Travels with Grandma

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Day Two: The White Widow Incident

As part of our agreed upon go-slowly holiday plan, I let Peter sleep in on Sunday morning. I was up at 5 and read a book until 7. Then I went out for a 45-minute run, heading out toward Rembrandtplein, then into the Dam. I made a mistake and ended up near the train station instead of near our hotel, but I corrected the mistake easily enough. It just meant a longer run. The weather was a good bit better than Saturday, with some patches of blue sky and glimpses of the sun. It was humid but still a shade chilly.

We had an uninspired Continental breakfast in the hotel and then set off for more wandering. Amsterdam was my first introduction to a proper European city and my impressions have held up. I love the canals and the narrow houses. I like the public squares, particularly the Dam.

The only thing that really freaks me out in Amsterdam is the traffic. Not the cars, since aren't many cars on the road. I'm talking about the trams and the bikes. The trams are right at street level and you can easily wander onto the tracks if you're not paying attention. I took special care at corners and curves in the road, since you wouldn't want to be surprised by a tram. The bikes are even scarier.

Amsterdam is loaded with bikes. The guidebooks delight in telling you the facts – 750,000 residents, 600,000 bicycles. Near the train station, they have a multi-storey bike parking garage. The bikes are nearly uniformly big and old-fashioned looking. Bikes are THE way to get around and the cyclists are crazy. They consider themselves to be pedestrians, not cars, which means you're not guaranteed that they will stop at traffic lights. They don't really stop for anything and you wander onto the burgundy-coloured bike paths at your own peril.

Our plan for Sunday was very laid back. After our morning stroll, we were going to find a coffee shop that friends of ours recommended, hang out there for a bit, and then go to the Irish pub for the hurling match. We found the coffee shop, called the Greenhouse Effect, ] on one of the main streets-of-vice-and-corruption that are just a little to the east of the train station.

I sat down at a table to peruse the drinks menu while Peter went to the counter to order his pot. He came back with a large joint in an attractive little plastic carrying case that reminded me of a test tube. I asked him what it was and he said it was a pure pot joint, which is pure in that it contains no tobacco. It cost € 8, which was about right since the half-and-half joints at this place were € 4.

I made the decision that I wanted a chocolate milkshake and Peter asked for a vanilla shake. So I went up to the counter and placed our order. The woman behind the counter was young, hip, and had a nearly impenetrable accent. I'd guess Dutch although she looked exotic, like Moroccan or something. She repeated the order back to me and then said something, which I deciphered as "regular or special." I asked what the difference was and again, it took me a bit of deciphering to realise she was asking if I wanted hashish in it. I said "no" a bit too quickly and sharply, like I wouldn't have hashish in my drink if it were the last source of nutrition in the world. I don't really feel that way, but I wasn't interested in getting high and Peter had a pure joint in his hand, so hashish in the shakes was the last thing we needed.

The milkshakes were regular but were different than I expected. Instead of being ice-cream based, they were milk, ice, and flavouring, mixed well in a blender. I brought the shakes back to the table where Peter was starting to feel some mild effects of the joint. He commented that it was very smooth and easy to smoke. Despite the absence of ice cream, the shakes were pretty tasty. Peter seemed a bit drifty so I took out one of the Amsterdam guidebooks and started to look for a place for dinner.

Peter remarked that he was really starting the feel the effects. He said it was the first time that he felt unsafe to stand up, that he couldn't trust himself to walk. I told him to be careful, that I didn't want any reefer madness going on. He laughed and said he'd be fine. I told him he had a bit over 3 hours before the match started and that I hoped he'd be back to normalish by then. He laughed and nodded, then went back to staring into space. I read for a bit and the next time I looked up, Peter gave me a tight, almost grimace-y smile. But I knew it was meant to reassure so I tried to relax a little and went back to my reading.

I'm not sure how much longer I read for, but the next time I looked up, Peter seemed not right at all. He leaned forward and put his hand on my arm. He spoke slowly and carefully, like he was imparting a message of utmost urgency. "Can you please go up and ask them what is in this joint? I'm kind of starting to hallucinate and I don't know if that's normal." I looked down at the ashtray and could see that he'd only smoked about half of the joint.

I leapt up with what Peter later described as an "oh shit" look at my face. I had to wait a minute at the counter before the guy could answer my question, so I looked over the menu. Although the half-and-half joint was listed as containing super-skunk, the pure joint didn't have any designated pot breed next to it. If you remember, we'd already been warned about the wallop some of this Dutch pot could pack.

