“It’s right there in that black lamp over there.” Ian said.
I had invited Ian to a café bar thing since he was visiting Amsterdam, almost like a sabbatical, and this joint was my go-to when meeting up with foreigners from another country. Especially Americans. Because, to be honest I wasn’t aware of this, but was made aware, in Euroland we have these typical Euro type little cute spots to have a drink, have smoke. Cobble stones, corners where small little bike and pedestrian streets intersect, you might even hear the small ripples of the water in the canals in the back, if you’d listen carefully (later one might suspect that Ian is fully in tune with such expansive feats of the conscious mind).
At the corner waiting, a guy in shorts and a tee skoots by on his bike to my left, I was a bit early and already seated and I had brushed off, slightly, the oh so slim and tall and cute and blonde waitress, Waiting for someone, I had said.
Ian looks me in the eye, cants his head, almost looking over his glasses, That you, Fury? I tried to throw him a smile, as he went to park his bike further down the alley, which leads to the main square of Amsterdam.
He walked back and we shook hands and it was a warm vibe from then on. We sat down and a waiter came back and I ordered my regular, the reason I kept coming back here is they had Sicilian red wine, Nero d’avola, very fruity, especially in the nose, aromatic as hell, complex in taste, with a nice body. Ian took the same.
Then a bombardment of vibe, information, and insights came my way, as I tried to take mental notes, and making Ian aware of this fact.
He brushed it off, casually, with a smile, and in good fashion. He was fully in the moment, present. No need for ego, or judgements, or just stressing the shit out of one’s mind. He was in Amsterdam for a good time. Away from all the geopolitics (Afghanistan US situation, quite recent as of writing and in the forefront of Ian’s and I suspect many other Americans’ minds).
Ian was riding the wave, tapping into the moment, quite intently, forcefully, grabbing it by the horns and willing life to be something positive. His friend invited him to stay and crash on the couch as Ian would visit shows and art spots in Amsterdam and Rotterdam. A talented fellow, he showed me his work on his phone, once, twice, three times. Very good.
“This is Hercules, taming that lion,” I said. It could be, he said. As he had handed over his phone to show the pics I saw his index finger fashioned a hefty lion. (Would make for a good sucker punch, I thought)
“Stark wolf?” I said. Could be. Thrift store, that’s where I got it, he said.
He was a free spirit all right, reminding me of all the trinkets I had bought all across the globe. Small little tokens of time abroad, time lived, and just being out there on the road. Free.
Ian was there now, expanding his consciousness, but more so his life. His inner dimensions.
His fingers were blue, he had just come from an art thing, spray painting the heck out of stencils (or murals pardon my lingo).
As I spoke of his artistic adventures today, but also during his time now, a week maybe or more, but it has felt like a rollercoaster that was not abiding to the Newtonian linear time concepts.
I listened as I noticed his well groomed beard, not big and fluffy, but perfectly clinging to his face. And the elegant black horn rimmed glasses perching on his nose. Fit for an artist, I thought, balanced, poised and just chilling there. His glasses were the frame for his kind but quiet and vibrant eyes. Eyes that can really see, he would tell me later.
Halfway through the red wines (I had been dying to unleash the Arturo Fuente Hemingway Dominican cigars I had just gotten at a cigar event, but they don’t match well with red wines that much — I had told Ian though that exactly down the street, couple feet away was a whisky bar and I told him we go there and he was absolutely down for that *Do it up, dude*)
“You got to take the Dragon Dynamite, Fury,” Ian said.
“Every person I interview, it’s always, they’re ON something,” I said.
We both laughed. I told him about the time I did a podcast with a twitter mutual, and the guy was tripping hardcore on DMT, ON the podcast. Wild.
Psychedelics is something I’d been reading up about, and discussing with friends of mine who’d done shrooms (psilocybin), or acid (LSD) — I waved towards my rucksack and said I was reading Michael Pollan’s exquisite journey capture in How to Change Your Mind. (good food for the brain, commuting on the train).
