Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Pot in Amsterdam

Every time I mentioned our plans to spend our 2nd anniversary in Amsterdam someone inevitably made an air joint with their fingers and mimed a slow and stoned inhale.
Smoking pot was not our reason for going to Amsterdam, though it eventually became an item on our itinerary. I had never even smoked pot before this trip, which may be surprising given my theater degree, but its true.

I was once sure that marijuana was every bit as evil and dangerous as harder drugs, but after reading articles on marijuana use and even having studied marijuana consumption in one of my sociology courses (at a good old Methodist university nonetheless) I figured it was probably pretty safe and non-addictive. I decided to give it a try.

Some English guides to the area will tell you how locals loathe tourists who don't come to enjoy Amsterdam's many cultural and historical sites, but only to get stoned and check out prostitutes. After reading this I expected to see red-eyed stoners lining the streets, feeling up lamp posts and raiding bakeries of all their wares. But it was actually kind of tough to find a "coffee shop." There are definitely a lot more bakeries and bars in the city than places to light up.

Ryan and I eventually found a coffee shop called "The Bulldog" in touristy Leidseplein square. We ducked in, feeling somewhat seedy. It looked like a rustic bar-- lots of lightly finished wood, some tacky neon lights, and video screens playing music videos. After chatting with the lady behind the marijuana counter we bought our marijuana-only joints (no tobacco), two teas (no alcohol in coffee shops), and a lighter. We sat down at a little table and Ryan showed me how to work the lighter, a task that would become increasingly difficult as the night went on.

We began to smoke, and it was horrible! I smoked one cigarette in college, but I didn't remember it burning my throat so badly. My throat and nose were scorched and half the time I felt like I needed to cough up my lungs. I kept waiting for some pleasant effects to kick in, but primarily I felt confused. My joint kept going out, and I forgot how to work the lighter or even which end the flame came out of.

Ryan seemed to be having a better time, but even he was hacking and coughing. He drummed his fingers on the table very quickly, and I asked "are you ok?" He replied, "My fingers feel sensational!" It was pretty funny. But that was about all.

A few nights later we went back to The Bulldog. They only sold joints in a four pack, so we had two more to smoke, and its only allowed in coffee shops. So I took a cue from some experienced-looking smokers and ordered an orange juice, which helped a little with the burning in my throat. We smoked our joints, drank our drinks, paid, and left, not feeling much different than normal.

Then on the way back to our bikes it hit me. I couldn't remember where I was or how we got there. Ryan must've been feeling it too because he splurged for Ben & Jerry's, which costs about €6 a pint! We ate it slowly, overlooking a meeting of two canals. When I closed my eyes I saw lots of faces of men with mustaches. Apparently I went on about how mustaches were a theme in my life. I don't remember that much. I'll bet it was very funny to someone who was sober.

So, I can no longer say I've never smoked pot. And having experienced being high, I still don't get how something so unpleasant could become a habit. My clothes stank after smoking, and my eyes and throat burned. Being high was an interesting feeling, but too out of control for me to enjoy. I would definitely say a cold glass of Riesling that dances on your taste buds and gives you a gently relaxed feeling is better than a smoldering joint that only brings mustache men and confusion.

P.S. I promise another post later detailing better ways to spend your time in Amsterdam

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