Monday, December 24, 2007

Whence comes this rush of wings afar,
Following north the noel star?
Birds from the woods in wondrous flight,
Bethlehem seek this holy night.

The Swedish word for the day is julafton, which has been the word of the day before more than I once, I suspect. It means Christmas Eve, which is when Swedes celebrate.

Happy Christmas to you all.

- by Francis S.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Supposedly, they are in memory of a third-century saint who had her eyes plucked out, but the Swedish celebrations honoring Lucia on her Saint's day, December 13, are really just the remnants of pagan mid-winter rites. A fact that I love. Girls in white dresses with wreathes on their heads and candles burning in their hair - it's very, er, druidic, isn't it? And this morning when I made my way past the main city library and on into the park beyond on my way to work, I found the pathways lit with thick-wicked candles in tins, blazing away in the murky winter morning dimness. It made my heart glad, it did.

Natten går tunga fjät runt gård och stuva
kring jord som sol'n förgät skuggorna ruva
Då i vårt mörka hus stiger med tända ljus
Sankta Lucia, Sankta Lucia.

The night walks heavily round hearth and home,
Around the earth the sun leaves the woods brooding
Then in our dark houses walks, bearing burning candles,
Saint Lucy, Saint Lucy.

There, you have the whole verse of a Swedish song for the day!

- by Francis S.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Rufus Wainwright's voice is an acquired taste. Like black coffee or stout, dry vermouth on the rocks or oysters on the half shell. Some people never acquire it.

Me, I'm smitten.

I think it's the way his gravelly baritone and the intensely personal poetry of his words contrast with all that velvety rich campy goodness of his manner that does it for me.

Mr. Wainwright was in grand form last night at Cirkus in Stockholm (the perfect venue - as big as you can get while still being intimate). He was unfaltering: a bit of razzle dazzle, a bit of heartbreak, a bit of angry politics, the songs lush, brash or meltingly beautiful. He is a consummate musician.

I even forgave him coming out in the second half of the concert in lederhosen, a look that no one can really pull off, God only knows what possessed him to try (there's something vaguely national socialistic about lederhosen, isn't there? In his defense, he did say something about not being able to afford a video and his cheap alternative is costumes at his shows to add glamor and interest, which did make me laugh). He can, however, pull off the black- sheer- stockings- staggering- pumps- fedora- and- suitcoat- without- trousers look, which he did at the end of his encore, channelling Judy Garland singing "Get Happy," complete with his band jumping wildly around him, dressed in black suits and pink button-down-collar shirts.

The husband, A. the TV producer and I wafted out of the theater on a glittery cloud of bliss.

Oh, Mr. Wainwright. You're really something, you are.

The Swedish word for the day is euforisk. It means euphoric, of course.

- by Francis S.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

There are so many in-between moments in life, like the walk to work or plane ride to a meeting in Amsterdam. And I’ve tended to think of trips to Chicago to my parents as a kind of in-between moment, but that’s the wrong way to look at them. Really they’re more like mortar holding together the bricks of my life.

I never miss the U.S. when I’m at home in Stockholm, but a visit to Chicago – last week it was with the husband, the priest and the policeman and their five-year-old, who is our goddaughter – almost always leaves me feeling sentimental, melancholy and wanting more. I brood, for some reason thinking about all the times of my life where things seem to be at the hinge of a door, about to open onto one thing and close on another. Like the whole crazy seven months I lived in Barcelona, which were a prelude to moving to Sweden, looking back on it. Despite the brooding, it’s a lovely bittersweet feeling.

But what makes the visit mortar, I suppose, is that it brings me back to my most fundamental self, where I came from and what makes me me. As if the Stockholm me were some other me, which it isn’t. It’s the same me. Well, maybe just slightly different, sort of laid on top of the other me with the edges not quite matched.

The Swedish word for the day is lager. It means layer.

- by Francis S.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Christmas is on its way: They're selling julmust - I'm a sucker for the bizarre grapey, Dr. Peppery, coca cola-y fizzy concoction that is julmust, sold only at Christmastime in Sweden - a sure sign. Without Thanksgiving in Sweden, the only way to know that the season has started is when julmust appears.

The Swedish word for the day is trettioåtta. It means 38, which is how many days are left before Christmas.

- by Francis S.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Yesterday was All Saint's Day here - yet another religious holiday in a country of atheists and agnostics - and I practiced my saintliness by not letting the husband's foul mood get the better of me. True, he was suffering from a flu, but he'd been on the brink for a week and staying up until 3 a.m. at a champagne tasting party on Friday where there was little food pushed him over the edge.

Getting sick due to staying up until 3 a.m. drinking champagne and not eating kind of dampens my empathy, but only just a skosh. I had not attended the champagne tasting, of course, because I had just recovered from the flu myself and decided I just wasn't quite up for it. And I can't really tell whether he got the bug from me, or whether I got the bug from him, since he was feeling dicey before I got it.

Anyway, on Saturday morning, while the husband was all snippy and grim-faced, I was all halo-y and dulcet-toned, running down to the grocery across the street to get him cranberry juice and rice pudding. Then, knowing it was best to let him seethe in his own phlegm, I left for a day-long movie marathon that we were both supposed to go to, although I only really stayed for some previews and one movie before making my apologies and taking off, saint that I am, explaining that the husband had stewed enough alone and needed someone to make sure he was actually eating something.

Then, saint that I am, as I walked past the Hedvig Eleonora Church, I saw that they were singing the Duruflé Requiem and I just had to go in and listen, abandoning all thoughts of the husband (well, maybe not all thoughts, but most of them. I figured he could do without me for another hour or so). I'd never been in the church before, and although it's rather beautiful on the outside, with its dome and churchyard, inside it's kind of ugly.

But the singing, the singing was sublime.

Very French, just this side of being too sweet and blurred, the requiem is a bear of a thing to sing, I know from experience. I'm sure the choir felt very saintly and satisfied with themselves for conquering it. I know I felt like a saint, a veritable St. Theresa, and I don't mean like Mother Theresa, I mean like the St. Theresa in that Bernini statue where she seems to be in the throes of the, um, Holy Spirit, who it would appear knows what women really want.

The Swedish phrase for the day is alla helgons dag. It means All Saints' Day.

- by Francis S.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Sweden has gone crazy for Facebook in the last two months. God only knows why. But who cares, because now, thanks to Stefan Geens, Mr. Ogle Earth, I have my own application on Facebook - the Swedish word of the day. Cool, huh?

