Thursday, July 31, 2003

As Swedes debate the appropriateness of a Stockholm Gay Pride keynote speaker who happens to be a political leader from the Moderaterna (one of Sweden's right-wing parties, which would be somewhere to the left of the Democrats in the U.S.), George W. Bush is publicly saying that he believes "marriage is between a man and a woman, and I believe we ought to codify that one way or the other and we have lawyers looking at the best way to do that."

I guess the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act [sic!] just doesn't do enough to keep homosexualists in their place, now that the U.S. Supreme Court has decided that we're no longer criminals.

Isn't America great?

The Swedish word for the day is inte. It means not, more or less.

- by Francis S.

Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Do you want to know what it’s like being gay in Karachi, Pakistan? There are, according to Jalal, at least two bloggers of the homosexualist persuasion there, a guy called Danial and Jalal.

It sounds as if being gay and 22 and single and in the thralls of one’s family and a less-than-accepting society in Karachi is only slightly different from what things were like for me in Washington, D.C. when I was 22, in 1982. Basically, it’s just a matter of desperately wanting to be in love. At least, that’s how it sounds from what Jalal writes.

So, go give him good advice if you can.

The Swedish word for the day is stöd. It means support.

- by Francis S.

Tuesday, July 29, 2003

If I were of a more, um, heterosexualist bent (to coin an oxymoron), I think I would fall in love with Amy Sedaris and start stalking her. She really makes me laugh until I cry. Plus, she actually makes and sells cheeseballs and cupcakes to her neighbors. What a gal.

I'm not sure whether it was such a good idea to buy that DVD of the first season of her sitcom "Strangers with Candy", because I've can't stop watching it. Over and over. And until I saw my husband laughing at it, I would have thought it couldn't be funny to anyone who hasn't seen shows like "Dawn, Portrait of a Teenage Runaway" and "Alexander, the Other Side of Dawn."

The Swedish word for the day is besatt. It means obsessed.

- by Francis S.

Sunday, July 27, 2003

Unlike Rome with only seven hills, San Francisco seems to be built on hundreds of them. And we walked up and down the best of em. Russian Hill, Telegraph Hill, Nob Hill, and lots of others that surely have names that we just don't know about. The husband and I are now in excellent shape. Oh, and we had a coupla mojitos with Jane, way too briefly at the top of the Sir Francis Drake Hotel.

We saw San Francisco's oldest building, we took the ferry to Tiburon, we saw some art, we even actually found a nice spot in the Castro to laze around in the sun and have a beer and then another and then lunch.

We went shopping, the husband noting that the city must be rich by the kinds of shops we saw. We bought a bunch of DVDs, and cheap t-shirts and socks.

We had lots of food: incredible breakfast, great Mexican, so-so dim sum, tasty soba noodles both hot and cold.

But, without a doubt, the high point of the whole shebang was spending an evening with Aaron and his husband. Aaron, who is a looker, and as funny and charming and vivacious and smart as his writing, and his husband just the same. The two of them brought us to a fantastic Indian restaurant (after some discussion with the cabbie) in the lower Haight. Or was it the upper Haight?

We sat upstairs and gorged ourselves and yakked.

Then, "Wow is that him?" Aaron suddenly said, under his breath, as an elegant and vaguely familiar old guy walked in and smiled at us before sitting down with a younger woman at the table behind ours.

"It is!" whispered his husband.

"Wait, no it isn't..."

But it turned out to be him after all, a fact that was confirmed when another guy showed up, nearly sending Aaron and his husband into silent fits.

"The Color Purple is about our favorite movie," Aaron's husband whispered.

"Actually, " Aaron said sotto voce, hunching over chicken tikka massala and a piece of naan bread, "this isn't the first time I've seen the, uh, younger guy at the table behind us. I was once alone in a hotel gym with him, just the two of us and no one else and he was all sweaty and wearing, well, not enough clothes. Sadly, it was not a pretty sight, no, no. He should definitely not have been wearing spandex."

We laughed.

"It's actually Harry Belafonte I'm really impressed to see," Aaron said. "He was really somebody in his day."

My own husband was unfazed by the whole celebrity sighting bit.

"You guys are crazy, " he laughed. "In Sweden, we treat famous people like everyone else."

Yeah, maybe, but it was exciting all the same to see them. Although not nearly exciting as seeing Aaron.

"Shake, shake, shake, senora," Aaron sang as we said our farewells beside a cab outside our hotel.

And now, we're back and work starts again tomorrow. My four weeks of summer vacation are over.

The Swedish word of the day is färdig. It means finished.

- by Francis S.

Monday, July 14, 2003

I feel guilty when we pop the cork on a bottle of the widow's own bubbly, and then fail to drink it all. My parents, born in the heart of the depression, taught me not to waste anything, and although I constantly let vegetables go to rot and milk turn sour, I do feel guilty about it in the end. And I feel extra guilty about champagne, in this case pulled out to celebrate the birthday of the South African publicist.

I suppose I could follow the advice of Irma Rombauer: "Not every householder has to worry about what to do with leftover champagne, but should this appalling dilemma be yours, there is no better way than this to solve it and make a light but rich sauce for fish or chicken."

What follows, of course, is The Joy of Cooking's recipe for champagne sauce. But, since the husband and I are leaving for San Francisco at the crack of ass, as my friend K. always says, and I have laundry to do, not to mention mentally preparing myself for storming the States, this is no time for sauce.

California, here we come.

The Swedish phrase for the day is klara, färdiga, gå! It means on your mark, get set, go!

