Friday, March 24, 2006

Over the Atlantic and the Red Light District

(written yesterday)

I’m over the Atlantic Ocean right now flying home from Amsterdam. I figured that I had some time to get some thoughts down on paper, as I really didn’t do a bang-up job on covering my trip as I went along. I really thought I would have by bringing my laptop along, but it just never happened. It was vacation first for me…

Since I left you on our trip, we finished up seeing the music festival and sought after some much-needed comfort food after our relative failure to find suitable cuisine in Paris. We found the latter by hitting The Pancake Corner right near the Melkweg, the venue housing Jam in the ‘Dam 2006. It was funny how unimpressed we were with Dutch pancakes the second time around, and yet none of us really wanted to admit that. We told ourselves that the pancakes just tasted different this time, but the truth is, after our first successful, warm, and hugely comforting pancake lunch, I just don’t think that the second time around could ever be that good.

After our day of shopping in the Jordan neighborhood, we spent the next day shopping and sightseeing when we hit the Waterloopein Flea Market, a bustling, vibrant flea market that had some really good stuff. Katie ended up picking up a very-cool antique toy bicycle designed in the same Amsterdam bike style that you can see most everyone traveling on anytime of year in their happy, little bike lanes. Our joke was that it always seemed that everyone was so happy in Amsterdam.

All in all, hugely successful shopping was easy in Amsterdam. Hell, you can pretty much buy whatever you want there. Case in point: the Red Light district. After the festival ended, we only had one day left to take in the sights and streets of Amsterdam, so we chose to spend it walking through the Red Light district to a Buddhist temple that we hoped to look around at.

We had no problem locating the Red Light district from Rick Steves’ guide to Amsterdam, but it’s amazing how quickly the Red Light district found us. As you walk towards it, you see coffeeshop, porn, souveneirs, porn, coffeeshop, souveneirs, live sex show storefront, and then BAM!, there are prostitutes half-naked in the storefronts at eye level. Want to walk down a nearby alleyway, not off the canal that we followed towards the action? You’ll see women lined up in stalls—STALLS!—with nothing but a window, a sheet covering the window (to be pulled back when the woman is present), and a doorknob to enter from the street. Cattle is the first word that came to all of us…

We were actually looking for what we pictured in our head: elevated storefronts showing womanly silhouettes with red lights, signs proclaiming “prostitutes are here →,” good-looking women maybe, “professionals” per se, as the state of Amsterdam allows them to be licensed.

Yeah, it wasn’t anything like that…

I have the worst picture in my mind of a prostitute, probably the same French prostitute named Chloe with webbed-feet that spawned Dr. Evil, actually knocking on her glass door towards me. “Who, me?” I think jokingly and then I turn to see who’s knocking. Oh, the humanity. “The goggles…they do nothing!” – McBain

Seriously though, it was gross. This can’t be good for society. How could anyone let stalls of human flesh to be sold in the same style as the Waterloopein flea market we had recently visited? It stings the brain to think of how, why, if, to what capacity, and everything else on the legalized prostitution in Holland. It was quite a sight, certainly entertaining and disgustingly vile at the same time.

We ate a nice, Italian-Turkish dinner and kept refusing to admit that it was our last night in Amsterdam, straight down to the whiskey night-cap we had before bed. Needless to say, my stomach was mad at the decision my brain made, and I’m running on four hours of sleep less than I would normally hope for. I’m sure it’ll catch up to me later once we land with seven extra hours under our belt (kinda), but I’m pleased to be heading home. My vacation, both extremely literal and not so much literal (as I can describe the latter literal soon), is over.

It’s hard trying to wrap up two weeks of vacation, with nearly 2,000 photos to process, organize, and upload and two weeks worth of thinking to get processed. The vacation was a huge culmination of time I needed off, away from Chicago, away from work and the blog, away from the thoughts that tend to bog down our typically day-to-day, and for that, I’m grateful that I’m smart enough to recognize the need for a good vacation every once in a while.

I definitely expect to put more of this down on paper, at the very least just to make sure I have some of our better stories documented, so you might get to read some of that soon. That’s exciting, isn’t it?

Time to finish watching the Dutch-subtitled version of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire while listening to Conspirator…

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