Number of days in Amsterdam – 366
Number of days without a bike theft – 362
Days since it last rained –
Apparently there are a few people out there who do care what I have to say, so the beatings will continue until morale improves.
I mean that I’ll post for a while longer.
I’ve never been one who was great at sports, in school I was terrible at baseball and never big enough for other sports – not that any held my interest. I had a skateboard, but it was always a means of transit from point A to point B and little more, keeping me from excelling at the “outsider sports” as well.
In my adult life, I got into racing mountain bikes and did a few races each year, which was pretty sweet, and even captained up Team Angry Monkey but I was also not good, mind you. It was one of those things that gained respect from friends who didn’t race bikes, but among the biking community at the events we went to, we were one of those teams that showed up for the party. To paraphrase Captain Jack Sparrow, Team Angry Monkey was “the worst bike team you’ve ever heard of – but you have heard of us.”
Part of it stems from a birth defect I have – and here comes one of those rare personal confessions – I was born with a severely underdeveloped competitive bone, and it’s something I’ve dealt with my entire life. My attitude toward competitive sport came from more of a recreational direction. We would go up North to race in the snow for Iceman, but my attitude was more focused on having a good time than on getting a good time. How much fun is the after party if you’re too broken to enjoy it, and I have always felt that personal achievement was more important to me than recognition.
It was a team attitude that caused a few people to go elsewhere, but always amicably. They went on to bigger and better teams (one racer even went on to become nationally ranked), but it was just because we had different goals – they wanted to win, and we wanted to know who had a keg in their race tent.
So, now that you understand where I come from in regard to sports, I will explain how I came to understand what it’s like to be really good at something, or decent anyway. If you want to feel like you excel in the world of athletics in the Netherlands as an American, just go bowling with a bunch of non-US citizens.
Friday night we headed up for a night of bowling with the gang. It was a veritable UN in the alley, with a group that was English, Greek, Australian, Dutch, Canadian and so forth, and we met in the bowling alley bar beforehand to watch the Poland Greece football game.
Now, let me tell you the difference between bowling alleys in the Netherlands and bowling alleys in the States, based on my comprehensive experience of having gone to exactly ONE Dutch bowling alley. Bowling alleys in the Netherlands are nice, somewhat sterile, and they have windows! They are well-lit and quite comfortable. Almost every bowling alley in the states was either built or remodeled in the ’70s, where the decor remains the same, with hard plastic chairs in day-glo colors, carpeting that’s barely clean enough to walk on, and a general feeling of seediness.
That’s not to say that they’re bad, it’s just that American bowling alleys have spent decades cultivating this feeling, and if you’re going bowling in the states, this is the experience you want and expect. You expect dinginess, cheap entertainment and cheaper beer. Burgers or nachos are a bonus.
In the bowling alley bar in advance of our game, I asked what everyone’s average was. My average is an incredibly less than incredible average of 100 pins. But the fact that I had an average elevated me to the status of pro bowler as far as everyone else was concerned, as was the fact that I had a bowling shirt. Add in that I had taken a bowling class for a phys ed credit in college (due to my lack of competitive spirit in other sports) and I was an unstoppable force.
And for an evening, I was an athlete. I bowled right around my average, taking down just over 300 pins in three games, and I was a respectable force to be reckoned with. I was mighty.
It felt pretty good.
At the end of the evening, we chatted in the alley until way too late while Kitten slept in the stroller, making our way back to Centraal Station just in time to watch the last tram roll away. So we walked home.
For the record, I am learning to despise tourists. Especially late night tourists.
As we meandered through the city, dodging drunken tourists, we passed one pub where a nice American gentleman showing off his American superiority to his friends expressed a bit too loudly that he couldn’t believe people in this country would have a baby out so late (it was 12-ish), to which Nicole replied something like “we missed the tram,” although she may not have said it so politely, and may have mentioned something about his American smugness as well. Or maybe not. Maybe no words were shared. Who knows?
But the fact is, he wouldn’t have said anything had he realized we shared the same citizenship, which makes it worse.
He also wouldn’t have said anything had he realized he was speaking to a European sports hero, either.