Cafe Hitch-hike


Done in his honor

The houseboat was a medium-sized barge located on Prins Hendrikkade (500ish or so). It floated on a dock off the first major canal/ring from the Ij ("Eye") River. I sat in its wheel house and looked at the boulevard from on the water. S. the host made it into a nice sitting area so I could see the maritime museum, Centraal Station, and then 3 more houseboats before the pier. Some multi-level, high-end hotel that didn't look like it belonged there was across the wide canal from me.

The houseboat had a kitchenette. I went to a local grocery story (Jumbo? S. recommended that one and it was a 10 minute walk). I bought about $30 worth of food that lasted me the 2 days I stayed on the boat. I ate quite well: fish, chicken, hummus, cheese, and plenty of fruits. Buying the fruits, veggies, and meats was easy because I could get a visual confirmation of what I was buying. It was the packages that threw me a bit off. I thought I was buying a small service of couscous with sauce that I could cook, but it was only sauce for couscous. I had no idea because the label was in Dutch. It was slightly annoying, but I actually started to laugh and cooked a generous filet of tilapia in a frying pan with the sauce.

For breakfast (and with the truffles I consumed the first night), I served my breakfast tea like I usually got in the Netherlands. They cut up assorted fresh berries and lemon, then added a sprig or 2 of mint to the tea, whether it was black or herbal. Sometimes tea wasn't added at all, and hot water steeped in the fruit and was sipped. I sat in the wheel room and looked at spit of land between the canal and the Ij River. It was how I began and ended my day.

I woke up early one morning and got to see the sun rise above central Amsterdam. The buildings tended to be drab gray or beige about about 8 to 10 stories high. They were either brownstone or other brick, or concrete. Being on the water and looking at the canal made the skyline in that direction appear less dated and utilitarian. The water and sun gave the land a softness it lacked because very few trees grew around there.

I enjoyed the sunrise, sipped my tea, and then returned to sleep for 2 hours. I didn't realize I left the main houseboat windows open until after I laid down. I didn't hear much city sound after a while. Was it being on the water? The air was also comfortable, and I slept well under a comforter.

More food details. I knoshed on melba toast, gouda, some trail mix, and another white cheese I can't identify. I had yogurt quite frequently. The English have porridge (which is like a runny, sticky, and finer grained version of oatmeal), and the Dutch had neither. I ate deli meets, cheese, and eggs for breakfast while in the Netherlands. The Dutch pancakes are like greasy crepes and have anything from sweet to savory. The Dutch don't eat them for breakfast, only tourist do. American pancakes are a frequent offering, but I don't know if they were for breakfast or other meals.

I cooked at Copperas's place. I told him I often liked to cook for others while I was on the road, so he recruited me to make a meal (his ass can't cook much so I put him in charge of the pasta). Carlo also cooked for me, and the organic prosecco he served was in my grocery store when I was there last week. I had very few meals out in London and the Netherlands, and that was fine. I felt that I ate very well throughout the trip.

I think of little details about the trip because as I wait for tonight's brownies to cook, I served myself a Dutch-style tea and looked outside towards the water in my own home, almost 10 days later. I was playing Bob Marley on S.'s houseboat on the last morning I was there. He tinkered outside, not too far away. I heard him speak with his neighbor (unintelligibly to my ears) while I packed and got ready for my 1.5 hour train ride to Nijmegen. The houseboat was a great way to experience Amsterdam.

Ah, yes, I bought medium-strength truffles. The only amplified the feelings I was already feeling, and I felt rather drunk with slight nausea. Maybe it wasn't as cool as it could had because I was taking ethnobotanical hallucinogens for the past 3 days, or because I was in a strange place. Truffles weren't quite worth the hype, or at least for that.

Hiking on the cliffs was like walking through a dream, starting at the beginning. ON the first night I got there, I walked down the street to a cliffside park. I didn't want to socialize much as the holiday camp/ hostel. I wanted to be alone.

I felt such a swirl of emotions after leaving C! I softly cried to myself in the airplane as we were delayed in leaving Amsterdam. We walked onto the tarmac and up stairs into the commuter plane for the 45 minute flight into Gatwick. I listened to The Cure's A Forest while the plane coasted over the green, English countryside then circled to its landing. The music was perfectly synchronized to the flight over the green landscape of soft hills.

