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Guitar Strumming at Bob’s Youth Hostel

bobs youth hostel - bob's youth hostel - - Carolyn Daughters

If you’ve stayed at Bob’s Youth Hostel in Amsterdam, then you’re familiar with the eterna-guitar strumming of that one guy who knew just one chord.

I used to work out of the 910 Arts building. In the evening, I would hear the Capoeira drummers and chanters in the studio next door. From what I could tell, the Capoeira gang knew only one song, and they would hit up their go-to tune for hours on end each night.

Have you seen Capoeira? It’s an Afro-Brazilian martial arts-based form of dance where people make a circle and take turns kickboxing to a musical beat in the inner circle. It’s totally awesome. It’s totally awesome until it isn’t anymore. It’s kind of like watching bowling or golf or sweeping (or whatever that sport is involving ice skates and brooms). Awesome. Now what?

Nothing, that’s what. It’s just the same thing over and over again. A heavy ball rolled down a lane toward a bunch of pins. A puckered egg smacked with a metal stick. The same Capoeira song played ad infinitum, drummers drumming, kickbox-dancers kickbox dancing.

Every 20 minutes or so, the C-gang would quiet down for a few minutes, and I would hear myself sigh. A deep, thankful sigh, as well as an “another round’s around the bend, I just know it” sigh. Then the chanting and drumming would start back up, and I would mutter “meh.” As the hours passed, I would catch myself sighing and meh-ing, swaying to the unvarying beat.

It reminds me of a time when one of my college roommates and I stayed at Bob’s Youth Hostel in Amsterdam. Every morning, Mary and I grabbed a bite in the breakfast room, and man that room was packed. Afterward, we strolled along the Amstel, checked out the Van Gogh Museum and Rijksmuseum, toured Anne Frank’s house, explored the city, miles and miles on foot. When we returned to Bob’s Youth Hostel in the evening, the same people would be sitting in the same seats in the same breakfast room. And the next morning? Same people, same seats. A scene right out of Groundhog Day.

Each night from our bunk room, Mary and I heard a guy on the balcony strum a guitar. When I say strum, I mean he ran his thumb down the nylon strings, rinse and repeat. The guy thumbed his one-strum non-tune for hours on end.

Meh, I said to Mary as I stared out the window from my upper bunk.

What does “meh” mean, Mary asked.

It means “sweet baby Jesus, if that strumming doesn’t stop soon I’m going to jump off the balcony and take that guy with me.”

That’s what I thought it meant, Mary said.

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