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Friday, June 30, 2017

Amsterdam Sidebar - Tattoos

I have a question about tattoos. I often see people, sometimes acquaintances, with tattooed letters spelling words I can’t decipher. Is it okay to ask what it says? I spoke with a woman in Amsterdam last year, curious about a hexagram tattooed on her arm, one of those I Ching - - & — things, 6 lines. She had no idea what it meant, something about ‘good fortune,’ she thought. I suspect there are a lot of people wearing tattoos that mean something other than what they think.
I asked some guy at my gym in Sweden where he got his ink—good question, hip. I watch tattoo shows on TV. He seemed pleased to explain.

The whole tattoo thing seems weird to me. What is it when people are convinced ripped jeans are cool, and piercings? I’m eighty this year, maybe it’s my age. Sometimes it seems like I’m the only one without tattoos. Wife doesn’t have one, but our dog does, in her ear.

I’m in Amsterdam tonight; at the Torenczicht Hotel’s bar, watching people, which seems half of what I do here, watching people, noticing tattoos. I’m watching Anna, tend the bar. She’s got the best tattoos I’ve ever seen, these kind of smoky things that go up her arms and disappear into short sleeves. Skulls, strange beings and shapes I can never quite make out— words in script around her neck. I can only see a few of the letters, but they appear to be in English.

Anna’s Romanian, by way of Hungary somehow—but lived here in Amsterdam for years. She speaks 7 languages, English, of course, and Dutch, German, Spanish, Portuguese . I forget the others. I have never seen her fail to communicate with anyone wanting the get a room, or a drink, or how to get to some location. She rides a motorcycle bigger than I am, and wears the best in leather gear, first class, expensive helmet.

It’s 12:30 p.m. and the place is crammed, standing room only and no standing room left. I count over 50 people. Bars open to the public close close at 2. Anna is working alone. I watch impressed as phantom shadowed arms blur into motion, washing glasses, making change, bantering wisecracks, pouring beer, mixing drinks, checking people in, and telling them how to get someplace. She’s poetry in motion, like Tai Chi, but faster.

In the mist of this there’s now a problem with someone’s change, something about how many beers his table had had—a guy in his middle 20’s giving her a hard time, in a friendly, teasing way.
“Ahh, I’m just messin’ with you,” he finally says. “I have a complicated brain.”

“No, I think it's very simple,” she responds. Those close enough to hear crack up.

I’m laughing before she even speaks. You don't tread on Superman's cape, you don't spit into the wind, you don't pull the mask off the Lone Ranger, and you do not mess around with Anna. She has heard it all. Every quip, pickup line, and ‘Oh I forgot to pay,’ line—drunks and stoners. She handles it all with charming expertise born from years of experience.

“I’m going for a nice long ride after work tonight,” she tells me when her shift is near an end. “Then tomorrow do the same thing all over again.”

At 1 a.m. her replacement arrives. She heads upstairs to get her motorcycle gear. Before she leaves I have to ask, ‘What does that say, around your neck?”
“Been here, Done That,” she tells me. We both laugh.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Amsterdam Red Light – 2017 Wednesday – Part 2

Garden Tour

Terry was right. Garden tours listed in the brochure are open to the public at any time—if one knows where they are. I was a bit disappointed having expected something a bit more spectacular. They were nice, quiet, peaceful places to get away from it all, but nothing to write home about.

I only made it to three of them before my bad leg started giving me trouble and I had to give it up. Will try again next year now that I have a list of the addresses.

Saw these on my way home. There are a lot these colorful surprises along the sidewalks of Amsterdam.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Amsterdam Red Light – 2017 Tuesday – Part 1

First day: 

I got my favorite room back at the Torenzicht, overlooking a canal that once hosted a never ending parade of small boats filled with happy tourists and locals having a good time, but no more. The circled window is my room. You can see a temporary, steel retaining wall in the canal at the bottom of the photo.


Reconstruction began in 2014, a major project replacing the canal’s  hundred year old walls. It was supposed to take two years, but is still unfinished.
There has always been a problem with buildings along the canal having a tendency to list. The structures rest on pilings (usually about 16 of them) driven into the ocean floor over a century ago.


Some are very slowly sinking into the sand—have been for years. The pilings can be replaced, but the work is expensive, around 50,000 Euros to repair one piling. Much to everyone’s surprise the buildings started leaning faster as work on the canal progressed. To make a long story short, the construction company went bankrupt and work has come to a dead stop. Boats can no longer pass.
There have been many changes in the Red Light district, not all for the best, in my opinion. There has been rampant commercialization and a ‘clean up’ on Warmoesstraat where a string of world famous coffee houses once hosted thousands of happy vacationers. As leases expired they were not renewed. Some were allowed to become bars where alcohol is sold. Most of the coffee houses have gone out of business or relocated to surrounding neighborhoods where they are allowed to exist.
The Baba was a world class favorite, now moved so far away I’ve never had the energy to go and check it out. I have a problem walking for long distances— bad knee, a 1960s motorcycle accident.