I asked the guy what was in the pure joint. He shrugged and said he thought it was White Widow. Upon hearing the name, all I could think was "damn, that doesn't sound so good." It was like finding out the slavering dog with big teeth that is blocking your path is called Satan or Killer. I asked the guy if the stuff was meant to make you hallucinate. The guy shook his head and said, "I've been smoking pot for 15 years and I've never hallucinated." He asked me if I wanted a glass of water and suggested putting sugar in it. I accepted the water and thanked him. He asked me if I was hallucinating. I told him no, that Peter was and then I went back to report my findings.

Peter seemed relieved to know that there was only pot in the joint although he remarked that any pot with "white" in the name is extra-super-strong. (We later found out online that White Widow has an average THC content in the neighbourhood of 20%.) I had to go to the bathroom, so I verified that he would be okay and then left for a few minutes. When I got back, the guy was talking to Peter. I missed part of the conversation, but the gist was that sometimes, if you smoke when you have low blood sugar (a possibility since it had been several hours since breakfast), it might hit you pretty hard and in a weird way. Or if you've been drinking alcohol, which Peter most definitely had not.

The guy brought Peter a Coke and suggested he eat chocolate or anything with sugar in it. He assured Peter that he'd be fine, that in 30 or 45 minutes, it would be over. Peter and I talked about how he was feeling, what he'd hallucinated. Colours, apparently. This relieved me – at least he hadn't been seeing killer rabbits or dancing bumblebees or something really freaking weird or unnerving. We had about 5 minutes of peacefulness, such as it was. The music was this hyper-fast dance music that sounded like a remix of Stevie Nicks, played at 78 RPM. Peter's eyes looked strange and it wasn't long before he asked me to get a bucket.

I dashed up to the counter and got a bucket. The guy followed me back to the table and suggested to Peter that we should go sit on the bench outside in front of the shop. That sitting in the smoky atmosphere probably wasn't great and that fresh air would help. The guy was completely nice and patient, but there was also a sense that he was being pragmatic. Better out than in has always been my motto when it comes to puking.

We made it outside without incident and settled onto the bench. For over an hour, I felt like a girl trapped in an After-School Special. The worst bit came shortly after we sat down outside. Peter vomited loudly and repeatedly into the bucket and then insisted that I get a fresh one because the bucket was making him sick. My response was, "you want another bucket?" as though he was requesting something extraordinary. I just didn't feel like I could abuse the hospitality of the coffee shop and I debated my options – dumping it in the sewer or in the ladies' room. The ladies' room seemed like the less rude option. When I entered the coffeeshop with the bucket, just about everyone in the place covered their noses. One guy even pulled his shirt up over his nose. I felt like a leper. After emptying the bucket in the toilet, I returned outside to find Peter rocking on the bench.

Peter: What just happened?

Me: I went inside to empty the bucket for you.

Peter: My eyes!

Me: (Thinking that he was possibly freaking out) What about your eyes?

Peter: They're full of vomit.

Me: (Thinking he was definitely freaking out. Gave him a napkin to wipe his face) I think I should take you to the hospital.

Peter: No, I'm fine, I just don't understand why my eyes are full of puke.

Me: Um, because you puked.

Peter: Oh, I did. I thought I imagined that.

Not only did he not imagine it, it happened again several times. I don't know if his body was trying to get rid of the intoxicating substance or what, but smoking pot is not like drinking alcohol. If you drink too much alcohol, you can puke and then feel moderately better within a short period of time. If you've smoked pot, the smoking provides a handy and direct route right into the blood stream. All you can do is wait it out, which is what we did, sitting on that wooden bench on a crowded crooked street in a raucous part of Amsterdam.

My job was pretty easy. I supplied water, Coke, napkins, and the bucket. I also silently encouraged his liver to process faster and gave unblinkingly mean looks to anyone who looked at us. Peter's job was a lot harder (and louder – I swear, I have never heard such loud up-chucking in all my life). The coffee shop staff was solicitous and helpful. I'm sure they didn't really want us hanging out in front of their shop, but they never made us feel that way.

About 75 minutes after Peter started to feel funny, he felt well enough to try out his legs. He wanted to go back to the hotel, which I agreed to on the condition that he not lie down. (I was terrified that he would aspirate on vomit like a 60s rock star.) The plan was to walk over to the main road and look for a cab, but once he got walking, he felt capable of walking all the way back to the hotel. He walked carefully, gingerly, as though he didn't really expect the ground to meet his feet.

I held his hand and it really felt like he could just drift away, like if I didn't hang on to him and mind him carefully, he'd disappear. I knew he was going to be fine, that the worst was over, but it was still not the most pleasant of experiences. It took us about a half-hour to get back to the hotel. Safely in our room, Peter agreed to sit in one of the chairs in the room and he dozed off and on. I sat on the bed, trying to read my book, but really watching him. I checked on him every 15 minutes.

