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My posting about the Polish whorehouse told you some of what I could get up to on voyages.  Here I want to say a bit about times between.  It's still the mid-1970's.

Most merchant sailors worked continuously, sending money home to their families, returning infrequently to Spain, Portugal or Central West Africa to see them.  (Spanish was the working language aboard.)  I, on the other hand, worked until I had the money to lounge around Amsterdam for a long while looking for action or to backpack around North Africa or East Asia, returning to sea when I ran out of money or decided it was time to cool it for a while from my rather chaotic adventures ashore. At sea there was less chance of trouble.

Before I get to the main event in Amsterdam, I must comment on gay porn movies there .  I had never seen a porn movie before Amsterdam.  It was before the internet, so they were somewhat rare, at least in Canada.  Hetero porn movies were more common but I never watched those—straight sex for me seems weird and unnatural.  For me such films are like watching a National Geographic documentary about mating wolverines.  But I had been warned that one quickly tired of gay porn movies, so I was determined to enjoy them no matter what.

In the evenings in Amsterdam I was at the Milky Way, or one of the other dope-friendly clubs, in the bar of the Truco (which I'll get to in a minute) or more seriously on the prowl.  But lazy afternoons were often in the porn theatres.  At the time they were housed in the sex-shops.  You pushed beyond the books and toys to the small entrance hall covered by a curtain.  Once beyond the curtain you had a choice of two facing doors also covered by curtains--”hetero” to the left, “homo” to the right.  Thus no one in the main store area could tell which one you entered.

Lights were low but you could definitely see everybody.  The entrance to the washroom was to the side of the screen.  Everyone could see who--and how many whos-- entered it at one time.  The sign above it read “No Sex In the Toilet.”  This rule was enforced every ten minutes or so when a handsome Dutch guy—each time a different guy-- trying to look threatening, walked slowly down the central aisle (acting now as a catwalk) over to check the toilet, and more importantly, to let everyone get a look at him for a possible hook-up in the “relaxation rooms” which you could rent (along with the staff guy of your choice) for an hour of anything but relaxation. The movie sound track was on high.  The sounds that accompany sexual activity are usually—at least for vanilla me—soft.  Ear-splitting volume changes the mood significantly. 

The very first one I saw showed me there was a different way to look at porn movies, a way that could surmount the boredom that quickly overcame me. The movie was set in a posh New England private boys school—along the lines of Dead Poets Society, although the tattoos and knife scars on the young men's bodies suggested otherwise.  The main actor entered the swimming pool area.  He walked over to the mound of writhing, thrashing, convulsing, coupling, naked bodies--like mating earthworms, but with lots of moans and sudden barks of surprise and pleasure.  He looked down at them and asked, “What are you guys doing?”  I exploded in laughter, thinking “Kid, if you have to ask what they're doing, you definitely do not belong in this movie.”  But he was a quick learner, and soon all was well.  I realized that a more profitable way to watch porn movies was as comedies, and thus these afternoons—lots of laughing plus eye-candy-- kept me happy.

Far more interesting to watch was the audience—a few older men who were the ones to rent the relaxation rooms, but the vast majority were NATO troops.  With them there was no furtive don't ask-don't tell nonsense.  They told--very loudly.  They yelled funny comments at the screen, and called out to each other across the room, often being very explicit about what they would like to do with the man in view.  So, there was a lot of moving around so they could sit together.  No sex in the toilet perhaps, but that warning did not seem to include the theatre itself.  It was always in good spirits, and everyone had a good time.

Between ships I stayed at the Truco, a small hotel on the Nieuwendijk, even then a busy pedestrian shopping street.  One steep flight up to reception and bar.  One more flight up to the rooms.  It was very popular with NATO troops stationed in West Germany, and with soldiers who had decided to remain in Europe after their discharge--and the bar with the Dutch who enjoyed watching the soldiers at play.  It was like going to the zoo.  I liked it especially because it was cheap and had a 24-hour bar.  Dutch friends once met me there very early, and were amazed to find me drinking beer for breakfast.  Doesn't everybody?