“It’s absolutely crazy, man, you can just walk in these stores, and pick something out. Like ordering food.”
“It’s like that in Thailand, too,” I said.
“Exactly” (we’d both been to Thailand and had swapped the vibes on that as well, our travels seem to interweave in a bond of its own, to be honest.)
“So I say to this guy, I want x strength. And the strength of these shrooms is measured in little Saturn globes. I took five out of ten.”
We laughed about the lil’ globes.
“You just thought fuck it, and took a HEROIC dose.”
“Haha, Terence Mckenna.”
“You have to understand, Fury. These are wet mushrooms we’re talking about. In the US you might get dried ones. These are less potent. Now these wet ones, you have to take less grams, to get more effect.”
“What did you experience?”
“I took it with a nutella on bread, to hide the taste of the mushroom.”
(Read about this on my train ride actually, shrooms have a very pungent, earthy, dirt taste)
“I just let everything go. There were no more barriers. Everything just was. I wasn’t worrying anymore, and felt so great. Really great experience. you really have to try that Dragon’s Dynamite, Fury.”
I smiled and said maybe I’d do it in the future, I’d been thinking about it, from the stories I heard, such as this vibrant one, but also what I’d been reading.
That dissolving, that disappearing of the ego, very much so appealed to me. The stress, limiting beliefs, anxieties all house with the ego, and I know, I just KNOW that when I’m flowing, TAPPED in, I’m riding the Tao Flow, life itself and energy just comes and rolls on and I keep knocking down obstacles, winning. That’s what I’m all about.
To be honest I should’ve asked Ian more about the visuals, what he actually SAW. But instead I asked:
“Did you see the Elves?”
“I didn’t see them but felt them,” Ian said. “They were just there. If I’d reach out, I might’ve seen them, or caught them, whatever. But no, I just let them do their job. They were fixing things. Fixing me.”
Terence Mckenna talks about the Elves. These little tyches that appear in your trip. They are either ancestors, from the past, like spirits, ghosts, or they are from another dimension, or they are envoys of a more modern and technologically advanced race in the far future, coming in your mind to give you THE message. Or they’re just hallucinations of your inner psyche and (Jungian) Archetypes and you’re just trippin’ balls.
“Afterwards I just felt completely fixed. All patched up.”
Ian was having a damn blast in Amsterdam, and Rotterdam. He had visited some architectural highlights, like the Cubes, and was in awe of just the energy the places had been giving him.
He loved the smallest of details. Bridges, graffiti, here and there, sprayed all over the places. But he found profound love in the things a normal person who was used to it all their life would take for granted.
“Cyclists here have power. They really make way for you. That little bell on the steering wheel has power.”
I smiled, I knew this, especially in Amsterdam. The total surface area is more for bike lanes, than cars. Cars are just a flex, Ian was in full agreement. Amsterdam is so dense, and has these little streets, it’s much more mobile and effective and efficient to utilize the bike.
Ian continued, “And you have these staircases at these bridges, right? It’s annoying to take your bike up. Right? But HERE they have these little slots, where you can place the wheels of your bike on and just take it with you, beside you, as you ascend the stairs. We dont have that in the US.”
“Damn,” I said. “The things you take for granted I didn’t know that.”
“In the US it’s fuck you, then a DOUBLE fuck you. You really have to take care of yourself. If something is not there, it’s not there, and it’s like go figure shit out for yourself.”
“This explains a lot of characters I’ve seen on Twitter. They’re tightly strung, completely bonkers, haywire. Makes sense. If you overcome such ordeals, you really become larger than life.”
“Exactly. Here everything is just…you know that Dutch word, “gezellig”. “Gezelligheid”. Everything here is like that, man.”
“I know the concept. I like it very much so. It’s one of those untranslatable words. Lots of languages have that, the concepts can be conveyed or transferred but there’s no literal one on one translation.”
