(A quick note: I thought typing this was going to be a little more difficult. You see, French keyboards are slightly different from their US counterparts. Nothing major, just enought to make things difficult. For example, "Q" and "A" have switched places, and "M" is next to "L" instead of near "N" like it was meant to be.
However, the cybercafe where I am typing this has a section of computers with American keyboards, because, you know, we're taking over everything. But this means that typing this will be much easier than I anticipated. Now on to Qmsterdqm)
Maybe getting high when you're alone in an unfamiliar and foreign city isn't the brightest idea in the world. At least that was one of the things I kept thinking when my (?) brownie experience was at its most intense.
After spending the morning at the Rijksmuseum (which, by the way, only has three paintings by Vermeer. Granted, that's over 10% of the total Vermeers, but still, you would think the Rijksmuseum would have more...) I decided to head to Amsterdam's famous Red Light District. I wanted to see the Amstelkring (a three-level Catholic Church built into the attic of a house, dating back to when being Catholic was taboo in the Netherlands) and see the prostitutes, and yes, perhaps hire a nice lady's services. That's me: the sacred and the profane. However, I couldn' not find my way to the Red Light District. I kept getting lost. I walked all the way to the train station, would turn back, try another way, but somehow kept missing it. The map I had was no use at all. That's also me: I can't get laid with both hands and a road map.
I walked past a pack of Asian businessmen and thought "I should follow them. I bet they know the way to the Red Light District." Ugly stereotyping, I know. Eventually, I found a street that had a few sex shops and some bars. I looked down to see that the bricks in the road were red and thought "Ah-ha!" It wasn't long after that that I passed the Asian businessmen again. Ugly stereotyping wins out over giving people the benefit of the doubt once again.
Speaking of expectations: I was surprised to see the Red Light District was like the "bad" section of any other town, by which I mean filled with stores, bars, hotels, etc. For some reason, I thought it would just be whores and nothing buyt whores. The first tip-off was the number of female tourists I saw. What were they doing here? Somehow I just envisioned lonely, creepy men (present company excluded) prowling the area. The other surprise was the scarcity of whores on the main streets. Where were they? I had thought I would see hundreds of display windows, like Saks at Christmas, lining the streets, an automat of flesh. Nope. Where they were, of course, was on the side streets, the little alleyways so easy to overlook. Here you didn't see too many female tourists.
Long story short: Nope, I didn't partake. There are a couple of reasons. One: there were a lot of empty windows. I was there in the late afternoon, which I suppose is the shift change. It's kind of like trying to catch a cab in New York between 5:00 and 6:00 in the afternoon. Perhaps there's a saying here: "As futile as trying to get laid in Amsterdam at 5:00."
Another reason: Every girl I saw look like...a whore. Would it have killed one of them to put on a nice Catholic schoolgirl uniform? I don't know why, but the uniformity of their look was disappointing. I thought they might be dressed different ways, according to different tastes. Maybe a nun's habit, or Xena, Warrior Princess, or perhaps the Williams Sisters, complete with tennis raquets.
But the main reason I didn't hire anyone was the "magic" brownie I had eaten an hour before was kicking in, and my God, I was messed up. I had bought a brownie, either pot or hash, the clerk wasn't too clear, at a coffeeshop while looking for the Red Light District. He asked if I wanted medium or large. I went with medium, and if that was medium, all I can say is thank God I had the sense to avoid the large.
So...I began to feel trapped in the Red Light District. Literally. The streets are narrow and the buildings on either side seem fairly tall, forming a solid wall. I began to see it as a maze from which I couldn't find my way out. Streets opened onto other streets, little sunlight filtered its way down, and everyone seemed to be wandering around, lost. I had come here looking for a church and for sex, and now I was trapped, wandering endlessly in a maze as punishment. It seemed (at the time) too perfect.
After what seemed like hours of walking, but were in fact only a few minutes (I know this because I checked my watch on average of twice a minute, astonished that time was taking so long, and then became worried that looking at my watch so often made me look suspicious), I finally found my way out of the maze. I used the sunlight I saw shining in another part of Amsterdam as my beacon. I approached a town square filled with people, surrounded by cafes. I could hear a man in the center who was louder than the rest. "He's preaching from the Bible" I thought, and the incredible thing was: he really was preaching from the Bible. When high, you make all sorts of assumptions that turn out to be completely wrong, so it's always a pleasant surprise to discover you're right...
(to be continued. Don't worry everyone - it turns out okay. I'm writing this in Paris with all my facilities, so you know the story has a happy ending. Speaking of assumptions that turn out to be right: yes, French waiters are as rude as everything you've ever heard.)