Monday, October 09, 2006

Amsterdam Part I - At Night

After the afternoon in Brussels, we caught an evening train to Amsterdam. We arrived without event – the trip took a little less than three hours via high speed train.

Once settled, we went out that night and walked around a bit. I think we found the only bar in all of Amsterdam that shows American football games, so we stopped in. If it sounds weird that we were vacationing in Amsterdam yet watching American sports on tv, bear in mind two facts: 1., I haven’t watched any television (sports or otherwise) since arriving here in August; and 2., I was traveling with three tried-and-true sports guys. Can’t go wrong. The game was horrendous – someone was getting blown out by somebody else – but it was still cool to catch a game. It might be the only football I watch until I return home just in time for the Super Bowl. But anyway, we left at halftime when the bartenders turned off the game for karaoke. Yeah.

Afterward, we strolled through the red-light district. It’s pretty much just like any other part of any other city, save for the sex shows, hookers in the windows, and cocaine dealers every thirty yards (just like Detroit… ZING!!) .

But honestly, it was just bizarre. First, you have these dudes all dressed up in suits trying to get you to watch live sex shows for the bargain price of E40. My favorite line: “Com’on… you’re not here for the windmills.” He must have a marketing degree. Rumor has it some of the shows have an “audience participation component”, but given my surprising aversion to things like the clap and genital warts, I somehow wasn’t interested.

Now, if prostitution can be done tastefully, Amsterdam hookers don’t know it (I bet you thought I was gonna say something different, didn’t you?). Basically, these girls rent out rooms and windows from a landlord in the red light district. Each window is lit around the frame by red neon or frosted-florescent lights. Behind it, the girls sit on stools in lingerie (or what passes for it). Some read, some do crosswords (probably the Monday editions… let’s be serious), some chat with fellow hookers, and still others give each other cutaneous injections of crack and heroine speedballs in their eyelids. And they just wait. All night. It gives a whole new meaning to “window shopping”.

Then, when some uptight, bottomed-out business exec from Kansas wants to forget about his wife, three kids, and dog named Wrigley, he knocks on the window of his choice , talks business with its tenant, heads in, and closes the curtain. He then pays to contract any number of STDs and severe emotional disorders (if he doesn’t have them already). And so the world’s oldest profession thrives. It’s all very wholesome.

But if, however, you aren’t a horny little bitch looking for sex shows and whores, fun can still be found from any of the 2,000 or so drug dealers who discreetly market their wares by asking you, in code only drug users might know, “want some cocaine? Ecstasy? Charlie?” Imagine the StreetWise vendors in Chicago but selling hard drugs, and that’s pretty much what you have there. Bear in mind, marijuana and hashish are sold legally, and the strong smell of weed wafts from every coffee shop. I’m pretty sure between the dealers in the red-light district and the coffee shops on every corner (kinda like Starbucks, but not), you can get pretty much any drug, any time you want it.

But aside from all that, it’s really a pleasant city at night.

One last note on the prostitutes: a reasonable capitalist might think that since their goods are their bodies (and the services they perform therewith), they might make some effort to offer the best goods possible. Much to the chagrin of men who like attractive women, this is not so. The red-light district is a veritable cornucopia of feminine flesh sharing but one common characteristic: they’re all freakin’ gross!

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