The Swedish word for the day is ordet, which means the word.

- by Francis S.

Monday, October 15, 2007

I just got back from Vegas.

At least I think it was Vegas, it all seems pretty hazy. I remember losing my sweater in the airport (the expensive one I bought in Copenhagen) and then a short conference, and waking up throughout the night and finishing this huge 800-page book I bought and being reduced to reading magazines about all the scary shows and weird shit that is Las Vegas, and then going back to the airport where the constant electronic plinging of the slot machines, which you can't escape, is enough to drive you crazy. Over the intercom, some guy announced "Will the person who left their false teeth and hearing aid in the men's room please come claim them, if you can hear this message..." and then later "will the person who dropped $5000 held together with a yellow rubber band please come to information where we have your yellow rubber band." Yeah, funny, right. But everyone laughed. Then I got on the red eye to Chicago, slept the whole way, landed and took a cab to my parents, where I took a shower and had a birthday brunch for my brother with the whole Chicago branch of the family. We ate, talked a bit, then I went right back to the airport where I got on yet another plane and came back to Stockholm, arriving yet again at the crack of ass. All in roughly four and a half days.

So tell me, those of you who are serious travellers, how do you do it, with all the time changes and the bad air in planes and hotels, and the trauma of going through "security" - yeah, it's necessary, but why the hell to they yammer on stridently about it being an "orange threat level," I mean, what is an orange threat level exactly and what are we supposed to do about it?

The Swedish word for the day is bortrest. It means away travelling.

- by Francis S.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Why should it surprise me that Pacifica Radio doesn't want to broadcast Allan Ginsburg reading his poem "Howl" - one of the greatest of poems in the American canon - because they are scared of being fined by the FCC.

It's all due to crackdowns since the Janet Jackson wardrobe malfunction, apparently. It is amazing that despite the poem being the subject of a celebrated 1957 obscenity case, some 50 years later it is again being repressed, in effect.

Watching the U.S. from the other side of the Atlantic, I can't help wondering: What the hell is going on over there? Secret legal decisions advocating torture, no health insurance for poor kids, puritanical censorship - I understand that people aren't out in the streets demanding change - there are so many awful things happening at once it's overwhelming.

The Swedish word for the day is avsky. It means disgust.

- by Francis S.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

When people get married in Denmark, they crowd around the bride and groom when they waltz their first waltz, pushing in close, clapping and laughing and singing along, and then they pick up the groom and take off his shoes and cut off the toes of his socks with scissors.

At least, that's what happened at yesterday's wedding in Copenhagen. And the Danish woman laughing next to me told me that they always do this at weddings.

But, a nearly eight-month pregnant bride dressed in scarlet is apparently not the typical Danish way of doing things. Nor is making a toast with everyone standing on their chairs and their left foot up on the table. And nor is serving cheese to 165 people instead of wedding cake for dessert.

Everything was perfection, though, down to the last detail.

The food was a marvel, mouth-watering fish with mousseline sauce and pickled green tomatoes, glazed veal with little vegetables and broad-leaf parsley purée, all served to 165 people at once and at the perfect temperature by Babette, who is a man, and who did the food styling for the movie Babette's Feast.

Then we danced to some band that we had never heard of but is apparently No. 2 or something in Denmark (the women, aged 15 to 75, were swooning), and then a dj, until our suits were nearly soaked through with sweat and A. the TV producer was in severe pain from her high heels, dancing until nearly 3 a.m., before taking our leave from the bride (who was reclining on a victorian sofa brought in expressly for her to recline on), and getting on a boat that brought us back to our hotel just down the street from the Amalienborg Palace.

It was only a weekend, and an hour's airplane ride away, but it felt like another world.

The Swedish word for the day, which has been the word a number of times, I have no doubt, is bröllop, which means of course wedding.

- by Francis S.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

On our way to the release party for the gay cookbook (When I tried to explain to C. how food can be gay, I had to admit it's not the food but the photos of men frolicking about nearly naked that make the cookbook gay), we saw a woman walking a pig about the size of a pug, bold as could be, down Storgatan, across from Annakhan.

"Yeah, it's a miniature pig now," said E., the bouncer. "But feed that pig enough and it will be huge."

She is so very right. Miniature pig is another word for piglet.

The Swedish word for the day is gris, which means pig, and should not be confused with pigg, which means alert or bright-eyed and bushy tailed.

- by Francis S.

Friday, September 14, 2007

On the way to work, I passed a bicycle with a purple sparkly banana seat and monkey handlebars. With the rush of Proust's madeleine dipped in lime twig tea, I was brought back to 1971, when girls wore knit ponchos and boys had bangs and everyone drove a bicycle with monkey handlebars and sparkly banana seats. Mine was blue, bought by my parents at Sears, and I was ashamed of it because it was far too elaborate, with glittery hand grips with plastic streamers and a sissy bar on the back. But I rode it to school anyway.

Can it be possible that banana seats back?

The Swedish verb for the day is att cykla. It means to ride a bicycle.

- by Francis S.

Friday, September 07, 2007

I woke up this morning and, opening the venetian blinds in the study, I was horrified to see that the trees on the hills of Observatorielunden across the street were well on their way to turning gold.

It is only early September. At least it says it is early September on my calendar.

Is it possible for the leaves to change this early?

The Swedish word for the day is färg. It means color.

- by Francis S.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

When I was 13, my parents flew the whole family from Chicago to the West Coast of the U.S. for a holiday, where we spent three weeks travelling, starting in San Francisco (where I saw my first drag queen, in a green-sequined evening gown at 7 a.m. at a donut shop, and I didn't even realize she was a man until my sister told me) and ending up in Bellingham and briefly, Vancouver.

One of the highlights of the trip was visiting family friends, who lived in a house in Portland, Oregon that had almost everything I ever would have wanted in a house: front and back stairs, a secret room behind a set of sliding bookcases, and a dumbwaiter.

The only thing missing was an elevator.

Of course now I live in an apartment building with a tiny elevator big enough for four people at the most, as old as the building itself - 100 years - with a gate that you pull shut, and wooden panelling, a mirror, and little leather seats that fold down if you feel faint on your way up to your apartment and simply must sit down.

Some people find old elevators a bit scary, worried that they'll break down and leave you stuck between floors.

They don't worry me. I love them. I feel like I'm in an old movie.

The only thing missing is a little old man in a cap at the controls, who doesn't even have to ask me which floor because he already knows.

The Swedish word for the day is hiss, which is Swedish for elevator, of course.

