Amsterdam Community, Coding and Underground Sex Labyrinth

I motivated myself out from Kasey's place in Brussels after having had a good week in town. Now I was on foot, looking to find a good place to start hitchhiking towards Amsterdam where I’d been told of a communal house worth checking out, often just called “The Casa”.

I got a ride from a guy while still walking a regular city street, he got me to a spot where I was able to catch a ride from a guy hauling steel and really get moving. Next I got a ride around the ring road from a surfer with a dating site obsession, after that was an Opera singer who was excited to talk about New York.

He dropped me off in a pretty low traffic area, so I decided to walk up and along the freeway so I could be seen by more people cruising. It worked and a driving instructor gave me a ride, informing me it was illegal to be up on the freeway, I knew this, but it’s always worth the risk.

He dropped me off at a gas station along the freeway, something Europe seemed to have a lot of and was pretty convenient for hitchhiking. I got a ride quickly from some elderly English guys off to see an air show. Where they dropped me off I was just 45 kilometers away from Amsterdam. A happy Russian guy got me that last little bit to a shuttle station that got me into the central station where I emerged in the center of Amsterdam.

I began the walk towards the casa, stone below me, narrow roads that twisted and people on bikes, foot, cars and a trolley of sorts, all the while crossing over and along canals that networked throughout the city.

I reached the casa and they buzzed me up. The street outside was lined with bikes, all for the use of whoever was staying at the casa and maintained by whoever who came and knew how to. The house was filled with whatever food anybody there could find, either by dumpstering it, hitting bakeries at the right time or going to farmers markets when they were closing down and about to throw out food.

I met several people there and dozens by the time all was said and done. Some people had been staying there for months, others a few nights, some just dropping in and hanging out. It was essentially just an apartment, but with some rooms the next floor up as well primarily just where people slept. I talked through the night and smoked the inevitable Amsterdam joint or two, eventually carving out a spot to sleep and calling it a night.

I relaxed the next morning, then blasted towards the center of town to do some more exploring in the light that I’d missed getting into the city the last night. I saw plenty of the smoke shops and cafes, the people around was a big mix of obvious tourists, travelers, true locals and transient locals, between them all there didn’t seem to be a single country not being represented.

Eventually I headed to a shop where my friend was working, she was living just the town over at this point. We caught up and talked for a while and planned to meet up again, as well as the big meet up we’d have a month or so later, a sort of reunion of some people who’d volunteered for Couch Surfing up in Alaska some years back.

By the time I got done talking with her I’d become particularly motivated to do some more coding on my travel project that I’d been working on back in Brussels a bit. I headed back to the casa and began a twenty four hour coding marathon. I only looked up from the computer to chat with whoever was around, people coming and going, the odd cup of coffee or meal someone had come up with.

The sun coming up just motivated me more and I was in the zone getting a lot done. “Why don’t you want to see Amsterdam?”, a Bulgarian girl asked me. It struck me that I wasn’t a traveler, a vacationer, an explorer, not definitively anything I could put my finger on. The constant movement in my life was not the focus, but the base, for now anyway. I traveled, felt like I was on vacation and did my share of exploring, but I didn’t own any of these rolls. I could be in the famed Amsterdam and be perfectly content spending twenty four hours in front of a computer screen, the epitome of disconnecting from physical surroundings, and be without the feeling that I was missing anything, here I exist at the moment.

When I finally hit the twenty four hour mark I pulled myself away, into the shower and out into the city again, Amsterdam hadn’t gone anywhere. I wandered more around the immediate neighborhood seeing the little shops and digging the people around, I was some sort of floating sleepless zombie at this point, buzzed yet expressionless.

I picked up a few things for dinner and headed back to the casa where well over a dozen people were packed in and cooking all sorts of things. We had a big meal and shortly after I finally fell right over and into a deep much needed sleep.

In the morning I talked with an Aussie girl that was staying there, we headed into town for a bit, then parted ways as I headed for the edge of the city to hitchhike. I was only heading to the town over where there was a home brew shop, I was eager to gather ingredients so I could brew a beer that would be ready in time for a reunion of friends in the coming month when I'd return to the area.

I did a hell of a lot of walking until I got to a spot to hitchhike, but there was plenty of the city to see along the way, canals to cross, water to walk along and interesting people passing by. The ride I got took me right to the brew shop which was less than thirty minutes away.

I got what I needed and headed back to the road where I stuck my thumb out for ten or twenty minutes until a van pulled over ahead. The guy didn’t speak much English, but he managed to say he wasn’t going to Amsterdam, but in that direction, so I hopped in.

He was smoking a cigar and shared some puffs with me while we tried to string together a conversation. It started to seem like we were going a good ways, further than the place it had sounded like he was going to. He stuck out his hand and said, “Friend!”, so I shook his hand, it seemed pretty clear we were cruising right into Amsterdam.

“No alcohol”, he managed to say mixed with a bunch of other words I couldn’t make out, but gathered that he didn’t drink. “We go get a drink, cococola”, he seemed to say. None of this was certain, but it was the jist I was getting. We pulled right into the now familiar Amsterdam downtown and then were heading into a parking garage. Even as we were getting out of the car I couldn’t be totally sure if he was looking to go grab a drink, just dropping me off or was going on his own mission.

