Monday, November 21, 2005

Another Decent Interval

Boy, I haven't even been back in Berlin long enough to get pissed off at it again, and I'm off on Wednesday for another adventure. This time it'll be a trip to Amsterdam, where I'll be doing a story on Patti Smith for Paste, the enigmatically-named music magazine. She's doing four "guerrilla" shows there, one closing the Cannabis Cup ceremonies, one at the van Gogh Museum, one at a tiny blues bar called Maloe Melo, and, apparently, another at the Paradiso, but I'm not sure what that's all about.

I'm looking forward, too, to bringing back a winter's supply of my favorite miracle drug. No, not *that* miracle drug. I mean Beerenburg, a herb liquor made in Friesland, in the north of Holland, which actually can prevent colds. In fact, during a long period of puritanism in that part of the world, Beerenburg was the only alcohol not banned, because as everyone knew, it was medicine, not a drink. My favorite, after sampling about a half-dozen varieties over the years, is made in the city of Sneek (pronounced "snake") by Weduwe Joustra, the widow Joustra, who's long since gone to her reward, but whose products are still being made. Her variety has 25 different herbs, but does not include one whose name (both Friesian and English) I've forgotten, which contains so much caffeine that it defeats the purpose of Beerenburg. I was introduced to the stuff by a friend who lived near Sneek when I showed up at his farmhouse one evening, clearly coming down with a cold. "Oh," he said, "I can help there. I'll be right back." He got on his bike and pedaled down to the nearest bar, bought a bottle, and came back. "This isn't the best, but it'll do," he said. A couple of glasses and I got real tired and went to sleep. The next morning I awoke, blew my nose a dozen times, and discovered that the impending cold seemed to be gone. I've now socked in a couple of bottles nearly every winter here, and proclaim it a wonder of folk medicine. The taste varies, and the first sip can seem bitter, but the best description of it I've been able to come up with is what Coca-Cola would taste like if it were a vintage beverage like wine, and this would be a well-aged Coke.

Anyway, should you find yourself in the Netherlands, I've been able to find the widow hanging out at Holland's largest chain of liquor stores, Gall & Gall, although if you're in Leeuwarden or Sneek, it's everywhere.

So if I don't post anything before I go, or anything from the road, I'll be back Monday evening.

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