5.22.2009

Chapter Two: Dutch Treat

The half dozen or so locals who lingered in the hash bar Sully and I ducked into seemed quiet and preoccupied but casual and friendly, like nothing and no one could ruin their good time. Because the vibe was so nonchalant, even the simple task of ordering drinks was by turns frustrating and funny. Issuing our request in my best high-school German did nothing to expedite our order, but my linguistic butchering did pique the interest of the stringy-haired girl behind the counter.

"Bist do von Deutschland? Are you from Germany?"

"Nein—wir sind Americaner."

"Welcome to Amsterdam. My name is Vreele."

"Free-lah. Nice to meet you. I'm Harold, this is Sully. Can we get some drinks?"

"Of course."

Vreele glided to the long side of the L-shaped bar and prepared our order—a Corona for theTexan and a gin and tonic on the rocks for the chatty fellow with the fanny pack.

"Everything in America is big. I make you a big drink so you feel at home."

"Wie viele kosten das?"

"Don't worry—your drinks are free."

After quietly marveling at the price and proportion of our complimentary cocktails, Sully and I toasted our new friend's refreshingly un-American generosity.

Danke, schoene m├Ądchen."

"Bitte, Harold!"

With a wink and a twirl, Vreele returned to her friends at the opposite end of the bar. After a few minutes, our lanky barmaid returned to Sully and me with another round.

"These are from my friends. They say welcome to the Netherlands."

"Thank you, Vreele. How can we repay your friends' hospitality?"

"Would you like to smoke with us?"

Sully and I could feel a set-up coming, but we took our chances and accepted Vreele's offer. If things got truly weird, we could always make a run for it. I may have had five 16-ounce G&T's sloshing around in my head, but everyone else in The Texan looked like they'd been smoking and drinking since Memorial Day. 

"Tonight," I said to Sully, "we ride…"

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