 BABA 2013

   BABA 2015


        What Was BABA – 2017

Now The Grizzly  –  Food & Liquor Company

The Red Light feels uncomfortably commercial now—some good times gone forever, replaced with fast food places, bars, and sex shops. Streets remodeling to make room for tourists who have deeper pockets. An X rated Disneyland promoted by nostalgia for a time and place that was.
My good friend Terry works at one of several Hunter’s coffee shops. What was the best one, here on Warmoesstraat, is now a bar, but Terry works at one in Rembrandtplein, an outlaying neighborhood where marijuana is permitted.



Drugs are not legal in Amsterdam, they are permitted.  A sort of ‘don’t ask-don’t tell’ thing. Should be a fifteen minute walk from where I am, I’m told, but I’m not into walking. I attempt to take a pedicab and learn the cost is 15 euros. This exact same trip cost 4 Euros last year. The pedalers and their rigs are now a company—set rates and rules for what was not so long ago, independent and individual operations with negotiable prices.


15 Euros is a little over 16 U.S. dollars, for what I’m told is a 15 minute walk. But I got lost. Streets here are not in grids. They’ve been laid out in rings with crooked turns and twists between. I arrive at Hunter’s 80 minutes later. My leg is killing me—damned knee.

“So what you up to this time, mate?” Terry asks me.

“I don’t know for sure. I thought I’d go and see the Open Tuinen Dagen, Open Garden Days. A tour. Costs 20 Euros.”

“It’s a rip-off man. You can see all those places free. This place has gone commercial. All about the money. Tourists pay outrageous prices for most ordinary things.”

“I know, but don’t know where any of these gardens are. The tour guide’s being sold by Amnesty International, so maybe not such a bad thing.

End Of Part 1

Part 2 – Wednesday Next

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Amsterdam Red Light – 2017 Sunday – Part 1

The Happiness Project

Went to see Body Worlds today.    €18.oo

Fantastic display on six floors of one of those traditionally narrow Amsterdam buildings, each floor with a different subject. One starts at the top and works their way down. The theme was “Happiness.” A clever idea as the show could easily be a bit morbid, after all these are real, dry frozen bodies of very dead people. There were a lot of teenagers passing though, having an excellent educational moment.

Dry frozen, plastic covered bones, each floor dedicate to a particular area: muscle, organs, etc. Some of the displays were a bit embarrassing. Young girls giggled. Do women always giggle when embarrassed? There is a woman’s tour that goes to the Casa Rosso live sex show across the canal from my hotel window. The lines waiting to get in to the one hour show are long. Giggles echo between the buildings on either side of the canal as tourists wait for admission. I often hear laughter and female screams and shouts coming from inside the show. I have never seen it myself, maybe someday – or not.

A girl called her boyfriend over to look at cut away parts of a vagina and I recalled a line from Cormack McCarthy’s, The Counselor.  “Seeing a thing like that changes you.”
I took special interest in the body parts that worry me, knees, and back, arthritis—all that stuff that happens to us as we age. A prostate gland was on display. It seemed so tiny and fragile to be able to cause so much trouble. I learned its original purpose was to help create sperm. After that it spends its days making men miserable. A number of displays dealt with injuries and illnesses. Alzheimer’s for instance – plaque happens. Scary.  There was a sliced-in-half, long ways penis with a prosthetic implant. Ak! Another of a broken bone with one of those metal plates screwed into it—almost a foot long with 13 screws to hold it. Ouch. An opened up pair of smoker’s lungs was scary.

There were ongoing movies —blood rushing through veins and arteries—clots.  There were free blood pressure test machines. I scored 86/135, a bid high but in the acceptable range.  It was that kind of a week.

One various floors there were sidebar comments on happiness, and what causes or prevents it. ‘50% of our availability is hereditary,’ one display read, ‘40% based on decisions we make, and 10% by environment.’ Interesting.

The bottom floor display was a series of photos, 15 international families posed before a table holding a week’s worth of groceries. A placard below informed viewers of the cost. 12 Euros in India, €275 in Netherlands. America was near the top, but not the most expensive.

Sunday Part 2 Next – I think.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Postcard From Ellie - Out of luck In Oslo - 12 June 2017


Out of luck In Oslo

Well, as the nun said, “This is not good.”
It was raining in Oslo, of course. It’s raining everywhere in Scandinavia. It never stops. It never really rains, it just sort of pisses down intermittently—you never know. If you go out of the house there’s a good chance you will get rained on, but like I said, not too hard. I really don’t mind it on our neighbourhood walks at home.
Well anyway, I was at the contest—ready to go, and it wasn’t raining, but there were a lot of other bitches waiting to go on ahead of me. My turn finally came, and with it—Rain. I could not believe it!  My new hairdo was perfect, combed to perfection, bushed to a golden, copper sheen. Ruined in 2 minutes! I looked like I was trained hard and put away wet. I was so humiliated. Needless to say I didn’t make the cut list.
I’m home and feeling fine now. It’s good to be back and playing with Smoothy, our house cat.  I have my pink ribbon and my little trophy from the other contest—my first trophy. I could do worse.
There are a lot more contests coming up, I just hope the Hollywood gossip rags don’t hear about my Oslo incident . Probably not. When’s the last time you heard about something that happened in Norway?
‘There’s no such thing as bad publicity’, one of the older bitches told me. Whatever.
It’s still raining in Sweden.  Don’t come to Scandinavia unless you were born with gills.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Hustling The Beach

