Selvage Denim, Perfect Pours of Guinness, and the Oxymoron That is a “Cannabis Energy Drink”

by Eli Hodapp

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This morning started with breakfast at a local pub with the same crew that I went out with the night before. Dutch breakfasts are really great, as the staple here seems to be an open faced sandwich of sorts, covered in meat, cheese, and eggs. It’s surprisingly light, even if it doesn’t look like it. I’m glad I didn’t try to fight against carbohydrates this trip, as it would’ve been impossible to eat- Especially in Amsterdam.

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Following breakfast we biked it over to the expensive part of the city with the primary mission being my international tradition of buying expensive blue jeans. Initially my sights were set on a denim bar called “Spoiled,” but it turned out their selection was truly terrible. The dutch seem to be absolutely fascinated by Levi’s, so while they had a bunch of high-end stuff, it was largely limited to Levi’s cuts.

Levi’s is doing a new thing that’s catching on in a big way here that’s actually sort of cool though. Apparently they’re bringing back all their super old designs and dipping into some cache of vintage denim to do it with. That’s neat, but a pair of 501’s, even made with 50 year old selvage denim, are still 501’s in my eyes. The people at Spoiled were super friendly (a definite trend here in Amsterdam) and suggested if I were looking for Italian denim to head to Bendorff which was conveniently located across the street.

Bendorff had exactly what I was looking for, and all said and done I picked up a pair of Nudie Grim Tim jeans in this wicked heavily distressed selvage material, a washed Conny jacket to supplement my existing dry one at home, and I finally rationalized actually buying a nice belt. Brian came with me for this excursion, as I originally was met with skepticism and bewilderment when I explained to him how much I spend on pants.

He watched with a raised eyebrow as I inspected the washes, fabric types, and selvage seams before finally buckling and trying on some for himself. Well, we’ve got a new convert. I still won as far as overall Euros spent, but Brian walked out with two pairs of dry jeans as well- Quickly discovering that I’m not as crazy as most people think I am in that when I buy expensive stuff I’m buying it because it’s actually incredibly nice.

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Today was the first day we’ve had a significant amount of sun since I got here. Oddly enough, it’s also easily the coldest day so far as well. The above photo with some reasonable lighting would’ve turned out really cool, but, we’re far north enough that when the sun comes out it sits really low in the horizon which makes both photography and just having your eyes open more than a squint more or less impossible. I was so proud of myself for packing so light, but, I’m just going to go ahead and add sunglasses to the list of things I really should’ve brought along with winter boots, wool socks, thicker gloves, and all the other winter gear I made a conscious decision to leave at home.

After Bendorff we biked it back over to this permanent flea market installation which had people selling everything from cold weather jump suits and snow pants straight out of the 1980’s, all sorts of drug paraphernalia, and tons of other crazy things. Outdoor markets here are the kind of place where you can basically think of anything you’d want to buy and they’d not only have it but also have it in two colors. Brian bought some ear muffs, and then we wandered over to this dude who sells nothing but leather bags that I got my murse from previously.

I picked up a small-ish sized gym bag looking thing of sorts made out of the same highly distressed black and olive green leather (Which allegedly is only available in Holland) as the other bag I bought. 30€ was all it cost, which seriously just seems wrong. Either these bags are just going to disintegrate in the rain or they’re made by  child slave laborers. Or both, I suppose, potentially.

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After that, we biked back to the hotel to dump off our spoils before heading back out to a mid-afternoon pub for a beer before starting the American business day. All of this biking is fantastic, as it’s undeniably the best way to get around Amsterdam but I am getting the worst case of bike butt. Also, I was telling Brian that I can run for miles, climb stairs for quite literally hours with the only main stopping point being me just getting bored before getting tired, but biking for whatever reason tires me out like nothing else. It’s not helping that I’m now basically biking standing up to avoid continued butt bruising.

