David Rich 1000 Words
W H O R E M E M B E R S A M S T E R D A M?
Did you miss the Sixties, or can't remember them? Then jet off to Amsterdam, the world's permanent museum for sex, drugs and rock & roll. If you want to relive the olden days in depth, rent an apartment for a month, kick back and relax like a wet noodle.
Amsterdam isn't only narrow buildings with quaint Dutch tops sprouting hooks for hoisting contraband into attics above ubiquitous coffee shops serving no coffee whatsoever. Though technically illegal, all grades of marijuana are available in every coffee shop for $6 to $8 a gram. The quality is good enough so that if you choose, you won't remember a single day of an entire month in Amsterdam.
Famous coffee shops include The Bulldog, copycat Bulldogs and their progeny. Three coffee shops named Bulldog occupy a single block in the red light district. However, the Amsterdam drug scene offers many exotic alternatives to common-as-dirt pot, which is readily available everywhere outside fundamentalist religious states, including within any prison on earth.
Many seize the Amsterdam opportunity to try mushrooms, which range from $15 a dose for Mexican to Hawaiian for $22. However, don't depend on so-called magic mushrooms for psychedelic fireworks. We tried Ecuadorian and Hawaiian, which used up two lovely afternoons of what can be best described as elevated sensations, but no visuals. Mushrooms can be bought only in smart shops, not in coffee shops. For mushroom-shopping ease, Amsterdam offers almost as many smart shops as there are coffee shops.
Those tiring of pot and mushrooms may sample absinthe, the green fairy, so-called for its pale green color. Absinthe ranges from fifty to eighty per cent alcohol with an even more active ingredient of wormwood, perhaps preventing malaria from taking root in Holland. Dilute the absinthe with a speck of water to taste, resulting in a classic milky concoction characteristic of all anise-based libations. Naturally, a beverage this interesting is illegal most everywhere outside of Holland, so carpe diem (pluck the day like ringing a bell).
Mobs of tourists flock to the red light district where scantily-clad ladies pose in picture windows. These famous picture-windows are bathed in rosy light and framed in red drapes in case someone mistakes the profession of their bikinied occupants. The ladies range from the amazingly gorgeous to over-the-hill and overweight maiden aunts awaiting the occasional gourmand who dotes on super-sized women. For those who dislike dead sex shows, there are plenty of the live kinds offering to massage most mainstream fantasies. For those out of the mainstream, proceed to the nearest red picture window.
Those who've cruised Amsterdam's vibrant club scene for too many late nights, finally tiring of sex, drugs, and rock& roll, can switch to Amsterdam's more mundane tourist alternatives. The number one attraction, after mind-numbing shopping, is the canals that encircle Amsterdam's center like a loop de loop. Canals are plowed by a fleet of tourist boats, which are often too long for the ninety degree turns required by intersecting canals, resulting in canal-side tourists gawking down at jam-packed tourist boats scraping around the tight corners of tourist canals. Tourism at its finest.
The canals are criss-crossed by umpteen bridges over which bike the most gorgeous blondes in Christendom, many of whom are female. Some of these ladies wear skirts shorter than Lady Godiva, which provides an inexpensive diversion for the ordinary tourist, until thwarted by the wife. Now, Harry. Stop that staring. That's plain rude. The poor guy will never be allowed near a red picture window.
Gay Pride week filled Prinzengracht Canal with wall-to-wall boats floating in a log-jam along kilometers of unending street parties. Many boats were filled with guys in pink costumes with poufy tails, or gentlemen in pink, blue and yeller hair with suspect bosoms, or guys in gold shorts, orange crowns, and pants stuffed with salamis, or gentleman cowboys in ten gallon pink hats with leather thongs, corsets and crinolines, choices to behold. The adjacent street parties featured beat-clashing bands pounding out jaw-crunching beats all the way down to Rembrandtsplein, the center of gay life in Amsterdam, where the Night Watch has been rendered in bronze figures.
During much of 2006 Amsterdam celebrated the 400th anniversary of Rembrandt's birth, presenting exhibitions of his sketches, etchings and paintings while refurbishing the Rijksmuseum, which displays his most famous works. It's also worth while checking out the narrow Rembrandt House Museum where he lived from 1631 until his death in 1669. But he knew nothing about drug or rock & roll, and had perpetual problems with women after the death of his first wife, the usual male problems with sex.
Amsterdam was full of kitschy Dutch stuff and free diversions, such as the tango festival in Vondelpark with oodles of dirty dancing, the quaint Dutch village and windmills relocated a few miles outside Amsterdam, plus the largest earthly markets for cheese and flowers. Amsterdam remains one of the world's most comfortable cities with the least big city traffic, great ethnic restaurants such as the Lebanese, Brazil, Turkish, and Chinese near my apartment, plus the usual wooden shoes and lots of other stuff I simply can't remember.
When you go: You can fly directly to Amsterdam from practically anywhere in the world, for peanuts from within Europe and from $300 roundtrip from the States, more realistically near $1000 from outside NYC and Miami. Naturally the most atmospheric place to stay is The Hemp Hotel, 70 Euros for a double with shower ($90). See http://www.hemp-hotel.com. If you'd prefer an apartment for a month see www.alexandersapartments.com. One bedroom apartments cost 1375 euros ($1800) a month and up. For other attractions see www.rijksmuseum.nl, www.rembrandthuis.nl, www.amsterdam.info/red-light-district/, www.amsterdam.info/coffeeshops, and www.amsterdam.info/smartshops. If you missed the Sixties or don't remember them, check out www.sixties.net .