Dana lives in Seattle, and Tracie lives in Germany. We are businesswomen, writers and humorists. We write about life, dating, and today's modern women.
When I first saw this image, I immediately thought of daddy. It wasn’t necessary for me to consider what he would think if he saw this picture.
You know, over the course of the years, our dad taught my sisters and me life lessons that guide us to this very day and will no doubt guide us forever. In fact, whenever Dani, my sister, and co-blogger, and I are facing an albatross, the first thing we ask ourselves and each other is, “What would daddy do?” In confronting all of his challenges in life, he would say time and again:
“If you ain’t got no heart, you might as well be dead.”
Look at the image accompanying this post. Set politics aside.
Here you have Haitians, real-life talking, breathing, heart beating in their chests human beings with the same basic human desires as you and I of food, family, friendship, financial stability, and the freedom to do everything within our power to live a healthy, productive life. Folks whose resilience has been pushed to the limit through no fault of their own, having heart enough to flee a country crushed in poverty, demoralized, and in utter disarray. I weep at the wretchedness. These people have risked their very lives to escape a life of misery with hope in their hearts and eyes focused on a promising future.
And here they are.
The water is waist-deep. All they have are the clothes on their wet backs and they are being even further stripped of their dignity by heartless men who think they are high-minded and high principled, law-abiding, and morally correct riding horses slinging their whips. “If you ain’t got no heart you might as well be dead.”
This horrifying scene looks like a picture from the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850.
This is 2021. There has got to be a better way.
It takes heart to risk it all when you have nothing to lose–except your life and it takes heart to be a real man. Even while sitting on a horse.
Honest to God people, what has become of our humanity?
Today we celebrate Labor Day, which is our annual celebration of workers and the labor force’s achievements.
As a woman who has worked my entire life to maintain my independence, today, I want to salute all of my sisters who are doing the same.
The work may include being a mother, daughter, sister, bread winner, chef, housekeeper, financier, educator, psychologist, caretaker, negotiator, peacemaker, counselor, spiritual leader, and foundation for all.
So today, I say Cheers to You all and Keep up the Amazing Work!
The Anne Frank House is located right across from the Prinsengracht Canal which is where the canal cruise I intended to take was located. I had perfectly timed the tours so that I had 20 minutes to wait after the first tour until boarding, so I went next door downstairs to a little cafe. Inside the cafe, books and t-shirts with the likeness of Anne Frank are for sale.
Before I knew it, it was time to board. By the way, the Prinsengracht Canal is the fourth and longest of the main canals in Amsterdam.
Once boarded, I see that there are about 20 or so fellow passengers scattered here and there on colorful comfy cushioned pillows. The lone ranger in me sought a spot with some distance away from the others–I mean we should be social distancing anyway, right? (My excuse.) I sit down, scoot back, take off my shoes, put my feet up and extend my legs and exhale. No windows, no walls. Air. Sun. Happy people. Flower baskets bursting blooms. The visual is beautiful in every direction–left and right. I get a cocktail, (this is probably not the cruise your grandma recommended!) and the moment we set off into the waterway, I am certain we are leaving from the mooring known as Marvellousness and Divine!
Along our way, the captain and host filled us in on interesting points about Amsterdam.
*The Dutch East India company launched the world’s first stock exchange–for trading purposes what with all the waterways.
*Relaxing and chilling are primarily done along the banks of the canals, that’s just what the natives do. It’s lovely to see.
*Another fascinating, truly fascinating thing is the lack of barriers where the cars park alongside the canals–there are NO barriers! In the event your car should accidentally topple over the edge of the bank into the water which is about 3 meters or about 10 feet deep, you should get out of your car and stand on its roof–then the police will come and rescue you and the case will be an insurance issue and you won’t get fined. Zoom in on the picture with the cars.
*Back in the day, a skilled person advertised their particular skill by erecting a figurine representing their specialization or line of work. Zoom in on the picture with the curved brick bank. To the right of the yellow sign on the house, you’ll see a feathered creature in an alcove. What do you suppose, this person did for a living?
