Day 3: What Happens in Amsterdam should Stay in Amsterdam, but I’m Writing About it Anyway

Day 3 began with fine art and dignity. It didn’t end that way.

I saw the Van Gough museum with Rachel and Patrick, which was great. Van Gough is an incredible painter, and that’s an opinion I would maintain even if he hadn’t cut his ear off to prove it. There was a popular picture-taking destination near the museum, so we decided to check that out too. It was so popular, that we had to wait in a line to take pictures by big red “I Amsterdam,” letters. We successfully made our contribution to the Internet’s never-ending supply of pictures featuring tourists posing on Amsterdam’s iconic sculpture.

After submitting our humble offering to Instagram, we went through a neighborhood to find something to eat. There was a quaint café that looked unassuming and delicious. Inside, everything was decorated with floral patterns — something a midwestern grandmother might decorate. The café was quite welcoming until we approached the barista. He had stylish glasses, a black-and-white striped shirt, and a man bun bigger than the homemade cinnamon rolls. I said hi, and for that immoral offense, he gave me a look that said this café is a sacred temple that has been soiled with your tacky American presence. If I were to guess a few traits about his personality, I imagine he listens to underground music and reads antiquated novels so he can bring them up on first dates to sound poetic. I don’t remember what I had to eat or drink, but I’m still having trouble digesting the evil eye I got from our irate barista.

Later, Patrick and I went to take a canal tour, where a boat took us on a tour of canals and narrated the experience with ‘fun facts’ (the brochure’s words, not mine). The boat interior was lined with red booth-style seats, like something you’d find in a diner. Patrick and I sat on one booth, leaving an empty booth across our table. An old German-speaking couple sat down on the opposite booth, nodding to acknowledge our presence. Once our boat began moving, I fell asleep. It was the sort of sleep where my head would fall to one side, jerk up suddenly, and then start falling asleep in the other direction and repeat the process. That was how I experienced the first half of the tour. Once I woke up, Patrick fell asleep on our table. I was conscious for five minutes before fun facts stopped being fun and I was ready to be rocked to sleep again by the gentle bob of waves. It’s amazing that the German couple managed to stay awake the whole ride. Once Patrick and I got off, we both felt somewhat rested and indifferent about our experience otherwise.

We went to a small non-profit museum afterwards called Cannabis College. It had a posters and displays explaining marijuana’s life cycle — from early stages of growth to its eventual phase of putting people on couches with bags of chips. There was also a room in the back with broken-in couches and psychedelic posters, which did a great job of mimicking a college house’s living room. Cannabis College didn’t have tons to offer, although I didn’t have to pay to loiter, which is more than I can say for most museums.

We kept walking until we happened upon a farmer’s market where every stand sold roses. It smelled fantastic, and there were more colors than the average box of crayons. However, it only held my attention until I spotted a shop with an odd sign. There was no sort of title or description above the shop — just a large neon mushroom. Our group went inside to investigate, although we all had conceptions what lay inside. It had shelves stocked with ingestible items that claimed to “alter mind and spirit,” among other phrases one might overhear at Burning Man. Product descriptions featured words like ‘psychedelic’ and ‘visuals’ and ‘tracers.’ I went to the storeowner and asked him if he had real psychedelic mushrooms, trying to gauge the store’s legitimacy. Without hesitation, he pulled out a sheet indicating six varieties, varying by intensity. It was indeed legitimate.

Later that night, we went to see Moulin Rouge: a live sex show. I’m not going to try and justify my curiosities. However, if a person walks around Amsterdam’s red light district long enough, it’s only natural for that person to wonder what lies behind closed doors. Moulin Rouge was supposedly the best sex show in Amsterdam, although “best” was a popular claim that was made by many others. It had a good enough façade and the price included a free beer, so we decided to try it.

Moulin Rouge’s interior was a low-lit environment full of people avoiding eye contact. We walked upstairs to see the show, where I saw a nude woman pulling a seemingly endless stream of lace from a place I’d never imagined fabric coming from. This lasted long enough until the lace was long enough to wrap a family’s worth of Christmas presents. After the performer finished and took a bow, Patrick said, “duuuuuuuuude,” in a long and drawn-out voice. He was looking at his phone.

“This is the fastest Wi-Fi in Europe. I can finally download my phone update.”

I opened my phone and got on the network. He was right — if the sex show budget went nowhere else, it went to their Internet provider. There was a second act involving a woman writing on a crowd volunteer’s bare stomach with a sharpie. I can’t remember what she wrote, but I remember being impressed with her calligraphy after watching her no-handed writing process.

The final act was uncensored sex with no bells and whistles (unless one considers whistles from the audience). Fast-paced German techno blared from overhead speakers. A woman got onstage without speaking a word and kneeled atop a towel. A man came onstage wearing a pair of Oakley sunglasses with the demeanor of a construction worker beginning his morning duty. He didn’t speak either. There was no foreplay — the man was humping to the beat of fast-paced German techno before I fully realized what was happening. It wasn’t sensual. It was mechanical, like staring at an animatronic from Disney World… except it was nothing like Disney World. If puritans need a solution to scaring kids into abstinence, they should consider a field trip to Moulin Rouge.

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