|Amsterdam--Why In The World Would You CHOOSE To Go There?
AMSTERDAM, The Netherlands - As the witching hour approached, the streets of Amsterdam's red-light district came alive with a plethora of vices, spewing forth as if the gates of hell had been unchained.
A light drizzle was falling, and as this reporter walked along the canals, the booming sounds of the bells ringing in the old church towers created an ominous tone. The scene was so overwhelming and mind-boggling that I had to stop every few meters to write down the details in my notebook, so as to capture the very essence of this dark, twisted place. Surely, when Oswald Spengler penned his epic "The Decline of the West," the author had a glimmer of modern Amsterdam in mind.
Quaint, two-story houses and hotels lined either side of the canal. The smell of men urinating straight into the canals was nauseating. People were vomiting in various places along the canals. A police boat passing by slowed down to shine a light on a crazed black man who was literally foaming at the mouth and screaming obscenities from his wheelchair.
"You want to watch the Olympics?" the man in the wheelchair shouted out at the police. "Well, I got a new sport for you. Who can pull the most shopping trolleys out of the canal in five minutes? And dead bodies, too!"
The smell of marijuana was everywhere. As I passed the well-known cannabis bar, "The Grasshopper," the smell became overwhelming -- not to mention the effects. Drug dealers were everywhere, 99 percent of whom were black immigrants from Nigeria, Ghana, Gambia and other African nations.
I wondered why Holland doesn't recruit black African Christians as missionaries to teach the white pagans in Amsterdam about the message of Jesus.
"Crack? Ecstasy? Cocaine?" the dealers all called to me.
I could only reply "no" the first 50 times. After that, I began to get more creative in my responses. "No thanks, I had a big lunch," "You shouldn't get people started on that stuff," and "Let sleeping dogs lie." These clever answers amused the dealers, who walked confidently, like panthers stalking their prey, under the protective guise of Dutch policemen mounted on horseback around the red-light district.
One drug dealer from Nigeria told this writer, "The Dutch, they took from Indonesia and Surinam. And now the immigrants come here and go on welfare to take back what they feel is rightfully theirs - or that which belonged to their ancestors. I don't do that. I sell drugs -- drugs that people want. I provide a service to help people escape -- from life."
I continued to make my way through the twisting alleys. The roads were being torn up and refitted for new sewer pipes -- the irony didn't escape me. While turning around one particular corner, I disturbed a group of pigeons, which immediately took to flight all around me like an outtake from Alfred Hitchcock's film "The Birds." When the fluttering and cooing of the birds dissipated, two teen-age Dutch girls dressed up for Halloween in old-style black nun's habits rushed past me.
The girls were, of course smoking cigarettes, something all people outside the U.S. seem to do. I immediately thought of my 12 years of Catholic school and suddenly had newfound respect for those old nuns, who in their old-fashioned ways had tried to instill morals and virtues in their students. Their desire for purity, humility and holiness that lay hidden behind their reliance on rituals was remarkable. Those old nuns knew that we children would one day grow up to participate in a great war -- a war against principalities and powers in high places. They were right.
The bells were tolling once again, and the rain began to fall a little bit harder. At the far end of the long, thin alley, a man emerged. He was wearing a Michael Meyers mask, made famous from the series of slasher Halloween films that have been produced over the last generation. The man was holding a large knife in his hand.
Now the tolling of the church bells stopped. It was a quarter past the witching hour. My mind filled with the theme music from those Halloween movies as I continued to walk towards "Michael Meyers." We were the only two people in the alley. I walked toward him as my old Timberland boots splashed through the puddles. I felt as though I was moving in slow motion, like when you are having a nightmare and want to run away, but your legs won't move.
When I reached the masked man, we both stopped and eyed one another. I remembered that the Michael Meyers mask was actually the facial mold of actor William Shatner. The first Halloween film was a low-budget job starring Jamie Lee Curtis. As such, the crew had only $20 to spend on a mask, and a gofer was sent to buy a mask for that amount. When he returned to the set, he informed the cast and crew that the only mask he could find was an unfinished William Shatner.
"William Shatner," I said to the masked man. His breathing was heavy behind his mask, and he held his plastic butcher knife at his side.
"William. The will of 'I Am.' The will of 'I Am Who I Am,'" the man said. "Do you understand what that means?"
"Of course I do. I am a Christian," I replied. "It is a Christian name. The Will of I Am. It's what God told Moses. `I Am Who I Am.'"
