On the Road

On the Road: 2002

Trick or Treat
31 October 2002

I went to Amsterdam this All Hallow's Eve to do some trick or treating. It was great!

In one part of town there were some very generous ladies. Let me tell ya, their idea of a trick was my idea of a treat!

Only kidding. Nothing to report today.

But, while on the topic of the Red Light District, here's a quick tour for you.

Yes, as a normal guy with normal "needs" I confess it is indeed fun to "window shop" and I've "shopped around" a few times. Part of the "charm" is how the ladies take part in the entertainment itself: Some go all out and dress up in nurse outfits, others are in tight-fit garb, while others play the part of the studious girl hiding behind glasses as they intent read fashion magazines. Talk about "window dressing"!

There are those who gyrate and dance with music blaring from their boom boxes. But there are also those who simply stand in the doorway and watch the traffic.

Some are quick to throw out a smile as they invitingly curl their index finger and their lips; the more aggressive ones even open their door and invite you to come in. The less friendly ones chat away on their cell phones, probably with their boyfriends; they clearly couldn't be bothered with business.

On a warm summer's night, throw in a bunch of drunk/drugged men from all corners of the globe staggering through the streets and alleys and talking smack at the top of their lungs, and you've got quite an oddly (and I do mean oddly) festive atmosphere.

What's also strange about the whole thing is how the ladies of the district have seemingly segregated themselves. Or maybe there's a method to the madness and the whole area has been arranged like a department store. In one section: The ladies of Eastern Europe. Another section has Asian ladies, while still another has a bevy of blonde ladies of (presumably) Dutch or Nordic descent. There are also a few pockets with women of color, so to speak.

For those so inclined, there are also the... ummm... "Ample Ladies." And, how do I put this delicately? There are one or two who at least look like men in drag.

While I will be the first to admit there are some stunning ladies to smile at as you pass by, there are also some truly nasty lookin' women. Even for me, some things are still hard to imagine (no pun intended).

They all can pack some attitude. While roaming around, I've seen a few women flip people the bird when they try to take their picture, others simply walk away from the window. Some even post signs: No Photos.

Aside from that limitation, whatever you want is there for the taking (and at least 50 euros). The tease is free.

There are 400 windows/rooms (I'm taking that from a possibly reliable source "on the street," I haven't taken the time to count them all personally). They're all owned by five different guys and they charge the ladies 80-150 euros per 8-hour shift in a room. Doing some quick math in my head (yes, I'm still capable...) it occurred to me even the ugliest of the women could easily make more money in a year than I do. THAT was enough to make me consider a very major career change!

Anyway...

Uhhh...

Where was I?

Oh yeah. Halloween's starting to catch on out here, but it's not all that big yet. What I've missed are all the costumes and treats and goodies in the stores. You folks back home know how they start putting that stuff out in September, after the back-to-school sales.

Perhaps one of the biggest treats I am getting out of this project is a new-found (and growing) capacity for eloquence and diplomacy. Yes, I feel comfortable saying that directly after my Red Light District essay. I have taken part in a couple very nice, low-key conversations that have tip-toed through the scary minefields of corporate politics AND I did not compromise myself along the way. Some of you back home will appreciate the significance of that accomplishment.

This is a growing capacity for eloquence, mind you. I've still got plenty of rough edges. Apparently it takes a while before the miracle of the Blarney Stone takes effect in full. (This is a reference to my trek to kiss the stone last year. Unfortunately, the complete tale is still forthcoming in Elevation 2001: The Lost Chapters since many of my notes are still missing.)

The past few weeks have been exceptionally frustrating. Now these hands that built Mattopia are trying to turn things around and build the World's Largest Lemonade Stand.

Red Light District

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