Monday, November 28, 2005

There's nothing revolutionary about love, or family. Even gay families. Yet there are so few of us, and so many who would stop or dismantle us, that our family is a marvel, a tribute to love's persistence. To love's permanence. To tomorrow.

Aaron and Keith have adopted their son, they are officially and legally fathers, incontestably in 21 states (incontestably that is with a bit of contortion and hoop-jumping, of course). I wonder if this means they won't be travelling as a family to the remaining 29 states?

We drank a toast to them with Bellini cocktails in the Blue Hall, Sweden's most beautiful people in a mad swirl around us. "To Aaron and Keith and Jeremiah," we said, our glasses touching briefly. "To love."

Now it's your turn. Go ahead, drink a toast to Aaron and Keith and Jeremiah.

The Swedish words for the day are familj, which means family and värderingar, which means values. I've never actually heard anyone use these two words in the same sentence here.

- by Francis S.

Friday, November 25, 2005

For those of you who, like all of us here in Sweden, missed out yesterday on Thanksgiving: a carbonated replacement.

(According to the Village Voice, it's not very tasty, surprisingly.)

The Swedish word for the day is annandag, and means the day after, as in the day after Thanksgiving.

- by Francis S.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Moments after we'd dragged ourselves home from the controversial great big extravaganza party fashion show anniversary event thing in the Blue Hall, where they hold the Nobel Prize dinner, we couldn't resist reliving the whole experience for the benefit of our guests visiting from the other side of the Atlantic.

"How was it?!?" crowed the soon-to-be massage therapist.

All the beautiful people of Stockholm and me, I said, rushing to get out of my too-tight suit, the husband ahead of me, shedding clothes down the back hall as he went.

Then I tried to describe why a runway show is so dizzyingly, eye-wateringly, breathtakingly electric, and I couldn't explain why I found it so compelling. (Of course I found it thrilling no doubt because, well, it's the only runway show I've ever seen.)

So the husband demonstrated, first with the sashaying walk of the best of the six-foot tall girls in their six-inch sandals and then with the cold throwaway looks of the chiseled boys, parading up and down the living and dining rooms, his compact frame and four-day beard making it look all too ridiculous and causing us to roll around on the sofa laughing helplessly.

But it really is fabulous, I said. My favorite part was seeing I., long since retired from modelling, up on the stage and the only one of the 50 or so models comfortable enough to really laugh on the catwalk.

As for the reception, the husband and C., the fashion photographer and A., the TV producer were all in their element: the fashion mafia of Sweden. Of course there was a liberal sprinkling of B celebrities, wives of rich men, and minor royalty, but really the place was mostly a swarm of fashionistas.

Which made me wonder, as I sometimes do when life seems like a dream I'll wake up from: How did I get here?

The Swedish word for the day is verkligen. It means truly.

- by Francis S.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Every time I think I'm getting my writing momentum back, I backslide. And there's been so much to write about: Some 800 people from all over Sweden, dressed to the nines, hair so very worked up you could cut your cheeks walking through the crowd if you weren't careful and my own husband standing up in front of them for three hours handing out awards and working through a long script of patter, changing clothes three times and looking so very mod and so very handsome and making it impossible for me to stop smiling out of sheer pride that he's my husband. The totally unrelated party afterwards at Lydmar, us feeling terribly out of place in our suits among a bunch of arty bohemian-type Londoners and New Yorkers. There was the lamb that the husband spent three hours cutting up (no head or innards, thank God.) The baby grand piano that we bought so that I can play Brahms intermezzos and Chopin waltzes and Bach preludes and Scarlatti sonatas to my heart's content. The guests who are arriving tomorrow from America. And friends suddenly starting their own blogs.

So much happening, so little time to write.

The Swedish word for the day is upptagen. It means busy.

- by Francis S.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Living here in this chilly and dark Swedish-speaking paradise, I sometimes miss the latest cultural hoo-ha in America. For instance, it was only a couple of weeks ago that I got an e-mail from my favorite Finn that casually dropped the phrase "eats, shoots & leaves," which briefly flummoxed me. But I was promptly distracted by something inconsequential and forgot about it.

Until yesterday, when I came across the phrase again. This time I found out that it was a book of rants by some grammar fascist and it came out a year ago at least. Far more interesting, I ended up reading a review of the book by Louis Menand from the New Yorker, in which he points out many errors made by the grammar fascist, and notes that Americans are more rigid about punctuation than the British. Which isn't surprising: I suspect that the colonized (hard to think of the U.S. as the colonized), in an attempt to counteract their sense of inferiority to the mother country (this would be England, which America still feels inferior to when it comes to anything cultural), tend to point to rules with nasty wagging fingers, and do their best to codify, mummify and worship the language (or other cultural elements, artefacts, what have you), sometimes stupidly, sometimes not so stupidly.

But what I liked best about the review was that it careened all over the place, and ended up talking about the importance of the voice in writing, the difficulty of describing what voice is, and the fear that writers have of losing it. He also mentioned the disappointment of readers meeting a favorite writer, whose actual voice just can't live up to the writing.

All of which made me wonder about this day and age where people like you and I have our own written voices with our own tiny audiences, some of whom inevitably we end up meeting.

Exactly how disappointed must people be when they meet me in the flesh?

The Swedish phrase for the day is hemskt besviken. It means horribly disappointed.

- by Francis S.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Paris is burning, I thought to myself on the No. 42 bus on my way to work.

It was a great movie, Paris is Burning. Periodically, I would look for it, but my research always came down to "not available." When I saw it the first time - I think it was in Rochester, New York - it cut to the bone somehow, inspiring such a complex tangle of feelings: delight, sorrow, anger, frustration. And it instilled in me tremendous respect for the bravery of drag queens.

But, oddly coincidental, it seems with Paris really burning, at long last things have changed and you can now see Paris is Burning on DVD at last.

I'm gonna buy me one.

The Swedish word for the day is djärv. It means bold, audacious, daring.

- by Francis S.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

I used to think that mainline protestant churches in the U.S., once they'd lost significant power over people's lives, finally became what they should have been all along: benificent institutions existing to actually make people's lives better. I have even been known to defend these so-called Christian denominations.

Then they go and make me look stupid.

The United Methodist Church, a church with a tagline - "Open hearts. Open Minds. Open doors." - just voted to reinstate a minister who was suspended for not allowing a gay man to become a member because the man was gay and had no desire to change.

I guess I'm not welcome by the Methodists.

Apparently "open doors" refers strictly to exit doors in the Methodist church. I have no idea what the "open hearts" and "open minds" could possibly be referring to, however.

It's almost enough to shake my faith. It's also definitely enough to make me wonder if I've been wrong in thinking that churches have lost much of their power: It's hard not to feel that right-wing churches are doing a damn good job of turning the U.S. into some kind of bizarre theocracy, wherein religion has risen to play a major role in deciding public policy.

What I want to know is, what would a state church look like in the U.S.?

The Swedish word for the day is stängd. It means closed.

- by Francis S.