Perhaps Bruce Springsteen had to settle for a boring middle age when his glory days were back in high school but I seem to be creating my glory days in middle age – and even able to recreate recent glory.
Again we must time travel back a few days – to when I actually scribbled this in an old-fashioned notebook…
As I write this “catch up” post I am sitting in a local brasserie I found on my Wolford shop scouting mission on P.C. (the real name is Pieter Cornelius Hoofstraat – you can understand the diminutive – but made my map a bit useless so I just went with my memories and I found it). It’s dinner time, just prepping for tomorrow, so also spied this place. The menu came without a translation and everyone is speaking Dutch. Very cool… A 25 euro menu. Tomato soup to die for. Argentinian steak cooked to a perfect medium with great flavour. Even some veggies! Excellent wine. A real discovery…
The period since the last post was rediscovery. Last year I was in Amsterdam en route to Tanzania since you could fly directly from Shiphol to Kilimanjaro and avoid a trip to Dar es Salaam. I had planned the trip to find the optimal blend between work not being too crazy and – fingers crossed – arriving in the middle of “the migration” when the zebras and wildebeests move from the southern Serengeti into the Masi Mara is one of those top ten National Geographic moments.
Since the timing was decided with an eye to migrating wild animals, not playoff Canucks, I arrived in Amsterdam just as the Canucks were about to play game 5 of the Stanley Cup final.
The Olympics had brought back all my fond memories of watching Hockey Night in Canada with my dad. Ironically back then I had a mad schoolgirl crush on Bobby Orr and my team was the Boston Bruins. I didn’t live in a city and the NHL was at least 90% Canadian so you were cheering for Canada no matter the team name.
I had happened to be having dinner in a sports bar the night the Canucks went into the Stanley Cup playoffs so I decided I would commit to watching them. As many of you know, they made it to game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final so it proved to be a major commitment.
I watched game 5 and 6 in Amsterdam, starting at 2am! And managed to at least listen to game 7 on CBC Radio in the middle of a coffee plantation in Arusha, Tanzania. Another story for later. The bottom line – I put more effort into WATCHING that game than the Canucks put into PLAYING it!
But game 5 was special. I’d done some research pre-arrival. And I met some other hockey mad Canadian at my hotel who was going to another location. I had already confirmed with my location just after the plane landed that I could watch an ice hockey game that didn’t start until 2am and not get kicked out at 4am when the bars close.
My option was in the Red Light District, a part of Amsterdam I had always avoided, so I checked out the other option first. Apparently some lame Canucks fans had promised to stay until the end and make it worth the bar’s effort but when they were losing they had reneged on the deal so it didn’t sound promising I would see the end of the game.
And fate has a way of working but… It started pouring rain so I took a taxi to the youth hostel with the sports bar attached. It was dead – and almost creepy. So I confirmed the arrangements. I couldn’t leave after 2am and get back in but as long as I was in by then all was good.
At that stage it was a bit late for dinner but not hopeless. I found a street that looked lively but would be easy to find my way back for the hockey game.
Most of the bars were full by then so the concept of a seat at the bar for dinner was impossibility. I finally got to the end of the street. I spied some empty seats at the bar so went in hopefully… But the bartender told me I was sitting beside the chef so it looked like I would be channeling the Germans and pretending “beer is food” 🙂
Martin (the chef) and Peter were lively conversationalists and Stefan (the bartender) held his own so I finally left for my hockey game with a plan to come back the next night so I could have a personal escort to some cool whisky bar in the Leidseplein instead of going alone with my map drawn on a napkin.
The evening started on a quiet note. Then I spotted some guy coming up from the toilets sporting a cowboy hat with an arrow through it. In Amsterdam, you just shrug it off… but shortly after a group of guys in cowboy hats came to order drinks. And when they spoke it all got a little surreal – SCOTTISH COWBOYS??? Hard to ignore…
And they were equally interested in me. I soon felt like I was a bewildered gazelle surrounded by hungry lions but it certainly made “waiting for Peter” a lot more entertaining than I was planning on.
There were at least 15 of them. It was obvious they were a tight knit gang. One of their favourite hobbies seemed to be taking the piss out of each other. It was like watching a free improv comedy team. I was the “straight girl”. I could have ignored them – but engaging with them was far more entertaining. Apparently they leave their wives at home and come to Amsterdam once a year to “bond”. Each year they have a theme – so that year they were cowboys. The previous year they had been “colours”, each dressed in a different rainbow hue. They showed me the photos on their iphones.
They were quite determined I should go dancing with them and abandon my whisky date with Peter. The idea that I was sitting in a bar waiting for some guy I barely knew was fuel for their comedy act that was irresistible. They were obviously behind the times up there in Scotland cause they started composing the personals ad that I must have placed to be in this situation.
It was Saturday night so Peter was very busy. The pressure from the cowboys to abandon Peter and come dancing with them just kept escalating… They started asking everyone who passed us on their way to the bathroom if their name was Peter. Needless to say, both people’s reactions and the cowboys’ commentary were keeping Stefan and I highly entertained.
In an effort to increase support for their point of view they started polling people in the bar as to whether I should wait for Peter or go with them. I held to my commitment – even if the Austrians thought I was wrong 🙂
By the time Peter finally arrived he was a celebrity. The crowd cheered. He was crowned with a cowboy hat. The cowboys have him the “thumbs up”. No casual effort to drink some whisky had ever begun with such fanfare.
I knew I would never duplicate the cowboy experience but I decided I should drop by just in case anyone remembered me. At first it didn’t look hopeful. There was a new guy (Tony) behind the bar. But he was friendly and it was freezing outside so a beer before my commute back to the ‘burbs seemed a good plan.
Then I saw Peter walk in to get a bottle of wine. He didn’t seem to recognize me but he wasn’t exactly expecting me to be sitting at the bar. I decided to be bold and send a message via another guy standing behind the bar who confirmed he worked there. Apparently at the same time Peter was in the kitchen trying to figure out why I looked familiar… but being a redhead helps!
First Peter came to say “hi” and pour me another beer. Then Martin sat down to chat. Peter finished a bit later. And the past was repeated with great success. Amsterdam felt like a place where I was reconnecting with old friends. Proving you CAN relive your glory days. And have a delicious free lamb early dinner the next day, courtesy of Martin! 🙂