Tuesday, August 31, 2004

I dreamt that I was eating dinner at a crowded and vast table, elbow to elbow with Queen Elizabeth, and although I was trying very hard to be dainty, I accidentally brushed against her with my arm.

She went ballistic, screaming at me "no one touches me!"

What the hell was that all about?

The Swedish word for the day is matsal. It means dining room.

- by Francis S.

Monday, August 30, 2004

A., the TV director, got tickets to see Farenheit 9/11, which the husband and I, as well as C., the fashion photographer and his children and even A.'s parents all duly went and saw in a sold-out theater.

Everyone was a bit disappointed as we sat down to dinner afterwards.

"It was so unsubtle," said C.'s daughter. "They made George Bush look stupid in such a stupid way."

"I didn't get the part about the Bin Ladens," said C.'s son. "Who cares?"

"I don't think that European audiences will like it so much," said A.

I said that it was made for Americans, so it's not meant to be subtle, it's supposed to play on people's emotions. Although it probably won't convince anyone of anything.

Still, we all agreed that the important point was that the war is mostly about money, in the end.

"So, do you think Hillary Clinton will become president?" A. asked me.

No, I said, she's hated by too many people.

"Which do you think will be first, a black president or a woman president?" A. asked.

Hard to say, I answered.

"Did you know Chelsea Clinton is in Stockholm right now?" A. asked.

No, I hadn't known. (I wonder if Chelsea is as fucked up as those poor Bush girls.)

"Is it really true that Bush could get re-elected?" they all asked me.

Depends on what happens in the three weeks before the election, I said. And they were all astounded and I found it very hard to explain that Americans aren't stupid and gullible.

Then the husband and I walked home, and when we got there, we turned on the TV, only to find a show about a pair of wacky Swedish guys spending an entire day with Monica Lewinsky, who got one guy to get his hair permed and the other guy to get an "M" shaved onto the side of his head.

She's kind of charming, Monica, a little lonely and sad, and very well-spoken yet terribly unsure of herself, but charming in a way that does not conjure up blowjobs and semen on skirts. But not charming enough to keep me watching once they went to the Kabbalah Center.

The things Swedes think about America.

The Swedish word for the day lurad. It means tricked.

- by Francis S.

Saturday, August 28, 2004

"Here," the husband said, handing me a grimy packet of chewing gum, cinnamon-flavored, my favorite.

Where did that come from, I asked.

It turns out he'd brought it back from New York when he was there in April and he'd unearthed it from a bag somewhere where he'd forgotten it.

The strange thing in Sweden is that there is no cinnamon-flavored candy of any sort. They much prefer licorice that has been laced with ammonia-y salt.

And now, as I start thinking about fixing a curry for tonight's dinner party - a mix of caraway seed, cloves, bay leaves, cinnamon sticks, cardemom, fresh ginger, garlic and onion, turmeric, saffron and ground cashews - I'm wondering what makes a culture choose to love a certain spice above others? Why wasn't I raised to have a sweet tooth for caraway- or saffron- or ginger-flavored chewing gum?

Interestingly, chewing gum doesn't go stale, sitting in a bag somewhere for five or six months.

The Swedish word for the day is, of course, kanel. It means cinnamon.

- by Francis S.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

I'm going through some kind of strange memento mori stage: As I walk down the street, I look at all the handsome young men and for some reason I can only see what they'll look like when they're, say, 75. All burnished and balding and sagging a bit.

What would Freud say?

The Swedish word for the day is knasig. It means wacky.

- by Francis S.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Last week, we went to a funeral, a woman who was the beloved grandmother and mother of close friends of ours. In Sweden, men wear black suits with black or white ties and everyone carries a flower or bouquet - in most cases, a single white rose - that is laid on the coffin one by one as each mourner walks past and pays respect toward the end of the service.

Though I hardly knew her, I shed a few tears, mostly at my friends' pain.

The way we mark death is so peculiar, invoking God with a few weakly sung psalms, and then coffee and sandwiches and sherry and small talk. Death has been so removed from life, we really don't know what to make of it. Not that I have any decent alternative to what we do.

Maybe getting good and drunk and accidental rending of garments?

The Swedish word for the day is tvärtom. It means on the contrary.

- by Francis S.

Saturday, August 21, 2004

This explains everything. George W. Bush as a prep school brat playing at gangbanging: "People dying right now 'cause I said so, that's my work. Fuck New York. This apple aint so big." (hats off to Kip for the link.)

The countdown has started. Only one week until the Republican National Convention.

The Swedish word for the day is protest. It needs no translation.

- by Francis S.

