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Thursday, March 17, 2011

How Did I Find the Sally Ann?

My first real view of the Hague, or Den Haag, as it's known in Dutch was from the Central Station.  It was more modern than the classy brick edifice of Amsterdam's equivalent, lots of glass, concrete and the ubiquitous colours of blue and yellow, on signposts and time tables, ticket kiosks.  As I came downstairs into the main concourse from the bus platform, I was confronted with what amounted to the morning rush hour, which was a thin crowd boarding outbound trains, most probably for the commercial district to the north east that was spread out among the airport.  The Hague is a much smaller city even than Amsterdam, which at three quarters of a million people is smaller still than Toronto, but with its unbelievable density and swelled tourist population always seemed a much larger place than it was.  So considering that many professionals who live in the Hague work in the city, the outpouring of citizens to other municipalities for work is slight.  Union Station at eight thirty in the morning is an absolute madhouse compared to what I was seeing just now.  My first priority was to find where the Canadian Embassy was.  To do that, I'd need a phone book.  Internet cafes, provided I could locate one, would cost me money I couldn't spare.  But mobile phones had recently become the ultimate vogue, to the extent of replacing home telephones, so coming across a payphone, and hence the Gouden Gids was a rare prospect. Not having a map was also a bit of a drawback.  By now, I could navigate Amsterdam with little worry, but this was altogether removed.  Eventually, I referenced the Embassy's address, and attempted to find my way there by means of devolving my location from the maps at tram stops.  This was made a trifle hard by the inconvenience of the designers not putting a "you are here" or its Dutch equivalent on the map itself, so this prospect took me sometime.

Bouncing around the district that has many nations representative presence I saw countless different embassies, but for the life of me couldn't come across my own.  It wasn't until that mysterious period of time between late afternoon and early evening when I finally came across it, by means of a side street that contained about ten numbered addresses.  My country's flag, ostensibly displayed from the rooftop was flying at half mast.Pierre Elloitt Trudeau had passed away.  I presented myself to the gate, and was allowed to pass into the courtyard, and into the severely white manse.    Some sort of functionary was dispatched to speak with me.  I told her that I was a Canadian who hadn't the means to return home.  I don't think I divulged the details of the Pinocchio like way in which I came to be in this state, but I imagine they get frequent visitors like me.  As it was, the office was about to close for the day, so there was nothing they would be able to do in the meantime.  I should return tomorrow, I was advised.  Did I have a place to stay?  Well, fuck, no, I was broke.

Well, that, or words to that effect.  Sophie, the dark haired woman of an accent I couldn't quite place, then gave me the business card of the Salvation Army, and informed me that they may have a place set aside for just such an emergency.  It was then that I was shown the door.  With the address of the "Leiger des Heils" in my possession, I set out to now find them.  It was coming on to that settling period of day, when a natural wistfulness for a couch and evening television descends on the world, and along with it the hopeful glow of electric lights beaconing from well warmed homes to shelter those fortunates for another chilly evening.  Having none of that, I had to press on.

While I did, I thought about the Dutch name for the institution I was trying to find.  Apparently the words translate more or less directly, but to me it always sounded like a pretty cool name for a motorcycle club, coming to my mind as "Legion of Hell."  Which in any respect would be a departure from their current mandate.

It was that I walked back to central station, and was able to get direction from a porter, who was really quite helpful in getting me towards the right tram to take.  Here's where I broke the law.  Again.  A lot of Dutch public transit works on the honor system, relying on the traveler to validate their own ticket, purchased ahead of time, using a machine provided.  If you have no intention of doing this, there is little to stop you from hopping on except for a Russian Roulette system of roving inspectors who will board trams at random and issue fines for not paying a fare.  Determination borne of necessity meant that I took the risk to ride a main line tram from the station to the sea coast, to walk that would have taken nearly two hours, but my luck held and no inspectors boarded.  In future, I would learn that their appearances are quite infrequent, like the Thought Police of Orwell, the mere suggestion that they exist is attempting to act as the basis of deterrent.  The system is widely flaunted by tourists and locals alike.

The destination of the coast was just the first leg, and it was so that I did have to walk along the edge of a wildly grassy series of dunes down the road that led to what I hoped without trace of irony would be a salvation.  When I saw it, it was golden.  My feet had ground for too long on tarmac and cobbles, weighed down with my pack for the better part of two days.  I`d had nothing to eat, little to drink and almost no sleep. The building, set in a lee between two small hills had lights pointing out into the descending darkness, dappled with the moisture of the sea air, leading it to assume a cloudy, dreamlike silhouette.  I pushed myself forward the last few steps and into the soothing warmth of their reception.  I had made it this far, and felt that bit of success, but I had no idea how much further I`d have to go.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

What Difference Effort Makes

I'm just about to get near to the point where the circle will close, and I will be a hungover wreck, dressed far too good for a Friday morning, laying eyes on Liliy for the first time and feeling immediately a deep and abiding affection.soon after.  Before that could happen, before someone reached into m despair and pulled me along to my feet, I would have a crucible of fatigue, hunger, no cigarettes and the most demoralising place I'd ever make my bed.

It's about to get heavy, and if you've been following, you know that it's been fairly upbeat, anecdotal, at times, I'd like to think witty, mildly shocking and fun.

Starting to walk that path with my last post The Hague Takes a Sunrise Well, and I'm going to have to get some real soul searching in to uncover a very rough time in my life, much of which I don't relish having to impart, but I've started this, and I think I need to see it all the way through, so I'm glad you're here along with me.

Instead of running right into it, I'm going to take a bit of a style break and put down some poetry, for you guys to look at while I chase the scarecrows of insistent memory.
Memories of Ashes
I have a coffee can
on the windowsill
in the hallway at the top of the stairs
It's where I keep my cigarette butts
I had a lid for it,
So as not to soak the
Faded yellow paint
With the reek of dead smoke
but it rolled out the open window
and has since been lost in the snow

What Makes Me Tick
I would love to be
The man she knew I could be
If I ever thought I'd find
The clarity of mind
To discover-
 What makes me tick
With a Rorschach test,
My mind is a mess
I keep seeing butterflies
Fall to their death.
I think you'll find
If your only to kind
Inside my mind
What makes me tick

Lift High
Well, don't ask me how I feel right now
I'm feeling fine
Background lights set me aglow
If it could happen all the time
Seems I can't keep my feet from under me
Head hands towards the door
Supplement my mind for feeling free
Until fate shows me the door
Lift High, Lift High, Lift High
My consciousness
Wondering Why


Why isn't electricity free?

Evolv-ution
Considering Charles Darwin married his first cousin, d'ya think there were somethings he didn't understand about his theory?

Okay, so What Else You Got?


Possibly the world's worst pick up line, the joke about the two leprechauns and the Mother Superior that got a huge laugh from all the Irish lads, even when I was doing the wee funny voices that could certainly have been misconstrued.  One of their number, Neil looked, stoic and bearded like the Messiah himself, and we all took to referring to him by name as such.  It wasn't just that Neil had such a  resemblance to classical images of the Saviour.  That, and he was a carpenter.  I shit you not.  The Columbian guy who's name I don't recall passing a joint to Neil and saying "Jesús humo."  Five minutes before, Neil had just confided me that he was a thief.  I didn't think much about that until later, when I reached into my pack of smokes to find my third and final little pink mystery had gone.

The morning staff at the Globe had to ensure that people were either staying or going so they could have an accurate account of available beds.  If you hadn't paid in advance or left notice of your leaving, they had to find you to get money or have you check out.  One obviously harangued Scots women of late middle years was finishing up her list for our room. I wasn't at my bed, in the little alcove, but with a whole bunch of people at the far end of the front room.  Not finding me, she called out in an impatient tone "Is Samuel in this room?"  My blood froze, as she sounded exactly like my mother and I couldn't for the life of me imagine how she'd managed to track me down.  She later apologised for her curtness, and I let her in on my private joke, leaving the hotel on a positive note with at least someone.  I could only hope to make it back to claim my luggage, having just stranded myself in the Hague.  The more I thought about it, the more I realised I had not divided my kit very well at all.  Just a couple of pairs of trousers, next to skin, a few sets, bomber jacket, pullover and a couple of shirts.  I had a handful of cigarettes, and about ten guilders in cash.  There was a distinct feeling that I was fucked.


