Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Clarity in Amsterdam, Part Seven (Conclusion)

The final chapter from the revised version of travel writings from 2005.

If you're new this story, catch up by clicking on "PART ONE" below.


We all take the last couple of days trying to justify ourselves as cultured tourists. We go to the Rijksmuseum and the Anne Frank house. We travel to Belgium to witness beer being made in the last brewery that uses natural yeast in the air for fermentation. Every other brewery in the world imports its yeast. I learn that beer is actually yeast piss. It doesn’t bother me.

We see the brilliant works of Rembrandt, the glory of the 16th century treasures from the lost Dutch empire, the mashing of modern and medieval architecture in Brussels; we are very, very stoned when we see these and many other beautiful works of culture, art, and life.

Mystique is part of the lure of Amsterdam, just as mystique holds the power to secrets. Imagination gives more power than reality. I love Amsterdam, but I find that I don’t want to debauch myself as much as I thought I would because there isn’t as much mystique or wonder for vices that are readily available, even for drugs and sex (although I still remind myself that I would not feel this way had I been to Amsterdam when I was five years younger). It was as if every piece of candy that I ever wanted was put in front of me, but it was the allure and not the action that held the mystique.

Returning home is very hard. The trip was a protective cocoon of sorts, isolating me from all the problems I face, but I have to come out from behind the shield. I still don’t know how to like myself more. I don’t feel any additional strength or wisdom. There is no clear path for me, no enlightenment that I so desperately wanted and expected. But there is no sense of waste or loss. I’ve gained something, but it may take a long time (if ever) to notice any real effects.

I hope to return to Holland soon, now that I can find my way in Amsterdam. I’ve kept my city map. I’ll bring it with me when I return, but I won’t need to look at it so much. On my first day, when I was lost, I did promise to stay at a hotel near the first canal off Damrak. There is that and many other things I want to do on the return trip, the first being a stop in the coffee shop to watch European football. There, the singing will start anew, and for a little while, I will again know perfect unison.

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