Saturday, October 15, 2011

Nearly a year has gone by since I've written anything here. Real life seems to have taken over, any new lessons to add to the more than a thousand already here left undocumented. Maybe it's because the Swedish language has at last become truly embedded in my life, I've conquered it about as much as I'm going to - I still hear myself make mistakes, I have my pat expressions I use over and over, and my accent is still far from perfect (for some strange reason when I speak Swedish, people invariably think that I'm a Brit, what's that all about?), but Swedish pretty much pours out of my mouth effortlessly. Has that made it harder to blog? Or is it that I feel like I'm repeating myself, I have nothing new to say after 1,004 posts? Is it that at heart I'm a lazy bastard? Or that I want to put my energies into a real book?

At any rate, I'm not ready to throw in the towel, despite a year of not blogging here. I've gotten too much out of it - great friends, even my current job - to quit just yet.

The question is: How do I get the motivation back?

(Apologies for the metablogging. I hate metablogging, mostly).

The Swedish word for the day is lektioner. It means lessons.

Monday, October 18, 2010

They poured themselves through the door at 6:30, bearing gin and vermouth and game. "He was such a bore," M. the cameraman said. "But he's dead now." It was A. the TV producer and her boyfriend, come early to prepare the main course: wild boar.

Ha ha, I said.

The guests - best friends of M., mostly TV people and a guy with a sock company - were due at 8:00, so there wasn't a minute to spare. And of course I'd done my bit much earlier - American apple pie (as opposed to Swedish apple pie, which just goes to show you that apple pie isn't particularly American at all, really. It was probably the French who invented it) and homemade cinnamon ice cream. So we had to sear big chunks of boar, and chop carrots and onions and parsnips, and pour cans and cans of tomatoes, and add red wine and sage and rosemary and cep mushrooms. The kitchen was, briefly, a hurricane, and all that boar-searing generated a lot of smoke so we had to open wide the window in the kitchen and open the balcony door in the living room. But it all turned out in the end.

Everyone arrived more or less eight-ish, and they were duly impressed by the apartment, and they drank martinis and yakked it up, and then sat obediently to dinner (all except the baby, who slept in his baby carriage in the spare bedroom). They ate the boar and the pie, and a few of them showed off their tattoos (strange collections of tiny drawings - half-hearts, pirates and parrots, a tiny bottle). Then the guy who is supposedly the best video editor in all of Stockholm and who has a thing for calves (not the animal, the body part) examined all of our legs. Apparently, for a calf-fetishist, long and muscular is the thing. Mine are pleasingly long, but he claimed he'd never seen such an unmuscular calf. For which I felt duly insulted. Unmuscular indeed. I should have stuck my heel up and pressed on my toe. But then, he really only likes women's calves anyway.

They left at 2 a.m. or so, leaving us with dirty dishes and probably a good 5 pounds worth of wild boar stew.

Good thing it tastes better warmed over.

The Swedish word for the day is vildsvin, which of course means wild boar.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Quick plug for the new project: queercult interviews Linas Alsenas, author of Gay America: The Struggle for Equality. He says he wouldn't mind meeting Emma Goldman, Walt Whitman, Oscar Wilde... and Larry Kramer and Ellen DeGeneres. I think he's got a chance with the last two. Check it out here.

The Swedish word for the day is författare. It means author.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

I've contemplated giving this up, since I've reached the thousand mark. But despite my barely posting once a month, I can't quite do it. Which hasn't stopped me from starting up something new: queercult. It's all about pre-Stonewall gay esoterica. Check it out and let me know what you think. It's just the beginning...

The Swedish word for the day is projekt. It means project, of course.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

We spent the day - an idyllic late-August day, late-August being unabashedly full-on autumn here in Stockholm - wandering around the south island of the city, almost aimlessly. We ran into a range of random friends and acquaintances, making plans to meet up next week or in some nameless future. We ordered tile for the bathroom and bought an old LP at Pet Sounds, the cover a black and white photo of Ray Bourbon in full drag leering at a couple of sailors, circa 1950. We had Chinese food, and we went to see La Danse, which has been playing forever at the Grand.

The thing was, though, that before the movie they showed a trailer for Mao's Last Dancer - another dance movie, so it was appropriate. Except the trailer left such a bad taste in my mouth. It made the movie seem as if it was all about how repressive and demanding China was in comparison to wonderful, glorious, free America. As if it were trying to capture an America that used to be, since we've lost our luster of late. It seemed so very nationalistic. Somehow so very tasteless, to be presenting America as a shining beacon of freedom, when it's so mired in partisanship right now that politicians would rather let the ship go down in flames than work together to actually try to work together to fix the mess they've made.

