Cafe Valhalla in Copenhagen

Cafe Valhalla, Copenhagen

To my surprise there is a Cafe Valhalla in Blågårdsgade 21, Copenhagen, Denmark. It is a “Viking-themed pub and cafe” where you can use “horns for drinking mead out of (you can use a regular glass if you prefer)”. 

A quiet place to devour a meaty lunch by day, this place livens up come the evening, transforming into a heavy metal nightclub after nine on weekends. Though known for its huge burgers, vegetarian options are also offered.

Obviously the owners haven’t read my book “Cafe Valhalla”, because if they had they probably wouldn’t have named their pub after it. (“Café Walhalla” was written in 1996, in Dutch, and later translated as “Cafe Valhalla”.)

The fictional Cafe Valhalla in Amsterdam

In the book Cafe Valhalla is described as, “the hall of the slain” in the traditional sense, where warriors after their death were welcomed by Odin. Everyone who visited the pub regularly, had on several occasions in his or her lifetime been “slain”, and Odin was the drink that flowed abundantly among the “dead warriors”, the gangsters, the pimps, the hookers of the past. This is the only place in the Red Light District that still has got some of the Cheers factor for them, the only place where not everybody knows their names, but some of them do, and they are able to tell the innocent bystander who you were thirty years ago.

In the end, my Cafe Valhalla is a sad place. Let’s hope Cafe Valhalla in Copenhagen isn’t.

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10. World Champions

Amsterdam, Zeedijk, 1994

Other Jack had rented a large screen and all the guys from the neighbourhood were with him in Countdown Café to watch a World Cup match. I’m not interested in football, so I read a book instead.  

 The Valhalla was deserted and the streets were quiet. Angela came in. “Jesus Christ, it’s busy here, isn’t it?” she said.  

 “Quite a crowd, eh?” I replied.  

 “Pour me a nice little sherry,” Angela said, as she sat down at the habitué’s table.  

 Inge looked through the window from outside. “No, Harry is not here!” cried Angela. “Come in!”  

 “Fucking football!” said Inge when she came in. “The streets are deserted!”  

 “Relax baby, relax,” said Angela. “Here, sit next to Auntie Angela and have a sherry with me.”  

  Rose had watched Angela and Inge entering the Valhalla, and didn’t want to miss any of the fun. On the way to the pub she plucked Carla away from her window. “You’re coming with me!”  

 Inge, Angela, Carla and Rose; a nice bunch of girls together. It wouldn’t be long before they would share their stories. A few more sherries would loosen their tongues.  

 Carla started. “I’ll have a double brandy,” she said. “I only just started being a whore, I was twenty or so. Anyway, an old man comes into my room, a gentleman with a giant bow tie. He said he had been a widower for twenty years and that this visit was a present from his friend.”  

 “Anyway, I’m being nice to him, because his friend, who’s waiting outside, has asked me to, because he’s a shy guy. So he undresses and I pat him on his little willy. I ask him, “What was your wife’s name?” And he says, “Sadie.”  

  “Anyway, then he’s ready to do the thing and he is on top of me. After three, four minutes he comes and calls out, “Sadie, oh Sadie!” And after that, he dies on top of me, quietly.”  

 Rose, who often had heard the story before, confirmed this. “Dead silence,” she said ominously.  

 “Yup,” Carla went on, “As dead as a doornail. So I roll him off of me and I call the cops. I’ve never been so devastated!”  

 “Yuck!” said Inge. “Imagine having a dead naked corpse lying on top of you!”  

 “Terrible,” I said.  

 “Dear oh dear,” said Angela.  

 “Wait,” Carla said, “it goes even further. Well, two cops are coming and one of them looks at the condom that is still attached to this man’s penis, and he says quite dryly, “Well, at least the gentleman had value for his money.”  

 “Give me a death like that any day,” says the other, while he gives me the look.”  

 I laughed and topped the girls up.  

 “Yes, I can laugh about it now,” said Carla, “But for three weeks I have been devastated. I couldn’t work, but Billy said, “It’s just like horse riding: if you fall from the horse, you should immediately get in the saddle again, otherwise you never dare to ride again.”  

