Annual Blog

These are musings on my everyday experiences. The primary goal here is to make the mundane happenings of my life seem sexy and adventurous and to make me look slimmer and taller. There is no rhyme or reason here. It’s all pretty random. Kinda like me…no rhyme…no reason…Tahoma 12.

I tried to make it a daily log, but eventually noticed that my updates were more of an annual thing than a daily thing, so…you know…

______________________________________________________

February16, 2009
A Day On

Okay, admittedly the “Daily” part of the “Daily Blog” isn’t happening, so I may have to call it the “Monthly Blog,” instead. I’ve been busy as all get-out lately with work, a grad course in US Diplomacy, relationship maintenance, the latest Swedish course, Cisco exam preparation, the eternally delayed webmaster certificate, and the never-to-be-restarted Unix administrator certificate. Plus, the infamous Swedish winter blahs have me dragging my knuckles along the icy floors of my flat.

08:07 Arrived a tad late for the Monday morning staff meeting because I missed the train. I slept really badly last night and skipped breakfast, so when I arrived, my eyes were telling me that I was in for a long day. You know what I mean, that weird sensation that your eyes are not sitting quite right in their sockets. When it came time for the “IT Update” portion of the meeting, I had nothing, so I told a little joke that got a smattering of giggles but fell flat with the overwhelming majority. Thankfully, the boss chuckled, but I think it was out of courtesy. At least it wasn’t as bad as the time on our team-building camping trip when I told that totally inappropriate dirty joke on the crowded wagon and the punchline was followed by complete silence and a shocked look from the vice-principal that told me I had overstepped a line. Now that was a rough moment.

10:30 I hit the lunchroom the moment it opened, having suffered the pangs of Monday morning coffee-deprived starvation while staring at a computer screen long enough. Several other staff members joined me for breakfast. Our lunches are absolutely fantastic. No punchline, I’m dead serious. Today it was baked cod fillets with spring onions, chickpeas with pineapple and banana, sausage with grill pickles, an Italian pasta salad, fresh potato salad, and an assortment of vegetables. The weekly menu is here, if you are interested. I’m looking forward to Wednesday…that is Gambia national day and they will serve Gambian cuisine. I think I’ll like grilled piranha.

17:20 Arrived home to find that Molly is finally nodding her head. She spent the past four months or so shaking her head as if to say “no” to everything. It was cute while it lasted. Now she can’t stop saying “yes” to everything. Women, go figure. She can point to herself in pictures, too, which is super cool. And her conversation skills are definitely improving; she walks around all day making all sorts of strange noises…clicks and dribbles and whistles and farts. Fun with kids.

21:20 Finally made a coffee date with an old high-school classmate, Billy, who happens to live right around the corner from me. Well, not literally around the corner, but roughly in the same neighborhood about ten minutes walk from my place. He found me on FB and contacted me out of the blue just before Christmas. Last time I saw him was in 1985. That is 23 years ago! Crazy, huh? I know! So after two-and-a-half months of procrastinating and half-assed attempts at hooking up, I finally put all the pressing crap aside and got my fat butt in gear. Now we’re meeting for coffee on Wednesday! It will be really interesting to see the path he took after high-school in St. Louis.

______________________________________________________

January 20, 2009
A Day Off

11:00 Took Åse and Molly to Café Rival. I had a café au lait, Åse had a latte. We shared a couple of sandwiches and two sweet rolls. I was off of work today in order to look after Molly while Åse went to an important meeting at her work. Rival, which is right around the corner from our flat, is the grandfather café in the neighborhood, and a popular choice for the trendy crowd. The walls are covered with pictures of famous people – mostly artists, journalists, and writers – who live in Mariatorget. It is a comfortable place, to be sure, but aside from the coffee, the food is inconsistent. I much prefer Saturnus, where everything is always fabulous, but that is a bit of a walk.

13:00 Molly was asleep in the carriage as I arrived at the Stockholm library to return some movies and check out some more music. This library has an entire building devoted to foreign literature and an extensive selection of music and movies from around the world. The first floor is a long wall of newspapers in all languages and comfortable couches for reading. It is always filled with unemployed old men reading about the wonderful life they gave up back in Zimbabwe. As usual, I loaded up on African and Asian music and some freaky looking movies.

