Rainy Day Mushroom Pillow
Don’t have to tell you it feels better than,
Floating free, walk upon the sand
Got to give you things much better
My mushroom’s green and brown forever.
Strawberry Alarm Clock
Today is a good day. We’re at the Paradiso – they’re very organised here, and the setup is brilliant. Load-in is going well, the dressing rooms are ready, and the local crew are here, willing and able. They also have, hands down, the best freshly-squeezed local orange juice in the world. I’m going to get my boxes over to the merch stand, have a little breakfast, and go for a skate around Vondel Park, which is just round the corner.
I have to say that my all-time favourite place to spend a few days is Amsterdam. It might be a cliché, but I don’t smoke weed, so it’s not for that reason. It’s another natural wonder that gets me – I just love the mushrooms here! Heh heh. The first time I had them in Amsterdam, I pinched half a punnet off one of the lads whilst we were waiting for the lampies to finish the load out. I was stood outside the tour bus near the Melkweg, not far from the Paradiso. We hadn’t even left the Leidseplain (the square between the two venues where everyone generally starts out from), and I knew instantly I was going to be wasted. I had been doing them for years in the UK; my favourites are Thai, Columbian, and Amazonian. I like Mexican ones less because they don’t seem as strong, and I prefer the highs you get from the other ones. I have to say — hand on heart — that these were the strongest mushrooms I had ever experienced at that point, and I really couldn’t believe it.
After the gig, we all head out for a few drinks and some of the lads want to smoke. Me and a couple of the other guys — Robin, Dave, Toby and Rich — have bought some ‘shrooms from a headshop. We head out along the main shopping street near the Leideseplein – side note, I swear to god, if you have a shoe habit, then this is the place to go. Every other shop is a shoe emporium, and though I’ve managed to resist so far, I’m always very nearly caught by its shoe-shaped net. Get back to me. We walk past one of the shops and I have to do a double take. I shit you not, there is a bloody horse wedged though one of the shop windows. It isn’t alive, thank god, it’s a model — but its rear end is out on the street and its front half is placed safely in the shop. Odd. Oh well, it takes all sorts, I suppose.
We plan to walk round and then go to the red light district. I personally am seriously up for this as I have never seen the windows before, and I have to say it opens my eyes somewhat. First, we head to a Rock Cafe bar next to one of the canals just off the Leidseplein, and it’s a really cool little place. They have flat screen TVs above the bars and on the walls, which constantly play music videos and gig footage. It’s a really great place to hang out, whether you’re with a few friends or on a crazy night out with bunch of musicians and roadies. I’ve bumped into quite a few people I know in there before, because it’s somewhere that once you know where it is? You make a beeline for it.
Anyway, by this time we’ve been munching the ‘shrooms and are happily buzzing away. We’ve been in the bar for half an hour or so, and I’m feeling quite away with the fairies, finding it pretty hard to concentrate on conversation. I’ve also had quite a few glasses of wine, and I keep feeling really hot — taking everything in becomes quite difficult. The bar seems far too colourful and every time I look at the screens, there’s half a dozen African fellows playing huge drums, or some really hairy old-school glams rocking out with far too much vigour to not be debilitatingly humorous. I can’t handle it. I go to the toilet to sort myself out. It’s basically a cubbyhole and probably isn’t helping as much as a nice, pristine, spacious hotel bathroom might. I have no idea how long I stay in there, but know that I definitely sit slumped on the floor for a long while.
This is probably not the best place to be whilst the initial pulsating high of the mushrooms makes me swim in and out of visionary overload. I manage to stand, and as I look as my pasty skin in the mirror, I wonder if I really look like that. The circles under my eyes seemed darker than usual and I notice every little line and bump on my face. Arghh, so spotty at the moment! So pale! I spent time attempting to correct my make-up which realistically I have only done an hour or so before so shouldn’t really have been posing any problems. It can’t actually have gone anywhere but I feel like my face is naked, and I’m imposing my ‘warts and all’ face on the world.
I put on my foundation and some blusher, and reapply my rose-tinted lip stain in a vain attempt to fix my face. I seem to be sweating profusely as well, so I clumsily roll on some more deodorant. From experience, I know I probably didn’t look as bad as I thought at the time, but when you’re wrecked on ‘shrooms and adult grape juice you make yourself up like Aunt Sally and stagger out of the toilet.
Needless to say, there are several (im)patiently waiting patrons of the bar, dying for a pee, waiting to greet me. I muster up a smile and head outside to get some fresh air, speeding right past all my friends.
It’s really weird when you start coming up on mushrooms. I quite like to take them at home with a few friends and lots of candles to create shadows on the walls and set a suitable scene. I especially like watching Bugsy Malone on ‘shrooms. Never get bored of it. The candles create a nice, warm, womb-like glow that makes you feel all warm inside and safe and cosy. I like good conversation and a friend you can sit close to when you reach the phase where you’re one with your surroundings. It doesn’t matter that you’re unaware of being half-slumped on the sofa and half-slumped on your mate. Everything and everyone is one, and all that nonsense. On the other hand, you can’t beat taking ‘shrooms somewhere like Amsterdam, where so many people are trashed at the same time that the city at night is made for this kind of adventure.
