Saturday, August 26, 2006

On Thursday, as I sat eating lunch in the Haymarket, my phone rang. It was M. from London.

"Where are you?" he asked.

It turned out that he was also at the Haymarket, having arrived from London the day before, so we walked down Kungsgatan and stopped and had coffee at a cafe, and he told me all about his brother and his movie and our mutual friends, and we decided that he should come to dinner on Friday.

So, I left work at 4 p.m. on Friday and bought everything I needed to make eggplant parmesan for eight people, and rushed home and chopped tomatoes and an onion, and cut eggplant into thin slices and fried it, and made bechamel with plenty of nutmeg, and grated cheese and kneaded dough and tossed salad, and as the guests arrived, put on the finishing touches and wiping sweat from my forehead and cursing the husband for showing up after all the guests, at last took a glass of wine along with M., and C., the fashion photographer and the sea captain and the children's book author.

Then A., the TV producer and I walked around the apartment, and she showed me how she could turn on the lights with her toes. She has, thankfully, very clean toes, the nails laquered a rather vivid orange.

"Dammit," she said when she'd finished. "I wished I'd bet you that I could do it."

Feh, I said. I would've known better than to make a bet with her. She always wins.

Then we sat down to eat, three conversations going on at once coalescing into one loud canon on politics, everyone a bit hot under the collar despite the occasional breaks to go out and smoke cigars on the front balcony, and when R., the pop star showed up, she was shocked to see we were only eight and not 20, because when she had talked to the husband on the phone before she arrived it had sounded a real cacaphony from her end of the receiver.

And even though I tried to steer the conversation away from politics by standing up and telling people to shut up already and listen to M. tell us about his movie, it just devolved into a conversation about religion. Which was just as bad.

But really, everyone survived.

The thing is, I've been thinking that what I'm best at is being the perfect host. Even if I can't get people to stop arguing about politics.

Too bad I can't get paid for it.

The Swedish phrase for the day is maten är klar. It means, more or less, dinner is ready.

- by Francis S.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Do you remember what it's like to be 13?

I realize, looking back on it, that as I shamed my 13-year-old nephew by retelling for the 10th time the story of how he threw up on an amusement park ride, that I've surely forgotten.

I had a grand time with the niece and nephew. They're funny and fun, a bit shy sometimes but not terribly self-conscious on the whole, and they didn't complain once about a single thing.

Then again, we went all out, with touristing around the old town and watching the changing of the guard, a visit to the Modern Art Museum (to assuage their mother, although the revolting Paul McCarthy mechanical pig was worth a good ten minutes of gaping), a ferry trip out to the archipelago and a weekend on an island, a concert, laser tag, fishing for crayfish in the middle of the night, the Stockholm Pride Parade, and lots of shopping and walking and dinners and meeting of various friends. Plus the ill-fated visit to the amusement park, which they didn't seem to hold against me.

But how could I have forgotten what it's like to be 13? It was a horrible year for me. And really, to remain a member of the human race one should be required to remember what it's like to be 13, just to keep one humble and aware of how awfully tender and easily scraped we humans are, in constant need of emotional bandaids.

The Swedish word for the day is nöjesfält. It means amusement park.

- by Francis S.