Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Amsterdams, old and new.

After five days in old Amsterdam, I am in the airport now, waiting for my flight to New Amsterdam, aka, New York.

I read, some time ago, Russell Shorto's book, "Amsterdam: A History of the World's Most Liberal City." In it Shorto conjectures that Amsterdam is liberal in part because it is below sea level. To survive, its people had to work together for the common good, building dikes, draining flooded ground, carving out canals.

According to Shorto, that communal spirit carries over to this day, with people pre-disposed to look out for each other and the common weal.

That said, Amsterdam was just about the most dangerous pedestrian city I've ever been in. You could hardly crane your neck to look at yet another 6'2" blonde without being hit by a bicycle, a scooter or a tram. They all seem to go every which way--and no matter which way you look, there's a rickety old bike bent on having you kiss the paving stones coming from another direction.

Bikes are everywhere, flying around like neutrons in a cyclotron, chaos theory in practice. At the central train station in town, there's a three story bike parking garage that is filled to overflowing with bikes. There's barely a patch of pavement anywhere that isn't strewn with bikes, or a railing that doesn't have ten or a dozen clamped to it.

Even with canals ringing the city, there's little peace and quiet in the place, people are fairly careening everywhere, and smoking dope all the while.

I stayed away from the marijuana shops and the sex shops too, especially the sex shops. Seeing women in their skivvies posing in the window selling themselves seems degrading, disgusting and depraved. But, on the assumption that sex sells and always will, I guess, it's better out in the open and under government auspices than illicit and shadowy.

Anyhow, I'm on my way back to good old New Amsterdam and the bad old USA. Which, for all its faults, and all the indignities and embarrassments of our nation's descent into the Trumpian cesspit, I am glad to return to.

Like, I think, Edgar Guest said so many decades ago, be it ever so humble, there's no place like home.

No comments: