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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Déjà vu Again – 2003

Subject: Article: Stating the Obvious
Date: Sun, 1 Jun 2003 12:44:07 -0400 (EDT)


"The lunatics are now in charge of the asylum." So wrote the normally staid Financial Times, traditionally the voice of solid British business opinion, when surveying last week's tax bill. Indeed, the legislation is doubly absurd: the gimmicks used to make an $800-billion-plus tax cut carry an official price tag of only $320 billion are a joke, yet the cost without the gimmicks is so large that the nation can't possibly afford it while keeping its other promises.

But then maybe that's the point. The Financial Times suggests that "more extreme Republicans" actually want a fiscal train wreck: "Proposing to slash federal spending, particularly on social programs, is a tricky electoral proposition, but a fiscal crisis offers the tantalizing prospect of forcing such cuts through the back door."

It's no secret that right-wing ideologues want to abolish programs Americans take for granted. But not long ago, to suggest that the Bush administration's policies might actually be driven by those ideologues - that the administration was deliberately setting the country up for a fiscal crisis in which popular social programs could be sharply cut - was to be accused of spouting conspiracy theories.
Yet by pushing through another huge tax cut in the face of record deficits, the administration clearly demonstrates either that it is completely feckless, or that it actually wants a fiscal crisis. (Or maybe both.)

Here's one way to look at the situation: Although you wouldn't know it from the rhetoric, federal taxes are already historically low as a share of G.D.P. Once the new round of cuts takes effect, federal taxes will be lower than their average during the Eisenhower administration. How, then, can the government pay for Medicare and Medicaid - which didn't exist in the 1950's - and Social Security, which will become far more expensive as the population ages? (Defense spending has fallen compared with the economy, but not that much, and it's on the rise again.)

The answer is that it can't. The government can borrow to make up the difference as long as investors remain in denial, unable to believe that the world's only superpower is turning into a banana republic. But at some point bond markets will balk - they won't lend money to a government, even that of the United States, if that government's debt is growing faster than its revenues and there is no plausible story about how the budget will eventually come under control.

At that point, either taxes will go up again, or programs that have become fundamental to the American way of life will be gutted. We can be sure that the right will do whatever it takes to preserve the Bush tax cuts - right now the administration is even skimping on homeland security to save a few dollars here and there. But balancing the books without tax increases will require deep cuts where the money is: that is, in Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security.

The pain of these benefit cuts will fall on the middle class and the poor, while the tax cuts overwhelmingly favor the rich. For example, the tax cut passed last week will raise the after-tax income of most people by less than 1 percent - not nearly enough to compensate them for the loss of benefits. But people with incomes over $1 million per year will, on average, see their after-tax income rise 4.4 percent. The Financial Times suggests this is deliberate (and I agree): "For them," it says of those extreme Republicans, "undermining the multilateral international order is not enough; long-held views on income distribution also require radical revision."

How can this be happening? Most people, even most liberals, are complacent. They don't realize how dire the fiscal outlook really is, and they don't read what the ideologues write. They imagine that the Bush administration, like the Reagan administration, will modify our system only at the edges, that it won't destroy the social safety net built up over the past 70 years.

But the people now running America aren't conservatives: they're radicals who want to do away with the social and economic system we have, and the fiscal crisis they are concocting may give them the excuse they need. The Financial Times, it seems, now understands what's going on, but when will the public wake up?

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

No Man's Land

No Man's Land: Sweden Unveils Girls-Only Festival to Avoid Rape
12:31 03.08.2017(updated 12:34 03.08.2017) Get short URL

The sexual assaults and rapes that have plagued Swedish summer festivals for several years have spurred the authorities into action. A Swedish municipality is poised to arrange a "man-free" festival to avoid any harassment whatsoever, which goes against the grain of Sweden's egalitarian, inclusive and gender-neutral ways, many argued.