At least the actual movie was good - in usual Frederick Wiseman style, the narrative is oblique and I can imagine many people might find it too aimless. But not us, we all marveled at what life is like at the Paris Opera Ballet.

And that's what I'm thinking today, as I write this, my thousandth post.

There, you've gotten your thousand difficult lessons! Now, how is your Swedish?

The Swedish word for the day is inlägg. It means post.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

They stood at the elbow of the bus - you know the part I'm talking about, the part where the back end is joined to the front on those extra long buses, which are blue in the city. But out in the far suburbs, the extra-long buses are red like all the other buses. The husband and I were on our way back from his great niece's fifth birthday, sitting and sweating in the back and watching the two boys in the bus's elbow.

They were somewhere between 20 and 24. The shorter one, with his wide smile and perfect white teeth, was in love with the taller one. Anyone could see it. The way he couldn't take his eyes away from the taller boy's face. The way he straightened the taller boy's collar. The way he kept moving his hand on the hand grip so that his fingers were touching the taller boy's fingers. It was all he could do not to hold onto the taller boy.

I sat in my seat and smiled wistfully. I'm surrounded day in and day out by straight people who very visibly show they are in love. They don't have to think twice about it. But for a great big homo like me to show I'm in love becomes a huge statement. So I don't do it, and neither does anyone else in Sweden, not really. So to see my own life reflected in those two boys, it tugs at my heart, and I'm enraptured.

Did you see those boys, I asked the husband as we got off the bus.

"Yes," he said, smiling at me. "I think the one guy liked the other guy more. We're almost home, thank god."

The Swedish phrase for the day is ett par. It means a couple.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Spring has been so late in arriving after the long hard winter. Not that I'm complaining really, I'm all for a long hard winter. It's how I grew up. But still, it felt a mite miraculous to drive out of the city, into rolling hills and past a long thin lake, and further, to the pop star's country house.

Oh, the green - when the tree doctor came to look at the trees, he told us that the grass had grown six inches in a week - and the lilacs, as late as I've ever seen them, lining the country lane and making me think of my mother, who come spring always had a vase of lilacs on the kitchen table in an old jade-colored ceramic pitcher from the thirties.

So the pop star drove her rider mower madly about the lawn, like a cowboy, like some vision out of the American suburbs I grew up in - the grass was more than a foot high. While I made rhubarb cream - which is just stewed rhubarb with a bit of sugar and a pinch of potato starch to thicken it - one of those beloved Swedish treats that you serve warm with milk poured over it, a reminder of how poor the country was until relatively recent (and how hard it is to grow anything up here in the far north - you get far enough north and there are no fruit trees, so strawberries, raspberries and rhubarb are about all you've got to work with.)

Then we walked down the road, past the peculiar Scottish cows with their wooly hides and broad faces and curly horns, and turned down a path.

"This is what I wanted to show you," said the pop star. "This tree is a thousand years old, the oldest one around. Can you believe it? It's beautiful!"

Apparently everyone around knew about the thousand-year-old oak. (Just think, it was around when the Vikings were still rampaging, and Sweden was still a century away from official christianization.) A fairly large branch - as big as a tree itself - had fallen not so long ago, but otherwise it looked fairly healthy. The four of us - me, the husband, the pop star and the girl from L.A. - tried to reach around the tree, holding hands, but it was too big.

"Look up," said the girl from L.A., gazing into the branches above us. "it is beautiful, really, really."

The Swedish word for the day is ek. It means oak.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Have you ever been to Monte Carlo?

It's about what you'd imagine: yachts in the harbor, the Hotel de Paris with tourists snapping photos, not nearly enough cabs because everyone has a car and driver.

We were there for a wedding, though - the sister of A. the TV producer - and we got the full treatment, since the bride and groom live with their daughter there, in that little principality where gamblers foot the government bills instead of citizens paying taxes. A wedding complete with Swedish parson (although the church was Anglican), champagne on a long jetty carpeted in white, a dinner of six courses including a cake that turned out to be macarons, macarons and more macarons, peonies and roses and lilies and freesia enough to cover a field in Holland. And dancing wildly into the wee hours, lesbian photographers who were a couple, both named Emilie, neither of whom really spoke English taking pictures that I will be most curious to see.

Then there was the lunch the next day for everyone with gallons of rosé wine at beach a boat ride away from the harbor. And then dinner all over again, in a club with more champagne and fish and vodka and dancing wildly yet again, not realizing until later that that was no DJ playing cool covers, it was a real-live woman singing.

