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I remember my first time in Amsterdam, a magical city with dainty bridges over canals, and quaint buildings along it, whose tops symbolize various forms of architecture. Different gables, bell, neck-shaped and laddered, according to the fashion.

Our hotel was far from Rosse Buurt, so we walked and had dinner in an area close to the district. I never forget that name because it is a vivid memory of how things worked in that part of town. The restaurant had a good view of the Red Light District, comprising of houses whose windows displayed young women in their underwear. Once the curtains were drawn and the light faded, it meant they were busy. Other windows lit up and faded into darkness throughout the dinner. What a life, I thought, open, uninhibited.

Prostitution is the oldest profession in history. I remember seeing a sign in Ephesus, probably the oldest bit of advertising, stating, “If you go right, you’ll find your heart’s key,” pointing to a house of joy.

Men marry proper women who bear proper children, but some can’t stay away from the women of joy, can they, and perhaps have some illegitimate children. What’s the secret? The proper versus the improper? Perhaps they prefer the less inhibited? There are many answers to this question. I think it has to do with the alter ego and the rebellion against what’s proper.

Recently, I read that Rosse Buurt will be moved out of Amsterdam. Amsterdam will not be Amsterdam without Rosse Buurt. It will never be the same. With this on my mind, I listen to Jacques Brel.

non-fiction