Pedro Ávila

It was snowing steadily in that early morning, and from my window I could see large white hands whirling down on an air cushion outside. Like maple leaves, the snowflakes fell gently through the air. It was wet though, which made the snow heavy and dense, and the flakes didn’t fall aimlessly over the roads and cars and trees, but rather plopped themselves down and proceeded to melt where they fell. Amsterdam is a city of moisture and it’s difficult for snow to pile up high enough here before it melts.

Disappointing, but fine. It didn’t change my plans in the slightest, nor did it affect the situation on the ground. The forces were steady and in our favor.

The House was in order in anticipation of the mass of friends on their way from many corners. A list of flight numbers and arrival times was posted on the black refrigerator at the bottom of the stairs so that some sort of order could be maintained. The troops were landing and one by one the flat was filling up with a sense of fun and impending awesome.

Clair had arrived the night before with a bag that looked like a potato sack, having schlepped from the US all kinds of spices and ingredients that we weren’t sure we’d find easily in Amsterdam. She’d also brought her own measuring spoons and what not because she’s serious about her baking. A little scary, I thought, but we were headed for the intensity of the home stretch just by the fact that she and the others were there so it was no time for fear or judgment.

Also, I’m not averse to perfect yams and fresh pies, so I kept my mouth shut. Besides, it was late already when she arrived so instead of doting on the size of the luggage and the necessity of the weight she had already carried with no winging at all, I prepared a mild dinner that I’d learned to make when Seth and April were here: fried sausages doused in beer. Seth is a man who’d spent some time in the Basque Country with Paul a few years ago and he knew a thing or two about preparing for impending awesome. The Basque style sausage seemed easy and delicious enough.

We didn’t get much sleep that night because Paul and Bryce arrived at ungodly hours the next morning. There was enough time in between their arrivals to watch the snow fall and grab a small nap, a sort of final dessert before the rampage would begin. See, in addition to the Amsterdam crew (Katie, Jo and Sophie) we were still expecting Geoff, Laura and Tyler, and the mission involved a week of rambunctiousness, action packed and stuffed with hilarity and Thanksgiving to boot. Think of our unstoppableness as the drippings of a juicy turkey marinated in bacon and bourbon. What naturally comes out of the situation, you suck it up in a tube and squirt it right back on.

We are the sauce of awesome that must be BASted.

On the way to breakfast we ran into Jo and my flat mate, Sophie. My other flatmate, Saori, wouldn’t be joining us because her friends were going to be in town and they were going to do their own thing.

I tried to introduce Clair, Paul and Bryce to the Amsterdam crew on the way to my favorite breakfast place, but they ended up doing that themselves since Jo and I were busy arguing about whose breakfast place we should take them to.

“Prince Heerlijk has better coffee than your place,” I reasoned with her. “And these people need coffee right now – it’s Sunday morning in Amsterdam, for god’s sake.”

“Coffee? They have their own jam at my place.”

Jam? I thought – who cares about jam?

“They don’t serve eggs at your place,” I reminded her.

“Who doesn’t have eggs?” Paul asked from somewhere.

“And Merinda makes whatever you want exactly the way you like it if you tell her. She even makes fun of the touristy morons who try to use dollars in her place.” Which is true. Merinda is reason enough to go to one place over another, if only for sheer entertainment value. Not to mention her coffee is the best in Amsterdam. Or did I already say that?

“We always go to your place,” Jo whined, “and Sophie and I were going to my place anyway…”

“…also, your place doesn’t have me.” Heheh. Two can play the guilt game.

“I want eggs,” Paul stated.

“Me too,” said Bryce. Jo looked at me with her chin down, her lips frowned and furrowed in faux anger and her eyes looking up with deep disapproval, but I won that round so we squeezed into Prince Heerlijk.

After a small breakfast we toured Amsterdam for a few hours. We were getting hungry and I thought it’d do them some good to get out of the city and see some real Dutch landscape. I showed them where I keep my car, 24 metro stations away, and we hit the Dutch back roads, bound for a magic burger in a town some fifty kilometers away.

On the way there it started to snow.

