To make up for yesterday, the universe gave us a reward. Our initial mission for the day was to go to the Post Office to send Mum’s letter, but it altered at breakfast when Tony—our waiter/friend at Images café, gave us a little micro-dot to try—a small portion of concentrated acid. For a complete release, we did, and what a day it turned out to be…
First, we went for drinks at the Dreadlock Coffee Shop with Tony and two other English guys. Any other day, this café would be a usual Amsterdam café, except today it was very trippy to us the moment we walked in. Large dreadlock paintings adorned the walls, and intense rave music was playing that impacted quite heavily on the acid brewing in our brains. After staying there a while, absorbing the psychedelic atmosphere, we decided to head over to the Post Office as planned. Not such an easy plan by now! Walking the streets was suddenly hectic with obstacles and ‘funny things’ everywhere.
Funny things were the usual things, such as bikes, riders, colourful trams, musical sweet vans, people calling their unusual dialect to people across the street, etc. But today, it seemed as if everything had popped out of a comic book. The narrow character cobbled stone streets were even cuter, the tapered classical white townhouses with dark framework were even more outlandish, and the Dutch were more melodious when they spoke, with animated gestures, and stately when they moved… it was as if we were really in a fantasy world.
The Post Office proved too much for our little brains and we lost it out the front, laughing, laughing, confused, and laughing. We were laughing at the simple complication of moving through a waiting line, laughing at being in a big building, confused about being around serious faces, laughing as we stood inside the building’s bright interior lights etc. We decided to quit trying and head back to the safety of our familiar area to have a drink—laughing at everything all the way. Happy Hour at Rick’s Café was where we headed, via the bank…
Here our day started falling apart. We thought we had more money in our account, but when we went to draw it out, nothing was allowed. Our little spirits dropped a touch, but we still had a few fl on us, so we went to Happy Hour, not letting another let down spoil the day. We laughed our heads off at Rick’s at lots of things. Mainly about growing up with our beautiful Dad, and how funny and gorgeous he was and is! We could only just afford one large round, and we made sure we enjoyed every drop as well as the last of our cigarettes—always fair with each other, we shared puffs on our ciggies, accustomed now to sharing everything.
It was pouring rain when we left, but we didn’t care laughing to each other as the rain fell down, ‘Of course it is!’ I could feel Julie and me growing closer throughout our entire holiday ordeal, and today I really enjoyed our strengthening bond. We headed off to see if we could get any money out of the bank. But no, of course not! So I went to call MasterCard, not happy about our money-life, yet again.
At the ATM, I couldn’t make much sense on what was happening, but quickly understood that money wasn’t in there. Maybe we had taken out our daily quota, we weren’t sure. We decided to leave it until midnight to try again. Completely drenched, we lastly went to try to get a packet of cigarettes without money from our side-street shop man before we could go home to escape it all. The lovely shop man, who gave us a free banana each one day, happily obliged, accepting payment tomorrow.
Once home, following a yummy, long hot shower with Cory—highly deserved after being drenched and running in overdrive all day—we realised we needed more marijuana and Cory devised a way to get some on credit. To the Greenhouse Effect he went, handing over his passport for two grams of Northern Lights—the recent annual World Cup winner. Cory had handed over his passport and our camera the last time this happened. Now they trusted us with just his passport—our faces growing familiar to them over the weeks.
Stoked and thankful for the much-needed abundance of smoko, the three of us settled in for euchre and more laughing. A few hours later, before we tried to go to sleep, Cory visited the bank at 12 am to discover nothing was in it. We were disappointed having looked forward to a burger at the 24 hour KFC, and I was starving as I’d eaten only fruit and a delicious apple cake all day! We went downstairs to call Cory’s parents to see if the $200 they were going to deposit before the weekend was in there, and we were thrilled to hear they planned to do it in the morning. Now, we didn’t need to call Dad for help and went to sleep comforted that money would be in the bank when we woke, plus whatever funds Dad was putting in!
We did interesting things and ate good meals over the next few days, as well as saved money on smoko after Tony from Images introduced us to a guy named Phil, who sold pot from home. During this time, the Eten n’ Drinken’ manager asked us to move to an improved room in our hotel, as ours had been pre-booked by a couple who came every year. We were very happy! Our new room—number 5—was big enough for five people, one level up from our original room, and at the back of the building, not above the noisy street like our old, little rabbit-hole, smoke den. No more cabin fever for us and no more late night street activity noise!
We treated ourselves to f12.50—full priced movie tickets, to see The Little Buddha, after searching to no avail for the f2.50 movies we’d heard about. Cory and I especially enjoyed having a Thailand type fix, merging briefly in our imaginations with the preciously happy eastern culture, wishing we hadn’t hurried away from the paradise we’d experienced in Thailand.
The next day we continued seeking more meaning to life and splashed out on things other than simply food, accommodation, and smoko, by visiting one of the most horrendous homes in history: Anne Frank’s.
The nature of Anne’s story warranted bleak weather and treacherous conditions; however, the sun was soothingly warm and the sky bright blue when we walked to her hiding house. Standing beside the canal in front of her house, we were amazed to see it that looked like any other dwelling and was very close to the heart of Amsterdam, only a couple of blocks from the Post Office …
It felt horribly eerie entering the building and moving up the stairs. On the first level, we watched a five-minute video, affirming the reality of the holocaust. Up we went to the next level and sure enough, there was the famous bookcase! Old folders were still in it from that time! I felt strange yet privileged stepping through the decoy bookcase and climbing up those steep stairs so typical of Amsterdam, to peek into the terror stricken world Anne had bravely endured.
The first room was the Frank’s small living area/bedroom and all-purpose room (kitchen, dining etc). Next was Anne and Mr Drussel’s tiny room, in which the walls still displayed Anne’s newspaper and magazine clippings! It was tragically sad looking through the windows at the scenery they used to see if ever they took the chance to brave a peek through them. I could only imagine how terrified they would have been of the outside world. It was too depressing for words. Up a level, another two families abided in secrecy. The ‘Secret Annexe’ was surprisingly big overall; however, for three families for 25 months in hiding and unable to leave, nothing was big enough. The most devastating fact is that they were betrayed very soon before the war ended! They all died except Anne’s father, Otto Frank! How dreadful!
We left exhausted and moved. Anne Frank had touched our hearts… ‘The little girl whose dream was to be a famous writer. So if anything, at least her Diary, with her writings, has made her famous worldwide, for what it’s worth now the Poor thing. Bless Anne, and her poor father—who survived it all!’
In a situation no way comparable to Anne’s, Julie, Cory, and I stayed in our hotel room most of the following day, playing cards, relaxing, leaving it only to wash our clothes at the laundrette across the road and purchase some salami, tomatoes, an avocado and bread rolls at the deli next door for a tasty dinner.
We had received a call from Dad the day we went to Anne Frank’s, giving us an update: Monday is the day! Two days away. This time Hope had a 7.30 am appointment at the bank, who assured her that she would receive her money, because the ‘numbers have dropped’! Hope wanted no further cancellations; she was in a desperate situation. She had no money, (as Dad couldn’t help her anymore), and had now placed a caveat on her money, which ensured that the Bank could not invest it or anyone touch it. So, we hoped she could touch it on Monday, as promised! And, before Christmas Please! Dad planned to call at 11 am Monday morning with the news—‘Please let it happen’, in my diary I wrote!
SUNDAY NIGHT BROKE UP THE BOREDOM of waiting. We went out for the first time in weeks to a ‘Radical Rehousing’ all-night benefit party at Herengracht 114, for the release of a man who was currently in a Thai Jail for the possession of weed, sentenced unfairly to 25 years. A monetary value had been already negotiated for his release and a f10 door fee for the party went towards this. Sadly, we hoped to avoid paying anything towards his freedom because f30 between us meant we wouldn’t be able to afford drinks or anything. But after a hike, we arrived at the party where our friend Tony had put our names at the door and decided we couldn’t dodge a good cause, willingly paying towards it.
We moved through long, narrow hallways with red and dark materials hanging from the doorways and walls, and sat in the chill-out room for a while. In this brightly lit room, away from the dance floor, I wasted what little money was left by having a yucky tasting Power-Pact Protein drink—which made me vomit in the ladies room. They were supposedly smart being called Smart Drinks, but not smart for my tummy.
After the vomit, we moved into the dancing room where Julie and I danced, sitting down soon after because the music wasn’t the best, no beat, and the smoke machine released smoke by the second. From there we took in funny sights on the dance floor, making up imaginary names, or pretended they were people we knew. We were happy to be out except I still couldn’t get into it, even though Julie was having a real good time at one stage, and Cory was cruising! We left at 2.30 am because the techno music was so heavy, we could take no more—brain-fry material!
The walk home was beautiful and very peaceful in the wee hours of the morning. We landed home for many smokes and rounds of cards, and thrashed it out until we were tired—which took me forever. Lying down, the nearby trams clattered noisy reminders of the past unsettlement in Amsterdam and I couldn’t stop thinking about, ‘The poor Jews and the Germans and the cruellest man in the world to live—Hitler!’ (Words I wrote in my diary the next day.)
I finally fell asleep at about 6 am and woke at 10.30 am, to wait for Dad’s phone call downstairs! Julie stayed upstairs, and Cory and I received an orange juice and coffee ‘on the house’, from the lovely waitress Nancy, while we waited. Dad called at 11.20, and not with the dreamt of news—the money having been delayed again, and this time, until Thursday week. Final, final stages with the bank (the shits), who wanted to wait until the end of the year, why, we did not know.
Incredibly, Dad was still adament about it coming through! So, that was good enough for me (it had to be). We contented ourselves to the idea of a little threesome Christmas day with Julie, Cory and me eating a proper Christmas lunch and making the best of it in Amsterdam—hoping it snowed!
We spent the day in playing cards and catching up on sleep. In the evening, we had a truly satisfying Italian meal at Marco Polo, and we were happy until we later tried to withdraw tomorrow’s money from an ATM and the bank would not allow it. As far as we knew, I was apparently, approximately $300 in credit. I had just told Dad this morning we’d be right until Wednesday, but, of course, suddenly we were in the red again!
Consequently, we rang Mastercard yet again to learn I’d overdrawn my balance somehow, but could withdraw whatever Dad put into it, thankfully! I now needed to call him again, tonight, and hound him for more money. Dad was not allowed to be at peace, it was so unfair, we hated our good father being so messed around. He had never messed us around our whole lives, the last thing he wanted was to start now! Thankfully, we had just enough dosh at home for some smoke and one pack of Smarties to share.
WE SPENT THE WEEK freezing our bottoms off and enjoying the lovely cold, wet, horrible, disgusting weather! We hunted for a location to eat Christmas dinner, and found a bargain price full English Chrissie dinner at The Frisco Inn. A friendly guy named Steve running the bar, told us about it. It sounded welcoming, and he mentioned something about ‘seconds’ and happy hour priced beers/or a free bottle of wine. Hence, it sounded great to us, and as it was the cheapest price around town, we were happy. That was our exciting week, added to by a visit from Tony from Images—our first guest to our room, breaking up our week a bit. We also had a postcard fix and sent marijuana Christmas cards home to everyone. That too made us happy.
Dad called on Christmas Eve at 9 am to let us know $800 was in our bank for Christmastime. We were thrilled! Cory’s parents also put money in, so we were rich suddenly (as far as we were concerned). Happily, we ate breakfast downstairs, rang MasterCard to check our hefty balance, and walked to the nearest ATM to withdraw money, and buy little Christmas necessities (film, pen, fringe for Julie).
How dare we be so presumptuous!
At the flexi-teller, our day went wrong. The all too familiar, ‘Unable to complete, contact your bank’ beeped its bleak message. We walked a distance to another ATM, and waited in line again, only to receive the same message. Disbelieving this could be happening: we telephoned the bank and discovered that electronically MasterCard systems had gone down worldwide. Can you believe our luck and on Christmas Eve too? They advised us to go into a bank here and have them use Telex to gain authorisation from Westpac. We tried this twice, but Amsterdam is one of the very, very few European banks that don’t use the ‘telex’ system! It really was bad luck for us, even though money was there!
