All of the Gin: A Story of My Dad.

DSC_0167 copyThis is how I hook all you gin-lovers. With a super sexy photo of Hendrick’s.

Once upon a time, almost two and a half years ago, I wrote a story about how I got my cousin so drunk while wine tasting that she made a fool of herself in front of the entire family. It is one of my greatest accomplishments. Ok, that might be a slight exaggeration. But I am very proud of it, and it’s a story the family will never forget.

(And before you stop reading because you think I’m a terrible person, please read that other story for some context. Because me getting her drunk was payback for her getting me so drunk I almost missed her brother’s wedding. All is fair in love and war.)

Now back to the point. I never thought I would ever one-up myself on that fun little escapade. But I DID. Because a couple of months ago, I got my Dad so drunk at a gin festival that he made a complete fool of himself. I only wish my cousins had been there to witness the glory, but that is why I am writing this blog. So they can relive it with me!

So here’s how it all went down.

In May, my parents came to visit me in Amsterdam. (For those of you new to blog, I live in Amsterdam! I had only moved a few months prior, so my parents’ visit was their first to Amsterdam and very exciting overall.) They were here for a whopping 9 days, and because my Dad had a conference in the middle of their week here, we couldn’t really take any big side trips. 9 days is a long time to vacation in the same city, so towards the end of their time here, we had already seen and done a lot. So we needed a fun family activity.

Enter: the Amsterdam Gin Festival.

DSC_0160 copyI promise that server isn’t creepy, he just happened to catch me right as I shot this photo.

For the entire week, my mom was completely on board with this plan. “The Gin Festival sounds really fun!” she said. And DUH, of course it would be fun. There would be drinking involved! Also, my mom is amazing and excited about most things that I suggest. She’s the best mom ever.

But I intentionally failed to mention it to my dad for most of the week because I feared he would not be excited. For my whole life, I have never known my dad to be into gin. He loves wine. He loves scotch. He loves cognac (ask the family about that story). But gin? Not a thing he loves, as far as I knew.

But boy was I WRONG.

My dad apparently LOVES gin. Also rum. And jenever. And vermouth.

The whole thing became dangerous very quickly.

So I don’t want to bore you with too many details, but I must set the stage here. Because, honestly, this story only gets better the more you know.

The plan began as follows: We were going to meet my friends, Bex and Luke, at the Gin Festival. We would go early (around 2pm), so we could drink in the middle of the afternoon, and then have dinner and sober up in the evening, so as not to have any hangovers. Because we are pros and know how this works.

So we headed to the ferry terminal. Because it’s Amsterdam, and sometimes you get to a gin festival via a (free!) ferry across the IJ. (It was actually really amazing. First we got on a boat. The boat ride was lovely. And then when we got off the boat, there was gin EVERYWHERE. Fucking YES.)

Bex and Luke were running a little late, so we decided to do some reconnaissance and wander around the festival a bit. There were so many stands, so it was worth taking a few laps to discover what was what.

But that’s where things went wrong. Because my father has the patience of a 5-year-old. So as soon as he saw something he liked, he had to try it. And then he saw something else. And something else. And before Bex and Luke had even arrived, my dad had tried 3 different gins. My mom and I had managed to limit ourselves to just one taste, but somehow my dad wandered off, and when he came back he was babbling about some dude from Brazil who had served him “this incredible rum, seriously you have to try it!”

Oh no.

My mom and I tried to remind him that we were going to be here for several hours, so he should probably pace himself. To which he just waved us off and wandered into the crowd again.

Once my friends arrived, things only got worse. Because of course we all got excited and wanted to try things, and then we completely lost track of my father. At one point, after probably 3 or 4 shots of alcohol in his system, he realized he should probably eat. So he tried to make us all stop drinking and come get food with him. So we went to the food trucks. And we ate. And everything was fine, for a short while.

But then the gin-tasting recommenced. And by that point, all of us were feeling a bit buzzed. But not as buzzed as Dad. I mean, just look at this goofy man:

DSC_0171 copyWhy is he holding up that juniper plant?! We will never know.

