in days of yore when i was a sprightly lad...
i had been in London a couple weeks, and had crossed over into France from Dover. about 2am, and i'm in Calais. everything's closed, even the train station. after wandering around the town for an hour or two, and meeting the first being on the continent (le meuw, le meuw!), i eventually found my way to the highway leading south towards Paris. several hours later, little traffic and nobody stopping to pick up hitchhikers, it's almost dawn, and i figured i'd make me way back to the train station. they were now open, and a smattering of bleary-eyed frenchmen & women were shufflin' about their morning routines. i step up to the window, and asked the ticket guy in broken french if he spoke english. of course he didn't--or wouldn't--so i somehow managed to piece together a few more words in french indicating my need for a ticket on the next train to Paris. soon i'm onboard, and heading to the City of Lights.
the plan was to meet up with L at the Paris Amex office at a certain time, on a certain day. L had been in Europe a couple of months already, and he had written me in New Orleans to come over and take up the euro-boho lifestyle he had grown accustom to. always up for a good jaunt, i had been saving some dough from my job on the boat, and socked away a short stack for the required euro-tour. and now i was in Paris for the first time--life is cool! and 2 days early for my meet-up... a 20 year-old american hippie with a backpack more suitable to the sierra madre than the metro---who hasn't seen this sight? well, it was me, i confess. lost in Paris, carrying 40lbs of gear, trying to find a cheap flop for the night. end up in a hotel near the Opera on the ground floor, with hookers outside my window. Parisien Hookers! ...i'm beat tired, and try to crash, but am kept awake by the sirens' calls to their sailors. i learned a little french that night in my half-dream state, but i do not use it in polite company.
L's beaming face comes charging into the Amex office, lighting up the room as he entered. he had that way about him. if you understand the term 'chutzpa', well he was the embodiment of chutzpa. he emmenated an aura of fun and adventure. he had the wonder of a child, and it infected everyone who came around him. greetings compadre! what cheer? ...so he's about 2 hours late, but hey, not bad considering i hadn't actually corresponded with him since 3 weeks previous. and we're out the door in a flash. "first things first", says he "ya gotta lose that mule you're carrying, and get a reasonable bag" he knows someone in town, we can drop the bag with him, and that we do. fortunately, i have a small WWII gas mask shoulder bag within the knapsack from hell, and fill it with the barest essentials. i roll my sleeping bag, and slip the shoulder strap thru it neatly, and viola! i am mobile again.
L's first question of course, is how much coin do you have, as he's broke. counting up, i've got about $100 bucks left--and no return flight ticket to the US. but i'm also carrying an envelope from his folks to deliver to him, which has about the same amount. great! his first scheme is to buy a VW bus so we can head back to Annecy. but i'm a bit skeptical about spending my last cash on some auto that will only require more money.
"besides... i want to go to Amsterdam", says i.
he's all for it, what a great idea he says. he lived on impulse, so a change in plans never bothered him.
we head north by thumb.
Amsterdam. even the name is cool. when i was a kid, California was the closest thing to Heaven. when i moved to CA, i found the kids there had the same notion of Hawaii. i figured the kids in Hawaii must think the same about some other place, and etc, etc, etc... but somewhere on the top of the chain there is Amsterdam. and now to finally be there. it was nirvana! i immediately fell in love with the city, as everyone does. the buildings, canals... it just felt good being there. it's the scale. it works well on a human level.
our first day we spent walking. that evening we went to the Melkweg. i dunno where i first heard about the place, but it was common knowledge that the Melkweg was the place to go for smoke. sure, you could get some hash on the street, but even way back then we knew to avoid A'dam's street dealers. so we pay our membership & entrance fee (do they still require a membership card these days?) and enter into it's dark caverns. the place is filled with the heady scent of hasheesh. i like it already. we ask and are directed to the room which the dealer has set up in. he's got a little table, and i am surprised to find nobody standing in line. so up to his table and down i look...
for the first time in my life i feel as if i am in a free society.
he has about six or seven hashes to choose from, and one type of weed from Africa. and i want to buy them all, but we settle on 4 of the hasj items, avoiding the herb at the dealers suggestion (didn't look very good). L was adept at the rolling of euro-joints, so we found a corner, and skinned up. altho i had smoked hash in the states numerous times, i had never smoked it mixed with tobacco. so L showed me the how's & whys. it didn't take very long before we were good and stoned. it was a real treat to have such a varied stash of hasj. a native told us about the space cakes being sold at the juice bar, so off we trundled in that direction.
when we finally left the Melkweg that night, we were quite wasted. so where to sleep? i figured a hostel, but L had a better idea... he had this credit card (a rare thing in those days) his peeps had given him in case of emergency. "oh yeah", says i,"your parents told me to tell you to destroy that card, they said dinner for 10 people in the south of France does not qualify as an emergency." "we were hungry, that's an emergency"
i could see the logic in it...
his plan? to get a hotel room tonight, and cut up the card tomorrow!
so we got a small suite at the Hilton and wondered if it was John & Yoko's room as we smoked ourselves into oblivion, cause we knew tomorrow was gonna be another day in Amsterdam.
and that's a good thing, indeed