Generously, on hearing of our dilemma, Don—the manager of our hotel, offered to give us a cash advance saying he would pretend it was a food expense or something…so, ‘Thank The Lord for letting us have money to enjoy Christmas’! By the time cash was in our hot little hands, the shops had nearly closed. We rushed to purchase film, pay for our Christmas lunch, and buy fruit for breakfast, (Julie missed her fringe cut).
We returned to our room in time to have a relaxing smoke, and get our beautiful rained on hair and persons ready for the Christmas Eve Party at The Greenhouse Effect, where it was f10 to get in, free finger food, plus 1 guilder (75 Aussie cents) beers—much to Cory and Julie’s delight.
It was a jovial gathering with great deals of smoko on offer too, and everyone seemed to have a good time in the very friendly, cosy atmosphere—an atmosphere much more civilised and cultured than drinking spots back home or even in London, as we hadn’t seen one drunken person in Amsterdam so far! We were now becoming familiar faces in Amsterdam, the locals becoming accustomed to us, which made us feel we were home again (sort of)! Back in our room, after a the festive get-together, we had another smoke and fell asleep looking forward to Chrissie lunch, and wishing our family a beautiful, loving Christmas!
We woke to a gloriously bright Christmas day in Amsterdam and called our families, getting quite emotional in the process. It was wonderful speaking to everyone! They were in high spirits (some teary) and it made our Christmas. Speaking to Mum was very hard because we simply wanted to cuddle her, to give her kisses, and wish our Merry Christmas’s person-to-person, hand-in-hand, arm-in-arm! While speaking, a Dutchman behind us wished Julie and me, ‘Merry Christmas’. Mum couldn’t hear, so he actually got on the phone and wished her a merry one in his thickly foreign accent, which she loved, imagining she was here with us. Our family was sitting around the BBQ and pool, lucky things. It was 7.30 pm in Sydney when we spoke—a beautiful time on a hot day in daylight saving time—and it was 11.30 Christmas morning here, so we were happy to speak to our families actually on Christmas Day, loving and missing them so much.
After the phone calls, we readied for Christmas lunch. Our turn to fill our hungry bellies! After filming a quick Christmas hello video to everyone out the front of The Grasshopper with Centraal Station in the background and a blue sky overhead, we arrived at Frisco Inn, a little disappointed to find nothing special was set-up (actually, nothing at all), and no nibbles. Anyway, we sat on stools at our wall-table and waited. Soon afterwards, (not too soon) a guy told us lunch wouldn’t be ready until 3 pm. Disheartened, we played cards and had a couple of drinks. When dinner finally came, it was rewardingly better than expected… especially the turkey and cranberry sauce. Our bellies were well and truly satisfied! We had chocolate mousse for dessert, which was nice, but we passed on seconds, not wanting to be piggies. We also enjoyed a free glass of wine while listening to a woman singing Jesus songs.
Satisfied and smiling we returned home after lunch to drop off the video camera and let our food go down. An hour later, we were out again, at trendy Café 36, which always played great music and offered uplifting vibes. Interesting to sit and watch people come and go, as the cafés of Amsterdam filled with Italian and French men coming for the holidays! Mainly men, of course, were coming for the lifestyle and the red light girls. Next, we visited the Greenhouse to have a relaxing drink, and then head home early with some treats to save money, because, of course, we had managed to spend too much of our stunted budget! At home, we played cards, and had a yummy home-delivered pizza after Cory and Julie talked me into it! We went to bed merry and content following an enjoyable day—our first Christmas away from home and we were brave, with no family to hug, no presents to open… Christmas is definitely more special with family and friends around!
The lovely Eaten n’ Drinken manager asked us to leave our hotel during the following week because it was full for the New Year, kindly organising for us to move up the road to The Fiddlers, a few hotels away. We packed and walked up Warmoesstraat, thinking we were moving on that day, only to find it was the next day we were meant to be moving, so it was back to our old, large room up the many flights of narrow stairs for us, looking at the upside of saving thirty guilders extra per night because our new room included a bath and shower!