14:30 Doctor’s appointment to find out why I have a pain in my ribs. According to the location, it seems rather unexciting. I figured it might be a stone, but doc said no, not the right location. He suggested an inflammation of some sort. I suggested a poison dart from my expedition in Borneo to recover a golden bust of Margaret Thatcher (the nurse had just walked in and she was hawt). I agreed to a standard blood test. Doctor said he’d call me tomorrow with the results. Gotta love this socialized medicine. In fact, I just called to make the appointment less than a week ago, so it was pretty fast getting seen. In five years, I’ve not had a single thing to complain about concerning Sweden’s socialized medical system. Its faults seem greatly exaggerated by  those who would seek any chance to discredit socialism in any form.

17:00 Trying to feed Molly. She won’t eat anything but raisins. I tried Keso (cottage cheese) with raspberry jam, but she wasn’t interested. I went for apple gröt (porridge) but again she would have nothing to do with it. No banana, either. I tried Turkish coffee. She took one sip but the look on her face told me it was not to be. She finally went for the spaghetti and meat sauce. I put her to sleep at 18:00

18:00 Watching the inauguration on BBC and CNN. Aside from some very cheesy moments when it felt more like  coverage of a wrestling match rather than the most important Presidential moment in my memory, it has been pretty moving. I gotta say, the man has mad public speaking skills. He is smooth.

______________________________________________________
November 2006
Nice Phone Sweetheart

I have not asked a girl out on a date in over ten years. The last time I actively lured a young tart back to my cave was the summer of 1995. She was a right cute little 18-year-old cheerleader fresh out of high-school whom I met while rollerblading down the street one sunny afternoon. She was walking her dog, a rather squirelly-looking, skinny mutt with the brains of a bag of sand and a hyperactive streak that usually left him tangled in his leash as he waited outside the local K-mart. He was one of those dogs you look at and wonder how drunk the owner must have been to pick him out of the litter. But then there was Carrie. She was something else: straight, brown hair that fell to her shoulderblades; golden eyes; red lips; and the kind of body that pushes men to the brink of insanity with one glance. I skated right up to her, told her how much I liked her dog, and within two minutes had her phone number and a movie date.

Our fling was intense, but meaningless. I immediately realized that we had literally nothing in common and our conversations were relegated to sitcom reviews and her search for her biological parents. She was, after all, a decade younger than I was. Our interaction went almost immediately from intellectual to purely physical and we avoided discussing anything of substance, preferring instead to entertain ourselves with raw sex on an hourly basis. Two weeks after we met, I knew this was not what I needed…I needed conversation, intelligence, stimulation of a different sort…so I decided to end the relationship as quickly as necessary. We barely lasted another seven months.

After that, I met another girl who actually asked me out. We were together for ten years.

But today I find myself back in the summer of 1995, single and looking for cheerleaders walking dogs in the park. My problem is that I have become rusty due to the lack of practice. I have only the vaguest recollection of how to approach a strange woman and strike up a conversation with her. My latest plan involves a minimum of conversation – usually just an acknowledgment of interest – followed by my handing to her a scribbled note with my email address and a strikingly witty expression of my attraction. This, I figure, is a rather non-threatening approach that a woman might appreciate. I ran it by some of my gal pals at cafe Muggen yesterday and, though sincerely supportive of my task, they delicately showed me the error of my ways.

The problem, they agreed, is that I cannot simply drop a note in a girl’s lap then run out of the train, which I kinda understand. I must have some sort of connection beyond eye play. The unanimous suggestion – one that I had already considered and discarded as patently insincere – was to find a unique angle, a topic of discussion that could jump start the conversation. I should mention the cello she has and let her know that I did, indeed, see Yo Yo Ma in St. Louis some years back. Or perhaps I should take notice of the book she’s reading and suggest another one for her, such as Nabakov’s Lolita or Anais Nin’s erotic classic Delta of Venus. Depending on the sophistication of her shoes, I might recommend D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterly’s Lover or some light reading from the Marquis de Sade. If all else fails, I could tell her how much I admire her brainless, hyperactive mutt.