Hustling The Beach

Hustling the Beach at Ipanema

Home \ Travel&Lifestyle \ Hustling the Beach at Ipanema
10th June 2017   Bruce Louis Dodson

Rio de Janerio is an opera stage of mirth and tragedy, outrageous sets: the splendid, grandiose architecture of the rich against a background of favelas, filthy slums that spill down from hills where those immersed in poverty can overlook the blue Atlantic and those fortunate enough live below. As I am walking to the ocean front I pass graffiti sprayed in big red letters on a police station wall. It reads (in English), “To Protect The Rich And Persecute The Poor.”

Cheap candles flicker nervously from cola bottle necks, small altars built along the edges of the sidewalk next to fireplugs, tree trunks. Cigarettes and bits of candy have been left with shiny coins made worthless by this country’s runaway inflation. Of no use except as offerings to ancient jungle spirits who believers hope might help a displaced soul survive another day on city streets.
I have arrived at Ipanema beach this sun-blessed afternoon beneath a Maxfield-Parrish sky. It’s not as crowded as it was this weekend, but the girls are here . . . as always. G-string bathing suits, called fio-dentals, by the locals – dental floss. They don’t leave much to the imagination. Female bathers are kept busy with a constant tugging, pushing, pulling and adjusting to avoid complete exposure.
I have never seen such an abundance of attractive women, and attractive men, as I have found in Rio – ­every race and creed, a multi-cultured sun-tanned universe. All seem to have a free and easy style particular to Cariocas, those who live within this world class city. There is a pervading sense of nonchalance, a friendly unpretentiousness and easy going.

There’s no hurry. Rich or poor, it’s all the same here. Many of the later try to earn a living on the beach. The more successful rent out chairs and umbrellas as others peddle beer and trinkets, straw hats, T-shirts, suntan lotion. There’s a peanut man who leaves small samples of his stock upon the chests of snoozing bathers – bait. He comes back every 30 minutes . . . walking up and down from one end to the other. Someone else sells shrimp kabobs from a red plastic cooler hanging on his shoulder, and cheap plastic glasses to protect against the glitter of the sparkling blue-green sea.
A pair of prostitutes  pass by, one white, one black, both beautiful enough to be in magazines.  One’s caught my eye and points a finger at herself, arching an eyebrow. “Me?”
I look away. Most people know that AIDs is rampant here, but Rio doesn’t like to talk about it. News like that can hurt the tourist industry. They come and go. Pun not unintended.

Walking barefoot, carefree in the frothing surf, I see an older, German couple that checked into my hotel this morning. From some 40 yards away their whiteness has attracted my attention and, apparently, some others. There’s a slender, black skinned boy approaching from their rear, 18 or maybe 20 years of age.  He drops into a crouch and finally, gently, in slow motion, sits behind them, at their blanket’s edge. The Germans are both overweight and unaware, eyes feasting on the white capped waves ahead, or some bronzed beauty . . . maybe lost in thought – the stock market in Frankfurt. Did those papers make it to Berlin on time? The husband notices I’m staring at them, so I point behind his back, at what is going on. He doesn’t get it and does not respond.

Occurs to me the boy might be some sort of tour guide they have with them. As I watch he gently lifts the German’s beach bag up, and sets it down with care beside him, turning so his body is between the bag and unsuspecting couple. He goes through it quickly with one hand and has completed his investigation by the time I’m passing by them, walking backwards now to see what happens next.

The others sitting near enough to see what’s going on ignore the situation. I suppose it’s possible they haven’t noticed, but more likely they don’t want to get involved . . . like me. It’s possible the thief might have a friend to watch his back. At any rate he’s not found anything of value. The tourists must have paid attention to the printed warnings passed out at the airport, and at our hotel:

“Do not wear ear rings, jewelry or expensive watches on the bus.
Do not take anything of value
to the beach.”

 The slender youth returns the tourist’s bag to its original position, then stands and slowly walks away with casual grace.

They have an easygoing style in Rio, graceful nonchalance . . . no hurry.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Postcard From Ellie - 10 June 2016

 Postcard From Ellie

I’m still in Norway. It’s been raining here for two straight weeks, but I’ve kept dry. The Norwegian hounds are nice, but can’t speak Swedish and my English is not that good. Even so I got some good information from a couple of the older batches and won a pink ribbon today. I was classified as, ‘ChampionQuality’, but was not champion, unfortunately. I was 4th from the top and got a trophy which could have been a bit larger in my opinion, but whatever.

I go to Oslo tomorrow for another show.  This will be an even tougher completion, but I’m ready for it. I’ve spent more time on the runway than an airplane, but am having a good time. I look forward to going back home and learning what the cat has done while I was out.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Postcard From Ellie - 9 June 2017

We’re on the road again, three gals on their way to a contest in Norway. I’ve never been there before but heard it’s full of mountains and Norwegians. As you can see we’re having a great time already.