Seemed Like A Good Idea at the Time …

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Jun 5th, 2006
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I realized mere seconds after writing the title to this blog that it could easily apply to hundreds of stories from our travels. The beauty of ignorance is that danger is only dangerous if you are aware of it. It’s like the Coyote in the old Roadrunner cartoons who only fell off of the cliff once he looked down and realized he was in trouble. The lesson learned? Never, ever look down.

This story involves me and my esteemed colleague, Harry Dog. If you have never had the pleasure of joining HD for an extended partying session, I highly recommend it. I am almost 100% positive he is the only one of our crew to ever crawl naked through his bushes at 3am and call it a successful birthday.

It all started after several beer fueled nights in Amsterdam when HD and I decided to hold a one day, “all smoke” excursion. We rose early, waved farewell to our compatriots who were off for a day of overindulgence at the Windmill brewery, and with an impressive list of coffee shops in hand set out on our adventure. Now, if I have to explain coffee shop to you, well, you need to check out a blog on wooden shoes, windmills and the Anne Frank House. That is Amsterdam – but it is not MY Amsterdam. Sure, I like coffee – a lot – and we visited roughly seven coffee shops that day, but I can assure you at no point did a single drop of java pass these lips. Somewhere Tommy Chong is smiling.

HD and I visited a wide range of places, sampling the house specialties and soaking up the local color. We started at Abraxas, who make a spectacular and very special Milkshake, and then hit a few more larger spots like the Grasshopper, and the main branch of the Bulldog. After a much deserved break, during which I’m pretty sure we stared at a lamp post for about an hour, we opted for a few smaller, more intimate (and sometimes downright cozy) spots like Soft Temple, Barakka, and Rock Planet.

As evening replaced afternoon we found ourselves huddled in the back of an old favorite – the Bulldog Energy. Let me attempt to describe the Bulldog Energy for those who have not had the experience. It is a small place in the basement of a modest row home and maybe holds 30 patrons. (30 for skinny super-model Dutch locals and only 20 or so if it’s full of us fat Americans). The décor is designed to make patrons feel as though they are sitting in a hollow tree – “Keebler Chic”, if you will. Lots of foliage, mushroom barstools, bark, vines, and the obligatory gnome in a bright red hat. To most folks it would be unsettling … luckily we were extremely high so it all seemed about right. Now, I could spin personal tales of the Bulldog Energy for days, up to and including a very scary night involving smart drinks, connect four, and a bad case of the “get-em-off-mes”. But this story is about Dutch Rap Music and the marketing power of a really good buzz.

As we sat in our little corner – rolling, lighting, toking, rinsing, and repeating – the most wonderful music filled the room. Big beats, cool samples, and wave after wave of rhymes in brash, streetwise Dutch. I surmised later (in that way that one does when the eyes get glassy and you inevitably ask “what if we’re just dust on a Giant’s fingernail) that if you don’t speak Dutch then the vocals in a Dutch rap song become just another instrument.
Deep, man, Deep.

We mused upon this further, listening to one track after another before finally deciding that we could not live another second without owning this CD. Steadying ourselves we approached the kind and generous bar keep – some high cheek-boned twenty-something who we will call Klaas for the purpose of this story – and asked for the name of the artist. He smiled, placed his giant “Up In Smoke” doobie in the ashtray, and scribbled these words onto a scrap of paper: Lange Frans & Baas B

HD and I, grinning as though we’d just been handed the Holy Grail – thanked the lad and rushed headlong into the street to acquire this new found musical treasure. We needed a CD shop, and we needed it fast. Amsterdam, for the uninitiated, is not a place where you “know where something is”. Sure, you can visit a locale – a bar, coffee house, shop, pub, hotel, etc. – many times, possibly many times in one day, but you will never know “where it is”. Perhaps it’s the luck of the ignorant, or some divine entity that takes pity on poor, inebriated fools, but you will, with enough wanderlust, eventually find whatever it is that you are looking for.

There we were, HD and I, red eyed, disheveled, and staggering blindly through the streets of Amsterdam clutching what very well may have been a Top 1.5 with some Dutch words scribbled on it. Here, things get fuzzy, but I do know two things: We both woke up the next day with copies of the Lange Frans & Baas B CD, and we both ended up back at the Bulldog Energy in what seemed like a matter of seconds. I can only imagine the sheer look of terror (or worse, familiarity) on the faces of the Free Record Shop staff as we poured ourselves up to the counter, blathered something unintelligible, and thrust that crumpled scrap in front of them. Somehow, as is always the way in Amsterdam, it all worked out.

Yes, we went back to the Bulldog Energy, and yes we continued our celebration of “just being there”. Another interesting fact about Amsterdam is that if you travel with a group, and you split up (intentionally or otherwise) you will inevitably end up at the same place by evenings end – at least in time for one more round. That was the case this night – as the rest of our crew stumbled in around 8pm and helped us finish the evening in style.

Later that week, we listened to the Lange Frans & Baas B on the van ride home from the airport once we were safely and sadly back in the states. No, it did not have the same awe-inspiring effect as it did that night, but I couldn’t help but remember … and smile. The tracks from that CD live on to this day … comfortably nestled in my iPod and always poised to provide a little random flashback. It always makes me smile and it always reminds me of how lucky I am to have the friends I have and to have a place like Amsterdam to share with them.

I’ll be at the Bulldog Energy again – sooner rather than later – and, with the proper herbal motivation I may just have a request for the DJ. Hell, I might even pronounce it correctly.

1 Comment

  • Anonymous

    Hey long hair, you said you were coming back for me.

    Don’t you walk away from my window long hair, I’m talking to you!