Monday, August 13, 2007

I look forward to the day that I no longer care about how big my stomach is. But until then, I'm still too young and vain, at 46, to feel that I want to look any older than I already do with my sparse grey hair and the bags under my eyes.

So when A. the TV producer suggested going on a diet together, I agreed.

But then on Friday a crew from London descended on our apartment to take photographs for a chocolate campaign. It was like a child's dream come true - a huge suitcase filled with chocolate: creams and truffles and tremendous slabs.

When they left at the end of the day, there were kilos of the stuff in the kitchen still.

Bad timing, that.

So, I'm taking a holiday from the diet, at least until the chocolate is gone.

Is it possible to be in heaven and hell at the same time?

The Swedish word for the day is efterrätt. It means dessert.

- by Francis S.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Rummaging around in the refrigerator, I noticed that we have 18 jars of jam.

Well, actually, I took them out and counted them: one rhubarb and ginger jam, one rhubarb and vanilla conserve, one cherry jam, one lemon marmalade, one blueberry jam, one blackberry jam, one black raspberry jam, one strawberry jam, one raspberry jam, one Countess' jam (which is apple and elderflower), one cloudberry jam, one apricot and pinenut conserve, one fig conserve, two lemon curd, two ginger marmalade, two orange marmalade... not to mention one jar of cranberry sauce and one jar of jellied lingonberries.

Good god, what can two people possibly need with all that jam?

It makes me think of the film Hope and Glory and the scene when the father comes home on leave from the German front and hacks open a can of German jam that he's somehow gotten hold of. The mother doesn't want any of the children to eat it, because she thinks it's been poisoned. "They know we're mad for jam," she cries.

The Swedish word for the day is sylt, which means of course jam.

- by Francis S.

Monday, July 30, 2007

When A. the TV producer was a little girl, she was cast as an extra in Fanny and Alexander, which I saw in Toronto when it was first released in 1983 - I suppose it was one of the only things Swedish that ever stuck in my mind in all the years before I moved here, the part in the movie when the whole family dances through the grand apartment hand in hand singing "nu är det jul igen."

Which means I would've seen her long before I met her - a strange thought, that.

But A. wasn't in the movie because she got the flu, and Bergman didn't want her on the set. Still, she remembers talking with him before she got sick.

Me, I've never met him, I've just seen a couple of movies and a play... I suppose one of the few advantages of knowing this obscure language is being able to see Ingmar Bergman pieces and not need subtitles.

But now there won't be any more plays, since Ingmar Bergman died today. I guess he's gone to the big green room in the sky where difficult and demanding directors go.

The Swedish word for the day is geni. It means genius.

- by Francis S.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Wow. Apparently, the fact that when I'm drifting off to sleep or wake up in the middle of the night with an irrepressible urge to move my legs is due to my broad complex-tramtrack-bric-a-brac-domain 9 gene. Says the New York Times in an article about the discovery of the connection between the broad-complex tramtrack-bric-a-brac-domain 9 gene and, er, restless legs syndrome:

The new findings may also make restless legs syndrome easier to define, resolving disputes about how prevalent it really is. The disorder is a “case study of how the media helps make people sick,” two researchers at Dartmouth Medical School, Steven Woloshin and Lisa Schwartz, wrote recently in the journal PLoS Medicine. They argued that its prevalence had been exaggerated by pharmaceutical companies and uncritical newspaper articles, and that giving people diagnoses and powerful drugs were serious downsides of defining the elusive syndrome too broadly.

Discovery of the genetic basis of the disorder “puts restless legs syndrome on a firmer footing,” said Dr. Christopher Earley, a physician at Johns Hopkins University who treats the malady.

Don't you love Dr. Earley's little joke? The copyeditors at the Times are obviously slacking off on their job to be as stuffy as possible.

I wonder if I'll get more sympathy from the husband now. Doubtfully, since he's the one who really suffers.

The Swedish word for the day is ben. It is both the singular and plural form for leg.

- by Francis S.

Monday, July 02, 2007

I think I've recovered from midsummer.

It only took me over a week. I guess that's what happens when you get old and you go to a party that lasts 15 hours, complete with princess and television personalities and minor celebrities of one sort and another, a liberal sprinkling of Monagasques, guests who arrived by helicopter, dances round the maypole, competitions that included one of the guests ripping off her top to reveal her (very expensive) perfect breasts as she hammered a nail into a board, screaming like a Valkyrie the whole time, lots and lots of herring (which amazingly, I think I'm starting to almost appreciate), barbecue, five hours of dancing wildly in a barn done up for the occasion, and lots and lots and lots of alcohol, almost too much in fact, I thought, my head on my chest and eyes closed as we made our way home in a taxi at 4:30 a.m. in broad daylight.

My friend the cat doctor, who had come along for the ride at the behest of A. the TV producer, was entranced, having me take pictures of him with the princess (to my husband's everlasting humiliation), yakking it up with people who are world-famous in Sweden unbeknownst to him, giving advice on a cat that was shown to him ("It looks like it has allergies, but perhaps you should have a vet look at it..."), trying to avoid an expatriate Swedish woman with a bit too much silicon in her lips who periodically terrorized him.

Me, I had a marvelous time, I haven't danced that much in ages.

The Swedish phrase for the day is helt utmattad. It means completely zonked.

- by Francis S.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Yesterday, A. the TV producer and C. the fashion photographer came over to watch the marathon from our balcony overlooking Odenplan. Well, that was what A. said, but I really think she wanted to help us get ready for an Arabian Nights masquerade party that the husband and I went to later in the evening.

We watched the runners for awhile, happy that we weren't out there sweating gallons in the heat. But the sun was hot on the balcony, and while it's fascinating to watch all shapes and sizes running, running, running, we moved indoors after 45 minutes.

A. was reading the Bible (in a new Swedish version that looks like a fashion magazine! Horrible...) in the living room when suddenly she heard someone outside yell "Jävla idiot" - which roughly translates to "You stupid fuck!"

The husband was out on the balcony and had seen it all: Across the street, four cashiers from the supermarket had piled on top of a guy who had tried to rob the store. One of the cashiers had even gone to the gym next door and gotten two reinforcements, who piled on top of the cashiers. The police arrived in no time, racing their car right through the middle of the marathon. It took them a good 20 minutes to get the guy, who was swearing and kicking the whole time, into the paddy wagon.

A. took photos of the whole thing, which she immediately tried to sell to one of the tabloids.

They weren't interested.

