Shortly after arriving in Amsterdam in 1998 I began working in a busy ad agency in the city center. After a gruelling day at the Mac I would often stop at a coffeeshop homeward bound. It's still there on the Oude Hoogstraat, 'Pick up the Pieces' it's called. Sometimes I would smoke a joint, others not, but would always meet friendly colourful international types and chat with the staff who became good friends over the years.
Holding the door open to release the weary workers from plumes of marijuana was a large piece of concrete. After many months I inquired about it's peculiarity, it some how beckoned significance. I was told that indeed it was a very special piece of cement. The owner of the café was Kishore, an Indian Surinamer who also owned a hotel in Schneverdingen that was frequented by Germans seeking respite and recreation on the adjacent sandy beaches. As the first frantic images appeared on TV from the collapse of the wall, he was spurred on by his loyal Saxony guests to seize the moment and drive instantly to Berlin and be part of something monumental.
The block that held the door wide was the souvenir. To be precise it is half a block. Occasionally I would pop by the café to renew old acquaintances and on one such visit I noticed the chunk of history was no longer. I gawped, "where's the wall gone?". It had split in half and lost the required gravity to keep the door ajar. "What did you do with the shattered remains?", I asked. Johnnie the nephew of the proprietor, walked over to an electric meter cabinette, opened it and there they lay, two broken halves like a young lover's pendant heart. He gave me one of the blocks and so it found a new home.
Poignant enough as a story, permit me to go further. I once pointed out its significance to a visitor, he sceptically commented, "How do you know it's actually a piece of the Berlin wall"? I assured him of its provenance and how its giver was a good friend of sound credentials. My visitor gawked at me with distrust, bewilderment and even contempt. He was such a man, but the giver, like the stone itself, is a tribute to the wonder of life. Thank you Johnnie and Kishore, it will stay with me until my very death and inevitable freedom.