© AFP 2017/ Anders WIKLUND / TT News Agency
Sweden Bracing for Another Record Year in 'Festival Rapes'

Earlier this summer, comedian and program leader Emma Knyckare proposed arranging a festival without men amid a seemingly incessant wave of sexual assaults, which earned Sweden, which sees itself as having "the world's first feminist government," the unflattering moniker of "the rape capital of Europe."

"What do you think of holding a super-cool festival where only non-men are welcome and keeping it up until ALL men have learned how to behave?" Emma Knyckare tweeted.
Shortly afterwards, Falkenberg Municipality in Halland County supported the radical feminist idea.
"I've always thought it's an exciting idea," Kristian Fannar of Falkenberg Municipality told the Swedish tabloid Aftonbladet.

By his own admission, Fannar contacted Knyckare and received an answer within only half an hour. According to him, it may be either an open-air or an urban-based festival.
Emma Knycker's initiative spurred mixed reactions. While many celebrated the initiative as progressive and women-friendly, others gave it a hostile reception.

"So all men have suddenly become rapists? All of you women who subscribe to this, do you also think your boyfriends, brothers, dads and grandpas are also rapists? Maybe I shall add 'rapist' to my CV then," a user wrote.
However, artist Linnea Henriksson, who keenly supports the idea, suggested than "man-free" festivals were imperative.

"It's really sad that it's needed," Henriksson said, arguing that a girls-only event is a must for female visitors who want to be treated with respect.
Fittingly, 19-year-old Zara Larsson, Sweden's arguably biggest pop idol of today, who is known for her overtly feminist stance, sparked a controversy earlier this year by openly admitting she was a "man hater."

According to Eva-Maria Svensson, a professor of law at the University of Gothenburg, it is unacceptable of a municipality to arrange — or even support — a festival that specifically excludes half the population.

"A municipality shall treat all citizens equally. A municipality may not discriminate against a particular group," Eva-Maria Svensson told the newspaper Göteborgs-Posten, citing the principle of equality that is universally applicable.
Furthermore, a festival where men are not welcome may face legal problems, as discrimination based on sex is illegal in Sweden.

"According to the Discrimination Act, it's not allowed to treat women and men differently with regards to access to public places," lawyer Eberhard Stüber told Swedish national broadcaster SVT. According to him, women's prisons are an example of substantial reasons for special treatment, whereas organizing a festival does not constitute such.

Previously, Bråvalla festival, which markets itself as "Sweden's biggest music festival" was canceled for 2018 following numerous reports of rapes and sexual assaults. This year alone, four rapes were recorded during the Bråvalla festival, together with 23 cases of sexual molestation, one case of sexual coercion, 13 assaults, 116 cases of minor narcotics offences and 97 thefts, police reported. The 2016 Bråvalla event witnessed the same problems. The organizers lamented their decision to cancel next year's festival, blaming "certain men," who "apparently cannot behave."

All in all, about 20 rapes and 90 sexual assaults have been reported at Swedish summer festivals so far this year, with a unpredictably high number of unreported cases.

The Truth

Brilliant man with boring voice delivers spot on words.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017


One of the best. Turn the sound up. You don’t even need to know French.


Come along, Milord!
Sit at my table;
It is so cold, outside,
Here it’s comfortable.
Relax, Milord
And make yourself at ease,
Your troubles on my heart
And your feet on a chair
I know you, Milord,
You’ve never seen me,
I’m just a girl from the docks,
Just a shadow of the street…
Yet, I crossed you,
While you were passing yesterday,
You were so proud,
God! The sky made you perfect:
Your silk scarf
Floating on your shoulders,
You were so beautiful
You could have been mistaken for the king…
You were walking victoriously
A woman on your arm,
My God! … How beautiful she was…
It makes my blood run cold…
Sometimes it’s just enough
For there to be a boat
To make everything fall apart
When the boat leaves…
It brought away with it
The sweet girl with the tender eyes
Who didn’t understand
She was ruining your life
Love, makes one cry
And life
Gives you all your chances
To take them back afterwards…
Come along, Milord!
You look like a kid!
Relax, Milord,
Come into my kingdom:
I heal remorse,
I sing romance,
I sing about milords,
who are unlucky!
Look at me, Milord,
You’ve never seen me before…
…But…You’re crying, Milord?
That…I would never have believed it!…
Ah, well, there there, Milord!
Smile at me, Milord!
…Better than that! A bit of effort…
There we are!
Come along, laugh, Milord!
Come along, sing, Milord!
Yes, dance, Milord!
La-la-la… Bravo Milord!
La-la-la… Encore Milord! … La-la-la…