The Magic Burger is a culinary delight of ham and bacon, pineapple, and secret sauce on a freshly baked roll of deliciousness. Oh, and there’s a hamburger in there somewhere too. Given that Dutch food is an affront to pleasure, either the owner of the Cozy Brasserie is a foreigner or else the concoction is some kind of accident that Katie and I happened upon one lazy Sunday afternoon when we were headed back from Ikea and decided we weren’t ready to go home yet. We’ll just keep on driving, we thought. It’s a good thing Katie had me pull over in Hoorn for a bathroom pit stop that day or we might have driven straight into Hamburg. Holland is a small place.

After driving across half the country for a hamburger and then driving back, parking the car, walking through a kilometer of snow, and then taking the metro 24 stops back to the center we chilled with some beers and a few games of pool in the red-light district. In anticipation of Geoff’s arrival the next day and the added confusion that he would add to the mix, we took it easy and found a hookah bar instead of getting trashed at some Irish pub filled with horrible tourists. And easy night followed.

Before he arrives, what you should know about Geoff is that on our cake of awesome, Geoff is the icing; he’s the harmony to our melody, the vermouth in our martini – the nipple on our breast. Geoff is an eclectic pool of raw talent and weirdness, an easygoing blend of culture and energy, a cosmopolitan renaissance man of titanic proportions. He plays the saxophone like it’s a tamed beast and his hoodie is a Boba Fett helmet. He beat-boxes sporadically and occasionally says some very strange things. But he’s a man who’s been around, and in a strange place like Amsterdam, where some of the most awful things can be waiting around any corner, you learn to value the kind of familiar weird that you can expect.

Oh, and he loves a good fart joke. Or a good fart, for that matter.

So when we found ourselves between rest and sleep in the late morning after Geoff’s arrival, lounging around in our long underwear in a living room littered with used tea bags, books, magazines, cigarette paper, empty bottles of gin, bags of marijuana, beer bottles, guitars, harmonicas and apple computers, Geoff made a stand.

“We should do something, guys.” Powerful words. “Talk about it – quick.”

“We figured you wanted to rest, man.”

“Nah. Baby Dragons,” he said. “Let’s go see this city – let’s get some bikes.” I assumed he didn’t mean that he wanted to go steal bicycles from junkies. It’s an option in Amsterdam, of course, what with the sheer volume of junkies and their preferred mode of scoring their next hit being bicycle theft. Just the same, I took them to the Mac Bikes rental place on Waterlooplein, figuring that would cause less mayhem and provide one fewer points in this story that could lead to arrests and an international police record.

Guided by a combination of experience, natural instinct, a dinky little map given to us by the bike shop and Google Maps on Bryce’s iPhone we found our way to the ferry terminal and took our bikes into Amsterdam North. We stuck mostly to the bike paths that permeate the city sidewalks, only veering occasionally to cut through an industrial chemical factory and then hug a ship yard. Both excellent ideas that a sane person would shy from, but not us.

We were headed for Durgerdam, a small village on one of the west banks of the IJ meer, the man-made inland sea on which Amsterdam lies. I’d been there before while on a day sailing lesson and I knew that there was an inn with a good cheese plate, cold beer, a smooth Irish Coffee, and a view that was worth the 2 hour ride. The village is picturesque in its setting, lying on a single kilometer stretch. Just one street of Dutch homes on top of a dijk facing the inner Dutch sea. Behind it is a spread of green farmlands that stretches all the way to the real ocean.

We stayed at the inn until dusk, working up a healthy buzz that would last us the length of the bike ride. We might have stayed longer but once Geoff came back from the loo with his eyebrows raised and a look of pride and pure satisfaction on his face it became apparent that staying would be imprudent. Paul and Bryce immediately caught on and got up to go look and I followed in close quarter. One glimpse of the thing was enough to make the decision to leave unanimous.

We left in an orderly fashion as to not arouse suspicion but giggled the whole time. The inn manager must’ve been dense to not see the action going on in the front room, but then again, he’s probably not used to degenerates like us.

We rode off into the sunset.

“Why did we leave,” came the question from Clair, eventually. It was dark on the ride home and she was a few meters behind my bike. I waited for her to catch up.

“Let’s just say that I hope the innkeeper isn’t responsible for clogged pipes.”

“Why? What’s clogging the toilette?” she asked. I hesitated because girls normally hate that boys do this kind of shit. They don’t really appreciate it for what it is. But I figured Clair could handle it.

“A turd the size and shape of a broken baseball bat.” Which was true.