Friday, August 20, 2004

I wonder if The Tinkerbell Hilton Diaries will ever be released in Sweden? And will the author, madman and wag about town Dong Resin, be coming to Stockholm on a worldwide book tour?

Nah.

The Swedish phrase for the day is ett visst antal. It means a certain number.

- by Francis S.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

If it's raining in the morning, or I'm just too tired, instead of walking I take the bus. Even if I have to wait a bit, I take the No. 42 instead of the No. 4, even though the No. 4 is one of those buses that bends in the middle. It's that the No. 42 has a nicer route, taking Karlavägen, with its row of linden trees in the middle, its bronze statues (nearly all women in some stage of undress, but there is one naked man with an enviable physique), snobby little shops and cafés, and troops of little old ladies walking tiny dogs of one sort or another.

The Swedish word for the day is alldeles. It means completely.

- by Francis S.

Saturday, August 14, 2004

It's a great big slumber party over here: The priest and the policeman came home from a month in Finland to find their apartment flooded, so while everything is being fixed, they're here for a week, complete with toddler and crib, camping out in the spare bedroom.

I know how fun and exhausting it is to hang out with someone who's been on this earth for, oh, about 20 months. But I forgot that I would look forward to coming home from work so much, the sound of the little feet of my goddaughter come running when I unlock the front door, to see that grubby little face and that waddling kind of diaper run she does, to hear her calling out to see if it's me.

Or to be honest, calling out to see if it's the husband, not me.

This could have something to do with the fact that the night before, as she sat on my lap while we ate sushi, I failed to notice that she had grabbed a great gob of wasabi from my plate until she started screaming after she'd stuffed it into her mouth.

I think she's going to have a lifelong fear of green gooey stuff, which isn't necessarily a bad thing.

But me, what kind of godfather am I?

I just found a little half-eaten cheese and butter sandwich tucked away on a low shelf in the old maid's room.

I'm in love with her, my goddaughter.

The Swedish word for the day is trotsålder. We call it the terrible twos in the States. She's got less than four months to go.

- by Francis S.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Fashion trend or unpleasant coincidence? In the past week I've seen four different people, four, wearing black shirts with vivid orange flames, shirts that look exactly like the "uniforms" the kids behind the Burger King counter wear.

Maybe I'm just hopelessly out of sync with what's hip.

The Swedish phrase for the day, pommes frites, is actually French. Americans call them french fries, the Brits call them chips.

- by Francis S.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

"Ladies bathed before noon, after their three o'clock naps, and by nightfall were like soft tea-cakes with frostings of sweat and sweet talcum."

As if to make up, in just a couple of days, for all the cold weather we had during the summer, it's turned hot, truly hot. And when it's hot like this, I can't help conjuring Harper Lee's sentence in my mind, about the ladies as sweat- and talcum-frosted tea-cakes. I think ever since I read that, when I was 11 or so, I've kept that image in my mind, of what hot really is.

I re-read To Kill a Mockingbird a couple of weeks ago. It hasn't lost any of its bittersweet punch, it still stings the heart.

The Swedish word for the day is intryck. It means impact.

- by Francis S.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

The Oracular Vagina takes her place among world leaders.

It's probably easier to understand if you start at the beginning, and work your way to the top. Probably.

The Swedish word for the day is hårvård, which may look like an Ivy League university with a couple of extra circles, but in fact means hair care in English.

by Francis S.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Though I've been damned neglectful for the past months, it would be a shame if I didn't bother to mark the day.

Happy third birthday, blog.

The Swedish word for the day is tveksam. It means hesitant.

- by Francis S.

Sunday, August 01, 2004

The summer's come and gone. To be more accurate, it never really quite arrived. There were no stretches of sunshiney days, everytime it seemed to start, it would be cut short by grey and cool and melancholy weather that helps one understand the problem of high suicide rates in this country. Not that I mind now, exactly. The dreariness of the summer will hit me in November.

So I sit, with a stubborn cough and a book (bad-boy book critic Dale Peck's Martin and John which, in the British edition I just bought, has been titled Fucking Martin, a change that I can't even hazard a guess as to the reasoning behind it), lolling about on the sofa in the library in our apartment while it rains outside. Remembering last week when I showed my beloved little brother how we were sitting, on the library sofa in the apartment, at exactly that obliquely angled point on the map where Odengatan runs into Odenplan.

Bizarre, how pleasureable it is to sit on a sofa in a shallow curve of windows that one can point to so directly on a map and say "we are sitting exactly there." Or here.

The Swedish word for the day is ont i halsen. It means sore throat.

- by Francis S.
 


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