(Did I mention the call girls in the club? Russians in one room, Brazilians in another. Didn't hear of any rent boys though. Oh, and then there were the awful names on the yachts: The One and Solid Gold. But really, what can one expect? The place is all about conspicuous consumption.)

It was the most luxurious kind of exhaustion you can possibly imagine. And the best way to get to know the very strange place that Monte Carlo is.

The Swedish word for the day is skumpa. It means bubbly - as in champagne.

Friday, April 30, 2010

As I sat at my desk, writing blissfully away about iPad apps - or was it tips for getting into shape for the summer? - my phone rang.

It was my friend the former punk rocker.

"Sarah Waters was here and I hugged her and gave her a book!" she said breathlessly into the phone. "I feel like one of those crazy fans."

It turns out that the author of one of my favorite books, Fingersmith, was in town for a special reading at Kulturhuset, and the former punk rocker's daughter not only went, she managed to get a 45-minute private interview with Waters for her blog And of course she mentioned that she works at the Science Fiction Book Shop and that Waters should really check it out.

So my friend the former punk rocker, who is one of the managers there, wasn't completely surprised to see Sarah Waters wander into the store. But she did lose her cool - but only in the best way, all gushing and full of admiration.

"I'm a huge fan of yours," she told Sarah. "And I know you haven't read this and I think you'd like it, it's by John Ajvide Lindqvist, it's Let the Right One In. It's a present from me because you've given me so much because I love all of your books."

Sarah apparently is very kind and gracious and is completely unruffled by gushing fans.

"And you're the one who turned me on to her, " the former punk rocker said to me. "So I just had to tell you!"

I only wish that I had been there to gush, too.

The Swedish phrase for the day is förtjust i, which means to have a crush on.

Monday, March 29, 2010

And the ticker goes up a notch in the bio at the left. One more year to half a century.

The Swedish word for the day is fyrtionio. It mean forty-nine.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

At last the ice has melted out by Skeppsholmen and Kastellholmen, the ducks and coots and swans swimming and diving. Quite different from three weeks ago, when we took one of the ships overnight to Åland with the children's book author, the sea captain and the Australians.

Because of the unusually cold winter, the Baltic was all iced over and we wanted to see what it looked like out on the open sea. Of course the day before we left, some 50 boats had gotten stuck fast in the ice. But the sea captain assured us that we wouldn't get stuck.

"The boat is too big," he said. "It's made for seas full of ice like that. Besides, they wouldn't let us go if we were going to get stuck."

So on Friday afternoon, we boarded the boat with several hundred teenagers, bound for the island of Åland, which is all of 85 miles from Stockholm.

We took a look at our cabins, which were actually kind of charming with their round portholes and all the wooden detailing. Then we walked around the boat, checking out the tiny little pool, the various restaurants and the casino (well, slot machines anyway), the nightclub and the bar, where we had drinks and watched the city lights disappearing behind us.

We had dinner at about 8:30 or so, and about 9:15, as we were deciding whether or not to have dessert, an announcement came on the intercom telling us that due to recommendations from the authorities, we would not be going to Mariehamn in Åland for fear of getting stuck in the ice. The captain had set anchor and we would be spending the night where we were, returning to Stockholm the next afternoon.

"What?" we said all together.

You promised us we wouldn't get stuck, I said to the sea captain.

"We aren't stuck!" he tried to claim.

We were all terribly disappointed - and probably the only people on the whole boat who even cared since most people were there just for the cheap liquor. In fact, we were probably the only people who even noticed.

The next morning, when we got up, the sun was nearly blinding on the ice, and even if it wasn't the open sea, it was spectacular and terribly arctic.

As we looked out onto the snowy islands in the distance on either side, with people walking on the ice in between, I realized we were just outside Birds Island, where I've spent many a summer day. I could even see the very rocks where I sit every day at about 9:30 a.m., midway through my morning constitutional. In fact, if we'd wanted to, the husband and I could've actually gotten down off the boat and walked over the solid ice and spent the night there. If we'd wanted to.

Dammit. There I was, no further out in the archipelago than I'd ever been.

The Swedish word for the day is en förbannelse. It means a curse.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

I dreamt I was pregnant. About three months pregnant, and I could feel the little fetus in me, a hard little knot twirling around in my gut. It was so strange, but a good thing. And then suddenly it was gone.I think it was a dream in sympathy with a friend who just had a miscarriage.

Or does it mean something else?

Do other men ever dream they are pregnant? Men whose wives aren't pregnant, I mean, which I imagine is common... or is it?

The Swedish word for the day is gravid. It means pregnant.