Amsterdam is a crazy place. It’s the Las Vegas of Europe. Everyone knows Amsterdam for its red light district and coffee shops. If the place I had stayed in was on the Las Vegas strip, it would be located inside the MGM grand casino. My hostel was called “The Heart of Amsterdam Hostel” and it was quite literally the center of the district. My first day, I met a country boy from some sheltered suburb far enough from London that he was essentially an american with a british accent. This kid was fat, voluntarily loney, and generally bitter. To my luck, this kid wasn’t the only person I shared the 8 bed hostel with. There was an big black guy from South America, who only spoke spanish. I spoke to him using my 20 year old rusty spanish to help him feel more comfortable. I think he was there to take advantage of the red windows that litter the area. He would just pace in the room and rarely left. I also met, Oakey, Byron, and Nathan. Boy was I glad to meet these guys after the slew of introverts I had met the day before. Oakey and Byron are brothers, with good energy and Nathan was one of their best friends. We all hung out together for the next couple days, and I have a chapter dedicated to our shenanigans in my book.
When I told Oakey and Byron that I wanted to visit them, I was sincere. I nearly planned to come back to England instead of driving to Lisbon, but I got caught up in a different adventure. So, when I sent them my itinerary for a spontaneous trip back to the UK to visit them, I’m not sure they believed it would actually happen. I was hanging out with Chis, a tour guide who likes to stay in the Bayswater region of London. I Iike to stay in this part of town as well, as it is clean, safe, and if something isn’t walking distance, there are 2 underground subways, called the tube, within blocks of a couple of decent hostels. It is is a beautiful mixture of poor and lower middle class, with travelers, rich people, and beggars all walking the same streets. Sherrod Small, a stand up comedian said, “You can’t be racist in New York, it’s too exhausting!” which is true for London. Every shade of brown is represented in every part of London. Get out of London, and you start to see the xenophobia that led to the entire Brexit fiasco.
Oakey is a set designer by trade, an Byron is a DJ. They were posting on Facebook, talking about a party the were hosting. The definition of a party is always interesting, and changes with every group I have found myself a part of. I assumed that because Byron DJ’s some version of electronic music, that it would be a live music event, but I just wanted to see where they were from, and experience a different culture.
The culture of boys of Oakey and Byron’s age in the UK is comical. They are all cocky young kids who travel like the ethnic groups in America. But they are as pasty as the meat pies you find in the chip shops. Why do all these kids wear trainers? Trainers are what we call sweatpants. Usually a bit tighter and tapered at the bottom. They are for playing sports. These kids wear trainers so they can run away. At 4am. After stealing some girl’s weed out of her hands. Or at least that was what I had overheard after not being able to sleep through the night. I also was privileged to share a tube ride with 5 boys who jumped on as I was on my way to a small town of Lowestoft, the furthest most east you can get in England. These boys were all pumped up. Clearly, because they had their hands just resting inside of their trainers. Now, it’s one thing to do a little shift, as every man has his soldier get out of order every once in a while. It is entirely another to go from standing idly, then taking the hand and resting all of the dicksweat on the railing. I feel like Howie Mandel all of a sudden. These boys were funny, and poked each other in the butt, or tried to subtly push another while the train was starting or stopping to tease their friend. I didn’t befriend them, I just sat with my headphones on, and observed them as if I were David Attenborough.
Google maps had me leaving at 6:30pm, and arriving before 10pm. I don’t know what data Google was using, but I didn’t get to the restaurant until nearly midnight. I had to transfer twice, and paid far too much money to take a bus on one of the legs of this journey. Oakey and Byron thought about picking me up at the train stop on their way to this restaurant, but I decided to go straight to Lowestoft. I had a small fear that they were going to wait for me at the wrong station, and once my phone started working properly again, they immediately asked me where I was at. We were on the same linear thinking, we just didn’t know it yet.
It was a 10 minute walk, and as I was walking I had wondered what kind of party this would be, would it be a typical night out in the UK? would it be Byron playing with only a handful of people dancing in an awkward corner of a large club? I quelled my expectations. I showed up to this restaurant, Shish, which looked like an overpriced swanky bar and grill across the street from the beach. I could hear the music from a block away, and all my fears of getting lost immediately dissipated. I was greeted by Oakey with a big hug, and we were so happy to see each other. Byron was playing his set, and so I was able to meet Lisa, The brother’s mother. I also saw Nathan again, and he was excited to bring me into their green room, the vip lounge for the entertainers. Nathan is a lanky, kind of goofy kid with a kind heart and was so excited to introduce me to his friends as if I were some mild celebrity. I enjoyed their excitement and shared as many stories with these new people as we could fit in between smoking joints on the beach and enjoying the party.
The club was big, and it wasn’t to capacity. Oakey and Byron just started their business, and they are patient with results. There are worse ways to spend a Saturday. I checked out of my place in London early so I could make this event. I thought it might have been a large rave party in the woods, as Oakey, Byron and Lisa live out of caravans. So, when I showed up to Shish, I was pleasantly surprised of the quality they brought to the show. I don’t like to dance, but people in England sure do. and shortly after meeting Connor and Emmy, I lost them into the crowd of dancers while Nathan easily convinced me to play a game of pool. Nathan bought the game, then disappeared off somewhere.