The masked man began to laugh hysterically.
"You're a Christian?" he wailed while busting a gut. Then he pulled a bunch of condoms from his pocket and threw them at me, before turning and staggering with laughter as he continued down the alleyway.
Once past that encounter, I turned back onto one of the main streets. It was filled with shops selling dirty magazines and sex toys. There was the Adonis gay film theater, a few casinos, marijuana bars, countless pubs and rows of neatly chained bicycles. Orange, white and blue flags of Holland hung proudly from many of the storefronts.
In a pool bar hung a poster of Uncle Sam with a caption reading, "I WANT YOU: To be a good sport!" The street was home to pizza parlors, Internet cafés, a hotel called "The Greenhouse Effect" and the Café Pacifico Mexican restaurant. The dug-up street was turning rapidly into quicksand -- both literally and metaphorically. I saw a group of roller bladers reduced to tippy-toeing their way through the sand.
The street was packed with parked cars, despite the construction, as well as delivery trucks -- including one driven by "Dennis." Dennis wore overalls that hung languidly on his hips, with the top part unbuttoned and fallen down like an apron. I knew his name only because it was tattooed on his back in eight-inch letters. He was, of course, shirtless, but apparently not cold in the least, perhaps thinking warm thoughts as he bought a gram of cocaine from a drug dealer in plain sight.
Towering high above this sordid mess was a giant sign that proclaimed "Jesus Loves You." All I could think was, "If my mother could see this place, she would start firebombing."
Passing by the Route 66 café, I peeked in the window and saw a woman I had met in Thailand -- Stephanie. She was a gorgeous, tall blonde bartender who sported a large tattoo of the "All-Seeing Eye of the Pyramid," which adorns the back of the U.S. one-dollar bill, over her left breast. On her back was a tattoo of a large scorpion. I knew this because while vacationing in Thailand, all the European women who lived on my island of Phi Phi walked around topless. And, of course, I was always the puritan whom the topless ones were "afraid to offend."
I said hello to Stephanie. We hugged and talked about life and why I had come to Holland. She said she wanted to move to Australia, since it was "tropical and Western." As we spoke, a 30-something Korean couple walked into the café and began handing out Bible tracts.
The tracts were protesting, among other things, drugs, euthanasia in Holland and the "Mark of the Beast" chip they fear will be inserted into the hand of every human on the planet. They claimed this was a part of what they called the "cashless society in the kingdom of the coming Antichrist." Then they added, "These people with all of these body piercings and tattoos, you don't believe they will take a computer chip in their hand if the government mandates it?"
Concerning Holland's new euthanasia laws, Park Dong Min, the Korean evangelist, claimed that "more than one in five assisted suicides in Holland is done without the consent of the patient."
The Korean man's wife, So Young, claimed that in the near future, computers would be making cost-effectiveness decisions regarding which elderly and sick patients would live or die and that suicide for teen-agers and, in fact, people of all ages would be made legal in Holland.
"There is abortion at the beginning of life, now euthanasia at the end. Soon, the elites will begin to squeeze everyone in the middle of the life cycle -- just as the Nazis did. I have no doubt that Christians in the 21st century will be hunted and exterminated like the Jews were in the 20th century," said Mrs. Park.
I followed the Koreans to another pub called the Suits Bar. It was a high-class establishment where the traders, analysts and secretaries who worked on the Amsterdam Exchange would come for happy hour. It was at the Suits Bar that I met Stephen, a hulking Arnold Schwarzenegger-type and his girlfriend, Claire, along with their friend Alice. The two of them spoke of how they wanted to move to New York to get jobs in the financial sector. They also railed against the drug trade that had seized the streets of their fair city.
"You can buy anything nowadays," said Stephen. "If any of those drug dealers were to sell cocaine or ecstasy to my children, I would drown him in the canal."
Red light, green light
Walking along the alleyways of the red-light district, which houses the prostitutes in their "offices," was surreal. The area is so named for the red neon lights that mark the outline of their cubicles like so many mutant Christmas bulbs. Many of these rooms are situated directly across from centuries-old churches.
Throngs of humanity moved in a line like a giant multicultural caterpillar as they filed past the various rooms of the prostitutes. The men were Arab and Asian, black, white and brown. So many languages were being spoken it was hard to take them all in. I heard Russian, Spanish, Arabic, English, Dutch, Afrikaans, Greek, Italian, Japanese and Korean.