Eventually, it was time for the husband and I to get into costume - both of us with those funny black pants and shoes with turned up toes, me with a little knit cap and he with a blue turban. A., forgetting her disappointment at not selling the photos, put kohl around our eyes.

The party was in Haga Park, up at The Copper Tents, a folly built for Gustav III in 1787. I guess that's what inspired the theme for the party. So we stood around, a bunch of Swedes dressed up like sheiks and Sheherezades, and once we'd started dinner and the birthday girl had pulled off her black veil and revealed that she was dressed as a belly dancer (and a seven-month-pregnant belly dancer at that), we got down to the business of eating and dancing and drinking the night away.

Twice the party was interrupted by Hu Jintao, the President of China, who drove by in a motorcade to one of the little palaces in the park where he was staying during his visit here.

We all waved.

No doubt Hu Jintao, looking at all these crazy Swedes, was thinking to himself: "Jävla idioter."

The husband and I walked home through the park at 2:30 in the dawn, the birds all awake and chattering.

"Isn't it fun to dress up?" the husband asked me.

Oh, yes. Especially for the men, who all loved it. After all, we never get to dress up otherwise.

- by Francis S.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Summer has come, all in a rush: It never quite gets dark out, and as I wander through the apartment turning out lights before we go to sleep, the deep dusk outside means that it never gets quite dark in the apartment either. Dusk has always been my favorite time of day, and the long drawn-out dusk of Swedish summer is a bit romantic, a bit fantastical.

The other sign of the rush of summer is the panic of getting the balconies ready for the short season when you want to sit on the front balcony in the full sun to watch the world go by with a drink in hand, or on the shady back balcony for a bit of quiet breakfast or dinner with something juicy to read.

The priest and the policeman and our goddaughter Signe helped us get plants: ivy and tiny yellow petunias and some kind of purple sedge-like plant, clematis, and hostas for the back balcony; for the front balcony it was lavender and what could be a big mistake, polygonum baldschuanicum, which supposedly grows like mad (although I guess it can only grow so much in a pot). Then everyone, even Signe, helped plant everything, emptying the pots of the current dead plants and filling them up with fresh dirt that stank pleasantly of cowshit, and with new plants.

After we'd cleaned it all up, and Signe was finished coloring with crayons and we'd sipped the dregs of the coffee, and they were on their way out the door, the priest said as she looked at the three garbage bags full of old dirt and sticks and dry leaves and plastic pots and spindly wooden stakes, and then out towards the front balcony: "It's so strange about plants, isn't it? They're living things, you have living things sitting on your balcony right now."

Strange is right. Very Day of the Triffids.

I wonder what the plants are thinking now. Do they mind sitting on the windy balcony, listening to the busses going by, waiting to seduce a passing bee, hoping for rain, looking at the church at the end of Odenplan, or the library at Sveavägen, wondering if they'll make it through the summer with our horrible track record of watering?

The Swedish word for the day is törstig. It means thirsty.

- by Francis S.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

I walked 13,327 steps yesterday, according to my step calculator - I don't even remember what these things are called properly in English, so I just translated it directly from the Swedish: stegräknare. Some of those steps, oh, maybe 750 of them or so, were running from the Grand Hotel (where I had a tasty minimalist dinner of nettle croquettes that cost a small fortune) to the Opera, where we arrived a few seconds before they dimmed the lights.

Taking my seat at the Royal Swedish Opera, which is all gilding, marble, murals and red velvet, always makes me catch my breath, which is exactly what the room was designed to do. It's a kind of cocktail, whetting the appetite for the evening to come.

The entertainment certainly lived up to the venue. Peter Mattei, singing the part of Guglielmo in Mozart's absurd and misogynistic Così Fan Tutte, which I love because it's basically just heartrending ensemble singing, was all that I'd hoped: sublime singing, naturalistic acting, without a doubt the best acting I've ever seen in an opera singer - he was funny and earnest and all gangly arms and legs, in his ridiculous hippie garb and long hair that he repeatedly tossed back in perfect hippie fashion, sitting cross-legged and lighting a joint. He was singing superbly and acting like an actual living, breathing human being.

Beside me, the husband could barely make it through the whole thing: He is just not queer for opera.

After they'd finished the final sextet (complete with huge title cards, a trick stolen from Bergman's movie of The Magic Flute), and the audience had clapped along, which the singers loved, especially the little Ukrainian soprano who played Fiordiligi, and then the audience had given them a standing ovation, which is meaningless these days since every ovation is a standing ovation - whatever happened to audiences who boo and start riots? - after we made our way down the stairs and out into the fresh air of the evening, we walked the approximately 3,688 steps back home up Drottninggatan, breathing in the scent of the lilacs, which have taken over the city for a week or so.

You already got your Swedish word for the day in the first sentence, in case you've forgotten.

- by Francis S.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

It's Satin Pajama Award time again, courtesy of David Weman & Co. at Fistful of Euros. I think I'm nominated in three categories, including lifetime achievement(!). Yikes. I guess six years of blogging is definitely a lifetime in blog years.

The Swedish word for the day is pyjamas, spelled exactly as the British spell it, pronounced more like pu-YAW-mus, however, with the u being like the German ü, a sound we don't use in English.

- by Francis S.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Nomina si pereunt, perit et cognitio rerum.

So said Carolus Linnaeus, a.k.a. Carl von Linné, undoubtedly Sweden's greatest contributor to the Age of Enlightenment with his remarkable scientific classification of nature still in use. Today's birthday boy, Linnaeus celebrates the ripe old age of 300. He apparently had quite the sense of humor, and found sex in everything: one of his classes of flowers are called, ahem, clitoria.

(Oh, and the Latin above means "Without names, our knowledge of things would perish." Interesting thought, that.)

The Swedish word for the day is djurriket. It means animal kingdom.

- by Francis S.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

I am anti-meme. But, I am even more susceptible to guilt than I am anti-meme. So when I get knocked on the head with a meme, I react. In this case, Joel has asked me to name five thinking people with blogs. I guess it is a chance to direct people to a few of the links from my unwieldy list at the left.

1. Mig. I laughed, I cried, I gasped in wonder. When I grow up, I wanna write like Mig.

2. Lisa. Okay, so Lisa mostly thinks about how twisted life is for a straight woman in New York who needs to get a new job, can't dance to save her life (but loves it nonetheless) and has a most complicated relationship with her mother.And she's moving kind of slowly just now. But we almost met when she was in Sweden last year, but the great Norse god Odin was working against us. The next time I go to New York, I'm gonna meet Lisa.

