- Essays: On The Road (And A Little Off)

Sign Panama's Guestbook

More essays
at KindaMuzik:

Panama and the Live Sex Show

Soulful Trip Revealed:
Panama Red Plays Roosendaal

Welcome to Amsterdam, Buffy



Amsterdam, August 26 or 27, 2001
This is a memorium to Sjors, the BarDog at the Pollux. If you're reading this, Sjors has passed on into Doggie Heaven.

My American brothers and sisters, the Bordeaux region of France is the home of a noble breed of dog, the noblest of whom is Sjors. I have seen his like on this continent a hundred times but never on our own. And I'm a dog guy. I am always looking. I love the species. They're a fuckovalot more trustworthy than my own. Remember that dog in that Tom Hanks movie Turner & Hooch? That's a Sjors dog.

There are undoubtedly three hundred dogs of the same breed as Sjors here in Amsterdam alone. But of course, none of them are Sjors. They just aren't. But I will try to describe the breed: about 26 inches high at the shoulder, very deep chest, head quite a bit bigger but of just the same shape and density as half a concrete block, nose set back in the muzzle so the dog can hold onto that bear or Viking or whatever and keep breathing. Weighs about 150 lbs normally. As of this writing Sjors is down to about 110 lbs. The standard color is dark tan to deep brown or chestnut; the breed is a red one. Around the eyes is a mask of a darker color, usually a reddish. Sjors has a black mask, which is regarded as preferable. At least by Frits, the BarDog's person, and me.

Far from being the kind of dumbass rending and crunching machines the smugglers in South Florida were breeding out of pit bulls in the eighties, the Bordeaux bulldog is a very congenial, happy dog. And intelligent. And blessed with a puzzled expression guaranteed to earn the affection of dog-lovers everywhere. When you talked to Sjors, he twisted his head this way and that, wrinkling his forehead as if he were saying, "This is fascinating. You're so intelligent. What?" It was an appealing face, looking a little dumb, but the look belied the fact that inside that skull, bigger but the same shape as half a concrete block, was a keen intellect.

When my friend Tanja at the Pollux suggested I write a piece about Sjors, she asked that I not dwell on the fact that Sjors's intelligence ran mostly to ways of getting food, I agreed.

But I have to renege a little bit here. Sjors loved to eat. They have these big sausages here shaped like an O. Generally one cuts one of these sausages in half for one serving. Frits tells me that one time he came out of the Pollux kitchen carrying a half of one of these sausages on a tray, and Sjors, rather than following THAT piece of sausage like any normal dog would, puzzled out that if Frits had half a sausage, the other half must be in the kitchen, and so went into the kitchen and boosted that half.

For a while the Pollux had a Chinese cook. They had a couple of little menus scattered along the bar. It took Sjors but one night to figure out that when a customer looked at a menu invariably food would come to that customer. So that whenever Frits passed the menu to a customer Sjors knew food was coming, and the customer would suddenly discover a newfound or redoubled friendship with the Pollux BarDog, now sitting patiently with his head on the customer's knee. Yes, he was a mooch, but he mooched with a dignity seldom found in his species or my own. When Sjors was a young dog, Frits was going out to the bars and other places of ill repute. Sjors would accompany him.

When René, Frits's brother, needed to find Frits for some hotel business or other, he would ask Sjors, "Where's Fritsje?" and Sjors would take him around Frits's then-current route until they turned Frits up.

He had a love of round things. Frits would take him to the beach. Kids would be playing football(soccer), and Sjors would see the ball and steal it every time. His joy at finding a ball would be short-lived, however, because his favorite part of this game was biting the ball until it exploded. He would then move on to other football games with unexploded balls. Frits got so tired of paying out ten or twenty guilders to disappointed and/or angry frustrated soccer players for each ball Sjors burst that he took to carrying a number of soccer balls around with him in the car, hidden from Sjors of course, for reparations. There is a football stadium here on the way to Haarlem or Schippol or somewhere, where Team Ajax plays their home games. Outside the stadium, as a kind of logo, is a huge replica of a football, about twenty meters in diameter. Once the family, with Sjors along, was driving along the highway and passed this big football. Sjors saw the ball and was blown away. He started leaping all over everyone, barking furiously as if to say "Did you see that BALL?" Watching it go by out the back of the car. Undoubtedly when he dreamed a good dream after that incident that big Ajax ball was the centerpiece.

A coupla months ago we had a going away party at the Pollux for Sjors, because Frits had gotten the word from the vet that Sjors's days were somewhat numbered. Instead of peanuts, dog cookies were served at the bar along with the drinks, so that everyone could indulge Sjors. I don't know if he finally got his fill of treats, but he did get his fill of cookies...

He made a lot of friends during his employment as the BarDog at the Pollux. When Will Thomas and his wife Mary Margaret came through town, Sjors swept MaryMargaret off her feet. She was absolutely taken with him. He was a handsome devil indeed that night, and I'm sure represents a lot of the charm that are Amsterdam memories to MaryMargaret. And Patty and I were proud to be associated with him, always, but especially that night. As an ambassador of the Amsterdam canine point of view, he did the town, and us, proud.

Everyone at the Pollux, where the elite meet to drink, has a Sjors story. Everyone, me included, feels they had a special relationship with him, and we're all correct. Sjors knew us all, maybe better than we know ourselves, and whenever we as individuals would get to a point of wandering, lost, a moment with Sjors would always remind us of just how special and okay we were, because Sjors was so special and okay. He will be missed.