Guns and Frocks

Loving Delta and the Bannermen since 1987


Thursday 21 February 2008

The blurry corner of a building, covered in graffiti, with red lit windows on each wall.

This is my third time in Amsterdam. The first time was on my first trip to Europe, with Rob. Within an hour, we had both decided to stay there for a week. The second time we went, we stayed for two weeks. We had many adventures, but my favourite part was just staying for a long time in a beautiful, alien, old-world city. Shopping, eating, drinking, browsing in bookshops, doing laundry. We did touristy things as well: going to the zoo, cycling in a snowy park, touring the canals, admiring the architecture, visiting museums.

But in those three weeks, I barely noticed the red light district. I remember wandering down a canal once and seeing a few sex workers in windows, but it was daytime and we were just on our way somewhere.

So. I went for a couple of walks last night around my hotel. The first time was to look for somewhere to eat. The second time was to sober up a little before interacting with the hotel reception guy, who keeps your room key behind the desk while you’re out. (What’s with that?) And on my walks, I discovered that my hotel is right in the middle of the red light district.

I’d already seen the women around the corner, just next to the oldest parish church in Amsterdam. There’s a photo. But last night, I walked through many narrow, narrow alleys with dozens of windows on each side. Around them are red fluorescent lights, and inside are ultraviolet lights, which create a shimmery purple glow on the women’s underwear and on their white PVC nurse’s uniforms.

Well, of course, for a gay man brought up in a leafy suburb, this is all very embarrassing. Every time I make eye contact, I’m invited in to join them. And I’m painfully aware how rude it is to pointedly ignore people.

So today I’ve decided to browse some bookshops, do some laundry, and visit a few museums. Just to calm myself down a bit. And after that, maybe somewhere local for dinner.