Wednesday, May 09, 2007

"The Dudesons are Finland's Answer to Jackass": Notes on Sweden

Hiked in the woods to the site of some long-vanished gallows from when, as Mattias says, "they had the death punishment."
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Swedish television news anchors stand.
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We went and got some water from a spring in the forest. I spilled a lot of it in Mattias' Volvo.
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For Easter Swedish children tie pink and yellow feathers in the trees. An Easter tree. They also dress as witches and go door to door for candy. But I've discussed that fact countless times before in this forum.
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Watched Colbert's White House Press Club speech on Google Video. Mattias hadn't heard about Cheney shooting that guy in the face.
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I saw a Miro owl through a window at Bukowski's Auctions in Stockholm. I wasn't bidding so they wouldn't let me in.
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The elevator at Nordiska Museet is "under reconstruction."
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The first thing I see at the Nordiska Museet is Jorma Toivonen's collection of vintage Swedish erotica. Then I saw Jonas Persson's collection of 2,500 lozenge boxes and Anders Grande's 2,500 Kinder Egg toys.
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Smoked eel at the meat market. I mean, an entire smoked eel.
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The crackers ate the Vasa Museet cafe were not, as I originally read, "Free from Gwen," but, rather, "Free from Gluten." So I had to pay for them and withdrew my kind thoughts about "Gwen."
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Mattias grows his own alfalfa sprouts. I want to do that.
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Yellow-bellied birds.
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My bag was delayed and the worker for SAS told me, "You should know, as an American, your countrymen are the worst for lost baggage in the world. They never send a fax when the bag is found..." I told Mattias that I didn't tip the guy who brought my suitcase (36 hours after my arrival) in a truck. He said, "We never tip in Sweden. This is a modern country; he makes a decent wage."
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Young Swedish women wear tons of dark eye shadow.
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For a brief jet lagged moment I completely lost any sense of what time of day it was. Weird feeling.
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My last night there went to a Valborg (aka Walpurgis night) celebration at Mattias' girlfriend Lova's theater with a bonfire and traditional folk music and dance performances, great stuff. Mattias said, "That old guy behind us is an American, he owns a folk music record store in Stockholm. His name is Izzy; do you know him?" "Yeah!" At intermission I got to eat nettle soup with Izzy Young. Izzy is famous for founding the Folklore Center on McDougal Street where a young Bob Dylan used to hang out. Izzy produced Dylan's first concert at Carnegie Chapter Hall in 1961. In other words, he's a legend. He's been living in Sweden since the early 70's, and smirked when I asked if he spoke Swedish, "I've been living ins Sweden thirty five years and he asks if I speak Swedish, like I'm some American schmuck." That gives you some sense of his comically bitter attitude. "The Americans hate me, the Swedes hate me. I say to them, 'If I'm so fucking stupid, how come you didn't put on the first Joni Mitchell concert.'" He was full of choice words for Marty Scorsese, Pete Seeger, and Dylan himself. He's disgusted how Dylan fans let their god get away with such mediocre performances. "In Stockholm he did three good songs, in Upsalla he did four. You think they would've let Pilaf get away with that. Bullshit." He was hard to impress but I got the feeling he's a really good guy at heart, very generous with people who have an interest in their culture. And I got him to write Joanna Newsom's name in his notebook, so that was cool...

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Rowdy football fans on train from Upsalla back to Stockholm wearing scarves with their team's colors, drinking beer, singing fight songs. One yelled some joke, the only word of which I recognized was "Kinder Eggs." On the news that night: Trouble in the streets.
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When I went to visit Mikael in Upsalla he showed me the series of photographs he took of former prisoners in Kazakhstan. He lived in a village there for six months. Lots of the subjects were Chechen refugees. Not quite Borat.

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The guy who worked at the ice cream shop where we went in Upsalla had claimed to Mikael that they supplied the the Nobel banquet. I was excited. But the claim seemed less likely as that same guy dropped half my scoop on the glass counter and then picked in up with his fingers, put it back on my cone...

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Exhibition of Sally Mann photos at the Culture House, several of which were banned in the States, the portraits of her kids in the buff. The only shocking thing was that they're considered shocking. Not that they're not powerful on their own terms.

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Went to a pagan labyrinth next to pagan burial mounds.

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"Half four" is 3:30.
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Gustav from Dungen practices DJ scratching for hours every day now.

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Mattias' father the psychologist called on the phone, mentioned he was about to take a phobic patient on a walk across a bridge.
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Someone bought Johan's daughter a Pippi Longstocking wig.
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Saw a raven. Odin had two ravens so it's a big deal bird in Sweden.
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Swedish grocery store cash registers, no drawer. You pay by dropping your coins in a slot. The bills come shooting out little chutes.
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Mattias' next door neighbor is a shaman.
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They advertise caviar on TV. It comes in a tube.
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Last year there was a crop circle next to the church near where we dropped Noa at a party.
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Noa's painter father was friends with the Incredible String Band. And with Trad, Gras och Stenar. Met lots of people who know them. That's the thing about the freak scene of a small country.
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"American Sauce" is hamburger sauce. In a tube.
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"The Original Taste of America" read the two liter bottle of Imperial brand chocolate-banana soda, Statue of Liberty on the label.
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"Never be serious. Be sincere, but not serious," said Bjorn aka Devedas, Mattias friend just back from India. We went to see what he calls his "Satsang Theater" in Upsalla. Too much to go into here... Let's just say that he's friends with Goa Gil and 8 Fingers Eddie and he got fired from his teaching job of over 25 years for laughing too much...

7 Comments:

At 7:15 AM, Blogger Adam said...

wow. sounds like a great trip!

 
At 12:57 AM, Blogger tina said...

These notes are the best. Chocolate banana soda RUNS this country.

I remember waking up jet-lagged in a hotel in Finland with my mom and looking at a clock and seeing that it said 4:00. We couldn't figure out which 4:00 it was until we went downstairs eventually and found they were serving breakfast.

 
At 10:48 AM, Blogger Ash said...

What a great glimpse into life in Sweden!
I always thought “half four” was two!
Interesting that chocolate-banana soda is the taste of America. I think America would taste more like concrete and gasoline. ;)
Fired for laughing too much? How terrible!

 
At 8:38 AM, Blogger momster said...

sounds like a great trip, Pete!

 
At 6:42 PM, Blogger DK said...

sounds fun and memorable.
speaking of sweden, here is an interview with peter, bjorn, and john:
http://kndd.radiotown.com/audio/noname/pbjinterview.MP3

 
At 5:45 PM, Blogger kww said...

awesome, i love it.
K

 
At 9:11 AM, Blogger Certainlia said...

Now I want you to invite your swedish friends here and have them post notes on America.

 

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