Connor is a kid from Woodbridge, some small country town in the area. I have yet to visit. His girlfriend looked like a cuter version of Snooky, with dark painted eyebrows, bright pink lipstick and olive skin. “Dude, you have to meet Emmy, she’s never met an American!” Nathan said to me as we walked into the green room to get some free alcohol. It wasn’t the free alcohol that celebrities get served, it was a bottle brought from these 20 year old kids so they didn’t have to pay full price at the bar. It was a good strategy, and everyone seemed happy at the end of the night, except for this one lady, who I will get to later. Emmy wasn’t blown away about meeting, I’m just a normal likeable guy when I want to be, and a fighter when I need to be. I tried to get her to give me her presumptions about California, and I talked to them a lot about geography, and subtly quizzed these two naive kids. It was cute on the one hand, but also explains that redneck culture knows no race. Ignorance is bountiful in rural areas.
I never found Nathan, but I did find this kid with jagged teeth, an aggressive demeanor, and a napoleonic syndrome hiding within. He wanted to play pool, and he wanted to argue with me. He looked like the kind of kid that wanted to get punched in the face. I just agreed with any of his rules, and eventually we never found conflict. between shots I spoke to a couple girls. One looked like a cute Jeanine Garafolo, and the other was a bit chubbier and didn’t say much. Jeannine says, “You from America?”
“Yes, can you guess where I’m from?”
“I don’t know” both of them asked independently, “Tennessee. Are you from Tennessee?” the girl spoke with a hard English accent.
“Why” I replied, very excited to use this silly cliche, “Because I’m the only ten you see?”
“Oh My God!” the girl said, and ran off giggling. I saw them one other time on the way down to the green room to have a shot and a chat with Byron after his set. We hugged and he was sweaty and excited from his performance. I told him how excited I was for the setup, I am tired of unwanted criticism, and for anyone I’ve talked to about my writing, I am begging you to be critical. My criticism is wanted, unwanted criticism rarely comes at the right time. I was proud that these guys were working toward something, as many people simply become a cog in the wheel, and forget how much diversity and value is out for the taking.
On the way out, as I saw the two cute girls walk by, the lady I spoke of earlier walked by. She was a bit chubby, with black hair, black eyeliner running down her face, and probably blacked out. She grumbled something about how all men are shit, and stumbled in some odd direction. It was cartoonish.
When the lights came on in the club, to indicate to everyone that last call had arrived, and it was time to clean up, there were a lot of women looking in my direction. Not because I was the most attractive guy in the place, but the American might have been showing, or I was just having a good time and it’s infectious. It sounds vain, but we were in a club, and a lot of the men were not lining up to talk to these women. I have never liked bar culture, and finding me in one means I’m with a party of people. This was bizarre because in America, a girl at last call is often approached by a brave gentleman who wouldn’t like to wake up alone. I saw many girls giving signals to either me or the people I was talking to at the bar while Oakey and Byron settled up with the bartender at the end of the night. I started chatting with one of their friends who had recently broken up with his girlfriend, and I joked with him about taking the angry lady home, “She’ll take care of you, bud”
“No thanks man.” he said and we chatted about things outside of these thirsty girls who don’t seem to know how to ask the right questions at the end of the night. We are in this changing of the guard and I’m in the same boat with these 20 year olds. The fear that men have of being accused, used, or abused is turning these young men off from chasing girls. None of these guys were gay that refused the advances of the girls at the bar, but they had to calculate value of pursuing a woman. I watched so many girls looking around for a guy to hit on them, and it wasn’t happening.
I didn’t have a place to bring a girl to, and unless she asks, I am not going to assume we are going back to her place. This confusion leads me to my invisible hurdle of thinking that I can’t afford a place to stay, which isn’t always false. I also didn’t know where the night was going to bring us, because I didn’t think that far ahead. I trusted that these 2 guys I met would sort me out. They didn’t prove me right, but they didn’t steer me wrong.
I couldn’t get a read on the town, with brownstone houses butted up against one another, I didn’t know if it was a tiny urban village, or just a vacation area. Nobody had the clothing I bought, and many just had a sweatshirt. We hung out on the beach and talked and drank. It turns out we were going to let this night live with our eyes open, and we thought about making a fire, but there isn’t much for foliage on English beaches. We sat in the car, and talked to keep ourselves awake. I picked Lisa’s brain and asked about her experiences. I love to get different perspectives, and sometime people don’t know how to verbalize their thoughts, so I Iike to dig. I’m like an amateur psychologist with no particular purpose, I just like hearing and sharing stories.
Connor gave me and Emmy a ride home the following morning. It was about an hour drive on small country roads. I was thoroughly exhausted and had to turn down the joint that was passed around while we were driving. Connor reminds me of myself, aside from he was so skinny you could see his ribs through his shirt. He bumped into me during the night, and I could feel his ribs. I kept joking that I could play xylophone on his ribs, but I wondered if they knew what a xylophone was. Either that or my jokes weren’t any good. I turned into an abuela, “Necesita comer”; I just wanted to feed this super nice kid, but either he is too poor, or the food here sucks!
I am staying at an Airbnb, but it didn’t open unitl 3pm. Connor dropped me off at noon, and I was so tired I could barely see straight. We had agreed to see each other again, and Connor may come and visit me if we are in America at the same time. He has no idea how large it is, and thinks Las Vegas is close to Texas. I slept in a dirt parking lot like a lizard, lying on my backpack and enjoying the sun, between fearing a car would not see me and treat me like a speed hump. I never tried to jump in the Airbnb early, because the entire process is contactless, meaning I don’t have to interact with an owner or weird cat lady. But, the bathroom is outside of my hotel room, and I have to leave my comfort in order to use the bathroom. I knew I needed some days to decompress and write about the event that did not disappoint.