Those of you who know my dad know he’s a pretty strange guy. But somehow in spite of this, he manages to charm people. He charmed the “magical Brazilian rum man” so much that he opened a super special-edition rum just so my dad could taste it. And then, even though the gin-makers weren’t actually allowed to sell bottles at the event, he got one of the guys to sell him a bottle completely under the table. So he could take it home to America. “How else am I supposed to get it?” he said.

*Facepalm* (Although to be fair, he had a point.)

By the time we finally left, I think we’d been there for over 5 hours. Which is a long time when you’re drinking straight liquor all day. (Side note: I really love gin, actually, and this festival was DOPE. I am absolutely going back again next year.) So we hopped back on the ferry, where even more hilarity ensued.

First, let me tell you: my dad was quite drunk at this point. In fact, I’ve never seen him in such a state. He was slurring his words so thoroughly that I wasn’t sure we’d even make it home.

So his first move was to try and get Bex and Luke to come over for dinner. They respectfully declined, because they are very smart. Also, they were exhausted.

His second move was to get involved in a ridiculous conversation with an American guy on the ferry who was living in the Netherlands, but planning his wedding to his “true love” back in Kentucky. And they were going to get married this summer and she would move to the Netherlands with him. And it was a really strange story, because they had no money, but they were going to do it anyway because they were so madly in love (I think he may have been reciting a movie…). And at this point, my dad tried to give him €50. My mom and I had to forcibly prevent him from doing so. Because, c’mon dude, that shit is WEIRD. You don’t just hand out cash to strangers!

And his third move was to promptly pass out on the couch in my living room when we arrived back at my apartment. And I mean PASS OUT. He was snoring heavily. It was amazing.

Given that it was only 8pm, and I was hungry, I offered to run to the store for some dinner fixings. When I returned, my mother and I began to dine on a lovely meal of bread and cheese and salami, with a side of salad and even a glass of red wine. (Because she and I were actually not that drunk.) We kept trying to wake up Dad to get him to come eat. After swatting us away multiple times, he made an attempt, took one bite, and went back to the couch to pass out again. It was after 10pm before we could finally get him to actually eat dinner.

The entire day felt like a drunken fairytale. And then we all went to sleep.

This may seem like an anticlimactic ending, but for those of you who have met my dad, you know this entire story is completely unbelievable. I mean, I’ve hardly ever seen the man drunk, let alone slurring-trying-to-give-strangers-money-passed-out-on-the-couch drunk. It was incredible.

And Mom and I will never forget it.

And, dear cousins, if you still don’t believe me after reading this, just ask my mom. She and I still laugh about it. It was absolutely AMAZING. (And maybe let’s pretend I just recounted this story to you instead of putting it on the internet… I don’t think Dad will be very happy with me.)

 

*****

[Next time: I went to an insane festival in Ghent, Belgium. INSANE, I tell you. These Belgians are cray.]

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The Fight

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Well, it’s been 2 months since I last wrote. I had this whole plan to write about ALL THE THINGS I’ve been doing, and to move into my own place, and to start blogging more regularly, and to bake bread, and everything else.

But then life struck, again. As I predicted in my last post, there were more bumps in the road. Many, many more. Like, a whole shitload of obstacles. I mean, c’mon people. This is getting ridiculous.

I don’t want to bore you with all the details, but let’s just boil it down quickly: I had issues with my residency permit (came through at the last minute, and I only got my social security number thanks to the good graces of my friend Bram). Then had an apartment disaster (landlord pulled the plug 2 days AFTER I was supposed to move in). I was again saved by Bram. (Bram: You are the fucking man.) AND, I still technically have not received a paycheck. (Don’t worry, I will get paid for every single day I’ve worked. But it’s been an epic saga to sort that out. Dutch banks & foreign companies do not mix well.)

And so, 3 months after my arrival in Amsterdam, I was still without my own apartment, still without a paycheck, and still wondering why on earth everything bad seems to happen to ME.

I realize that sounds a bit melodramatic. But in Bram’s words: “Karma has to eventually go the other way, right?” Because seriously, it’s been ridiculous. Nothing has gone smoothly. This whole move has been a massive shitshow.

