Last evening, I glued myself to the television in hot anticipation of Anthony Bourdain's newest episode of The Layover: Amsterdam. As Tony lands at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport, I picture an hour of pot-smoking, hash brownie-eating, hooker-laden indulgence before Tony wakes up in a pool of his own vomit in some park wearing nothing but boxers and a pair of wooden shoes. After all, Anthony Bourdain and Amsterdam go together like peanut butter and jelly...like Paula Deen and butter....like boxers and wooden shoes!
Since Tony hasn't seen Amsterdam in three decades (or
possibly never actually sober), he puts his bags down in the hotel room (not
under the tree or at a locker at the bus terminal where he presumably did in
his misspent youth) and goes straight to the Cafe Int Aepjen, or The Ape. The name comes from the fact that the owner used to trade booze for monkeys and other
exotic animals, which is kind of awesome and terrible at the same time. I can envision a world where the current gold-based monetary system has been replaced by people trading a can of baked beans for a squirrel monkey, can't you?
Tony Bourdain: "Wait until they see the incontinent and
impossibly rabid mink I have in my bag. He's just darling."
Tony meets up with Aziz, who owns a skateboard shop. As they
walk to a local pancake joint, they pass though a newly gentrified part of town, which Aziz notes used to be filled with unsavory people. Tony basically tells him that he was one of those unsavory people:
Aziz Badrane: "This
street became the junkie street of Amsterdam. In the 70's this street was like
a zombie parade. Then they were put into
Tony Bourdain: "Like Methadone? I was on a Methadone
program for eight years."
Aziz Badrane: "Seriously? Holy sh*t."
Tony then takes us on a tour montage of the city...the trolleys, the countless number of bikes, canals, and beer gardens. All of them very pretty, indeed. But we're not interested in that crap, are we? Finally...finally...we're treated to what we've been waiting for as that f**king countdown clock ticks away - 36 hours of pot smoking and watching live sex acts in the red light district.
We're taken to De Dampkring (only to satisfy the
curiousities of us, the viewers at home, according to Tony). The rules of buying and selling
pot in Amsterdam's coffee shops? "You're
allowed to sell five grams to each person", owner Ron answers. That's about a teaspoon, in case you're wondering. How many tourists come to get high? "Officially it's
about seven percent, but we think about 25-30 percent of tourists come to smoke
weed", Ron replies. By the way, Da Dampkring's website actually sells cannabis seeds, though they don't ship to the U.S. Bummer.
Tony says he's tempted to try some of this fine, fine
product, "but network policy
prohibits me from using any substance that might be illegal in some viewing
markets, so I will not be sampling any of the rare and potent types of weed
here." What? Let's get this straight. Anthony Bourdain, who basically has made a career out of getting drunk and eating pork, is in a coffee shop in Amsterdam and is not going to smoke some serious weed? I call bulls**t.
Tony Bourdain: "Contact high! Did anyone ever really have a contact high?
Nope. You have to put the joint in your mouth. I respect the policies of the television industry. I will not smoke weed
now or ever. I will not ever smoke pot. I
haven't moved and I'm looking at my hand and it looks different. It's got
veins. I think that cat is staring at me. I think the cat is stoned, man. That
cat is stoned."
Tony reiterates that he is in no way, shape or form high.
But if he was high, he would most certainly go to Electric Ladyland, a day-
glo cave built by Nick Padalino and named after Jimi Hendrix's third and final
album.Come on Tony - you're totally high. And that cat wants to kill you and eat your brains.
Tony is then taken by Ron, the coffee house owner, to a
"brown cafe". Though Tony is worried that this is a place for German fetishists,
it turns out to be just the Dutch version of an English pub called the Two
Swans. Suddenly (and for no reason
we can think of), the entire bar breaks out into song.
Tony Bourdain: "I was looking forward to a nice quiet refuge
re-tweak and get that cat out of my head." Suddenly this happens and I
nearly jumped out of my skin. I wanted to crawl into a giant hole and chill out
and I fall into the middle of a Broadway production of South Pacific. I'm so
unhappy I feel like feigning a seizure. I'm in hell. This is like you're sitting with Neil Young
and he starts belting out the soundtrack from Annie. Singing bars are popular here
but I don't share that interest. I found that really terrifying. Thank god I'm
(Tony: methinks you doth protest too much ... just saying).
The next morning Tony wakes up and checks for collateral damage.
Tony Bourdain: "Where am I? No blood? That's good.
Didn't pee in the sock drawer? Good. Feeling funky fresh? Not exactly. Maybe I should liberate a young Ukrainian
Feeling less than funky fresh, Tony heads over to Frens
Haringhandel for pickled herring. To eat it you grab it by the tail, dip it in
chopped onion and head to town. Like a seal. There are also eels and salmon,
should you be in the mood.
Tony Bourdain: "Everyone
come to Amsterdam with a checklist to get high. But I will not go to the Red
Light district. I will not go to the Cannabis College. I like to drink beer but I don't want to go to Beer University.
Anne Frank Museum? Look at the lines, and...well, sort of a downer."
Tony spots yet another coffee shop and notes that he could
" violate everything I hold dear. And head into Café Paradox, and get my
head ripped off", but we're led to believe that he doesn't. At least in
front of the camera, that is.
Instead, Tony grabs a beer and some cheese at Wildeman Café.
a beer in my hand and the afternoon sun, it's a real golden moment. Good thing I'm
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(Ummm ... Tony? I personally think you are baked. In fact I'm sure the millions of fans tuning in are quite convinced that you're baked. Because only people that are baked constantly repeat that they're not baked, while talking about the golden moment they're having.)
Before heading to the airport, Tony looks completely ragged, as he partakes in an Indonesian meal of 25 dishes, each spicier than the next. Bourdain suspiciously looks like someone who spent the past 36 hours smoking grass and avoiding both zombie cats and Broadway show tunes. Though he may deny it, the cat and I know the truth about what happened. But, as the saying goes...what happens in Amsterdam, stays in Amsterdam (so don't put any leftovers in your carry-on).
Next week: San Francisco. Home to seafood, wine, and more hippies.