June 2016

Amsterdam

By Suzanne Strazza

Parenting in the era of legalized marijuana is an experience I never dreamed I’d have. When I was the age my children are now, I was definitely stoned, listening to The Dead, and hanging out in my basement with my friends, and having this conversation:

“Can you imagine if pot was legal?”

“Dude, they should totally make it legal – it’s natural.”

“Yeah, like it’s a plant, it’s like, healthy for you in a way.”

“Right? It’ll never happen.”

And none of those friends live in Colorado now so they are probably still having that conversation.

But here I am, the mother of teenagers, navigating my way through “It’s as acceptable as beer.”

Except it’s still illegal until you are 21, just not double-illegal.

Teenagers now fantasize about moving to Colorado (or one of the other states or districts that have chosen this path), but back in my basement, it was all about moving to Amsterdam. Weed, Van Gogh, and legalized prostitution – what more could stupid teenagers want out of life?

Which leads me to the story of my unexpected week in Amsterdam, with my two gay-but-didn’t-know-they-were-gay-yet friends, traipsing from museum to canal in wooden clogs, sporting key chains that chirped when you clapped your hands (or a door closed, or you ordered yet another brownie from the Bulldog – which is famously located in the Red Light District.)

I had just completed a semester of art college in Florence. The pasta and the cream sauces and the wine and the bread and the gelato were all fabulous. My participation in Art History was not; my ability to read and write Italian – even less so.

The shoe-shopping was phantasmagorical. Being the daughter of M.C. Strazza means that I have a genetic knack for finding screaming deals on exquisite Italian leather and an inability to say, “No more.”

Near the semester’s end, Palestinian terrorists hijacked the Achille Lauro cruise ship in Egypt, making it unsafe for Americans to travel, particularly out of any Mediterranean country, therefore making it necessary to drive across the entire European continent in Evans’ brand-new BMW to Amsterdam to fly to the U.S.

We chose Amsterdam because not only was it one of the three “safe” cities for travel, but Evan’s brother lived there.

We left Florence after sunset and drove through the night with suitcases full of all things Italian, my shoes, Loris’ cashmere sweater collection, and Evan’s 4,000 photos and camera equipment.

When we arrived in Amsterdam we pulled up to a small inn that, like many homes in that city, was very tall and very narrow, with a gazillion steps. Our room was just large enough for a lamp, small table, one chair and a double bed; quite agreeable despite the limited furnishings for three people.

We headed back down into the sunshine. From the door of the inn we saw the back window smashed in and all of our bags, gone.

Evan: “F***, my car. And all of my photos.”

Loris: “F***, all of my beautiful cashmere sweaters.”

Me: “F***ity F*** – all my shoes. My beautiful, buttery soft boots and shoes.”

The innkeeper was quite sympathetic but offered no solutions. The same with the police – they looked at us as a bunch of stupid, spoiled, American kids who’d come to Amsterdam to smoke pot and deserved to ripped off.

Wait, did someone say Pot?

So, f*** the police and the thieves and f*** having a bad day. Let’s go hit a hash bar and get high as American kites.

For the next five days.

Non-stop.

After decompressing over breakfast, we had to do a little bit of shopping: a change of clothes, toothbrushes, and a pair of shoes more appropriate for walking the city than the Ferragamos that I’d worn in the car.

In a judgment-impaired moment, I decided that when in Rome… I got myself a pair of wooden clogs. Yeah, those clogs you think of when you imagine the little Dutch boy with his finger in the dam. The kind that people buy and plant flowers in. I rocked them all over that city. I wore the shit out of those clogs. With no shame, not even a touch of self-consciousness.

Did I mention how much time we spent in hash bars?

One evening, Evan’s brother invited us to his house for dinner, which also included his business partner.

I made a stab at small talk, “You two are business partners. What do you do?”

I had to ask.

You know those handy-dandy key finder things — the ones that make noise when you clap your hands so you can audibly locate your missing chiave – well, these gentlemen were the genius behind them. But at that time, they were still a relatively small start-up and their offices were located in this home.

Which then leads me to the bizarre background noise that I hadn’t noticed at first but was becoming increasingly more a part of the conversation — like 10,000 crickets in the walls of the house.

Which basically it was.

Cases of these key-finder thingies lived in every closet, on every surface in every drawer in the house. The entire third floor was converted into warehouse space.

The chirp of one set off the others, so at any given time, there might be a hundred key chains playing Marco Polo.

The music ebbed and flowed – gaining in intensity and volume as more were triggered. In the living room, we raised our voices a notch.

And then, a moment of silence; a very rare instance that only came when all of the stars aligned and all of the chirpers finished chirping at exactly the same time.

As they say, the silence was deafening. While we could and did talk through the noise, we couldn’t continue when there was silence. We paused.

And then, the wind blew or the cat jumped off the back of the couch or someone farted and it started the cacophony again and we’d pick up talking where we had left off, never mentioning the blessed 45 seconds of silence.

And bless everyone’s hearts – not one of them admitted to not wanting to be seen with the girl in the wooden shoes. I guess they figured if I put up with their weird-as-shit house, they could put up with a pair of clogs for a couple of hours.

Living high on the hog in the land of weed, tulips, art.

We sat in the Bulldog, asking, “Can you imagine if pot was legal at home?”

“Dude, it totally should be – it’s natural, organic.”

“Right? It will never happen.”

The flight home was full of Americans who, like us, had ended up in Amsterdam as a portal to the U.S. They too were experiencing legalized pot for the first time.

The good people of Amsterdam encouraged us to take as much of their hash with us as possible. But the U.S. government opposed bringing it into the States, so the only thing to do was sit in the aisles of the plane and smoke it.

Pre-9/11. Pre-TSA.

So my experience with legalized pot was pure fantasy. It happened in another country, in another reality – one where I wasn’t ashamed to clod-hop in giant wooden klompen.

I returned home to all of my envious friends sharing details of debauchery and emanating coolness.

So I have a hard time wrapping my head around the reality of today, of my sons’ generation. I feel sorry for all the little potheads growing up in this state, this time, this life. They’ll never truly understand sneaky, covert, doing-this-makes-us-super-cool, risky and subversive behavior.

Suzanne Strazza writes from Mancos, Colo.