Quite strangely, moving along with the rest of the "shoppers" were numerous male and female couples holding hands and walking past the women in the glass as though shopping at the Mall of America or engaging in some secret form of foreplay. When a group of British tourists began laughing at some of the prostitutes, I could not control my anger.
"These aren't animals in a zoo. This is a human tragedy. What's wrong with you people? This is somebody's daughter, somebody's sister, somebody's mother," I shouted angrily without thinking.
At one point on my walkabout through the red-light district, a black man -- a paying customer -- emerged from the room of a Thai prostitute. Alarm bells were ringing everywhere, and police were running towards the room of the Thai pro. (All of the rooms have emergency alarms.) Apparently, the customer was angry that the seemingly female prostitute he had paid was, in fact, a man. To any Westerner visiting Bangkok, the large transsexual population of that city takes some getting used to, and it is sometimes difficult to ascertain who is a male and who is a female in that particular line of work.
"I have a man's tool box, but I assure you I am all woman," said the Thai prostitute to the man and everyone within earshot. I couldn't help but feel embarrassed for the customer. This event seemed to embody everything that was wrong with the place -- nothing was what it seemed.
In Bangkok, it is a daily occurance to see white Englishmen fighting with transvestite Thai prostitutes who they mistook for women. It appears this type of perverse confusion is common the world over.
In search of Mary Magdalene
Turning down another alley, I found another group of evangelists witnessing and handing out Bible tracts to anyone passing by. These folks said they were with a group called "Jews for Jesus." They witnessed boldly about sin in general and prostitution in particular.
"If you read the Gospel, you will see that Mary Magdalene is perhaps the most critical character aside from Mary and Jesus," said the group's leader, who identified himself as Nathan.
According to some traditions, Mary Magdalene was a prostitute. Others believe the repentant prostitute referred to in the New Testament was another woman, also named Mary.
"You see, the Jewish religious leaders of that day wanted to stone a woman like Mary Magdalene to death. And Jesus said, `Let the one among you without sin cast the first stone.' So, you see clearly that this prostitute was the wheel upon which Jesus changed the Law. Jesus changed it from the Old Testament law of wrath to the New Testament law of faith, grace, repentance, change and forgiveness."
Nathan then went on to say, "In Mark 16:9, we see how Mary Magdalene is remembered as a prostitute once 'possessed by seven demons,' which Jesus cast out of her. So, it should come as no surprise to anyone that Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene first after rising from the dead. Jesus did this because he wanted to show the world -- for all time -- that people can change, repent and follow him, and then have abundant life. Jesus showed us that there is a new law of belief in Christ, repentance and forgiveness, change and eternal life."
"Mary Magdalene bathed his feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. She stayed by Jesus both at the cross and while camped out at his tomb with the Roman soldiers - all the while unafraid. To me, Mary Magdalene is one of the greatest heroes in all the Bible. And we must accord to these women who work in Amsterdam as prostitutes a spirit of dignity which they deserve. Among them may one day emerge a great prophet or evangelist that may play a vital role in restoring Christian sanity to the world," Nathan concluded.
During my time in Amsterdam, I interviewed a large number of prostitutes, or "sex workers" as they like to call themselves. To be sure, there were many prostitutes who stood in the windows with dead eyes. These poor women looked as though a raven had been gnawing at their spirit for decades and finally had ripped out their souls and flown them away to some nether reaches of another world, from which they could never return.
There were other prostitutes, however, who combined to form an interesting mix of women and defied all the popular stereotypes. These "sex workers" embody a new breed of whores, including the friend of a well-known Rwandan Marian visionary, stock investors, university graduates and aspiring millionaires from all four corners of the Earth ...
In the next section of the article, (found at the URL below) reporter LoBaido interviews various prostitutes and delves into their motivations and secret aspirations - with surprising results. There's "Vanessa," the beautiful supermodel look-alike who says she's "too shy to be a model, to move in front of the camera," but not too shy to service her customers. Then there's "Melissa," the Dutch redhead who invests in the stock market and reads the Wall Street Journal between "sessions" with customers. And "Faustina," the African Tutsi girl from Rwanda who wore a gold cross, kept a Bible in her room, and who deals with the "evil of this place" by reading the holy scriptures and praying.
Cut/paste the URL above into your browser to view the continuing saga...and PRAY!