Stockholm – Summer 2017     Photo by Madison Kutuhn

Ha! So happy. Got rejections for a group of poems I thought sure would be accepted— at least one . . . Three month wait.   Then this, six hours later, made my day.

Dear Bruce:
Congratulations! Your work, Seeking America, will appear in the 2017 issue of So It Goes: The Literary Journal of the Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library.
You will have the opportunity to read/display/discuss your work at our journal release event on Saturday, November 11, 2017, at noon at the Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library, 340 N. Senate Avenue, Indianapolis. This event is part of our annual VonnegutFest, so you may want to check our website at (updates coming soon) to determine other interests you may have during those days. We know you are living in Sweden, so it may not be possible to travel. While we cannot pay for anyone’s travel or a speaking fee, we will provide you with a free copy of the 2017 issue, whether you are able to attend or not. This will be shipped in late November.
Let us know if you plan to attend in November.

Thank you, again, for submitting your work to us. It was a pleasure to review such diverse and interesting material.
All the best,

Monday, July 31, 2017

Alexis de Tocqueville


This taken from Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America (1835). He spent nine months touring towns and cities. During his tour, the aristocratic Tocqueville was impressed by the fact that American Democracy actually worked. He wrote:

"There is one thing which America demonstrates invincibly, and of which I had been in doubt up till now: it is that the middle classes can govern a state. I do not know if they would come out with credit from thoroughly difficult political situations. But they are adequate for the ordinary run of society. In spite of their petty passions, their incomplete education and their vulgar manners, they clearly can provide practical intelligence, and that is found to be enough."

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Milan Kundera

Interesting. This is part of an old article, taken from Paris Review, I think.


Afterword. A Talk with the Author of “The Book of Laughter and Forgetting”
   Milan Kundera: Take the other theme of the book, forgetting. This is the great private problem of man: death as the loss of the self. But what is the self? It is the sum of everything we remember. Thus, what terrifies us about death is not the loss of the future but the loss of the past. Forgetting is a form of death ever present, within life. This is the problem, of my heroine, in desperately trying to preserve the vanishing memories of her beloved dead, husband. But forgetting is also the great problem of politics. When a big power wants to deprive a small country of its national consciousness it uses the method of organized forgetting. 
  This is what is currently happening in Bohemia. Contemporary Czech literature, insofar: as it has any value at all, has not peen printed for twelve years; 200 Czech writers have been proscribed, including the dead Franz Kafka; 145 Czech historians have been dismissed from their posts, history has been rewritten monuments demolished. A nation which loses awareness of its past, gradually loses its self. And so the political situation as brutally illuminated the ordinary metaphysical problem of forgetting that we face all the time, every day, without paying any attention, Politics un­masks the metaphysics of private life, private life unmasks the metaphysics of politics.
   Phillip Roth: the, sixth part of your book of variations-the main heroine, Tainina, reaches an island when: there are only children. In the end they hound her to death. Is this a dream, a fairy tale, an allegory?
   Milan Kundera: Nothing is more foreign to me than allegory, a story invented by the author in .order to illustrate some thesis. Events,. whether realistic or imaginary, must be significant in themselves, and the reader is meant to be naively seduced by their power and poetry. I have always been haunted by this image, and during one period of my life it kept recurring in my dreams: A person finds himself in a world of children, from which he cannot escape. 'And suddenly childhood, which we all lyricize and adore, reveals itself as pure horror. As a trap. This story is not allegory. 
  But my book is a polyphony in which various stories mutually explain, illumine, complement each other. The basic event of the book is the story of totalitarianism, which deprives people of memory and thus retools them into a nation of children. All totalitarianisms d0 this. And perhaps our entire technical age does this, with its cult of the future, its cult of youth and childhood, its indifference to the past.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Jack London