And yet, here I am. Powering through. Several years ago, this type of situation would have utterly broken me. I would have become depressed, negative, and convinced myself that nothing will ever be good ever again. Hell, I might have given up entirely. Because Amsterdam does seem to be telling me that I should turn around and go back to where I came from. But I refuse. Because I fucking belong here, I just know it.

There is a group of people here in Amsterdam, and I love them. I call them my Friends. They are cool people. They seem genuinely excited to see me when we we hang out. They are happy that I live here now. Many of them have told me exactly that. And that means a ton, and I can’t just leave now. Because I have friends, and I love these friends. I want to see these friendships grow.

I also just went to Spain for a weekend for a frisbee tournament. At the tournament, people would ask when I was going home. I would say “Tuesday. I’m flying home on Tuesday.” Home. Amsterdam. They are the same now. The flight from Barcelona to Amsterdam felt so natural. It was perfect.

And last weekend, I finally moved into my new apartment. I have my own bedroom, and I have a lovely roommate. This week, I’m going to finish unpacking and hang my art on the walls. And it will be real. For the first time since December, I am going to have MY own bedroom, with MY own things in it. Fucking finally.

So no, it hasn’t been easy. It’s been a fight. But I am fighting hard. Because Amsterdam is my home now, damnit.  You can’t get rid of me that easily.

The Turnaround

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I knew this moment would come eventually. The moment when life suddenly felt right-side-up again. The moment when I stopped “trying to be” and started “being” an Amsterdammer. The moment when, sure, life was still scary and different and I’m still not really sure what I’m doing, but that’s just life so who cares where I am when I feel those things?

It’s been a month since my last post, and it’s not because I was lacking things to write about. There are several half-written posts sitting in my drafts folder that I just never managed to finish. That time I went to Carnival in Den Bosch. The fact that I’ve started cooking good food again. All the craft beer I’ve been drinking. That time I biked 50km round-trip to Haarlem and drank at a brewery inside a church.

But I never finished writing those posts because, frankly, it’s hard to write honestly and sound like yourself when you’re not really feeling like yourself. And basically since I arrived in Amsterdam, I’ve felt a bit like a ghost watching myself try to live this new life. But I wasn’t actually living it yet.

There have been many low points, including one night where I sent my boss a very emotional email at 9:30pm because, oddly enough, he was the only person who would really understand the stress and isolation I was feeling at that moment. That was rock bottom. That was when I thought I couldn’t do this. That was when I was sure I had made a horrible mistake by deciding to move to another country to run a mini-company.

But things got better, as they inevitably do. And this weekend marked the turning point. The moment when I remembered why I came here. The moment when I realized that this is what I was meant to do. And I realized that maybe, just maybe, I’m kind of good at it.

DSC_0083 copyThis weekend, we moved into our new office. That may not seem like a big deal, but somehow Saturday symbolized everything that I’ve been envisioning for the company I’m supposed to guide through 2016. I came to Amsterdam so that my company could actually accomplish something new and great. And moving into a new office was the symbolic starting point. Everything leading up to this point was just preparation.

Saturday was one of the most exciting days I’ve ever had at work. I had an amazing crew of people around me who were helpful and supportive and just lovely to spend the whole day with. The move went so incredibly smoothly that I could hardly believe it. There was so much smiling and laughing, and the only truly stressful moment was when I set the alarm off and thought the entire building was going to fall down from the racket. (Oops.) And after the move was done and the space was clean and pretty, we stayed there for hours drinking beers and eating burritos and simply enjoying each other’s company.

And no, my whole life doesn’t revolve around work. But work is the reason I came to this place, and all of a sudden I feel like I can actually live here and do things and be Christina again. This Christina just happens to live in Amsterdam now.

It’s finally real.

Sure, I got sick (again) after the move. And sure, there are still plenty of kinks to work out, and I know there will be many bumps in the road ahead. But right now, I’m sitting in bed drinking red wine (which is apparently good for colds, ha!), and I am so incredibly happy that I hardly know what to do with myself.

Thank you to everyone in Amsterdam, in Europe, in America and elsewhere who has been there for me over the past 6 weeks. I love all of you.

And to the Wrecking/Building/Moving Crew from Saturday: y’all are rockstars. I heart you like whoa.

