Monday, November 18, 2019

Amsterdam Journal: Is Amsterdam Bipolar?

Amsterdam is a mix of Atlantic City and Paris. It’s at once garish and tawdry with its head shops and penny ante tourist boutiques, specializing in low-shelf liquors. Then it's sublime, a classic essay in urbanity, with its gilded townhouses running along canals and, of course, museums like the Van Gogh and the Rijksmuseum which are the legacy of the city’s storied past. It turns out that the coffee shops which specialize in cannabis are not just a tourist attraction. Amsterdam may be below sea level but most of the city is high on either marijuana or hashish. Not to mention De Wallen. The famed Red Light district, that a feminist mayor has threatened to close or move, is not just a tourist attraction. There’s no doubt that some locals partake of its pleasures in the way they may smoke a joint. Why not take a little tumble in the hay on your lunch break? These by the way have their own demographic. For instance, there’s a special blue light section which appeals to those who like chicks with dicks or Adam’s apples.You never really know where you are in Amsterdam. You walk down one street to find yourself totally enchanted by the past, only to find one of a chain of tasteful erotic boutiques at the end. One of the most well-known chocolate shops, Ganache, is located right at the center of a surrounding circus of booths in which girls display their wares in windows. It’s like those candies with the cherry center.  Two rules of thumb: #1 you can go Dutch to the Red Light District, #2 you're never going get a ticket for going through this Red Light. But Hi and Lo is not what defines the city. That’s too simple and creates a dichotomy out of something that's more like the left and right sides of the brain, separate parts that function as a whole. Amsterdam is like the cultivated character who has food on his or her face. It wears its heart on its sleeve. And how to explain those intrepid bicyclers, riding day and night in the rain?

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