Taken From Writers Almanac:

On this day in 1897 21 year old Jack London sailed fro San Francisco, on his way to the Klondike to search for gold. He was on board the SS Umatilla with his brother-in-law, James Shepard, who was close to 70 years old. Shepard and his wife, Eliza, who was London’s sister, mortgaged their house to afford the passage and gear for the two men. They had a smooth eight-day trip from San Francisco to Juneau, Alaska, and then took boats to Dyea Beach, the start of the Chilkoot Trail. The Chilkoot Trail was a difficult 33-mile journey through the Chilkoot Pass, but it was the most direct route from the coast of Alaska to the Yukon. When Shepard saw the Chilkoot Pass, he realized that there was no way he would make it. He gave all his gear to London and went home to California.

The Chilkoot Trail was brutal. The trail rose a thousand feet in the last half mile, and men had to carry all their gear on their backs because it was too steep for animals. Prospectors climbed in one single-file line. If anyone faltered and got out of line, they were not let back in. So many men were unable to survive in the Klondike that the Canadian Mounted Police mandated that all prospectors bring one ton of supplies, the minimum for a year there. So London had to climb up the Chilkoot Pass over and over, with 100-pound loads each time.

Once London made it over Chilkoot Pass, he was in Canada. From there, it was 500 miles to Dawson City, the outpost of the gold rush. After hiking through a frigid marsh up to his knees, London arrived at Lake Lindemann, the beginning of a web of rivers and lakes that would eventually lead to Dawson City. London reached Dawson City just as the Arctic winter was setting in. London came down with scurvy due to the lack of fresh vegetables, and was forced to head back to the ocean. He was not alone in turning back. Of the 100,000 potential prospectors who set out for Dawson, only about 30 percent made it, and of those, about 4,000 actually found gold.

London returned to San Francisco sick and depressed, but he started writing about his adventures in the Yukon. The Atlantic Monthly accepted his story “An Odyssey of the North,” in which he wrote: “On the bottom there was a cabin, built by some man, of logs which he had cast down from above. It was a very old cabin, for men had died there alone at different times, and on pieces of birch bark which were there we read their last words and their curses. One had died of scurvy; another’s partner had robbed him of his last grub and powder and stolen away; a third had been mauled by a baldface grizzly; a fourth had hunted for game and starved – and so it went, and they had been loath to leave the gold, and had died by the side of it in one way or another. And the worthless gold they had gathered yellowed the floor of the cabin like in a dream.” In the year 1899, London published more than 50 pieces – poems, essays, and stories. Early in 1900, he published his first book, Son of the Wolf, a collection of short stories based on his adventures in the Klondike, and that led to his book The Call of the Wild (1903), which made his career.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Amsterdam — Last Looks

Ethics Police
I’ve notice many minor changes on these Red Light streets—new rules to protect a group of more innocent and affluent tourists coming in. Window hookers used to knock on their glass doors to attract attention of potential clients passing by. This is prohibited now. Posters have appeared warning tourists of street vendors who, we are advised, might be pick pockets or sellers of bad, tainted or illegal drugs. I was approached by one trying to sell cocaine.
There is a large round bench by the Oude Kerk, a good place to sit and watch the never ending stream of tourists passing by.

I was smoking my pipe— just tobacco, as a couple guys near me were puffing on something more interesting. They were interrupted by the ethics police—not the real name for them.

Handhaving means, enforcement, which seems an ambiguous label. I could not find a better title for them though some of the locals had rather demeaning interpretations. The enforcers informed the smokers that inhaling pot in public was not allowed. One is expected to be discrete, they were informed. I’ve never noticed these guys in years before now and asked when they began to patrol.

“We’ve been around for years,” I was told. “But these are new uniforms. They make us more noticeable.”

