Friday, November 11, 2005


As in any big city, it's not at all uncommon for Amsterdammers to experience bizarre encounters with bizarre people under bizarre circumstances. But when something as totally bizarre as this afternoon's episode happens on a day as totally ordinary as the gray November skies over the city, it's not so easy to dismiss.

I was loading my son into our bakfiets (family-sized bicycle) after finishing lunch at a friend's house, when I noticed a middle-aged man wandering up the sidewalk from the van Woustraat. He was wearing large sunset-shaded eyeglasses and a disco-era brown leather jacket. His hair was curly and bushy where it hadn't been ravaged by the effects of male pattern baldness. And the oversized glasses combined with the bushy curls to create an effect astonishingly similar to the brown macrame owl decoration that adorned the wall of my early childhood home through the late Seventies and early Eighties. As the Hippie Owl Man approached us, he was muttering in Dutch. Almost instantaneously, I made a decision to avoid eye contact -- an unconsciously developed reflex of city living, instinctively adapted to reduce the chances of bizarre encounters with bizarre strangers -- but I wasn't to be so fortunate in this instance.

As I finished unlocking the bakfiets, Hippie Owl Man sidled up to me and muttered under his breath. I couldn't understand what he was saying, so I asked him politely: "Wat zegt u?" He shuffled his feet a little bit and then spoke up to reiterate that he had a little secret to tell me.

Without pausing, he gestured towards a house half-way down the block and mumbled about how I knew about some little dog that always barks at you when you walk past. And well, he had gotten fed up with the little dog and just decided to wring its neck. So nobody has to worry about the barking anymore because the dog is dead. Because its neck is broken. And he just did it, so the dead little dog is right over there by that scaffolding. But hey, don't tell anyone. "OK?"

And with this disturbing revelation, he put his hand out as though a handshake would seal the deal of secrecy. Stunned, I numbly extended my hand and pitifully garbled something like, "Er, umm... it's nice to meet you, but I don't live around here... Umm, we've got to get going." And perhaps my Dutch was not at its best in this moment, because Hippie Owl Man decided to switch to English as we bid our farewells.

"Oh -- OK then," snapping into the disposition of a kindly old gentleman. "Have a nice day. That's a lovely bakfiets you've got there. Just lovely." Further disoriented and disturbed, I mumbled a weak good-bye as I pushed off on the bakfiets and pedalled off towards the Sarphatipark, eager to put distance between us and the bizarre stranger.

My son craned his neck to catch a final glimpse of Hippie Owl Man as we gained speed, and he asked candidly, "Daddy, what did that guy want?"

I responded honestly: "I don't think I want to tell you, buddy. It was kind of bizarre." His little three-and-a-half-year-old mind seemed to accept this answer, and we simply went on with our day. But I can't help but reflect on the bizarre nature of the bizarre people in this bizarre city... and wonder what will happen tomorrow.


At 8:20 PM, Blogger Maura Grunkelmeier said...


That story gave me chills. I am glad that you and your son were able to bike away unharmed. Not so lucky for the little dog...if there even was a little dog. Very odd.

On a lighter note...I just wanted you to know that I heartily enjoyed your Storytelling blogs from a few days past. :)


At 6:29 PM, Anonymous David Goering said...

Just found your Blog, Noel Heikkinen posted about this Crazy Story ;)
That sure is strange!
Well can't wait for "Awaken" it will rock!


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