Well, I flew out for my late grandfather's retrospective gallery show. Aside from being my hero in the realms of wild imagination and creative driving, he was also a journalist and an artist. A selection of his work was hand-picked by some of his colleagues from Dagens Nyheter, the main Stockholm daily, and displayed at the gallery of another colleague and friend, Gun Joslin. Gun's art studio is amazing, crammed with canvases and supplies and maps and masks and, uh, stuffed herons...snakeskins...I thought it was the coolest room I'd ever seen, until I got to go inside her actual house. Holy crap. The place is a living museum. Her husband was an anthropologist who wrote books about the Asante people in Ghana before it was even called Ghana, and her house is full of African masks, carved wooden figures, paintings, photos, all kinds of stuff. She had a story about every piece, including two wooden thrones, one for the king (elected) and one for the queen (elected for life). In the foyer we were greeted by a human skull tacked to the wall with, hilariously, ping-pong balls in its eye sockets ("He had a sense of humor," she says). Lined up next to it were the skins of armadillos, crocodiles, an iguana, and a couple of somethings nobody could name. One of the armadillo-like critters was there because Gun's husband - who was against frivolous hunting - had been forced to kill it to stop it from eating one of his employees. (Please do keep in mind that I'm filtering all of this through my feebly grasped Swedish, so apologies if I get any of the details wrong!)
As I understood it, my role in the whole gallery-show enterprise was to keep the snack table well stocked and my parents from killing each other. I can't take credit for the latter, as I think they were actually doing fine on their own. But I did open a few bags of chips.
Mostly, though, it was just cool to see so much of Morfar's artwork displayed in a gallery setting, and to meet some of the people who came from all over Sweden to check it out. There was - perhaps unsurprisingly - a heavy motorcycle theme to most of the conversations I had. Several of the guys in attendance owned or once owned motorcycles; one of them, Lasse, used to have a Norton Dominator that he and his bride rode all over England and Scotland on their honeymoon during the '50s - five suitcases, two up, for two months. And they're still married. At some point, my friend Jennifer's dad, Mats, asked me if I could name ten European brands/makes of motorcycle. I got nine --
BSA (Dad came up with this one)
Vincent (Black Shadow!)
and Husqvarna (Swedish - pandering to the crowd, yep)
-- and then I added KTM but wasn't sure where they were made. Austria, it turns out, so I passed the test after all. Sweet!
One day while we were running errands, I made Mom go with me to the KTM store, right next door to a Dainese outlet. She was cool about it.
Later somebody scrounged up a couple of other Eurobike brand names, including a Czech one called Jawa. In hindsight it seems incredibly easy to name ten, but at the time I was pretty impressed with myself.
Later on during the weekend, I met some friends of Jennifer's who ride motorcycles. The guy rides a gigantic blue-and-yellow Harley and is in the Yggdrasil MC. Yggdrasil, in case you don't know, is the World Tree, a gigantic ash that forms the axis connecting all the realms in Norse mythology. The name derives from old Norse words meaning terrible steed. Awesome! Jennifer wrote my favorite-ever description of hanging out with Swedish Harley dudes - this is from 2003:
When going out with my friend Helena who is living with Ulf, a Harley Davidson club member, the evening is talked about as a "helkväll" in swedish ("a total night" if you translate it but that sounds kind of stupid). It usually starts with a nice dinner (they´re both great cooks) and lots of bikers and loud rock music at their house. Guys bring their own beer in plastic bags and show off their skull tatoos. By 10 p.m. a dark van with scary symbols pulls up and everybody head for some hard core club outside town where plenty of heavy silverwear, jeans, boots, beards and breasts are displayed. Occasionally the celebrity popstar E-type is picked up along the way, the van circles around the city and stop outside fashionable night clubs, where Ulf gets out to manifest his power by just standing and looking with arms crossed. Bottles of scotch are being passed around and the evening continues around 2 a.m. at "O-baren" at Sturehof. The ultimate goal is always, no matter who you are or where you´re from, to get in to Spy Bar at Stureplan, which you do if you are "somebody".
Apparently I just missed going to a gigantic Harley ralley up in Norrköping - would've been something to see. I also never met E-Type. Sigh.
There wasn't a whole lot of leisure time on this trip, but Dad and I did take a day to check out the Modern Museum, my favorite. (See gushing post from Xmastime for more on that.) There was a special exhibit of work by Karin Mamma Andersson, who paints the rooms and landscapes you see in your dreams....
(None of my favorite ones look very good online, but here's an example.)
Another day we took a ferry out onto the archipelago - it was basically a mail boat. It stopped at even the littlest rock that possessed a mailbox, making a several-hour loop all the way out to someplace no one's ever been to called Ljusterö. Pretty neat way to get out of the city for a while. On the way back, on the section from Vaxholm to Stockholm, we took a restored, old-fashioned steamer built in 1908. It cornered like a tank and rattled your teeth out every time it backed away from a dock, but man, it was cool.
Here is the hut I picked out for myself in Stockholm's archipelago:
One of the docks we stopped in:
Typical Swedish spring weather:
On another day off, we went with Mats to check out the local outpost of anthroposophism, which I don't think any of us succeeded in pronouncing correctly the whole time. Try it. It's not easy. Strega helps, and we had some of that afterwards. But anyway, the place is interesting. The philosophy - conceived by Rudolf Steiner - is distinctly odd, but the architecture is cool (even though the colors sort of gross me out), and there's a little organic food shop where you can get all kinds of neat stuff. We ate lunch at the cafeteria there and had a nice walk around the place, then went to Mats's cabin for coffee afterwards.
Above: Two of the Hobbiton-esque Steiner buildings.
Above: A view from the anthroposophists' beach.
Below: Chez Mats.
The anthroposophist compound also happened to have really cool playgrounds:
...and a good time was had by all.