First Night on the Continent
As I disembarked at Shiphol, a clean, efficient testament to Dutch cuture, which stood in stark contrast to the adventuresome catacombs of Heathrow, I felt downright giddy, ready to pronounce loudly that I had arrived. As it would be rude in a uniquely American way to do this, I refrained, containing the giddiness within myself.
I think that the exciting part was not only that I was on a new continent (well, Britain is sort of Europe, but hey …) but that I had left that part of the world where English is the primary language.
To ease this transition, it was handy that most Dutch speak English. An easy switch, especially among those who deal with tourists. The airport signs were all bilingual. Once I got to Amsterdam, though, everything was in Dutch, along a series of twisting little streets, each named something like Globenbleispedelstraat.
As the more preferred hostels were hard to even telephone from England, I hit the pavement, sort of following my guidebooks and inquiring at promising places along my routes. After some false starts, I found a very friendly receptionist at the Crown, which is an English bar with dorm rooms above. I paid, to my recollection, â‚¬21 for the night.
There was one sink, shower, and toilet for the fourteen of us, which was actually adequate, for there was no place to socialize, so everyone in the room kept to themselves and came and left at their own timing.
I had a hard time sleeping. In part, there was this steady ringing in my left ear, which seemed a touch louder than it had been in London, or Denver, when I first recalled hearing it on Amtrak. Ah well, I think I was just restless with being along and disoriented in a new place.
I wandered down to the bar for a shot of rum, measured out by a computerized dispensing gadget that the bars in Amsterdam all seem equipped with. I munched on the remainder of the bread that I had swiped from Duncan’s place on the understanding that he was not a big bread eater, and bread is a conveniently portable snack. I continued my way towards the end of the _Narrative of the Life of Fredrick Douglass_, when one of the bar’s few remaining patrons, a Dutch gentleman polishing off a Heineken and a cigarette with his girlfriend, asked me what I hoped to get from reading something so old. I answered something along the lines of a greater insight into the human condition, and perhaps some comfort from vicarously weathering a condition so much more difficult than my own present challenges. He blathered something about America being obsessed with the past, which only lasted 350 years, whereas the Chinese, of 5,000 years, we had to spy on and couldn’t even admit to it. I suspect he was regurgitating some old, half-remembered editorial piece, and I suspect that he he had such a pereception as well, as he then apologised about his drunken rambling, and was subsequently chased from the bar, as it was closing time. I, as a hotel patron, got the dreary music videos alone to myself.