It’s the last two full days of our vacation, and I’m starting to think whatever gods I pissed off might have forgiven me, forgotten me, or simply got bored with me. I mean, sure, the old back was acting up again, and my body learned a new trick – a sharp stabbing pain in my knee. The bathtub plug won’t seal properly and the shampoo I used in lieu of shaving cream left me looking like I’d contracted the Red Death. Still, blood dries, I’m on the mend and by noon I’m more or less fine.
The forecast had called for rain, but we’re ready for that. We bought an umbrella and have two museums in short walking distance. But it doesn’t rain, it simply threatens. The morning is crisp and slightly foggy. We walk the canals for a while and come across an American with a collie. Gillian takes a break on the bench and we end up having a chat with him. He’s dressed in the loose coloured clothing and unkempt hair you’d expect from someone involved in Amsterdam’s underground music industry, and he is. The dog isn’t his, his other job is dog walking. The well groomed collie takes to licking the dried blood on Gillian’s pantyhose for almost our entire conversation.
If you ever hear about an old lady who’s been devoured by her loving collie in Amsterdam, you’ll know how it got the craving for human blood.
We catch a matinée of the movie Jumper at a cinema (Gill’s idea, not mine). Unlike France, foreign movies are usually subtitled not dubbed. The movie was fun to watch, but man, throughout the whole think I kept thinking the whole damn thing would be over in thirty seconds if someone had the common sense to use a gun. Shortly after the movie, something strange happens. I can’t quite put my finger on it. Wait a minute, something is different.
Holy crap the sun came out! What kind of witchcraft is this?
Today’s museum is the Rijksmuseum close to where we are staying. We go there at the end of the day, with just enough time to see everything. Unlike Lille, all the museums we went to forbid photography, which sucks. The highlight of this museum was, of course, Rembrandt’s Night Watch.
As I mentioned, the hotel not only doesn’t have internet available, even if it did it would cost ten euros. Screw them, everyone says McDonald’s has free WiFi, even the hotel clerk. Only once we track one down it turns out to be a lie, you have to use a credit card to buy time on T-Mobile, so screw them too. In the end the only place I can find Internet access is at a cafe. Um… not an Internet cafe. One of those other cafes. You know, the kind Amsterdam is famous for.
Wow, I haven’t smelled THAT in a while. I’m instantly transported back to the wild and untamed British Columbian grow-ops. The cafe is deep in the basement, barely lit. I round a corner and some guy hurriedly packs something away and puts it under the table out of sight. This strikes me as odd given that I’m getting high from second hand smoke. I suppose harder drugs are not tolerated the way pot is. Maybe I look like an undercover cop, the kind who look like they are wearing a sign that says “I’M AN UNDERCOVER COP, DO YOU HAVE ANY DOPE, DUDE?”
Internet is expensive here, 1.60 euros for 20 minutes, and by the end of it you have a growing urge to buy Doritos and Cheetos, and other food ending in “etos”… 20 minutes is all I need to check up on everything and send my latest email.
The next day we buy a day pass for the Canal Bus, a long covered boat which ferries people along the spiderweb like network of canals. It’s not a bad deal at all, you get to see most of Amsterdam via the canals, it stops off at all the key places, and you can get on and off as often as you like until noon the next day. Almost everywhere you go the houses are hundreds of years old (I think over 2/3 of the buildings in Amsterdam are historically protected). We passed by the flower shops, zoo, Rembrandt Square, flee market, and many more interesting locations. At this point it’s looking like we’re going to have the whole vacation go by without any rain. That would be nice.
Today’s museum was Anne Frank’s House, a place Gillian has wanted to visit ever since she read the diary as a child. The house is preserved as closely as possible to its wartime condition (though the furniture was removed by the Nazis). Gillian had to struggle to get to the top floor, the steps were extremely steep. At the very top she had to use her knees, her scabs reopened and she left a streak of blood on the floor. Each room’s wallpaper is protected and preserved, showing where they marked the children’s growth and what they pasted on the walls just to have something to look at. Anne’s diary is on display in the second last room. The final room deals with the fates of those who hid there.
If you are expecting some kind of catharsis from me at this point, looking at everything I wrote before and wailing “Oh, how? How could I complain about my petty problems when she faced such tragedy!” you are sorely mistaken. For one thing, I’m obviously writing these letters for your entertainment. For another, to say such a thing would be petty and self-serving, a kind of mental self-flagellation, some pathetic attempt to show proper humility and be a “better person.” Oh, look at me, I’ve grown as a human being.
Hell, compared to the Holocaust, few people in the world have the right to ever complain about anything, and complaining is a very human thing. I’d argue it’s one of the key things that make us human. We complain. We grumble. We are forever discontent and, more importantly, seek to change that which has upset us. It’s this same impulse that has upset millions of people over Anne Frank’s fate and continues to do so with each passing generation, and that can only be a good thing in my book. Be discontent, dammit, because it’s still going on. Only the names, places and justifications change.
Nevertheless although it was pouring rain when we left Anne Frank’s house, and the winds were so high that the umbrella we bought instantly broke, neither of us complained. One can hardly leave such a place without some degree of perspective.