Friday, November 22, 2002

Last night we had dinner in Östermalm at a little trattoria. Perhaps it was a bit elegant - eight tables with white tablecloths, simple candles and menus with fancy script - to be called a mere trattoria, I suppose it was more of a real restaurant, where we celebrated the birthday dinner for P., the father of the friend from London and the closest thing I have to a father-in-law.

We sat, eating perfect vegetables - my mother claims that a restaurant should be judged by its vegetables - and talking all at once, the husband and I, P. and his wife E., and the friend from London who was here to do a photo shoot for H&M.

"Ingrid is 76 and she lives all by herself," P. told me, speaking about one of his neighbors on the island where the family summer house is, formerly the farmhouse of his grandparents. "She has no indoor plumbing - she still uses an outhouse, and she gets her water from a stream. She hasn't been to the city in five years."

I am astonished, as P. has hoped I would be, that there is still at least one Swede in the year 2002 who lives without running water.

Tomorrow, we leave at 10:30 a.m. on a plane that will take us to Chicago, where we will arrive at noon, nine hours after we left. We'll be back in a week.

Happy Thanksgiving.

- by Francis S.
The Swedish word for the day is Hannes. It is a boy’s name, rather uncommon, and happens to be the name of the son of R. and J.

Hannes will be 12 hours old today at 3 p.m. central European time. Go ahead, read more about Hannes and his parents and leave your own birthday greetings.

- by Francis S.

Thursday, November 21, 2002

Have I mentioned that the husband and I are time optimists?

Have I also mentioned that the husband and I are, in fact, time idiots?

Yesterday, the husband had to be up early to go deal with some carpenters at work, who would be coming at 7 a.m. He set the alarm for 6:15, and got up without too much prodding from me. He left the house in the usual late-Fall pitch darkness, and made it there by 6:45. After nearly an hour of waiting, furious, he called up the foreman and got an answering machine. It was at this point he looked at his phone and noticed that the time, an hour after he’d arrived, was 6:45.

He had forgotten, for some reason, that he’d failed to set his alarm clock back when the time changed. Three weeks ago.

Time idiots, that’s us. Or maybe just lazy idiots.

The Swedish phrase for the day is kvart i sju, which would be written numerically as 6:45.

p.s. those bi-coastal wonders, East West, are back up and running in a new magazine format.

- by Francis S.

Wednesday, November 20, 2002

Last night, we met the guy from the Goethe Institute and his husband the South African publicist, as well as A. the assistant director and her fiancée, C., the photographer at a crowded table at Il Tempo, a restaurant the husband has been trying to get me to go to for years. We toasted to the promotion at work of the guy from the Goethe Institute, then off we ran to go see Hable con ella.

It always takes some emotional preparation to see an Almodóvar film, although I am inevitably impressed once I actually see it. Last night was no exception. It was melodramatic, strange, desperate, moving, a bit overwrought and had the usual perversely hopeful ending. Interestingly, he’s dropped the camp completely, which, depending on your perspective, allows for more subtlety of emotion. And he seems to have stopped giving the city of Madrid such a flamboyant role in his films as well – the hot oranges and pinks and reds are considerably toned down. Instead you have the Argentinian actor Darío Grandinetti, who is superb, his eyes and mouth constantly betraying a terrible and profound sadness, but ultimately not an inconsolable sadness.

It was Almodóvar who made me want to live in Spain. And although I hated and loved it all at once, I definitely was not disappointed when I finally did live there.

The Swedish phrase for the day is rörd till tårar. It means moved to tears.

- by Francis S.

Tuesday, November 19, 2002

Swedes seem to have an innate love of California, particularly Los Angeles. It is, no doubt, the promise of such endless sun. (Me, though a Chicagoan by upbringing and nature, I have the east-coast horror of L.A., a place which seems to value the buffed and tanned surface of things and deplores the intellectual. I'm a terrible snob when it comes to L.A. and obviously don't mind pissing off a good many people by saying so.)

Unlike Swedes, the promise of endless sun scares me. I love the changing of the seasons. Like the tremendous Frankenstein Christmas tree - put together from smaller trees - that is being put up on Gamla Stan's waterfront, a meter away from the spot where we played boule the past summer with the husband's agent: a perfect juxtaposition, icon of summer next to icon of winter.

The Swedish word for the day is strålande. It means radiant.

- by Francis S.

Sunday, November 17, 2002

Sex makes the Internet go round. And you love to read about sex, don't you? I know I do. Even when I'm shocked when someone like Jane announces to the world that, in a fit of debauchery and after perhaps a few too many bottles of wine, she kissed a man for the first time. And then slept with him. (Uh, well, she only really did sleep with him, nothing more.)