Clair laughed so hard her bike started wobbling and she had to stop to avoid falling off.

The next morning the weather was showing signs of good sailing conditions. Cold, but doable, and we didn’t think we’d get another shot at it.

We gathered the stroopwaffles, the coffee and the bourbon and took off for Vinkeveen. The Vinkeveensee is a lake a couple dozen miles south of Amsterdam and in my Dutch wanderings I’d learned that the harbor there is friendly to green sailors. I also learned that if you call ahead, they’ll stay open any day of the year unless the lake is frozen, which is the personification of flexibility. What this meant for us is that if you were retarded enough to go sailing in barely positive degrees, they’d let you.

The guy who taught me to sail told me once that it’s better to be on the dock wishing you were out on the lake than out on the lake wishing you were on the dock. Wise, but he was a family man with a Laser and we were hooligans with a keel boat naar impossible to capsize.

Mind you, the Wit Voetje, a 6.5 meter vessel with a Dutch double-boom rig is a boat I’d taken out many times before in all kinds of weather from doldrums to squalls. It’s a sturdy little rig with few worries and on a good northwesterly, and with plenty of heel it can really move if you keep a firm grip on the sheets, correct your weather helm and mind the shores.

What I had no experience with, however, was snow. When that mist dropped and the wet flakes started falling on my bare fingers poking through my gloves I thought for sure we were making for world’s end.

“Fetch me that scotch, there, mate,” I said to Paul. “I have a yearning for some fire in my throat.”

“What are you – captain Pete? Why are you talking like that?” someone said. Probably Bryce.

“It’s pirate talk,” Clair opined, trying to defend me no doubt. It only aggravated the situation.

“Aye, that it tis,” I replied. “But you’ve still not passed me the grog.”

“The what?”

“Just give me the goddamn liquor,” I snapped.

Pirate talk is less fun if people think you’re retarded. “Yarrghh…” I mumbled under my breath.

“What’d you say, Pete?” Bryce asked me from the helm.

“Nothing,” I lied.

On the way back to harbor we suddenly felt a violent surge that felt like Bryce had hit the brakes. Of course, sailboats don’t have brakes like that, which meant that we’d run aground.

“Dammit!” cursed Bryce, who was skippering the vessel and was the only sober person on board. He looked down over the starboard side of the rig and saw the soft mud we were in about 3 feet below the surface. “Now what?”

Paul and Clair had apparently eaten the remnants of some funny mushroom and were discussing the beauty of surface tension and the meaning of the colors that the wind-swept waves seemed to exchange when they rippled against the mist. Or some other damn thing.

“Rock the boat!” Geoff and I shouted, raising our whisky high in the air and getting jiggy with it to no music but our own. Heavy into the sauce for the last hour, and in that bitter cold of snow-laden northwesterlies, we’d gotten to the point where we were all, for one reason or another being less than helpful.

“Guys! I need some help here,” Bryce insisted.

“Rock the boat!” We repeated, still laughing like idiots. Bryce thought about it and in a moment decided that as stupid as it sounded, it might actually work. Gathering his wits about him and what help he could get from the delinquent crew, he started bouncing on the deck.

“He’s rocking the boat!” Geoff guffawed, and started doing it too.

It rocked us loose from the mud and then Bryce pushed the sails against the wind, taking us full astern and into open waters. After that, I think he tuned us out again and just enjoyed the brisk feeling of the cold air with the faint murmurings of the drunken hands on deck.

On Thursday the madness started. Due to some shirked responsibilities and less than stellar planning we were still short on supplies for the feast. Some people had wavered on their decision to join us until the last minute while others had canceled with much the same timeliness, turning any planning done around the numbers into a meaningless mush.

At least we were still expecting two more members of the full TG crew. We’d been able to send a list of still-needed items to Laura and Tyler in time for them to get it before boarding their planes. Since they’d be arriving just before the feast the timing would have to be perfect. We’d have to have things ready so that when they arrived their ingredients could be added to the mix right away. With this in mind we got an early start that Thursday to get the cooking machine underway.

Clair took over the kitchen table with her mulled spices, measuring spoons, graters and other instruments while the boys left to pick up the final ingredients. While I love a good run to the outdoor market for fresh vegetables and herbs, the real fun was picking up the turkey, which we properly molested in the red-light district before preparing it for consumption.