3. Eric. Okay, so Eric mostly thinks about how twisted life is for a gay man in New York who goes to a self-esteem-destroying gym (as if he weren't a nice hunk of man himself), who hates when people use foreign names instead of the perfectly good English ones for places (such as "Firenze" instead of "Florence"), who perseverates on the theme of famous beautiful people who are his age, and who obfuscates everything with layers of irony of an astonishing multitude of weights and thicknesses. But he thinks about these things a lot! I am addicted to Eric.

4. Mr. H. O, the most wondrous of art. Where does Mr. H., proprieter of Giornale Nuovo, find it all? I'd love to have access to Mr. H's library.

5. Lynne. Dissecting the English language, from both sides of the Atlantic. Amazingly, in real life there is a mere two-degrees of separation between us, since she is the friend of an acquaintance of mine, whose mother was a Branch Davidian in Waco, Texas. Addenda: I neglected to mention that the acquaintance is one of the best friends of an old boyfriend, the erudite Jessi Guilford. There, have I done right by you, Jessi?

And you know, you should really check out my friend Billy, and Loxias and Karie (the first blog I linked to that still exists...) as long as you're at it.

The Swedish word of the day is tänkande. It means, of course, thinking.

- by Francis S.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

A cruise, apparently, is a convenient place to off yourself or your spouse: just push yourself or your wife overboard and no one will notice, said the sea captain last night at dinner.

I was astonished. Does this really happen?

"Oh, yes," said the sea captain. "It's easy, there's plenty of time when there's no one else on deck. It doesn't happen that often but it does happen. Think of the boat as a small town, people die in small towns, right?"

Well, yes. But I'm not sure how often people get murdered in small towns.

"It happens," the sea captain said. "But interestingly, on the ferries that go between Stockholm and Helsinki they almost always catch the suicides, like nine out of 10 times. It's because there are so many people around the whole time on such a short cruise. They just immediately drop down the rescue boats. Then when the boat comes into port in Helsinki, the person who was fished out is met by the police and a bill for the rescue services."

Not only have you failed at killing yourself, but you have to pay a whopping bill for having failed.

O, the ignominy.

The Swedish word for the day is självmord. It means suicide.

- by Francis S.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

On Monday, on the way to Västerås for a meeting, I sat in the train with a co-worker. We inevitably got around to the subject of the Eurovision Song Contest.

"So what do you think?" she asked me. "As an American."

She had watched the show with friends, including someone's American boyfriend who had recently moved to Sweden.

"He was rolling on the floor laughing" she told me.

Yes, I said. The Eurovision Song Contest is beyond the comprehension of an American. It defies description. And even when I think I have it figured out, I am suddenly mystified all over again. For instance, while we were watching it this year, I was assured by I. the former backup singer for David Byrne that the bizarre act from Ukraine- drag queen Verka Serdyushka with a big glitter star on her head singing in German and then what sounded like "I want to see Russia goodbye" - would probably win. And sure enough, it came damn close.

No one could adequately explain to me why this would be so popular, why millions of Europeans would think "I think this is a winner!"

And I wasn't rolling on the floor laughing. I was cowering under a blanket, painfully embarrassed for a wide range of singers from every corner of Europe.

But then to make up for the ridiculous vocal experience of Saturday, on Sunday I sang Vivaldi's Gloria at Kungsholm's Church, complete with strings and oboes and a little boy soprano singing the "Domine Deus" so that I nearly wept. And these were not tears of horror or embarrassment. The singing was sublime. It is embarrassing, though, that in my dotage the strangest things can make me nearly weep. I am such a sentimental idiot.

But I have to ask myself: which makes me stupider - those cringing tears of horror of my fragile American sensibility or the foolish sentimental tears of an old fart?

The Swedish word for the day is tävling. It means contest.

- by Francis S.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

After 11 hours on a plane from Stockholm to Kuala Lumpur, a couple of hours in the airport there and then two and a half hours on another plane to Hanoi, we arrived in Vietnam, a bit tired, a bit tense from anticipation and the uncertainty of how to navigate a new culture. But then C. the fashion photographer got held up at passport control: It turns out that while Swedes don't need a visa if they stay less than 15 days, Italians are a whole different ball of wax.

So they deported him back to Kuala Lumpur. And we all decided we may as well go with him. So we raced through the airport, upstairs to the departures hall, getting our boarding passes and luggage rechecked, running back through the outgoing passport control and onto the same plane that we had come in on, all faces turned to us, everyone a bit suspicious.

Two days later, after haggling with airlines and the Vietnamese embassy in Kuala Lumpur, we got on another plane and finally all made it through passport control, making our way out into the charming and noisy city that is Hanoi, its streets lined with trees and tall skinny houses that seemed to be one single narrow room stacked on top of another, and another, and another.

It took about five tries to learn the art of crossing the street, since the thousands upon thousands of honking scooters (bearing everything from whole families to double beds to four live grown pigs tightly bound in a little cage) stop for nothing, not even traffic lights. You simply have to take a breath and then a step out and slowly but surely and without stopping, walk across the street, scooters flowing all around you. It's like stepping into a river, only far scarier. But eventually you get the hang of it.

In the old town, it seems, there is a street for everything: shoes, spices, mirrors, paint and brushes, live fish (ugly spiny black sea cucumbers, a monstrous slimy mollusc in its shell, sea horses and most disturbing, a cage of little grey lizards) even tin boxes which are fashioned right on the sidewalk, hammered and bent and soldered into shape, a street with a racket to rival Vulcan.

Then there is the French quarter, much more orderly, with Louis Vuitton and expensive restaurants (well, expensive for Vietnam).

All in all, It seemed the Vietnamese were quite keen on selling things. Rather odd for a place called the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.

About the only thing to remind one that this is actually the Socialist Republic of Vietnam are the speakers on trees, light poles, the sides of buildings, through which morning announcements are made - from my hotel, I listened as the whole city was announced to and I watched as an old woman on a terrace high up in a building several blocks away did her morning exercises. There is something vaguely Orwellian about public announcements, Orwellian and also something grade schoolish, reminding me of how the principal would make the morning announcements, and we would all pledge allegiance to the flag (have you ever tried to explain the whole pledge-allegiance-to-the-flag thing to a non-American? It leaves a very bad taste in the mouth somehow and sounds, well, kind of Orwellian. Do schoolchildren still pledge allegiance to the flag? I certainly hope not.)

