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An Excerpt from 'Into the Warmoesstraat: The First Day Back Blues - The Beginning of a Journey to Never, Never Land'

by Michael M.

My first day back in Amsterdam, I became a statistic.

It was a pleasent day of walking around visiting friends, I stopped by The Last Waterhole bar, to see the owner, Brian. While there, he introduced me to the man he hired as the music director. There was a band playing, so he asked me if I felt like working, taking pictures of the band. Fantastic opportunity I thought, as I took off my belly pouch and put it in my daypack. Then I took two small telephoto lenses and the flash from my camera bag, preparing to shoot some photographs. So I took off my daypack and camera bag and asked Brian to watch them.

Shortly after, I was shooting and flashing away, thinking how easy this Amsterdam experience would be this time around...then I saw the owner on the dance floor givinga bouquet of roses to a rather strange-looking woman in a short skirt and tight blouse. The hair on the back of my neck came to attention, like de ja voo doo as I looked to the corner where he had been sitting, only to discover it was totally vacant...of people and, my belongings

In the belly pouch was my passport with soon-to-expire residency stamp, 200 Dollars in cash, 200 Guilders in cash, my return ticket for America and the receipt for my locker at Centraal Station. In the daypack were address books for Europe and America, all the phone numbers I would ever need. And lastly, in the locker at the train station were two parcels. One, my suitcase with all my clothes, and the second with three freshly stretched screens, 7 meters of silk and a box of hand-cut stencils. There were also twenty hand painted T-shirts and 20 new T-shirts, ready to paint or print, whichever request came first.

I was ready to work to aid my survival in Amsterdam. But now, I had to become someone else to survive. All I had was the clothes on my back and my camera. The owner gave me 200 Guilders and the musical director let me crash at his flat for a few days, but after that, it was me and my 'plastic bag' luggage...it became a catharthic experience, a gestalt in progress.

 I could have gotten a replacement ticket to return to the States, but even then, I would have to get new clothes, a job, a car, and ultimately a place to live. I knew it would be a bitch trying to survive in America, especially in Detroit. It's very expensive to be bougoise. So I made a conscious decision to make it work in Amsterdam... but I had no idea what that meant, unless of course I did, and was only pretending not to know. I was dropping out.

When the phrase, or phase "dropping out" is normally used, it's most often in conjunction with skydiving, or the end result of the 1960's 'Hippie Experience'.

I dropped out long before that. Around nine years old in 1958, when times were good and the streets were safe from people like many of those I would get to know in the near future. The best reason available then, and now, was self-preservation.

I always found people to be very confusing and duplicitus, despite not knowing what any of it had to do with anything, anyway. I just never understood what made people tick. They'd say one thing, and do something diametrically opposed in the next moment. I guess I never learned how to react to the different ways people would express love. One day they're sitting on the porch drinking to excess. The next day, on the next porch, the laughing and drinking turns to violence; chairs and bottles being smashed over heads, yelling profane language and remarks about maternal heritage, and eventually the arrival of the police. By the third day all are friends, drinking again, and the cycle continued. This was the neighborhood I grew up in.

I, like most good little boys, wanted to be like my father. But being the youngest child(I detested the introduction,"my baby") I spent much of my time around the house, with my mother. And being a normal, frustrated housewife with high expectations, two children and a husband with alcoholic tendencies, my mother tended to speak to me as if I were her best friend, her sounding board, the place where she 'dumped' her grief. But she was my mom, who cooked,cleaned,ironed...she had all the qualities, and Ol' Pops didn't stand a chance. She would often have a good rant and rave, but I was the only one there to hear and absorb it...and I was an impressionable eight-year old, and I loved my father. So, subconsciously, I wanted to do all the things my father did. All the bad qualities mom would rant and rave and preach about. Talk about a recipe for confusion.

Then came the school game. Learn the information, repeat it at the right time, in the right way. The teacher smiles and gives good grades, which makes the parents smile, giving rewards of some kind...everybody's happy. Success.

I got good grades. Learned fast, and well. Took tests, passed with flying colors. My teachers wanted to reward success with 'double promotion', skipping a grade. But mother said no, because she'd had a similar experience, entering university at sixteen, two years ahead of her class...also with two years less emotional maturity. And her experience became my reality. Stay behind with the other children who couldn't read as well, didn't speak as well and didn't know two times two equals four. Boring.

So it was back to square one. The school game didn't work. From that point on, it was more confusion. It was a further refinement of an attitude, "you don't appreciate how good I am, so I'll show you how bad I am." No appreciation, no respect and no results...more confusion.

For more information on the story, please send an email to mmadroom@aol.com