[Editor’s note: At the end of 2011, the coffee shops of Amsterdam will no longer be open to foreigners. According to the Atlantic Wire, a letter from health and justice ministers to the Dutch parliament says the change is meant to combat drug trafficking and criminality associated with the shops.
Coffee shops will operate as private clubs with as many as 1,500 members who must be Dutch citizens. No word yet on whether those members will create their own black market catering to tourists, but it seems likely. I wonder what penalty citizens selling to desperate tourists will face, but given the general propensity against incarceration, if there’s any punishment, it’s likely to be a fine. In any case, stories like the one you’re about to read will be a thing of the past. –Kate Sedgwick]
She directed us to Leidseplein, tourist trap central and home to innumerable weed havens. We went into the first one we saw and were greeted by jars full of the stuff. Suddenly I felt like Dave Chappelle in Half Baked, spontaneously orgasming when faced with a cache of weed like I never knew existed.
My boyfriend lost it completely. He found it jarring to smoke in public, having previously only ever done so in cars and basements and other hidden places frequently referred to as ‘cuts’ in our neck of the woods. I figure I’ve spent about an accumulated year of my life looking for suitable places in which to get high, so I found it refreshing to be able to light up in public. My boyfriend did not.
“Look at this guy, this guy over here,” he whispered, gesturing to a lone gentleman dressed in all black, drumming his hands against his leg rapidly, in marked divergence with everyone else’s slo-mo stoned pace. “What’s he doing, why’s he doing that?”
“I don’t know. Just relax.”
“He’s looking at me.”
“He’s not, you’re delusional.”
He may have been — the guy was wearing sunglasses at night in a dimly lit coffee shop, which I found odd. I also figured we looked decidedly American, thanks to my giant ass and the perpetually terrified expression on my boyfriend’s face. This made me nervous. I’m not one of those self-hating Americans, but I also realize that at least some of the reputation is well deserved, considering the American proclivity for boorishness and the way we take for granted that we are the center of the universe.
Going over the menu we decided on something called Super Silver Haze, which was described as a “power high.” Whereas weed in the States is generally of the grainy, gritty, midrange variety (wholly living up to the term ‘weed’), this was like something you’d find growing in Eden. A pungent, flowery aroma impossible to conceal, vibrant coloring — from green to red to white with a nice dusting of crystals: this was like the Megan Fox of marijuana. We bought a gram and two cups of tea. We rolled a huge joint, of which we smoked half.
“I feel like…the back of my head…is missing,” my boyfriend said after. He brought his hand up to the spot to check. “It’s…not…there.”
“I assure you, it is,” I told him, peeking quickly just to be certain. At that moment anything felt possible.
Later we toured the narrow streets, sidestepping people of every ethnicity, speaking every kind of language, feeling dizzy that home was thousands of miles away and five hours behind us. There were more lights and people than I’d ever seen in my life. It was a veritable sea of people. I imagined most of them were high, as we were, and that thought comforted me. Eventually we shuffled back to the hotel, afraid that if we did too much more we wouldn’t be able to find it.
We established a routine pretty quickly. Every night we made the rounds between The Bulldog and an Irish pub across the square. We settled on The Bulldog due to its proximity to our hotel and laid back atmosphere. This was after getting tricked into drinking non-alcoholic beer (alcohol is prohibited inside coffee shops, as is tobacco in most locations) at the Rockerij and accidentally walking out on the bill at Barney’s.
I saw a man completely lose his shit inside The Bulldog. His friend was talking a mile a minute, gesturing, drinking, while the other man slowly melted. He slid down off his tall stool to the floor, clutching the bottom rungs in terror, complaining about voices. His friend was alarmed. He leaned down.
“It’s OK,” he whispered. The other man shook his head and looked up.
“It’s not OK,” he said, abjectly horrified. Eventually he was lured back to reality with the promise of soda. He climbed back up the stool and leaned down to the bar, struggling to find the straw with his open mouth.
“You really scared me,” the more sober man said as the other took a badly needed drink. With that he sunk down to the floor, again clutching the stool around the bottom until a bouncer politely asked him to leave.
We did the standard touristy things, all while high on brownies or mushrooms or hash. We giggled our way through the red light district. I was surprised by the appearance of the ladies. In the US, hookers look foreboding and tough; they look like they could take you. These women looked downright docile — pleasant smiles affixed to their friendly Dutch faces. They reminded me of aunts and mothers. I didn’t want to gawk but ended up doing it anyway. My boyfriend smiled.
“Fifty dollars for a suck and fuck. That’s a great deal!” he said, reading one of the placards.
We went to the zoo, where we were surprised to find raccoons, which must seem a lot more exotic to Europeans than people who were raised in Pennsylvania. We ate ice cream prepared by a kindly Dutch gentleman. We took a canal ride throughout the city. While the boat was rickety, sometimes sounding like it might implode, and the weather grim, it was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen.