When our kids found out that we would be going to Amsterdam on our next trip, they badgered us not to miss the chance to smoke dope when we had the opportunity to do it legally.  We were called wimps for voicing doubt. We were reminded that we probably would not return to Amsterdam again, old as we are.  They pleaded with us not to be pussies.

A coffee house in Amsterdam is the place where you can buy and smoke marijuana, but not a cigarette.  That would be illegal.  Oddly, they do not have coffee there.  On our first day there, we had an Indonesian Rijsttafel near a coffee house. We passed it and it looked to be a pretty rough place.  There was an imposing bouncer-type dude outside wearing black leather and chains. We took him as representative of the clientele, and kept walking. There was no way we could walk inside that place.

We passed another coffee house the next day that had almost as alarming-looking characters outside it.  (I never knew people could pierce the backs of their necks and their breasts!) We left that place for people with a more powerful mission to smoke dope.

Two days later, we were in a very respectable part of town where there was a coffee shop.  Victor looked at me and asked what I thought.

“Uh, I don’t know,” I waffled.

Victor said that if we didn’t do it in this upscale neighborhood, we never would.  We didn’t want to disappoint the kids, right?

Victor walked inside and I followed.

It was located kitty-corner across the street from Rembrandt’s house.  It was as classy a coffee shop as we had seen.

The man at the bar gave us a drug menu.  We bought a marijuana cigarette and asked for matches. The joint was very narrow and conically shaped.  A third of it consisted of a filter of some sort. It was unimpressive. Victor lit it and we each took a puff and coughed violently.  We were out of practice.  I told Victor I didn’t think I could smoke it.  He said that it was now or never.  I didn’t want to disappoint the kids, did I?

We each took another puff and coughed like consumptives again.  We sat for a while and looked at the joint in the ashtray.  The matchbox was made in Sweden! I thought that was amazing!

Victor suggested that we try a really little puff and see if we didn’t cough so much.  So we took one or two wee puffs more.  About ten minutes passed.  I told Victor that I’d had enough.  He blinked at me.  He said he’d go get us cokes.

We sat over our joint. Half of it was still untouched. We drank some soda.  We looked at the joint.  We drank some more soda.  We looked at the ashtray.  I wondered where it was made.

Victor suggested he drop the partially smoked joint in the soda can. Then we could leave and walk home.  It seemed like a good idea to hide the fact we couldn’t finish it.  I guess we were embarrassed that we turned out to be minor league dope smokers.

I asked Victor if he could find his way home to the hotel.  I couldn’t have found my way in the best of circumstances.  It was my good fortune to have married a map-reading whiz.

My mind was meandering.  I feared I might wander away from Victor to follow my thoughts, so I asked him to keep checking that I was nearby.  He said I could count on him.

We were about two miles or more from the hotel as the crow flies, but the way the streets were mapped out, (do you remember the map I had you draw in an earlier piece?) it was about 100 miles.

I marched behind Victor carefully.  In most places it was impossible to walk next to each other because of the crowds and the swarms of speeding bicycles. After we had walked a block, Victor stopped and appeared puzzled.  He studied the map and then he turned around in a circle and, without speaking, started walking fast.  I tried to catch up, but first I had to explain to my knees that they had to lock with each step, or I would fall down.  If we had kept walking, it would have been all right, but when we stopped, my knees simply discontinued standard operation. Victor was totally involved in the whole map-reading experience and I didn’t want to interrupt him to ask if his knees were functioning normally.  I was anxious to get back to the hotel.

After a few minutes of walking, I stopped and yanked on Victor’s sleeve.

“We are in a hotel lobby!” I shouted.

He looked at me.

“Huh.  Well, it was a hotel lobby, but now it has turned back into a street again,” I said.

Victor patted me on the back.

While we walked, Victor peppered his map reading with mumbled responses to questions that I hadn’t asked.


“Yellow, I think.”

“Over there.”

“I don’t think so.”


Victor continued to stop, looking puzzled, at most corners to scrutinize the map. He invariably turned around 360 ° and then took off again suddenly.  I really needed to hold on to part of him.  It was quite congested and there were a surprising number of policemen staring at us, who subsequently morphed into tourists who were not actually looking at us. I tucked a finger in his waistband and trailed him closely.

“Victor, things are not what they seem,” I said.

“What do you mean?” he asked.

“What we see is not necessarily there,” I said.

Victor blinked at me.

When I asked Victor if he remembered that I were with him, he did not look surprised to see me.  I took that as a good sign.

I was seriously thirsty, but I did not want to mention it, because I had no intention of stopping until we got back into our hotel.

In actual time, it took an hour and a half to walk back to the hotel.  Victor got us back without a single mistake. When we got to the steps of the hotel, I asked Victor if he thought my knees would be able to understand what a staircase entailed.  He didn’t hear me, but I needn’t have worried, because my knees were able to figure out just how to act when faced with both climbing and descending a staircase.

When we got to our room, I filled the hotel glass with water several times and drank each glass quickly.  It was good water!

“My mouth is dry,” Victor said.

I poured a glass of water for him and brought it over.  He took a couple of sips, and handed it back to me.

“My mouth is dry, but I’m not thirsty,” he said.

“Huh!  I always thought they were the same thing!” I said.

I didn’t like how my lungs felt.  It was as though they were still filled up with smoke.  I wanted to know if Victor felt the same way, but it was way too much trouble to ask.

I lay down on the bed and closed my eyes.Victor said that it was 5:00 and we could leave for dinner at 6:30, if that was all right with me.

“We’ll see,” I said.

“Aren’t you hungry?” he asked.

“Nope.  I just want to lie down and watch where my mind is going,” I said.

Victor got out his computer.  I went into the bathroom and noticed that the tiles were blooming with tiny blue flowers. I had not noticed that they had tiny blue flowers on them before. It appeared that being stoned made possible for me to see how pretty things were.

When I got back to the bed, Victor looked at me and popped up on his elbow.

“What are you eating?” he asked.

“I’m not eating,” I said.

“Then what do you have in your mouth?” he asked.

“My mouth guard,” I answered.

“Why are you wearing your mouth guard?” he asked.

“My teeth are grinding.  Using my mouth guard is only sensible,” I said.

He went back to the computer on his chest.  He was reading his email.

I lay down on the bed and after a while I took out my mouth guard and poked Victor.

“Don’t. Sell. The Farm,” I  said.

“All right,” he said.

“I mean it,” I said.

“Okay,” he said.

I was impressed that he was doing his email.  Victor has terrific powers of concentration.

I poked him again.

“Don’t make any big decisions,” I said.

“I won’t,” he said.

“This is not the time for making big decisions,” I said.

“I understand,” he said.

After a while, I began to say something to Victor but stopped.

“What?” he said.

I started to laugh.

“I just realized what I was going to say doesn’t make sense,” I said.

“What were you going to say?” he asked.

“I was going to say that I was happy that there were no bicycles riding around our bed,” I said.

We laughed a lot about how hard it would be for me to get to the bathroom at night if there were bicycles speeding around the bed all night long.

Victor was also laughing about something he was reading on the Internet.He tried to read it to me, but he was laughing too much for me to understand anything he was saying.

Victor remained obsessed with eating.  He asked me every few minutes if I was ready to leave for dinner.  I finally gave in and we walked to a restaurant. Victor took great pleasure his meal.  My meal was good, but I could have skipped food and just stayed in the room to think some more.

Later that night I was truly disappointed to see that the tiles in the room were just plain brown.  They were far prettier covered with tiny blue flowers.

TAGS: , , , , ,

IRENE ZION has been married to the same curmudgeon for 40 years. She has 5 children, none of whom sufficiently appreciates her. The one you probably know is Lenore, who frequently gives her mother hives. Irene paints oil portraits and makes her own frames. She has been described as an outsider artist. Most of her paintings creep people out, especially her family. She finds this to be greatly satisfying. She writes non-fiction for TNB and loves every minute of it. She is writing fiction now too, but is too chicken to show it to anyone. She has two golden retrievers who will inherit anything of worth she leaves behind. Her kids will delight in dividing up her famous cork collection and her notorious stockpile of bubble wrap.

64 responses to “Coffeeshop Reefer”

  1. Judy Prince says:

    HA! Irene, do you suppose Victor was “practicing” at the coffee shops before you went togother to that one?

  2. Irene Zion says:

    I suppose he might have wanted to, Judy, but when on a trip we are virtually joined at the hip so I don’t see how he could’ve managed it….

  3. Frank says:

    An aging Cheech & Chong revisit some of the mental geography they toured as younger folk as they visit the Netherlands tour the physical geography of Amsterfdam as… I would say mature, but sometimes I wonder… folk.

    Couldn’t help myself, I laughed out loud conjuring visions of your visions, Irene (they WERE visions, right…?) and Victors wayfinding UI -would that be a completely Amterdam-legal WUI?

    Now what might have transpired had your Broodje interjected itself into the scene?

    I trust you didn’t actually sell the farm -or anything else -after all that, right?

  4. Irene Zion says:

    It turns out that I am a tad sensitive to marijuana.
    I don’t think hallucinations are supposed to be part of the experience, but what do I know?
    Perhaps it is simply that today’s version is just too strong for the likes of us.

  5. ksw says:

    you wear you love like heaven

  6. Melissa (Irene's friend) says:

    Irene, you told me you did no such thing. You told me it was all Victor. I knew I should not have believed you. My kids used to blame everything on each other too.


    • Irene Zion says:

      Although Victor is unquestionably a terrible influence, it is our kids who lead us astray, Melissa.

  7. SAA says:

    Dead @ ‘My mouth is dry, but I’m not thirsty’. Reading this would have made me feel high, if I wasn’t already.

  8. My new favourite ever TNB post. Loved it.

    P.S. This was all new to me. I’ve never even thought about smoking marijuana.

  9. I was hoping it was going to turn out to be the same coffeeshop I went to… I was talking to Slade about Amsterdam once and it turned out we’d both been in this same small bar about a year apart.

    I was there the week they banned smoking tobacco in public. The difference between the coffeeshops before and after was amazing. When tobacco smoking was still legal all the coffeshops were packed with people who looked a little ill. The day after they were mostly empty— people were outside so they could smoke with tobacco.

    My friend and I smoked a little and then went and sat outside watching the river. We were flying home later that day. I don’t think I could have made it up the stairs to our hotel room which was at the very top floor of one of those very tall, steep brick houses. Nice view of the Rijkmuseum…

    • Irene Zion says:

      The rules are so funny there, James. You can’t smoke cigarettes, but you can smoke a joint that is half marijuana and half tobacco. The drug cleanses all that is evil about the tobacco, I guess.

  10. Uche Ogbuji says:

    Tee hee! I had a good titter at this one 🙂 Are you sure the marijuaista didn’t slip you angel dust, like Chris Tucker in the movie Friday?

    Not that I should be speculating. I’ve never done weed or anything stronger, but I have had a few good times watching colleagues get sausage-cased with the strong hash on offer at some of the coffee shops.

    Alas you got in just in time, as I understand it they recently passed a law to prohibit the sale of weed and derived products to non-Nederlandsers. Foreigners will be getting the cold shoulder soon. And that ain’t the post-reefer meal, either.

    • Irene Zion says:

      The weed is just that much more powerful. I’m not sure if it is just how long it’s been and how much stronger it has gotten over time or if we are simply too old for these sorts of things anymore.
      Yes, I heard that also. It will still be legal, but you cannot be a tourist soon and partake. I think there is a year or so for the new rules to faze in.

      • I was reading an essay earlier on different website (sorry everyone… I was thinking about TNB the whole time… it meant NOTHING!) reading about various things.

        One of facts I learnt is that weed is a little over twice the strength it was bac in the 60s/70s.

        That seems like a strange the law… relatively easy to enforce I guess. It makes a bit of sense actually. Amsterdam is cool enough to draw tourists without the drug freedom there… and the drug tourism kind of ruins it for everyone else. Not all ‘drug tourists’ of course, but the vast majority of British stag parties who go over and can’t handle the stuff. I saw groups of them when I was there.

        And besides, there’s always the sex tourism, right?!

        • Irene Zion says:

          James! On TNB’s birthday! Well, as long as it meant nothing….

          Victor and I are regular sized people and we, together, couldn’t finish half a joint. I think it has to be stronger than it used to be back in our heyday.

          Perhaps marijuana will be legalized here in the States now?

  11. Joe Daly says:


    This was enormously fun to read. I haven’t indulged in such jaunty narcotics in a very long time, yet your vivid descriptions of the aftermath made me feel like I was walking around with you.

    In particular you evoked the last time I was in Amsterdam, when I too availed myself of the pleasures of a coffee shop. I was then an inveterate smoker and presumed that I could comport myself cooly in that environment. I had not counted on the fare in Amsterdam being considerably more potent than the treats to which I was then accustomed, and I ended up wandering the red light district in a haze, constantly having to remind myself that I was not in Copenhagen.

    Glad you both made it back to the hotel in one piece and that you enjoyed your Dutch treats.

    Rock on, Irene!

    • Irene Zion says:

      Ah! So it is that the product in Amsterdam is simply more potent! I didn’t know the reason. I was fortunate to be with mumbling Victor because he has an uncanny sense of direction. I don’t think I would have gotten back to the hotel without him.
      I wish the pesky squirrel would get out of the works of the TNB server, don’t you?
      It’s getting pretty difficult to get in and comment!

    • Gloria says:

      …I ended up wandering the red light district in a haze, constantly having to remind myself that I was not in Copenhagen.

      Oh my god, Joe – this begs to be expanded into a scene in a book or a movie or some story. I know drug lit may not be your thing, but what a ripe image.

  12. Oh my God, Irene. This was such a great read. And what a wonderful experience you had with Victor.

    By the way, Hollywood should hire you to write stoner dialogue for some films. Some of the things you said were SO stoner. Except it was the kinda stoner talk someone would engage in had they not been a seasoned pro. Which was your case, I suppose.

    But hey, you gotta take one for the kids every once in a while, right?

  13. I like how you teamed up as the voices of reason on each other’s shoulders…your knees will be fine…water is good, have some…there are no bicycles, it is therefore safe to approach the toilet and take a pee…probably there should be eating…probably there should be less teeth-grinding…probably a mouthguard would be helpful…do not sell the farm…follow the map.

    Excellent team work.

    • Irene Zion says:

      Thank you, Amanda!
      I guess I didn’t realize how well we functioned as a team until you pointed it out. We’re together as a matter of course, so we forget how well-oiled our collective machine has become in over 40 years. We are an excellent team!
      (If only Victor would read something I wrote….)

  14. Dana says:

    Absolutely hilarious, Irene! I’ve heard that Amsterdam reefer bears little resemblance to what we normal folks would find here in the states, so I’d say you handled yourself quite well. Especially rousing yourself to go to dinner. I bet I’d have found a vending machine and called it all good.

    David and Uche, I’m amazed! I honestly can’t think of more than a handful of people I know under 50 who’ve never touched the stuff.. let alone world travelers and adventurers such as yourselves.

    • Uche Ogbuji says:

      Strangely *not* partaking pretty much just became a habit. I’ve never liked anything that could be considered chemical very much. I even balk at taking Advil. As a teen that horror trumped naughty allure. And yeah, as I’ve traveled I’ve been in plenty of situations where it was more normal to smoke than to not smoke, but I guess I’ve just been set in my ways.

    • Irene Zion says:

      Ah! Dana, I’ve written this reply to you so many times…perhaps the pesky server squirrel is sleeping now and it will finally post!

      I wouldn’t have even needed a vending machine for hours. Victor, however, was visited by the hunger that needed to be addressed. I think that Victor’s symptoms were more fitting with what would be deemed normal in this situation.

      I’m was not surprised by Uche’s reticence, but David’s was a bit of a surprise to me.

  15. Oh, how fun, Irene. We were recently in Amsterdam, and while I was told that only foreigners frequent coffee shops (and now they want to ban foreigners, go figure) the experience is utterly delightful in its normalcy. Legal pot, what a concept.

    • Irene Zion says:

      Dear Stefan,
      One candidate for Mayor of Miami Beach is a libertarian who is for legalizing marijuana, gay marriage and gambling. His name is Steve Berke. He’s our candidate but it doesn’t look like he has a real chance. Maybe if everyone on TNB contributed to him….

  16. jmblaine says:

    Rembrandt should totally
    paint Victor.

    • Irene Zion says:

      Rembrandt would find it hard to paint Victor because he hardly ever sits still. Also, he never wears flowing robes, mostly rumpled shorts and misbuttoned Hawaiian shirts.

  17. jmblaine says:

    By 2012
    this site will be
    nervous breakdown.

    • Irene Zion says:

      If it were Irene Zion’s nervous breakdown, there would be a have-a-heart trapper on retainer for the pesky server squirrel. Just saying.

  18. dwoz says:

    Irene, what a wonderful chiaroscuro experience had while sitting in Rembrandt’s coffee shop!

    • Irene Zion says:

      I think the next scheduled live TNB experience should be set for Amsterdam before the no-tourists-can-enjoy-themselves-law goes into effect.

  19. Debby Fishbein says:

    and then there were are friends who, though insisting they were unaffected, drove onto the tarmac at Champaign Airport following “the pretty blue lights”.

    • Irene Zion says:

      I am going to make it a point to explore this story further!
      (They are pretty blue lights.)

  20. Christine Walling says:

    I must go to Amsterdam and find that very place so that I may, too, experience the blue flower tile high. I love this piece Irene. I also need to have a shirt with a high cherub enjoying coffeeshop reefer.