It’s not bad here, sitting at sidewalk table, soft lights under canvas awning, cushioned chairs. Good as it’s going to get tonight. I light the blunt and take a couple hits. It’s very strong and I slide into paranoia without second thoughts. Like, how I will get back to hotel hell? I‘ve no idea how to pronounce the name of the place. I’ve never heard it spoken and have no idea how to spell it—one of those Dutch names with too many letters and a lot of oo’s. I left my key card at the desk on my way out, and all the paperwork concerning my room switch are in my suitcase. I have nothing to prove I’ve paid for a room.
And when I do get back, what then? Find the manager? For sure it’s not the girl at the check-in desk, and even if I got a refund, which seems most unlikely. . . .
Terry’s back. “Where would I stay if I check out?” I ask him. “Then hotels are all booked up this time of year.
“Ya got a pencil?
“Yeah.” I find one and notebook in the fanny pack.”
“The Hotel Runner,” Terry tells me. “They keep track of all the hotel bookings and the hostels in the Red Light.”
“Umm . . .” I write it down and pass the joint to him.
“This got tobacco in it?”
“No,” I say.
“What is it?”
“Some kind of sativa,” I tell him. “I don’t know. I bought it at the Bulldog.”
Terry takes a drag and hands it back, and hands it back. No comment, which means this is good stuff—good enough, at least. I’ve had enough and slide the roach into it’s little plastic tube.
“The Hotel Runner’s just a block away from the old Hunters. Number 85, on Warmoestraat. Tomorrow morning you can yourself another place before you tell them that your leaving.”
“I don’t know . . . I’m only here five days. Don’t want a hassle.”
“Yeah. I understand,” he says. “Sometimes ya just have to go with things, ya know?”
“There’s no alternative, I guess. I was suppose to meet a friend at the Hotel Torenzicht were I was booked. I don’t know if he’s here or not, and can’t remember his last name.”
My head’s begun to clear. “I think I’ll head back now, and get some sleep. I’ll come again, tomorrow.”
“Four to twelve I’m here,” he tells me. “See you then.”
The rain’s a little more than mist now, but not bad. Ten minutes walking gets me back to Rembrandt Plein, a small park, ringed with coffee shops and restaurants and bars . . . sidewalk cafes, and waiting black, Mercedes cabs. I stop beside a three wheel bicycle taxi who’s willing to take me back to the Red Light district.
“Fifteen euros,” he says.
“That’s crazy. I paid fifteen euro’s to get here from the Red Light—in a new Mercedes. Why should I pay the same price for a pedicab?”
“Because I need the money,” he responds in perfect English, with an honest smile.
I give it up, but it’s not over. “Where is your hotel?” he asks.
He doesn’t get it. “Warmensteten” — Doesn’t work.
“What’s the name of your hotel?”
“Starts with an M . . . I think, and has a lot of double o’s, and s’s in it. At the end of Warmenstaat.” Still doesn’t get it. “Do you know where the old church is? Oude Kerk.”
“Yeah, sure. Of course, I know exactly.”
“Good enough. Are you American?” I climb into the rig and he zips up a see-through plastic canopy to shield me from the still light rain— it’s still light if your standing still. He climbs onto his seat and we take off. No seat belt. I’m surprised, seems like there should be . . . maybe not. It’s like riding inside a condom, but exciting. We weave through modest traffic at alarming speed, and when their isn’t room on the wet streets we move to sidewalks. When a sidewalk ends we take to grassy lawns, or over curbs and back onto the street—between cars. One honks at us, and we bump up a curb. No springs on this rig. It’s a jolting ride. Rain spattered plastic makes it hard to see—just blurry shapes and bright lights—shadows. I’m inside an accident about to happen. It’s that kind of a night.
We move onto a narrow street, or wide sidewalk, depending on your point of view. I recognize familiar shapes one side of a canal—the Red Light district. There’s the hotel where I was supposed to stay. The manager might be here and I want to tell him what I think about the room I have been transferred to.
“Stop here!” The driver brakes, gets off his saddle and unzips me. “Thanks.” I hand him three five euro notes. This makes it thirty bucks for cabs tonight, but I can walk back to my room from here. The rain’s gone back into a misty drizzle as. I clomp up four steps and walk into the Zicht Hotel.
Familiar faces. Anna, world’s best bartendress is here with Morris who I had arranged to meet here where I thought my room would be. Thank god I stopped. It’s good to see old friends.
“Where have you been?” he asks.
“We called your wife—in Sweden,” Anna tells me.
“I was moved—to Hotel Hell. I don’t know why. Is Stanley here?” (The manager.)
“No, he went home, but he’ll be back tomorrow. Want a beer?”
“Oh yes. I’d love a beer. I need a beer.”
“My round,” says Morris. Good to see you. Smoke?”
“Sounds good. I bought a joint on the way over.”
We take a table. “So, you got a room here, Morris.”
Yes, no problem. Good one, number 12, first floor, in front—looks out on the canal.”
“Damn! That’s the room I wanted. You booked after me.”
“Two days,” he shakes head. “Go figure.” Morris takes a hit. “This stuff is strong.”
“You think?” We drink more beers and pass a couple hours in idle conversation. Anna leaves and is replaced by someone on the early morning shift—bar never closes, but is only open to its lodgers late at night. Our conversation lingers, this and that, a lot of me complaining of my room. We finish off the joint.
“It’s getting late, almost 2:30,” Morris checks his watch. “I need to get some sleep.”
I hate to see him leave, but should be getting back to my unwanted room. He gets up from the table, and falls down—straight down, much like an elevator with a broken cable. Jesus! He’s out cold. My first thought—is he dead? My second—would the hotel let me have his room? I try to get him on his feet—not easy. He’s a good two hundred pounds. Bartender runs to help me. We get Morris back onto his feet. He’s coming to, a little bit. He’s still woozy as we walk him over to a bar stool.
“Wow. What happened?”
“I don’t know. You passed out. You were gone for maybe ten or fifteen seconds. You okay now?”
“Yeah. I think so. Maybe get some air.
We go outside. He’s back to normal fifteen minutes later. “Need some sleep,” he tells me.
Yeah, me too. It’s been a long day. Let’s meet here tomorrow afternoon.”
I watch him walk back to the room I should have had. Bartender’s also watching him. I say goodnight on my way out. The front door clicks shut and locks behind me as I step outside into what’s now a hard rain.
“Wait!” The front door opens—bartender comes out with a umbrella. “Take this, you can bring it back tomorrow.”
“Thank you!” Distant thunder rumbles as I walk to my hotel. It’s raining harder, veins of lightning, exclamation marks—this not a good night.