As we walked away from the car he pulled out two cigars and held them up, so that seemed to make it clear we were off to drink some soda and smoke, I guessed. We headed up above ground and I followed him down some skinny streets, around a corner or two and up to a bar on the corner. He headed up towards the bartender in the packed place and asked me what I wanted, so I had to say beer, he stood there bellied up to the bar waiting to get attention and order.

I started taking in my surroundings and looking forward to a beer and a cigar. Behind the bar I saw a sign that said, “Free condoms and lube”, I thought it was kind of funny, one of those goofy bar signs. I looked around some more and noticed that in this packed place I didn’t see a single girl, well maybe just one by the jukebox.

Just after this realization he turned with a couple Heinekens and passed me one, then motioned for me to follow him. We walked by the girl at the jukebox, I was wrong, a dude as well. What seemed like a relatively small bar turned into something much more, as I took a left following him down a staircase into a labyrinth of a basement dimly lit a best, dudes lurking about, some pacing around looking down and glancing up briefly hoping for eye contact. Immediately he stepped into a room of which there were many, however it was the size of about two phone booths at best.

I stood in the doorway as he tried to close the door. “This isn’t exactly what I thought you had in mind man, sorry about that.”, my words meant nothing to someone who didn’t know my language, but that’s how it goes. His interpretation of my statement, apparently, was “This room is not suitable for me, show me another”, so he started leading me deeper into the labyrinth where he showed me another room, at which point I’d thought about turning around and bailing, but instead just stood in the hallway drinking my beer as he tried to convince me in.

I started walking back and he became a bit more insistent, there was a larger room where several hallways met, there were a half dozen people standing around coming and going, so I figured it was the safe bet. We sat there, after a second he put his arm around my shoulder, taking a sip of beer, apparently he did drink alcohol. Apparently I hadn’t read any part of this whole situation too accurately, but there I was, drinking a beer in the cellar maze gay guy hook up dungeon of underground Amsterdam with a gruff fifty year old dude I’d just met and couldn’t understand holding his arm around me thinking he was gonna get lucky.

I was still grateful for the beer, it was the only thing making this situation somehow ok. Having dealt with the odd gay guy hitting on me during my hitchhiking, I’d become somehow unphased. All the same, I began chugging down the beer ready to move on. I stood up before an arm around the shoulder could become anything more and began trying to retrace our steps through the maze back to an exit. He attempted to offer up another room, looking like he was inspecting it and it met his approval and thought it would meet mine.

“Look! Look!”, he said, pointing at his eyes and then mine. I looked. He kept asking me to look, eye contact is what he wanted, I gave it to him and he did nothing except continue to ask me to look.

Somewhat lost, I continued to follow him in his attempts as I looked for my way back to the exit. We entered one room where a half dozen guys were looking up at a TV screen, I glanced up to see one guy tongue deep into another guy's asshole. My beer was empty, it was surely time to leave. I said goodbye and thanks for the ride, words that meant nothing and turned and quickly walked luckily finding the staircase quickly, he followed and shouted behind me, “Friend! Friend!”.

I got up the steps, passing the lady looking dude at the jukebox again, through the bar and out the door. I got half a block away still walking fairly quickly as I heard him still behind me shouting, “Friend! Friend!”, there was no talking to the guy, I never looked back, I’m not sure how long he followed me, but I knew where I was and where I was going, darting though the crowds of downtown stoners and picture takers, street musicians and food vendors, finally escaping the thick of downtown and well on my way back to the casa.

I didn’t stay long at the casa, just long enough to put away a few pieces of bread from a giant bag the bakery had given us. The next city over, where my friend lived and where the reunion would be, there was also a guy I’d found who had brewing equipment and was up for brewing and taking care of fermentation and bottling in the weeks to come so the beer would be set to go.

I hopped on one of the bikes outside and biked the hour or so over, enjoying the day becoming night. I stopped into a grocery store nearby to make a beer run, then knocked on his door. He was an experienced home brewer and his house was littered with evidence of this in the form of gear and ingredients. We drank and brewed, trying the beers I picked up and what was in his fridge, which included some of his own home brews.

I biked the way back to Amsterdam in the dark along with a few leftover beers, eventually arriving to the casa again, which was now packed. Kasey was there too, he’d made his way up from Brussels. We had a huge meal, drank down tasty beers and Kasey and I began talking about our projects to the point where we had to escape upstairs and get some coding in while things were fresh in our minds.

That only lasted so long and we headed back downstairs where things had cleared out a bit. The same Bulgarian girl was there and we were talking for a while about our next destinations and so forth. Ahead of me I had a Romania where my friend’s friend was having a big traditional wedding “akin to a festival” I was told and not to be missed, beyond this was Istanbul to see a great friend, and Berlin before all of this simply because it could be on the way.

She’d been thinking of going to see a friend in a town in Germany called Munster, she was also very curious about hitchhiking being that many other people in the house used this method of travel. It didn’t take long until we decided we’d hitchhike there together, it was right along my way, more or less, towards Berlin and beyond.

The next day was all about coding with Kasey, taking a break to bike around with my new Bulgarian friend and get happily lost a few times before heading back to the house. The next day I’d give her a first hitchhiking experience and I’d be east bound on to the next adventures. Amsterdam would be waiting for my loop on back in a month or so, full of more friends old and new.

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