On the train home from the cafe, I sat across from a particularly fetching beauty with curly, auburn hair and icy blue eyes. Her pale, fragile hands showed no marks from a ring on any finger and her clear nails were flawless. But there was no cello. Neither was there an accordian, flute, harmonica, djembe, or set of bagpipes. Okay, I thought, so she doesn’t like music. She was not reading a book, either. No magazine, no newspaper, not even a textbook did I see. Well, I thought, either she doesn’t feel the need to educate herself or she’s illiterate. There was no dog or lizard or goldfish. Not an animal lover, I figured. So I took a look at her clothes. Her boots were black. Her pants were black. Her long, wool coat was black and buttoned up to the neck. Her hat was black. She wore no earrings and her scarf was…are you ready…black. As fashionable as she obviously was, I had nothing.

But then it happened.

Her head shifted and her eyes locked on mine. It was not a simple glance, either. She held my gaze for a full two seconds that seemed like almost three seconds. In that magical moment, her eyes told me what I needed to know: she wanted me.

Before I could open my mouth, the muted sounds of Abba’s Fernando came drifting on the musty wind in the wagon. She reached into her pocket, pulled out her phone, then answered the call: “Hello?”

English! And perfect English at that! She must be American. Or Canadian, which will certainly do in a pinch. I broke out a small piece of paper, scribbled my name and email address then waited for the phone call to end. I noticed that her phone was one of the new Sony-Ericsson W800i models that are so popuar in Stockholm. It was the orange and white one with the 2 megapixel camera, CD-ripping capabilities, and a built-in Walkman with room for 130 songs. I was impressed.

Finally, the conversation ended and she slipped the Sony-Ericsson W800i back into the pocket of her black, wool coat. This was it. The moment of truth. She looked back at me and we lost ourselves in the moment completely. It felt as magical as one of those commercials for Axe deoderant. As the train began to slow its approach to the station, I opened my mouth and let the words spill out like fine wine…

“I like your phone.”

The words echoed through the train. I felt the eyes of all the other passengers burning the back of my neck as they stopped their talking and turned to see who was bungling the play on the hot girl in seat 7F. Her look of scorn told me that she thought I might be some sort of perv. I sat in stunned silence as the train came to a stop. I jumped up, dropped the note in her lap, and ran off the train.

Damn, it wasn’t even my stop.

______________________________________________________
October 2006
The Dead Zone

Ok, so the other night I’m at the On-Off store at Hotorget and trying to leave. I walk to the glass doors, expecting them to open for me as I approach, but instead I slam right into them. I take a step back, do a little dance on the mat and nothing happens. The doors remain shut. I look up at the sensor…light is on. I check the closing hours…no problem there. I look behind me at the guy at the register but he is just sitting there, with no customers, staring blankly at a glowing screen. He takes no notice of my plight and, this being Sweden, I am assured that things are as they should be. So I continue my dance on the mat without success. Suddenly, this other guy comes barreling into me from behind as if he didn’t even see me. He gets this strange look on his face and, without even saying, “Oj, ursäkta mig!” he steps through the now open doors which had sprung gleefully wide the moment HE had stepped onto the mat! I step out into the cool night air without giving it a second thought.

Five minutes later, I am crossing Kungsgatan heading to the El Giganten. Again, I walk face-first into the glass doors! I step back, check the opening hours, look at my watch, and scratch my head. They don’t close for another half hour. I do my magic door-opening jig again but get nothing as a couple with a stroller comes up behind me. I turn to them with a raised finger and open mouth, but before I can explain the situation, the damned door slides open! So, I follow them in only mildly noting that this odd occurrence happened twice in the past five minutes.

I look at the DVD players and decide I have a question, so I go up to the register where not one, not two, but three unoccupied salesmen are sitting around shooting the shit. I stand there for about thirty seconds and they don’t even look at me! I wait another thirty seconds before finally storming off in a bit of a huff. I make it through the exit without a problem as there are several people going out at the same time.

I cross the street to Siba. The door is not automatic so I push it open and head to the back of the store where the escalator is located that will take me to the top floor. But the escalator is stopped and does not begin to roll when I step onto it. No big deal, I figure…they must have it turned off. But when I get halfway up, a customer below me steps onto the escalator and the fucking thing suddenly lurches into motion! By this point, I’ve put two and two together and am getting a bit freaked out! So I leave the store in a hurry.

