Trips to Amsterdam – Part One and Part Two

One evening Themen invited us to his home where we met his wife. I'm sorry I don't remember her name. It might have been Eva. What I do remember is that she was Australian by birth and spoke with a beautiful Aussie accent. She was a charming intelligent woman, a good match for Themen. I don't remember her profession but it might have been librarian in the University library.

After dinner Themen was eager to take me to the “Red” sector of Amsterdam. Susan was not invited. Eva protested that this was really a silly activity that Themen insisted on providing for visitors to their home. I had already guessed what this was all about. Somewhere I had read that in certain cities even in Canada, leaving a red bulb lit in an exterior light fixture was a signal that female companionship of a certain kind was available in this house. New Orleans? Salt Lake City? Yes. Themen confirmed, we were going to the red light district where prostitution was legal.

We walked slowly along a normal lane edged by a canal with typical shops lining the other side. There were no cars here, only “tourists”. There were of course street lights since this was after dark but not too brilliant. The wares in the large shop windows were live women in brief clothes posturing their beautiful legs in inviting poses. We didn't stop since we could already see additional women on the porch steps addressing passers-by with aggressive invitations to come enter their studio. Themen said the city by-laws did not allow the women to canvas the street sidewalks. They were confined to the shop window and porch steps. Only. Since prostitution is everywhere, legalizing the practice means the city garners some taxes while requiring that the women are healthy and clean. In the morning Eva served breakfast and we said our good-byes.

From here Themen drove us to the train station where we boarded the train for Dusseldorf, Germany. I had been invited to give a talk at the famous Max Planck Institute Laboratory in northern Germany a few miles outside the city. A chemist (whose name I have forgotten) was studying free radicals produced by their powerful electron accelerator designed much after the kind built by Dr. Fessenden in the Melon Institute in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. We were to stay at his home in the outskirts of the city. We were warned that in this house, the guest bedroom Susan and I would occupy was not heated. This being spring it might be a little cool. And we would sleep in separate single beds with bean pillows. They preferred to live in somewhat an old traditional style as much as possible. Did we mind? Of course not, we said, and survived just fine. His wife spent the next day shopping with Susan at a new mall. She admitted she loved to “shop” in these new facilities because the old shops had all been destroyed during the war.

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Ed Janzen is the editor and publisher of CANADIAN STORIES, a literary folk magazine that publishes short stories and poems from Canadian writers of every province of Canada. Story Quilt is an electronic magazine similar in content. Ed has written four memoirs. He also writes for the old car hobby and has a column in OLD AUTOS - a biweekly newspaper featuring mostly Canadians events and automotive history.
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