Last weekend I went to Philadelphia to visit my friend Allison, who I haven’t seen since we studied abroad together in the fall of 2008. The night that Allison and I solidified our friendship will live in infamy, because it was the first “crazy” night I had in Amsterdam, and it was also the night that I made out with a guy who was almost old enough to be my father.
It was Allison’s 21st birthday, and she was feeling down because turning 21 in Europe is anti-climactic. There are no bar crawls in your honor, no free VIP shots from the bartender, no 21-shot death sentences, and no naive hoots of “WOO! YOU’RE FINALLY LEGAL!!” as your friends pay for all of your drinks and then have to carry you home because you’re so saturated in birthday celebration that your body has lost its motor functions and your brain has ceased in its ability to form new memories. Twenty-first birthdays are stupid in America- stupid in the Fresh Prince sense meaning “awesome beyond logical slang terminology,” but also, just plain fucking stupid.
Allison’s birthday just happened to be on the same night that we were having a mixer in our building, which was very similar to a college dorm and housed mostly exchange students studying at the University of Amsterdam. Our RAs had provided a shit ton of bottles of wine to complement the mingling, and someone had set up a makeshift beer pong table on the first floor where a German girl in a pink Yankees hat dominated for most of the night. I can’t remember much else about the mingling except that it wasn’t long before I started to get fairly drunk from the free wine, and I decided to go out with Allison for her birthday because she seemed fun, and I was already on my way to party mode so I may as well run with it. Or, as they do in Amsterdam, bike with it.
I remember Allison shoving a bottle of wine under her shirt to smuggle into her room, and I remember one of our RAs and the caretaker of the building agreeing to accompany us to the small club that Allison had chosen in the city center. When we got there, the place was full of kids who looked like they were in high school, but they had beers for 80 cents so we decided to stay. I remember being on the dance floor and our RA and the caretaker were bringing over trays full of cups of beer, and I just got drunker and drunker, and some nasty rap song came on, and then I melted into the 38-year old caretaker. That’s happened to you, right? When you’re so drunk that things start to get really fuzzy, and you can feel your better judgment starting to slip away in the wake of loud music, draft beer, and the nearest warm body whom you may or may not have found slightly attractive prior to excessive wine guzzling, and then all of a sudden you’re making out and you don’t even know how the fuck it happened. Well anyway, it happened to me. And in addition to making out with someone nearly twice my age on a dance floor at a club full of Dutch high schoolers, I also drunkenly wrecked my bike on our caravan home, and scraped the hell out of my hand. Needless to say, I felt like kind of a dumbass in the morning, but I had fun, and from then on, Allison and I were friends.
My visit to Philly was fairly low key, but the weekend wouldn’t have been complete without another long journey to a sketchy bar. On Sunday night, after grilling out at Allison’s apartment and getting fairly tipsy on Zack’s beer, we headed to Making Time at the Bamboo Bar, which turned out to be in THE GHETTO. I’m from a small town, and I have extremely limited experience with big cities and specifically ghettos, but this was the ghettoest ghetto I’ve ever walked through. We took a bus most of the way there and walked the last few blocks, with Allison directing us the rest of the way with her iPhone. I didn’t notice how terrifying our surroundings were at first because I was focusing on my blistered feet and wishing I had brought my Chucks, but I looked up right as one of Zack’s friends was saying, “uhh, is anyone else a little scared right now?”
I looked around at the deserted gray buildings, and agreed that it wasn’t the safest I had ever felt in my life. We walked quickly, though, and soon were at the Bamboo Bar, which proved to be an oasis in the middle of the urban wasteland we had trekked through. The fact that there was a casino across the street didn’t make me feel any more at ease about entering this gigantic oddly placed tiki bar, and the thoroughness that the security guards used to search me also didn’t put to rest my fear that it wasn’t unheard of for people to get shot around here.
But, despite my uneasiness during our brief walk to the bar, I had a great time, and particularly enjoyed the spectacular people watching. This place had a POOL inside the bar- which I guess wasn’t technically inside, but the point is that there was a POOL at the bar, and there were drunk girls wearing grass skirts and bikini tops, and drunk guys wearing sharp button down shirts with swim trunks, and people sharing enormous fish bowls of booze that made me shudder at the potential for epic spillage. I got drunker on more beer that Zack bought for me, and I didn’t make out with any 38-year-olds, but I did make eye contact with a guy with an impressive foot-high mohawk who might have maybe been cute if it weren’t for his obnoxiously large septum piercing. I’ve always liked mohawks.
In addition to the Bamboo Bar excursion, Allison showed me around Philly and made me jealous of her adorable apartment and awesome life there. We did a lot of walking, which made me realize that I really need new shoes, and we ate a lot of delicious food, including the BEST omelet and French toast of my LIFE, and she got me hooked on The L Word. We talked a little about Amsterdam and a little about the 20-something woes of trying to find a job and pay bills and stay happy while learning to be an adult, but best of all, we just relaxed and enjoyed each other’s company, without feeling pressured to catch up about every little thing or spend excessive time reminiscing about the short time we spent together when we were abroad. We just hung out, as if it hadn’t been two and a half years since we last hung out, and that was nice.