Sunday, August 21, 2022

View from a sidewalk café. Amsterdam. (Part 1)

People walking with determination. A purpose. Somewhere to be.

I’ve reached my destination. My only purpose to be where I am.

Amsterdam Cafe - Scott Frothingham

A woman passes with her skirt bouncing in rhythm with her long brown hair fighting gravity with every fast-paced step.

A brindle short-haired terrier, undeterred by a thousand enticing smells, trots next to a painfully slim man wearing oversized headphones that draw attention to a rune tattoo on his neck.

A gentleman with tousled white hair stands out in an old-fashioned plaid sports coat that hangs from his stooped shoulders. In his hand a plastic bag imprinted: Amsterdam International Book Fair. Through the frosted plastic you can just make out a small book and a receipt. This image will undoubtably return for me to guess the gook he ventured out to get. Right now, I’m thinking a first edition of Hemingway’s “A Moveable Feast.” With dust jacket.

A server stops, pulls the order pad from her apron, and gives me the universal raised eyebrow head tilt. “Espresso, please.” She nods and is gone before I have a chance to ask her how to say “please” in Dutch.

When she returns with the comically small cup, I ask her how to say, “thank you.” Even though she has brought me an americano.

Every half hour the bells in the square chime the first dozen notes of a song I recognize but can’t name.

The server who had brought my coffee offers to open the umbrella next to my table. It gives me a chance to use my new Dutch work: “dankuvell.” It means “thank you.” At lease I hope it does. She smiles. Either at my expression of appreciation or at the inside joke that people from Amsterdam tell out-of-towners that “dankuvell” means “thank you” when it actually means “bite my toenail.”

A mighty leap takes her high enough to brush the edge of the café umbrella with her fingertips. She looks to her father for approval. He didn’t notice her accomplishment, much less how her pigtails flew with her and bounced on landing like they were trying to escape and start a life of their own. Maybe in Honolulu.

A fresh Nazi SS insignia tattoo screams from a beefy upper arm. I’m visiting Anne Frank’s house tomorrow.


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