I doubt these smokers would have been bothered last year, and certainly not two years ago. Drinking on the streets is also illegal, but goes on all the time.

Maintenance also goes on all the time, as you might expect with these centuries old buildings. I tried to get some shots of what it looks like underneath these structures, but it was difficult to do without getting in the way of work in progress. Behind these bricks I could only see sand, just sand.

 Last Look—A political view.

I was looking down at the canal from my window one afternoon. A man who I assumed to be the owner of Casa Rosso was in front of the place with what must have been a manager. The owner looked surprisingly like Donald Trump from this distance, same unruly mop of hair. He looked tired, or bored, slumped forward, leaning on an elephant.


As I was watching the Trump doppelganger rested his head on his forearms and seemed to nod off. A mailman arrived and handed a bunch of letters to the manager (guy in purple shirt). He took the letters inside and came back with a large envelope which he handed to the owner who opened it and took out several sheets of paper. He stared at them a bit, then shook his head, seemingly not able to understand what they were about. He gave them back to the manager who studied them, then handed them back with a pen for him to sign something. The virtual Trump signed, then went back to sleep. A slide show view of U.S. government—in my opinion.

It’s been an interesting trip, and perfect weather—as good as it gets.

Next stop - Stockholm, where I’ll meet my daughter and her family. First time in fifteen years.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Amsterdam - Room With A View 15 July 2017

Room With A View

It is small, but enough. I pack light, the bed is good, and there is a desk. What else does one need for five days in a place like this Dutch Mardi gras. Free breakfast, same as what I eat at home. The staff knows and looks out for me. $350 for five days. The highlight is the window that looks out on the canal and Rossos live sex show. I have never been. I always think about it as a sort of science project, a Jane Goodall thing. But I just can’t bring myself to do it—Been there. Done that.

It was the later 1960’s. I was forty something, on my own and curious in Bangkok, Pat Pong Street. One of three avenues open to any kind of sex you might imagine.I went to one of the ‘Live Sex’ shows, but don’t remember much of it. A woman shot some ping pong balls into the air, then later some snakes were brought out and at the same time I heard to door lock at the entrance of the place. I get claustrophobic behind closed doors and had seen enough. A thing like that changes you. I got up to leave and was stopped by a guy standing at the door.

“No no. Is okay,” he assured me. “No problem.”
“Out.” I just said, out, and he could see I meant it.

That’s the only show I ever saw—part of, but I’ve been curious about Rosso’s. What do they do? I can’t help but wonder. There are lines waiting to get in the place by early evening. Thirty or forty tourists, some in tour groups. Some all female groups. Women giggle in the queue. From inside the show I often hear laughter echoing over the canal.

I got some information today as I was walking behind a pair of middle age tourists. As we passed Casa Rosso a tout standing at the entrance approached them and I stopped to listen as he made his pitch with a heavy Russian accent.

“Four Four couple make sex,” he says. “Smoke cigarette with pussy. Girls write with pussy. 6 p.m. night show is 55 Euros.”

Last year it was 40 Euros. 50 Euros was the listed price for fifteen minuets with one of the window prostitutes, but their prices may have gone up.The couple tells him, maybe later. They will be coming back, but there’s no lack of customers. The show is now on both sides of the canal. The second one is smaller and takes care of overflow, a constant problem. There is a string of colored lights across the canal, from the big show to the smaller one. There is some place selling tickets farther up the canal, and when the lights are green it signals sellers to keep pushing tickets. When the light is red it means, Full Up. The lights are almost always red.



I can’t imagine what they make. 300 people a day, minimum — times 55 . . .  Fifteen thousand?  More I think.

There are four hooker window to the left of Russo's. I’ve never seen anyone go in, but men are tricky about it. Most kind of loiter around, then jump in, real fast, when they think no one is looking. This is the first year I have seen any of the four windows empty.

There's a for rent sign on the glass. Eighty Euros for the day shift. Prostitutes have to be licensed, and as licenses expire they’re not renewed. There are fewer every year, but still a couple hundred window workers here.