*This photo shows the spot where one can see seven of the bridges line up–a favorite of photographers the world over. Known as The Seven Bridges. Über enchanting when darkness settles. Zoom in–focus on the left side of the picture.
*Amsterdam is known for having crooked houses; there are many theories about why they exist; some think this is a result of the rotting of the wooden poles and the sinking of houses when an upper floor is added.
*On many homes there are hooks erected into the roofs. This is so that people can hoist their belongings up to the desired floor–which would otherwise be impossible to do in the many narrow, winding stairwells. See the picture of the three adjacent houses–look up towards the sky.
*You pay taxes according to the size of your house and the number of stairs that lead up to your doorway from the street.
*I’m just gonna tell you: you have to seriously get out of the way for the bike riders. I seriously learned to diligently look left and right with the anticipation of an oncoming cyclist–in fact, it became an instinct. The Dutch rode out of the womb on bikes. They are seriously no joke expert riders, they do not ride casually. They’ve got places to go and things to do and they get there. It’s thrilling just to sit at an outdoor cafe and watch them swooping around and flying inside and outside of traffic. Apropos bike riders: my next and final post on Amsterdam will be about my Sex Worker Guided Amsterdam Red Light District Walking Tour. My guide Felicia told me and the two others in our group that she got knocked down twice by bike riders–BUT THAT’S NOT ALL SHE TOLD US! You won’t want to miss out on this!
It’s Hump Day everybody. We’re halfway there!
Amsterdam’s Red Light District is out of this world.
That is because it is a world unto itself. I could not wait to take the tour of this infamous part of Amsterdam with Felicia, a young woman from Romania who herself has been a sex worker here for 10 years. If anybody would know anything about this life, it would be her.
I was intrigued with what she shared and what I saw completely and utterly blew me away.
To keep the tour intimate there were altogether only 4 of us, including Felicia, an unimposing, unexceptional (i.e. not voluptuous or overtly sensual by any means) kind of woman; probably about 5’2 and petite. But don’t let that exterior fool you: Felicia is about as tough as they come– a no-nonsense kind of woman in every sense of the word. In her business, you would have to be.
Our group met at 7 P.M. at Beursplein, a huge square in the very heart of the city. Our first and only instruction was that we were not allowed to take any pictures of the women.
I had planned on capturing images not only of the women but of the red velvet curtains, the bay windows, the neon lights, and any backdrops. Well, I could just forget about that.
The no picture taking rule is strictly enforced–either by the signs posted everywhere which are a constant reminder or by the women themselves who will step outside and confront you, maybe strike you and definitely snatch your cell phone or camera away from you and trash it. Very messy potential.
Now, there is a good reason for this. Many of these women come from poor religious countries. They send money home to their families, but their families do not know what kind of work they are engaged in. It has happened that pictures of some women have sprung up on social media, resulting in their families actually shunning them. So, for this and various other imaginable reasons, picture taking is a no-go.
The first stop on our excursion was to the Condomerie–the world’s first condom store. The idea came to life in the ’80s with the onset of HIV. General sexual hygiene and the use of condoms became essential and safe sex was the maxim of the day. Of course, condoms could be purchased from sex shops and pharmacies, but there was neither good information nor choice in selection. To fill that need, Condomerie was born: a specialty condom store with expert information offering a large variety of products.
At this point, Felicia told me that the pictures of the Condomerie were the last I could take as we crossed the invisible threshold to the heart of the Red Light District.
Interestingly enough, the oldest building in Amsterdam, The Old Church, stands directly across from a row of several of the brothels. It is said that this is the only place in the world where religion meets prostitution. Across from the church, in between two sex houses is a white door. Behind this white door is a daycare center that the church owns. Felicia said that the Dutch are not that religious–I don’t know how true that is–but she said that the Old Church was vandalized many, many years ago. Statues were stolen and the church desecrated. Well, the church came back, reopening with new mores. For example, during Pride Week the church raises the rainbow-colored flag as they welcome all LGBTQ people. No matter your profession, race, nationality, age, no matter your whatever–there are no defining factors that will prohibit the church from welcoming you. And isn’t that a beautiful thing. That is church!