*****

[Next time…] I actually go back to talking about the things I do best! Drinking, traveling, drinking, eating, and riding my bicycle.

Living the ‘Dam Life

Hello, world. My name is Christina, and as of yesterday I live in Amsterdam. WTF.

48 hours ago, I left this beautiful place:

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Yep, that’s Seattle. It’s fucking stunning, amirite?? I am missing it a whole lot right now, and I imagine that feeling is going to ebb and flow for quite some time.

I don’t even know how to continue this post. There are so many feelings happening at the moment. Within a matter of 12 hours, I went from being a US resident to being an expat; from being in a country that speaks my language to a country that doesn’t*; from being just “Christina” to “Christina, the American.”

Indeed, there are a lot of feelings. But despite all of the confusion, the trip went unbelievably well. I was expecting all sorts of crazy drama (“Your bags are too heavy!” or “Your bike will cost $10,000 to check!” or “We refuse to let you into the Netherlands because you don’t have the appropriate paperwork!”). But instead, it was so easy that I could hardly believe it. Because seriously, is moving to another country supposed to be this easy?

Let me provide some context: When I arrived at the airport in Seattle, I had a small backpack, a carry-on duffel bag, 2 checked bags, and a GIGANTIC box filled with my deconstructed bicycle. I arrived at the airport nearly 2.5 hours early, because I was worried about this ridiculous baggage situation.

But then, a nice man at the curbside check-in desk offered to help me take all my stuff inside. Then they let me check in at the Priority desk, even though I’m not technically priority. Then the guy charged me $200 less to check my bike than what I had been told on the phone. Then I got a window seat next to a very nice professor. Then during the flight, I went to ask for more wine and the stewardess was SO NICE and we chatted for 10 minutes. Then when I got to Amsterdam, they didn’t ask me any crazy questions at passport control. I got all my luggage, and even with my overflowing cart they didn’t stop me at customs. Then the guy at the cab line was super friendly and loaded all my bags for me. Then the cab driver brought all my bags inside the lobby of the building where I was staying, without me even asking her to. And then I had a room in an apartment and literally EVERYTHING WENT SEAMLESSLY.

IMG_3086The view from my apartment!

It was so overwhelmingly easy that I nearly panicked. Because that’s some crazy shit. It’s not supposed to be that easy, is it?

Now don’t get me wrong. This didn’t mean I was happy and full of giggles and joy. I was exhausted and stressed and terrified and, to be honest, partially worried that I had made a terrible mistake. I just left a place that I adore, with friends that I love and already miss dearly. This is hard.

Yesterday was tough. Lots of jetlag and a nap that I allowed to last way too long; several bouts of crying; a brief jaunt to the grocery store; frantic unpacking; easy pasta dinner; and more sleep (which went poorly…stupid jetlag). But today, I woke up deciding to make myself excited about this town. And so I did all the things I enjoy.

I walked to a cafe and bought myself a coffee. Then I walked into De Pijp and wandered around the shops. I bought myself a French press. I went to Kaas en Zo (roughly translated as “Cheese and Such”) and bought some delicious aged cheese. I went to a beer store and bought some Dutch craft beers (and one Italian beer!). I stocked up on groceries and finished unpacking my bags and made homemade stew and ate dinner while watching Netflix. And now I’m sitting in bed with tea and writing this.

IMG_3098Part of my awesome haul from today.

And somewhere in the middle of all of that, I was walking down a side street with a backpack full of groceries, and I felt comfortable. In that one moment, it seemed like this was right. Months ago, I asked for this, and I suddenly remembered why. Because I feel comfortable here. Comfortable in a way I never managed to feel anywhere else. I still don’t entirely know why that is, but that’s ok. I’ll just relish it for now.

This doesn’t mean I’m not still sad. I am. I think I will be sad about leaving Seattle for a very long time. I think it’s going to come in waves, and there are days I will regret everything I’ve done. But I know myself well enough to know it’s not over. I have never wanted to stay in one place for long. So who knows. Maybe 5 years from now, I’ll find myself back in the gorgeous Pacific Northwest. Those mountains are always calling…

But for now, I am ready to greet Amsterdam with open arms. Because I do WANT to be here, and I want to be excited about it.