 “Oh, Billy,” said Rose. “He is such a considerate husband.”  

  After I had poured some more sherry, Inge said, “For a long time I had a regular customer, who wanted to be locked in the closet. It had something to do with his childhood, or something. He would pay me thirty quid and then he sat in the closet, very quietly, for fifteen, twenty minutes. When he was ready, he said that he would never be naughty again, and then he just went. Easy customer, right?”  

 Her colleagues agreed with her, as did the customers who had just arrived.  

 “Anyway, one day he is back again, and boy, it was busy in the street! Every time I opened my curtains, I needed to close them a minute later. So he comes in, pays thirty quid, and I lock him in the closet. I sit on the bed doing my nails, and I think it’s so busy and he is still at it for another fifteen minutes, so let me just have another client in the mean time.”  

 The other girls had great fun, they saw what was coming.  

 “So I get a sailor in,” continued Inge, “and that boy is just getting involved, when the guy in the closet gently knocks on the door: knock, knock, knock, “I will never be a naughty boy again, may I go now?””  

 So the sailor stops fucking and says, “What is all that about?” I say, “Nothing love, just keep at it, you’re doing good.” And to the guy in the closet, I say, “You’ve been so naughty this time, you have to stay in there for another ten minutes.”  

  Rose couldn’t stop laughing. The tears streamed down her cheeks, mascara dripped down her chin.  

 Inge continued, “But the seaman is angry and wants his money back. And all of a sudden the guy in the closet is very back to normal and in a very posh way he says, “Madam, I summate you to open the door immediately!” Well, then I opened the closet door and I said, “Get out and never come back!”  

 “And did you see the guy from the closet again after that?” asked Carla.  

 “No,” said Inge regretfully. “Pity, innit?”  

  Angela wanted to say something, but she hesitated. “I’ve had a regular customer of a thousand guilders,” she said.  

 “Right, per year I’m sure!” said Rose.  

 “No, really. Once a month, and he paid me a thousand guilders,” said Angela. “It’s a long time ago though. I was still working at Jane’s place and Jane’s mother was still alive.”  

 “What did you have to do for all that money?” asked Inge.  

 Angela blushed. “Well, it’s a bit of a filthy story, I’m afraid. He was so mad about me, he said, that he could eat my shit.”  

 “Oh, for fuck’s sake!” said Carla. “Stop it! I get it!”  

 “No, go on, go on!” said Rose.  

 “Well, the first time I surely had to get used to it,” said Angela, “and when he visited me more often, I needed to purchase the appropriate items for the occasion, like a knife, a fork and paper napkins.”  

“As you do,” I said.

 “So you mean you shit on a plate and then the guy takes a knife and fork and…” Bird asked.  

 Angela nodded, slightly embarrassed. I shook my head. It takes all sorts…  

  “But once I had eaten a salmon salad that had gone off,” Angela continued, “so I had diarrhoea …”  

 Carla anticipated the outcome of the story and howled.  

 “So you rush to Woolworths for a soup bowl and a spoon,” yelled Inge, who couldn’t control herself any longer.  

 Angela smiled and bit her lip. “No,” she said, “that would have gone too far.”  

 “You’re kidding?” I said.  

 “Shut up, Jack,” said Rose, “We want to hear the rest of the story.”  

 “So when he arrived that day,” Angela went on, “I said to him, “Darling, I’m a bit nervous today. I don’t think I can do it here. Would you mind if I did it in the toilet, just this once?” “He had no objections, so I went up to Jane and said, “Jane, would you go for me?” “No way!” said Jane. “I don’t need to go, and even if I would have to go desperately, I wouldn’t do it!”  

  “But Jane’s mother said quietly, “Just give me the plate, child. I will take care of it.” 

 “Ughh, too much information!”, said Inge.  

 “So a little later she comes back from the toilet with a beautiful turd on the plate. I go back to my room and the guy says, “Finally, it’s about time,” and he devours the turd.”  

 I was horrified by the story, but the girls loved it.  

  “And Rose, do you have a story like that?” Inge said.  

