Greetings from Ho-Land Part Five

A friend of mine here in AmsterDAMN, who works in advertising and knows
about such things, suggested to me that this column might have some sort of
future in men’s magazines—the “cool girl” feature so popular in Maxim, FHM,
Details, etc—if I could manage to make it a little more pornographic and
slightly less intellectual.

“You think my column is intellectual?” I asked, taken somewhat aback. “I
mean, I have yet to read any Chomsky where he talks about getting his period
all over his bicycle seat.”

He surveyed last week’s column pensively, looking for evidence of my brain.

“Well, there are some awfully long sentences in here.” He paused, looking
at me kindly. “Besides, I think we can agree that Noam Chomsky is WAY
past menopause.”

That would explain the osteoporosis.

Anyway, faced with the impending prospect of returning to New York with no
foreseeable career opportunities or chance of making any kind of a living, I
figured that writing a Sex and the City-like discourse about how much chicks LOVE anal sex was worth a shot. Sort of verbal prostitution. I’d be like a brainy phone-sex operator—like the brothel of intellectual harlots in the
famous Woody Allen short story “The Whore of Mensa.” It was with this goal
in mind that I headed to the red-light district to buy a vibrator.

It’s something I’d been thinking about doing for a while now. I have
slowly come to the conclusion that I have become, despite all my efforts to
the contrary, that most predictable of creatures: a single woman in her
mid-twenties. It’s time to make some kind of investment in the future. A
girl my age who is the newest associate at a law firm, say, or works in P.R.
or marketing, might put a down payment on an apartment, start an I.R.A., buy
a car or a grown-up purse. My means are considerably more limited—you,
gentle reader, are drinking from the sparkling mountain spring of my WIT
every week, absolutely free of charge). Besides, I’m in Amsterdam, where
you must traverse the seven levels of the Dildo Forest, raft across the
mighty Lube River, and answer the riddle of the beautiful Ball Gag Fairy in
order to get to work in the morning.

I went to a store I remembered from my last residency here, a place called
PRIVATE—SHHH!! which is large and clean and relatively unsleazy and the
salespeople wear shirts with their names embroidered on the breast pocket
like gas station attendants. I situated myself in front of a large
selection of vibrators against the back wall, fascinated equally by the
paroxysms of pleasure their packaging promised and a trio of Muslim girls in
headscarves giggling girlishly over a French Maid costume re-imagined in
rubber. Is that what they wear under those things? Is it proper to shop
for such articles in public? Don’t they get hot?

An enormous man approached me, a man who would not look out of place
standing sternly at the entrance to Lotus or protectively shielding Britney
Spears from prurient photographers. (By the way—according to a British
magazine I read here, a reporter recently asked La Britney—la Bretagne?
—what the last thing she had in her mouth was and she replied, “A vibrator.”
Somebody needs to explain a few things to that girl.) The giant spoke to
me in the elfin singsong they call a language and, upon seeing my terror,
switched to English. “Are you finding everything? Can I help you?” His
bald pate gleamed ivory in the soft light.

I’d had a similar experience once before in junior high school, cutting
across the park on my way home from the bus. As I made my way through a
small wooded area, I heard an unmistakable gasping coming from behind a
tree. Gingerly, I approached to see a man who appeared to be in his late
thirties, rubbing his bare ass against the bark like a cat and furiously
slapping the proverbial salami. This was disturbing enough, but the really
bad part was that the whole way home, I had been thinking feverishly of a
certain boy who sat in front of me in Social Studies—let’s call him Matt—and
all the things I would let him do to me should we ever find ourselves locked
in the band closet during homeroom. It was as if this frightening, sweaty
man, staring at my thirteen year old haunches with a look that could peel
paint, could read my mind. He knew. He knew. Probably anyone that looked
at me knew.

The point of this little story is that when an obvious pervert somehow
intrudes upon your erotic reverie, be you pre-pubescent or fully pubed, it
throws you for a loop.

I searched for words to answer the giant pervert. Blankly I stared at his
shirt, where his name was embroidered in bright yellow—coward’s yellow, I
thought, crazily. Jeroen. Oh. He wasn’t a pervert. He worked there. A
flicker of something—amusement? condescension? love? –traversed the laugh
lines around his eyes—the cool, placid blue that so many of his countrymen
are blessed with, like a space shuttle photograph of Planet Earth, so
peaceful, so right. From a distance the world looks blue and green/And the
snow capped mountains white/There are no guns, no wars and no disease/No
hungry mouths to feed.

