For all its well-deserved reputation as a city of excitement with a mixture of Old World elegance blended with a twenty-first century insouciance, Amsterdam’s most impressive asset, in my opinion, is its incredibly diverse mix of people. Of course, one can hardly ignore the openness of this gateway metropolis for, if anything, visiting Americans see firsthand that perhaps the best way to deal with the so-called vices is to acknowledge that people have a right to pursue and indulge them under the proper conditions as defined by the city government. That said, however, I can’t help but come back to the subject of the people of Amsterdam, most especially in the context of their welcome to Santana.
There are probably a half dozen stories I might relate in regard to the aforementioned, but perhaps my recounting of a dinner we had will suffice.
As is my wont, I walked about the city early Sunday morning just enjoying the ambiance and the window shopping. I came across a small restaurant, La Colina, in one of the city’s seemingly millions of side streets. What attracted me to this restaurant was the great Cuban music coming from within. I sat outside and enjoyed a large mug of local beer-[ Hey, it was 11 a.m. by then!]- and got to chat with one of the staff who apparently noticed my interest in the music. With no prompting from me, she informed me that they had played nothing but Cuban music and Santana in this restaurant for the eleven years of its existence. I learned from her that the entire family (proprietors) had emigrated from Chile about fifteen years ago and that they enjoyed Amsterdam immensely. She also mentioned that the restaurant would be closed the following night because the entire family/staff were going to the Santana concert in Arnhem.
I made my goodbyes, continued on my purposeful meanderings, and eventually returned to the hotel where I received a call from Carlos asking about my dinner plans. When I mentioned that I had found a rather small but interesting Argentinean place run by Chileans who loved Cuban music, Carlos responded with a “let’s go now”.
As we left accompanied by Adam Fells, who had vanquished Carlos in a three- set tennis battle earlier that day, we ran into Karl Perazzo, Myron Dove, and Andy Vargas all of whom immediately joined our party.
To say that the folks who ran this restaurant were flabbergasted-even shocked- with this dinner party is hardly doing justice to their surprise and joy. What followed was a wonderful meal with every kind of personal touch provided. We could not have been treated better. In the process of enjoying our meal, we caught a glimpse of Benny Rietveld passing by and in a matter of seconds our party of six became seven.