[Gezelligheid: A certain cosy warm intimate feeling, usually amongst people having a good time, people playing board games on a rainy sunday, or just out and about having a drink at the terraces. Gezellig is the adjective]
“Everything I do, or see, I say, that’s gezellig. I was out with a girl. And we were having a good time, and there’s this old couple next to me and he just buys me a drink. And I’m like what the fuck, that’s not supposed to happen. That never happens. That’s gezellig.”
“I can see it, Ian, you’re hi vibe. Vibrating on a higher frequency, you adhere to those kinds of concepts.”
Almost foreboding, Ian nodded.
“It’s right there in that black lamp over there. Look how well designed it is. How beautiful. Why is it there, it has no function, it’s just there, for us to observe and take in its beauty. It’s gezellig.”
He paused for a bit, took a breather, and then said, “Man, I love Amsterdam. I’m never leaving again. And I’m gonna try to take those shrooms with me. They come in these little vacuum sealed packages, just throw em in my suitcase.”
“Haha, careful with that man.”
“Yeah, but they’re so worth it.”
We finished up the wines and I said to Ian to ride the momentum and bounce to that whiskey joint, I confessed I’d wanted to smoke that cigar, later.
Ian just sauntered into the place like a cowboy and the place was small, tight, but quite packed, it was a Friday after all. The bar was to our right, and went around the corner and then once more, another corner and then you had another exit or entrance. It was a small space, hugging the bar basically. But wow, there was a plethora of whiskey. I’ve had a fuckton of whiskies but there must’ve been thousands here. I kid you not. Boxes everywhere. All the brands, glenlivet, glenfiddich, macallan, ardbeg, lagavulin, laphroaig, glendronach (One guy was being baller with his date, first guy at the start of the bar, to my right as we walked in, had the bottle between him and his date, it was a sherry cask, and high age statement, 18 I think).
We took the booth in the (far) left corner, isolated from the rest of the crowd, but they were so tight on us it was gezellig anyways.
“You a whiskey guy, Ian?” I said.
“Sure, I love a whiskey now and then.”
I asked em this because the guy had just came with two glasses of tap water and fat menu book, with thousands of whiskey options. And I was just leafing through it, and I was lost for what to choose. I was in heaven.
“You like smoky whiskey, peated?”
“Yeah, let’s do it up,” Ian said.
“I had settled upon Lagavulin 10.” I tried to explain why it was so good, viscous like honey, and complex, and so full of life and body and peat.
As we were talking I was telling him about my time in Stockholm, Sweden, and I visited the Ardbeg Embassy in Old Town, and I had a whiskey tasting menu, with four flights of all kinds of whiskey. Realizing this we thought to ask the waiter if this was possible here, too.
We started swapping travel stories. I was really into how grateful, humble, hi vibe, full of life and vigor and love Ian was.
So I told him about my big love story of Slovenia. He had asked me initially am I food guy, and what places I frequent in Amsterdam, and I said bro I just go for cigars, booze and steak.
But I told em the best steak I ever had was in Slovenia.
“The sign outside said, do not come in if you take your steak well done,” I said.
He laughed. “Who does that, though?”
(I know of lots of people, to be honest haha)
So the guy came back, finally, Ian thought he forgot us, but he came back, he was wearing a raggy old tee and his hair was longish, his eyes bit jovial but tired. I asked him about a menu with flights of whiskey. He took the fat menu, almost releasing sigh, because I didn’t check properly and thoroughly. He leafed instantly to the right page. Pointed.
“We have six tasting menus, or you can just mix it up, whatever you like. It goes from one to six and six is the smokiest.”
“We’ll take the smokey one. Two of those, please,” I said.
“Two menu 6 coming up.”
He left and our travel stories and intimacy grew, to be honest when the guy came back with our six whiskey flights, and we started tapping into that sweet amber nectar of the Gods, that’s when the night really took off.
“It’s strange how good food, can unplug you, pill you really,” I said.
