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dutch house
lost in a forest
amw
I can't even. I am sitting at a one of the cafés at de Burcht, an old folly on a hill that was built in the middle of old Leiden. This is where all the "altos" (alternative kids) clustered in the 90s, and apparently still do. We'd get drunk and stoned here before going out to the LVC nightclub around the corner. There are a bunch of touristy cafés down the bottom that we always used to laugh at, and now i'm sitting at one. As i walked up to revisit one of the most influential hangouts of my youth, a bunch of kids with ripped jeans and band t-shirts came down and started talking shit about me being a trannie. I guess a 33 year old with ripped jeans, tattoos and a black tank is one of those square oldies that we used to make fun of too. "Parents just don't understand." Altos hier in Nederland were the kids who listened to rock and hip-hop, perhaps slightly more rock-ish than the skaters, but our two subcultures hung together because everyone else was a gabber/raver. My buddies thought it was so bizarre that i also went to acid techno parties in Nijmegen or Utrecht (1-2 hours train ride away).

After biking past my school i found the pool hall we used to hang out at for beers after school, or occasionally during lunch. You can't smoke there anymore. I had a few beers. I also had a few beers at the café in the park opposite my old apartment. I was considering visiting the new restaurant that my old boss opened after closing his place where i worked for my last couple years of highschool. There are so many memories here. I can't even. Fifteen years. LVC is closed now; the closing party was last week. I'm almost in tears. My last 3 years of highschool were some of the very happiest of my life. They were the last years i felt comfortable as the boy-me. Well, short of my brief but passionate first girlfriend. It was here that i really got into electronic music; it was here that i broke out of my shell; it was here where i finally grew up.

Coming out of the train station i was almost in tears. As the train pulled up, all these memories came flooding back of coming back from raves in other cities, arriving at 8 or 9am Sunday to get on my bike and pedal home. The ride from home to school almost killed me. There, the tunnel where my buddy used to tag. There, the bridge we used to use as an excuse for being late. There, the cobbled road i slipped over on the ice right in front of the girl i had the biggest crush on. Here, the motherfucking Burcht, the place i drank and smoked and chilled and shivered in the snow trying to roll a joint, the place a friend of mine lost his virginity... Alles... alles is hier gebeurd. I was wrenched from my teenage years into another world, a strange place where people wore cowboy hats and listened to country music and ate Vegemite. In the end i found my niche in Australia, but leaving Holland was one of the hardest things i've ever done. If i'd stayed here my life would have been totally, totally different.

Or maybe exactly the same. God. I can't even. I can't even. So many memories, the best memories of my childhood, the only ones i still have that aren't buried in pain and darkness. This city is amazing. I didn't realize how beautiful it was growing up. Though, walking round the Burcht looking out at all the medieval buildings, there are flickers of stoned memories looking out on the same buildings saying wauw, wat is dit een koele stad, joh. Fifteen years. Vijftien jaren, man. I can't even. I can't believe i left, changed my sex, broke in a million fucking pieces. This is the most personal trip i've ever done in my life. God, i'm crying, i'm crying. "Take me away..."

* * *

Doorfietsen. I returned the bike because i wasn't sure when the place closed. It's after 8pm, and unlike Vienna and Maastricht, everything is still open. Or maybe i just know where to find all the bars and restaurants here. I had "patat oorlog" (fries with satay sauce and mayonnaise) and a frikandel at what i think was the snackbar we always used to go to after LVC. Now i'm sitting on a boat on a canal drinking Tooheys - it's an "Australian pub", but about as far from anything Australian as you could imagine. That said, i had a great chat with the bartender who reminsced about "jointjes roken op de burcht" and "reggae party's bij de LVC". God. I CAN'T EVEN.

* * *

On a side note, Dutch girls are fucking hot. I guess this is where i developed my taste for heavy eye shadow and mascara. They don't have the leather jacket, spiky hair, punk chic of German girls, but man oh man. Real women.

* * *

Also, hearing cars roll past blasting Dutch hip-hop is fokkend vet gewoon. Nederland all up in your face. Bitch. "Steek'em op, steek'em in, en let me begin, te roken, smoken, en haal'em in je longen..."

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