Dusk began to fall. The red velvet curtains began to slide open. It was showtime.
The women, all of whom must be 21 or older to work, must charge at least €50 per every 15 to 20 minutes. That is the minimum. Everyone charges at least that amount. They themselves are charged by the landlord a daily fee because otherwise, it would just be too much to pay monthly. The landlord must have a permit to operate. All the rooms have panic buttons. The cardinal rule: all transactions must be paid upfront. Most men come in for oral sex and are in and out the door within six minutes. (If my sister and co-blogger Dana were writing this, she would say that “they come and go” and technically she would be right!) Sex workers pay taxes on their income–oh! And condoms are a must!
We continue walking across a canal bridge where the lights are just as bright, the streets just as full. I was amazed at how big this area is, almost like a maze, and even though it was a Wednesday night, what with the throngs of people drinking in the windowless bars, smoking pot on the street, and folks just wandering about, it looked like a Friday night.
*It’s illegal to drink outside–the fine is €95,00 or about $112,00–this is to deter belligerent behavior; cannabis is allowed because you toke and just get mellow.)
Now about the bars: there are peep shows, there are live sex shows; there are shows where you can watch women having sex with bananas on the bar–I could not make this up–and there’s another bar that’s called the hospital because all of the women have on nurses uniforms. In one of the live sex bars, there are real married couples performing sex acts in front of people. You must be 18 to enter any of these establishments and 21 to work in any of them.
A few houses on the main street are illuminated with green lights. This is to indicate that they are selling $40 and $50 tickets which allow you entrance into different venues, enjoy the shows, and have two drinks. The lights are lit because that is how the businesses talk to each other– instead of being bogged down with phone calls and questions and or emails, this is a convenient way to say, “Get your tickets here!”
Felicia told us about the fetishes of several of her customers. She said that one of them, a yoga teacher’s thing was for her to kick him in his family jewels (my term–hers was much more direct) and each time he couldn’t take the pain and told her to stop he would pay her $100. Mind you he had already paid the regular fee upfront. When his pain subsided, she would carry on. Oftentimes he would tell her to alternate kicking and punching him there. Said she made a lot of money that night. Hmmm…Urinating, defecating–all those kinds of things are not unusual requests she said. She also shared that some men just like to talk.
When the curtains are drawn open, the women are visible in a dark window that looks to be lit with ultraviolet light which lends a sort of mysterious effect to the scenario. They wear thongs and bras or some sort of sexy lingerie. Some stare right out the window at you, some entertain themselves with their cell phones. If the curtains are closed that means they’re busy, come back later.
It was the strangest sensation to watch some of these men just hanging back and staring at these women. They looked like lechers and perverts. For me personally, it was just appalling to see this. This is not fun and games for these women–this is how they survive–literally. Though they are their own bosses, this is nonetheless such a hard gig. Definitely not easy money.
Our tour had come to an end. I tipped Felicia. The other woman followed my lead and did the same. The man in our group didn’t. Tips help support these tour guides. At that very moment, his cheapness radiated from him like one of those neon signs. Shameful. Felicia bid us all farewell and lit a cigarette as she walked away.
I really am my father’s daughter and there was no way I was leaving the District without my very own picture. I certainly wasn’t going to risk any stupidity, but just a sly little side picture. Nothing ventured nothing gained.
You can of course google more about the Red Light District. It is a fascinating place indeed.
I enjoyed four days in Amsterdam and I loved EVERYTHING about it: the international culture, the food, the canals, the friendliness of the people, the cafes, bohemian shops, museums…So much more to see, can’t wait to go back
Tot de volgende keer Amsterdam!!
Admit it… Aren’t we all a mess? For far too many, our lives really look like our junk drawers. Crammed with assorted pens, keys, miscellaneous notes, paper clips, stamps, scissors, nail files, tacks, notepads and cards all jammed in tucked away. We do a great job looking like we have it all together on the exterior which looks as pristine as any living room with even the couch pillows fluffed and perpendicular.