 “Yes, I’m already thinking,” Rose said. “Well, I still have a regular customer who has false teeth, top and bottom, and then he wants me to use those teeth to bite him in his ass. But is that even a bit special?”  

 “Oh no dear,” Inge said, “That’s quite normal. I have clients like that every day.”  

 The girls laughed. They had so much fun that I was afraid they would continue it.  

  I topped them up again.  

 “Oh yes!” said Rose. “I have a very sad story. A few years ago an old man visits me. In the beginning there is nothing wrong, he pays twenty quid and I say, “Get undressed,” but as soon as he is naked, he changes completely. He is anxious and says, “I want you to call the police right now! The way you treat people, it’s downright degrading!”  

 “So I think what the fuck? I say quietly, “Listen, baby, I’ve taken you upstairs, we have agreed to a price and you have stripped. But if you don’t want to fuck, you can get dressed right now and fuck off!”  

 “But he says, “I want you now call the police, and quick!” So I keep trying, “Mister, just leave now, let us part as good friends,” but he continues. So then I call the police and they arrive pretty soon. So, they talk and talk to that man, but he is completely hysterical and starts screaming, “Cut it off! I’m dead! Fucking fascists! Fucking Nazis!” He refused to get dressed and then a policeman tried to dress him, but he couldn’t do it. The man went crazy. Eventually they put handcuffs on him while he was still naked, and took him over the road to their cars, after which they took him to the station. I later learned from one of the police officers that the man was a war victim. He had been in Auschwitz. Sad, eh?”  

 “Some people are like that,” said Angela.  

  “I’ve heard many similar stories from you guys,” I said. “But surely these are exceptions?”  

 “Sure,” said Carla. “But if you work in a factory and you put nuts on bolts day in, day out, or vice versa, whatever, then when you come home you don’t tell your husband that you’ve put nuts on bolts, do you? You tell him that the machines got stuck, or something like that. Anything exceptional. For us ordinary customers are just like nuts and bolts in a factory.”  

 “I always like the guys who are having sex for the first time,” said Inge. “So cute. I really take my time with them.”  

 Rose acknowledged this. “Unfortunately we see less and less of those ordinary blokes. Previously you had lots of guys who saved for a jiffy, but that is rare nowadays. You get more and more guys with special needs.”  

  “What’s the score of football?” asked Inge.  

 “What do I care,” said I. “To me you are world champions, all of you.”  

 Carla always liked compliments and wanted to know what they were for.  

 “Well,” I said, “I am well aware that you do this work mainly for the money, but in a sense you are also a kind of social workers, therapists even. I have an awfully lot of respect for you, honestly.”  

 “Indeed,” Inge said, “I can’t see a shrink doing what we are doing, you know.”

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9. Pride Comes Before The Fall

Miriam came in for a pack of cigarettes. The regulars looked at her in silence.  

 Would she ever be able to say a simple thing like “good afternoon”? She felt she was far superior to the other prostitutes, and showed contempt for anything below her “level”.  

 She didn’t even look at the regulars as she pulled her cigarettes from the machine. Then she disappeared just as arrogantly as she came in.  

“Good afternoon to you too, madam,” I said.  

“Miss Pedantical,” said Inge. “One could almost forget that she is an ordinary hooker, just like the rest of us.”  

I shrugged.  

Fred and Miriam owned a villa in Spain. Charlie and Mina had even met them in Marbella. “They pretended they didn’t know us; they walked straight past us,” said Mina.  

 Later they heard from acquaintances who were often in Marbella, that Fred told them that he was “director of a computer company” and that Miriam was an “artist”.  

 One would suspect that Miriam was very selective with bringing in customers. But that was only the case if business was really busy. During the quiet periods in the Red Light District she was, just like the other prostitutes, forced to accept less appetizing clients. The mortgage had to be paid and Fred’s brand new Mercedes sports car was also bought with borrowed money.  

 When they went out, they frequented places where famous TV artists where hanging out. Fred acted the popular boy. They were regularly seen at jet set parties, and their pictures were in the tabloids.  

 It was an open secret that Fred often surrendered to the pleasures of cocaine.  