There's more to this tale: three days in a junk, a week in a fancy-schmancy hotel, and a total of eight plane rides. But I'll get around to that later.

The Swedish word for the day is visum. It means visa.

- by Francis S.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

You can't imagine the cacaphony of the street where they make tin boxes in the old town of Hanoi, or the incessant honking of scooter horns, or the insistence of all the people selling things everywhere.

Despite C., the fashion photographer being deported back to Malaysia when we arrived in Vietnam, we eventually made it here to learn exactly how noisy Hanoi is, but mostly in the craziest and best of ways.

The Swedish word for the day is Asien. It means Asia.

by Francis S.

Friday, April 20, 2007

The husband and I are leaving shortly on a jaunt to Vietnam with A. the TV producer, C. the fashion photographer and his daughter. A bit of Hanoi, a bit of phò, a bit at a resort somewhere (C. the fashion photographer is treating: he got paid for a job with rooms in a luxury hotel somewhere in the southern part of Vietnam on the coast for a week).

In the meantime, have you ever wondered what the husband looks like? Or what about me? Or maybe the dining room of our apartment? I've had a policy of never putting photos up here, but I do have some at my Myspace space, which I still don't fully understand the purpose of. Except that it seems like one should have photos. And you're supposed to collect friends.

See you when we get back.

The Swedish word for the day is semester, which means vacation and has surely been the word of the day before at least once, if not more than once.

- Francis S.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Today is National Eggs Benedict Day.

National as in U.S. national.

Due to the amount of work it takes not just to make Hollandaise sauce, but to poach the damn eggs, I am not celebrating by making a plate of what is basically glorified eggs and butter, a high-cholesteral orgy. No matter how much the husband loves it, I'm just not making it.

(Did you ever think how many countries are invoked in eggs benedict? The sauce is "Dutch," the muffins are "English" and the bacon is "Canadian." It's quite the international dish, namewise and in a most American way, even if it was invented in America.

The Swedish word for the day is ägg. It means egg or eggs.

- by Francis S.

Monday, April 09, 2007

It's peculiar how some things get reversed here. Like for instance, as noted in the comments of the previous post, that Swedish children dress up as witches and go begging for candy at Eastertime instead of on Hallowe'en (A. the TV producer loves to tell the story of when she was 12 and she was out dressed up as a påskkärring - Easter hag - and she saw on the other side of a copse one of her friends in regular clothes talking to a group of boys and A. suddenly realized she was way too old to be doing this, and she hid behind a rock with her little sister, whom she had forced to go with her). Also, Swedes have an early morning mass on Christmas day, rather like a sunrise service - it does actually take place before the sun rises at 9:30 or so - instead of a midnight mass, which they have on Easter instead.

So there we were, at midnight mass on Saturday night, in which they gave us candles that we lit at the end of the service when it was midnight and Easter had come. Afterwards we stood outside with our candles in the freezing cold drinking cider in little paper cups underneath huge flaming torches in front of the church, the choir singing something I didn't recognize.

In true Swedish fashion, we'd discreetly spiked our cider with little bottles of vodka that someone had handed out at the dinner we'd been to before we went to church, passing one on to our friend the priest, who had been one of the two priests leading the service.

"Usch, that's strong!" she said. "I hope no one can smell it on me."

Then she went and changed into her fancy black dress with the clerical collar, and her fancy black stack-heeled Mary Janes.

I asked her why she didn't wear the shoes during the service. Do vestments and stylish stack-heeled Mary Janes not match? Do stack-heeled Mary Janes send the wrong message? Does God not like stack-heeled Mary Janes, do they make Jesus weep?

"Too dangerous," she said. Those vestments encourage tripping apparently, and high heels only increase the risk. No one wants to end up unintentionally on their knees on those stone floors or worse, while dispensing communion wine accidentally smash the chalice into some poor woman's mouth and chip a tooth.

The Swedish word for the day is bön. It means prayer, and shouldn't be confused with böna, which is a bean.

- by Francis S.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Outside on the steps of the St. John Church up in the park, a bunch of children were dressed in white frocks or knickers, as if it were a hundred years ago, and the few women with them were wearing rather plain long blue dresses with matching short fitted jackets, and straw boaters with blue ribbons. I watched them as I walked past the gravestones and the scilla (which has come earlier than I remember it ever coming to Stockholm), not coming closer to ask why they were dressed so. A movie? Some kind of party? Strange, that.

As usual, they had let us out of the office early on Maundy Thursday, to get a headstart on the four-day-weekend that is Easter here. We were planning on going out to the archipelago, but the husband has a nasty sinus infection and so we will stay in and recover from last weekend. Which was about as full as it gets.

First, there was my birthday surprise, which turned out to be a dinner of meze with A. the TV producer, C. the fashion photographer and C.'s son and daugher as well as the daughter's boyfriend, the sea captain and the children's book author, the French Basque and her boyfriend the Belgian, plus M. was here from London. A. remembered that I had wished long ago for the Annie Liebovitz book, A Photographer's Life 1990-2005, and I also got Amy Sedaris' ever so helpful hostess book I Like You and a pair of oh-so-very-modish Prada sunglasses from the husband (plus flowers at the office that all the girls ooh-ed and aah-ed over, and causing my boss to say something along the lines of "all men should have a husband" - which was written up as one of the quotes of the week in the catty little employee weekly newspaper.)

Strangely, on my way to having a diversionary drink with A. the TV producer, a gaggle of American teenagers were streaming into my office building as I was coming out, and I couldn't resist asking if they were from my hometown. The woman I asked was aghast: "Oh my God, yes! Are you from there? Do we sound like we're from there?" she said. I explained how I knew they were there, and then asked if the daughter of my friend was there. Someone went and got her, and so we met, through sheer coincidence.

Then on Friday, we went to see Mats Ek's staging of Strindberg's A Dream Play at the Royal Dramatic Theater, but the performance was cancelled due to the lead being sick. We went ahead and saw what they offered instead, which was The Dance of Death, another cheery offering from Strindberg. It was grim, and you definitely see how Ingmar Bergman comes out of the tradition of Strindberg, but it was so very modern, the poisonous relationships, the absurdity. I'm still not really able to fit this into the Swedish national character however, Swedes just don't seem that dark and tortured to me. Sure, they have their winter sides, kind of grey and mumbly, but mostly they're rather matter-of-fact and far more social than they think they are.