But now was no time to lose our wits. There were many items to be procured, time was short and people were counting on us.

“We need to maintain a rhythm,” Bryce was telling us, ever the level-headed one of the group.

“Right,” Paul said. “Keep it steady. Maintain. This is the home stretch so we have to be in good form. I don’t want to have to fish any of you jackasses out of canals today.” A fair point, I thought. “I think two beers per hour ought to do the trick.”

“What about liquor?” Geoff asked.

“Never mind the liquor,” I told him, pointing to my back pocket. “I got this in Scotland so you know it’s good. What we need to worry about now is getting fresh yams in this country. The market near my place has never heard of a yam so we’ll have to hit the immigrant side of town.”

“Bless those immigrants,” Bryce said. “Do you think they’ll have fresh cranberries?”

“We’ll have to hope for the best or else eat from a can. Now drink up and let’s get moving.”

“A plan,” said Geoff.

Suddenly the phone rang.

I need a pin roller,” Clair had called to say.

“Clair says she needs a pin roller, guys,” I informed them as we walked between the Nieuwmarkt and the Waterlooplein.

“Tell her to use a wine bottle,” Paul suggested.

“Use a wine bottle,” I snapped at her.

Are you guys drunk?” She asked me.

“Clair, don’t be ridiculous. There’s no time for that now. You need yams and fresh cranberries and we must come through.”

I also need a pin roller to make the pies.

“Alright, Clair. You need to calm down and see the big picture. As your friend, I advise you to take several large chugs of that bottle of Wild Pig in the corner by the microwave. It’s a red wine that’ll really get you thinking.”

“Wild Pig…” she repeated.

“You’ll understand,” I told her.

And I hung up. She’d figure it out, I was sure.

Thanks to a combination of quick feet, strong discipline and well-stocked Moroccan markets we made it back with fresh yams and cranberries, and even a few bonus items like mushrooms of all shapes, sizes, colors and questionable origins. We felt an unerring pride in our ability to obtain exotic ingredients, even in a place as foreign as the west side of Amsterdam, even when those ingredients were things as simple as yams and cranberries.

But we were a little overwhelmed and a bit out-done when we opened the door to my flat. In addition to the Kelly Clarkson that was playing from somebody’s iPod, there was also a noise that permeated the kitchen even though it seemed to have no source. It was a thing of high-speed and little pause, a mish-mashed gibberish of voices and laughing, indiscernible one from another. I noticed the bottle of Wild Pig, completely empty by the recycling corner and spotted on the kitchen table a newly opened bottle of the triple-distilled Russian Vodka I’d found in Oslo. I also saw a bottle of Dooley’s coffee cream liqueur, which meant Laura had arrived.

In our absence Sophie, Jo and Katie had joined Clair in the full frontal assault on the kitchen and with Laura’s arrival the scene had apparently completed its transformation from a busy kitchen into a frenzy of female chatter and madness the likes of which only women can handle. Men seem to have no capacity for 10 conversations between 5 people.

Not to mention the multitasking. Even while engaged in all of their conversations each one was madly efficient, rolling pie crusts, mixing batter, stirring sauces and cutting things. We stood at the door in awe and mild disbelief, stunned by the virility of the scene.

“Did you guys get the yams and cranberries?” Laura asked me.

“Yeah,” I mumbled. “It was really hard.”

“Great,” Jo said, snagging the bags from my limp hands and going straight to the sink with the cranberries and barely a pause.

“Hon, maybe you can get started on cutting up the yams, eh?” Said Katie.

“Great to see you, babe,” Laura said, giving me a big hug that sort of ruffled me out of my stunned state. “Now get cutting – we have food to make,” and she scurried back to the table, mixing flour and other things I don’t understand. “We’ve put the rest of the beers in the fridge for you guys and there’s a new bottle of Jack Daniels on top of the fridge that Clair brought from the UK.”

“Indeed!” I said.

“I love you guys,” Paul said to the girls, giving them all hugs and then ambling off towards the fridge for a new beer.

“When’s Tyler getting here?” Geoff asked.

“Soon, I hope,” said Bryce. “We’ll need the numbers.”

Amidst the smells of rosemary and thyme, butter and bacon, bourbon and wine, the turkey had just gone into the oven when the buzzer rang. The final member of TG08 had arrived.

