Saturday, August 25, 2012

Spinoza slept here.

 Back in August 2011, I went to Europe. I'd never been to Europe, of course. Prior to a weekend trip to Montreal the year before, I'd never been out of the country. For this reason and that, I've rarely done much traveling. I regret that, even though often as not the reasons were valid, because I really do like traveling. I like going places I haven't been and I usually find a way to enjoy the journey. Just looking out the window, watching the world roll by is worth all the headache of travel.

 Earlier that year, my brother said he and his fiancée were going to Europe to go to her brother's wedding. (Got that?) Did I want to go? Sure, why not. A few years back, I decided to follow my whims more, which lead me to New Orleans, and since I had a decent amount of money saved up, I decided to go. After much to-ing and fro-ing, I found myself on a nine-hour flight to the Honky Motherland. I went to a couple significant places, not near enough, and saw a lot of neat things. That's for some other time. Now, I want to talk about Amsterdam.

Me reading Spinoza on a canal in Amsterdam. I did that on purpose.
 When I tell people I've visited Amsterdam, them that know I'm an unrepentant stoner get quite a knowing chuckle. Them that don't assumed I liked the town so much because of all the philosophy and art and probably the Red Light District. But, no, though most of it is the legal weed, I really enjoyed my time in Amsterdam.

 It is a damn confusing town. The layout makes no sense to me, and reminds me of a older college campus with its weird piling of new right next to, sometimes on top of the old. Plus, the roadsigns hurt my head. The Dutch language is difficult for me as opposed to, say, the Latin-based languages or even German. Dutch looks like dream writing, maybe it's just me. Anyhow, the combined effect made the town very weird to my own personal logic and I liked it.



 Then there's the people. They seemed nice and generally good-natured. Seemed like people were rarely much help, but without fail every person I met tried their damnedest to assist me when I asked. I met a lot of folks from all over the place, from a young Asian-Canadian woman to an Afro-Cuban gentleman my age, which is always pleasant. I imagine I was a particularly tedious example of a non-obnoxious but nevertheless rock-stupid American pothead tourist. Bless their hearts, they didn't string me up by my toenails out of sheer irritation, so I won't hear a word against them.

 I won't lie, I spent most of my time in Amsterdam lost bigger than hell. The much-ballyhooed public transport in Europe did not fail to impress with its ubiquity, but one probably must be a local to make even the least bit of sense of how to get from point A to point B. I usually wound up so turn-around that I'd take a train back to Central Station and then the train/tram/bus to whatever point B I was trying to get to. Plus, I stayed pretty baked the entire time I was there, I'm amazed I didn't float off into the ether.

I don't mind, though. I got into the idea of traveling via finding one recognizable landmark and finding interesting ways to get back to where I was sleeping while in Venice. That really didn't work for Amsterdam, though, as I'd seen about all the paintings and former houses of rich people I cared to see. I knocked out Rembrandt, van Gogh, and Dali the first full day, and spent the rest of the time looking at Amsterdam qua Amsterdam. Frankly, it looks like a college campus. Even the stores and restaurants and bars looked like college campus stores and so forth.

 It's also one of the most laid-back places I've ever been. I mean, these people were just cool with it, whatever it was. You might get a stare of exhausted ire if you, say, wander out in the middle of an intersection, but I never ran into anyone even slightly obnoxious. It sort of reminded me of New Orleans, honestly, except without the fear of someone jacking your shit. Pickpockets were supposedly everywhere and apparently one could get oneself knocked on the head should one so desire if one were less than judicious in one's behavior in different parts of town. New Orleans really should be America's Amsterdam for all the reasons it never will, not in my lifetime. Anyhow.

 I liked Amsterdam. That's enough of the why for now, as I have to go. Nevertheless, it's got a lot of neat stuff to look at, lots of decent grub, plenty of really nice people, lots of history, and the laid-back vibe of happily bored college students on a rainy Sunday afternoon, around four o'clock, in November when there isn't a home game. And there is so much more to the town than the surface I barely skimmed. If you go there, be nice.