In the Port of Amsterdam – Part 2

We woke up surprisingly early that morning, emptied our stomachs and chewed on magic mushrooms while trying to find the elusive Vondel Park. Occasionally, the Indian man would speak up and ask, “Where’s Morris?”: I think he was talking about Sean, our conversations with him the night before were still floating in our minds as the psychedelia kicked in. I was a bit breathless from the shrooms, the man at the head shop said they called the strain “Atlantis” in some distant land. Did they have anything to do with the lost, sunken hopes and dreams of a mythical city? Probably not, but they sat nice and cosy in quiet peace in the small, plastic box they came in. I finished a bit over half of my serving, the Englishman a bit more, and the Indian the whole. We felt intense, and hid in the closest coffee shop we could find. I cotched by the window, and felt content as the walls started breathing and a Moroccan man rambled on about real hashish – black, rock hard nuggets, gold shat out by gods for men’s general consumption. The Indian went up to the toilet and puked half his serving out within the space of five minutes. His face was of immense sadness as he came back down and sat beside us. We comforted him and bought the strongest hash there, Crystal Gold, which we rolled into three decent joints. We never got to finish those joints, I remember the great wanting for a pair of sunglasses – anything to cover up the deep soulless pits of black cresting within my eyes. Mushroom highs are indescribable; you can’t really describe confusion (although a certain Indian man I know probably could). But a bit of imagination never hurts, so try to imagine the total utter dissembling of the human brain – from the little instincts hiding in your reptilian core to the outer reaches of reason lurking in your modern cerebrum. The psilocybin dumps you headfirst into a sea of chaos while you try, desperately, to reason out who you are, where you are and what could have convinced you to decide to take this soul-piercing, gut-wrenching drug in the first place. I remember (there isn’t much I actually do from that weird, weird adventure) a small, Rasta café by a lovely bridge over an equally as lovely canal, and rolling weird cigarettes that looked big, monstrous, even frightening. We sat down by the front and talked garbage for what felt like a worthless eternity. I saw a young Dutch man who looked like Matt Damon cycle by, whizzing about in his purple trench coat – I waved and greeted him but he didn’t reply, I guess he was heading for something big. Two middle-aged women stopped by the bookstore sitting on our left to comment about its contents in their lively mid-west American accents (something along the lines of, “Hey, *Random Pseudo-intellectual term*! That’s a nice read!”). The Englishman took this opportunity to give them the thumbs up, “Yeah it is, you should really check it out!” “Yeah!” And they just walked by, and ignored the waffling of the queer, mad-cap Englishman and his two odd companions. Then, more Dutch girls on bicycles, blonde, blue eyed, heads raised high in indifference – and a team of Arabic men fresh off a plane from some desert I would probably never visit, conversing in a language I would never grasp. The Indian man disappeared, and came back with a drink and a herb cake: the Englishman joined him in devouring these, while I sat there still, utterly still, trapped on some other level of madness – grasping at concepts that slipped through my fingers like jelly. Supercalifragefuckinglisticexpliadocious. Eventually, the scene grew too extreme for us, and we retreated into that café. By then, the high was peaking, and everything seemed so new, playful, exciting – almost childlike. We sat down in a small booth right at the back where I saw a shifting tree painted on the wall: I watched it closely as its branches drooped lower and lower and spilled onto the floor in a motley palette of various shades of sound green and deep brown. The music was roaring above us, songs of freedom – chill, upbeat tracks from every long-haired, blunt-smoking, free-loving Rasta who has ever lived. I tried to relate it all to Shakespeare, and the meaning of life, but my Indian friend upset my flow of thought, nudging at me like an eager child, laughing at jokes that I’ll never truly get, but chuckle along to anyway. A man from the West Indies rolled and smoked a joint so coolly, so casually it looked like he’d been doing the same day to day, minute by content minute, for his entire life (and the lives before that as well). He owned the place, and got us great tea while keeping up a huge grin that spoke, “Hey it’s chill now guys,” it said, “you’re safe here”. He didn’t say much himself, but put on the football and smoked his heart away. He gazed off into the distance, probably dazing bout’ days spent wading in warm surf and sprinting fast along the sun-scorched shores, feeling the heat from the tropical sand trapped between his brown toes. The trip was booming and sweet psychedelia ran static through my nerves. My eyes couldn’t settle on how