The following is a journal excerpt from my January 2005 trip to Amsterdam for the mounting and opening of my one man art exhibition at Mr. B's. I will post a new section of the ten-part story each week. Enjoy.
10:20 p.m., Wednesday, January 26, 2005
The flight to Amsterdam went very smoothly. Everything was on time. The seats on the LAX–O’Hare flight were cramped, but nobody was sitting between us, which was surprising as the flight was full. The Chicago–Amsterdam leg was even better. The light over my seat was out, but there was a vacant row caticorner, across the aisle, which had four inches more leg room. I actually got about four of five hours of sleep.
We arrived in Amsterdam at 9:05 am (midnight L.A. time… there’s a nine hour time difference). At this point, things got dicey. It ended up taking us three hours to get through Customs. The problem was, I needed to get the artwork declared, either as a temporary import or as a normal import. If temporary, I would have to put down a deposit for the 6% VAT (value added tax), and take a photograph of each item for sale. If normal, I would have to pay the entire VAT up front. Since I foolishly declared the value of my artwork as being $11,000 (one can dream) the VAT came to about €600. The Customs officials ended up sending us to the Cargo building, two bus stops away, traveling to the left from the airport.
The weather in Amsterdam was sunny and brisk—hats and gloves just barely not necessary. This was good, because neither of us had thought to remove them from our luggage before we set out. I left the big box of art and my suitcase with the matted sketches in it (as well as my hat and gloves) in Customs. They made us drag our other suitcases pointlessly with us on our quest.
We waited around in the Cargo building for a half hour before they decided we were in the wrong place and sent us to another building, three further bus stops to the left. We reached the vicinity of the second address, a desolate building in a vast treeless area. We asked directions from a couple workers in a warehouse in front, and were sent around the corner to another building. (Luckily, English is commonly spoke in the Netherlands; otherwise the experience going through Customs would have been truly miserable.)
A man on the ground floor directed us up a steep flight of stairs to a large informal office where six youngish Aryan men and women worked in closely spaced desks. We were taken in hand by a somewhat officious young man who asked to speak with Han Verhooven, my contact at Mister B’s. He spent at least 15 minutes on the phone, finally handing it back to me. Someone besides Han told me the situation: Mister B’s would pay the 6% VAT up front, since the other position was clearly impossible. We would work it out between us later. But he would have to talk to the owner of Mister B’s first and get it okayed; this would take a few minutes; he’d call us back.
Eventually he did, and the officious young man typed out the declaration, sending us back to the airport to get our luggage out of storage. By the time my art out of storage it was 12:30 pm. We were both famished and cranky. We had a quick lunch at a Burger King in the airport lobby. We found a taxi van, driven by an elderly man. John and I decided it would be best to drop the art off at Mister B’s first, then check into our hotel. However, when we got to our street, we found our path blocked by two cement posts next to a short pole with a red traffic light on top. The driver apologized, saying he could take us no further—but our address was only two blocks down the street, on the right. We set out. I was carrying the box of artwork. I’d had it professionally boxed the week before we left. It was about 4′ × 3′8″, weighed about 40 lbs. I was glad I’d tied a lattice of rope around it to act as a handle in carrying it.
We passed our hotel, the Hotel Winston, about halfway to Mister B’s. We decided to check in before going further.
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