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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Amsterdam - Fate of the Red Light District

Fate of the Red Light District
Bruce Louis Dodson

An excerpt from:

            It was a long flight - three flights: From Seattle to Vancouver and then Frankfurt, finally Amsterdam. I took the tram from Schiphol Airport into Central Station, just 4 stops away. Short conversation with woman on the train. She's forty something, been around, Intelligent. Now lives in Italy, but born in Amsterdam and lived here 20 years. We talk about our country's: art, and politics, and Amsterdam.
             It used to be so much more, she says. They allowed small areas where people could do what they wanted as long as in did not harm anyone else. There were a lot of artists. People were happy. We enjoyed life. It was easy here, relaxed, you know? Now it's all about money . . . and laws. The politicians keep on passing more new laws. Now things are so expensive. Artists can't afford a place to work. It's changed.
            Change is the reason why I'm here. There have been articles in newspapers and magazines about the city cleaning up its Red Light District, an attempt to escape Amsterdam's sex and drugs image. The Red Light District is a small, canal laced grid that spans about five city blocks or less, and is a tourist magnet. Hard to believe it's coming to an end. Sex and drugs are Amsterdam's  Eiffel Tower, but I can see their point as this is not the most attractive thing for a great city to be noted for.
            It's interesting though, as prostitution's legal in Las Vegas, Thailand, Germany, Australia and so many other places. It was made legal here in Amsterdam in 1830, but was easily available before that time, ignored by the authorities. Then someone had a brilliant thought - let's make it legal. We can tax the income, (19%). Prostitution's more discrete in other places, but in Amsterdam it's right out front. It isn't going to disappear, the same for marijuana which is easily available at any U.S. inner city high school, and becomes more legal in the States each day - medical now, but that will change. Weed will create a flood of tax money for States now close to going bankrupt.
            The Italian and me go our separate ways at Central Station. My hotel is in the Red Light District, a short walk. Already I see major changes. They have dug up the canal in front of where I'm going to stay. Huge rusting metal girders stab up from the water like spilled soda straws, and they've destroyed two of the bridges crossing the canal. What's left of the brick sidewalk's has been covered with steel plates now dusted with white sand. The trees are gone!

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