So, Amsterdam. What do you say? Want to go on an adventure with me?

 

*Note: Basically everyone in Amsterdam speaks English. But Dutch is still the native language, and that’s how you’ll be addressed unless you immediately dictate otherwise. So no, it’s not difficult to manage, but it sure as hell isn’t an English-speaking country.

*****

[Next time, on Christina’s adventures in Amsterdam: BEER! I am going to drink all of it.]

Too Drunk for January

Guys, January is over. In fact, February is almost over too. WHAT HAPPENED???

Instead of looking back and realizing that I was simply too busy with work to remember January, I am fabricating a new story: I was simply too drunk to remember January!

Now, in order for this crazy story to make any sense, I’ll have to go back in time a little bit. Basically, it all started over Christmas when I went to DC to visit my parents and my dad fed me a lot of beer. (This is generally what happens when I go home. My father is an enabler who says things like, “You know, you really shouldn’t drink so much,” while pouring me a glass of 11% abv beer. Hypocrite.)

When I arrived home just before midnight on December 23rd, I assumed my dad would be asleep (his bedtime is like 10pm). But apparently he had been waiting for me to arrive, just to have an excuse to open a bottle of Trappistes Rochefort 10. Belgian Quad. 11.3% abv. Holy. Hell. I have the best father on the planet.

So then, the next day was Christmas Eve, followed by Christmas (duh). During those days, much craft beer was consumed.

Also wine.

Oh, and scotch. ALL OF THE SCOTCH.

And then–because we hadn’t had enough–on December 26th we went and visited some breweries!

The first stop was Heavy Seas Brewing, which was honestly only OK in my book. Their IPA and Lager and Pale were really just average beers. Not bad, mind you, but nothing to write home about either.

But then there was the Porter. Oh man. They make a damn good porter. My dad ended up buying a 6-pack of Peg Leg, and 2 of the bottles ended up coming home with me. Because my dad is the best.

After that, we went and did the brewery tour at Flying Dog Brewery. YES. First of all, this is one of my favorite microbreweries. They make incredible beer. Damn. Second, the tour was actually FUN! I’ve been on so many brewery tours and they’re basically all the same. But this one was unique! I got to drink wort, which was super weird (and sweet and yummy!). I got to watch them bottle (in action!) and we saw their crazy science lab. And on top of all of that, Hunter S. Thompson was best buds with the founder so the walls are covered with weird shit like this:

Also, the guy who led the tour was this amazing, bearded, goofy, nerdy beer man with a super weird streak and awesome sense of humor. Because of him, I have decided that my future husband must be a brewer. So yeah, I’m now taking applications. Holler.

We tried like 15 beers between the 3 of us after the tour, and I was super drunk and incredibly happy. And then, just 2 days later, we went to another beer bar and had a sumptuous dinner with beer pairings. Fantabulous.

Basically, I spent a week in DC getting drunk on amazing beer with my parents.

So when I got home, the only way I could even begin to imagine celebrating New Years was with fantastic beer. So I went and bought some fantastic beer at my favorite bottle shop and headed over to a friend’s place, where we proceeded to drink said fantastic beer and play lots of Jenga.

And then I just couldn’t stop! I was just drinking beer for weeks straight! (That’s an exaggeration, but I was drinking quite a lot of beer. Completely against my father’s instructions.)

One of the more amazing beers was called Stochasticity Project: Master of Disguise by Stone Brewing. It’s a golden stout. By that I mean, it looks like a golden ale. But it tastes like a stout. IT WAS MIND-BLOWING. Confusing and delicious.

And then I drank a fantastic beer that I brought back from the Netherlands last summer: Bitch Black Saison by Brouwerij De Molen. It tasted like a fucking campfire. In the best way imaginable. Somehow, despite how smoky it was, it went down so smooth that I probably could’ve consumed it all night long.

And then I went to LA, and things got super crazy:

Indeed, that is a trunk full of boxed wine.

(Full disclosure: I drank none of that. It was, oddly enough, for a work thing. And we gave it all away. So I didn’t drink any boxed wine, but I got several hundred people super drunk on boxed wine that weekend. Huzzah!)

