Saturday, April 19, 2008
Amsterdam Station, The Netherlands

Thad and I are sitting on the train, waiting a few moments before this things zips us off to Antwerp for the day. We're on a short hiatus from the touring life as Isis plays two big festivals to which we were not invited. We have never been given a laminated pass for any show we've played and, with the non-invitation from these places, our environmentally responsible pattern on this matter continues unbroken.

The vans got to Tillburg yesterday in the late morning. The trip up had been quiet; Thad had the only moment of note. He was napping across the back row of the seats in the van, flanked only by loft that provided occasional sleeping quarters for riding band members. One member of Isis (I'll keep him anonymous for this kind of detail) who had been sleeping up there woke Thad. "Thad, you need to move out of the way. I've got to piss in a bottle." Quickly yanked out of a deeper slumber than he had been expecting, Thad felt the bristling terror of the confused and newly awake. "Whu-, hu- oh, yeah sorry. I'll move." Any potential crisis was averted, though; Joris announced we'd be taking a quick break and the loft dweller made the noble decision to hold it until then.

We quickly parted company with the rest of the team and made our way to the rail station. A train connection or two was all it took to be in Amsterdam in an hour. We fumbled along the blvd. until we got to our hostel. Checked in, packed away our backpacks and we were ready to see the city.

Amsterdam has a reputation. I'm sure you know this : drugs, prostitution, canals. I'd seen a canal or two but have never dabbled in the first two. (My mom, who is reading these dispatches, is probably beaming with pride right now. Decibel Magazine, on the other hand, is almost certainly entering my e-mail address as a confirmed junk mail domain.) I had vague plans to visit a coffee shop but Thad found the whole scene boring so I didn't push the issue. Instead we figured we'd roam the city for the day, grabbing food and checking out what was unique. Mainly the canals.

So off we set. It's a pretty marvelous place. Although there's a lot of it that's quite touristy, that stuff fits nicer into the local culture than any other place I've been. The architecture and unusual layout of a metropolis that lives on bunches of little, connected islands make the garish neon of the street level almost palatable. We found good food and beer at almost every place we went, although we avoided anything that claimed to sell something resembling pizza. Our highlights of the city:

  • The red light district is not a turn on. It's a weird prostitution supermarket infested with trashed British meatheads. I avoid their American jock equivalent at home so I don't know what made me think I'd be curious or titillated in their preferred European playground. This, however, is yet another good reason for creating such a place: make a designated area where all the assholes like to get drunk and then never go there.
  • Do not offer me any stroopwaffles because I will take all that you give me, then assault you until you give me the rest, then aggressively insist that you take me to where you got them and then make you buy the rest at that place. And then I will eat all those. Ditto the crack-like pannekokken.
  • One Japanese guy in our hostel room was in there almost every time I went to drop something off. I think he watched all of "Deuce Bigleow, Part II". You flew all the way to the other side of the planet for that? You're in Amsterdam! Even though he wasn't the loud one waking people up in the middle of the night or turning the light on while everyone else is sleeping (fellow Americans), he was the one I was most worried about.
  • Also in the hostel: I was checking e-mail in the lobby area at about 2AM. Thad was sitting next to me and pointed out the business on the television : a humor show called "Naked and Funny". This is a cross between "The Benny Hill Show", "Candid Camera" and late night Cinemax. A typical sketch would include a woman with roaringly large breasts walking down the street. She'd ask an unsuspecting stranger for directions and then her top would go flying off. The joke was the hidden camera filming the guy's insane surprise. Keep in mind that this would be shown over and over at double speed with quick edits, an insistent laugh track and a constant barrage of Hanna Barbara sound effects. Just that for 30 minutes. Thad soberly, quietly commented that this was probably the greatest thing shown on television since the (alleged) moon landing.

You get the idea. Today we're going to Antwerp to bum around for the afternoon with even less of a plan for how to spend our time. I was going to say something about how this doesn't yet feel much like a music tour, but you've probably been thinking about that for a couple of days now.

Listening to:
The Brainbombs: Urge to Kill
The Rolling Stones being played everywhere, as they have apparently been adopted as the official band of the Netherlands.

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