Today, I was suddenly reminded of my first time in Amsterdam and subsequently, my first time enjoying…the herb.
The summer after I graduated from university, a friend and I went backpacking for a month around various parts of Europe. Our first stop was Amsterdam, as we had a mutual friend who was doing a study abroad there.
Despite various social pressures, I had decided to wait to smoke in a place where it was legal (at the time, it was not yet allowed here in the states).
So after a day of exploring the city by bicycle, we went to a café. They didn’t sell weed in the café, but they would prepare a hookah for you and add any additional greenery that you provided. Also, (for those who may not know) with a hookah, you can generally choose a flavor.
I remember it tasted like watermelon.
The feeling crept up on me until suddenly my beer tasted so distinct—and so terrible—that I knew something was different. I was thirsty, and I kept smacking my lips. My head felt disconnected from my body and it felt pretty dang good.
We sat in the café for a while, time choosing its own pace to pass. For those who have never smoked before, let me tell you that time is kind of a crazy thing. Sometimes it feels like it’s flying by and sometimes it feels like it’s standing still. Walking somewhere can seem like it’s talking forever, but listening to a whole cd can feel like it took five minutes.
When we finally managed to pull ourselves from our comfy chairs, we decided to do something interesting. The closest and most interesting thing happened to be a sex museum next door.
We wandered around the small “museum” looking at the few pieces they had and the countless polaroids before deciding to head home.
In Amsterdam, everyone travels by bike. You can rent one with relative ease and at a pretty low cost. We had red bikes. Now, as a tourist riding a bike, it’s important to know bike laws. One of those laws is that you walk your bike over bridges—not ride. I found out that day why this particular rule is so important.
Anyways, as we were riding back it began to rain. It wasn’t a particularly hard rain—more of a drizzle. I was feeling swell. The drops of rain were really just the icing on a crazy new experience for my senses.
The three of us were riding back to our friend's room which was only a few minutes from the cafe. I was following my two companions because I wasn't exactly sure of our destination (I had only been there twice). We rounded a corner and I recognized the street ahead as the street that his place was on. Perfect.
We just had one last bridge to cross and we would be there.
And that's when I forgot the no riding over bridges rule.
I reached the top of the bridge and realized that it began to turn. The bridge itself was almost a right angle. It should have been a simple matter of applying the breaks, then turning gently and smoothly-- gracefully crossing the bridge. So I reached for the brakes and my hands found nothing.
"No brakes!" I had panicked, "my bike has no brakes!"
By that time I had been riding so slowly that my compatriots were out of ear shot. I furiously clutched at nothing before I realized that there were brakes-- back pedal brakes.
Yes, the kind you use when you're just learning as a child.
But it was too late. I crashed into the railing in in front of me. My bike flipped up and I was parallel to the ground and EXTREMELY lucky that I didn't flip all the way over into the canal.
I untangled myself from the metal guard rail and rushed to meet up with my friends, laughing hysterically to myself as I rode.
They didn't even notice I was gone.