Paul and Bryce had been having some trouble with the first mini-keg we’d tried to open and the issue had been resolved by ripping open the canister with a can opener and drinking it straight up, man style. This lip of serrated edges and sharp points we presented to Tyler at the top of the stairs as an entry requirement to the party.

Tyler didn’t even flinch.

He came in with the final ingredients and Laura got started on a signature recipe for stuffing that made me reconsider the need for any of the other dishes. By that time Paul had done us the favor of switching iPods so there was no chance we’d be listening to crap. A series of Billy Joel songs came on and that seemed to appease just about everyone and the mood really mellowed. I was no longer concerned with the nationality of my drinks and neither was anyone else, for that matter. Things were cooking now.

With the turkey just a few minutes away from being ready by the look of the Bryce-Geoff BASting committee, the front door opened and 4 large dudes poured into the flat, accompanied by my other flatmate.

“Happy New Year!” One of them announced, clearly slurring and making a true fool of himself.

“The redcoats are here! The redcoats are here!” Another one screeched.

“Oy,” I heard Laura mumble under her breath somewhere by the kitchen sink. Katie, always embarrassed by her drunken countrymen, immediately curled up into a fetal position under the table. The kitchen fell into silence.

It was not the time for old rivalries to resurface and for random people to show up at my house. It was time to eat a bird and the four schmucks that had wandered into our mess had some explaining to do. Would they stay? Did they expect to eat?

“Saori, who are these people?” I turned to her, louder than I should have been.

“Oh, these are my friends from London – you’re totally going to love them. Especially Tote. He’s a writer too, and he’s hilarious. Taylor over there,” she pointed to the one wearing jeans, an Abercrombie shirt and leather flip-flops who’d been yelling ‘happy new year’ to everyone. “He went to San Diego with me. He’s a surfer too! And he totally plays guitar!”

“Yikes,” I said.

They’d been drinking, but not like us. British drinking is serious business and they don’t take their time or enjoy their inebriation. They start off strong, talk a lot of tough stuff and then they hit the sauce. Some of them go all night and will drink you under the table and fuck you up right along with themselves. Others just go for it and swallow their pride. No sense of self-preservation. Able or not, they will not lose to an American – their sissy-ass, positive-talking, have-a-good-day-wishing sissy cousins from across the Atlantic. They will go right for the gusto, pounding copious amounts of alcohol and taking pride in their ability to stand for as long as possible.

And these lads in our kitchen were poised to collapse at any moment as if that had been their goal all along. I looked over at the one I thought was Tote, the tall Pakistani one with short curly black hair and a beard that was probably the source of the body odor I was suddenly aware of in the room. He had a stupid smile on his face and a green polo shirt to match. A jitter ran through him occasionally as if a chill had just flooded the room. His eyes would occasionally glaze over and he would reach for something in front of him that wasn’t there. If he’d snapped out of it faster I would’ve suspected a salvia junkie on our hands but the man was on something much longer-lasting. Maybe a combination of drugs, I thought. Maybe mescaline. He rummaged through a green canvas sack and pulled out a medium sized glass bong with Rastafarian colors all over it.

Ahh, I thought. As far as bongs go, it was a nice looking one, but the potential of having drunk Brits on our hands moments before thanksgiving dinner was horrible enough. If they were to start tripping out on mushrooms and salvia right there in my flat, I realized I was going to have an ugly scene.

“I don’t want to be an ass,” Bryce told me in a low whisper, “but these guys are only going to cause trouble here. Everyone’s thinking it, but it needs to be said.”

“Don’t worry,” I told him, putting a hand on his shoulder. “I’ve been to England many times. I’ll take care of this.”

I turned right to Saori’s face of childish anticipation. “Saori, I’m all for peace on Earth and unity and love for your fellow man and all that, but you don’t just show up for thanksgiving unannounced – it’s bad form,” I told her, and watched her jubilation deflate right out of her. “These guys can’t stay here.”

Her whole expression fell silent as my words slapped her fun. Her shoulders sank and the gleeful spring of her cheeks fell limp with my attitude. It was unfortunate, but what could I do? Drunk British boys I can handle but salvia was another story, and I wanted to no part in that.