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Oh, we also hit up this incredible beer store. I wish I could’ve got a better photo but everything was super cramped and the lighting sucked. Imagine this shelf here, but everywhere. They also had tons of weird collectable junk I’ve never seen before like special edition Delirium Tremens sold in tins and giant bottles of beer designed for cellaring. Glassware seems a little difficult to come by in the USA, unless you just don’t mind stealing glasses from bars, but the collection they had here was just bonkers. I wish I could come up with a good way to bring some of this stuff home, but, really, I could probably save time and money by just pouring beer and shards of glass in my suitcase prior to checking it and have the same end result.

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I got back to the hotel, changed into my new clothes just for fun, and we headed our for beers. I know they swear up and down that there’s no difference, but Guinness in Europe is insane and significantly better than the Guinness we have in the USA. I’m not sure if it’s freshness, that combined with a perfect pour, or something else entirely but it’s almost like Guinness abroad is a totally different beer. I’m not sure a pint is worth 6€, but, still.

After beers we grabbed some kebab from a… Asian kebab place? My döner kebab was awesome, so I can’t really complain, but I’m totally used to kebab being food served by barely-English-speaking Middle Eastern guys out of a hole in the wall that’s so filthy that you’re fully aware and just accepted the risk that you could die eating there. I got my first taste of Dutch french fries (or at least, I think that’s what they call them here) and they’re fried twice which creates this super crispy outside and mega-pillowy interior. So, despite being the most atypical kebab place I’ve ever been to, the food was phenomenal.

Once again we biked back to the hotel, I did some work real quick, took a short nap, and have been doing TouchArcade stuff ever since. I don’t think we’re going to go out tonight, as it’s already midnight and I’m still working, having just taken a break to bang this out, but this weekend seems to be pretty full with a good mix of touristy and local stuff. There’s even plans to hit up a whiskey bar where things are served directly out of real wooden barrels.

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This trip has been fantastic from an overall social revelation standpoint. Looking back on it, I think spending time in Finland was a major turning point in realizing just how comparatively terrible things are in the United States and that despite what some Americans would have you believe, socialism provides for some incredible things when you’ve got an entire country focused on working as a team instead of just looking out for yourself. As an American, you’re sort of just raised thinking things like high taxes are bad, you just want the government to stay out your business, and all that. In actuality, I’m not sure anyone benefits from this mentality, and it really took just meeting random Finns and hearing about their lives to totally cement this realization.

Similarly, I’ve always been incredibly liberal in regards to how silly it has seemed to criminalize so many things in the USA, but you just sort of accept it and move on. As a kid all the “war on drugs” stuff was pounded into your head so hard, so the latent remnants of the whole “drugs are bad” thing is basically always there. The amount of people incarcerated in our country for things that are legal here is really pretty crazy, especially when you think of the cost, but in my day to day life what’s going on in our prison systems couldn’t be more out of sight and out of mind.

After spending some time here, it just makes so much more sense to regulate and tax all of these vices almost to the point of it making me angry that we don’t. I mean, if prostitution is your jam, you just walk down to the red light district. Cops are everywhere there keeping a tight eye on things, which just generally seems to create a safer overall environment. If people are going to do that anyway, why not try to make it as safe and regulated as reasonably possible, and make a tax scrape off of it to fund things in the country that people actually need? It all just seems too logical.

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Somewhat similarly, you can just pick your preferred THC delivery device and just go nuts here. These suckers are everywhere, I mean absolutely everywhere. It’d probably be easier to list places in Amsterdam where they’re not for sale. This particular photo was just at the flea market I mentioned earlier. Drugs aren’t really my thing, but when you compare the American way of doing things of spending untold tens of thousands of dollars keeping someone in jail for minor drug offenses versus just having everything easily available and regulated really makes the way we do things confusing.

Amsterdam is one of the best cities I’ve been to, and you’re absolutely surrounded by what would be “crime” back home. Is the city some kind of Lord of the Flies warrior tribe anarchy state completely ruined by drugs and prostitution? Of course not. Everything is clean, all the people are nice, and it’s just no big deal. In fact, even staying out late at night, I haven’t even felt the remote vague inkling or being unsafe or in danger on any level- And I feel like with the amount of traveling I’ve done I’m pretty well tuned into these things.

With the amount of stuff I’ve been doing each day it feels like I’ve been here forever. This weekend is going to be awesome.