It's raining now and for some reason I'm remembering our trip to Amsterdam. We stayed in a studio apartment on the Dam Square. The location was great: we were on the top floor and from our window we could look straight across at the Royal Palace and below us was the square. The only hitch was that the building didn't have an elevator, which meant we had to drag our suitcases up six floors, and when we went out, we had to make sure we had everything we needed for the day. There was no going up and down to get the bottle of water you forgot.
I thought Amsterdam was wild. I don't know how other places in Holland are, but Amsterdam had a hippie-San-Francisco-in-the-70s feel. Maybe it was the pot and sex that were easily available. Clearly there were many young tourists who were in Amsterdam for those things. The older tourists like us took the canal boat tours, and went to the museums (Anne Frank's House, Rijsk, Van Gogh, and Remembrant's House). And because it's part of the tourist thing to do, we walked to their Redlight District, which was near the Dam Square.
I've seen some blatant sex-for-sale in Manila, but nothing like that in Amsterdam. Prostitution there had always been around - isn't it the oldest profession after all? - and it became legalized in 2000. The women display themselves in rooms, more like cubicles, with glass windows. The area had a lot of red lights flashing, and loud dancing music, and cigarettes, and men stumbing about drunk, and a strange creepy kind of energy. It was Lauren who couldn't stand being there and quickly steered me away from the place. But I saw enough. There the women were, in these little tiny rooms, standing, dancing, performing to the passersbys, hoping to get some business. There were older women, young women, pretty ones, ugly ones. Some of them didn't even look like prostitute-material.
I felt sad for them and wondered if they'd get AIDs, or pass this on to countless men. And I wondered what prostitutes do when they become too old for this kind of work. And I wondered if they didn't get bored doing this every day. And what if the guy was a real weirdo? And what if...?
The saddest sight was a pretty Eurasian young woman; we guessed she was Dutch and Indonesian. She looked any where from 19-27, with long black hair, petite and stunning. She was dressed in something scanty, I forget now, all I recall was that she had a very nice figure. There was some music she was dancing to, and she was really quite graceful and attractive, and she was moving in a kind of classy way, doing her thing, advertising herself, and quickly some man entered her small room, and the drapes were drawn close.
I felt very sad for her, felt she could have been a model or an actress with such good looks, felt she could have done something more with herself. And I wondered what makes women settle for that kind of life.
There was something about the rain today that made me think of her again, and I hope she's all right.