The grass was greener
The light was brighter
With friends surrounded
The night of wonder
- Pink Floyd
"Twelve hash bars in twelve hours. You think you're up for it?" Pauly asked as we readied ourselves to depart our room at the Victoria Hotel in Amsterdam.
"Of course I am. It wouln't be very Pot Committed of me to wuss out, now would it?"
I pulled my black corduroy trenchcoat on over four carefully chosen additional layers of clothing. I'd poked fun of "Pauly-three-shirts" all week, but my east-coast bred companion obviously knew much more about dressing for the elements than this Hollywood blonde. It was now, on Day 5 of our European getaway, that I was finally reaching an understanding of why such layers were of vital importance to remaining comfortable outdoors the whole day through.
Our morning ritual remained the same. We'd exit the hotel, the crisp breeze off the North Sea stinging my cheeks pink and opening my eyes the final 20% of the way after the previous night's bender. After a brief walk down Damrak, we'd hit our favorite French bakery and grab baguette sanwiches and chocolate croissants to eat while sitting in majestic Dam Square. Pigeons lurked at our feet, waiting for crumbs to be brushed off our laps. In an attempt to snatch away his sandwich outright, one of the saucier, more aggressive birds flew right up in Pauly's face. I'm entirely positive I let out a girly squeal as we batted him away.
From Dam Square, we walked a couple of blocks south to our first destination of the day, Abraxas. Tucked into a tiny alley off Kalverstraat, it's a warm, funky little two-story coffeeshop filled primarily at that early hour with several groups of Euro-tourists. We picked up a gram of Kushage with our coffees and carefully carried them up the steep spiral staircase to the second floor, a cozy loft space. I took a seat on the long Afghan-pattered couch at the back, while Pauly packed us our first bowl of the day. Next to us were a trio of twentysomething Scandi guys who were rolling what was perhaps the largest joint I've ever seen. We're talking Snoop Dogg size. They were so baked they could hardly move by the time we left for our next destination.
At 1 PM, we rolled into our second hash bar, the American-run Grey Area on the outskirts of the Jordaan neighborhood. About the size of my freshman year dorm room, Grey Area only had room for three tables and a tiny bar big enough for only a couple of stools. The interior was completely covered in stickers. Along with the typical pro-pot slogans and 420 references, there were stickers advertising some of my favorite bands, like Widsepread Panic, as well as stickers from Southern California institutions like Wahoo's Fish Tacos and the radio station KROQ. Every time we'd been to Grey Area, the place was packed and this time was no different. Clearly the secret is out that this tiny little coffeeshop sells some of the best weed in Amsterdam. While Pauly was up at the counter purchasing us 15 Euros of Recon, a small miracle happened and a table full of French guys got up. I snagged the table for us and we were able to relax and smoke while gazing out the window at the street scene. While the Recon gave us a powerful high, I still emerged a bigger fan of their special house strain Grey Haze. One of the best strains I've smoked in my live, that stuff got me completely lit off of one bowl. Me. Lit off ONE bowl.
We stumbled out of Grey Area around 2:30 and headed for an old favorite-- Pink Floyd. Situated on Harlemmerstratt, this three-story coffeeshop is famous for their house hash, called Umma Gumma. We couldn't get enough of it's warm, spicy taste and stopped in almost daily for refills. An eccentric Dutch man ran the weed counter and always greeted us warmly when we stopped in. Pink Floyd's was also the site for many sessions in our roving international game of Chinese Poker, and had been terrible for my luck, despite my love of their great weed and friendly atmosphere. Though we'd usually take a table in the back on the first floor, this time we decided to venture upstairs. Most staircases I'd encountered in Amsterdam wer really more like ladders and I took slow, deliberate steps upward as I gingerly balanced our hot drinks in my hands. I did not trip or injure myself this time, though there are other stories to be told of me tripping over cobblestones in some unweildly leather boots.
We played Chinese Poker again. Pauly scooped me as "High Hopes" off Pink Floyd's Division Bell album played. Sunset was already approaching at 3:15 PM and the late afternoon light poured through the window behind me. I thought my 2-7-7 top hand would at least save me one point, but it fell to Pauly's 9-9-4. In the middle hand, his A-A trounced my J-J and his 4-8 straight on the bottom crushed my 2-6 straight. I was still down 20 points or so, but that tilt was dulled by several bowls and joints of my favorite weed in Amsterdam-- soft, plump, crystal-covered buds called Buddha's Sister. Delicious beyond any medicinal stuff I've had in California, it's perhaps the best stuff I've smoked in my life.
By 4 PM it was time to start drinking as well. There are a number of hash bars in the 'Dam that serve both liquor and weed, though that heavenly juxtaposition will come to an close at years' end when a new Dutch law allowing the sale only of one or the other in any given bar will take effect. The Doors is one of those bars. Dedicated in decor to all things Lizard King, the Doors boasts a trippy low-lit interior with a full bar at the back. (They even have Southern Comfort, Al!) We took seats at the bar and each ordered a pint of the local rotgut, Heineken. Heineken flows like water in Amsterdam and more often than not costs less to order than a Diet Coke. As we sipped our beers, an episode of MTV's "Yo Momma," hosted by Wilmer "I shtupped Lindsay Lohan" Valderrama played on the TV above us with Dutch subtitles. Yo Momma jokes are surprisingly easy to follow, even in a foreign language.
From the Doors, we made our way to Pablow Picasso, another coffeeshop we'd passed umpteen times, but had never tried. We picked up a gram of their Picasso house weed and headed up to the second floor to smoke. Picasso murals covered the walls and graffiti covered the old wooden tables. We broke out the cards and continued our Chinese Poker match as a couple of German guys played chess at the table behind us. With a cozy atmosphere and a lovely view, Picasso ended up being that bar we wished we had discovered earlier in the trip. And for 7 Euros, the weed wasn't bad either.
By now, it was about 6:30 PM and with the munchies coming on, we declared "halftime" and grabbed dinner. I indulged in some schwarma while Pauly opted for a slice of pizza that had a lot of meat on it. Both of us shared a bag of frites with mayo as we dodged raindrops on the way to our sixth destination, the 420 Cafe. Our journey wasn't even halfway over.
To be continued...