At Östermalmstorg, I hit a grocery store. I walk in and approach the silver metal entrance bars that let people in but don’t let them out – at least not until they’ve passed the candy aisle. They don’t open so I brush them aside lightly. No big deal, I figure, because they often don’t work the way they should. I grab my salad and head for the checkout. As I’m standing there, I start looking around the store in a bored sort of way and what do you think I see? I see people walking into the store and the damned metal bars opening for them automatically!!!

Suddenly, I am really paranoid, so I head out of the store and straight for the train. I whip out my card and swipe it at the turnstile but the turnstile stays locked. I swipe again. Same result. I move one turnstile over but still cannot get through. I try a third turnstile and again my train pass is rejected! But it worked fine earlier in the day and I have three weeks left on it. I finally go to the attendant who lets me pass. On the train home, I am completely freaked out and start looking around to see if anyone looks my way. Nobody seems to notice me.

I’ve now decided to have my lead fillings removed.

______________________________________________________
September 2006
Café con Lèche

I join a couple of friends for coffee the other day and we meet at the home of a mutual friend who happens to come from Spain. Now, this particular Spaniard, Eduardo, is one of the most interesting fellows I have ever met. He comes from the south of Spain, a city called Cadiz which was founded 3,000 years ago by the Phoenicians and happens to be the oldest city in Western Europe. His mannerisms are so foreign to me that I find myself drawn to him in a strangely comfortable way that makes me feel…well…uncomfortable, to be frank. Apparently, the people of Cadiz are very physical in the way they express themselves, and Eduardo exemplifies this. He uses every part of his body to send his messages. His arms and hands gesticulate like a giant octopus attacking a clam whenever he speaks to me about even the most mundane subject. Even in the corridor, when we talk in whispers about secrets and lies, he gestures here and there with his hands as his shoulders shift up and down violently. His facial expressions are quite abrupt and intense, much more so than most of the Swedes I have come to know. In fact, Eduardo’s behavior is so far removed from typical Swedish behavior, that he stands in stark contrast to those around him no matter where he goes. His smile is very broad and it is reflected in his lips, his eyes, his nose, forehead, chin, ears, and even his arms. Conversing with the guy borders on religion.

Anyway, there I was in Eduardo’s kitchen having a good time discussing the wonders of Sweden, Spain, and European women when he sets before me a large cup of café con leche, the Spanish version of an Italian cafe latte, a French café crème, or America’s legendary Folger’s Crystals with skim milk. Now, I’ve had good coffee, but I must say that this was perhaps the best cup-a-joe I had ever experienced. Ever. Period. Eduardo showed me how he made it with one of those little, silver, octagonal mocha pots that I’ve seen lining the shelves of Åhlens but never considered purchasing. He told me to put just so much water in the bottom, pack the coffee tightly in the chamber, set it on the stove and wait until the steam stops hissing out of the top. After that, I should pour my cup half full with coffee, then the remaining half should be milk. The key, he explained, was that the milk should be warmed, something I had never actually considered before when making lattés and au laits. It was so simple that it was foolproof.

Eduardo was so happy I liked the coffee that he gave me a brand new box of the coffee he had used, a special blend that is sold only in Spain but occasionally shows up at Lidl in Skärholmen, obviously smuggled on the black market. I thanked him and could not help grinning as I imagined the beautiful ladies I would soon be seducing with my divine coffee deep within the confines of my lair. So, the next day, I stopped by Åhlens and picked out the 30 kronor espresso steamer that had the least warped lid and quickly headed home to try it out. I had all the ingredients and materials necessary, but most importantly, I had the knowledge of the Spaniard. That was the secret weapon that I knew would lead me to the promised land. I made my first cup that night.

It was awful.

It was so bad that I took another look at the steamer to see if I had accidentally left some Styrofoam packaging in it by mistake. I tried again the next night, but the results were the same. The third night was no different and I became rather discouraged. I thought back to the night in Eduardo’s kitchen, scanning my memory for any tidbit of information that I might have forgotten, something about adding a deciliter of sugar or chanting the ancient words of a Nigerian shaman. Then, I remembered.

“I have been making this coffee for 15 years!” he had said as I anticipated my third cup.