And then I went to Europe! Amsterdam, Bruges, Gent, and London. London was a bit of a bust beer-wise (I did drink quite a lot of gin though). But you can bet your ass I drank a shitload of beer in Holland and Belgium. Oh yah. You betcha.

There was some of this:

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 And some of this:

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And my particular favorite, this:

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I mean, can we just take a moment and talk about how awesome that label is? Brouwerij ‘t IJ is an incredible brewery and they make fantastic beer. The one above, for example, is an IPA brewed in the American west coast style. So, of course, I’m pretty obsessed with it. (It’s fucking delicious.)

That photo was taken in an awesome bar in Amsterdam, which had fun stuff on the walls like this:

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So yeah. That was my January! I spent much of it either on the road or drunk. Or both. Wheeee!

February has been less travel, and a bit less beer. But I got crazy and bought a bunch of beers last week, including Ballast Point’s Grapefruit Sculpin IPA, which is SO DELICIOUS IT’S LIKE CANDY. I can’t stop.

And tomorrow….17 mile bike ride to a brewery??? I must be a crazy person.

Hope your 2015 is starting out as successfully (drunk) as mine!

AMSTERDAM!

Gosh, it’s been almost a month since I was in Amsterdam and I have yet to tell you all about it. I’M SORRY. 😦

Last time I posted, I had been so busy working that I didn’t have time to update you all (or do anything fun, really). This time, I’ve been so busy drinking that I haven’t had time to write about it! (HAHA my life is awesome.)

But seriously, time for some real talk.

Amsterdam is amazing.

Now don’t get the wrong idea. I don’t smoke. (I also don’t judge, I’m just not into it personally.) So when I say “Amsterdam is amazing,” I truly mean that the city is amazing. It’s beautiful, the people are super friendly, and they have some pretty awesome bars. NBD.

I was working pretty much the entire time I was in Amsterdam, so I didn’t get a ton of time to see the sights and drink the beers. I did drink a good bit of Heineken and Bavaria (SO much better over there than in the US…like, it’s actually good beer…and strong as hell). And I got to experience a really amazing beer bar, as well as an incredible Dutch restaurant.

Proeflokaal Arendsnest (meaning “The Eagle’s Nest Bar”) is a beer bar specializing in local microbrews. Europe isn’t nearly as into the microwbrew scene as the US, but there are some out there and they are really good. I ended up trying 3 or 4 different beers at this place and thoroughly enjoyed every single one. From the IPA to the German Dark Ale to the I-don’t-remember-what-the-last-one-was, they were all absolutely incredible. In some cases better than similar beers I’ve had here. They would definitely stand up to the Seattle beer scene, and that’s saying a lot.

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The second amazing part of my Amsterdam adventures was Moeders (or “Mothers”), a Dutch restaurant. I knew absolutely nothing about Dutch food before I entered the place, but I’ve basically decided I love it. This restaurant was INCREDIBLE.

credit to Mark Earley for this photo :)

credit to Mark Earley for this photo 🙂

First of all, none of the tables/tablecloths/plates/cutlery matches, which is just adorable and endearing. Second of all, the walls are completely covered with photos of patrons’ mothers. Yes, just photos of moms. How awesome is that?

And then, of course, there was the food. They had a good variety of Dutch dishes on the menu, including the famous Hotchpotch, which is basically potatoes with some sort of sauce/gravy and some sort of meat. It really is a hotchpotch of food, and it is delicious.

I, however, opted for the pheasant. It’s been a life goal of mine to eat pheasant (yeah, I’m weird), so I did it and it was AMAZING. Duck is basically my favorite fowl, and possibly one of my favorite foods altogether, but this pheasant was like duck on CRACK. (You know, the good kind.) I don’t know how else to describe it.

Also, I drank some more Heineken.

So yeah, basically shit was awesome. To be honest, the best part of my trip was the part where I was at the tournament where I worked all week, but most of that is completely unrelated to food and beer (except for all of the beer I drank…i.e. all of it) and more related to partying. A story for a different time, my friends…

***********************************

[Next time on drunk adventures…COPENHAGEN! Holy shit.]