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I found an apartment in Amsterdam


June 2000 —

I had been staying on a houseboat for almost six weeks — just a couple of days short, in fact. I had arranged a stay for the normal three, but the next booking had canceled. I didn't know what I was going to do. This was the first time outside of my native U.S.

But the booking after that did not cancel. I had to do something. Amsterdam housing is extraordinarily scarce, and while it may not be outrageously expensive, you generally won't find it.

I was in Coffeeshop The Noon in downtown Amsterdam, The Netherlands. I was sitting at the counter in The Noon. At that time, there was room for three people at the counter in the back of the shop.

I was smoking a bit, and drinking a cup of tea. Two guys were at the other two stools, talking in English about their own business. One was "E_," an American who owned a bicycle tour business nearby, and the other — I would learn — was an 18-year-old German guy named N_.

N_ was overwrought about some worry. Like I said, I was minding my own business. But E_ said to N_ something like "You shouldn't worry. Everybody's looking for a flat in Amsterdam."

I said, as a matter of interjection, "I'm looking for a flat in Amsterdam." Yeah, see — said E_. But N_ was immediately interested that I'd said that.

Within a half-hour, we'd decided to go see the flat.

N_ was away from his country for the first time, had lost his job, and was a bit scared. He was on the phone to his Dad, and his parents were encouraging him to return to his hometown. Only problem was his contract at the housing agency, and the plight of his flatmates.

No problem. He would have sorted that one quickly, no matter what. I was fortunate to be there at that instant. We took the #1 tram out to Osdorp, about 20 minutes from the centrum, and walked the 3/4-mile to the tall, open-book-shaped apartment building. I met R_, a late-20's German, and we agreed I'd move in.

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