On the Lamb: Amsterdam 2012 (Part Negen)
The Bloggist Is Away

It was now early evening in Amsterdam. Despite this being only our second day, we would already be leaving the city by next morning.

Given our short visit, we stupidly packed a lot of activities into the previous day. Having learned something of a lesson from that disaster, we programmed this day to be less brisk. So far, we found some cheese and non-weed, and then ended up here at the Damrak.

My girl-beard, Joanne, and I were still wandering around the Damrak, counting down the hours to our imminent departure. The city had been really good to us and we didn’t want to leave. Also, how could we go without first seeing real prostitutes?

They should be just a bit further from the condom store…

The two of us continued on like genuine out-of-towners. The streets were getting busier and narrower when we took a turn to find a rather stunning church. My stupid tourist instinct kicked in and I started taking photos, noticing shop windows to one side that seemed a bit unusual…

Those lights are of a strange primary color… [thanks, Wikimedia]

I recalled the tourist literature that I read coming in: Oude Kerk (i.e. ‘Old Church’) is a certified Amsterdam peculiarity, as it is a place of worship surrounded by the city’s largest and best-known red light district, De Wallen. I also remembered the accompanying warning: photography is discouraged within De Wallen at the risk of being roughed up by local muscle.

Please don’t kill me. I haven’t seen the prostitutes yet!

In our defense, it was still a long way to sunset; the red lights were hard to see. Nevertheless, I told Joanne that we needed to get out of there quickly. She told me that she’d protect me from trouble by claiming to be my beard…

And by showing the local enforcers this picture.

Later in the evening, through a tour guide, Joanne and I learned that De Wallen could possibly be one of the safest places in Amsterdam, crawling as it was with undercover police and security cameras. Not only that, De Wallen was a veritable buffet for sexual tourists, connoisseurs and deviants – there’s plenty for everyone. Having just called it a buffet, I’m required to describe it in blogger-speak (needless to say, it was heavenly):

‘To die for… literally! LOL! Seriously, I’m dead. LOL!’

De Wallen is several blocks of sex shops, sex theaters, coffeehouses, and – of course – prostitution windows. These windows (glass doors, really) are lit up with red to indicate whether a lady is currently working. Through the glass, the ladies hold office by enticing passersby and negotiating rates. A small room behind a curtain provides the basic amenities for carrying out transactions with a client (i.e. bed, sink). The windowed cabins – prime real estate – are leased from building owners by the ladies themselves. They enter into leasing agreements as independent agents and pretty much work for themselves. It’s just another day at the office, really.

Well, they do work in cubicles…

Window prostitution is only one among several different ways to procure sexual services in Amsterdam. If one were not up to window-shopping, one may opt for escorts or streetwalkers, or one may simply go to brothels.

Seriously, you guys, it’s to die for!

We learned this little bit of knowledge upon visiting the awesomely named Prostitute Information Center. The PIC, true its name, is where one goes to learn about prostitutes. It was founded by a former window prostitute to address fears, taboos, and misperceptions related to the world’s oldest profession (sorry, hunters and gatherers).

During our visit to the PIC, a former escort talked to us over drinks. Being Catholic prudes, Joanne and I were impressed at the candidness by which she (and other Dutch people) talked about the sex industry. It was as if she were describing lunch specials when she told us that the going rate in the area was €50 for twenty minutes of ‘basic’ sex. I wondered what something ‘not basic’ would be like and whether one could upgrade to ‘grande’ or ‘venti with whip’…

‘Special’ gets you ice cream on top. You don’t want the whip. [thanks, Chowking]

Some of you manly men out there are probably raising your eyebrows – TWENTY minutes? Well excuse me… I was merely echoing stats. Based on government studies, in fact, the average transaction lasted but SIX minutes. Please don’t look at me like that with those accusing eyes, manly reader… allow me to clarify: Amsterdam prostitutes are very efficient. Not only are they professionals who consummate, but are also consummate professionals. Because the rate is pretty much standard, they stand to gain higher income by increasing turnover (i.e. faster transactions) – business as usual. Our hostess also said, with a knowing smile, that men are generally easy to please, anyway.

Just feed them stroopwafels

Well, don’t complain about six minutes not being enough… not ten years ago, weren’t you downloading two-minute porn clips? I didn’t hear you complaining then. Besides, haven’t you ever thought about doing it in sync with Bohemian Rhapsody? I bet you thought it was a nine-minute song, too, didn’t you? I checked: it’s five minutes and fifty-five seconds (giving you five seconds to clean up). Yeah, you’ll get charged non-basic rates for such a request, but at least it’ll seem longer.

Mamma mia! This song is so awesome that it warps time. [thanks, Queen]

You have to appreciate the Dutch government for bothering to come up with prostitution statistics, but you need to realize that it’s also just another business decision. It may indeed be the world’s oldest profession, but it also is the one that is most predisposed to tax evasion. Think about it: no receipts, no credit, no paper trail… it’s all cash. Taxable income can then be estimated from average rates and clients-per-hour, thus making the tax collector’s job easier…

“Give us some of your non-performing assets. Wait, are they liquid?”

The red light tour proved enlightening, leaving quite an impression on me and the girl-beard – but not for the obvious reasons. To an extent, we touched upon the topics with an academic distance, all while girls were working windows not five meters from us. To another extent, the tour humanized the situation very well but strangely free of the judgment and pathos that our Catholic Filipino sensibilities expected. Our hostess proved not only candid but also rather astute, especially during the Q&A that followed. We learned that Dutch authorities legalized prostitution with the aim of ‘harm reduction’ – it would be better to just have it out in the open, where it could be regulated, rather than inevitably encouraging a seedy underground for something that has proven impossible to stop, anyway. They made such concessions to achieve what they believe would be something close to a win-win situation. In this regard, she said, people often thought that the Dutch are permissively liberal, particularly on drugs and prostitution. Not so, she pointed out… they’re merely being pragmatic. They couldn’t be called ‘liberal’ when prostitution still carried a stigma in Dutch society, which also frowned upon ‘soft’ drugs. These things were legal, she concluded, only for the fact that they were tolerated – but whether for a lesser evil or a greater good… who knew? I thought – to hell with E.L. James… there’s always been more than fifty.

Honestly, screw this. You’re better off with FOOD PORN. [no thanks, ELJ]

On our way back to the hotel that night, Joanne and I were discussing how great it would be to live in Amsterdam. It had simply been an amazing two days. I, for one, was already sold on the weed and prostitutes.

“I like drugs and prostitutes,” I said.

“The walk didn’t feel long tonight,” she said, ignoring me.

“You seem to have found the hotel easily, too… good on you!”

“It’s easy to spot. I mean, it’s right next to Amsterdam’s most famous bridge.”

One pronounces ‘Magere Brug’ properly by using only tonsils.

“It seems kind of underwhelming, now that you mention it. I know it’s called the ‘Skinny Bridge’, but…”

“It’s an historical drawbridge,” she pointed out.

“It’s small, though. It kind of looks like a stunt ramp,” I replied.

“At least it’s hard to miss that when it’s all lit up like Christmas.”

“It looks better than it did this morning, for sure. Hmm… what do we do now?”

“Dude, did you even have to ask?”


NEXT STOP: Paris. See you again soon, good reader.

If you want to jump to the Paris write-ups, please click here.

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If you want to rewind back to the start of the Amsterdam write-ups, please click this instead.

If you want to go through past TRAVEL pieces, please go here.

If you want to visit stuff about FOOD, please go here.

Categories: [culture], [travel]

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