by Niall Doherty


There’s a drizzle in the evening air, acting like a filter, more shimmer in our eyes. The walk was a good idea. I’m taking her now to see a grand bookcase behind spiral stairs. People tend to leave lights on and curtains open in this town, as if their front rooms are exhibits in some city-wide museum. There’s extra warmth in those rooms tonight.


Woke up together and lazed the afternoon away, then apple pie in a cafe where Malcolm Gladwell happened to be. We spent hours roaming the straats and grachts, capturing memories, and now find ourselves in a vintage fashion store after closing, trying on everything and being treated to free food and drink by the quirky proprietor.


Sent out for shampoo, but the marathon is happening and they’ve got the street between here and the supermarket blocked off. I ask a lady with a bike if they’re letting people through. I have to ask three times because she doesn’t understand me. They eventually herd us through in big batches, stopping in the middle and directing the runners around.


Doing my usual 24-hour fast on a Monday. I’m so used to it by now that it’s usually not a big deal, but today was tough for a stretch. I’ve learned from fasting how often I turn to eating as a form of procrastination, or as a stress release. When you take away that coping mechanism, there’s nothing left to do but lean into the discomfort.


Out my back window I can look into an office building. It’s an open workspace, several people sharing a big desk. I don’t rail against 9-to-5 the way I used to — I acknowledge and appreciate the advantages of regular employment a lot more nowadays — but it’s not something I’d like to go back to. Self-employment has been a rough road, but worthwhile.

Autumn in Amsterdam.

Autumn in Amsterdam.


Working inside alone all day, I try get out and do something social most evenings. Just back from a meetup at a bar nearby, met some good people there, including a couple of guys I’ll try stay in touch with. I’d like to have a core group of guy friends here that I see regularly, brothers on the path. Need more of that positive masculine energy in my life.


I joined a gym on September 16. The fee was €110 for twelve months. I’ve been there 26 times already, yet to miss a weekday session. That works out to €4.23 per visit (so far). I asked the guy at the front desk how they stay in business at those rates. Apparently they have thirty-thousand members. Ninety-five percent of them never show up.


I’ve got many things on automatic here now, freeing up time for work and social. I eat the same few meals over and over, have my grocery shopping down to two trips each week, can do my workout routine with eyes closed, have reminders set to take out the trash and water the plants, checklists to rip through every morning and evening.


At a plein in Utrecht there are a dozen pairs of people sat on the ground, facing each other. I find a loner and plop down opposite. He’s about my age, with long hair and a welcoming vibe. We pass the next two minutes looking deep into each other’s eyes, no words, just a shared gaze and the occasional smile.


Yesterday I was sold on a coat but walked out of the store without buying. I like to see how the shopkeeper treats me after he thinks he’s lost a sale. If he remains warm and pleasant, I’ll go back later and become his customer. But if he turns cold and shitty, we’re done. This morning it occurs to me that women might be doing the same thing when they withhold sex.




I wish people knew how to better handle disagreements. In recent days I’ve had my character called into question and someone else told me to fuck off. What did they achieve with those words? The goal of communication should be to understand and be understood, but too often we settle for making ourselves feel big and the other person feel small.


Took a class on Buddhism last night. I like a lot of the concepts, but the karma/reincarnation bit is hard for me to accept, comes across somewhat heartless (“Tough shit, you had it coming!”) and self-centered (“Check me out, bitches, all eternal and whatnot.”). Still, I did some digging online today and came away intrigued. That Ian Stevenson dude…


Can you disagree with someone and still like/respect them? For most of us I think the answer is no. We take disagreements very personally. Saw it tonight at a meetup, one guy getting frustrated with another because they couldn’t see eye to eye. At a certain point you have to let go and move on. Persistence is futile.


They don’t do the cash thing much here in the Netherlands. Last weekend I self-serviced a coffee at Central Station only to find I couldn’t pay with metal nor paper. Yesterday I went to a new mini-market around the corner and was told they only accept cards. Guess I should embrace it. I track my spending tight, needn’t worry I’ll get carried away.


Gym streak over. Hadn’t missed a weekday since I joined but started coming down with a dose yesterday and poor sleep last night. Better to skip it and rest up. Passing on a night out with friends, too. Still got a good chunk of work done today, kept things ticking over. Productivity habits serving me well even on down days.


Storytelling festival across the Ij. The two speakers tonight are great technically, but they’re telling us fables, featuring witches and banquets and talking skulls. Which is fine, but these tall tales anyone can tell. I’d much rather hear stories from people who lived through them, seeing with their own eyes and feeling with their own heart.

Autumn in Amsterdam.

Autumn in Amsterdam.

In the comments below, let me know which of the above Momentos is your favorite. Which can you relate to?

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