 The first signs of decay were revealed when well known lenders like Fritz and Beautiful Pete made no secret of the fact that Fred owed them thousands of guilders, and that he apparently was unable to repay the borrowed money. The story was quickly all around town, and soon Fred couldn’t borrow anywhere anymore. Although he had never been a regular in the Valhalla, he came in one day, asking me if I could lend him “just two grand” until the next day. I wisely refused and referred him to social services.  

 Since then, no-one had seen Fred. Miriam said that someone told her that “Sir Fred” was in Spain on a business trip.  

 “I wonder which sucker paid for that,” said Rose.  

  Paul came in. “I just visited Little Nico in prison,” he said.  

 “Did you say hi from us?” asked Inge.  

 “Course I did, he says hi to you all,” said Paul. “But guess who I’ve also seen.”  

 No-one had a clue.  

 “Let me tell you,” said Paul. “I had to wait, down the hall, and then I suddenly saw a famous person mopping the floor. Shall I say who it was? It was Fred, Miriam’s Fred! I said, “Ah Fred! Long time no see, buddy! Spain is so much closer than one thinks, isn’t it?” He didn’t say a word! Not a word!”  

 Paul’s inside story was not over yet. “And just now I ran into a narc I know, and guess what Fred is doing time for?” Nobody knew. “For a few stolen car radios! Stolen from a Kadett, belonging to a Turk, and from auntie Mulder’s daughter’s Fiat!”  

 “He’s just a fucking junk!” Rose cried out.  

 “Well, give me just an ordinary junk any day,” said Inge. “At least they greet you in the street.”  

 “Anyway, I feel sorry for that girlie,” said Paul.  

 “That girlie?” exclaimed Rose. “Sorry? I couldn’t care less if he was sentenced to life!”  

 Inge agreed with Rose. “Sorry Paul, but if we’re low lifes to her, then I don’t give a shit about her, you know!”  

 I didn’t know what to say.  

 There was a letter from Jerry in the mail. An open day was organised for family members and friends of the “commune members” of the alcohol clinic, and I was invited.  

 “Don’t be surprised when you see me,” Jerry wrote, “for I have a learning experience and I’ve been walking around as a clown for the last six weeks.”  

 “Commune”? “Learning Experience”? “Clown”? I didn’t understand. Obviously it would all be revealed next Saturday.  

 When I announced that I was going to see Jerry, the regulars wanted to come as well. I thought that wasn’t a good idea, and then they said that I should at least smuggle a case of gin for Jerry inside. The poor man had been so long without a shot…  

 “You’re completely mad!” I said.  

 “That’s not true,” said Rose. “Otherwise they would have locked us up as well.”

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8. Making Ends Meet

The smell of fried meatballs spread throughout the pub. I put a new bag in the vacuum cleaner and was disturbed by Johnny Boy, who was knocking on the window. I opened the door. “What is it, Johnny Boy?”  

“Let me in!” said Johnny Boy. “Auntie Mulder is closed, it’s an emergency!”  

“It’s only half past nine dude! We’re opening at ten, as you very well know!”  

“Hellooooo! Don’t be daft, Jack! Just pour me a couple of shots, and I promise I won’t bother you anymore!”  

 I sighed and let Johnny Boy in. I walked to the bar and poured him three shots of jenever. “When you’re done, you can start vacuuming, John.”  

“Yeah, right. You’re talking to the biggest pimp of the neighbourhood, you know!”  

“The biggest pimp of the hostel, you mean. Get on your feet, John!”  

 Johnny Boy had drunk his first shot and was trembling noticeably less when he finished his second. He grumbled something like “pure abuse of power” but then he said, “Okay, okay, but with the curtains closed. I don’t want anyone to see me working.”  

“Are you crazy?” I said, “Just keep the curtains open. No one sees you, it’s too early.”  

 I walked to the kitchen to turn the meatballs, and Johnny Boy ran after me. “Ughh, that smell!” he said with a dirty look in his face.  

“What is it, John?” I asked.  

“I can’t vacuum,” complained Johnny Boy. “There’s no socket.”  

“Under the billiards, John. And hurry up, we’re opening soon.”  

 At ten I opened the door, and sat down at the habitué’s table to read the newspaper.  

