Sunday, April 22, 2012

Strange places - drugs and prostitution

Strange places (for bourgeois visitors) - Sometimes you enter an area innocently, suspecting nothing, and suddenly you are outside your comfort zone and you don't know the rules of the place. Literally, you don't know where to look. For example when you enter the red light district unexpectedly. We had this several times.
Surprise 1 - The red light district of Haarlem is situated on the historic tour of the city. One moment you're reading about the Christian community of the Beguines and suddenly you see half-naked ladies behind red-lit windows. A branch of psychogeography you don't often read about.
"Something strange is going on here," said Pancho, as the taxi driver drove happily away, with a few choice words about our mothers. At first glance the street looked normal, but I too noticed something different about the place I remembered so vividly.
Unknown rules - These areas have their own rules. And as a standard bourgeois person I don't know the rules of prostitution, cruising, drug dealing and crime. I feel disoriented and paranoid in these places. But insiders can find their way with ease.
Score some shit,” said Brown ... Milgrim looked out at the street they were parked on. Five-story brick Edwardian retail structures lacquered with the unhappiness of crack or heroin. The fuckedness quotient way up, down in this part of town. ... “I’ve never been here before,” said Milgrim. “I don’t even know if this is the right street.” - “Are you kidding? Look at it.” - “I know,” Milgrim said, “but a local would know what’s going on this week. Today. Is this where the biz is, or did the police just shift it three blocks south? Like that.” ...
He decided it would be best to behave as though he were shopping for his own flavor of pharmaceuticals. This would up his authenticity immediately, he thought, as he knew what to ask for, and that the units would be pills. This way, if he actually managed to buy something, it might even turn out to be worth keeping.The day suddenly seemed brighter, this foreign but oddly familiar street more interesting. Allowing himself to forget Brown almost entirely, he strolled along with a new energy.
Surprise 2 - The red light district of Alkmaar is also situated on the historic tour of the city. One moment you're reading about the cheese trade and the tulip mania and suddenly you find yourself in a narrow alley with men looking as if they're not there at all. And then you see the windows with half-naked ladies with stockings. Now there is no way back, you have to walk to the other side of the alley. Later you find that you've misread the map.
Surprise 3 - The red light district of Antwerp is situated next to the new modern art museum. It used to be right beside Antwerp harbor, in its natural environment. But now the harbor has moved and the whole area is being renovated and gentrified. This is the last remaining island of original use. One moment you're exploring the remains of the harbor and looking for a sandwich and the next moment you see all these dodgy men. It takes a while before you realize what's happening.
"This is where the whores are," said María. The truth is, at first I didn't see anything to suggest that the street was any different from those we had just been on. The traffic was heavy here too, and the people crowding the sidewalks were no different from the people streaming along Bucareli. But then (maybe because of what María had said) I started to notice some differences. To start with, the lighting. The streetlights on Bucareli are white, but on Avenida Guerrero they had more of an amber tone. The cars: on Bucareli it's unusual to find a car parked on the street; on Guerrero there were plenty. On Bucareli, the bars and coffee shops are open and bright; on Guerrero, although there were lots of bars, they seemed turned in on themselves, secret or discreet, with no big windows looking out. And finally, the music. On Bucareli there wasn't any. All the noise came from people or cars. On Guerrero, the farther in you got, especially on the corners of Violeta and Magnolia, the music took over the street, coming from bars, parked cars, and portable radios, and drifting from the lighted windows of dark buildings. "I like this street," said María. "Someday I'm going to live here."
Pictures: Google maps - Street view
Drugs: Spook Country by William Gibson, 2007
Prostitution: The Savage Detectives (Los Detectives Salvajes) Roberto Bolaño, 1998

1 comment:

  1. I loved Trier. A find, A prize! e! A random day's roam. Not knowing its foundations before I arrived, the turning of every corner revealed a surprise. Roman baths, Collesium, Porta Negra, the modern looking Uni,a quickstop there at the WC, young students everywhere. Stroll past Karl Marx's apartment. Arrive at the market square. Stare at the strange fountain. Peep past the porn shops and enter the dome! what a trip with twists! It was an ecstatic whone day affair.