Today was my first day commuting to work from my new apartment. although the woman I'm renting the apartment from has given me her bicycle, she doesn't know where the keys are so I'm still looking for them and don't have a bike to ride to work yet. So - on the way to work, I took the bus and then transferred to the tram. Whipping along on the way to work with all the other commuters, I didn't really get a good feel for my commute so I decided to walk home and explore a little bit more.
I work near the zoo in the East (Oost) part of town. It’s a nice area with the zoo, the Botanical Gardens, and the Jewish Historical museum. Right as I was about to walk across the bridge over a canal, the bells started ringing – the bridge was opening. The great thing about the canals here are that they are mostly working canals! Two big flat boats (ships? Tankers?) came slowly through the canals – with big Dutch guys at the helm and lacy curtains and flowers in the windows of the boats. As the crowd started to gather at the edges of the bridge, we watched the ‘gatemaster’ wave to the boats and prepare to close the bridge. There is only one gatemaster, I think. He rides a small moped and wears a uniform. He zooms from bridge to bridge opening them and closing them as the boats slowly cruise along the canals.
I joined the throngs of people crossing over the canal on their bikes, on foot, and with two trams waiting. The weather was nice but a bit overcast. I decided to walk the whole way home, finding my way along rather than using a map. I crossed through Waterlooplein, where there is a big daily market, and continued down past the Chinese dimsum place that Corinne and I found the other weekend. As I walked along, I was behind a woman with EXTREMELY tight jeans on walking a small Yorkshire terrier. She had the handle for the leash tucked in her back pocket as she smoked a joint and sashayed along on high heels. She waved at all the bars as we walked by – me right behind her. Finally she turned around to hug a woman walking by and I realized she was a transsexual (or Transgendered person)! She had an extremely deep voice and was Asian. A HERMASIAN!
At that point, I was making my way through the Red Light District. Although it was only 6pm, the prostitutes were working and unlike Friday night when I showed around my friend Rick’s coworker, there were actually men going in to the little rooms. I was wondering if anyone actually went in there or if it was just drunk English bachelor parties harassing them. I continued to walk along through some of the allies and side streets filled with coffee shops and bars. I passed the sex shops and the fast-food shops and slowly moved into the reggae clothes/porno DVDs/marijuana paraphernalia/ postcards/Amsterdam hoodies section of town. I kept walking and eventually hit the West part of town and a street called Haarlemerstraat – a very cute boutique filled shop where there seemed to be less tourists and more Dutch people. There are some lovely cafes there and suddenly (!!) I came upon the West India House – the site of Corinne and Remco’s wedding reception. I remember some hysterical times there laughing with Alec and Carolyn out by the canal. I passed Portuguese delis, olive oil emporiums, trendy dress shops, scuba diving shops, bakeries, and shoe shops.
As I walked down the street and headed north, I crossed canals until I got to my neighborhood. I’m not sure of the name of the neighborhood but Tasmanstraat – parallels the Ij (river? Lake? Pond? ). I’m on the third floor (sorry – I thought it was the second!) with a nice view of the river (lake? Pond? Sea? ) and some trees… It’s 9:30 at night and the sun is still shining. I’m off to Berlin on Thursday to see my friend Mike Dumiak and learn more about Chad and the Central African Republic where my next trip might be…