Amsterdam Journal Day 1: Fancy cabs and Fetishes

So after thirty years of waiting and many times passing through Schipol airport, I finally get to visit the storied city of Amsterdam.

We landed at 9 a.m. on a warm, humid Sunday and caught a cab – one of the “fancy cabs” you’re not supposed to take. Ours was a Tesla with futuristic pop-out door handles. For such an ultra-modern car, its radio was incredibly out of date. “Summer Lovin’” from Grease was playing when we first got in.

Oh-ooh-oh those summer nights.

This led to Billy Joel’s “Uptown Girl.” Chalk up another surreal European arrival on par with the Minsk one set to Smashmouth.

It was 50 Euros for that fancy couple-mile drive to the Renaissance Hotel Amsterdam in the city center. The hotel’s pretty good, aside from the lobby constantly smelling like hard-boiled eggs. It’s near the canals and a mile or two from all the museums. Our room was miraculously ready at ten in the morning, which encouraged me to throw myself onto the bed while my husband Nick and his friend went out for some sight-seeing. When I regained consciousness, Nick and I headed out again to ooh and aah at all the beautiful architecture and shudder at the tons of trash littering the streets.

Like rabbit-shaped dildoes and the smell of pot smoke, it's everywhere.

Such a beautiful place, and people treat it like a garbage dump. It reminds me of when I went to Paris, how the streets were covered in dog dookie. Ah Paris, the city of romance… Well in my book, nothing kills romance faster than slipping on a fresh crap.

Anyway, we found ourselves in the docklands and stopped at the Delirium cafe for a beer. The bartender was kind of a wiseguy, but he did steer us toward some pretty good local beers (ironically done in an “American” craft style). We sipped under scudding clouds, watching boats drift by.

Hello Amsterdam. Let's get to know one another.

Beers imbibed, we set off looking for food, walking down narrow streets among tall, leaning brick buildings. This vertiginous architecture is apparently done on purpose. The three and four-story homes are very narrow and don’t come with furniture-accommodating staircases, so hundreds of years ago Amsterdam-ites (Amsterdamians?) slapped sturdy beams with hooks on them onto the tops of the houses to use as hoisting mechanisms.

This allowed them to lift their furnishings to the top floors without breaking any windows. Despite its totally practical nature, the bending, swaying buildings have got to add to the psychedelic experience so many weed-smoking visitors have when they come here.

No, the builders were not smoking weed.

Anyway, looking for food, we ended up in the Red Light district, which was swarming with tourists, despite its many signs featuring people performing live sex acts. You can almost hear the third graders now: “Dad, what’s a banana show?” (That I get. What I want to know is what the hell’s a “writing show?” A naked woman sitting at a laptop and staring glumly into space?)

Naked people on parade.

Of course the legal prostitution is the other most-anticipated feature of Amsterdam and people can’t wait to see the prostitutes in the windows. Funny thing is, it’s actually the opposite of sexy. Sure, they’re there, but most of them aren’t trying very hard to be alluring. You pass by and all you see are a bunch of bored girls in lingerie, chit-chatting with one another or looking at their phones. Nothing sexier than watching someone play Angry Birds in a thong.

I could mainline that peanut sauce.

We walked the length of the main Red Light street but decided a live sex act was unlikely to do much for hunger pangs so we went to an Indonesian restaurant where they serve Rijsttafel, a kind of Indonesian tapas with things like coconut rice, chicken satay and fried fish. Satay seems to be huge here, btw. Almost every restaurant, no matter what they served, seemed to throw a little satay on the menu.

It was ten pm by the time we were done but the streets were still thronged with people. It happened to be the last day of Pride so there were all kinds of colorful types out and about, but we didn’t get to enjoy the scene. Jet lag crept up on us and forced us back to our egg-scented hotel.

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