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Monday, July 26, 2004

Panhandling

Go read Lileks for today. I'll wait.
Bleat 26-JUL-04
I've spent a lot of time in the Netherlands, both for fun and work. One point about Amsterdam, (along With the obvious ones) is that it's full of panhandlers. Amazing quantities of them, of all types. Some parts of the city you can't walk down the street without being importuned multiple times. And they come in all varieties, from cute little eastern European girls down on their luck, to locals, to hopeless drug addicts, to various thugs, goons and losers. And, of course, the universal language of panhandling is English. (The strategy I've developed over the years for discouraging parasites seeking a handout is to give them a blank look and say "no hablo Ingles". The fact that I have a flat, obvious east coast accent makes it even more annoying because they know I speak English just from the sound. Also, being rather far towards the right side of the bigness and meaness end of the distribution curve helps in this regard)

A number of years ago, on my first trip to Amsterdam, I wasn't yet in tune with the panhandling zeitgeist, and was more open to a good pitch. I was approched by a weedy looking, twitchy, agitated guy with scabs on his face. In a lower-class London accent
he told me his sorry tale. He was a ship fitter by trade. He's been attacked by football hooligans who threw his tools into a canal and stolen his ID. They put cigarettes out on his face and beat him up. No one would help him. He was trapped, and couldn't get back to England. And so on. I thought he was full of shit, but he did have those scabs on his face. I gave him a few guilders mostly because it was a good act.

About a year later I was back in Amsterdam. I was approached again by the same guy. Same story. Different scabs. I stopped him in mid-tale and, putting a hand to my forhead, and in a dreamy voice said "don't tell me more, I'm a psychic, I can tell what you want. I see water. Tools, A football. You're a shipfitter. You were attacked. Yes, they stole your ID, didn't they?".

"How'ed you know that?"

"I told you, I'm a psychic"

"No, really"

"You told me the same story last year"

"But I've never been here before"

"Yeah, sure"

And while I'm on the subject -

Worst. Street musician. Ever.

A couple of guys on a corner in Amsterdam. Unkempt, filthy drug addict types. One had a junk guitar with 5 strings, completelely out of tune. Looked like he found it in a garbage can. He was spastically strumming the open strings with his fingers. Just about the most unmusical thing I've ever heard. The other guy was begging. For money. For the music.

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Comments:
"Some parts of the city you can't walk down the street without being importuned multiple times."

yo, u the one in that loud Hawaian shirt, digital cameras 'round your neck, dragging ur beer belly and the obvious east coastal wifey along the bike lanes?
 
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