“Um, I’m okay. Yep. Just fine.” (I only say “yep” when I am anything but

“Why don’t you come over here, ja? I have some samples with batteries—I
make a little demonstration and you can decide which one is for you.”

How could I refuse?

I think of myself as a fairly sophisticated person. I’ve read Camille
Paglia. I see the post-modern significance of porn. I have worked through
most of my sexual inhibitions through therapy and through a group of friends
that would curl the hair of Freud. However, watching a man with a finger the
size of hot-dogs operating a lavender dildo shaped like a bunny is a totally
different thing.

They had vibrators that revolved. Vibrators that gyrated. Vibrators that
held you and asked about your feelings.

Have I ever mentioned that I have a framed portrait of Richard Wagner in my
apartment here?

I kept it reasonably together until he brought out a monstrous fuchsia
penis with dual attachments on either side, making it look like nothing so
much as a veiny, obscene cactus. “This one is for your clitoris, and this
is for your anus,” said Jeroen, manipulating the dolphin shaped pellets with
admirable grace. “And this,” he caressed the shaft lovingly “goes in

I lost my shit. Lost it. L-O-S-T it.

He glared at me, sharply and exasperated, as if I were a sixth grader who
cracked up every time someone said “hard.”

“Well, of course we have the technology for it to be possible, so why would
you not do it?” So practical. So matter-of-fact. So Dutch.

And this is why, for all their openness and wonderfulness, the Dutch are
ultimately an unsexy people. Because a seven foot bald man demonstrating a
butt plug shaped like a dolphin without a trace of irony is fucking funny.
If you can’t appreciate that, then you might as well mix your kids up in
a test-tube.

In the end, I chose a fairly simple model- far too expensive- made of
heat-sensitive rubber in teal to match my iMac. The cashier wrapped my
purchase up in cute, polka-dot gift paper, free of charge, and I made my way
to the next stop of the day—and here’s where the culture comes in—the
Uitmarkt, the giant outdoor festival that is the official opening of the
Dutch cultural season. Hundreds of dance companies, theater companies,
concert halls, and cabarets set up booths on the Museumplein, just a few
feet from the Vermeers and the Rembrandts at the Rijksmuseum, to give their
spiel and hand out their pamphlets, candy and complimentary ball-point
pens. I perused the offerings. The Abridged Works of William Shakespeare in Dutch! A Streetcar Named Desire in Dutch! Various modern dance troupes full of the of concave stomachs and blank expressions that make you think of scary ballet teachers and how much you hate your body… in Dutch! For the sake of Culturebot, I tried to be a good journalist.

“Hi, I’m an actress and a writer from New York City and I’m writing about
this for a website. Do you mind if I ask a few questions?” And I’m
sorry, but I can’t remember a single thing anybody said because all I could

“How do you get your funding here in the Netherlands? Because in the
States it’s very difficult for young companies…” I’VE GOT A VIBRATOR IN MY

Desperate, I bought a beer. VIBRATOR! VIBRATOR! NO! FOCUS, RACHEL!
FOCUS! I allowed myself to unzip my bag and sneak a quick glance at the
expectant parcel within. I bought a sandwich.

I turned the corner. And caught my breath. It couldn’t be! No, it
couldn’t be! But it was! It was!

Lounging on a marble bench, his long legs tossed carelessly over the
side, his fiery hair glistening in the golden sun of Vincent Van Gogh, was
Paul Bettany. Paul Bettany. Hot English hallucination of Russell Crowe
in “A Beautiful Mind”. Shirtless English poet Geoffrey Chaucer in “A
Knight’s Tale” with Heath Ledger. Conflicted English tennis player in the
upcoming “Wimbledon” with Kirsten Dunst. Paul Bettany. Paul Bettany. Paul
Bettany. In a second he was going to turn his leonine head, our eyes would
meet, and he’d take me back to his hotel room and say all the naughty things
British men say in bed because they’re uncomfortable around women—things
like “Get that gorgeous ass of yours over here, you nasty little tart.”
And we’d shag and shag and shag (even though he’s married to Jennifer
Connelly) and I’d never tell the tabloids (no matter how much money they
offered me) because I’m noble and I knew we had shared something very


Lost in a world of my own, I tripped over the high curb and went flying, my
bag of promotional materials with me, scattering over the deep emerald
grass. Paul Bettany turned slightly. Was it my imagination, or did one
divinely formed cheekbone twitch in a semblance of a smile? Humiliated, I
fled without picking anything up. That is why this column is much more
about the sex part and much less about the art part.

But still, I had seen Paul Bettany, and I had a brand new vibrator. And I
needed to go home right away.

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