August 18 – 20, 2017
The next few days I took a what I was about to call a much deserved break but as I look back on my trip so far I took a hell of a lot to days off in between cycling. But I have always said that I was in this trip more for the travel than the sport and I have put in plenty of miles in between those stops so I have to try not to be so hard on myself. There is absolutely no competition here and there are as many grannies on electric bikes as there are spandex clad Fabio cyclists (if not more) so any grief I am getting is coming right from myself.
Nonetheless, I made it to Amsterdam earlier than I anticipated and I won’t be riding a lot of the way back so my fear of having no time here has turned instead into overstaying my welcome. Amy has been going through some hard times personally, which I will not go into here because it is not my story to tell, but I will point you toward her blog and Instagram. Even if in some ways the timing isn’t perfect I think it has been good for her to have a friend around at this time and it has certainly been restorative for me.
It has also given me the first chance I have had to have pictures taken of me, especially with my bike. As a commemoration of reaching Amsterdam she took a photo of me posing in front of the I Amsterdam sign with my bike. I feel like I can finally call myself “fiester” now, which means cyclist in Dutch.
Then we go to the Stedelijk, which is a contemporary art museum that she’s been meaning to visit since moving here in April. I really liked all the exhibits currently on display including De Stijl and its defector, High in the Sky in Amsterdam and it’s weird acid induced paintings, the equally out there Seth Price and his video, plastic and artwork of various media, Edward Krasinki and his continuous blue line which reminded me very much of one of my favorite books as a child, Harold and His Purple Crayon, and especially an exhibit about products that can serve multiple purposes for refugees. They would work well for long distance hikers and travelers of all sorts as well and I would have been interested in owning more than one of the products myself. At least one manufacturer had capitalized on this and was selling in outdoor stores with proceeds going to help refugees.
But the show we had really come to see was Zanelle Muholi. A black South African lesbian, her photography focused not just on herself but on all manner of queer and trans black South Africans. Sometimes it was celebratory, like the video of a 2013 wedding, and sometimes somber with shots of a funeral for a victim of hate crime. Even these, however, were vibrant photographs full of all the color and style of its gender non conforming subjects, so strong in the face of daily danger. Though gay marriage has technically been legal in South Africa for longer than most other places around the globe, hate crimes remain high. Don’t let anyone tell you that now that we have marriage the fight is over, either at home or abroad.
In the evening we went to the Saarein one of the few dyke bars left staring in the world. It is in a cute neighborhood called the Jordaan and the regulars and bartenders alike are very friendly. We perused the magazines but most were geared toward pride, which we had both missed 2 weeks previously. I was in Paris that weekend and it was kind of a bummer to see Sarah and Scott’s queer housemate head out to spend the weekend having a gay time in NL knowing I would be there in less than 2 weeks, but once again, you can’t do everything.
We also checked out this coffeeshop called The Other Side that is also supposed to be gay friendly. In case you don’t know the lingo, coffeeshop here means a place where you can purchase and usually smoke weed and non-alcoholic drinks and snacks. The place was small but friendly enough if not thrilling. I appreciate the coffeeshop culture here but I’m quite happy with what we have at home so it is not nearly the draw it used to be. On one hand it can be nice to be able to have a smoke while you sit and people watch in a very dynamic and interesting city, on the other hand you don’t want to accidentally end up in a den of American or British bros. This shop certainly wasn’t that but I do hope to visit one that has a better selection, better food, and nicer decor if I can while I’m here.
Saturday was actually mellow and we didn’t really go out all day instead just enjoying both of Amy’s really nice outdoor balconies. The one off their main floor (which is actually the 4th in the building, 3rd if you go by the European numbering system) is smaller more more easily accessed. The guest room I am staying in is up a terrifying flight of tiny, narrow and twisting very Dutch stairs but the door front it opens up to a quite large and beautiful rooftop terrace. I took some cheesy smoking shots which I may or may not share here.
In the evening we went to this super international food hall heaven called De FoodHallen. It is part of a larger complex of stores, bars, food, and a cinema called DeHallen inside what was formerly a tram station, and for as hipster as it was I loved it.
After having some dim sum we went into the bar at the back called the Kanarie Club whose wide open atmosphere and several bars led us to an upstairs area where they have a fake pool with donut cushions you can sit in. We sat poolside in these amazing chairs that were sort of a tropical take on Adirondacks.
After getting a little tipsy we decided we couldn’t leave without experiencing the huge waffle ice cream creations of I Scream, which is surely the most photographed food item in the complex. It is for good reason though, and I certainly fell prey to it, which surely you know if you also follow me on Insta.
On Sunday we continued to be tourists and had a fantastic brunch sitting right on a canal (I had to make sure my chair didn’t fall in) at an English breakfast spot called Greenwoods that my friend Monique recommended. Then we visited a cat museum, Katten Kabinet, followed by Foam, a photography museum that had an excellent exhibition by American photographer Gordon Parks. Life magazine’s first African American on staff, Parks work was diverse from 1940s gang members in Harlem to Paris fashion in the 50s to 60s civil rights leaders.
We ended the day by taking the dogs for a picnic in Erasmus park where we got to do some pretty fantastic people watching. A park setting is especially good for what I call “changing the channels.” We are all stationary but there is a set of people and scene in each direction you look so it’s kind of like watching live action tv, perhaps theater in the round. It certainly was this day. Channel 1 featured an older couple with some really sweet tunes blasting as they canoodled quite intensely with the woman sitting on the guy’s lap and lots of giggling. The next channel was our favorite. It featured a thrilling match of Kubb. I’ve actually played the game before but couldn’t really remember the rules and yet we watched for so long we definitely got it by the end and cheered every time there was a good play. We’re real sports fans now.
But perhaps the most truly fascinating channel were the acro yoga interpretive dance couple. Continuously falling all over one another this very sincere but not very coordinated duo may have been just doing their best to learn a new skill or they may have been absolutely high as kites. Unfortunately we’ll never know.