Amsterdam. City of prostitutes, marijuana and cheese. I’ve lived here for just over 6 weeks and I’ve only had the cheese. But it was good enough to make up for not having the other two. I live on Elandsgracht, a concrete canal filled in in the 19th century and now a thoroughfare for good looking young folk and lost tourists. Across from my house is a bar. It sits on a corner and bears white and red awning and is always full of elderly messers, outside for a smoke or inside for a song. Sunday is karaoke night. For my first two weeks in the house I was out gallavanting but last Sunday I stayed in and, well, just listened. This is what I heard.
It kicks off at 19.54 with what sounds like a Dutch version of Ferry Cross the Mersey. This is unlikely. I’m sure it’s not the same song but my Dutch only extends to asking for beer so I can’t tell what it is. I’m intrigued by the strong voice of the singer and move to the downstairs window to sit on the ledge, smoke fags and generally nose at what’s going on. There’s a lull, but at 20.26 the same man comes back and belts out a rousing rendition of My First, My Last, My Everything. At this point random strangers are stopping outside and gawping at the drama. On a cobbled street like something out of a Disney film, a large drunk man lurching around a bar roaring Barry White songs is a rarity.
A cyclist slows as he approaches the pub. The large man is now attempting a hacking version of That’s Amore as the evening grows cold and sharp after a long day of Spring sunshine. Large man has sung the last three songs. There appears to be some sort of impasse concerning performance variety.
There’s a long gap and no movement in the bar until the large man steps up and begins to croon For The Good Times.
“And make believe you love me one more time, for the good times.”
The footpath floods. The loneliness is too much. You can almost see the broken hearts strewn in the gutter. 50-something-year-old heavy drinkers, a burst of them emerge for a cigarette. Interesting timing that.