“Do we have to cross the river to get to a peep show?”

If there were two things I learned this summer, it was buy lattes and hold eye contact.

So here we go.

Erin and I are set to leave the hostel at 9p.m. We have ideas, fantasies, of going big in Amsterdam. We’re hopefully meeting our friend Cody at the National Monument to have a third partner in crime (or in case one of us, eh, me, wussed out).

Our roommate is an older woman from San Francisco. Silent all day, suddenly chatty, she offers Erin, who has been traveling for three months now, advice.

Roommate: yeah, you want to know the best way to meet people anywhere? I’ll tell you.
Erin: yeah sure!
Roommate: just go to a coffee shop… and…. buy a coffee, and just… sit down.
Erin: Oh. Okay. I’ll be sure to tell Janae that.

You don’t say.

Unfortunately, Cody wasn’t at the monument. Crap, we have to do this by ourselves?

We stroll into the Red Light District. We walk by a few coffeehouses. It dawns on us, whatever moral, immoral, career finding versus fun finding internal dilemmas I’m having about smoking… A glance at each other. One simple, idiotic logistical point will plague us.

Hey… do you know how to roll a joint?

No folks, the answer is no. But we’re going to go to the coffeehouses anyway, and we’re going to pretend at least like we’re doing this, because dammit we’re in Amsterdam. We arrived at The Bulldog. The original coffeehouse. You can go right in there and get coffee and up to five grams, if you want.

Except Erin and I still don’t know how to roll a joint. And the menu shows things like filters on it, too. This is hard. I know how to eat a brownie. Can’t I?

But now we look like idiots, standing outside The Bulldog. Make moves. Make moves.

So I marched in. Do something. What do I know how to do.

“Hi! Can I have two lattes please?”

And so we sat at the most famous Amsterdam coffeehouse… Drinking coffee.


But the night was young, and Amsterdam is famous for other things, too.

We’d laughed at the thought of going to a peep show. They’re really expensive. 35 to 50 euro. Also, this should come to no one’s surprise, that’s not my scene. I’m a really uncomfortable person anyway – not prude, I just get awkward. Also, I’ve never watched porn. Unless you count “pterodactyl porn,” the funniest College Humor video you never want in your Internet history.

And the moral dilemmas – ages of the sex workers, what are their reasons for doing it, their stories – gosh I’m such a buzzkill.

But it’d be really funny to go watch the 2euro video porn with Erin. Girls, guys, whatever. We see the signs everywhere – “video cabinets,” “now playing”… We picture going in to the same room just to have a really good laugh at a movie. Girls? Girl guy? Who knows, we’ll run out laughing in four seconds.

Except it’s a booth. And we can’t go in together. Separate stalls. We shake hands. It’s 2 euro for 2 minutes. See you in 2 minutes, if not before.

I walked into the booth, close and lock the door behind me. I put the coin in, like I’m about to play

A window opens. It’s a real, live naked woman, on a red bed rotating in front of me.

I’m not going to comment on what the woman looked like- neither here nor there, disrespectful to her. Let me just stress woman – had it been a teen-to-my-age-looking girl, I would have gotten out immediately.

So the surroundings. It’s a red velvet, rotating bed, with booths facing in all around. I notice the man in the window across from me and cringe, thinking I really hope I don’t see any activity on his part. This two minutes will go fast, right?

And I watch. And I see.

And I think about how Erin is doing in the next booth.

I really should leave. But I don’t.

The woman rises and walks to me, rubbing her breasts. Stands in front of me, continuing to do so.

I don’t know where to look.

I’m in a booth wearing a duck scarf and a beanie in front of this woman.

I’m also suddenly very aware I’m chewing bubble gum.

I don’t know where to look.

I still don’t know where to look.

So I default to my standard.

And I hold eye contact.

The entire time.


Oh, Amsterdam. Anyone questioning my judgment and/or morals, just remember the story could be worse. It’s not like I just blogged “Once upon a time, I spent two minutes killing a guy.”


7 thoughts on ““Do we have to cross the river to get to a peep show?”

  1. Here in Holland, there’s a big difference between a coffee house and a cafe. Coffee house sells joints and cafe is your typical coffee house.

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