On Saturday, we had a huge dinner party - 32 people - here in our apartment, a birthday party for our friend the priest, who turned 40 a couple of weeks ago. Out went the dining room table and into the back hall, in went three round tables that the policeman and I hauled up the stairs and wheeled into the apartment, and then the 32 chairs. There was ironing of table cloths and laying down of place settings and getting up of bouquets and finding utensils for the caterers, and after dinner the rolling of tables and hauling of chairs into the little back spare room, so we could have a space to dance, which we duly did.

There is something to be said for having a party where one is not the host: You can speak with whoever strikes your fancy and worry about the little things instead of the big things, and you never end up feeling like you had 32 small conversations but never really managed to speak to anyone.

It exhausts me just to write all this (it's taken me two days).

But I'm charging my batteries. I think I have just about enough energy to give the windows their annual spring soaping, rinsing and wiping clean.

The Swedish word for the day is påskafton, which is Easter eve, more commonly known by us religious types as Holy Saturday.

- by Francis S.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The thing up here in the far north about the winter darkness is that it's like a drug, making me feel all bleary and numbed with sleep, as if my eyes are permanently gummed nearly shut. Oh, it took years for the darkness to do this to me, but now it's done. When the light finally reappears in full force, it's like the antidote. Suddenly, when those morning rays sneak their way into our bedroom before 6 a.m., it's like I've got the sun running through my veins, and I just can't sleep. It's kind of an all or nothing thing. Life is just lopsided here in Sweden, and you can see it on everyone's face as you pass them in the street. And to make it all the more intense, March is acting like May. No wonder we're all so squirrelly.

In other news, the chorale and orchestra of my alma mater, Highland Park High School, is playing one show only tomorrow night at St. Katherine's church here in Stockholm. Who would've imagined it? The daughter of one of my longest-standing friends is singing, but I can't go on account of tomorrow is my birthday and the husband is acting mightly peculiar as if he has something up his sleeve, saying he doesn't want to go to the concert, and "Why can't we have a nice romantic evening at home?"

I am most suspicious. More squirrelly behavior, if you ask me.

The Swedish word for the day is ekorre, natch. It means squirrel.

- by Francis S.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

It's nice to see that the Episcopal Church in the U.S. is sticking to its guns and not letting the Anglican Communion bully it into capitulating to conservative churches that think great big homos like me are evil sinners who will burn in hell and have no place in the church.

Instead of having to apologize in future centuries for being on the side of hate, it will be able to say it did the right thing.

The Swedish word for the day is vårdagjämning. It means vernal equinox.

- by Francis S.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

I, too, was reading a book, while I ate delicious rum-babas and little tarts filled with worm-castles of chestnut purée topped with caps of whipped cream. I have called the meal tea, but what I was drinking was not tea but chocolate. When I poured out, I held the pot high in the air, so that my cup, when filled, should be covered in a rich froth of bubbles.

The book I was reading was Tolstoy's Resurrection. Although I did not quite understand some parts of it, it gave me intense pleasure to read it while I ate the rich cakes and drank the frothy chocolate. I thought it a noble and terrible story, but I was worried and mystified by the words "illegitimate child" which had occurred several times lately. What sort of child could this be? Clearly a child that brought trouble and difficulty. Could it have some terrible disease, or was it a special sort of imbecile?

from Denton Welch's short story "When I was Thirteen"

Ever since I first read the story from which this is excerpted, nearly 20 years ago, Denton Welch's description of a stay at a hotel in the Swiss alps in the 1930s has been my idea of what a ski trip to Switzerland should be. Full of rum-babas, tarts with chestnut purée and hot chocolate. And maybe a little skiing.

Tomorrow I'll find out.

I'm not a very good at it, but I love to ski.

I hope I don't break any bones.

The Swedish verb of the day is att åka skidor. It means to ski.

- by Francis S.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

What happens when you take something humble and prosaic, like, say, pea soup, and then add a heaping glass or two of something flashy and crowd-pleasing, like champagne?

It becomes something the Swedes call crème ninon, introduced to them by Tore Wretman, a legendary Swedish chef and restaurant owner who died a few years ago and who supposedly brought crème ninon to Sweden from France, although a little cursory googling finds 100,000 or so links in Swedish and only four links in French - wait, make that three, because one of those links is obviously in Finnish, not French. So perhaps crème ninon is only a Swede's idea of French food: take a Swedish classic (traditionally served on Thursdays, don't ask me why), add a French cliché and voilà, you have haute cuisine. But you know what? Who cares about authenticity, because when you add champagne to pureed pea soup, it goes all foamy and rich, and it becomes something sublime with startling depth, something greater than the sum of the parts (well, it's perhaps a bit disingenuous to claim that something with champagne in it is greater than champagne itself).

As for me, I was introduced to crème ninon by A. the TV producer's mother, who stuffed us last night full of what seemed to be endless courses all based in one way or another on champagne, managing to work into the meal oysters on the half shell, caviar, and strawberries.

I think I'm still full.

The Swedish word for the day is ärtsoppa, which is pea soup.

- by Francis S.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Do you ever wake up in the morning and everything looks like a stage set? Those heavy black floor to ceiling curtains that cover the entire bedroom wall look like they're about to open up to a vast audience, ready to applaud at the sight of the artfully unmade bed, as if Nora or the Countess Almaviva or Prior Walter were about to enter stage right, from the doors of the study?

Actually, I didn't wake up feeling this way, it was probably the fact that I got up and started reading a book about illustrations and stage sets that got me thinking this way, that the bathroom at the end of the dim hall, the door ajar and the light on, looked so very carefully lit when I got up to take a piss.

And then sitting down at the piano, it felt like a performance and I played reasonably well to the imaginary public, because really the Goldberg Varations, well maybe two-thirds of them, aren't nearly as hard as you think they are. And my favorite, the final quodlibet, is positively easy.

Isn't that a great word, quodlibet? According to my dictionary, a quodlibet is "1. a subtle or elaborate argument or point of debate, usually on a theological or scholastic subject. 2. Music. a humorous composition consisting of two or more independent and harmonically complementary melodies, usually quotations of well-known tunes, played or sung together in a polyphonic arrangement."

And now, to leave you with some food for thought, a little Bush Administration slash fiction, courtesy of Anthony. I hope it doesn't upset your stomach.

The Swedish word for the day is scenen. It means the stage.

- by Francis S.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

On Sunday, we went to a small party for the release of a music video, with A., the TV producer and C., the fashion photographer and the sea captain and the children's book author.

