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Coffeeshop Johnny, Amsterdam

Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 2000 —

  • I lived in Amsterdam from May until December of 2000.

I was at "Coffeeshop* Johnny" a few times, and I'd recommend any experience like the ones I had.

The first couple of times, I sat outside at one of the two tables, in the Summer afternoon sunlight. A cup of tea, the International Herald Tribune, a bit of smoke; the locals passing in and out — the bicycle, foot, and occasional auto traffic passing by; trees above, Dutch canal houses across and behind.

When I went inside to sit and visit, I met Aart, who was working, and Dave, a jovial customer.

Dave was ex-English Navy, had been in Amsterdam for about ten years and didn't want to answer any more questions about his history. About 60 years old, he smoked profusely from a terracotta chillum. I smoked a little bit from the joints I was rolling. We spent a long afternoon together, the three of us.

Dave was very relaxed. "Amsterdam will still be there when you go back out," he said. And I enjoyed that attitude, that day. I didn't mind passing the whole afternoon just sitting. We had conversation and cups of tea.

Aart had some metal puzzles. These were the kind of device where two pieces are interlocked, and the object of which is to learn how to separate them. He had some particularly difficult ones, and he let Dave and I work at them. I cracked a couple of them, after some rather studious effort. One of them Aart had cracked earlier, but could not remember how he'd done so. We all worked at them, and showed each other and attempted to explain to each other how these toys worked.

Coffeeshop Johnny is a very small shop with one table indoors, and four stools at the bar. The two small tables on the sidewalk are excellent when the late-afternoon Summer sun hits them directly.

I saw one American fellow having a hard time with the smoke in Coffeeshop Johnny. Poor fellow, he was about 20 years old, sitting at the one table, his agonized head in his hands. His friends were there to help him, so he was fortunate in that way. But it was hard for him, clearly.

Mostly, though, the clientele I saw in and out of Coffeeshop Johnny seemed to be locals, familiars even. Since there's not a lot of seating, many folks would just pass by to get a bit of weed or hash; or just come in to say hi to Aart as they were going about their day.

  • Coffeeshop Johnny is is located on Johnny Jordaanplein, east from Leidsestraat on the south side of Prinsengracht.


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* In The Netherlands, the term "coffeeshop" is a euphemism, the name for a place that you might call a "hash bar." The Dutch coffeeshop is a place where you can buy cannabis products — hashish and marijuana.

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