to respond, and threw my vision around in a bewildered, curious look – lids wide, mouth hanging silly. The Englishman laughed a lot, mostly at himself and melted well into the couch, his pupils shrinking and growing at their own whim and fancy. After a bout of incoherent babbling, we decided not to wait an hour and a half for the football match but to move on, and try to find Vondel Park (but wasn’t that the place we were heading for in the first place?). FOUR We walked over a bridge, and saw a church shining in the distant green; the Englishman waved and laughed as a gaggle of girls on yellow bikes rode by. The floor was leaping and bounding, but the stones felt solid under my boots. By now, the whole purpose, the entire spiritual destination, Vondel Park, had turned into fine ash in the wind. We ran, and hid in a coffee shop at a base of a tall, overhanging imposing block of tidy Dutch apartments and ordered tea while smoking and chatting absolute shit amid the silence and darkness of a basement room. There was a window, and light shining from it, and feet darting to and fro outside. It looked religious, the light, shining on the chalky surface of the floor – it reminded me of God, and bible classes, and a talk I had with my mum after my first Confession. The time I felt free in the absence of repressive sin, And I told my mother, “Today, at school, A Brother came and spoke about God and faith And saints and gates…” It all seemed so lovely, so ideal That my gut flipped, and my mind felt it real And when he asked me, “Who will join the faith?” I cried out, “Me, me! Me and the indomitable self; The man, the boy, the budding dream – And every spark or flame I’ll ever be. My mum smiled, she ain’t Roman, she’s free (Though in her heart lies a faith that let’s God be) She never spent Sundays Listening to faith preach fear to youth (Shapeless minds served on sacred trays) She never spent April nights holding candles to a dead god And her Decembers fasting and praying. She never found it odd – The world, its gods and catholic sayings She smiled at me and said, “Son, there is more To in life that robes of green and gold, purple and red And days reading scripture, rolling in bed. Be everything but a priest Be a criminal instead Be anything you want Be a cat, wear a fleece But whatever you do and in all the things that you do, Be everything, but a priest. Or something along those lines. Everything eventually evened out, we left that dungeon and laid ourselves down on a stone bench in a middle of a massive square and listened to the cries of children, the giggling of girls, the discourse of lovers: listening, as clouds moved in unison – sailing across the Atlantis Summer sky. A giant shadow passed overhead, it belonged to an unbelievably tall stunning Dutch native Goddess with large, uncaring sunglasses and a headful of long, straight blonde hair that, if harvested and auctioned off as a wig, would have every bareheaded mademoiselle, every skin-head Bellisima, every bald lady of Europe biting at their wallets and selling their furniture for a chance at those fad locks of divine gold. She looked straight into the Englishman’s eye (who was lounging, smoking cool in his sports jacket), Virginia Slim hanging stylishly off her lips. “Could I borrow your lighter?” She took it anyway, and puffed away like a chic 50s film star with starlight and mystery on her mind. The Englishman: “So, you from around here?” “Yes” (In her high-and-mighty Dutch chord) “It’s a great place!” “Haw haw! It’s funny you think that.” And she strode off classily, leaving the comment, snide, lingering in the air – gone in seconds: replaced by the life, the soul, the sounds of Amsterdam. We began to stumble, drained by the storms of moving images, trudging through thick mud. Almost like a drunken swagger, but not quite – it’s in the legs: thoughtful aimlessness, in contrast with alcoholic consumption. We found a pub, bought a few beers, smoked a few more blunts and stroke amble conversation with the bartender, whilst waiting for the football to kick off. The match started as the rain fell, the downpour emptied the streets and the crowd came flowing into the pubs. A middle-aged Dutch couple stood by the side in comfortable silence, a Canadian couple stood by the bar: they talked to the bartender, mostly. “Oh, Amsterdam’s nice… but there’s nothing like Vancouver.” Vancouver: white flakes of dew on grass, and bright, cheery Canuck girls rolling and playing in the frost, leaving angels in snow. I can’t even remember the countries playing that match, it was the UEFA cup qualifyers – hosted in Poland and Ukraine. I remember watching a documentary in the Englishman’s home in forest Epping : a documentary on racial violence raging amid the stands of football games. They had one clip where a group of white Aryan supremacists started raising their arms in Nazi salutes and even beat up some Indian kid who was cheering their team – what a nasty bunch. Anyway, the match bored me, the people were distant and my friends were awfully quiet – the Indian even started lending out his hand for a shake once in