May 20, 2005

Everyone in the house make some noise...

Cafe Luxembourg - my choice for dinner this evening (and not a tourist place either). I had a beautiful walk from the hotel through streets I haven't yet explored. The romance of Amsterdams canals at twilight doesn't require a partner to enjoy. The fading light on the water creates a shimmer of reflections from the surrounding buildings and boats. Friends and couples meander through the streets on their way to dinner. It's 8:45 pm and the cafe's are just beginning to fill for the evening. This cafe is what I might call Modern Swing. The atmosphere is cheery and danceable even. I'm seated at the far back of the cafe in a corner facing the room. To my right is a row of 15 foot glass windows with a view of the cobblestone street and of course, a canal. Lined with burgundy velvet, the windows lend a sense of time and age to the cafe. Jazz plays through a distant yet comfortable sound system. Almost as though there were a live band with a throaty, blond seductive singer with in another room, yet without the overloud booming I associate with live music. The walls are seemingly patterned in gold leaf, but it is a carefully crafted illusion, with large soft lights creating a warm glow on the dark wood funiture. I sip a glass of young, fruity bordeaux as I survey the room and await my meal. After it arrives, I decandently dip my fries (an impossibly large 1/2 inch thick) into the garlic butter that is meant for my small steak. A wonderful spring green mixed salad awaits the end of my meal for consumption. In the waning light, pools of light from nearby buildings begin to flicker on the water of the canal. The wall opposite my seat is dominated by a six foot tall print of the vintage l'instant Taittinger poster of the woman in the black evening gown behind the glass of champagne. You know the one. Other vintage posters for Ballentine's - Finest Scotch Whiskey and Le COMTE de Luxembourg round out the images on the walls I can see. The chatter of the other patrons has created a comfortable backdrop to my dinner. I feel part of the cafe; part of the ambiance for the other guests/revelers with my glass of wine at the corner table. My wine glass is too small to properly swirl my wine which reminds me that we are far too pretentious in our approach to wine in America. Outside the window, on the far side of the cobble, a man rolls a joint. He pays rapt attention to his efforts and is rewarded with what appears to be a mini cigarette of near perfect proportion speaking to his long experience in the process. His friend begins the process himself and soon is finished creating his own smoke with a lesser degree of perfection. Soon, they will light them and their evening will commence. Joints complete, they light up and walk off into the night inhaling the smoke of their choice. I have a moment to contemplate how incongruous it is to see a man with nearly complete sleeve tatoos sitting in a cafe like this sipping a glass of red wine. Even in a city as tolerant as Amsterdam, this must seem strange, to compound it, I'm constantly scratching my thoughts in this notebook. A light mist from the gray skies has moistened the cobbles outside the window. The sheen adds a contrast to the moving glimmer on the water of the canal. Safe in the dry warmth, I turn back to the cafe before me. I realize a 5x15 stained glass that is backlit from above resides in the center of the ceiling by the long bar which sits to my right down the long side of the room. So unobtrusive I missed it in my earlier pan of the room. At 10 to 10, the cafe is completely packed. The din of conversation has mostly drowned out the music at this point. The comraderie of friends enjoying a night out surpassing the sound system in volume by sheer enthusiasm. Unlike an American cafe or dinner club, the lights have not dimmed. The faces across the room, although unknown, are still recognizable in the elctric lights and the candle on each table. The music makes a resurgence and for a while, the cafe is quiet except the croon of the soft piano and saxaphone on the speakers from afar. Perhaps the music is an aphrodisiac to be appreciated by each person. The street lights outside cast a creamy golden aura upon passerby and cobbles alike. The canal is now broken not only by the wind, but steady drops of rain. All the more reason to stay in the warmth of the cafe admist the cacaphony of sound and noise. As though a participant inside, the leaves of the trees sway in the growing breeze. Despite the fact that the language being spoken is different form my own, the buzz created by dozens of conversations is no different than were the conversations in english. The wine I'm drinking at EU - $3,50 a glass (about $5-6) would easily be $12-14 a glass at home. Just another representation of how different things are here. On the opposite side of the spectrum, I bought a paperback book to read it cost EU 15,40 or more than $20. I shall not complain about the cost of books when I get home. At 10 to 11 pm, I fear it's not going to quit raining anytime soon. I think I'm in for a long walk back to the hotel if I don't manage to catch a taxi. It's a contest between the bottle of water on my table and my bladder. I can't leave my table unattended with my camera, etc. in my coat pockets, so I must pay and leave to use the facilities. I desire to stay here and linger for a time, but I fear I will not last much longer. I guess I could settle this check and move to the bar, but it's just not the same as having a table in my mind. Being at the bar is so transient.


Got something for your Body, Mind and Soul...

Pulsing, pounding, blood pumping in your veins. The bass beat deep inside to your bones. Rythmic inside your body 'til you can't stand it. Grinding deep against another body. Saphic (sp?) delight fills your vision. The DJ brings us to crescendo after crescendo yet the beat continues on. Moving to the music, you are in a trance beyond your control. Smoke falls from the unseen depths of the ceiling of the dance floor, lasers pulse and fade away, your flesh vibrates from the soundwaves of unseen speakers around you. THe sick sweet smell of hash and pot makes your nostils flare of their own volition. Strobes create visual rythmes of unchoreographed beats. Your heart rages within your chest. 160 beats a minute. The visual eye candy moving with you in time to the strings the DJ controls from his board high above the dance floor.

What? You thought I was coming to Amsterdam and not hitting club Escape? Think again, the party marches on. Tomorrow I leave for Paris. Another unknown in my mind. A city I've walked before, yet don't feel comfort within. To be honest, I'd like to stay here for another couple of days. I finally have broken the bounds of the tourist traps of this beautiful city and I'd like to see what else it has to offer. Perhaps another time. TO be sure, each city I've visited has it's very own unique call on my heart and mind. None has been easy to leave, and the memories of each will lie in my mind like a pool of molten lava.


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