Friday, March 11, 2011

The Hague Takes a Sunrise Well

The forest was damp, dark and cold, much as to be expected for an early October in Northern Europe.  How I came to be here stems directly from my experiences at the Globe just the day before.  I had already began to become more and more aware of my declining financial situation, but the mystery of not being able to determine my remaining funds electronically meant that my funds would dry up before I would know about it.  This had just come to be and the effect was jarring.  Having been a bit reckless with my remaining cash, I wound up rather snookering myself.  All at once I hadn't enough cash for another night's stay, and precious little otherwise.  From having such a free and careless experience, I had to kick in to a sense of survival in very short order.  I had been getting on very well with the Irish lads, but found that my developing situation allowed me to so painfully envy the fact that they were returning to jobs and family and their regular lives that I turned to despise them for it.  Not being able to foresee how I'd manage to haul all of my luggage to destinations unknown, I stripped my kit down to bare essentials, packed into my old army patrol bag (that indispensable knapsack, designed to carry protective equipment to counter NBC threats)and moved out by foot along a bike path leading away from Amsterdam to the west.

The going was easy, nice and level, but I hadn't figured out exactly where I was going to.  That being said, I only had the vaguest of ideas what lay in the direction I traveled.  I knew, just about, that if I continued to walk I'd eventually bump into France.  So, for a brief period as I trudged along into the afternoon was that I would undergo a forced march, attempting to make Marseilles so that I could volunteer for the Foreign Legion.  It wasn't until it began to get dark and I still hadn't come along anything other than endless Dutch countryside that the folly of being able to make such a destination brought me back to the here and now.  I had fetched up alongside the main rail line that drove out to Haarlem, where the houses became very sparse and a large wood drew away northwards.  Taking towards the shelter of the close growing trees, I pushed into the copse far enough in that I could easily find my way out, but also not be seen from the road or tracks.  I did this as I didn't know whether or not I was trespassing, that and I intended to light a fire and I had no desire to alarm anyone.

As it was, I couldn't get one to light.  There was plenty of small twigs to kindle, and I had paper torn from a notebook, all placed in a little break I had dug out with the heel of my boot.  There was little wind, but I just couldn't manage to catch the twigs, and only had a few lively seconds of my paper igniting and crumbling to ash in the mesmerizing way it does.The one thing I did have in an ample enough quantity was a very large back of bright purple weed.  It had been discovered in an empty locker by a rather incredulous fellow who had just rented one of the beds back at the hotel.  Intending to claim the locker for his bags, he called out in a rather shocked tone "Somebody's left drugs in here!" as if he feared he would fall to blame for it.  I was rather amused to the naive nature of the guy.  Didn't he know where he was?  I told him not to worry about it, and that I would take care of it.  By which I took possession of the bud, all about half an hour before I left that morning.

Perhaps a bit unscrupulous, but it was quite probably left behind by someone leaving the country and being sensible about their own return to reality.  I have done the same myself on such occasion, generously proffering the remains of my stash before flying out.  Hell, I've even had no choice at times but to throw it away.  So I smoked a fair amount, and that settled my nerve a bit.  It was, though, growing cold.  I wrapped myself up in as much clothing as I could and tried to get some sleep.  I don't think I got very much at all, and decided to push on, as if I could keep moving, I could keep warm.

I pressed on along that seemingly endless bike path, passing small industrial lots and allotment gardens.  As it got early enough, and the sun began to return, I heard for the first time in my life roosters greet the dawn.  It was just about then I decided to take a break, and had found a bench by a bus stop to cool my heels for a few minutes.  I looked at the time table posted and found that the bus intended for this stop had as its destination the Hague.  An almost sublime clarity of thought struck my at that point.  The Hague was an international city, the host of foreign embassies.  I would present myself at the Canadian consulate and try to find out what my options were to extract myself from my dilemma.

