Today I found myself on my couch sipping some coffee before work. I woke up a little early, turned on the television, made my coffee and began to read and re-read this card I got about a year ago at a networking dinner hosted by Keith Ferrazzi. The card says the following on its front side, “If money was not an issue, how would you spend your time?” That’s an easy question. I would travel. I would explore the world while simultaneously exploring the inner workings of my being. Life is short, there are no guarantees. The idea that I should not dawdle in life is exactly what took me to Europe to celebrate my 35th trip around the Sun two years ago.
I chose to head to Europe and specifically Spain because I wanted to run with the bulls. This was a tough decision for me because my birthday happens to land on July 14th which is Bastille Day and apparently France knows how to party on that day. The one thing I kept thinking about in terms of where to ring in my special day was that I could party in France any Bastille Day but given that I have had worsening knee pain the window for running with massive bulls while hungover in Spain was likely closing sooner than I would like. I decided to buy a one-way ticket to Amsterdam for $400 USD and said “Fuck it, whatever happens it will be fun.”
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I mentioned my decision to fly to Europe to a few folks at my cousin Tank’s 4thof July party a couple of days before I was scheduled to head out and Tank’s dad, whom we call “Pops,” mentioned he might be interested in a good run through Spain. I told him my plan: Fly to Amsterdam on July 6thand party for two days, take a quick flight to Madrid and hang for the night, hop on a train to Pamplona in the morning so that we could run and rage there for a few days. Pop’s said he would look into it. On the morning of July 6th,I woke up to an email from Pops stating that he was on his way to Amsterdam and to find him there so we could wreck shit. FUCK YES! I lit up a joint, stuffed my pockets with THC infused gummy bears, summonsed my Uber and made my way to LAX.
I arrived at LAX and immediately started drinking with a group of French soccer fans. I found myself passed out in a cramped seat near the airplane bathroom a few hours later. I made my flight. I hurried off the plane as soon as I could. I took a few photos of the rain soaked tarmac at the Schiphol airport and messaged Pops. I made my way to the ClinkNoord Hostel and he met me there. Turns out Pops had no place to stay yet and our first order of business after lighting some legally purchased sacred kratom and marijuana was to find a place for him to crash. If you are looking where to find the best, high-quality kratom online, take a look into kratommasters.com. You can visit this site for more about the White Vein Kratom. My hostel was fully booked. We dropped off our luggage at my hostel and Googled a bunch of places. We found a small hotel on the other side of the river, Pops checked in, and we were off. You can visit company website for more about the Red Borneo kratom.
The next 48 hours were a blur. The skies were cloudy. It sprinkled here and there but overall the weather was pleasantly cool for July. We smoked ample amounts of the Devil’s Cabbage all in the name of cultural immersion, we drank many local beers, stuffed our fat faces with doner kebabs, and rode bicycles everywhere. My inner fat-kid loves Amsterdam. According to my journal, we paid the Popeye’s Coffee Shop a visit. For the July bullet journal design, I created a simple calendar in my journal using my favorite bullet journal highlighters. Tank recommended this place and it did not disappoint. We smoked a joint in the basement while sipping on Americanos. We then made our way to Barney’s for some burgers and ice cream milkshakes right after Popeye’s. Marijuana, burgers, milkshakes. It was all so damn good. We rolled up some joints in Barney’s and planned out our day.
Amsterdam is a visually stimulating place. The sun doesn’t set until sometime after 10PM, the streets have canons just chilling on random corners, party goers drink heavily on private boats cruising through the canals. The buildings look like gingerbread houses and castles. The Red-light district has all sorts of fuckery going on at any given time. This place is wild, legal marijuana, legal prostitutes, and legal magic truffles. All sorts of people walking the streets just having a good ol’ time. At one point, I got cursed out by a prostitute during the midday rush. Pops and I turned a corner and walked through a small street filled with doorways leading to some version of BDSM ecstasy. In my defense, I did not realize that taking photos of these women is frowned upon.
Pops and I decided to avoid anything looking like an organized tour like the plague, I feel bad for people on tour buses hopping on and off with their selfie sticks and hermetically sealed, germ free vacation packages. Pops and I decided to do the opposite of those lifeless souls…we rode bicycles dangerously close to cars in opposing traffic. We dodged pedestrians. I felt like I was in a James Bond movie driving my bike next to the waterways. I couldn’t help but think about what the fuck I was doing in Europe. I spent many of my formative years sleeping on floors and garages because we were piss poor and now I’m riding free through one of the prettiest cities on Earth. Life is good.
We visited the Rijksmuseum while under the influence of a nice sativa. I love museums. Amsterdam did not disappoint. Vermeer’s and Rembrandt’s work hung all around me. The Gallery of Honour was impressive. I remembered learning all about Rembrandt’s use of light sources in my high school and college art classes. Many of these paintings were larger than I could ever imagine from looking at a text book or online. There was a massive library in the museum filled with old books, essentially a bibliophile’s dream. Parts of the museum were dedicated to showing Nazi propaganda. This was hard to look at in some cases but it was important. Art should shake the viewer on some level.
