On the 30th of April each year, the Dutch celebrate the Queen mother's birthday, with a street party in every town and city throughout the country. This day is known as Koninginnedag (Queen's day) and it is certainly one of, if not the biggest spectacles that I have ever had the pleasure to witness. It is a day steeped in tradition, with the whole country becoming a collage of orange, as everybody adorns themselves from head to foot in the Dutch national colour. It is a day when flea markets line the streets, as the government relax commerce laws, and a day that outdoor concerts take place up and down the country. It is also the day that my mate Dangerous Dave and I decide to get absolutely bamboozled on triple doses of LSD.
Quite, how this became a tradition in the late 90s I don't recall. I assume that we just happened to have it in our pockets at the time, and it seemed like a good idea to make an annual event of it. I mean, we were in liberal
right? It would be rude not to. And so
it was, that for a few years, in the run up to the
new millennium, Dave and I spent Queen's day tripping our balls off
in Holland . This is a story about the most memorable
of those triptastic occasions. Amsterdam
When I meet Dave at Amsterdam Central Station, he is in possession of a big suitcase on wheels. Given our plans to trip the light fandango in a short while, this is far from ideal. Although he lived in
It's obvious when we meet James, that he is in no fit state to entertain us. He has been up making music for over 24 hours and is in dire need of some sleep. We exchange a few pleasantries, he hands over the acid and we are on our way.
"Just a word of warning though lads. Don't be greedy, this stuff is lethal. Be sensible". he politely informs us.
It goes without saying that this advice falls on deaf ears, before we have even reached the bottom of his street, we've eaten the lot. Which is probably enough to the immobilise a small army.
James lives only a short distance from Central station, so nothing can go wrong, right? Or so we naively assume as we trundle along to the station with suitcase in tow. By the time we have reached the end of the first street however, the Fat Freddy's (street name) have worked their way into our systems, resulting in increased heart rates, visual impairment, hysterical laughter, heightened perception of our surroundings and general euphoria. In short, life just became immeasurably better. Although to the outsider we may possibly resemble a couple of complete imbeciles. Not that we care.
To cut the first stage of this long story short. We eventually find Amsterdam Central station after what seems like 5 hours, but is in actual fact probably only half an hour. We then make our way across the extremely packed concourse to the correct platform. I hasten to add, that I have travelled back to Leiden from Amsterdam on many occasions and I am therefore very familiar with the correct platform. Not that this means anything in my current state of mental spasmodia. It is when we eventually locate the platform however that our problems really start.
On Queen's day a million people go to Amsterdam. This is approximately one sixteenth of the Dutch population. I think that most of them are unsuccessfully trying to board our train right now. Quite how Dave and I manage to barge our way through the crowds with a suitcase I will never know. Acid is a powerful drug, that's all I'm saying. But barge our way through we do. Squeezing, puffing and panting, sweat dripping from our every pore and all the while the faces of the crowd resemble one giant mass of contorted evil. It's dog eat dog out there, and my brain is tapped right into the nastiness of human behaviour. I am on to them, every fake and phoney one of them, with their pushing and their shoving and their cursing and their underhand tactics, to be first on the train.
Somehow we make it on to the train. I am bundled through the doorway, battered, bruised and bedraggled. I take a few seconds to catch my breath and then turn to see where Dave is. I am confronted by a scene that I will never forget. The whole carriage is full of the most dirty, lecherous, aging, gay leather boys that ever walked the earth. Of course, their appearance is intensified by the fact that acid is flowing through my system. But I am still convinced that there was something not quite right in the carriage that day. I feel as though I have just magically stepped into a Village People video shoot, and what's more, they are all staring at me with wanton intent. It is as if they are lizards and I am an insect. Their tongues lashing at me, in an attempt to draw me in to their gaping mouths. Needless to say, I am horrified.
Dave is doing even worse than I am. Ok, he's still got his suitcase with him but his face has turned a terrible shade of grey and his head is flowing with rivers of sweat. He's in the middle of a panic attack and desperately wants to get off the train. Which of course I do not. We manage to bundle his suitcase onto the luggage rack and I am hoping that this is enough to keep him on the train, but things are not looking good. His current physical disposition is starting to get noticed by the Village People, who I assume are seeing him as their prey.
"It's nothing to worry about, we're only tripping", I shout to the whole carriage, with no concerns for the illegality of my actions.
Just when you thought that the scene could not get any worse, it does. The huge mass of people outside on the platform decide that those inside are not making enough effort to make space for them. They start to bang on the windows and shake the train. Their angry faces pressed up against the glass as they shout in Dutch "MOVE DOWN THE TRAIN". The Village People are enraged, a great roar of anger passes through the carriage. I feel my own anger begin to well and then something quite unexpected happens. I have an out of body experience.
I stand and watch as the angry person inside me takes great offence to the window bangers and train shakers, and decides to run at them shouting and screaming whilst throwing punches through the small open window. From my elevated position I am popping punches at anyone in sight, men, women and children, but in all honesty, my flailing arms are mostly flapping around in the cool night air. Meanwhile, my far more rational self, who has decided not to leave my body is watching on and thinking
"You don't want to do that Andy".
Much to my surprise the village people burst into rapturous applause. I am the hero of the carriage. Their knight in shining armour (Of course this could all be going on in my head, although I don't think so). I turn to them and raise my arm in victory.
I am positive that things happen to you when you're tripping. Things out of the ordinary. Like a mystical force taps into your altered state of mind and decides to have some fun with you. A sort of acid joker. He is definitely busy tonight. The cheers of the leather boys are broken by the sound of the train's P.A system. Which informs us of the following (in Dutch of course).
"Can all the people on the train please disembark onto the platform, this train will not ride tonight" (on repeat).
"Shit", so now I have to disembark onto a platform full of people that I have just been throwing punches at willy nilly. This should be fun. I grab Dave and his suitcase and we get off the train. He seems far happier than me with this decision. Although he has now decided that he is desperate to lie on the platform. We find a piece of empty space up near to the station wall and lie down. This should have been a good decision because it allows us to escape the angry mob, but the devil joker has a few more tricks up his sleeve. Our chosen spot is also the place that everybody chooses to empty their bladders. All around us all we can hear is a constant drumming of piss as it hits the ground. Dave's mental state takes a further dip because he is now convinced that we are lying on the floor of a urinal and this is the lowest point in his life so far. He also realises that in all the commotion, he has lost his mobile.
What follows, is a night of mixed emotions. One minute we are elated at seeing a bridge that is so fantastically illuminated that it redefines brilliance and the next I am clawing at the gates of depression as I am forced to excrete my bodily matter in the street ,with no way of cleaning afterwards. To make matters a thousand times worse, Dave can't remember where James lives (for it is here that we have decided to return to) and we end up walking up and down a street that may be his, for the next five hours. A rather large and posh hotel that sits directly opposite his house throws Dave off the trail. He can't remember it being there. Although it is later confirmed that it was always there, he just never noticed it.
Eventually we concede and lie down on the doorstep of what we think is James's house. Here, we shiver our way through the early morning, until we decide that we may have been banging on the wrong door for the past hours and we make our retreat back to Leiden.