It takes a brave person to share their vulnerability, air their dirty laundry, and truly expose the hardship that life undeniably delivers.
This is why I was so beyond honored when my friend, Shari Leid asked me to write the foreword to her latest book, Make Your Mess Your Message More Life Lessons From and For My Girlfriends. Shari’s personal life messages aren’t immediately apparent. (Her life looks pristine like my Livingroom). But like Shari and the women featured in this book, their lives are a testament to the strength of human resilience. These stories reflect real life and sometimes near death consequences. They conquer the grit it takes to truly take whatever mess life serves and make it a message to help others navigate and thrive.
Real life stories because this is real life.
As I wrote the forward, we were in the midst of a Pandemic. We saw family and friends die, watched marriages dissolve, and witnessed businesses which once thrived close. People literally have been fighting for their lives and livelihoods. I’ve learned no matter how great or small our messes may be, we all suffer.
I have known suffering. I have lost loved ones. Been a product of divorce. Been divorced. Been in financial duress. Faced health challenges. In today’s social media world, it is easy to portray a life filled with only bliss. It is a courageous individual who speak their truth, no matter how painful- and their courage allows others to relate and to see more clearly their own path out of the mess.
Bravo to Shari for creating this platform. I can promise you when you read these stories, no matter what you are going through, you will not feel alone. And that is a powerful tool and reminder as Elizabeth Kubler Ross wrote, “The most beautiful people are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss and have found their way out of the depths.”
OK, so you, like the rest of my Facebook family are over hearing about my epic birthday celebration. I get it, but for those of you who keep asking…What was in the box?
Yes, this box that Stacy Lill along with With Patti Savoy Kim Ross Shalisan Foster Fredda Goldfarb Deborah Renee Anderson Sheila Nagle Otter Stacy Jones Susan Kropp gifted me. My crew is always ahead of the curve, and what was inside was just like each of them- sustainable, stylish, comfy and classy. Check these out (1) Respoke | Luxury Fashion Boutique | Provincetown & Nantucket, MA Mine were made out of recycled Hermes scarves. I have not taken them off except for this picture. Thanks girls…I love them! Gotta put on my shoes and go!
The first tour of the day, the Amsterdam’s Jewish Quarter Walking Tour was set to begin at 10:30. The meeting point would be in front of the Jewish Historical Museum. Because I had absolutely no idea where I was going, I left the hotel early enough to afford myself time to get lost and STILL be on time.
Fortunately, the Museum was only about a 15-minute drive from the hotel where I was staying, so I had a good forty-five minutes to wander and discover. I begin to stroll down the street.
Instantly, just a few breaths away from the meeting point, I see a motley collection of color and things and stuff which make me come to a full stop. I couldn’t figure the whole thing out. I stepped up a bit closer and carefully observed this beautiful, eclectic, perfectly appointed mishmash which was the entrance to the living quarters of someone who was clearly a very free spirit. The occupant stepped outside, eyed me, smiled, turned around, and retreated back inside, seemingly satisfied that he’d aroused the curiosity of another passerby. His outdoor feast for the eyes was just staggering! He had certainly put a lot of effort into finding just the right place for just the right thingumabob. I lingered for a while admiring his creative colorful composition. Hah! Another lone ranger. If Amsterdam is gonna be like this, we’re going to get along just fine, I thought and with a bit more spring in my step, I moseyed on down the street.
Just as I was thinking that I had time for a coffee, I see about half a block before me a cafe. I stepped inside The Strain Hunters “coffee house”. You actually could get a coffee with any of the house specialties of various kinds of weed, hash cookies, pre-rolled joints, and space cakes.
It dawned on me where I was. “Good morning,” I said smiling.
The guy behind the counter said, “Good morning love. What can I get for you?”
I glanced up at the menu.
“Could I get a cappuccino–with oat milk?” I said. (I am laughing at the memory as I write this. Duh, Tracie.)
“Sure,” he said. Step on over to the side there to my colleague. She’ll set you up.”