Last year a wise guy at the hotel bar asked Anna how she could compete sexually with so many professionals around.
She said, “I give my boyfriend more than fifteen minutes.” They never see her comin’.
Sex is the other big draw here. There are dozens of sex shops, for gay and straight, all kinds of devices—costumes.

There are tattoo shops, and piercing shops with all kinds of silver adornments, fast food places, coffee shops where you can smoke, but cannot buy.

Sports bars and places offering organic drugs, truffles, seeds, and stuff that will improve your sex life— ‘Natural Elements.’ There’s a place selling CBD juice.

This started last year, but is more out front now. I don’t know anything about it. The word is nobody really knows that much about it.

                                                                     CBD Oil
Oils with a high CBD content have enjoyed a rise in popularity in the European market. As long as the THC content is no higher than 0.2% in most (but not all) European member states, CBD oil is legal. The surge in awareness and demand has created a large-and unregulated-industry. 

 *          *          *

There are several paraphernalia shops selling bongs that can cost up to a thousand bucks. Who buys these things? I’m talking about businesses on Warmoesstraat, the main drag.

There are no places selling pot on Warmoesstraat. The only two I noticed in the entire Red Light area were the Bulldog, and Feels Good. Both of them out of the way enough to be almost out of sight, and making millions. Both shops have two dealers, side by side—like bank tellers. There is always a queue of at least three or four customers waiting, often more, and no purchase less that twenty Euros. Transactions take about four minutes. One does not ask questions, like, What’s good? If you don’t know what you want, get out of the way. Both places crowded, twelve hours a day. 2 dealers X 15 customers X 20 Euros, about 900 Euros an hour X 12 hours…. Something like ten thousand bucks a night.
This is getting too long. More on drugs next post.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Amsterdam – Observing the Red Light Day 3— Part 1

It’s my third day here. I’m kind of settled in. I love my room at the Torenzicht. I’ve had the same one every year, for five years — all except the last. There was some kind of booking confusion and I got transferred to another hotel.

The first time I had this room was the most interesting. I’d come back from an afternoon walkabout, charting a cognitive map of things on my first day. The Oude Kirk (Old Church) makes an excellent landmark, it’s very big and everyone knows where it is.

Only problem is there are about five of these structures, all of them old and look about the same. One is called, ‘The New Old Church’, I‘ve no idea what the names of others are, but only one is in the center of the Red Light Distinct.

I was standing at the railing of a small porch outside the hotel bar with a guy from England, watching the endless parade of tourists.

We fell into an easy conversation: Where ya from? How long have you been here? Stuff like that. He was smoking a joint.  You can’t smoke inside, so people come out here to have a puff or two.

“You want?” He held the blunt out to me. “Good stuff,” he says without breathing.

“Sure, why not.” We talk for ten or fifteen minutes, time enough to take a few drags before going up to my room. The “good stuff” didn’t seem to affect me very much, though I realized I had been more chatty than I usually am. We had gotten down to wives, and pets, and kids before the conversation ended—a standard sort of pot experience.

My room was adequate, if Spartan. Just the bare essentials, two reasonably comfortable single beds and a sink— bathroom and shower down the hall. I start to throw my backpack down on the nearest bed where I’d left the clothes I’d changed from after checking in last night.

I notice the mattress is wet and dump the backpack on the floor, then take a closer look. It’s very wet. In fact, there is a puddle . . . of water. OMG! I'm tripping. This can't be, I tell myself. I did not do this, and no one has been here. I'm only occupant, and the sink is on the other side of the room. Jesus, what have I been smoking? Keep calm, I tell myself. You’ll be okay. Relax. Close your eyes. When you open them things will be back to normal. Things did not go back to normal. I put my hand in the puddle. This is water. This is real water. How did it get here?

At last, a drop splashed in the puddle, coming from the ceiling. Pipe leak in the room above. Thank God. I am still sane. I go down to the bartender and tell him what happened. He says I can get another room and they will pay to launder the wet clothes I’d left on the bed. Seeing an opportunity for free rent I said I would spend the rest of my stay in the ‘wet bed room’ if they would give me two days rent free. He happily agreed.