a while, just to show us he was still there. Patting the Englishman on the back, I shook his hand once more, threw on my hood and ventured out into the cold drizzle. FIVE I sit there, still, fingers clenched With a sugar topped cold tea in hand And beyond the chess table sitting before me Is the devil (His tea is bitter, he’s sweet enough) And an hourglass of sand He’s grown old, and grumpy And his beard is long, long as the day- He shivers in the darkness, and I see The history of suffering, The suffering of men Trapped, growing in those fraying strands of Grey Pawn takes pawn, the game begins, “How does it feel, playing on bone swings Being who you never were, who you’ve been – Who are you? Look me in the eye boy, Tell me who are the moguls And who are the Kings? King takes Bishop, and I dream of sad things, “Tell me, Son, how does youth fall, Does it make a sound – does it whine, does it worry? Cry, cry over the wrinkled, weary hands And the empty heads, They don’t feel, they don’t worry at all” Queen takes pawn, and the future seems endless, “And what, human, is evil In this Wasteland Where knowledge is bought On a computer And purpose is sought In heaps of barren sand? See, watch! Youth is lost to flashing screens: It falls, crashes, wailing – Singing hymns as it passes through time. But the songs feel empty, trailing Memories of old in its wake. Knight takes knight, and the dead draw close, They say they see things as they are They said – “What do you see, Cheshire – what do you see? Tell us, what do you see? Is it day or dream, To be or not to be? Hear, the cycle of the waves Touch, the tip of the horizon We’re asking you – How do you feel?” I feel like I’m in the schoolyard again, back against the wall, Head bruised, soul in pain, Ball put aside. Knight takes pawn, the end is nigh “Have you sold yourself yet, Have you starved yourself thin? Have you resolved yourself of your deepest fears and darkest sins? Show me now, let’s end this game, The mountains stretch far, The hills roll on and the fields have no end. Where will you hide?” “I will hide in the red of Desire And the blue of the aching sea I will hide in the sleeve of a cigarette – In walls washed with white, and with people, People who want and need and dance and sing Under hopeful stars and who never dream a commonplace thing.” Silence “Where is your God now then?” the devil said (He said as the hourglass bled) “Where is your God?” “In my head, devil…” I answered, simply, “In my head.” Checkmate. I jogged quickly in the rain and found a hotdog shop, where I bought one with mustard and ketchup and watched people run for cover. I finished it cleanly, and stood in the shelter, smoking a cigarette with an American girl waiting for the flood to pass. She kept a Cello on her back, spirals on her ears and her wits close to her head. She spared me a menthol straight (A Marlboro Menthol Light, the only menthol worth smoking) and I lit it there, letting each puff bring me closer back to silly adolescent memories of crouching in a basement storeroom, hiding from my parents – savouring every small wisp of smoke off that mint cigarette. “Nice piercing.” I think she was talking about mine. “Hey, thanks.” “Seen mine?” She showed me the stud on her tongue. (Vincent: Excuse me, I was just curious, but em… why do you wear a stud in your tongue?) (Jody: It’s a sex thing. It helps fellatio.) “Cool” “You should stretch yours larger.” “Really? It’s already quite big.” “Big? Pfft, I could stretch my tongue bigger than your ear.” “Hah!” And suddenly, the sun came out, and the rain went to bother somebody else; a piercing parlour came into view out of the fog. An idea popped up, and I said goodbye to the American girl and ran across the street. Inside, the range was enormous, but I knew what I wanted – a large, black spiral. I bought one from the old lady from behind the counter, and marched out of there with my head held high. I strolled back to the pub, the match had hit half-time, and my two friends were just beginning to realize I wasn’t there. They welcomed me back like the prodigal son and we ordered another round of pints, the Indian talked to the Bartender as he served us free popcorn and continued being a generally nice guy. The Indian started, “So, late last night, we were walking ‘round the streets, looking for a place to sit and smoke, and we came across this weird-looking bar by a canal-“ I remember that place. It’d hit the twilight hour, and the bars and coffee shops were starting to close- “And we stopped and looked and stared, and thought it quite cool, that pub. But we took two steps closer and whatyaknow, not a single girl to be seen! A bar with no women, a bar full of men – a gay bar, thank god we didn’t step in there!” The bartender seemed amused, and gave a strange smile in reply, “Well, that’s kinda funny you know, because you could call this a gay bar.” A state of intense puzzlement seized the Indian’s face – ‘huh? What? What do you mean?” “Well, because I’m gay, so, technically – you could call this a gay bar.”Facebooktwitter


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