Bird entered. “Hi Jack!” he said.  

“Hi Bird!” I said, as I put down my newspaper. “I need to talk to you.”  

“First a coffee and a cigarette,” said Bird.  

I rose, poured Johnny Boy another drink and returned to the table with two cups of coffee.  

“Tell me all about it,” said Bird.  

“Well, you know Meredith, right?”  

“Meredith, young in years, firm, small breasts, short hair, black as the night, beautiful eyes. Yes, I know her.”  

“And, what do you think?”  

“Well, she’s a very striking and graceful appearance in the neighbourhood.”  

“Right. What would you say if I asked her to work here when I’m not around?”  

“I would say, my friend, that it would be a wise decision.”  

“I agree. She knows the regulars, she’s very smart, and I’m sure she can handle it. I need some time off.”  

“Very wise, my friend Vanderwyk. There is more between heaven and earth than the Valhalla. And pour me another cup of coffee please, because I should be on my way.”  

Willie Blowjob came in. He looked like he was run over by a bulldozer. He was pale and had huge bags under his eyes. “Tomato juice please,” he said timidly.  

“Been on the piss last night?” I asked.  

“What a beast of a bitch!” said Willie. “I am exhausted!”  

 Bird laughed. “I wouldn’t have thought that a woman was able to do that to you, Wil. What happened?”  

Willie avoided answering Bird’s confrontational question, and said, “Stop it, don’t talk about it! She just wouldn’t leave me alone, until six o’clock this morning. It was hell!”  

“He who lives by the sword, will die by the sword,” Bird said, smiling.  

“Matthew 26 verse 52,” I said.  

“Fuck off, the both of you,” said Willie. “And pour me that fucking tomato juice.”  

Rose came in with the latest neighbourhood news. “Pierre has been evicted!” she cried triumphantly.  

Willie Blowjob was startled. His buddy was put on the street? Which bastard had that on his conscience?  

“What do you mean?” he asked.  

“Well, Oscar Swan, his landlord, was there this morning, with four strong guys, and they dumped him on the sidewalk with everything he’s got!”  

“Yes, but why?” asked Willie.  

“Because of that lead, remember?”  

I remembered. A few weeks ago Pierre was pretty drunk, and when his woman told him that she had earned nothing that day, he recalled that as a child he had earned money by stealing lead from the roofs, to sell it. What he could do then, he could do now, so he climbed the roof, drunk as he was, inspected several roofs, but found nothing to his liking.  

On the way back he saw a beautiful roof with large pieces of lead, almost new. He tore off the whole bunch and threw it into the garden of an unused building next door. The next morning he remembered what he had been doing that night, and he thought it would be a waste to leave the lead there. So he decided to sell it to his landlord, Oscar Swan, who had a rag-and-bone business and also bought and sold scrap.  

“What happened to that lead?” asked Willie Blowjob.  

Rose laughed. “What happened to the lead? I’ll tell you what happened to that lead. Last night and this morning it rained hard. So when Pierre’s woman woke up, the whole house was flooded. She didn’t want to wake up Pierre, because she knew that he would punish her if she did, so she called Oscar Swan to fix it.”  

“Oh god, I know where this is going,” said Willie.  

“Shut up! So, half an hour later Oscar Swan is at the door with a couple of guys, he crawls onto the roof and guess what? Pierre has stolen the lead of his own roof and sold it to his own landlord!”  

Rose couldn’t stop laughing and Bird hid his face in a handkerchief. Johnny Boy didn’t quite understand what it was all about, and Willie Blowjob looked devastated. “Gosh, how silly,” I said, and quickly went to the kitchen, to look after my meatballs. When I had recovered and sat down behind the bar, I heard Willie say, “That guy can’t show his face here no more, dude. He will probably return to Arnhem.”  

“Look on the bright side,” Rose said. “This neighbourhood is a lot better off without him. And when you piss off too, Willie, this place will be a real paradise and all.”  

“Girl, girl,” said Willie. “If that fellow of yours will leave you one day, you will have a real hard time with that big mouth of yours.”  

“This fellow of mine and I have agreed that we stay together until we’re eighty, you shit,” said Rose. “And by that time you will hopefully be lying among the daisies.”  