I watched the sky darken for about 20 minutes after I arrived at the cliffs. I walked down some steep stairs to the foot of the cliffs and stood on the oblong, egg-sized rocks on the shore. A very steep drive was also built just above the foot of the cliffs and ended in a parking lot. It was dark, no moon in the sky, and all I could hear were the waves. Some floodlights gave enough artificial light (maybe to make sure suicidal people or their bodies could be spotted promptly, or to crack down on people screwing or getting stoned there.

I looked at the expanse of the moonless night, stars, and cliffs surrounding me. So many feelings swirled in me, but I felt signs of it slowing down. I wanted to laugh and cry, and feel sad but sing something happy. I took it all there. I missed my friend so much and wished we could had been together at that moment, but at the same time, I recognized so much more beauty in my world. It felt so many feelings spin through me, and it made me feel so alive. I never wanted to doubt life or lose hope or faith in it because there was so much so close to me. It made me feel sad to remember the times I wanted life to end... It's not that I never wanted to feel that way again, but I suddenly touched reasons to not. So many things, even simple things, felt precious at the same time.

Even if it was probable we couldn't be more than the friends we are now, I still felt glad about that that. I was so glad to have had Copperas back in my life, and to see so much. I wasn't going to make sense of it all at those cliffs. I was, however, going to give myself the chance to be fully in the moment of being in a land I dreamed of visiting for so long, while feeling the rattle of emotions. In a way, that added to the experience.

It was like a dream, and another thought that skipped in to mind was, I didn't think I'd see these people again. We were kids, in high school, and we moved apart. Thanks to some magical social media powers, we all got back in touch! I felt so much longing to see Copperas and the other friends from that year, and now all but 1 are in contact. It was like a wish came true, and that felt so amazing and joyful to me. Two big wishes came true. It occurred to me while I listened to my favorite, The Smitths Louder than bombs in the yurt. One of the things I prayed for 27 years ago in that cold upper room in the river valley hometown, when I was starting out with very little, was that my aspirations would take me somewhere and I'd get to see them again.

Both wishes came true, and it made me cry inside to see the major ones did. I wasn't sad. It was so unbelievable and felt unreal, but something in me whispered, 'this is real and it made it more beautiful and amazing.

The other beautiful thing: it wasn't just my trip or journey. Others were a part of it and it felt their theirs, too. Copperas and Carlo for sure, but it involved the other remarkable souls I got to meet.

I'm home and integrating. I feel more at ease. When I got wasted the other night, I felt more like myself and less like a lovesick teen, so that's a good thing. My feelings often come out during those states. I feel more at ease at this moment, anyhow.

I feel sad that Uncle is gone, but I now see I felt some fright as a result. It means my mother and her siblings are closer to where he was. There was something sobering about all of that, and that meant I was closer as well. They will follow my former mentors, bosses, teachers, and a friend. They were all people who were ahead of me in life.

The song that reminds me of when Uncle died was Mr. Mister's Broken Wings:

Take these broken wings,

and learn to fly again, learn to lift so free.

And when we hear the voices sing,

the Book of Love will open us and let us in

I took Uncle's wings that were broken by addiction and loneliness, and found myself visiting old friends, meeting new people, and going to places I dreamed of but hadn't been. As I recalled the houseboat, the country house, the cliffs, the crazy lads at the hostel/ holiday camp along with the people I went to visit, I laughed to myself.

I imagined me telling Uncle Joe about the trip (and his attention drift here and there as it tended to because his attention span was rather short). I could hear him in his charmingly gruff voice say, "you go on wid' yo' bad self, (my Spanish nickname here)!"

He taught me to travel. What he left me encouraged me to travel. We used to talk about our adventures and places we stayed, and I was absolutely sure he'd tip his hat to this series of adventures.

The trip wasn't for me to burn through or indulge in what he gave me. It was to use and honor all of it. This was a trip done in his honor. "He would say, 'open your heart, open your mind, and have faith," I said at his eulogy. Work hard, but enjoy life. Be humble, but have a little swagger. The last part drew some giggles, but it was true. I think the trip was an instance of applying his words of wisdom, and taking what he gave me to really go somewhere.

downwind | upstream