Culture vulture

Vulture Van Gogh

Vulture Van Gogh

Amsterdam: what a blast
Culture Vulture is not a particularly strong believer in signs and portents, preferring in most cases to walk, or rationalize, our way around strange epiphenomena that seem overly weighted with coincidental connotations. We are neither inobservant or insensitive, just, it seems to us, healthily skeptical. But when the cosmos whops us upside the head with something undeniably significant, we try to pay attention, at least in retrospect.

Take for instance our arrival in Amsterdam.

The fast train from Paris shot us across the French countryside at a dizzying pace, aided, perhaps, by the kindly ministrations of our saloon car attendant, Ivan, a jolly fellow with a diamond stud earring, a mastery of seven languages and an insider’s knowledge of the city’s famous coffee houses. So, by the time we arrived in the Amsterdam station we, meaning the lovely I. Daphne St. Brie and our anonymous American traveling companions, were well and properly filled with the milk of human kindness and the products of the European brewers’ art. All well and good. And jolly.

In proper dramatic fashion our train pulled into the station just as a picturesque sundown lit up the cloud cover like a vat of molten copper being poured across the Delft blue porcelain sky. Not bad, we thought, wheeling our luggage toward a long line of taxis through the deepening gloom.

A short discussion with our driver later, we were on our way to the hotel, which he assured us was very close by. Skillfully negotiating an extremely circuitous route, he managed to make it seem like a ride across a vast metropolis. More on that later. Pulling into a tiny parking area in the midst of a labyrinth of narrow, obtusely angled streets, he pointed vaguely and told us our hotel was a block or two somewhere in that direction.

And that’s when it happened. Just as I stood on the rain slicked tarmac with Daphne by my side, we glanced simultaneously up just in time to see a beautiful and horrendously loud specimen of ball lightening expend it self right overhead. Imagine the biggest, loudest flash cracker you’ve ever witnessed at the beginning of a fireworks display, give it a set of wriggling electric spider legs and multiply it by about 10, and you’ve got a weak approximation.

“Holy shit,” I involuntarily blasphemed. “I guess we have arrived.” Which brings us back to the point I began to elucidate at the beginning of this ramble down memory lane. There was simply no way for the sensitized mind to not interpret being greeted by the explosion of a huge ball of atmospheric electricity as some kind of tremendously significant sign. Of something.

But the funny thing about signs, and the reason Culture Vulture does not wholeheartedly endorse them as a means of personal guidance, is that they are so often ambiguous. You know something significant has been conveyed, but no training has or could have provided you with the skill to know if you’ve been blessed or warned.Next week: Coffee houses exploited, Van Gogh examined, Red Light District explored, portents deciphered.