The Grand Journey is coming to an end. And what a better place to do it than in my adopted hometown of Amsterdam. My first time here was in 1980. Worldkid was on a vagabond wandering of a lifetime that lasted over a year. But these days, coming to Amsterdam is my time to see family and friends. And that’s precisely what I did.
My brother-in-law, Jan, has the same disease that I do. He has a boat. So on most visits, I get to see this old Dutch port as many mariners from the past saw Amsterdam—from the water. Jan just bought a 1970s-style America powerboat called an Invader. And that is exactly what we do. We penetrate the back canals of the red light district, steam through the Amstel River and eventually enter Oud Zuid (Old South) known for its art deco Amsterdam School of architecture from the 1930s.
But during much of the visit we hang out at my other brother-in-law’s house near the Amstel. Otto has a lovely garden behind that is often frequented by wild parakeets. We barbeque one night on the terrace, eat salmon another night, and dine on Hettie’s Dutch dish of endive and potatoes.
We also get to see our “adopted” Dutch daughter, Lisette. She spent time on Bonaire doing marine biology a few years back and became a good friend as well as an eager deckhand aboard my sailboat, Kontentu. She is now pursuing a master’s degree in oceanography and has a nice biologist boyfriend named Bram. We invited them for drinks at our old pub, the Gollum. We have been going there for over thirty years. But that is not very long. The Gollum’s building dates back to the 1600s.
We also visit the Rijksmuseum. This is the fine art jewel of the Netherlands holding treasures from all the Dutch Masters including Rembrandt’s famous 1642 painting, The Nightwatch. The museum just completed a ten-year restoration last year. This was our first chance to see the transformation.
On the last day here, we join Jan’s wife, Paula, for a parting drink. We gather outside a small café for a late afternoon beer. Actually, we are having a Zatte from the tap, a full-bodied, blond beer made in the Belgium style by the local brewery, ‘t IJ. As we review our African adventures with Paula, I watch an artist across the way paint a wall sign for a jazz club. He crafts the message, Please Dont Tell as part of the art. The young man stands back to view what he has just painted and proceeds to work on other parts of the mural. Hmmm. Does he not know that Dont needs an apostrophe? Perhaps his grammatical English is not that polished. This is a commissioned piece. The guy makes his living doing this. By the time I’m drinking my second Zatte, Dont has not been changed. I walk across the alley to the artist. “Excuse me, I’ve been watching you paint for the past half hour and I noticed that Dont doesn’t have an apostrophe.” “Yeah, that’s right,” responds the young man. “I just thought that the ’ ruined the flow of the piece.” “So you do know that grammatically that it is incorrect.” Oh, yeah.” “I just wanted to make sure before your boss saw it,” I say with true concern. “No problem,” says the artist. “Is there anything else you see that might not be right?” I laugh at his openness to criticism. “No. You are doing just fine.”
I retreat back to my half finished Zatte. I have traveled over two continents to find one of the universal truths of life. In Amsterdam, no apostrophes are needed. With that in mind, I decide that The Grand Journey is complete. It is time to fly home to the island.