Pops and I continued to wander off the beaten tourist path and found ourselves in the Jordaan area. We determined that based on the angle of the sun and our proximity to the equator that now would be the best time to get massages. Lucky for us the Jordaan had a massage place next to a nice bar. We felt relaxed and relieved after having a nuru massage, the experience was just out of the world. We had some drinks with the local crowd after our massages. We met the owner of this bar, a massive beast of a man with a kind heart. I don’t recall this gentleman’s name but man his fucking hand felt like a bear claw when he placed it on my shoulder and asked who we were and how we found his place. Turns out he was a former professional fighter who opened the bar with his father in law, who happened to be a former professional race car driver, after retiring from the fight game. This cat liked the tattoos that Pops and I have collected over the years and decided to show us his. He lifted his shirt up to show us some massive Brazilian flag tattoo spanning the width of his barrel sized chest. We all drank a lot. The bar owner encouraged it. Pops and I didn’t want to be rude to our host so we obliged and drank heavily for maybe two hours chatting with our new friend about life in Amsterdam and the Jordaan. I would absolutely go back to that area. They loved us there. Two Mexicans from LA and we were brave enough to walk a few blocks away from the tourist zone. Life rewarded our curiosities with good people, food, and drink.
For the record, Pops and I do not speak Dutch. Pops can barely speak Spanish. With that said we decided it would be fun to smoke a joint on our way to the train station in Amsterdam before hopping on a train to the Eindhoven airport in Utrecht. We booked a ridiculously cheap flight to Madrid on Ryan Air and could only fly out of Eindhoven. Fuck it more adventuring for us. The train ride was scary because for the first hour I wasn’t even sure we were on the right train. Pops slept. I wrote in my journal and looked out the window at random farms and windmills. This shit was weird for me. Los Angeles is lacking in the farmland and windmill department. I grew up around homeless people and gangbangers in Pacoima. It was culture shock on some level.
I had time to think on this leg of the trip. Headphones on, journal out, I couldn’t help but get into my feelings a little. I was dehydrated, smelly, sweaty, sporting some weird ass raccoon print tank top. I am certain the folks on the train looked at me like a damn alien. I thought about what we just did, we smoked over an eighth of weed each day in Amsterdam, rode bikes like maniacs through the city, hung out with complete strangers, bar hopped in the local zone. At one point Pops and I were in some part of town kinda far from the Red-Light District partying with a bunch of non-Americans. Pops is a bad ass for a 63 year old. He started egging on some large “Bros,” you know the frat guys who sport Tap Out gear but likely never fought, into fighting one another. Pops got tired of their tough guy posturing and called them all pussies for not fighting each other already. These guys were terrified of Pop’s little crazy ass. Meanwhile 20 feet away a crew of girls kept drunkenly stumbling onto each other. I have video of this somewhere. Amsterdam is wild yo.
Europe is the “Old World” people have lived in the same communities for generations. This is a huge contrast to my transient upbringing. Moving each year chasing that first month of free rent where ever we could. Making new friends each year. My experience in LA is worlds apart from what people experience in Europe, at least that’s how it felt. I liked it though. Even if I didn’t know a soul in Amsterdam it still felt good to be in a place where people have real roots. These roads have been around for ages. Kings and their armies have marched through these old European streets for hundreds of years. There isn’t anything like that in the US. American heritage is a mashup of many things. The history of humans is a short one. The history of America even more so. It felt weird to know that over the course of human history millions of souls died on the land we were on. I reflected on what this meant to me at various parts of my trip. The sense of belonging, the sense of community, history both personal and on a larger scale.
My impressions of Amsterdam are probably not too different than yours. I felt like everyone was happily glowing, looking put together like living breathing H&M advertisements. I liked Amsterdam. Not entirely for the weed though that is a good selling point but mostly because of the people and culture. I thought it was amazing that so many paintings in the museums depict water wars and navies in battle due to the Dutch being a seafaring people. It was a contrast to what I’ve seen in other museums where the artwork depicts land battles and marching armies. Equally impressive was the variety of street art. Banksy’s were everywhere along with countless other artists’ work in cleverly placed spaces throughout the city. I also enjoyed that fact that this was a cyclist and pedestrian friendly city. The bike stations situated on the barges were amazing to look at because of the sheer number of bikes crammed on them. I wondered how often people lost track of where they parked their bikes. I especially loved taking the ferry across the river from the main part of Amsterdam to the Noord. I think my favorite memory of the trip was my last night out, I hopped on the ferry back to the Clinknoord and watched sunrise while sitting on my rented hostel bike. I could see the big Amsterdam letters on the roof of the train depot. I was in Europe.
I was happy that Pops came along. Pops is wild man. He told me some crazy stories about his memories of the seventies. Some guy once pulled a shotgun on him while he was sitting in his car and Pops’ homeboy snuck around from behind the guy and snatched the gun away. Pops then proceeded to beat the shit out of him as soon as he got out of the car. I’ve heard variations of this story from Pop’s wife Connie. This story wasn’t surprising. Pops was a lunatic in his day. LA breeds that shit. I love LA but damn if the street and prison cultures don’t make some crazy ass people. I relish the moments when Pops decided to wild out because it usually means I am gonna laugh at the wild shit he says or does next.
All of these thoughts floated around my mind as I watched miles and miles of farmland scroll past me on the train. We eventually made it to Eindhoven. I was relieved that I chose the right train platform and hopped on the correct train. Pops and I smoked our last joint outside the Eindhoven airport entrance. I exhaled smoke as I walked into the airport. We left our little half smoked joint on a bench just outside of the airport doors for the next person to enjoy. We drank beers on the deck while watching planes take off. We had a few hours before our flight to Madrid. This was the calm before the next part of our trip. I messaged my mom that we made it safely to Eindhoven. She expressed her worry over my plans to run wild through Pamplona. My reply, I’m good mom, probably I won’t die but if I do this is a far better death than dying on the toilet or decaying slowly over time in a shitty cubicle or on the 405 freeway. I am the voice of reason here.