Thinking Out Loud

August 30, 2018

The Red Light District

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:28 am

Captions and pictures by Ruth and Paul Wilkinson

I think I promised I would get back to this topic concerning our 3 days in Amsterdam.  In some respects there isn’t much to say. Two decades of internet porn have probably dulled the senses of many clients.

One thing I definitely won’t forget is the two young guys who stood at the door negotiating the (fixed) price with a girl and then headed off to find an ATM. Because if you’re there, that’s what you do, I guess. Hard to imagine, but then again, we were standing right there and saw the conversation.

If I were to define the epicenter of Amsterdam’s Red Light District, it would probably be this alley, which doesn’t look like much by day, but is very active at night.
The guy in the green shirt was in the alley quite a while, moving between two positions. Security, no doubt. The women rent their rooms and pay taxes for their work. They don’t have pimps. After dark, we saw glimpses inside. The rooms looked about 10′ deep and contained a bed, a sink and two lockers marked “Day Shift” and “Night Shift”. There were about 25 doors in this alley.


I was expecting the Red Light District to be differentiated from the surrounding area, but starting from the epicenter, it somewhat bleeds out into the broader commercial district with no defined border. Or grand archway. Or welcome sign. A metaphor perhaps for how sex culture or porn culture has blended into broader Western society.
Mostly in the evening, some in the afternoon, these lights are on (dozens of doors. I don’t know how many.) and inside, women of all ages stand dressed in their ‘working’ clothes, posing and waiting for someone to approach the door and ask, “How much?” to which the answer is 50 Euros. Hence the ATM. If the curtains are open, they’re taking customers. If closed, they’re either off duty or busy.


The Union headquarters. It’s a business. It’s taxable income for those in the trade. Some have been plying that trade for a long, long time, or to put that another way, I (Paul) only saw one woman who by my personal scale, I would consider genuinely attractive.


“Prostitution Information Centre, A Place To Talk.” With tour times listed.
We actually passed through the Red Light District on three occasions. The first was on a Monday night, which was understandably not as busy as what we would have seen on a Friday or Saturday night.
It was actually devoid of activity before we went to supper. Things start picking up into the evening, but in July, sunset is quite late, so we didn’t really see it at “nighttime.”


Hangover Info Center. Advice for when it’s too late. During the day, families were strolling around here but after supper, it was all adults. The families were elsewhere.
Each “storefront” has three doors, with this one being the exception. And yes, just in case there’s any doubt on behalf of anyone, there are red lights over each door.


Coffee Shop. Except they don’t serve coffee. Cannabis is not actually legal in Netherlands, but these shops are tolerated by the law as long as they don’t cause trouble, don’t sell to minors, keep their stock levels below a certain level, only sell so much at a time…
Before we left for Europe friends suggested we might get high just walking through the Red Light area, but actually the coffee shops are city-wide. (If you want actual coffee you look for a café, not a coffee shop.)
For my Canadian readers who think Tim Horton’s has saturated their city or town, there were four of these Bulldog locations in a single block in the actual Red Light District.
Sitting on the front balcony of the shop, a group of about six probably underage customers were experimenting with various devices and substances. All out in the open. San Francisco in the ’60s all over again.


When we were trying to find the district, this church tower seemed to be in the right direction, according to the map. Interesting frame of reference. And, yes. Definitely the right neighborhood. But what a contrast. Two different worlds. The church was closed after the early evening. Were they having much salt and light influence in the area? We don’t know. But, hey! Organ recitals!


…Were you looking for something a little edgier, perhaps. Okay. Here’s what it looks like when an actual client is walking by the actual windows: Click.

August 14, 2018

Diary of an Anne Frank Tourist

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:33 am


I have not read the book. My wife had, and before leaving for Amsterdam, she purchased tickets for us to tour the memorial site and the actual house where Anne Frank and her family lived before being discovered and then transferred to concentration camps.

For my wife, an unusual revelation was that the original diary is plaid, something she just never pictured, as captured in the cover for this, as well as the 60th Anniversary Edition.

I have however read the book and seen the movie for The Hiding Place, which has many similarities (and one striking difference) to the story in Diary of a Young Girl. Were we ever to return to Amsterdam, I would consider taking the train to Haarlem to see the clock and watch shop where that story played out, not really that far from where we were.

Groups are admitted about a dozen at a time. We’re given an audio tour guide, which sometimes triggers automatically when you enter a key area, at other times you need to point it at a designated mark on the wall.

The focus is the adjacent house. The house where Anne kept her diary. The house where her family lived. The house they were unable to leave.

Everyone reacts differently, I’m sure, but for me, this was the story which never should have happened. I’m not unaware of what happened in the Holocaust — film footage shown by a first year Sociology professor quickly took care of that — but the horror is never something to which one becomes accustomed. Each story opens it up like a wound that won’t heal.

And I have no skin in this game. No relatives. No immediate friends. Just the brotherhood and sisterhood that unites all humanity and the dawning that all vestiges of humanity and decency were set aside during those war years.

But this is 2018. As I tour the facility, I am reminded that many — not all — of the Protestant establishment of the day went along with Hilter’s initiatives and I can’t disconnect this to the present-day Evangelical support for another head of state. A comparison? In the willingness of Christians to swear unlimited allegiance to a leader whose capacity to lead is at best questionable? If the shoe fits, yes. […sound of people unsubscribing…]

That’s the part that scares me. The foolhardiness of saying, “Well, at least that could never happen today.”

Who’s to say?

There is an eerie silence as people snake through the different rooms of the exhibit. Even the children are relatively hushed. At the end, the tour exits to the street, but I take a different turn, approaching a security guard who seems to be in charge and asking if people are ever physically overcome with emotion.

He’s clear that certainly for Jewish people that is the case, stopping to pray at or near the exit or in the street. There are tears. There is the shortness of breath that goes with emotional overload.

How can they not?

The guard had also worked at another Jewish memorial. The reactions are similar. So why put yourself through that? Why not enjoy your visit doing something fun?

Because people tend to forget. The Holocaust story needs to be told, and it needs to be repeated, and it needs to be repeated often.

This is what happens when a person has both the view that one race is superior to another, and the power to act on that belief.

It ends badly.

Click the individual pictures at top to view full size


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