A short while later, what must have been the first bus of the day emerged from around a bend in the road, and drew up along me.  My meager remains of liquid funds were greatly reduced for the ticket, but it was worth being in a nice warm bus and being whisked into the city that would become my home for the next six and a half weeks, and change my life forever.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Deeper Into the Rabbit Hole

I was at my local mall today, in line at the Mediterranean place at the food court, and I almost, almost bought a felafel.  In my life right now, I'm struggling to get by.  There's been no steady work for nearly a year and other elements of my existence seem to be crumbling at my feet.  Thinking about felafel, and the absolute value (read: nutritive) for money put me in mind of my struggles of eleven years gone by and what a comfort a felafel had been to me then, a tightly packed healthful delight, presented to me by absolute kindness at a time when I didn't know where my next meal would come from.

I'm not at that particular point in this narrative to allude to more than that.The thought of the similarity between my then and now has brought me back to the cathartic exercise of finally getting the whole, unadulterated mess out to the world to receive my judgement.

I didn't have the felafel anyway.  I got a beef shwarma and let my thoughts continue to drift.  On the top end of things, I'm still posting to outer space, so it doesn't quite matter how loud I scream.  I prefer to believe I will attract a following based on the merit of content I have generated myself, rather than like many others who think promoting someone else's wit (reddit, a lot of that is you) will reflect well on them somehow.  But that ain't going to stop me from lazy attempts to guerrilla market myself.

Which now brings me tho where I left off in tis little tale of mine.  I had just become acquainted with the Irish bachelor party and was about to have my first genuine experience with the drug ecstasy.  To start with, drugs are easy to come by in Amsterdam, particularly in the Red Light District.  Congregating along the foot bridges over the canals are these nefarious characters who will sidle up to you and in hushed tomes pose single word interrogatives.

"Coke? Heroin? Ecstasy?"  Meaning, of course they wish to sell you what they would have you believe are the items mentioned, but often aren't.  The difficult part is getting rid of them once they get their claws into you.  A polite refusal, even an emphatic "No!" will only inspire them to change tack and just outright solicit for money.  My best advice, should you find yourself in the District for a touristy look is to approach these bridges with a solid resolve and pass through without acknowledging these folk, as if they didn't exist.

So when James, one of the party goers, and the Best Man, if I recall claimed to have found a source for some "yokes" as he called them, I being part cynic and part experienced denizen of this neighborhood, was a fair bit skeptical.  This doubt was being challenged by the indefatigable nature of my inner drug lust that James might just have gotten on to something.  So, money changed hands and I was presented with three tiny pink pills that for all the world looked like those inoffensive pills you give to small children for headaches.  No harm in at least trying now that I had spent the money was my logic, and threw one back in my gullet straight away.

Not long after, we all decided to hit a club to go dancing, and during the walk down the main drag of the Damrak, while pulling on various joints being passed around and putting holes in my grey matter with a product sold in sex shops called "poppers" I couldn't actually determine if I was getting anything off that little pink tablet.  So I took another.

As it happened, security at the club we went to didn't want to allow James to get in with the Swiss Army knife he had in his pocket, what he claimed was there neglectfully.  He offered to leave it with the doorman and collect it afterward, but they had no ability to check personal items.  Everyone else had already gone in save James and myself, all his mates had paid their cover and were in for their good time.  Out of mot wanting to see him left out, I nobly offered to care take his knife and meet them all back at the hotel later.  I really didn't mind, as I don't much go in for clubs in the first place.

Having little else to do, I returned to the room, packed my little pipe full and blew my fucking mind, resigning myself to sleep.

I think it was about half an hour later that I woke up with a hard-on that threatened to cause the rest of my body to go anemic.  A single thought, an overwhelming drive that surfaced was the immediate need to get laid.          For once in my life, I was in the right area of town to make that a definitive possibility.  It were not to be, however, as in my addled state, I couldn't recall where I put my trousers.