The Torenzicht’s rooms have been updated since that first year, 2013. My room has been divided into two rooms, each with a single bed, TV, and Wi-Fi. Rent is just a little more than what I paid five years ago. View from my window’s still the best in Amsterdam, in my opinion.

View From My Window

Friday, June 30, 2017

Amsterdam Sidebar - Tattoos

I have a question about tattoos. I often see people, sometimes acquaintances, with tattooed letters spelling words I can’t decipher. Is it okay to ask what it says? I spoke with a woman in Amsterdam last year, curious about a hexagram tattooed on her arm, one of those I Ching - - & — things, 6 lines. She had no idea what it meant, something about ‘good fortune,’ she thought. I suspect there are a lot of people wearing tattoos that mean something other than what they think.
I asked some guy at my gym in Sweden where he got his ink—good question, hip. I watch tattoo shows on TV. He seemed pleased to explain.

The whole tattoo thing seems weird to me. What is it when people are convinced ripped jeans are cool, and piercings? I’m eighty this year, maybe it’s my age. Sometimes it seems like I’m the only one without tattoos. Wife doesn’t have one, but our dog does, in her ear.

I’m in Amsterdam tonight; at the Torenczicht Hotel’s bar, watching people, which seems half of what I do here, watching people, noticing tattoos. I’m watching Anna, tend the bar. She’s got the best tattoos I’ve ever seen, these kind of smoky things that go up her arms and disappear into short sleeves. Skulls, strange beings and shapes I can never quite make out— words in script around her neck. I can only see a few of the letters, but they appear to be in English.

Anna’s Romanian, by way of Hungary somehow—but lived here in Amsterdam for years. She speaks 7 languages, English, of course, and Dutch, German, Spanish, Portuguese . I forget the others. I have never seen her fail to communicate with anyone wanting the get a room, or a drink, or how to get to some location. She rides a motorcycle bigger than I am, and wears the best in leather gear, first class, expensive helmet.

It’s 12:30 p.m. and the place is crammed, standing room only and no standing room left. I count over 50 people. Bars open to the public close close at 2. Anna is working alone. I watch impressed as phantom shadowed arms blur into motion, washing glasses, making change, bantering wisecracks, pouring beer, mixing drinks, checking people in, and telling them how to get someplace. She’s poetry in motion, like Tai Chi, but faster.

In the mist of this there’s now a problem with someone’s change, something about how many beers his table had had—a guy in his middle 20’s giving her a hard time, in a friendly, teasing way.
“Ahh, I’m just messin’ with you,” he finally says. “I have a complicated brain.”

“No, I think it's very simple,” she responds. Those close enough to hear crack up.

I’m laughing before she even speaks. You don't tread on Superman's cape, you don't spit into the wind, you don't pull the mask off the Lone Ranger, and you do not mess around with Anna. She has heard it all. Every quip, pickup line, and ‘Oh I forgot to pay,’ line—drunks and stoners. She handles it all with charming expertise born from years of experience.

“I’m going for a nice long ride after work tonight,” she tells me when her shift is near an end. “Then tomorrow do the same thing all over again.”

At 1 a.m. her replacement arrives. She heads upstairs to get her motorcycle gear. Before she leaves I have to ask, ‘What does that say, around your neck?”
“Been here, Done That,” she tells me. We both laugh.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Amsterdam Red Light – 2017 Wednesday – Part 2

Garden Tour

Terry was right. Garden tours listed in the brochure are open to the public at any time—if one knows where they are. I was a bit disappointed having expected something a bit more spectacular. They were nice, quiet, peaceful places to get away from it all, but nothing to write home about.

I only made it to three of them before my bad leg started giving me trouble and I had to give it up. Will try again next year now that I have a list of the addresses.

Saw these on my way home. There are a lot these colorful surprises along the sidewalks of Amsterdam.