Sunday, June 02, 2002

I've taken to sleeping with a sleeping mask on and I feel like Joan Crawford in The Women. Next thing you know, I'll be both talking on the phone and eating chocolates while in a bathtub overflowing with bubbles. Although to be honest, the mask is a cheap one given in the packet they hand out to you in business class flying from Stockholm to Chicago on SAS. And the reason I'm wearing it is because of the invincible sun, which comes driving through the thin blinds relentlessly and in full blinding force by about 4 a.m.

It happens so quickly this time of year. Already, I noticed that the sun was hovering just below the horizon at midnight last night as I walked home from dinner with A., the former model and aspiring producer and C., the fashion photographer. We ate at PA's, which turns out is a photographer hangout, and the two of them seemed to know just about everyone in the place. I felt hopelessly unfashionable and unaware, the waiters and waitresses bringing in more and more chairs to jam us all in.

"The swordfish carpaccio is good," said the man sitting next to me, who I'd met several times before but I can't remember his name, or the name of his new wife.

"There's Staffan over there," A. told me. "He's getting married soon and they have to plan his svensexan." (A svensexan is an all-day bachelor party in which the groom-to-be endures a day of humiliation and increasing drunkeness that should properly end in soul-wrenching vomiting and a three-day hangover.)

"Say hello to New York from me," A. said to a thin and pretty girl with a supercilious gaze, sitting and holding court with an Englishman amidst a crowd of Swedes talking madly in English and Swedish all at once.

"Oh, you're an American," said the 50-year-old dapper Swiss-Irish man with the wheezey tobacco rasp and the pipe, his laughing eyes barely in focus behind his Ari Onassis-lite glasses.

We left in a flurry of handshakes, air kisses and promises to see each other in the morning, as all but me seemed to be going to a party at 11.30 a.m. to watch Sweden play England in the World Cup.

As I walked home, the city crowded and overjoyed at it being summer, Skeppsbron was lined with tall ships docked for the 750th birthday celebration of Stockholm, teenagers were streaming from the boat that comes from Gröna Lund, the ancient amusement park two islands away, and me, I was regretting that the husband wasn't there walking with me, but at least happy that he hadn't been crying when he had called me while I was waiting for my dinner.

The Swedish phrase for the day is öppet dygnet runt. It means open 24 hours.

- by Francis S.

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