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.
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.
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.
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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.