My friend, Ray Di Carlo, and I were in Amsterdam for a tradeshow. We used the public trolleys to travel back and forth everyday, passing a “coffee” shop on the way. Ray, a died-in-the-wool coffee enthusiast, mentioned the coffee shop several times and one day we stopped. Ray walked to the door, cupped his hands to look in the window, "it's dark in there – do you think it's open?"
I tried the door - it opened. A huge poster of Bob Marley greeted us. We edged our way inside. A younger, mixed crowd furtively sipped at steaming cups in a smoke-filled room. We sat at an open table where we could watch the flickering TV showing "The Perez Family" - the sound was off but there were Dutch subtitles. A waiter gave us little laminated menus.
Ray looked over his menu carefully. "There's 'Colombian', 'Mexican Leaf', 'Hawaiian', and 'Burmese', but I don't see anything I recognize."
The waiter returned. "Tea," I said.
Ray pondered for a moment more, looked at the waiter - a dark, handsome man, obviously from India. "What can you recommend?" asked Ray.
"Thai," replied the waiter.
"Okay," agreed Ray.
A bit later the waiter put a cup of hot water and a tea bag in front of me, and a little plastic bag full of crushed leaf in front of Ray. "60 Guilders," said the waiter.
Ray dug in his wallet. "60 Guilders," he said. "Expensive little dive."
After the waiter left, I put my teabag in the cup and started to swirl it.
Ray looked at his little plastic bag, squinted; "What's this all about? Who serves coffee in a baggie?"
"Ray," I replied annoyed. "This is a Dutch Coffee House. Marijuana is legal here. I heard you order 'Thai' when the waiter asked."
A look of comprehension flooded Ray's face: "ohhh..."
We both were looking at the baggie on the table between us when the waiter delivered a package of cigarette papers. Ray picked them up. "What do we do now?" he asked.
"You're the one who paid thirty dollars for a hit."
We remained quiet for a long time: me slowly sipping my tea; Ray closely examining his purchase.
"We can't just sit here - everybody is looking at us weird,” Ray warned.
"Nobody's looking at us, Ray."
Ray covertly looked from side to side. "I haven't smoked a joint since I was a kid. What do we do?"
“Gimme that,” I ordered, taking the bag and papers.
I clumsily poured a little of the crumbled up leaf and rolled it into a lame facsimile of a joint, twisting both ends into a quarter-inch long pigtails. I held it up – it looked ridiculous but it was the best I could do.
Ray took the joint, looked at it a moment. He put one of the long pigtails into a candle to light it, brought it to his lips, blew a moment to make the coal red then inhaled deeply on the other end. The pigtail of paper quickly burned just to the beginning of the dope inside. Ray held the smoke inside his lungs a few moments then exhaled it through his nose - obviously like he'd seen in the movies. A moment later he says, "I'm getting light-headed."
"So far you've only smoked the paper, Ray," I replied.
"It's really strange."
"Paper, Ray. Paper. Paper. Paper."
Ray sleepily says, "I'm going outside, " and abruptly stands up, drops the lighted joint on the table in front of us, and heads down the aisle.
The lit end of the joint broke off, skittered across the table, fell into my lap, and began burning a hole in my custom-made jacket. I spent a few frantic moments trying to stop the smoldering. When I looked up, every occupant of the entire bar was staring at me. I smiled weakly as I high-tailed it outside where Ray looked at me blankly.
"I think I'm high," Ray whispered.
"Oh yeah... You're really flyin', Ray."