The Truco chambermaids, dressed demurely in white aprons, were young woman who found themselves stuck in Europe and trying to save money to get home.  Presiding over the scene were the main bar-keep Theo, and Angela. Theo was a middle-aged Dutchman who was madly in love with all the soldiers.  He took very good care of them, always kind and willing to help--more of an uncle figure than the would-be lover I suspected he was.  I once asked an ex-soldier I knew if he thought Theo realized himself to be gay.  He wasn't sure, but said everyone else did, and who cared?

Angela was a former sex worker in the red light district who traded her window for the Truco.  She was the real power.  Once an American kid newly arrived in Europe was at breakfast with us.  Angela was serving.  He cried out, “Hey guys, look at the size of those boobs!” and reached out with both hands open wide.  Angela struck him across the face and he fell back.  In a steely voice she told us all her motto: “Look, but don't touch.”  Theo was the medic and chaplain, but Angela was the drill sergeant.  Some nights when things got too rowdy for Theo, Angela would suddenly appear, and order was instantly restored.  She inspired fear, but everyone liked her as much as they liked Theo.

One day a sign appeared.  The Truco was to close to all outsiders for the coming 3-day weekend.  Theo told me everyone had to leave except me because I was Canadian.  A large contingent of Canadian troops had booked in.  This concerned me.  Was this closure some kind of anti-Canadian thing?  Who doesn't like Canadians?  Especially the Netherlands since Canadians liberated them in WW2.  Canadians are thought of as excessively polite, soft of speech, slow to anger, quick to say “I'm sorry.”  Under most circumstances this is accurate.   Supermarkets can be especially trying, when one accidently bumps a shopping cart into another and we stand there for many minutes competing over who is the most sorry.  Our stereotype is indeed true, but not always.  Theo told me I had it completely wrong. They were closing to protect everyone else FROM the Canadians.

At the time Canadian troops had a reputation for roaming about German cities at night in large groups throwing Volkswagons through plate glass windows—to the despair of store owners, but the secret delight of many Germans. The Truco was vigilant because Canadians were there often, and they knew what to expect.  I was thinking, “Wow, this is going to be good!”  It promised to be “Sudbury Saturday Night.”  This song title means nothing to non-Canadians, but it is one of our most treasured iconic songs, recounting the evening's events in a typical north Canadian mining town pub. 

Shortly before the Canadians' scheduled arrival the chambermaids appeared, now in high heels, low-cut tight dresses and far too much makeup—much like the Polish women I spoke of.  I asked one why the transformation.  She said it was all just part of the job.

All the Canadians arrived together, laughing excitedly, punching each other in the shoulder.  I fantasized the Visigoths descending on Rome.  Once they settled in, the merriment began, slowly at first, but building rapidly to what I hoped for.  I tried to stay out of the action, just asking them about home and the Volkswagons.  Theo was in heaven, Angela was alert for trouble.

It was mostly straight, of course; the girls were very busy.  But the first night I did catch the eye of a slightly older French-Canadian muscle bear sergeant.  Much as I have heard it, that Quebecois accent gets me every time.  And I like bears.  They can look intimidating, but they have hearts of gold, and, I tell you, rubbing their fur the wrong way generates a hell of a lot of heat!  Woof!  So that weekend no porn movies.  Each day the guys went out to explore, but soon returned to the freedom and safety of the Truco.  Outsiders continued to beat on the front door.  Theo did not bother to go down to the street-level door, but yelled at them from the second floor window to go away.

My sergeant tried to persuade me to return with him to Germany.  I told him I was very flattered, but sadly had a ship to catch the following week and I doubted it would really work, so ours was to be a Brief Encounter. 

The scene climaxed on the last night with untrammeled meyhem.  It was all I could have asked for.  Monday morning, much the worse for wear, they left for Germany.  I said goodbye to my sergeant and promised to stay in touch.  Theo smiled bravely with moist eyes, and begged them to return as soon as possible.  Angela looked tired.  As I sat at the bar nursing an appalling hangover,  I surveyed the torn drapes, the battered and broken furniture, and my patriotic Canadian heart swelled with pride.

A very entertaining read, X-man!

Thanks, Sason, kind words are always appreciated.  You are in Sweden, and most likely know the Netherlands and the Nieuwendijk.  I'll be mentioning Sweden soon, so stay tuned.  Regards.   :)


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