January 19, 2007

There are times in a man's life...

...when he comes home and retreats to the couch amidst the din and tumult of the household, intent on doing nothing more than sitting there and doing, saying, and thinking of absolutely nothing, because his head is so full it has begun to bulge in an alarming fashion, looking like one of those balloons at the carnival that you inflate and pop with a water pistol.

And then, in the midst of trying to clear the mind, the odd thought enters and makes him wonder to himself, "Good grief, I am an idiot! How in the world have I survived!?"

Or, at least I assume men do this--I've never asked any other guy, so I only have myself as an example.

BUT, after arriving home last night to the usual mayhem, and having a head full of the cares of adulthood, all I wanted to do was go sit on the couch and stare at the television. Which was not turned on. I didn't want to have to be troubled with processing visual information.

Anyway, as I sat there and vegetated, an odd thought crossed my mind. In April of 1986, I was in a very different place, doing something very different.

I was near the beginning of a three-month European study-abroad program with a bunch of other architecture students, and after a dash through England and Scotland, we'd found ourselves in Amsterdam, a picturesque city of concentric canals and venerable old buildings, as well as dog doo, drugs, and doughy Dutch doxies.

Anyway, we'd arrived and done a couple of tours through the environs the first couple of days, sketching and photographing and admiring the swaybacked buildings and their walls made of teeny tiny bricks, and managed to politely refuse the abundant streetcorner offers of high quality hashish and heroin, all while trying not to look too much like a giant group of American tourists.

For some reason, I got it in my head one evening that I wanted to go out and see the after-hours scenery. By myself. Without a map. And not speaking a word of Netherhollandaise.

Did I mention Amsterdam's layout? The central part is all a bunch of concentric canals?

Well, it is.

And oddly enough, just as all cats are gray in the dark, the entirety of Amsterdamnation looks alike in the dark as well! It's also a lot easier to step in dog crap in the dark.

Yes, I know--hard to imagine.

Anyway, being full of youth and idiocy, I tucked my identification in a safe spot, made sure I had a supply of pretty Monopoly money, and headed out to see what there was to see.

After about three blocks, in which I had crossed a lovely bridge over a lovely canal, I was lost. Not really lost lost, but turned around. Or, so I told myself at the time.

However, in retrospect, I was REALLY lost.

After about an hour of fretful walking, I found myself in a section of town that was quiet and dark, which I pretty well knew was not where I was supposed to be. I walked along, and up ahead saw a few folks out at a car parked by the curb, and thought about seeing if they spoke English and could possibly get me back close to our hotel.

As I got closer, I noticed that there were several men around the car (a yellowish beigey sort of color, a Citroen, I think) and there was one inside who appeared to be quite well involved in taking out the seats.

Having, it seems, already taken the wheels off.

In the moment when I glanced sideways and nodded my head and was about to speak, it occurred to me that this scene--although I was now in cultured Europe and had already seen many odd and charmingly cultured scenes--THIS event was probably NOT normal.

In that split second, I had finally realized the fact that this particular troupe of gentlemen were doing a bit of extralegal late-night freelance car parts shopping.

I just kept right on walking. I figured interrupting them at their work to ask directions would seem horribly pushy and rude, and I was trying my best to be a good ambassador for the United States. And thankfully, they allowed me to continue on my merry way up the street, and did not clock me with a spanner and stuff me in the trunk and tip the car into a canal when they'd finished up.

I managed to turn a corner on down the street and stumbled into a brightly lit car plaza with a small gas station, and it was staffed by a leathery fat Dutchman who managed to point out where we were, and where I needed to go, and how to get there. Turns out I was only about four blocks from the hotel, which was nice, because by then, I was becoming much more aware of just how badly my little jaunt could have turned out for me.

So, back on the couch as I contemplated this odd recollection that had come steaming through my head, I wondered how it was--seeing as how my life is full of similar escapades--how I'd managed to make it through them relatively unscathed. Obviously, I credit a merciful Creator for this happenstance, but I still have to think that He's been VERY busy with me over the years.

And then I though I might better get up off the couch and help fix supper.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at January 19, 2007 11:37 AM

Perhaps you were thinking that someone was going to get clocked upside the head with a skillet, and not necessarily a spanner, if they didn't get up and help with dinner. Hopefully it did not involve burning cow flesh and much smoke.

The car parts gentlemen apparently did not seem too threatened by your appearance. Thankfully they did not seem too interested in your Monopoly money either. Would your knee have held up to a brief burst of acceleration back then?

Posted by: Marc V at January 19, 2007 01:20 PM

Nope, no smoke--just a nice quiet bowl of soup.

As for running away, I don't know that I could have held out for long, especially since I would have been screaming like a banshee the whole way.

Posted by: Terry Oglesby at January 19, 2007 01:24 PM

"doughy Dutch doxies"

I don't care if the dachshunds were doughy or not, they should be on leashes and their owners should pick up after them.

Posted by: Sarah G. at January 19, 2007 02:26 PM

Indeed so, although I was using the word more in the manner of the original Dutch.

Posted by: Terry Oglesby at January 19, 2007 02:46 PM