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"The quiet was exhilarating. I felt at peace, unable to move from my
seclusion. For an hour, I sat there without seeing another soul. I had
viewed Amsterdam as a tourist; now I was seeing it as a late night resident.
Oddly, I liked the latter more. My wrong turn provided the greatest memory
of the entire trip."
- Nick Mistretta
Down and out in Amsterdam
I said my goodbye's to the girls and arranged to meet them the next day, then hopped the nearest train. The outer areas of Amsterdam are filled with wonderful neighborhoods, full of folksy cafes, bars and coffeehouses. I got off the train at Rembrandtsplein and wandered around. I stumbled upon two men playing chess. The board was painted on the ground, about 30 feet by 30 feet in dimension. The pieces were three feet tall and appeared cumbersome - providing a workout for both body and mind. I shook off the Alice in Wonderland feeling and parked myself on a barstool in the nearest pub.
I chatted up the cute Dutch girl pouring my Heine. But her shift soon ended and so did my stay. The area was socially subdued and short on misfits, so I jumped a train back to inner Gotham, or so I thought.
The numbability factor had exponentially increased over the past few hours rendering me both unintelligible and incapacitated. Translation: I was pretty well cooked. With eyes half open and head bobbing around, I fought the midnight hour with all my strength. I lost.
"Hey, excuse me. Hey!" That's when I woke up. "Where are you going," asked the woman standing above me. "Central Station," I replied while forcing myself back to reality. She told me to board the train next to us, and that would take me back to Amsterdam. "Back to Amsterdam?" I yelled.
I stood up noticing the train had emptied and walked into the pitch-black night. The conductor of my new train looked upon my bewilderment with amusement. I sat there by myself, while the two drivers talked outside. Not a city light could be seen anywhere in the distance. Once again, I faded into deep sleep. When I awoke this time, the train was again bustling with passengers. To my amazement, the next stop was Central Station.
I wandered around the red light district a while, trying to lure my brain out of its doldrums. Many girls were dancing in the windows of soft blue light, enticing the men for a late-night rendezvous. Coupons are actually printed and distributed for such activity.
The district attracts an interesting ensemble of shady characters. Each turn of a corner amazes slightly more than the last. And then.. there was nothing, no one. I had taken a wrong turn; I had entered nirvana. The street was completely void of people. The fog, which I thought was only mental, had surfaced everywhere and inspired the street lamps to give off a delicate glow, producing a dream-like state. No lights flickered from the row houses on either side of the canal.
I climbed down to a dock and sat with my dangling feet just above the canal's water line. I contemplated the situation, laughed, then focused my eyes. Maybe I had slipped into a wormhole to another time or had lost my mind completely, I thought.
The quiet was exhilarating. I felt at peace, unable to move from my seclusion. For an hour, I sat there without seeing another soul. I had viewed Amsterdam as a tourist; now I was seeing it as a late night resident. Oddly, I liked the latter more. My wrong turn provided the greatest memory of the entire trip.
I eventually forced myself up and on my way. Within minutes, vagabonds of all shapes and sizes once again surrounded me. I staggered back to The Pig to hang with the tragically hip smokesters lounging in the bar - the dreadlocked zombies and pierced amebas. Their 4am eyeballs were barely visible beyond their blood red apertures. Everybody had a way-cool dazed look painted on their face, myself included. The Pig has an adult-size playpen with endless cushions and miniature tables. The lair of globetrotters was always full of card players, smokers and dreamers.
I wedged myself into a group of girls passing around the sweet stuff. The dank scent lingered in the air 24 hours a day. I met and forgot many people during the early morning hours, all except for Wande.
Wande was a 21-year-old student from London. We hit it off immediately, but her train was leaving at 10am - in five hours. We spent that time talking and wandering about The Pig, laughing at all the overindulgers. We hung together right up to her boarding the train. She gave me her phone number and email address, which I have long since lost.
Twenty-plus hours of partying produced mad fatigue in my body and mind. As I slowly lurched back to my bunk, I thought of all the wonderful people I had met on my trip thus far. That's when it occurred to me that The Dude lived in all of us - that lonesome traveler stumbling in and out of strangers' lives. I have memories that I will never forget, although barely remember.
I chuckled as I shed my clothes and climbed over my bunkmate. Sleep began to take hold, while I listened to others get ready for the day. I slipped into the unconscious with one recurring thought buzzing about in my head - I, too, am The Dude.
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