Helping You Get the Most Out of Your Misery
Thursday, February 03, 2005
When my wife and I took our trip to Europe this summer, we went to Amsterdam. We were traveling on the teeny-tiniest of budgets, and Amsterdam is, by and large, a fairly expensive place to stay. It took us awhile to find something in our price range, but, when we did, we booked it sight unseen and just hoped for the best.
The best was not what we got. We went directly from the train station to the Red Light District, where the hostel was located. The Red Light District is the place you go for either pot, booze or hookers. When you walk down the street, the hookers are sitting in large windows, in various states of undress. Some of them dance for passersby and do their best to attract clientele. Most look like they'd rather be at a Pauly Shore film festival.
It took a little getting used to, walking down these streets where, if the thought just happened to pop into your brain, "Hey! A hummer'd be nice right now," you could get that taken care of. It was where we were staying, though, so we didn't have much choice but to acclimate.
The bad part of this, I should point out, wasn't that we were staying in the Red Light District--which actually has a certain sleazy charm, not unlike Mickey Rourke--the bad part was that it was a Christian Youth Hostel. The freshly scrubbed youngsters at the front desk didn't greet you with a spritz of Holy Water or anything quite so extreme, but if you talked to them for more than, say, three minutes (as I was forced to do while my wife went in search of an ATM because The Lord Our God had seen fit to disable the front desk's credit card machine) Jesus somehow found His way into the conversation.
It wasn't anything overt like, "Here's your room key and now please join us for a snake handling session." It was subtler. When I asked if my guide book was correct in its hint that one might find it easier to get into the Anne Frank House if one waited until after 6:00, I was told that the lines could be really long. If I wanted a good alternative, I might be interested in the Carrie Tenboom house, which commemorated a young Christian girl who had hid Jews in her hope chest or some such crap.
The place's bible-thumpiness manisfested itself in other annoying ways, too. The worst of this was that my wife (wife; married, with rings to prove it) and I had to stay in separate dorms. This was exceptionally irksome as it meant we had to find a way to coordinate sharing our soap and shampoo on different floors in mono-sex showers.
The hostel's bookshelf, where one would normally expect to find something to relieve the boredom, like a dog-eared copy of Wifey or the June '97 issue of Entertainment Weekly or something, was, instead, full of books that looked normal until you read a couple of pages and noticed that they used the term "deep and abiding faith" half a dozen times.
Then there were the walls, many of which were painted with phrases such as "Jesus Loves You" in big, happy letters. I'll go on record as saying that I know for a fact Jesus doesn't love me. He puts up with me, but that's about it.
The least appealing aspect of our Amstedam hostel experience, aside from the afore-mentioned no-sex-separate-dorm thing, was that the place had a 1:00 AM curfew. We were in Amsterdam, where one really ought to stay out until the wee small hours of the morning getting shitfaced, and we had to be in our hostel (and not visibly intoxicated) by 1:00. And let me tell you, there is nothing duller than a Christian hostel with single-sex dorms after curfew if you're not sleepy. I've had more fun in laundromats.
So why do I bring this up when the trip was a good six months ago?
I recently went through a bunch of ticket stubs, train passes, restaurant receipts and the like from the trip and I came across a little flyer for the hostel. I looked it over. I took a closer look and I noticed that, on the front cover, next to a drawing of one of the canal-side posts that people use to tie up their boats, the artist who put the flyer together had drawn a pile of dog shit.
Why? What on earth could this person have meant by putting a pile of dog shit on the front of the fucking brochure? I looked at it over and over to make certain I wasn't mistaking the brown pile for something else. I was not. So...is this meant to be how the Christians feel about the moral depravity of Amsterdam? Was it a hippy artist including the turds as a Fuck You to his patrons? Is it just a comment on how dog-friendly the city is?
I may never know.