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Amber Paulen

Conversations in Amsterdam

So my editor at The American didn’t think this was publishable material. He says conversations like the following don’t pull in the reader because there isn’t any context. I agreed with him and started writing something, but I’m going to put this up here anyway. Because though the conversations may be difficult to follow, I think they are a good description of our trip to Amsterdam last weekend.

Finding food is complicated in any country.

Me: Where should we eat?
Simon: I’m craving eggs and bacon. Let’s eat at that place we ate at once with Kim and Ryan. Do you remember?
Kari: I would eat eggs and bacon.
Me: I know, I’m hungry. I remember that restaurant—it was great. But how will we find it? I don’t know where we are, though this area does look kinda familiar.
Simon: All the streets in Amsterdam look familiar. Canals, boats, trees, benches, thin brick houses. And the streets go around in a half circle. The last time I was here alone I got so lost. I came back to the same square so many times that I thought I was in the movie Groundhog Day.
Kari: (laughs) Aren’t the canals so charming? I want to be in a boat, like them, (Kari points at a small boat chugging through the canal) with a glass of wine already. What a great way to spend a Sunday.
Dad: Next time babe.
Me: What about this restaurant? It looks good, and I’m so hungry. I really don’t care where we eat.
Simon: It’s too food nouveau. Too glass and metal.
Me: We’re going to walk forever if you’re looking for that particular place.
(Simon walks ahead and stops at the next corner. Waves his hands.)
Dad: Looks like he found it!
Kari: Yum, looks good, and I love it here. The small counter and chairs, and the food smells delicious.
Me: Sorry I doubted you. I’m just so hungry.

In the bookstore.

Me: I read online that this book has gotten really popular here in The Netherlands all of a sudden.
Simon: Stoner
Me: Yeah. It’s so strange. It was written in the mid-60s by an American, John Williams, and it was never even this popular in the States. But I’ve seen it all over the bookstores here.
Simon: It’s about stoners. That’s why it’s popular here.
Me: No. It has nothing to do with stoners. It’s about an academic. The plot seems like it would be really boring, nothing much happens to the main character. His last name is Stoner. But it’s a great book.
Simon: Aren’t people disappointed it’s not about stoners?

Walking in Amsterdam in early June can be cold.

Kari: I’m so glad I packed this down vest. I grabbed it at the last minute with the only closed shoes I brought. The weather was predicted to be 70 degrees here. Boy was it wrong!
Me: I always pack clothes that are too light. But this sweatshirt I bought saved me.
Simon: It’s the wind. It must be blowing off the North Sea.
Kari: I think your dad needs a scarf.
Dad: Why? Because I’m all hunched up.
Simon: You have to be freezing. You’re only wearing that jacket. Here, take my scarf and hat.
Kari: They look so good on you! We’re going to get you a scarf.

Walking in Amsterdam can also be hazardous.

Simon: We made it across the Leidseplein!
Me: I can’t believe it. Bikes, trams, pedestrians coming from all directions.
Simon: The problem is everything’s so silent. You can hardly hear the bikes or trams coming until they’re right in on top of you, ringing their bells.
Me: But look how few cars there are. I wouldn’t mind living in a city like this. It’s hardly a city. It’s so small, smaller than Rome.
Simon: And it’s so organized.
Me: Organized chaos. Everyone sticks to their particular lane.

And only in Amsterdam.

Me: Look at this article about two sisters.
Simon: “A combined century of work between the two of them.” And now they’re retiring. Here Jeff, read this.
Dad: Look at these women! It says that the younger sister was seen a month ago still waving to customers from her window in the Red Light District.
Me: And the older retired earlier because of arthritis.
Dad: I can’t imagine they were still working. Who would sleep with them?
Me: Maybe all their experience kept them in demand.
Kari: There were some surprisingly unattractive women in the windows when we passed through.
Me: What a weird city.


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