The time for the hurling match came and went. It was clear that Peter was in no shape to go anywhere. He felt bad that we missed it, but there was no way I was going to leave him alone. I did turn on the television and flip through the channels, hoping for some sort of miraculous airing on one of the basic cable channels. I had a joyous moment when I saw men with sticks, but my joy turned to bitter disappointment when I realised it was just a field hockey match.

At about 3:45, a full 4 hours after he started smoking that infernal joint, Peter surfaced and declared that he was starting to feel more like himself. To say that we were both relieved would be a major understatement. He spent a few more hours in a daze and said, even around 11 pm, that he still felt not quite right. It wasn't a hangover exactly, just lingering effects. I guess if you're going for bang for the buck or excitement for the euro, White Widow will more than fit the bill. But if you just want to have a mellow chill-out in a coffee shop, a hit or two should do the job admirably for a good while.

Peter felt like he'd learned a lesson about pot in Amsterdam. He also felt like he didn't want to try it again for a good long while, if ever. I asked him what he was thinking, ordering the pure joint. He said that he wanted to see what it was like without tobacco and that he figured the pure joint would have whatever breed of pot that the mixed joint had, only the pure joint would be, you know, purely and only marijuana. I asked him if he'd known what was in the pure joint, if he still would have ordered it and he said absolutely not. We both think he was foolish for not asking, so let this be a lesson to you as well.

After resting up for a bit more, we went out for dinner and a movie. The dinner, at a place called Szmulewicz near the Rembrandtplein, was delicious. We shared warm bread with olive spread for our started. I had a goat cheese salad and Peter had skewers of chicken served with rice. For dessert, opted to have waffles from a nearby bakery.

For the movie, we bought tickets to "The DaVinci Code," which was showing in the Tuschinski Theatre, an amazing Art Deco theatre. Opened in 1921, the theatre is a masterpiece. I would have gladly handed over € 10 to tour the theatre. We sat in a side box, which was exciting but less novel than I'd expected because other people were also sitting in it. Still, we had a great vantage point for appreciating the art and architecture. The movie, on the other hand, was horrible. We felt that way even having gone in with low expectations. Imagine the most boring film you've ever seen. Multiple that by 100. You're in the neighbourhood of "The DaVinci Code."

Even after the film, a full 12 hours after the White Widow experience, Peter reported still feeling mildly out-of sorts. He was a bit sheepish about the whole thing. He explained to me that he had "severely underestimated" the strength of the pot, which was why it hit him so hard. Plus there was the unfortunately coincidental low blood sugar, which was an issue we didn't even know about until it was too late. All in all though, he was not too worse for the wear.


  • laughing really hard, trying to stifle it, lest the co-workers ask me what's so funny..... He should've known better than to get something called White Widow as an out-of-practice smoker....

    By Blogger Lyss, at 5:16 PM  

  • I tried White Widow last night, 1/2 a joint (bought in coffeshop in amsterdam). I had dinner and 3 beers came to the hotel, and right before going up to the room, I smoked 1/2 of it.

    Holly shit man. Must have been real scary getting so stoned outside of your hotel, I would never smoke it outside my house or hotel. I didn't start hallucinating, but I could close my eyes and imagine stuff and feel pretty close to it.

    I'd kiss my wife, and I'd feel as If I was not the one kissing her, more like I was seeing myself doing it.

    Then I played some drum n bass, and the bass would feel like coming out of my heart, then my heart started racing, and I felt as I was blushing, it was pretty amazing shit.

    I think the alcohol made it much stronger, cause when I had the first half of the joint at the coffee shop a night ago, I hadn't drunk anything, and I didn't get as high as last night, I just had the best sleep ever.

    Today, about 12 hours later, I still feel very relaxed. Slept a lot too. While sleeping, I could also tell myself really nice stories.

    Also tried watching psycodelic videos in youtube, as well as my screensavers on the mac, and I could make stories, and make out figures in motion I'd never guessed were there. It's a really abstract state of mind, too bad you can't turn it off/on by will, it'd be amazing.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:13 PM  

  • LMFAO what a pretty little story lol. joints of half weed n half tobacco? who the hell smokes those?! And yea even tho white widow is prolly not the best thing to smoke as a newbie, but dam no need to act like ur gonna die!! lol im growin some white widow right now n i hope it comes out as good as that!!

    By Anonymous Dranksippa22, at 11:07 PM  

  • What a girl! im 21 and can smoke that a whole pure no problem. He is just one of "those guys!"

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:20 AM  

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