I'm mostly a classical music kind of guy, but the video really tickled my fancy, it's so silly and little-kiddly.

And that's not the only way I'm going all pop culture. Like, uh, I'm following in my 13-year-old nephew's footsteps and I got me a myspace space. Even though as far as I can see, myspace is even more about just being popular than blogs are. And the layouts of myspace spaces give me a headache. And it's just extra work because I have another bloody blog there, as if I weren't being totally derelict in keeping this blog up. I don't really see the point of myspace, exactly.


I suspect that going all pop culture isn't what it's cracked up to be.

The Swedish phrase for the day is aj, mina ögon!. It means ouch, my eyes!

- by Francis S.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Last week, a woman was discovered to be keeping 11 swans in her 30-square-meter apartment in Stockholm. The neighbors had called to complain about the smell, and the police broke in to find what first appeared to be two swans and eventually turned out to be 11. The swans seemed to be in relatively good health, although several had been rather severely injured long ago. The woman just liked swans, apparently, despite their reputation for being vicious and strong.

The question all Stockholmers – well, at least all the editors in my section of the office – have been asking themselves, is: How the hell did she capture 11 swans and get them in her apartment without anyone noticing? Or without getting bitten? And what would you say if you encountered your 67-year-old widowed neighbor in the elevator with a snapping, sopping swan?

Tonight, we're going to Dansens Hus to see the Cullberg Ballet in a 40th anniversary performance. The company is perhaps most famous for its performances of Swan Lake, with both men and women as awkward muscular swans, and a few Oedipal moments that seem to be the signature of choreographer Mats Ek.

I wonder if someone would consider choreography for a Swan Apartment ballet for the Cullberg? I would pay good money to see that.

The Swedish word for the day is svanfångster. This word doesn't translate very well, I would use the phrase bagged swans, although apparently it refers more literally to a catch, in the fishing sense of the word. And no doubt someone will comment giving me a precise and obscure Swedish word that means "bagged swans," but hey, I'm doing the best I can.

- by Francis S.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Shields said gays across the U.S. should connect with their congressman. He noted the Williams Institute’s finding that each congressional district now has at least 6,500 gay residents.

from an article in the Washington Blade online

At least 6,500 seems like a pretty sizeable number to me.

Interestingly, according to U.S. Census data analyzed by Gary Gates at the Williams Institute, conservative little New Hampshire, at 6.6 percent has the highest proportion of gays and lesbians of any state.

The Swedish word for the day is befolkning. It means population.

- by Francis S.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Stockholm has, at long last, been covered in snow for nearly a week, and the cold is hopefully killing all kinds of nasty bugs and viruses and bacteria that would otherwise plague us. I have a great fondness for snow and its power for making everything fresh again. Snow is no doubt comforting to me just because I grew up with lots of it. Maybe that's why I love Mark Helprin's Winter's Tale so very much, a book that gives winter its romantic due.

Strangely, in a peculiar literary mapping game I just hit upon, Robertson Davies appears to be the closest author to Mark Helprin, according to the taste of readers. Not two authors that I would ever put together. But then, I've never read anything else by Mark Helprin, and I have no idea who I would put him next to.

Now that was a forced transition if there ever was one.

The Swedish word for the day is klantigt. It means clumsy.

- by Francis S.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

The thing about Stockholm is that people really know how to dress stylishly. And the thing about Stockholm is that men and women alike are thin and handsome and clothes fit them well, so they wear well-fitted clothes (well-fitted clothes were something the husband and I couldn't seem to find when we went shopping after Christmas in Chicago: all the clothes were so boxy and oversized, making me think that Chicagoans are either box-shaped and oversized, or fitted clothes are just not the fashion there.)

But the thing about Stockholm is that everyone dresses alike, which means right now it seems the streets are filled with men wearing tightly fitted trench-coats and trench-style coats, double-breasted with great big lapels, and very tight trousers with slightly pointy leather boots with very soft and flat soles.

It's a very mod look, and I like it. But with everyone wearing it, it's like a uniform. And I hate the idea of everyone looking alike, no matter how good the look is.

But what to do. Do you give in and wear it?

The Swedish word for the day is likadant. It means the same.

- by Francis S.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

When I arrived for my massage, I was surprised to see the popstar waiting for my husband, who appeared shortly after I arrived, pouring himself down the stairs, all flippy-floppy after his massage, his face creased with lines from lying face down, his eyes smeary as if he'd been asleep. Later, after my own massage, all three of us left together, the husband and I to take the bus and the popstar heading to the subway.

"This is my year of low consumption," she said. "I'm going to consume less all year. Take the car as little as possible."

As she headed down the subway at Östermalmstorg, I thought to myself that only in Stockholm could someone like her take the subway for a year and not worry about being harrassed by fans every train ride she took.

As for me, this is going to be my year of consuming broccoli. And getting more exercise.

The Swedish word for the day is löfte. It means promise or resolution, in the sense of a New Year's resolution.

- by Francis S.

Friday, January 05, 2007

As we returned from Christmas in the Midwest, on the plane from Chicago to Stockholm I suddenly noticed that it was Dec. 29 (Central European Time, it was still only Dec. 28 in Illinois). Which meant that it was eight years to the day since I'd moved to Sweden. Strange to be on a plane again and remembering it all: my worldly possessions travelling separately in a container somewhere between Washington, DC and Stockholm, the excitement I felt, (I wasn't even scared, which astonishes me), the nearly overwhelming lust and love for the man who would become my husband, who was waiting for me at Arlanda airport. I had arrived some five hours later than expected, since my flight from Reyjavik to Stockholm had been cancelled and I had to go through Copenhagen instead, making it three flights in all to get here. I remember talking at Keflavik airport in Iceland to an American woman who had lived in Sweden fro 15 years, which seemed like forever.

At New Year's, the mother of the popstar asked me: "Will you die here?"

And then she smiled, embarrassed a little that she had put it that way.

My favorite Finn, who was part of the conversation, hummed a bit of the Swedish national anthem, which ends with the phrase "I want to live and die in the North."

I could only answer, well, yes, probably.

It's strange to think I will never leave, but it becomes less and less likely that I will abandon Sweden as the years pass.

And fifteen years seems like no time at all anymore.

Still stranger is to think of growing old and dying here. Will the husband and I end up in an old people's home, together or separately? Will I revert to English in my dotage? Who will come to visit me? And who will put flowers on my grave?

The Swedish word for the day is alltid. It means always.

- by Francis S.