You gotta be kidding me, I thought. How damn much practice does one need to get this right?? What could possibly go wrong? It is so simple. So foolproof. The revelation that there is something more, something intangible, made me feel as clumsily American as I have ever felt. It reminded me of the time I asked two black ladies sitting next to me on the plane as we headed out of DC International if they were, indeed, speaking Swahili, a language I fancy myself learning someday. They replied with indignation that no, they were speaking French, a language I studied for 9 years, and that they were not African but rather citizens of France. I did not look in their direction the remaining seven hours of the flight.

Lately, my café con leche has gotten better, but I have this fear that maybe the coffee is not really getting better…maybe I am simply getting used to the charred taste of gack. I long to taste Eduardo’s coffee again, but at the same time, I dread confirming my lack of skill. He’s in Spain right now, but when he comes back I will get with him to find out what has gone terribly wrong. Perhaps the magic is the history. He has, after all, 15 years of experience in the art of coffee and the genes of one whose home is the oldest city in western Europe. That has to count for more than a simple bullet on a travel brochure.

______________________________________________________
August 2006
Background Music

Last night I had dinner with friends in an Indian restaurant near Medborgarplatsen. This particular restaurant has a fine reputation and was given highest praise in one of Stockholm’s more reputable papers recently. It was a great time and the food was spectacular. But there was one odd thing about this night: the music blaring through the restaurant was modern American rap music.

As my friends and I discussed the noble mission of Doctors Without Borders and the integrity of the BBC over fantastic Chicken Tikka Balti, the background was filled with the sexual conquests of Lil Kim, the drug induced rants of Kid Rock, the revolutionary vitriol of Public Enemy, and the offensive (though infectious) philosophies of NWA. The experience was surreal, and not in the good way. The strange thing is that this is not an anomaly for Stockholm restaurants. We had all experienced this phenomenon in other restaurants. I’m not sure what the thinking is behind this, but it sure is strange.

A few months ago, I visited NK (Stockholm’s answer to Harrod’s or Macy’s) to pick up a pair of overpriced underwear that was guaranteed to impress the ladies, assuming I would actually get the chance to show it to them. As I browsed the aisles lined with Izod, Sand, Phillipa K, Barbour, Bjorn Borg, and Peak Performance, I noticed with some consternation that the speakers were blasting one of Eminem’s most offensive ditties chock full of four-letter words and graphic depictions. I am no prude, but I prefer having a less-abrasive shopping experience. Besides, the store was filled with children.

I asked the manager what the reasoning was behind the choice of music and he simply looked at me as if I had just landed on Earth from some distant low-rent, government-subsidized neighborhood on Venus. He gave no real reason but did admit it was inconsistent with NK’s image before switching the music over to AC/DC.

One thing I have noticed about Swedes’ grasp of the English language is that they tend to use offensive language much more casually than we do in the States. They see it in our movies, our literature, and our music. But just as I struggle with conjugating Swedish verbs and matching noun endings with their appropriate gender, Swedes tend to throw curse words precisely where they don’t belong. Cursing, you see, is an art. When I meet someone who has mastered that art – usually an Irishman – I thoroughly enjoy hearing them throw in the well-placed fuck, shit, or piss. Hearing a Swede say the word fuck can be very amusing. I once corrected a young man on the train and gave him a quick lesson on how to properly use the word in normal conversation. A few individuals within earshot showed some interest while a few others threw a few disgusted glances my way, but what the fuck, I didn’t give a shit.

This cultural absorption of such stylized language is one of the main ways in which English is evolving. And it is causing evolution in other languages, as well. As English spreads via commercial channels such as movies, music, magazines and the internet, languages all over the globe change forever. The reasons we no longer speak the Olde English of the 15th century – and why Swedes no longer retain the Icelandic sounds of their linguistic roots – are clear to me: Run DMC and MTV.

Advertisements

Responses

  1. ok all of these made me laugh and think at the same time….you know I do know an editor….. I’m thinking…… this is something you should seriously consider! No joke, I’ll see her at Christmas and in July again…… ponder the possibilities my friend.

  2. Muaha ha ha. I thought the same thing. This is very well written and amusing.

  3. Man, you’re over-due on your MONTHLY updates as they were (per you). Perhaps now SEMI-ANNUALLY? I was surprised your daughter turned down Turkish coffee………


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: