees down in the alley look up. They ask not only to turn down, but also not to smoke inside the room. I pass the message but the crew proceeds. Then the phone rings. One of the girls answers and, very politely, deny that we have been smoking. She promises we will not. Never. Hangs up, proceeds to puff away.
I have to talk about the best glass of beer i had in my entire life. Place; Forcheim, Germany (Franconia) http://www.gasthaus-eichhorn.de/
The wedding party and I walk into a local restaurant that up until then had 3 locals playing cards in one booth. The mistake i made was not ordering their pork knuckle since I had just come out of a 3-week-voice-rest-plus-cleanse, and i was dumb. The blessing was that the first sip of their "dark" which of course they brew themselves - a sip that leaves you absolutely speechless. Speechless. it's the kind you do a double take and examine the glass in your hand. That feeling you know you're never gonna get and kinda ruins beer drinking unless it is THAT.
Of course I still keep drinking beer, but with the knowledge that it's just not the same. Guinness my blood, the only beer i allow myself to drink in the states, has been ruined since the night in Munich which will be discussed in a latter post. Have not made it to Dublin, yet I learn that what we get home is not the best it could be. Danimal says it's the quality of tap itself and the actual technique of pouring. I need to get to Dublin. I'll make it to Bali and hopefully to Hyesan, but Dublin is a must.
Some generalizations are made in the following text, feedback/insights are welcome but don’t be offended ;)
You think Germans drink beer like it’s water, which they do, but it doesn’t mean that they get wasted all the time. Considering the amount and frequency they consume, the number of drunken assholes spotted is next to none. When I say they’re serious about drinking, it’s the attitude. They don't lose control, which seems to be the point of drinking for some. The quantity is definitely serious as well, but not everyone drinks like Bavarians who almost seems to have their pride on the line to finish your stein as large as your torso. "Don't even bother with a smaller glass, what is wrong with you?" Bavarian beer definitely tasted better than other German cities, except for Forcheim. Let the battle of Franconia vs Bavaria begin.
German beer is pretty diverse in flavors, especially considering the Reinheitsgebot; by law, you cannot mix anything other than water, malted barley, hops and yeast. The flavors tend to be very vivid without being eager to stand out, or dare I say, loud. and CHEAP. Since they hate giving you tap water for a drink at any meal, you're given the choice of paying the same amount for either (sparkling) water or beer. and they come in beautiful tall glasses of varied shapes.
Now, Amsterdam beer culture has its own style which suits me better, giving people a smaller potion when requested to maintain the cold beer temperature for the time of consumption. They also pour straight down to a glass and cut the foam by the knife, or schuimmes, foam cutter, beer comb etc, further helping the speedy service. May not be as economical, but #zerofucksgiven As far as I can tell, most places serve either Heineken, Amstel or Grolsch on tap and not much else (given that we only went to older establishments) but almost always have an espresso machine. Same in Paris. I did double-fist a double espresso and a heineken at one joint if I recall.
While dubbed an "European Budweiser" by some true europeans i've met here, Heineken here is not to be fucked with by Dennis Hopper and/or Pabst Blue Ribbon. Fuck THAT shit.
The very first café that Danimal and I hit in Amsterdam was Karpershoek, established in 1606 as a guest house for the crew of the ships of the Dutch East-Indian Company. Let that sink in for a bit; the bar was here before the Unites States existed, hosting deckhands that just got off a 2-year voyage from East Indies carrying spices. Located right in front of the Centraal, it’s a tourist magnet yet never jam-packed inside as they tend to prefer the patio seating. It became our reset button every day, to sit in a wooden chair in a dimly-lit room, low ceiling, sipping a cold one with some old school R&B disco in the background (assuming it’s bartenders’ Pandora) comfortably separating ourselves from the craziness of outside.
Amsterdamers seem to have more relaxed approach to drinking, much like how they are in general compared to their siblings to the east. Dutch are kinda like Germans that smoke weed. Thomas Amsterdamer Manfiesto applies here as well; you do you and I do me. You wanna drink in a smaller glass? Sure, no one like a warm beer. I know you're visiting from somewhere, just pay for it and be a decent human, that's all we need to be cordial here. Long as you chill, the others also will. So we remained chill, some bartenders openly discussed with us their dislikes for tourists, including the ones that she just served a minute ago in front of us. Some douchebag from New Jersey replied to one of her comments by saying "I don't wanna hear about your stupid boyfriend" etc, so she proceeded to tend to her job, opening the hatch on the floor and disappearing into the storage right underneath where she stood. #DoubleTake The whole time we talked about the tourism which has been exploding in the recent years, none of the locals seemed hateful or overly emotional, almost like ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ because that's how it is now. As long as they keep dropping money without destroying the city, they just do them and we do us.
I guess we have to talk about Thomas here. Next post.
Soundchaser/two-time Independent Music Awards finalist. New EP "Six Songs from Insomnia" is out on all major streaming platforms.