diamond geezer

 Tuesday, April 29, 2003

High life

Amsterdam is famous, indeed infamous, for its relaxed laws on certain narcotic substances. These are widely available across the city, especially in the coffee shops to be found on various street corners. It's also difficult to walk down some streets without some bloke called Charlie coming up and offering to supply you with 'e coke', and he's not offering you a fizzy cola drink with preservatives either. It's not true that all drugs are easy to find - the Dutch clamp down very tightly on many - but certain drugs are tolerated, even accepted. Maybe this need for stimulants comes down to the fact that coffee is only available in thimble-sized cups over here, or else it may just be those Dutch being extra-liberal again.

No matter where you go in Amsterdam, the smell of smoke hangs in the air. Tobacco is still the number one smoking choice for the locals, and most local men are always to be seen fag in hand. Visitors, however, are in town for a different kind of leaf. A whole range of 'souvenir' shops have sprung up to cater for these tourists and their smoking habits, selling t-shirts, keyrings and various ornate items of apparatus. You can buy mushrooms, psychedelic seeds, even probably an entire chemistry set, should you so desire.

Across the city you'll also find a number of coffee shops selling all the normal things that a cafe might, plus a number of other items from a more specialised menu. No need to roll your own because they've already rolled some for you, prepackaged in 5s and 10s, and without a huge government health warning all over the packet. Also lurking on the counter are some cakes that definitely weren't made by Mr Kipling, but that many might describe as exceedingly good. They taste, apparently, fairly innocuous so it's tempting to go back and ask for another slice because nothing appears to have happened after the first. This would be a mistake. So I'm told. As would eating any of the mushrooms in the shop nextdoor as well. Apparently. Look, trust me on this one, I'm only here for research purposes. And, to be honest, it's far more interesting just watching people who think they're having a good time. Unlike most of the visitors here in Amsterdam on a trip, I shall remember every minute.

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