“Besides,” said Paul, now coming over to where we were standing, “we don’t have enough food…”

Saori and I both looked around and were not buying it. The kitchen table was overcrowded with ingredients and we silently did the math in our heads. We might have been a little conservative on dinner but there’s a lot you could feed with five pies. Four drunk Brits was fairly under that limit.

“What’s the matter with you guys,” Clair said, lifting up the yams in one hand and picking up the spoon from the pan that held the cranberry sauce with the other. “Four bowls of stuffing not enough for you?”

“Make that six bowls of stuffing and a large turkey,” said Tyler. “Of course we have enough food for everyone, guys. We’ll all make do. It’ll be a Thanksgiving miracle!”

“Happy New Year!” Mumbled Taylor, slouching in the corner by the front door now, making Katie cower even further under the table while Saori and I began discussing what could be done.

Tote had started to stumble his way over to the oven where Geoff was inspecting the turkey. His arms flailed wildly and his legs barely managed to stay under his torso as he waddled towards our turkey. Intensely focused on the BASting, Geoff did not see him coming and was startled.


“Aahh!” Tote mirrored, clearly nervous about something.

“Sweet baby Jesus, homes, don’t creep up on a BASter like that.”

“There’s a face in your turkey,” Tote said to Geoff with a clear and confounded tone.

“Really? Well, we all did put our faces in the turkey this afternoon, so…”

“No, no… I see the face of a man hovering over your turkey’s ass, man – a young man, with a goatee and short hair…he’s got a charming smile and…”

“Dude, Saori,” Geoff called out, “your friend here is tripping on my turkey, man. You’d best get him out of here before he starts something crazy, yo.”

“He’s dripping on your turkey? Gross, Tote!”

“No,” Paul corrected, “he’s tripping, TRIPPing on the turkey. What’s your friend on? Colombian Mushrooms?”

“Nah,” Taylor said, “it’s some Indian thing we found. He’s been quiet for a while now.”

“He’s such a pretty face!” Tote said to himself. “Say something, turkey man.”

“You guys into that Shaman stuff?” Geoff asked them.

“What’s shakran?” Taylor asked.

“Never mind,” said Geoff. He was about to close the oven door and turn off the flames when Tote mumbled something about the turkey man’s voice being really low.

“Balls! What did you say?” Geoff asked the Pakistani kid.

“I said it’s an eerily low voice he’s got,” he replied.

A pause occurred to each of us.


Tyler interrogated the kid again. “You said he had short hair and a goatee?”

“Uh-huh,” he replied.

“It’s Ers, guys! It’s gotta be!” Tyler shouted with his hands out to his sides. And then he paused: “Or his spirit, or something…this is bizarre…”

“Well,” Geoff started, looking in Laura’s direction, “we’ll have to de-Ers-ify this bird before we eat it, of course.” I could tell he had an idea but I couldn’t tell what it was. But I knew Laura would figure it out.

“I’ll get you the ceremonial head wear,” she said to Geoff.

“And if you have extra jewelry, that’ll be helpful too,” Geoff added. Laura looked down at her fingers, covered in 14 different rings, and just nodded and tilted her head in ironic agreement before going upstairs to her suitcase in my room.

“A turkey face is usually hampered by cheap jewelry,” Geoff commented. I’ve seen this kind of thing before.”

“You have?” Tote wondered out loud.

“Well, seeing Ers is a little out of the ordinary, but I guess that just means he really wanted to be here,” Geoff explained. “The turkey spirit is farther reaching than most other animals. That’s basic Shaman knowledge.”

“What the hell is this shaman business?” Taylor asked.

“Ahh, a novice,” Geoff exclaimed. “See, the Shamans were the witch doctors of the Aztecs,” he professed, “great wizards of terrible powers. Kings feared them and riches were lain at their feet to appease their fickle tempers.” I looked at Bryce, who was shaking his head at me.

“Many of them perished with the ills brought on by Cortés but their wisdom survived the ages through the infusion of knowledge into animal spirits. I just didn’t know Ers knew how to do that,” he said, sort of to himself.

“Can you get him out?” Paul asked Geoff. I wasn’t sure if he was in on it or not, but it worked in infusing a little more fear and confusion in our guests.

“There will be some resistance on his end if he’s learned enough to come this far into the turkey,” Geoff pondered. “But they taught me a lot in Zihuatanejo. I’m sure I can get him out if I spank it hard enough.”