Even self relief was denied me based on the communal nature of the room I inhabited.  I didn't have to wait too long for some form of stimulation as a Kiwi couple had just arrived, which must have been hell on them as it was the middle of the night and the only person who was somewhat coherent was me, a tweaked out Canadian who couldn't get out of his bed lest he embarrass himself with a fairly obvious erection.  They would have slept, but they were just passing through with an early connecting train the next morning, so they at least humoured my need to interact loquaciously with fellow members of my species.  There followed hours of in depth, witty, urbane and intelligent conversation of which I can not recall a single word.  However, I still have, somewhere among my possessions the fellows business card (he was a body builder and sponsored by a nutrition supplement firm, an airport baggage handler by day) which we turned into a pass for a free collect call should I ever find myself in Christchurch.

They left early in the morning and I never saw them again.  But let me tell you this:  In the interceding hours, I don't think i have ever felt as good (in this case, I should spell "good" with about fourteen O's) as I did.  Nothing was wrong with the Universe, everything chimed in perfect order, and I was at the centre of it all.  I could easily see why people liked the stuff so much, and I was really looking forward to trying it again, only this time, planning out a little better so that I might be fully clothed when the grip to find a sexual outlet overtook me again.  Sadly, that wasn't to happen.  Come back soon and I'll tell you why.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A Break From Routine

Well, the blog is trundling along, and despite not posting since September, I manage to get on average one view per day.  Though, actual feedback has been somewhat lacking.  This is a story I want to tell, but I'm not even sure if I'm telling it well, or even if I should continue to bother.  I resolved a number of months ago to not continue to post until I got some comments posted, and take any constructive criticism or praise on board.

So, read the posts below, in order, and hopefully I will gain some interest, or at least inspire you to leave a few words.  Enough traffic will inspire me to continue where I left off, and I promise you all, it's about to get really good...

S L Crook

Friday, September 17, 2010

On Irishmen and Bicycles

I was back in Amsterdam, returned from my three day sequester in Arnhem, standing in the forecourt of Centraal Station amidst a sea of bikes.  The Dutch love bikes, of that there's no doubt.  Every town has extensive bike paths, separate traffic signals at intersections for them and every bus and rail station has a vast amount of space set aside for bike racks.  The most frequent petty crime in Holland is bicycle theft.  At times, not even the whole bike will be stolen and Amsterdam lamp posts are often decorated with the remains of a securely locked frame, the tires, gears and handle bars having been stripped clean.  Because of this, Netherlanders typically go in for one type of bike, a utilitarian number with a single gear and coaster brakes.  A flashy Schwinn or Raleigh would only result in a heavy investment in thin air.  All bikes in Holland, then, are essentially the same, which as an effort to deter thieves from your bike as it is no better or worse than any other to be stolen also makes recovery of property difficult.  Fleur, the staffer at the Brinker had hand painted her bike with a multiplicity of colourful  blossoms and vines.  It personalised her property, and no self respecting thief would want to be caught trying to make a getaway on such an eyesore.  As for the Brinker, it was that hotel, and not the bike farm in front of me I was considering.  I wasn't sure if I was going to head back there or try to book another hostel.  The VVV was just across the way, beyond the tram stops, but I hadn't made my way there yet.  I suppose I had stood out with my luggage at my feet looking the lost tourist long enough for Avi to approach me.

With dark, dense curly hair, a ragged looking wool sweater and fashionably torn jeans, he appeared to my initial assessment as too clean to be a beggar, but too disheveled to be up to much good.  I put myself on guard, and surreptitiously put my foot down on my duffel's strap to make a bag snatch on his part a difficult notion.

"Do you have a hotel?" he asked

"No."

"Well, you must come to the Globe.  I am Avi, I will take you.  Here."  He thrust a business card at me from the stack in his left hand.  It advertised The Globe Sports Bar and Hotel and promised a discount on a nights stay.  Avi was a runner.  Many youth hostels take on itinerant workers, travelers who need to earn a bit of money while living abroad.  In some places, the bar staff, kitchen and housekeeping are mostly made up of these working holiday makers whose compensation is usually not much more than room, board and a pittance of cash per week.