We couldn’t move in until midday the next day, so we had a puff at Speak Easy to pass time, and wandered over soon after 12. It was so pleasant having a bathroom and shower adjoined to our cosy room for three. And, more gifts were waiting. While Cory and I were relaxing, we didn’t pay much attention to Julie when she quietly came out of the bathroom, sat on her bed, and bent her head silently intent on unwrapping something in plastic. Casually, I asked her what she was doing. She brushed me off with a quick, ‘Nothing’, but fairly soon after said, ‘What would you say if I said I had just found eight happy pills on the bathroom floor?’ ‘Have one’ Cory quickly replied.
We did! We had a half each and went downstairs to the Fiddlers Irishbar, playing pool, cards and drinking yummy beverages. We were beginning to think our luck had changed! At least—no matter what the money situation—we would have a happy New Year!
And this we did! In my diary I wrote: New Year’s Eve ~ Amsterdam does it with a Big Bang! Banger City!
As the three of us were getting ready in our room on New Year’s Eve, night had fallen only a short while, when it suddenly sounded like World War 111 out there! Bangers—sounding more like bullets, exploded almost continually, people screamed, and sirens rang. We were almost too scared to leave our hotel, instincts advising us to lock our door and hide, not wilfully walk amongst it! For a long time, we had drinks in our room, listening to the commotion outside, and I worried about what was really happening. At one stage, I uttered, bewildered by the racket combined with amphetamines, ‘It is war out there’. Thankfully, there were periodic blasts of silence to ease our nerves and bring logic back to my mind. Gunpowder smoke came up the stairs, (seemingly, from attacks below) and we made sure we were in a ‘perfect’ state of mind to brave it outside before leaving!
Merry and numb enough, we intrepidly ventured down the narrow, steep stairs so distinctive to Amsterdam, and opened the door to the street. It was exactly as we hoped: non-malicious gunpowder smoke everywhere, people running or standing blocking their ears, and hiding. The street of Warmoesstraat was in chaos! We braved it to the Fiddlers’ bar entry next-door, only to find it overcrowded. Directly opposite, the Hill Street Blues café looked appealing with an empty table at the window—safe from all the bungers (firecrackers in boxes), so we quickly claimed the spot!
Amsterdam made as much noise as possible, for approximately six hours! It was a high, but very scary! At one stage, big beautiful firecrackers released into the night sky in the distance, very welcomed after so many RIOTS. The coffee shops of Amsterdam were competing for the loudest bungers, and our coffee shop/bar happened to manage the hugest cracker just when Julie and I risked a peek outside! Shrapnel hit Julie in the ear, and we felt deafened from being so close! The noise sounded as loud as buildings crashing down and grenades going off! Safely back in the Hill Street Blues, we consumed potent drinks, feeling exhilarated, and a part of the excitement.
We returned to our room at about 1.30 to 2 am to get our video to video the street. Everything was still going off, so we captured a small portion of the festivities on Warmoesstraat, and after returning the camera, our next plan of attack was to find a nightclub for a New Year’s dance, as we were in the mood! However, after three taxi-rides through the city and freezing our bottoms off walking, we discovered that all the venues were packed. So back to Warmoesstraat we went to settle for the night and we needed to hurry because the cafés and bars had closed their doors—leaving only the people already inside to cater for!
Hill Street Blues was our welcome retreat again, still offering an upbeat atmosphere and music. We didn’t dance, but played hilarious games of pool. We knew the bar staff after all these weeks, and they even gave us free drinks, adding to the happy New Year! Definitely one of our most memorable nights in Amsterdam, it would have been perfect with a big group of friends.
We bounced home around 5.30 am and sat up for a while playing euchre, which was very, very funny because our minds weren’t on the job and Julie is always so funny after a big night! In the end, we fell into a lovely sleep, even though the bells of Amsterdam tunelessly chimed continually for an hour! Luckily, we were so tired sleep came soundly and happily after a huge night, well-deserved!