The Brits looked terrified.

Just then Laura came hobbling down the steep Dutch-style stairs carrying a turban-looking thing she’d made from scarves, a couple of shawls, 2 or 3 large necklaces I didn’t recognize and a box of tampons.

“You can use my rings if you like but don’t lose them,” she said to Geoff.

“Don’t worry about the rings,” he assured her. “It’s the necklaces I’m worried about. He could choke on those things and Ers is my friend. I just want him out of my turkey!” he said with a soft smile.

“What the devil are the tampons for?” Tote remarked, apparently snapping out of his trance.

“Oh good, you brought those too,” Geoff said to Laura. “Excellent. What, these?” he turned to Tote. “Well, you don’t want him coming out this side, do you? That’d ruin dinner quick, wouldn’t it?”

“I was thinking the tampons would do roughly the same thing!” Tote snapped.

I was really enjoying this now.

“Geoff, if you want to do your Shaman thing, I don’t mind spanking it for you,” Paul offered.

“How long is this going to take?” Saori asked Geoff.

“Oh, a couple hours,” he said. “One if it’s his first time. And don’t worry – we’ll still be able to eat the turkey, though the tampons will take a lot of the flavor out of them.”

“OK GUYS! I think it’s time we headed out for some fish-n-chips, eh?” Taylor suddenly announced with a sheepish smile on his face, gathering all of his belongings as Geoff had started wrapping the turban around his forehead. “We can hop on over to that pub around the corner – whaddya say? Eh? I’ll get the first round…eh?”

They agreed and left in a hurry, the last one closing the door as Geoff stood over the turkey on the door of the oven, shouting great obscenities at our bird and waving his arms in the air while holding a wooden spoon.

We brought Katie out from under the table and stroked her hair until she calmed down. And then we had Thanksgiving dinner.

The next day started late but when I walked downstairs into the kitchen, all of my friends were sitting around the table, devouring stuffing and cranberry sauce with candied yams for breakfast, and Tyler and Paul where fighting over who would get to fill up their beer first. The fun never ends.

Until it does. After a lazy day of lounging around we hopped on a train to Utrecht for a day of wandering, but nothing came of it. We were slow to react and our bodies needed to digest horizontally so we returned to the flat and watched Pirates of the Caribbean laying down. That’s always fun.

As the departure times listed on the refrigerator came and went, the friends started thinning out. School beckoned, work and responsibilities were screaming and some people were just exhausted. At the end were left just Laura and Geoff, and as I felt like driving around that day, we took my car to take Geoff to the airport.

“Geoff,” I stopped him, as he was starting to walk to the terminal. He stopped.

“Yeah?” he said.

“They’re Mayan, right, not Aztec?” I asked him.

“What? The Shamans?” He asked.

I nodded.

“Every major culture has had Shamans, dude, even the Aborigines in Australia. It’s just a question of which one do you put more faith in.”

“You mean like us with Obama?” Laura asked.

“Exactly,” Geoff said, “I think. Be good, you guys. See you on the other side.”

And with that, he left too.

Laura left a few hours after Geoff and after I dropped off my car at the office I walked slowly back to the metro to go home.

The air was thin but even where the snow had been able the pile up it was now melting and making an awful mess of things. I buttoned up my coat and walked through the mud anyway.

There was a lot on my mind and mud was not at the forefront. Soon I would be leaving Amsterdam, the flat and moist expanse that had taught me so much about the world. Such mixed feelings I had about the place, and while it had never felt like home in any way other than that’s where the pillows smelled like me, I had started to get comfortable. Whatever it was, it was mine. It was something I’d survived through; made my own. And it was Europe. Europe can be such an enticing place for someone like me.

Squish, squoosh, squish, squash, went my feet as they moved through the soggy foot path that led across wet the train tracks. Whatever, I thought. I’ll think about that on the window sill when I get home.

Pedro Ávila Pedro Ávila

For a reasonably sane & productive member of society (arguable, but let’s not complicate things), I’m far too mobile and unrooted. I travel quite a bit for a job that is simultaneously my greatest privilege and my worst burden.

So I write. And I write. Travel pieces, political journalism (a stretch from ranting but, still), short stories, poetry and other such riff-raff. I contribute to a handful of publications and will probably just keep going until something gives out, or someone gives in.


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Of smiles and roars