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13 April 2005

Bob the Town Crank on Amsterdam

The Memphis Flyer (Tennessee USA)
11-17 November 1999

To the Editor:

I'm sorry Paul Gerald had such an unpleasant time in Amsterdam. I consistently find Amsterdam to be the most sincerely hospitable place I have ever visited, and certainly one of the world's cultural treasures.

First, I've never encountered a one-beverage-minimum policy at an Amsterdam kaffeehus. They don't really need one. Besides the excellent coffee, many kaffeehuses take great pride in their wonderful fresh juice bars. (I still get the hairy eyeball at many American bars when I ask for "just a Coke" or, worse, a cup of coffee.)

Gerald might have had a better time in Amsterdam if he'd taken more notice of what mathematicians call "the negative space" -- the things that aren't obvious and in-your-face, the things that aren't there. He didn't see violent drug-related firearm crime. He didn't see a government aggressively trying to mass-incarcerate its own citizens and make an industry of warehousing the addicted and the poor. He didn't see police departments drowning in high-profit drug corruption. And most of all, when he bought some cannabis, he didn't see children selling or buying it, and he didn't see vendors asking him, "You want heroin or crack with that?"

In Amsterdam's red-light district, he saw the women in the windows -- but he didn't see slave-owner pimps with stables of drug-addicted runaway/throwaway minors.

I'm sorry the progressive, thoughtful, effective policies of the Netherlands make Gerald so uncomfortable. American Puritanism has sure done a number on him, and his reward is that he had a lousy time in Amsterdam. That's not easy.

Bob Merkin
e-mail (Northampton, MA)


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