I negotiate my way through the bar, which incidentally is not as straightforward as it might sound. I go outside and for some reason, all the chairs and tables are stacked away and I couldn’t for the life of me muster up the energy or the wherewithal to take the chairs from one of the tables to sit at. I decide that as I am by the canal I will just simply sit by the canal on the floor with my legs dangling over the edge. It’s really peaceful here, by the bar, and I can see the bright lights of all the bars and the shops on the other side of the canal, and by the bridge to my left. It all looks so pretty, and I think to myself how lucky I am that I get to sit in such a wonderful place on my time off, all as part of my job. I see some amazing places — not for all that long each time — but I go so often to some, like Amsterdam and Berlin, that they have become some of my favourite places to spend time.
High as kite, I’m contemplating all of this and my own thoughts seem to ground me a little. I start to come out of the initial phase of coming up on the ‘shrooms! Lordy, that took a while! They really are worth the hassle, but sometimes it gets to be too much, sometimes you get sick, and it can be quite a process to go through. But the way you end up seeing the world and the way it opens up the mind is definitely worth it. Always!
I remember once I came here with my friend Lou and we decided to stay on a boat instead of staying in a hotel or hostel, as it was cheaper and seemed like more fun. We took a free ferry from outside of the train station in Amsterdam, which took us pretty much directly to the boat, about fifteen minutes away. It was run by an eccentric Thai lady, forget her name, who was practising karaoke when we arrived. We stayed in a small berth with two bunk beds, and little else to be honest. She lives on the boat with her husband, and during the summer they have BBQs on the boat with karaoke for their guests, and it sounds really good, actually. We were staying with her out of season but all the same, it was still pretty cool. We were the only guests at that time but it suited us as we were just there to hang out with each other, really, and spend a bit of time on the ‘shrooms, chilling out in the bars and then only heading there to sleep.
Actually, if memory serves me right, we spent ages getting some ‘shrooms and then I took mine in this really relaxing Moroccan bar. Then, Lou told me she was feeling a bit dickey and wanted to head back. I’d already taken mine, so I took hers as well and we got a cab back to the boat. Quite a feat as once we got there, not from the boat dock, we realised it was full of containers and allsorts and our little boat wasn’t initially obvious. Oh well, she was sober! Ha ha! So, we went to bed, Lou below me nursing an upset tum, and me staring at the magnolia painted wall, thinking, “come on wall, give it to me, come on, entertain me!” Lo and behold, before you know it, it turned into a kaleidoscopic trippy heaven and I had a rather entertaining night after all!
So, back to the canal side: there are a couple of flower boxes by the side of the canal, which I’m sitting between. They look so beautiful. I think they’re pansies and have the most vibrant colours — purple and pink, and a few have yellow and orange centres. So pretty and bright; they’re beyond neon. It reminds me of the Disney animated film version of Alice in Wonderland where Alice wanders into the flower garden. I start singing to myself: “You can learn a lot of things from the flowers, especially in the month of June. Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo, from the the flowers, in the golden afternoon, la la la la.”
So I sit there singing to myself the song from the film and picturing the animation and when I get to the part where the pansies sing, I look at my little friends and they’re all dancing along with me! And, as I’ve seen the film so many times, I can pretty much hear them singing as well!
I must be high as hell.
Everyone decides to leave the bar so they pick me up on the way out, and we take a little walk around town. We head over towards the red light district. There’s a street that we happen across which is one of my favourites. I wish I could tell you the name of it but I only ever walk down it on when I’m high as a kite, so no can do. It looks to me like toy town. It’s more wonky than the rest of Amsterdam, a particularly hilly street, up and down, up and down. All the shops and the stories above are even more lopsided than usual, and the colours of the buildings remind me of the houses in Edward Scissorhands, or a seaside postcard with its shades of baby pink, mint, and lilac.
“I love this street, oh this is my favourite!” I’m gushing audibly, all over the place, about a street. Oh dear.
It really is such a fun street to walk along, though. And I do love it when we happen across it. Halfway along there’s a gathering of people, which appears to be growing as we approach it, that are looking at the ground very intently. Everyone is bent double looking down, searching. I can’t help but wonder what they are up to, and in my altered vision of the world, I’m immediately drawn in. The rest of the group glance over at them and walk on by but Rich and I, can’t help ourselves, we have to get involved! What’s going on? We must know!
Apparently, a woman has lost an earring. I immediately start to lose interest. So what? It’s only an earring, and as far as my toasted mind can glean, it’s not a diamond or anything precious, in monetary terms at least. But, that has not stopped the crowd from growing, and Rich gets involved as well. There are about twenty people helping now. After what must have only been a minute or so, my proud escort finds it! I can’t believe it. He’s brilliant, I think. And what initially seems like a random pointless effort was not so futile after all. It did exist. The earring, it was real. There was a point and he found it! Such a hero.
“But then there was a point! Bizarre! Bizarre. You found the earring; I can’t believe there actually was an earring. How on earth did you see that?”
“That was getting so Kafka. So Kafka,” I find myself muttering repeatedly as we stagger off triumphantly.
We catch up with the others who are little ahead but waiting for us.
“What on earth were you two up to?” asks Robin.
“Oh don’t ask. Finding a needle in a haystack,” I say. “So where to next, guys?”