A-broader view

How did you welcome 2008 into the world? Champagne by the waterfront? Watching a ball drop 20 feet while extolling another year gone by? I spent mine in Amsterdam. With my parents. Don’t bother asking The Question, as I’m 4,000 miles away and can’t answer and won’t be doing so in this column anyway. How irritating it must be for the mayor of Amsterdam, knowing your city is known the world over for an infamous, stinky leg?islative quirk and a particular street hued a particular color.Surely both help tourism; every third person I saw, it seemed, was straight off the UVM campus, either sporting Red Sox or Bob Marley gear, and many (especially the latter) had a content, glazed look to their face. But to have a mention of such a culturally significant metropolis bring only a snicker and images of green and red to minds of potential visitors must be frustrating. That said, as my family stepped off the plane, both of my parents agreed that the single most important stop on our trip was to be the Red Light District. I, 20 years old and at the height of my sexual prowess (or so I like to think) had absolutely no desire to wander down a sex-reeking, gaudy avenue with my two 50-something year old parents. Apparently, they wanted nothing more out of this trip than to gawk at 50-something year old whores who look more at home chain smoking menthol Salems in a dive bar somewhere than enticing potential customers.And that, come evening, was exactly what we saw.There is an acute sensation of the surreal when one has a middle aged woman licking her lips at you while walking with the similarly aged woman who gave birth to you. It was a titanically awkward clash of worlds, only compounded at my father’s suggestion that we “check out that store over there – the one with all the leather in the window!”I took stock of my options and decided waiting outside amongst the prostitutes and tourists would be safer for my psyche and took the time to ponder how exactly I was stuck with two children of the sixties as parents whose main interest in Amsterdam was reliving some semblance of the sexual liberation of their day.Watching the predominantly American hordes wander by, with their fanny packs and cameras swinging about their puffed bellies, it struck me just how weak-minded my skulking was. Sure, they might not have any concept of parent-son awkwardness, but surely having parents who are down?right cool enough to want to take their son to the vice mecca of Europe can’t be a negative. It’s certainly better than watching the fireworks from I-490 in Rochester like most years, and I suppose, in their own way, it’s an attempt to bring us closer as a family. Doesn’t the old adage go: the family that giggles at dildos together, stays together? Or something like that?I was in a bit more comfortable mood when they wandered back into the neon red light, wishing to press on. I agreed and even suggested that we all take a trip to one of Amsterdam’s numerous coffee shops.For the coffee, of course.