Photoessay: “The only woman in the world you can enter without permission”

As they used to say on Monty Python, “And Now for Something Completely Different.” Back in 2009, I started experimenting with social media and posted the following photo essay on Facebook where I as yet had only a few friends.

I’ve written hundreds of scientific papers, but part of me always wants to veer off into more creative writing. This was an effort in that direction.

October 27, 2009 at 11:49pm
This time of the year, the Philadelphia-Amsterdam flight departs too early in the evening, and with the prevailing winds, arrives too early in the morning for a good night’s sleep on the way over. I got on the train at Schipo a zombie and staggered out of Amsterdam Zuid train station down the street to CitizenM Hotel. The entrance to the hotel was bathed in intense red light and the lobby reeked of Amsterdam hip with Buddha bar music and ultramodern Japanese designer furniture.The black uniformed staff were mostly attractive metroethnic Eurasians who would’ve checked “other” on a demographic form. They told me I couldn’t get into my room until that afternoon. I floated out along a street of fancy stores and grabbed a double capp to go at a cafe. The flight attendant had recommended spending the morning at the Hague watching the war crimes trials. Justice as entertainment. The idea had some appeal at the time, but not in my jetlagged state. Do they sell popcorn? Maybe like at a Elizabethan theater, rotten vegetables to pelt the villain?I turned off the street onto a long strip of a park with a line of sculptures stretching into the distance. I encountered “Bikini Bar: the only woman in the world that you can enter without permission.” I went into her through the red door and drank my capp at the picnic bench. Not having anywhere else to go, I lounged in the sloping stump of a thigh and dozed, even though it wasn’t comfortable.
Getting up, I continued down the line of sculptures. The casting of Rodin’s Thinker would have been clichéd except that the caption stated that it had been installed just in time to contemplate WWII atrocities. The next sculpture depicted some Resistance victims.Went back to the hotel and managed to talk my way into an early check in. I took the elevator up, and when I got off, the numbers on the door suggested I needed to go down to other end of the long corridor. As I got closer to my number, I could see that the picture on the far end of the corridor really was of an elephant in a suit carrying a brief case. I opened my door and saw that I was not really assigned a room. There were none, only sleeping compartments filled almost half by a 8 x 9 bed.There was no closet, no desk, only a chair occupied by a cloth doll. A translucent vertical glass tube tightly wrapped the toilet and a transparent one enclosed the shower. They were bathed in alternating blue and pink light. I had to trust the settings in the shower because the water would not turn on until the tube was completely closed, trapping me in. After showering, I crashed on the amazingly comfortable bed and again dozed off. Awakening, I checked my Iphone and confirmed that I really had taken these photos.

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