14: The Day I got Dutch National Pride
I arrived in Amsterdam today. Imagine the crowded streets of Chinatown in San Francisco, insert the sweet smell of cannabis, add a few 16th century buildings and the canals of Venice and you have Amsterdam.
I came to Amsterdam because although my year-long quest is for an endless summer, I finally had to admit that too much sun, was actually too much sun. So, I proceeded to The Netherlands for a respite…and walked smack dab into a heat wave!
Amsterdam, as everyone knows, is famous for its red light district and open use of marijuana and hash, oh yeah…and for the tulips. Today, in keeping with the spirit of the city, I went out for coffee and a stroll about the town. Everywhere you go in the downtown area, the distinctive aroma of ganga permeates the air. Mixed with the smells of Indian and Chinese restaurants it creates a permanent feeling of hunger.
I wandered up to the plaza of the Dutch National Monument (to what I don’t know) and observed the chill crowd of multi-pierced, colorfully tattooed, squat-dwelling stoners. What had their attention was the folk-dancing show across the plaza. Hundreds of people had gathered to watch professional dancers demonstrate and lead the enthusiastic crowd in Dutch traditional dance. Tourists and locals alike joined in, showing years of experience or trying gamely to learn the intricate footwork. I, of course, had to rush to join the crowd.
I was surprised at the energy and variation of the Dutch dances. There were sudden changes in tempo and cadence, wide swings and tight formations. Many old and young alike had looks of pride as they swung and spun around the square, the old conveying a dignity and grace of maturity and tradition; the young displaying the eagerness and energy of youth.
And watching them: stoners and business people, dropouts and go-getters, tourists and locals, clapping in rhythm and smiling at their efforts. It’s a city of amazing contrasts, yet the Dutch famous tolerance enables it all to co-exist peacefully. As I looked around the square, feeling the vibe of the connected, tears came to my eyes and I too was overcome with Dutch national pride.