As soon as we got to Amsterdam, Jim took me over to a "cracked" house he knew about, and introduced me to the five or six people who were living there. For Free! Like, NO RENT! And what a colorful cast of characters it was.
I immediately became great friends with Bob Regan, a long-haired Irish-American hippy, a few years older than me, who had recently graduated from art school in New York. Bob had a wonderfully outgoing personality and he seemed to be friends with everyone in Amsterdam. He kind of took me under his wing and began introducing me all around.
Their was a German hippy there, who kept talking about "wampires". And there was a South African white guy with a big black beard. He was all of twenty-six or seven, and seemed extremely grown up and mature in my twenty-one year old eyes. He looked and acted like some kind of communist revolutionary, but, come to think of it, all he ever seemed to be doing was trying to bed the various young hippy girls who were floating through.
I mean, this place was FUNKY. The winter was coming on (the canals had frozen) and all we had was a little oil burning stove for heat. The guys had brought in a working toilet and sink, and actually, sort of, made the plumbing work. (It must have been so horrible, that I seem to have blocked out any memory of it.) And for electricity, they ran an extension cord out to a street lamp. Talk about a fire hazard! We also, very carefully covered all the windows with newspaper, so no one would know we were there at night.
I think one of the most exciting things about living in a new place, where nobody knows you, is that you can re-invent yourself. I had never told any of my friends that I was gay. I had felt compelled to carefully, and painfully, hide it for many years. But I felt so liberated in this exotic setting, and so comfortable with my new friend, Bob Regan, that I just immediately came out and told him. It felt so great not to have to hide anything. Finally, I could really be myself. And of course, Bob, who was straight, was completely accepting of me. He said, cool, tomorrow night I'll take you to these two huge gay dance clubs called the D.O.C. and the C.O.C. And he did......
(to be continued......)