“Jack, put it on my slate, will you?” said Willie, with a grim expression in his face as he walked out of the pub.  

“Was that necessary, Rose?” asked Bird.  

“Oh boy, yes it was! Pierre and Willie are ruining the whole atmosphere in the neighbourhood. “Traditional pimps” they call themselves! Well, they’re crazy! Psychopaths! This fellow of mine is not easily frightened, but he shouldn’t even try to get it into his head that he could be my pimp. Those days are over.”  

“Real pimps, with three or four girls, they are extinct, right? And that’s a good thing, because we’re not slaves. Every girl in this street has her own man, and young boys like Harry, Fred, and Billy may act very tough in the pub, but at home they wash the dishes.”  

“I never knew that,” said Bird.  

“It’s all show,” Rose said. “Look, if my fellow has a new car and a new suit, I am proud, because that means I can still earn the money. If he buys rounds in the pub, everybody thinks, “It’s Rose who paid for that”. But in the end it’s me who decides how long and how much I work, and how much spending money I give him. And everything else is just show!”  

“But don’t Harry and Billy, for example, have other means to make ends meet?” asked Bird.  

“Of course they have, they’re fucking thieves!” said Rose. “They are gangsters because they don’t want to depend on a woman. But I don’t want my fellow to be a gangster, because then the whole neighbourhood will say, “Look at that poor Roy. Rose can’t bring the money in anymore, so now he needs to steal.” Well, no way I’m going to let that happen.”  

Bird stood up. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I need to lecture, my students are waiting.”  

“Yeah, you go tell those students of yours about the changed situation in prostitution,” said Rose.  

“Maybe I will,” said Bird, laughing. “Maybe I will indeed.”

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6. A Thirty Minutes Job

Tone came in with a sleepy head and ordered a bitter lemon. He was the owner of the nightclub O My Lord.  

“You’re up early, Tone,” I said, as I poured his drink.  

“Oh yes, the guys from the brewery will be here soon, to look at the plans to renovate the basement,” said Tone yawning. “Jack, give Johnny Boy a shot and one for yourself. Bird, another coffee?”  

“No, thank you,” said Bird. “I have to lecture soon.”  

“Well, Johnny Boy doesn’t have to lecture, eh Johnny Boy? Only if it were a lecture on drinking… Yes, our Johnny Boy is a master at that! Ha! Ha! Ha!”  

 Johnny Boy hit his drink back, and I poured the glass full again.  

“From Tone,” I said.  

“Cheers Tone,” said Johnny Boy absent minded, and slurped the top off his shot.  

 Tone glanced at his Rolex and drank his bitter lemon.  

“I need to go,” he said. “Put it on my slate, will you?”  

 Angela bumped into Tone when she came in with her daughter Esmé.  

 “Hi gorgeous!” said Tone. “You’re looking appetizing again this morning!”  

“Look where you’re going!” Angela replied, irritated, while she picked up Esmé.  

 She walked to the bar and put the child on a bar stool.  

“Can I have a chocolate milk and a coffee, Jack?”  

“Chocolate milk with a straw for Esmé?” I asked. Esmé nodded.  

 I shook the bottle, opened it and stuck two straws in. “One chocolate milk for madam,” I said.  

Esmé looked at her mother and smiled, while I poured a cup of coffee.  

“Jack, will you keep an eye on Esmé for just half an hour? I want to buy a pair of trousers and a pair of boots now, and I’m penniless. Peter took my money last night for his fucking heroin.”  

 Angela was a gorgeous Indonesian girl and I knew she could earn as much money as they wanted. Not only would she have earned the money for boots and clothes within half an hour, but also the rent she had to pay for her working space.  

“All right,” I said. “Esmé and I will enjoy ourselves, right Esmé?”  

“Yesss, playing dice!” said Esmé.  

Angela drank her coffee, gave Esmé a kiss and said, “Mummy’s right back, okay?”  

 Esmé nodded and looked at the tumbler.  

 When I looked out the window, I saw that Angela was already approached by a client. A moment later she gave the man an arm and disappeared into her room across the street.  

