GUEST BLOG: My days in Amsterdam: attic squatting, buying a bike from a junkie and other illegal activities

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De Amerikaanse DIY-nomade Brett Newski tourt op dit moment door Europa met zijn nieuwe album Life Upside Down. In aanloop naar zijn show in Cinetol, Amsterdam, mijmert Newski voor LLUID nog eens over zijn beste herinneringen aan de stad!

(foto boven: Sebastian Madej)

Amsterdam, Netherlands – October – 2014

For a week straight, I had been sort of squatting in an attic on the outskirts of Amsterdam. I say “sort of” squatting because the storage attic “sort of” belonged to my pal Willems, a Dutch music videographer and founder of live music series, Mokum Sessions.

He said I’d have to be really quiet, as the tenants below would freak out if they heard someone walking in the ceiling above them. It was October, so the 4th floor attic was mighty cold. I slept on an air mattress, the chilly air filling the fake bed beneath me. The decrepit room was the size of a postage stamp, but it was exciting and I was grateful for a place to stay.

Squatting was sort of sad, and sort of romantic. I had a week to write songs and bike around one of earth’s coolest cities. How many lads get that opportunity?! It was pretty lonely, but Willems was a great friend and showed me around town in the hours he wasn’t shooting film. The days were spent to myself, drinking coffee at corner cafes and filling up notebooks with chicken scratch; some of it good, most of it rubbish. I felt like a local, zooming around the bohemian city on a 70’s bicycle amongst the beautiful Dutch people dressed in their classy stockings and fall attire.

Maybe I should tell you how I acquired the bicycle. After a neat intimate show at de Nieu Anita in Amsterdam with pal Max Meser, I found myself 5 Heinekens deep without a way home. My drummer Jonny P had caught the last train hours ago. Max and I stood next to a canal, finishing a beer on the cobblestone sidewalk.

“Shit balls”, I said. “How am I going to get all the way home?” A taxi would’ve cost 55 euro, more than my take for the show that night. Rations were thin, so I had to get crafty. Wise Max had been living there two years and had a solution..

“It’s very simple Brett. You simply buy a bike from a junkie.” proclaimed Max in his Spanish  accent. “But how?” I said.

“You just start walking around the square looking for sketchy dudes. I got a bike for 10 euros last week. You should try to beat my record,” said Max.

Apparently the underground bike trade was a big problem in Amsterdam.  Drug addicts stole bikes and sold them for peanuts in order to score drug money. Despite the danger of the situation, this sounded fun to my mushy Heineken brain. I said adios to Max and set out to break Max’s record.

“Fitz” is the Dutch word for bike. Taking Max’s advice, I walked around Amsterdam in the darkness, looking for sketchy dudes.

“Fitz”, I spoke under my breath to a sketchy looking mustache man standing on a corner. He looked at me like I was an insane person.

Across the square, I spotted two Italian looking dudes smoking weed in front of an ancient church. They looked sketchy. No one else was around. “Perfect!”, thought my mushy Heineken brain.

When I asked for a “fitz”, they looked at me with death stares. It was 3 am. I struck out two more times before I just started walking in the direction of “home”.

No more than 5 minutes into the walk, a homeless wizard looking guy pulled up next to me, walking a bike. “Fitz!”, he shouted. “Fitz!” I said back. Score. Let the games begin. Maybe I’ll get home after all. The wizard man had a crooked eye. His wiry grey hair poked out from a shaggy winter hat as he gripped the bike.

“40 euro”, he said. “Too much”, I said.
“20 euro”, he said. “Too much”, I said.

The wizard man sucked at bargaining. His shifty left eye sized me up. His crooked right eye looked off to the side, searching for police.

Soon I had him down to 13 euro. He wouldn’t budge on the price. Bummed that I couldn’t beat Max’s record, I was nevertheless happy to have a way home. This was a good deal for a bike, I thought. I gave wizard man 13 euro. The wizard man floated into the darkness. I biked back to my squat. I gave the bike to Willems as a thank you. He said thanks but he already had two junkie bikes.

Technically, I still own a bike in Amsterdam. I will visit that bike 11-13 October.

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