Two nekos do Urupe 7:Amsterdam

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Now Amsterdam.. that is that city I was born.. and we(= my avatars) went into Second Life when we found it existed. And exist it does.. I mean not in a small way, but actually there is a rather big place in Second Life that looks in a certain way as Real Life Amsterdam does. Although without the myriads of tourists plodding around and without, for some reason, the bars and the coffee shops pandering soft drugs. Yeah.. that is Amsterdam for you, yet it is not. There are coffee-shops there but it is not like every inhabitant is intoxicated.
I recall my friends and me had this moment in which we smoked pot and stuff like that. It started one day with someone bringing us a cake made with grass and a year or so later it stopped. Just like that.
Smoking lingered long after that. I mean one of those friends, he smoked until his late thirties, until one of his lungs collapsed and his doctor said: if keep this going…
If you were to say that one drugs lead to another.. it would be hard to proof. For nobody of the eight people involved ever touched any kind of drugs after that one year. It was this wild moment and it was over a year later. In fact.. studying at the university and doing soft drugs is not a good mix. I suspect most of us were to serious for that.

Now the picture above shows the dam. That would be the central square of Amsterdam in a way. I guess most inhabitants my beg to differ. I mean the Leidseplein is more of a center for people who want to go out and have a drink. And the museumplein would be more of a culture place. And yet the munt, not really a square, would be more of a place to watch a movies. The dam however holds the most dominating landmarks that illustrate the dutch mindset: a church, a big shopping mall, monument for world war II, a palace which isn’t actually a palace but rather a symbolic palace and also the gathering place for the ruling elite untill it became a democracy. And not far off: the stock exchange. For the three pillars of the dutch are: commerce, religion and a vague authority.

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This is a picture that more or less show the damrak that is a broad street running from the central station(way  to the rear of the picture) towards the dam.(behind us in the picture). The building with the flag on it (the dutch flag: red-white-blue) is the former stock exchange. I am not sure what it is for used for now. You can have coffee in front of it as it has a kind of bar. It also seems to have some kind of stock exchange function, but what it is I do not know.
In the front of the picture are the typical trams.. the one you see is somewhat old, as nowadays they have a yellow basic look and somewhat more modern.

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Ok I am sorry but I like the versions of the above place. Those show the typical dutch canals, called grachten. I think it’s a nice example of how a gracht might look like in Amsterdam. However the grachten seldom ended in a way like this in the way you see here. Usually they either continue on into another gracht. A building that is located at the end of a gracht I have seldom seen.

So that is Amsterdam and I finish with one picture less than at my blogger place.

Next up will be Brussels and it gotz the Atomium, lace and sweet and some real neko pictures. 😛

A life in addictions: tobacco

Smoking is one addiction I certainly can’t blame my parents for. My family did and does not smoke and I can’t recall anyone ever smoking in the wider circle of our family, except for my granddad on my father’s side that is.. I remember a picture of him sitting in a easy chair holding a cigar in his right hand. One day, when I was still very young, someone told him smoking was bad for his health. He probably nodded, put down his cigar and never smoked again.

Some years ago I was going through my grandfather’s legacy and  I found  some old black and white pictures from family parties from the fifties. The tables had white coffee cups filled with cigarettes. Like snacks you could take one if you felt like it. I think these didn’t have filters either so the rooms on those pictures were definitely cloudy. Smoking was a social activity like any other and everyone seemed to be happy and joyful. The spectre of cancer had not yet risen.

I did smoke because of my family background, I learned to smoke when I was in my early twenties when I started to study history at the University of Amsterdam. One day I was paging through a series of role play books in the American Book Center in Amsterdam,  when someone approached me and asked me if I liked those books.  I said yes and he introduced me to a role playing group.

People of this group also played in another group  and via that group they knew other people who roleplayed too.  It turned out there were a lot of people about my age who studied at the university and played role play games. Roleplaying soon became just one of the activities that we did: we went to movies, hung out in parks chatting till the sun came up or sat at the home of a good friend of mine playing risk and watching MTV and TMF. In those days those channels still broadcasted mostly music clips. I think they stopped doing that nowadays. At least whenever I happen to turn on the television and switch to MTV the channel is filled with anything but music clips.

It  this group of people that started to smoke. Actually some started to smoke as an extension of smoking weed. Weed was introduced by someone who made a  weed cake. People liked it, but making a cake like that took too long  and  therefore we bought weed to mix with tobacco. Later on hashish was also introduced. It also was cut up and mixed with tobacco.

Soft drugs are however expensive, so the habit developed to smoke tobacco in between the weed and hashish. And that is how smoking as a habit developed. After about one and a half year of doing soft drugs, everyone suddenly stopped. It was over like that. Just like you flipped a switch.

Smoking tobacco however did not stop that sudden, but lingered on for a long time. Some friends never smoked (I have to grant them that), some smoked for a very short time, others smoked for a very long time.. till their forties.

Here is a wicked formula that you might recognize: Alcohol and smoking are intertwined. Smoking increases the desire for drinking, drinking increase the urge to smoke.. Add salt to the equation and you might not find it strange that some bars hand out free salted peanuts. Salt creates thirst which is quenched with alcohol, alcohol creates the desire to smoke.

Still, over the years, one person after the other stopped smoking.  Two friends kept on smoking however, until one suffered a collapsed lung a few years back and the other got diabetes. They both were urged by their doctors to stop smoking because of health reasons: they had to.

Nowadays smokers in my country have been marginalised. I am currently in France where people are still allowed to smoke in cafes and restaurants. In the Netherlands this is forbidden. This policy started some years ago when a law was passed to protect employees from working in conditions where customers smoked. Everyone knew this law was an just an excuse to prohibit smoking. It is interesting how anti-smoking we have become. Interesting because we are far less strict regarding that other big drug: alcohol. Interesting also because smoking mostly affects the smoker, but alcohol has a tendency to affect others as well. But alcohol is too big to be touched.

People found a way around the law though:  if you did not have employees, the law did not apply. Hence bars develop where the owner ran the bar without employees.  However, this was just a stay of execution: this year the law was amended. Now smoking is just prohibited in any public place. It won’t surprise me that the next law will prohibit smoking altogether except for smoking in your own home.

I sometimes see the odd collection of smokers huddling together at the entrance to the office building I work in. If they don’t get some smoke related disease they stand a fair chance to catch a cold, for they have no shelter against the weather.The smoker has become the modern day pariah.

Poor smokers, I sometimes think, until I sit on a terras in France having my lunch spoiled by some French smoker blowing wafts of tobacco in my direction. Then I appreciate it that someone banned smoking from our public spaces.

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