I told em about the story of the steak, and that he had to get Uruguyan steak one day, it’s so fleshy, meaty, and fatty and full of juice and nutrients and flavor, a nuke. But I really double down and told em about this girl that I used to know in the capital of Slovenia, Ljubljana, we hung out and the day after it was morning and she had fresh produce from the valley she was from. Farm girl. Fresh veggies. She whipped up a small bowl with lots of veggies, a simple salad. Simple, right? The main was a zucchini she had chopped up, and it was still uncooked, raw. And she offered me a bite. I said I was fasting and not into that raw vegetables life. Nonetheless she kept insisting this was the best veggie you will ever taste. I took a bite, and it was. I’ve been telling this story ever since.
Ian resonated with that and shared his story about how he went to Peru, climbing the Macchu Picchu, and as he ascended he went through all the seasons, hot to cold, and somewhere on top of the mountain he met a humble farmer who offered him a meal. Rice, and beans. Just rice, and beans. Simple. Right?
Ian took a bite. Damn. What the heck. A flavor bomb. Ian said it’s strange that your body is shouting damn why is this so good, I NEED this, yeah gimme more, all the while you know that the forefront of your brain says to you the big pharma and food industry and media been gaming you this whole damn time.
We just shook our damn heads and smiled and sipped whiskey.
Ian was a fast drinker. Dont know if it was his temperament or that he was Murican. He was from Richmond, Virginia, have no clue if they heavy booze there.
The first flight was a Laphroaig and was the least peatiest, and by the time Ian was by the second one, I was still busy with that one. I really liked the leather and rubber and gasoline in the second one.
Ian made a face as he sipped it. Woooh, this shit is strong, the good stuff. He took it all in though, in good spirits.
Then he asked me a pivotal question, I think it was after we were talking about meditation, being in the present moment, and Wim Hof, who in fact lives in Amsterdam, haha.
Ian asked, “Do you pray?”
I told em in fact, I do NOT, but that coincidentally, this week a good friend of mine was talking to me about it, and I thought I’d do something called Prayer Meditation. The orientation is different, less focus on the Self, but more Surrender and Release to something way bigger and complex than just you. It had been working fine for me, I told.
“I went to a medium,” Ian said. “You know I’m a skeptic guy, but I’m open to these things. I’d just gone through a significant break up, and was trying to find myself. Trying to get away from it all, I came here to Amsterdam. But this medium she was truly something else. The details, the facts. I gave away nothing, but she kept hitting me with cold hard facts, man.”
(I had assumed there was something “bigger”, behind why Ian had gone on his sabbatical, I could very much so relate)
“There’s more out there than science,” I said, “that’s why I like reading up about neuroscience and spirituality. I was baptized and in fact am a Christian but never raised as one, so I’m never really plugged into that monotheism. Always glimpsing, from the outside, as I peer into my friends’s lives towards God and their devotion.”
I looked around the bar and the amber lighting, how it very much so reminded me of the spirits in the beautiful glass flights. It was buzzing and people were chatting and Ian would prolly call it “gezellig”. With his American wrong pronunciation, almost cute, but fumbling, never hitting the right “g”.
“That devotion is something else, man,” Ian said. “My mentor has it. I have a mentor. He brought me into the world of art. He taught me how to really see.”
“Yeah, I’ve a painter friend who always talks about this. Normal people don’t really see see.”
“Right. You don’t know what you’re looking at, unless you really see. He taught me that. But he’s so centered. It’s so overwhelming but at the same time disarming. So disarming. You just want to open up to the guy.”
“Love that dichotomy, right? It’s always the guys who are both so present, such a damn presence, that makes you want to open up to them.”
“Uhu, but so this guy he’s big on prayer. And I was going through that rough time I was telling you about, and he call me up this morning and he said. I made the Church pray for you. And I said, You did what now? He had made the Church, which is this big community, he made them all pray for me. And man, there’s just something very special and selfless when somebody does something like that for you, you know?”
