Friday, June 22, 2012
The Hearth in Amsterdam
Winter of 1974, while Stationed at Amsterdam
The 545th Ordnance Company, in
Munster by ) Dieburg, Germany
Two policemen were riding down a narrow cobblestone street on horses, I stood alongside a building watching them, while also glancing at the several other folks standing inside a building, sipping on different kinds of wine from lightly filled glasses, my two twin boys, noticing this, started to stare likewise, then looked at one another and Cody looked at me as if to ask, ‘Dad, what are they doing?’ He didn’t say that but if I could read his mind and his expression, it is what he would have said, had he found the words to say it.
“See them drinking in there,” I said, pointing my finger near the glass window, “they’re tasting wine to see if it is a good or bad wine, wine is a strong drink, not like milk, and awful tasting too” then I made an ugly face, at random, to demonstrate what I was inferring, kind of like drawing them a dramatic picture that made them laugh.
We had just left the center of Amsterdam, where statues of lions were—the boys were amazed at the lions, even climbed on them, as I had to carried them like two sacks of potatoes off of the ledge of the statues, and down to earth—lest they get hurt, and thereafter, we ended up wandering the streets, like gypsies.
A young American hippie near the statues asked me, “Sir…yaw want to buy some pot?” and I never answered him, just kept on walking.
Cody looked at me as if to say: “What did he want?” he couldn’t form the words of course, but I said, “Bad guy, trying to sell me something that will make me sick.”
Cody, the older of the twins by nineteen-minutes was hanging onto one of my arms while Shawn was hanging onto the other as we crossed the cannel bridges, as we continued on our journey throughout the city—our so called exploration of the cannel city.
It was my first time in Amsterdam, I didn’t bring much luggage, we’d only stay one night, it was November, and there was a real chill in the air, and it was now late, 11: 00 p.m. I hadn’t done any planning, I was bored with my military life, and abruptly decided to take a side trip, and it was a weekend, so I grabbed the two boys and went on up to Amsterdam on a train, just like that. Now we needed to find a place to stay: the boys were falling to sleep as we walked. I found a midnight hotel, and I asked the custodian about a night’s rent, and he wanted to charge me full price, but we argued it out to half price—looking at the boys and how tired they were: plus the night was half over.
After being invited to sit down in the fireside room—the custodian having offered me a beer, Shawn sat on my lap, Cody to my side, and we talked some, they spoke English well. It was a small hotel, with a hot fire in the hearth, and I ordered myself a second beer, and the boys each a sandwich. Some invisible arm was put on my shoulder, said, “You play the guitar?” Then all of a sudden there was a guitar, and I strummed some songs out, and we all sang cheerfully: as Shawn and Cody were both chewing away on their ham and cheese sandwiches, trying to stay awake.
The fact now was, we’d be really tired tomorrow, but the train ran back to Germany almost hourly so I felt if I overslept, no problem, I’d catch a later train out of Amsterdam—have breakfast here at the hotel, or on the train itself. So, light-headed, I sat with my boys, the fire crackling, warm heat soaking through our bodies, the light from the hearth was like sparkling firecrackers, and I could have hugged those three fellows for inviting me over to the hearth—and the one lady. We did make it to bed, a little later.
Written down in draft form: 2002; rewritten in 2004, and revised 6-2012
To its now shorter version; the longer version was three times this length.