“Okay,” I thought, “That’s a good start of the day.”  

Bird ordered another shot for Johnny Boy Bird, paid and left. Johnny Boy put his arms on the bar and laid his head on it.  

“Is Johnny Boy pissed?” Esmé whispered.  

 I laughed. “No,” I said, “Johnny Boy is a little tired. I have three sixes, now it’s your turn.”

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7. Sticky Weather

The temperature had risen to over thirty degrees. Occasionally a passer-by entered the Valhalla for a cold beer. It was too hot for the girls to stay behind their windows, and they moved their merchandise to the street, although officially this was an offence. But the police looked the other way. Some girls kept their heads cool by throwing buckets of water at each other.  

 “Rainy weather, punters’ weather,” was the saying, but business wasn’t bad. The punters were excited by the lightly dressed women in town, and wanted to get discharged.  

“Why would a girl even want to do a job like this anyway,” sighed Rose behind her bottle of Guinness.   

 “I’m not keen on having these dirty, sweaty, sticky guys on top of me, you know!”  

 Johnny Boy’s old pimps’ blood began to run faster. “You’ll have to do it, girl. When Roy finds out that you’re in the pub rather than in your window, you’ll be for the high jump!”  

“Yes, and if he hasn’t found that out already, you’ll be glad to tell him, won’t you, you prick?” said Rose.  

“Women on the game, that’s the way it is. In sickness and in health, for better or for worse!” Johnny Boy replied.  

 “If you don’t shut your filthy ugly face, I will give a severe dressing,” Rose threatened.  

“And tonight you will be full of lame excuses when you say to Roy, “Sorry Roy, no money today. It was ever so quiet,” Johnny Boy pouted.  

“Yes, and then Roy will have no money to buy poor old Johnny Boy a drink, eh Johnny Boy? Well, if you think that I lie down on my back for your drinks, then you’re fucking mistaking, you peppermint pimp!” said Rose.  

I pointed at Esmé and said, “Guys, keep it down a bit. There are children here.”  

Esmé disagreed. “I’m not a kid anymore Jack, I’m six already.”  

The residents were mollified, Rose went to her window.  

“That’s where she should be, that whore,” said Johnny Boy.  

“Johnny Boy!” I warned, “Shut up or fuck off!”  

 Angela returned and said, “Well Esmé, mummy is ready, are you coming with me into town?”  

 Johnny Boy shook his head, indicating that he also disagreed with this, but he backed off when he saw my scowl. Angela had to pay for a coffee and a chocolate milk. “That’s it?” she asked surprised. “Did Esmé only have one chocolate milk?”  

I shrugged. “I lost playing the dice,” I said.  

 Esmé beamed with pride and Angela gave me a tenner tip.  

“Bye, stupid Jack!” said Esmé, and grabbed her mother’s hand when they walked out of the pub.  

“Bye, stupid Esmé!” I laughed.  

 Erroll parked his red Ferrari in front of the pub. He seemed the only one who didn’t seem to be affected by the sultry weather. With lots of energy the tall Surinamese entered the pub and said, “Jack, me boy! Give me a sparkling water, quick please!”  

 I poured him a glass of water and heard the phone ringing. It was Madam Jane.  

“Jack, just tell that bloody nigger to remove his bloody car from my doorstep! My girls aren’t getting any business.”  

“Jane kindly asks whether you would park your car just around the corner,” I said to Erroll.  

“Of course!” said Erroll, and energetically he walked out of the pub to move his car. He waved to Jane, who stood in the first floor window. Jane waved back.  

“Johnny Boy, don’t sleep!” I said. “What will the customers think!”  

 Johnny Boy wiped the sweat from his forehead and grumbled, “I’m not sleeping, I’m thinking.”  

“Yeah, no doubt about your wasted life,” said Paul.

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5. Children of the Red Light District

 It was five o’clock and all my 50 meatballs were sold. I handed some money to Johnny Boy and said, “Johnny Boy, please get me five pounds of minced quickly, before the butcher closes.”  

 Johnny Boy woke up and came into action immediately. I was pretty confident that he wouldn’t use the money to get drunk, as he was overly dependent on the pub and its regulars.  

 Erroll and Peter sat in a corner of the pub, behind the pinball machine, monkeying about with pieces of aluminium foil and lighters. “Guys, no heroin in my joint,” I said. “Do it at home or in the car, otherwise I put on a different record.”  

 That always seemed to work. The guys didn’t like Dutch traditional accordion music. I didn’t understand why Erroll needed to deal drugs, because his woman made a lot of money. And Peter had once been a Dutch karate champion. Angela was the prettiest woman in the whole street, and Esmé was the sweetest child of the world. Why did these guys need heroin? 

The Valhalla was only 50 yards away from the curve, the unofficial border between the traditional Amsterdam gangland and the Head of the Zeedijk, a run down area with squats, some of them used as cafes by heroin users and dealers. The Head of the Zeedijk was a no-go area, not even the police or the traditional gangsters felt safe there, and anyone on his way to the Central Station took a detour via the Damrak.  

I, and many of my colleagues, tried to keep our pubs free from dealers and junkies. They meant nothing but trouble. Some of my colleagues used violent ways to get rid of them, but I used my music. Although I was a lover of soul music myself, I was hardly ever able to play it loud enough in the pub, because I would have had junkies and dealers in my joint in no time. The only drug related persons I allowed in, were guys like Erroll, Roy and Peter, who where accepted regulars. 

Some heroin users were born in the neighbourhood, and they were very young. Martin, for instance, was the son of Blue Lennie and Katie. He was only fourteen and hooked as hooked can be. His parents were very wealthy people, they owned a few whore houses in the street and two sex clubs. They also owned horses, which repeatedly won first prizes in the races, and a huge bungalow in Spain.  

But despite all that they had an addicted child. Or thanks to it all? Because Martin had always been horribly spoiled. He got everything he desired, except for care and education.  

Look at the children of Johnny Boy and Pussy Meow, who had nothing. Mum and Dad were on welfare and they were drunks. But they got love and attention, as well as a firm upbringing, whenever it seemed necessary. Their oldest son, Pete, had become a first class carpenter and there was no whore house in the street that wasn’t renovated by Pete and his crew. Daughter Betty worked as a cashier at the Spar and the son of the owner had a crush on her. These kids wouldn’t think of spending their own hard earned money on crap like heroin.  

I thought about the neighbours and their children, and came to the conclusion that it was a real exception if children of prostitutes and pimps chose the same profession as their parents. It would probably not have crossed their minds, and maybe the prospect of broken arms and legs wasn’t too attractive either.  

 John and Michelle gave their daughter Linda a snack bar, the son of Jane and Beautiful Pete worked as a photographer for a national weekly magazine, and Harold, the son of Rose and Roy, had set up a painting business.  

It was easy to get addicted to the big and easy money, but apparently not as much that the children of these “addicts” were attracted to such a life themselves. They saw the downside of it.  

Johnny Boy returned with the minced meat. I poured him a shot and asked Rotterdam Bert to take over the bar for a while. He was playing cards at the habitué’s table.  

“Okay, Jack. Guys, let’s continue the game at the bar!”  

Uncle Fred, who used to be a pimp and now was making a living as a gold dealer, had a drink at the bar. He was well into his sixties, but you wouldn’t say that if you saw his wardrobe. Uncle Fred wore cowboy boots, jeans, a leather vest and a purple silk shirt. His black hair was dyed and permed, while he wore it in a ponytail. Uncle Fred also weighed one hundred thirty pounds and had an enormous belly, which would have made Jerry jealous.   

Uncle Fred was horrified by so-called “modern men”, who could handle a vacuum cleaner and were reduced to perform kitchen activities. That was the main reason why Uncle Fred couldn’t stand me.  

“Bert, let’s face it, there are no real men anymore.”  

Bert Rotterdam, one meter ninety six tall, gym type, only thirty years old, solarium tanned, with short, blond hair, said, “No, Uncle Fred, you are absolutely right. It was quite different in your time, eh?”  

“You bet!” said Uncle Fred. “Let me buy you fellows a round, while nancy-boy is in the kitchen.” 

“Coming up!” said Bert. He quickly learned the trade of running a pub.

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