August 31st, 2007

I fly to Amsterdam out of Boston’s Logan airport. An easy six hour hop. Take the train to Central Station and walk to my hotel. It’s early. The city’s just waking up. The streets are wet from the night before. After check in , I walk to the Rokerij at the top of the Singel Canal. Ive got a few Euros left from my last trip so I can wait until Lorentz opens up to change my shitty worthless George W. Bush paper dollars into more Euros. Currently, 300 dollars American will net you about 211 Euros. It snaps you up. You just lost 89 dollars due to the exchange rate. And trust me, Lorentz gives you the best deal in town. The Rokerij is up early. The women behind the coffee bar are some of the most attractive and certainly the most personable people Ive ever met in the city. And so are the men who work the booth where you’ll menu your way through some of the best weed and hash products in Amsterdam.

The three Rokerij coffeeshops are a triad within the worldwide rank of superstar coffeeshops. And since Amsterdam is the only major city on earth where coffeeshops are tolerated , the Rokerij ranks at the top of the bowl along with the Greenhouse, Dampkring, and of course, The Grey Area. If hundreds of thousands of pot and hash smokers from all over the world had to select which of the Amsterdam coffeeshops a novice must visit to be certifiably broken -in, those four would be the critics choice. No argument.

That fact doesnt distract from the fine neighborhood gourmet coffeeshops that dot this central part of the city and offer equally potent product. You’ll find a favorite. Thats what makes Amsterdam such a unique experience. You find a vibe in a shop and settle into it. And then you’ll go back again and again.

New Years Eve 2007 found me manning the door at the Rokerij at the top of the Singel canal. My job, as one of the women who work there told me was ” to keep the kids and the riff-raff out.” I obliged. They were swamped with people coming in and out, getting ready for the new year. I tapped my head with my index finger to signal to men and women from all over the world to take their caps off. It’s a Rokerij rule. Can’t see your face. Jump the guy in the booth and run out the door with the dough and the cameras can’t snap your features if you’ve a hat on. It’s a security measure. Fucking live with it and take off your hat or go someplace else where they oohhh and ahhhh over your latest $75 Ed Hardy lid.

Chances are if you’re in the city when I am, you’ll find me squatting on one of the small cushions at one of the tiny tables an inch or two off the wooden floor of the Singel Rokerij . I like sitting there. Most of the time Im traveling alone so sprawling on the floor is fine with me. I leave the tables to the better dressed or the bigger groups of smokers moving through the city in herds. I know most of the people who work there so I chit-chat with them when they’re not busy or just enjoy watching the lights change on the colorful mural right behind me. At night I grab a coffee at the Rokerij before I end my day and buy 5 grams of delicious Riffman to carry with me back to the hotel. I smoke a cigar, nearer the door if possible, and watch the crowds move past the wide glass windows at the front of the shop. And theres a good chance, that after I wake the next morning , Ill be back at the Rokerij for a coffee and a wake up call. I can’t think of a brighter way to start my day …or yours either. And theyre open right after your eyes are.

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