Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Snow Day

Woke up to snow this morning - finally! Very happy about that. (Anything but RAIN, jesus.) Figured I'd finish up some work before going out to play, but then I got all absorbed in what I was writing and effectively missed ALL the fun to be had all day long. By the time I got done and started looking around for someone to play with, everybody else had work to do. Curses - foiled again! How is it that even though my schedule completely reverses itself every 24 hours, I'm still always off-sync? Oh well. At least I got to watch a guy crash his car into the side of my building. (Not very hard. He just backed up and started over.) Nobody fell down on the usually deadly sloped part of the sidewalk outside my window, but I have high hopes for tomorrow. Camera's ready.

Apologies to all my loyal readers (hi Karl!) for the lack of updates lately. Mostly it's because everything I've been doing worth writing about is semi-illegal. (Just kidding! ...um, kind of.) So instead of describing that and getting you all worried, I'll wrap up the Sweden trip report.

No better way to start than with this, the best piece of wisdom I received on the trip -- from the excellent and totally rad Captain Joe up in Harnosand: "Go always to the glass with cheer, but never to the bottle with sorrow." It's a good rule, I reckon. (Especially because it doesn't specify how often the cheery get to go back to that glass.)

Captain Joe, the singing yachtsman, was without a doubt the highlight of the holidays this year. He kept us all in good spirits, and I don't just mean snaps. He's an awesome singer and taught me a couple of sneaky toasts I plan to use on unsuspecting boys down the road. Not to mention the traditional Swedish drinking songs. There's one that's a parody of the very formal Santa Lucia song -- it involves a pig, a julbok (sort of Xmas goat type thing) and St Lucia playing poker in a barn. Another one sounded kind of raunchy (I'm not always that quick on the lyric translations) involving scantily clad forest nymphs approaching the singer with glittering hearts. Or something like that. I think it was an Evert Taube song.

Anyway. "The holidays" really is a more apt description in Sweden than it is here. You can't just call it Christmas there, because crikey, it lasts a month! First there's Lucia Day - when, as everyone knows, all the young girls put burning candles on their heads and prance around the house distributing pastries. Not a bad way to cheer people up in the mid-December gloom. Then there's Christmas Eve, the biggie, when you eat; then Christmas Day, when you eat leftovers; and then, for crying out loud, there's something called Annandag Jul, which translates literally as Another @#!$%! Day of Christmas.

After that everyone needs a holiday.

I think there's yet another followup-to-Xmas day something like two weeks later, but I had gone home by then and was beyond caring.

Before we went up to Harnosand, I sneaked off for a day at the Modern Museum, my favorite in Stockholm. It's free now - even better. It's the home of Robert Rauschenberg's goat-in-a-tire, but that one must've been on tour or something, because I didn't see it. The coolest thing was that they had my new favorite painting by my new favorite artist, a guy I'd become fascinated with just a few days earlier while packing up my grandfather's books - Oyvind Fahlstrom. (Two dots over both the O's.) He's weird and great, and this painting is a huge mess of comic-book panel type things, but not in a rip-offy Lichtenstein way. Hang on a sec, let me try to sound a little more shallow and badly educated while I talk about this art stuff....oh, whatevs, it's only a blog, right? Anyway. I also saw some hilarious performance-art videos by a guy called Kjartan Stettemark, who looks vaguely Allen Ginsberg-ish and used to dress up as a poodle and interfere with public life...to put it mildly. Good stuff. Need more like that! Then there's the old sperm corner, I like to call it, an installation consisting of a bunch of little glass sperms swarming the corner of the room, something undoubtedly profound but also just sort of funny (by Kiki Smith).

Anyway, I love Moderna Museet. Especially when it's free.

Another cool thing we got to do: After dinner in Gamla Stan one night, Mats (Jennifer's dad) led a bunch of us over to Berns, this super-opulent old music hall that's been turned into a trendy Terence Conran design restaurant (but is still an opulent old music hall outside the dining room -- 16 Horsepower has played there) to have coffee upstairs in the famous Red Room. It's where the disgruntled writers and artists used to gather to bitch about the establishment and mock the monarchy. August Strindberg's first novel (imaginatively titled The Red Room) was based on his experiences hanging out here. It was officially closed when we got there, or reserved or something, but Mats got us in, so we were able to continue the monarchy-mocking tradition -- especially good as we were mostly writers and artists. Heh.

We also spent some time analyzing the Swedish psyche that night, but I'm still not sure I have a good handle on it. An endlessly fascinating topic, though, at least to me.

OK, I'll wrap this up with some cute Swedish expressions I've learned and hope to incorporate into everyday conversation.

Not sure how this came up, but the word for skipping rocks is "throwing sandwiches." (An alternate version has it as throwing the kind of small pancakes typically eaten on Thursdays, but I can't remember what they're called.)

If you're acting wild, acting up or just being goofy, you're "full of 17."

And if you get the last little bit in the bottle of beer or wine or whatever -- which I seemed to always do -- they say you "got the boy" (fick pojken/killen).

Hey, one way or another....

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