Saturday, July 7, 2007

There's a fine line between heroism and insanity

[written July 1]

But then, I'm the one going to Amsterdam after sleeping less than one out of the past thirty hours. In my defense, I had three good reasons for doing so. After riding the trains from Schipol to Amsterdam to Haarlem, my five-Euro ticket had yet to be checked, so I had a free ride there. Further, everything was closed in little Haarlem, my hotel TV didn't work, and I was hungry for some Indonesian wok-fried noodles. Most importantly, I knew that going to sleep in the hotel at 4pm would mean waking up in the wee hours of the morning with nothing to do. Thus, on to Amsterdam!

I set out for the train station from my hotel. Just as I walked out into the Grote Markt, there was a big commotion and the sound of a car engine revving. A crowd of people had gathered around the front of Haarlem's ancient city hall, and I saw what had caused both the noise and the crowd: a red Ferrari, followed by a parade of other high-end and classic automobiles.

I admired the Ferrari like everyone else, and guessed that some concert or event drawing a bourgeouis crowd was about to start. Walking away, I heard a sudden cheer from the crowd, and turned around to see what I presumed to be a celebrity or dignitary getting out of the Ferrari. Figuring I was only missing some notable Dutchman whom I'd never heard of, and being adverse to celebrity-worship in general, I continued on to the train station. There were free copies of a Dutch daily tabloid on the train, and, to my great amusement, I learned that Tom Cruise was visiting the Netherlands and had made an appearance in Amsterdam the day before.

After arriving a little after 4pm, and still sour about possibly missing a chance to see the prophet of Scientology in person, I set out for a drugstore that I remembered from a few years ago. Unfortunately, Amsterdam's beautiful Centraal Station is still covered by scaffolding and surrounded by an unsightly work site. The light rain and much-colder-than-expected temperature didn't help, but the construction has been going on since at least 2004. Thankfully, the store was where I remembered, and I was able to buy all the things that I forgot or could have blown up the plane with, including nail clippers, a comb, and bottles of shampoo larger than three ounces.

My plan to buy a British newspaper and enjoy a cup of coffee in a sidewalk cafe was made impossible by the weather, so I spent a good deal of time fighting exhaustion and looking through touristy little shops for something to beat back the rain and cold. Sadly, Amsterdam is a very expensive city with little that fits my budget, except ... the Lemongrass Wok. This little place is on the Damrak (Amsterdam's main drag, perpendicular to Centraal Station) below a hotel that one of my globe-trotting friends recommends. The Indonesian people that work there make absolutely the best non-German food in Europe, and I was more than happy to wait in the small, cooktop-heated interior while my chili-pepper chicken noodles were prepared.

During my first decent meal since lunch in Orlando, Florida more than a day earlier, the city and its weather became much more pleasant. I guess that's what a full belly can do for you. After practically thirty-two hours awake, the train ride and walk back to the Hotel Amadeus seemed longer than it should have, but the TV had started working when I arrived, and was still on and working when I woke up the next day without having undressed. I guess that's what a full belly and total exhaustion can do for you.

1 comment:

ybselgo said...
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