“I was reading up on Emerson this week, Self Reliance, and there’s a paragraph on Prayer. He says, To pray for yourself is meanness and theft. You’re not really understanding the non dualistic concepts of reality. You’re not relinquishing to god and giving to abundance and others. There’s just something good about praying for someone. It’s full of love. It’s good for the sake of good. Like you were talking about earlier when you tried to convey the word gezellig.”
(The whole evening Ian and I were synching like hell…)
“Funny thing why that prayer stuck with me, why this story stuck with me. I woke up this morning.”
Ian made a fist with one hand, put it on the table.
“That was me.”
Then he put his other hand over the fist, and as he talked he let the covering hand lift up the fist.
“That morning that’s what I felt. Something lifting me up. Something was letting go. I was letting go. That’s when I got that call, you know. You might say I was doing more painting, or running, or exercising, but I don’t know, man. There’s definitely something there.”
“Yeah there’s no double blind testing for this kind of shit.”
We both went outside after we finished our whiskies, we ordered that Lagavulin 10, and outside we had camped a small little table for us the whole time we were talking. It was night, now, and a bit chillier. But Amsterdam was still vibrating, alive.
I whipped out the Arturo Fuente, but as I was about to light up, Ian pulled out a small little canister. Weed. A joint. I toasted up the stog and lit it up, it was complex and full of spice and yummy. Ian took some hits of his joint. The guy came with our whiskies.
Ian said, “Beautiful color.”
“Only an artist would notice.”
“We see these things.”
He took a sip.
“I like this one the most of the whole evening.”
I was happy, smiled, and said a I told you so.
We then continued to smoke and drink and talk the night away. Like we had done before, the whole evening, only now in a closing manner, like the punchline at the end of a joke. Or the climax in a movie.
“You know I’ve never seen a photo of you, without a cigar.”
I get that a lot, I thought.
“To be honest I was dying to whip out the cigar earlier, with the wines, but I knew we were coming here. It’s a better pairing. Whiskey and cigars.”
“Also I had just come from a cigar event, so I already smoked. Was already riding that nicotine, mouth bit ashy.”
“Of course you came from a cigar event,” Ian said. “It’s exactly the type of place people would expect Fury to come from.”
He had made a comment about my attire earlier, that style is creativity as well, It’s artsy as well.
“Why do you dress in black?”
I told em about the Man in Black, Johnny Cash, one line from the biopic, Walk the Line, had always stuck with me.
“They said to Cash, why do you always dress in black, it looks like you’re going to a funeral? Cash retorted with, Well maybe I am.”
“I don’t know it always stuck with me. Also it fits my moody melancholic nature I sometimes spiral into. And the color is flattering. You know, my hair.”
“Haha, that was exactly not the kind of answer I was expecting, you went all the way, man.”
“Well, we’ve been back and forth, exposing ourselves, giving everything, why not, you know. I’m not gonna say this to a random person, like, Hey the reason I wear black is xyz, this drop down list of reasons, haha.”
Ian affirmed and laughed.
Again he was sipping that Lagavulin fast, I had to play catch up to him all night.
We talked a bit about David Deida, sexual energy, and this Secret Garden party Ian invited me to, and some raves, and molly, and how it’s like being on 50 vodka redbulls with coffee.
Time was now playing catch up with our vibe. We were beyond time.
Reality hits you in the face though and the place was closing up, we wrapped up the drinks.
I told Ian Amsterdam is a Moveable Feast he could take with him to America. But for me, what could I take away, as I watched him bike away in the night, I could only wonder what Ian would be seeing next, what would he be manifesting? What or who would synch with him? Where would he go? Who would pray for him?
Would he pray for me, one day? I, for him?
Why don’t we pray more for each other, in general?
All those massive godlike questions simmered in my head.
Follow Ian on his IG: at ian.c.hess (same twitter handle, btw, but his hart is his forte, thats why I am linking you there!)