It's a difficult thing to try to explain Amsterdam.
It's a mix of so many different experiences, people, smells, sights and sounds. But one thing is for sure...it's not what I am used too.
I think you become used too almost anything once you are around it for a while. I think that can be good and bad.
There is a lot here that slaps me in the face but hardly fazes others who live here.
Here are a few things I have seen in the city. Most of them while walking at night, which is what everyone does. The streets are full of people at evening and night though usually for different reasons than the day.
On a walk the other night from an evening of conversation with a friend I encountered a wildly drunk man stumbling towards us, waving his hands and bearing the eyes of man slightly crazy, lost and dangerous.
I passed a person laying in a door way, covering up with a light jacket for a night in the cold. They didn't look like a street person. I passed and looked and then my heart caught up with me and I wondered about the how, the why and...kept walking.
A madman dressed in shorts and wearing a belt with a chain and the head of tweety hanging from it, was talking to a garbage can. He was deranged, mumbling something that made sense only to himself...but he was on a mission for sure.
People sitting drinking their beers on the canals of a beautiful city with their significant others. Just sitting...not talking. Blank looks on their faces. Cold, detatched...empty.
A crowd, a puke covered street, a young man losing his life with a face as pale as death. A policeman trying to awaken someone's boy who had been stung by satan's stinger. Drugs claiming another soul. The people just walking by as someone's little boy was spewing vomit and dying, a mere spectacle for tourists. We just kept walking, past people, some laughing.
I was horrified.
The metro at night is enough to scare a strong man into a weenie. Dark paths, mumbling drunks, beggars, too man people meandering for your own good. People following you at a distance that makes you look backwards more than forwards. Every corner the home of Jack the ripper. Men cursing in the blackness...
Dirty streets, filth, empty beer cans, the smell of marijuana kicking you in the nose. Body odor and clouds of cigarette smoke clinging to your skin. Humidity and lots of sweat.
So many people, jostling together, murmuring voices, uninviting eyes except from criminals and predators.
Scantily clad women on every corner, earning a buck on the normal streets, a few euros and a drink and a show for the restaurant and those walking by...skin is in.
Everything presses in on you like a sauna and you don't realize you have been holding your breath until you shut the door and lock it and realize you exhale a little too loud...
God help this city, it needs you desperately.