- by Francis S.

Sunday, July 13, 2003

There's a sweet melancholy at arriving back to the pavements of home after a week on an island filled with lazy late dinners, the sky at midnight still rosy around the edges, the cats bringing mice into the house and making the women scream and jump up on chairs even though the mice were already dead (it was like a parody, I never knew that women actually do jump up on chairs when mice appear on the scene; is it something they learn, or is it instinct?), eating a tart made from blueberries picked in the front yard, reading novels on the terrace and pausing constantly to look at the various sailboats and ferries crisscrossing their way over the sea, playing hearts and being bad winners and poor losers and taking turns entertaining the red-haired baby of the captain and his wife, the accountant.

The city was practically empty when we arrived home. Late afternoon, an overcast summer Saturday afternoon in July and everyone who could had long ago left the city for the month. But we were back, a bit dusty and sad and relieved to be at home.

It is nice to not have to sleep under mosquito netting, no matter how romantic it is to be tucked away with the husband behind white tulle like a couple of country princes in a tiny pine palace in the woods.

The Swedish word for the day is ö. It means island. Simple, huh.

- by Francis S.

Monday, July 07, 2003

When I was eight, my parents sent my brother and I to summer day camp for two weeks. Which was an utter betrayal. It was summer and I was supposed to be free to do what I wanted, but camp turned out to be far worse than school: It was like eight hours of gym, complete with the two best boys picking the teams one by one and me always second-to-last picked. They did throw in a little bit of shop and leatherworking - what someone in 1970 undoubtedly considered was a boy's version of art and music - and I remember having to eat egg-salad sandwiches for the first and the last time in my life.

I must have complained, because I didn't have to go back the next summer.

Strangely enough, in my late teens and early 20s, I became a camp counselor myself for four summers at a special education camp. I was a much better camp counselor than I had been a camper: I kept the kids moving, doing things, learning, entertained. And, it was a helluva lot more fun being a camp counselor than being a camper. I was exhausted at the end of the day, but not so exhausted that I couldn't get drunk with the other counselors after the kids left, making futile passes at the cute counselor with the dark hair (I don't think he even realized what I was doing.)

Now, I'm free again to do what I want with my summer, so we're off for five days or so to Birds Island.

The Swedish word for the day is tid. It means time.

- by Francis S.

Friday, July 04, 2003

Today was the funeral of Alma Eklund.

We didn't go. We'd already had our own going away party for her, three weeks ago this coming Monday. We'd been at Birds Island for the weekend, and as I'd sat by myself - everyone else had gone on a boat ride around the island, even the Siamese cat - I sat in my bare feet, a half-empty pitcher of white wine left on the table behind me in the sun, drooping lilacs, a listlessly fluttering tablecloth, scattered chairs and open magazines, fresh white paint in the house, the endless parliament of the birds, I could feel Alma hovering around me.

We finally left the island to go to a favorite spot of hers, and stood around with a priest reading and then the whole group singing as it began to rain in earnest, as if the whole world were weeping. Everyone came back to our apartment, to grieve and try to blame someone else.

A., the assistant director sent a thumping bouquet of flowers to the funeral today, since we didn't feel welcome somehow. We'd already said goodbye.

Requiem aeternam, et lux perpetua.

The Swedish word for the day is försvunnen. It means gone or lost.

- by Francis S.

Thursday, July 03, 2003

The letter arrived in the mail yesterday. They want me to send in my passport, a document proving that I make the salary I claim I make, and to tell them how often and to where I have travelled outside Sweden since February (that would be the U.S. and Hungary).

It looks like the road to becoming a passport-carrying Swede is nearing its end. The chances look damn good that I will actually soon be a citizen of Europe and the U.S.

Good thing they're giving me until Aug. 4 to get this stuff in, since I'll be needing my passport when the husband and I go to San Francisco later this month. The U.S. isn't so nice about letting people in without proper identification. Unlike Sweden.

My friend, the American editor, once came back from a trip to Italy, and when he got to passport control in Sweden it seemed that his green card had expired. He started arguing in Swedish with the woman in the booth, but after about five minutes, switched to English.

"C'mon, I just forgot to get it renewed, you can see I have permission. What are you gonna do, call the police?" he said, wheedling the woman.

"I am the police," the woman said.

She eventually let him in, after a short lecture and a stern warning that he would probably get a fine, which he never did get.

The Swedish word for the day is uppehållstillstånd. It means residence permit, and is signified by a paper pasted into one's passport and is the equivalent of the U.S. green card.

- by Francis S.

Wednesday, July 02, 2003

At dinner last night with J. and my favorite Finn, and Hannes and A., the assistant director, we got to talking about baby teeth for some reason, and C. the fashion photographer launched into a story about his daughter:

"When she was losing her first baby tooth, it was just hanging by a little piece of skin and she wanted to have it yanked out," he said. "First, we attached the tooth by a thread to a stone and with all the neighbors gathered around, threw the stone off the balcony, but the thread broke and the tooth stayed. Then, we attached it by a thread to an arrow and with all the neighbors gathered around, I shot the arrow but the thread broke again. Then we attached it by a thread to the bumper of a car and with all the neighbors still gathered around, I put my foot on the gas but the thread broke a third time. Finally, we attached it by a thread to a doorknob and her little brother slammed the door shut and bang, the tooth was gone."

It seems that the fourth time is the charm, and not the third.

The Swedish word for the day is tandkräm. It means toothpaste.

- by Francis S.