While my hot foamy drink was being cooked, I sat down on a stool at a low seated table near where it was all happening. The music of Earth, Wind and Fire accompanied the good vibe. I looked around. On every table there in The Strain Brothers, there are various shaped small glass jars–all filled with cannabis of some kind or another. I look at my table. Yep. Mine too.
What a treat. I wasn’t expecting to land in a real coffee house–I just wanted a cappuccino. It’s quite interesting how the 300 or so coffee shops fit into the Dutch culture. It’s fun just to watch the array of customers. One caveat is that no cannabis –considered a soft drug–may be sold to anyone under the age of 18.
I finished my coffee and headed back down the street from which I’d come towards the tour operator who had just arrived himself.
Our group consisted of seven, plus the tour guide who was extremely knowledgeable about Jewish history in Amsterdam. I lauded his clear affinity for the Jews (and the inclusion of all people for that matter) and his disgust of their plight during WW2.
He explained what happened during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands between 1940 and 1945, and the effects of the brutal regime. He showed us original photographs of the documents used to remove the Jewish folk from their homes, their families, and their livelihoods; explained how some Jews turned on their brothers and sisters out of fear for their own lives; about the Dutch resistance who worked tirelessly and in secret to save families like Anne Frank’s.
We walked to various monuments and I was deeply moved by the monument (near completion) which will honor more than 102,000 Jews, Roma and Sinti killed in the holocaust or who died on their way to the concentration camps. The brick-shaped stones each engraved with a victim’s name have been constructed as 4 walls to form four Hebrew letters spelling out the word that translates into: In Memory Of.” Beautiful, right? Of course, Anne Frank’s name is here. Our tour ends at her home.
Standing before the green front door of what was once her family home, our tour operator tells us about her life, her fears, her yearnings as she was just coming into puberty and wrote about her feelings, and the betrayal of her family: no one could ever have known that anyone was behind that narrow book facade.
I couldn’t help but want to touch the green door, leaving a bit of myself behind and taking so much with me. So much heritage, heartache, and history. I just had to take some with me.
In my next post, I’ll share my adventure and some interesting facts about Amsterdam as seen from the water on a canal cruise. It’s Monday, make it rock everybody!
So, my sister, it’s your Birthday and I have little something I want to tell you.
There is no better friend than a sister, and there is no better sister than you.
The instant I look at you, at the moment I hear your voice, those times we laugh until our shoulders shake, tears roll down and faces and I shout out, “Shut up Dani!”, you always appear to be the same in my eyes: your essence bears the resemblance of a smile. You infuse life into life my sister, and it makes me smile–it encourages many people to smile for that matter, and that is a sensational thing.
Your generosity, compassion, sympathy, kindness, and lovingness are the qualities that make the world a better place. It brings about happiness and when we are happy we smile. So you see? Your approach to life mirrors a smile.
And so my message to everyone on this, your special day is:
Be like Dana.
Happy Birthday my sister. I love you. Call you in a few.
I have always been curious.
It’s the eve of my birthday. As I look at this baby picture of me, I’m sure I was looking at the photographer thinking what is that machine that is flashing in my face?
As a baby, my daddy nicknamed me Louella Parsons the famed American movie columnist as I always wanted to know who, what, where, when and why. No guest left our house unscathed of my inquiries. As my friends who know me today, the same rules apply. I apologize publicly to any prospects trying to date my girls, as I will get to the bottom of your story.
We should never stop learning. When you are green you grow, and when you are ripe you rot. Daily, I challenge myself to learn something new. So, just as my sister and co-blogger Tracie gives you things for your tool box, I will share questions to see what you really know or think you know.
So try these…
Barbie’s last name is…. Roberts
Despite its 216 minute running time, Lawrence of Arabia has no women in speaking roles.
The kitchen dishwasher was invented by a socialite wife of an Illinois politician, not because she was fed up with the ho-hum chore of dirty dishes but because she had had it with careless servants who frequently broke her expensive china while washing it.
On average, we forget 80 percent of what we learn on any given day…
So, the way I see it, that leaves more room in our brains to keep learning and stay curious.