FRI MAY 20, 2011 // YOU CAN NEVER GO HOME AGAIN

AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS

I awoke up at five in the morning.  Eric was sleeping on the couch.  I started doing yoga and accidentally knocked over a box of trinkets. Eric woke up, sighed, and stumbled away into an adjoining bedroom.

I stretched for about an hour, and then crawled back into my sleeping bag. Eric entered the room an hour later. He stood in a diagonal ray of sunlight looking down at me on the floor with a weary expression. I got up and we walked for a while until we found a place called Biscuit. There we sat down at an outside patio and ate freshly baked bread and raw vegetables.  The sun was warm. Several well dressed old men rode by on bicycles.

After breakfast we walked to Vondel Park and made movies on the shore of the canal.  A man from the Caribbean called Eric "automatique."  Then we took a long walk to the old town district. Brick buildings were slowly sinking into the marsh. There were lots of house boats and arched bridges.

We stopped on a bridge in the late afternoon to street perform and my memory failed me.  The songs spilled out meekly to indifferent passers by. I felt like an old man and wanted a lion to come eat me.  After playing a few songs we gave up and went for dinner at a restaurant in an store front by the canal. We had fish and potatoes. At the restaurant a strange man saw us with our guitars and offered to take to take us to a place where we could find a gig. His name was Chris.  He was Irish.  We walked with him down a narrow alley and ended up at a bar where a tall, serious was playing records.

"Go speak with Rolf" Chris told me, pointing at the man playing records. Then he went to the bar to get a drink. I squeezed through the crowd over to the DJ table. I introduced myself and was able to convince Rolf over the loud music to give us a show tomorrow night.

Then Chris, impressed with my follow through, bought us beer and introduced us to his friends. They were a group of women about his age, which I gauged to be fifty something years old. They'd partied a lot in their day.  They looked at us with nostalgia. The most charismatic of the bunch told me she had a daughter and that’s a singer and that she loved the changing seasons. Then the drunkest woman thought Eric's upwardly standing guitar case was one of those poles used to tie up a horse. She leaned on it and tipped slowly over.  She spilled her beer on me as I attempted unsuccessfully to prevent her from falling to the stones on the terrace.   She told Eric later that she was a 1960s hippy from New York who became an Amsterdam ex-patriot and warned: "You can never go home again."

Shortly thereafter we bid the ladies and Chris farewell and began to wander home. We were sidetracked after two blocks by a spunky woman who beckoned us into her birthday party. Eric played her “Happy Birthday” on the guitar. We drank a whiskey in the birthday party bar and slipped out unnoticed. We were cold and tired and had a long walk through the darkness ahead of us. 

We walked past children riding BMX bikes in a brightly lit, empty swimming pool on the shore of a canal unsupervised at midnight. Further down down the long cobblestone road trains were rattling by.  After getting a little lost we found a train to take us back to the Oud Zuid portion of the city where Lotje’s apartment was located. 

I felt sad. Pretty girls pedaled in the darkness on bicycles. North African children dressed in track suits passed us on the sidewalk.  Eric urged confidence. Performance is about attitude and loses substance when it's over thought. Also he said I need to sleep a whole night.  He offered to punch me in the face if I wake up at five again tomorrow.