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Mushrooms in Amsterdam, February 2004


We were just beginning to "come up," having eaten a dose about a half-hour earlier. Passing through the Flower Market, a covered open-air attraction off Leidsestraat, we were on our way toward Vondelpark, about a quarter-mile further out from the centrum.

Chris decided to stop and take a photograph. At the moment he raised his camera, I spotted a small sign, in English, on a post inside of one of the open-sided, covered retail areas: NO PHOTOGRAPHS PLEASE.

Ordinarily that would not have been cause for any disturbance — you'd simply point out such a notification to your friend; and if he's taken one photograph in the interim it's only a simpli faux pas.

But we were coming up on mushrooms. We'd purchased them at a "smart shop" in Nijmegen where I was living, and had brought them with us for use this morning. (Why? Why take mushrooms to the capital city? I don't know.) The second half of the high was good — but especially good because it wasn't bad.

Chris, whom I'd met in Seville, had come to visit me, February of 2004. We'd gone to Amsterdam to eat mushrooms.

I said something like, "um, Chris, you're not supposed to take photographs," and probably said it in such a way that I conveyed a fear that he would actually take that one photo. He picked up on my apprehension, and took a discomforted step backward, knocking over a stack of God-knows-whatever-it-was behind us.

And the trip had started, badly.

There is not a piece of land in Amsterdam that comes from nature, nor one that is not planned. This is even or especially true in Vondelpark, a large greenway. I say "especially" because when you know that you're in the most natural spot for miles (kilometres,) you know you're not going to find any space, anywhere.

You have to come together.

I came apart for a while. I sat on a bench just inside the park, near a pond.

Chris, knowing that I would need my space, and he pursuing his own, said we'd separate "like two drops of water," — and meet up again later, here in the park.

I remember watching the flashing sparkle of wavilinear flickering rainbow concentric and interskipping spectrum dazzle upon the water. Its beauty was not for me, although I have known the pleasure of gratuitous hallucination.

My heart was aching, those days. Kim was in pain; I did not know what to do. I didn't know what I was doing — back in Nijmegen, I mean, and in general here these days with my life. I had not seen my family nor my American friends in four years....

But all I wanted was my own space. I wanted space. I wanted my own space.

I got up and went looking for a place to be alone. I didn't find one. I left the park; walked, walked, walked.... There was no private space anywhere inside or outside the park. We'd checked out of the hotel... (not that I had the moral option of leaving Chris, there in the park by himself tweaking on a psychedelic mushroom....)

I finally made a decision, passing the rose garden in Vondelpark, to lie down on a bench — never mind. It was late morning, the weather was fine, and people were about... but I needed to lie down, and to lose partial consciousness.

And I did that. I lay there for a while.

And I came to a feeling.... People. The people I know. The people I love. I have to go to America....

Family.... Friends.... People.

Chris and I had separated, nearly an hour (hours?) ago.

People....

Friends....

My friend Chris is here, somewhere. I went to find him. I did, in a superlative, placid refuge on a bench under tree-shade, and sheltered from the park by a bushy tree just full of different little chippy chirping birds. Chris was in high, positive form, and though I lay down on the bench expecting to suffer for a while, he brought me out within a minute.

Later, we went and visited the nearby Vincent van Gogh museum; then walked along streets and canal-side roads.

We agreed that Amsterdam is one of the most beautiful cities we've seen.


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