I had done much the same in London the year before, spending six weeks as a live in barman at a working class pub in Northolt.  These schemes are often illegal, allowing the business owner to maximise profit by keeping labour costs low.  If I figured my wage at The Furrow plus estimated cost of room and board against hours worked I was making less than a minimum wage, not to mention the owner not having to submit taxes and benefits on behalf of these migrant workers.

Runners were much of the same, but their job tended to be commission based.  The idea was that they'd hang out at the train station and offer accommodation at their hotel and receive cash for each paying guest.  The card with the discount was numbered and could keep track of an individual runner's pull.  Avi would probably have to bring a half dozen guests to the Globe just to pay a night's accommodation.

"Sounds alright," I said, still a bit cautious.  It would not be uncommon to be led down an alleyway on the promise of a cheap hotel only to be set upon and separated by force from your belongings.  "I'll follow you."

Avi nodded, and moved off quickly, forcing me to shoulder my duffel in a snap and shuffle after him.  "I could carry your bag, if you like," he cheerfully offered.  Not on your fucking life, I thought, explaining to him I had been in the Army and could carry my own.  That, and I didn't want to be obligated to tip him.

"Ah, yes, the army.  I am Isreali, and I should go to army, but I will not."  The statement neatly encapsulated Avi's raison d'etre in Amsterdam.  He was a latter day draft dodger.

Now, how best to describe The Globe?  I hit Trip Advisor to refresh my memory.  I'm not going to pretend that it was either suave or well appointed, the place is a dive and a hole.  I don't however, have any stories regarding vermin, which seems to be the most current complaint.  In the past ten years, it seems The Globe has backslid from an already low standard.  Beds were rented on a premium based on the time of week.  On a Thursday, your 35 Guilder bed appreciated in value 15 Guilders the following night.  Comfort and customer service were as absent here as they had been at the Brinker.  Clearly a money making venture alone, I noted that the only change in pricing between 2000 and when I came back in 2002 was replacing the Guilder symbol with that of the Euro, effectively doubling the rate.  The bar was open twenty four hours a day, the rooms had no locks and it was located in as shady a neighborhood you could ask for in Amsterdam.  Right on the edge of the Red Light District, beggars, crackheads and drug dealers were steps away from the front door and in substantial numbers.  I made up my mind to be very careful and keep my wallet and passport close to hand.

The reception was fronted by an older, severe faced woman whom I paid for a bed up to the weekend.  She summoned another staff member to show me upstairs to room number one.  The room was divided in two, a small upper room with four beds and lockers where I would be staying that overlooked the lower room.  Much larger, it ran the length of the building and had twelve bunks.  There was only one shared toilet and shower between us all.  The room wasn't close to being full at the moment, but I was assured it soon would be.  The staff member showing me the room informed me that most of the beds in the lower room were booked for a bachelor party arriving from Dublin the day after next.  The following few days would become a drunken, drug hazed blur, but as I settled into my new space, I hadn't any idea what I was in for.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

In A Hurry to Move Further East

I stayed on at the Brinker for about ten days, but there isn't really much I remember in great detail about the latter half of my stay.  Once Sue had gone, and shortly after the Italian girls followed, I was reassigned to another room, the one I had been in having been guaranteed to a single party of six.  My new room was of the same standard, but way in the back corner of the hotel.  This cur down the noise level from the lobby and adjacent bar, notwithstanding the closer a room is to the end of a corridor, the less traffic it gets.  Considering that drunken stoned teenagers and twenty-odds have a habit of being loud, and a select few of those to an obnoxious level, an isolated piece of real estate could be welcome.  Except that by now it was mid week and business had slowed down just enough to be lively as opposed to raucous.

