The plane from Rome to New York leaked a vital fluid and turned around just past England. We overnighted in Amsterdam. The hotel makes a business in this kind of thing. There are hundreds of us and more keep coming. On the shuttle bus and train to the center there are a few army soldiers, off duty from Iraq and Afghanistan. They have southern accents and urban accents. They talk about injuries and benefits. One of them tells a girl about how he had to search road trash for dead babies. They are all looking to get wasted.
I visited Amsterdam the first time two decades ago. I didn’t realize how wealthy it was. Everything remains just so, clean and tidy, the paint varnish is shiny enough to see your reflection. The red light district still has women in lower floor windows, baked in bikinis, smoking and bored. Next to the window is a planter of marigolds. Upstairs are apartments that rent for thousands a month. At midnight there are gawkers and boys drinking soda from a straw. At the Old Sailor bar on Oudzejids Achterburg men fill a bench across the canal from a windowed woman. She’s endured a lot of surgery. She wears suspenders across her tits and knocks at the windows hard, like she has something to say.
There are coffee shops selling hashish. You can smell it as you walk past. There are still young pilgrims who come to release their shame in public.
There were bikes then but now it is altogether something else. There must be more bikes here than anyplace. Near the train station there’s a three level parking structure. Bikes only, no space between them, on and on they go, for a block. They are all plain black brown bikes with fenders, the kind that make you sit bolt upright. Ring a bell. A light on front, a light on back, safe for the night. The women are giants, especially sitting on their tall bikes, legs going everywhere, long hair drifting like a sail.
I hear English, I can’t tell the accent.
At the bars I stop at on the west side, near Prinsengract, people are meeting in groups. It’s Thursday night, the week is nearly over. Some bars are quite lively at eleven, the sun just departed. There are open windows and doors and they play real music. I’m having a beer at the Café de Barones. It’s tended by a young guy with girly curls pinched in a clip, a pierced lip, and, above the bar, a sign written on the mirror
No Credit, No Crisis