Our man [formally] of Amsterdam


Stuck in the middle with you
September 21, 2009, 20:02
Filed under: Amsterdam

The cobbled road home could go a hundred different ways but today it leads along Leliegracht, crossing the three main canals in the Western ring before turning right on Prinsengracht.

The wind has become much stronger during class and I am glad for having packed my Remo long-sleeve tee. I spilled a speck of chocolate on the right cuff from the mini Magnum during the Cathay Pacific flight over and even after two washes, traces of the chocolate can still be seen. I tried looking for the local equivalent of Preen but I couldn’t find anything. After that I gave up.

The cobbled road home ...

The cobbled road home ...

Then, near Cafe de Prins, I hear the husky tones of that tall, bearded, bedraggled busker I mentioned in an earlier post, and this is what he sang:

Clowns to left of me, jokers to the right,
Here I am, stuck in the middle with you.

Yes, I’m stuck in the middle with you,
And I’m wondering what it is I should do.
It’s so hard to keep this smile from my face,
Losing control, and I’m all over the place.

I smile as I walk by picturing the bloodied Tarantino scene that that song accompanied in Reservoir Dogs  and think of the juxtaposition between it and the carefree, post-work customers of Cafe de Prins bantering and smoking in the late afternoon sun as glass-roofed boats glide silently by with hardly anyone inside. A bit further on the busker’s battered guitar case lies crumpled against the canalside railing at the entrance to Eglantiersgracht.

It’s nearing 7pm and I detour past Cafe Papeneiland, which is only five minutes walk from the cell, and take a seat on a bench protected from the wind when the waitress comes out and recognises me, asking, “small beer, Aussie?”

“Ney. Ik wil graag een glas rode wijn.”

“Is that a glass of red wine?” she sought to confirm.

“What, you didn’t understand my best rehearsed line in Dutch?”

“Not yet. But keep practicing.”

I fumble for my notebook and scribble some garbled thoughts and inane observations about buskers who roam and impromptu Dutch language lessons as the light lessens and people make their way home on bikes overflowing with Albert Hign grocery bags while tourists amble by with map in hand and jaws agape. The wine arrives – I take a swig and understand why it’s so hard to keep this smile from my face …

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