My roommates, I never saw.  They existed as only towels hung to dry on the iron bed frame and the odd piece of clothing left laying about.  My final days in this part of town had grown into a routine.  I would wake up, shower and dress and be gone by nine thirty.  Getting up this early make the queue at reception for re booking the bed a lot easier to manage.  Breakfast was included in the tariff, but I usually went round the corner to the McDonald's right by the busy square for a McMuffin and coffee.  After that, I'd stop at a newstand for an English paper and head to The Dolphins for another coffee and a smoke.  My paper read, and feeling bored, I'd usually head back to the Brinker to read in the bar, have a nap in the early afternoon and get some drinking in after dinner.  Routines are good, but this was one I grew tired of quickly and so made up my mind to leave Amsterdam for a bit. 

This had been my pattern before.  In '99, after my initial four days in the city, guest at the severely bargain priced Bob's Youth Hostel (as an example, you could save a good amount if you were willing to sleep on the floor, avoiding the bourgeois distinction of a bed) the 'Dam had left me overwhelmed an my psyche screamed out for a more pastoral setting.  That year I had headed out to Appeldoorn, a town to the south-east, just about kissing the German border.  In 2000, I opted to head out for Arnhem.  Historically, it holds a lot of affinity for me as it was there that the British First Airborne Division fought and lost a hard desperate battle to secure a bridge over the Rhine in September of 1944.  Thinking that this would be a cool thing o go see, my mind was made up.  Early on my last morning, I packed my belongings, checked out of my room and made my way to the train station.  I'd be back in Amsterdam in a few day's time, but not to stay at the Brinker.  I'd find it again five years ahead and realize that not much had changed except myself.

There is something to be said about being prepared.  The only information I had about Arnhem's part in the war had been taken from the film "A Bridge Too Far."  A grand example of cinema and a fantastic story told well, it is hardly accurate to true history.  At this point in my life, I hadn't even read the book on which the movie was based.  I was going to seek history without knowing where to find it, and what I thought I knew was more likely fiction than true.  Given another seven years and much more thorough research I would return to Arnhem and vindicate my inner historian.  At this point all I could do was book into a tremendously expensive hotel across from the train station and wander aimlessly through a part of the city known as the Old Town.  I admired the Middle Age architecture without even realizing that most of it was reconstructed.  When the war came to Arnhem, it had been destroyed. Fact is, Arnhem was never liberated in the traditional sense. The fighting over the ten day engagement between British Paras and SS Panzer Grenadiers had so completely ruined the town it had to be evacuated, civilians not permitted to return until after the war was over.  It was a Sunday, and the whole place seemed asleep.  The next few days would be relaxing for me, giving respite for the frenzy that was Amsterdam, but not taking true advantage of the opportunity to fully experience Arnhem.

My hotel was far too expensive to stay on at.  One night had cost me near to what one week at the Brinker would have.  On the plus side, I had my privacy which was to be highly sought after following the communal living I'd just been through.  Though, the room was tiny, more like a berth on board a ship than a proper hotel.  I found Arnhem's VVV the next day and asked them to find me something cheaper.  I got a room at the Sports Hotel, part of an athletic complex well outside the centre of town.  After a failed attempt to rent a car, in that the salesman doubted my ability to drive a standard transmission (he was right, by the way), I got a taxi to take me out three and essentially isolated for  two days.  It was refreshing to be on my own, even for that short time, but living in single rooms wasn't something I could do perpetually.  A quiet few days behind me and I was ready to attempt Amsterdam again.  I would have an even wilder and unimaginable time out of this return, experiences that would pale what I'd seen and done so far, and then I would have to face a hard reality. 

I was running out of money. 

I'd arrived in Holland with a fair bit of cash on hand, and had a reserve in my bank account that I had begun to draw against, as well as cash advances on my credit card.  I wasn't keeping track of the money as I got it and had no way of determining how much remained.  Going to the bank machine began to feel like playing the slots, never knowing what the payout would be.  Only a matter of time separated me from carefree traveler to penniless foreigner, but as long as that machine spit bills at me during my morning withdrawals, reality was always something best put off until tomorrow.  I suppose I was ignoring the harsh truth that I would run out of tomorrows, and I hadn't even imagined how I would cope.