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Saturday, July 15, 2017

Amsterdam - Room With A View 15 July 2017



 
Room With A View

It is small, but enough. I pack light, the bed is good, and there is a desk. What else does one need for five days in a place like this Dutch Mardi gras. Free breakfast, same as what I eat at home. The staff knows and looks out for me. $350 for five days. The highlight is the window that looks out on the canal and Rossos live sex show. I have never been. I always think about it as a sort of science project, a Jane Goodall thing. But I just can’t bring myself to do it—Been there. Done that.

It was the later 1960’s. I was forty something, on my own and curious in Bangkok, Pat Pong Street. One of three avenues open to any kind of sex you might imagine.I went to one of the ‘Live Sex’ shows, but don’t remember much of it. A woman shot some ping pong balls into the air, then later some snakes were brought out and at the same time I heard to door lock at the entrance of the place. I get claustrophobic behind closed doors and had seen enough. A thing like that changes you. I got up to leave and was stopped by a guy standing at the door.

“No no. Is okay,” he assured me. “No problem.”
“Out.” I just said, out, and he could see I meant it.

That’s the only show I ever saw—part of, but I’ve been curious about Rosso’s. What do they do? I can’t help but wonder. There are lines waiting to get in the place by early evening. Thirty or forty tourists, some in tour groups. Some all female groups. Women giggle in the queue. From inside the show I often hear laughter echoing over the canal.

I got some information today as I was walking behind a pair of middle age tourists. As we passed Casa Rosso a tout standing at the entrance approached them and I stopped to listen as he made his pitch with a heavy Russian accent.

“Four Four couple make sex,” he says. “Smoke cigarette with pussy. Girls write with pussy. 6 p.m. night show is 55 Euros.”

Last year it was 40 Euros. 50 Euros was the listed price for fifteen minuets with one of the window prostitutes, but their prices may have gone up.The couple tells him, maybe later. They will be coming back, but there’s no lack of customers. The show is now on both sides of the canal. The second one is smaller and takes care of overflow, a constant problem. There is a string of colored lights across the canal, from the big show to the smaller one. There is some place selling tickets farther up the canal, and when the lights are green it signals sellers to keep pushing tickets. When the light is red it means, Full Up. The lights are almost always red.


 

     

I can’t imagine what they make. 300 people a day, minimum — times 55 . . .  Fifteen thousand?  More I think.

There are four hooker window to the left of Russo's. I’ve never seen anyone go in, but men are tricky about it. Most kind of loiter around, then jump in, real fast, when they think no one is looking. This is the first year I have seen any of the four windows empty.


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There's a for rent sign on the glass. Eighty Euros for the day shift. Prostitutes have to be licensed, and as licenses expire they’re not renewed. There are fewer every year, but still a couple hundred window workers here.

Last year a wise guy at the hotel bar asked Anna how she could compete sexually with so many professionals around.
She said, “I give my boyfriend more than fifteen minutes.” They never see her comin’.
Sex is the other big draw here. There are dozens of sex shops, for gay and straight, all kinds of devices—costumes.


 
There are tattoo shops, and piercing shops with all kinds of silver adornments, fast food places, coffee shops where you can smoke, but cannot buy.


 
Sports bars and places offering organic drugs, truffles, seeds, and stuff that will improve your sex life— ‘Natural Elements.’ There’s a place selling CBD juice.

 
This started last year, but is more out front now. I don’t know anything about it. The word is nobody really knows that much about it.

                                                                     CBD Oil
Oils with a high CBD content have enjoyed a rise in popularity in the European market. As long as the THC content is no higher than 0.2% in most (but not all) European member states, CBD oil is legal. The surge in awareness and demand has created a large-and unregulated-industry. 

 *          *          *

There are several paraphernalia shops selling bongs that can cost up to a thousand bucks. Who buys these things? I’m talking about businesses on Warmoesstraat, the main drag.

 
There are no places selling pot on Warmoesstraat. The only two I noticed in the entire Red Light area were the Bulldog, and Feels Good. Both of them out of the way enough to be almost out of sight, and making millions. Both shops have two dealers, side by side—like bank tellers. There is always a queue of at least three or four customers waiting, often more, and no purchase less that twenty Euros. Transactions take about four minutes. One does not ask questions, like, What’s good? If you don’t know what you want, get out of the way. Both places crowded, twelve hours a day. 2 dealers X 15 customers X 20 Euros, about 900 Euros an hour X 12 hours…. Something like ten thousand bucks a night.
 
This is getting too long. More on drugs next post.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Amsterdam – Observing the Red Light Day 3— Part 1



It’s my third day here. I’m kind of settled in. I love my room at the Torenzicht. I’ve had the same one every year, for five years — all except the last. There was some kind of booking confusion and I got transferred to another hotel.

The first time I had this room was the most interesting. I’d come back from an afternoon walkabout, charting a cognitive map of things on my first day. The Oude Kirk (Old Church) makes an excellent landmark, it’s very big and everyone knows where it is.

 
Only problem is there are about five of these structures, all of them old and look about the same. One is called, ‘The New Old Church’, I‘ve no idea what the names of others are, but only one is in the center of the Red Light Distinct.

I was standing at the railing of a small porch outside the hotel bar with a guy from England, watching the endless parade of tourists.
 

We fell into an easy conversation: Where ya from? How long have you been here? Stuff like that. He was smoking a joint.  You can’t smoke inside, so people come out here to have a puff or two.

“You want?” He held the blunt out to me. “Good stuff,” he says without breathing.

“Sure, why not.” We talk for ten or fifteen minutes, time enough to take a few drags before going up to my room. The “good stuff” didn’t seem to affect me very much, though I realized I had been more chatty than I usually am. We had gotten down to wives, and pets, and kids before the conversation ended—a standard sort of pot experience.

My room was adequate, if Spartan. Just the bare essentials, two reasonably comfortable single beds and a sink— bathroom and shower down the hall. I start to throw my backpack down on the nearest bed where I’d left the clothes I’d changed from after checking in last night.

I notice the mattress is wet and dump the backpack on the floor, then take a closer look. It’s very wet. In fact, there is a puddle . . . of water. OMG! I'm tripping. This can't be, I tell myself. I did not do this, and no one has been here. I'm only occupant, and the sink is on the other side of the room. Jesus, what have I been smoking? Keep calm, I tell myself. You’ll be okay. Relax. Close your eyes. When you open them things will be back to normal. Things did not go back to normal. I put my hand in the puddle. This is water. This is real water. How did it get here?

At last, a drop splashed in the puddle, coming from the ceiling. Pipe leak in the room above. Thank God. I am still sane. I go down to the bartender and tell him what happened. He says I can get another room and they will pay to launder the wet clothes I’d left on the bed. Seeing an opportunity for free rent I said I would spend the rest of my stay in the ‘wet bed room’ if they would give me two days rent free. He happily agreed.

The Torenzicht’s rooms have been updated since that first year, 2013. My room has been divided into two rooms, each with a single bed, TV, and Wi-Fi. Rent is just a little more than what I paid five years ago. View from my window’s still the best in Amsterdam, in my opinion.

 
View From My Window