Which put me in mind of my own days of debauchery. I did have a girlfriend when I was in my last years of high school. And we did sort of, well, get naked together. Which was fun, actually, although not nearly as fun as it was, and still is, to get naked with some guy, which these days would mean my husband, if you don't include the visits to the doctor, which actually are not more fun than being naked with a girl.

The last woman I got naked with was a certain MJ, when I was 22. I was supposed to be at home with my then-boyfriend. Instead, I got drunk with MJ and ended up at 7 a.m. the next morning hungover and smelling like sex. With a woman. My then-boyfriend was not amused. He never quite forgave me for it, not in the 13 years we were together.

So, my pretties, it's really easy for us homosexualists to write about crossing the line into decency and respectability, our fellow homosexualists are rarely shocked by such revelations. And, I am ashamed to say, I am in fact unduly proud of the fact, as if it made me more of a man. (I hate it when I exhibit this kind of vague internal homophobia, but what the hell. It's how I feel.)

Now it's your turn. Fess up. I want to hear about the last time all you big girls and big boys crossed the line, whichever line it may be for you.

Be brave.

Be honest.

Be really explicit and dirty. C'mon, titillate me. I could really use some entertainment these days.

- by Francis S.
Yesterday, as the husband and I were out shopping for clothes, for presents to take with us to America, for CDs and books and generally enjoying the fact that we had gotten up and out of bed and onto the streets before ten on a grey Saturday morning, we ended up in a kitchen store looking at monstrously large white salad bowls and chargers and coffee cups. Which gave me the idea of having a dinner party with all this outsized china and silver serving spoons and forks and knives. Wouldn't it be fun? The trick would be coming up with food that takes up volumes on a plate, but is reduced to nothing in the stomach. Soufflés? Rocket salads? Turkey drumsticks?

The Swedish verb for the day is att duka. It means to set the table.

- by Francis S.

Saturday, November 16, 2002

The husband and I brought dinner to the priest last night: chicken paprika and rice and a batch of chocolate chip cookies all carefully laid up in plastic containers. Her husband, the policeman, was working the night shift, so she was alone with the baby for the second night of her life.

"I'm learning how to do everything with one hand," she said. "But it isn't easy." She's also learning how to deal with sleep deprivation, which isn't easy either, apparently. It is truly amazing how this little animal, three weeks old, can be so dependent, can demand so much attention, she said.

The priest is a worrier. She's worried that Signe will inherit her own worrying view of the world and not the sunny outlook of the policeman.

She will undoubtedly be her own person, I said. And I, who have a sunny outlook similar to the policeman's, happen to find worriers awfully interesting people.

"Yes, well, it may look interesting to you but it's no fun for me," the priest said, laughing. "And I certainly don't wish it on Signe."

The Swedish word for the day is föräldraskap. It means parenthood.

- by Francis S.

Friday, November 15, 2002

She sent me an e-mail saying that we should meet for a drink. It took weeks for me to answer, but when I said yes, it turned out that she knows the South African publicist, who she said could vouch for her good character.

So I sat in WC Bar (the toilet, she called it) and waited, smoking a bit nervously.

I had no reason to be nervous.

"I feel as if I know you," she said the moment she arrived. "I don't usually meet people from the Internet. Uh, I mean, I never have before."

She laughed. She made me laugh. We told how we ended up in love and in Sweden, which were connected of course. The drink turned into dinner at one of my favorite spots, Little Persia, where the service is abysmally slow but the food worth the wait. The husband joined us midway through the meal.

"I am Filipino-Hungarian," she told us. She said she is, in fact, a rare animal. "I think there's another one in the Northwest Territories in Canada somewhere."

It's fun meeting people from the Internet.

The Swedish word for the day is vänskap. It means friendship.

- by Francis S.

Monday, November 11, 2002

The city is dusted with snow and the Christmas tree is up in Mosebacke Square, albeit bereft of lights.

Tis the season? It's only November 11! And I thought Americans were bad about jumping the gun on the biggest consumer event of the year.

The Swedish phrase for the day is grattis på födelsedag, mamma. Which means happy birthday, mom.

- by Francis S.

Sunday, November 10, 2002

There is no middle ground with Björk for most people, it's either love or hate. Me, I like the idea of her. Brilliant, intellectual, primal, uncompromising, challenging, musically sophisticated. But she's more fun to listen to than to listen to - I mean that what she says about what she does is easier to take than what she actually does, mostly.

"Mediterranean passion has been well documented, but nordic passion hasn't," she has said. She says Nordic passion is like a submarine, it runs deep.

A fascinating thought, that. My friend, the guy from the Goethe Institute, claims that it's hard to pick out gay Swedish men passing on the street because Swedes as a whole act so terribly asexual - his gaydar is useless here. Which doesn't contradict what Björk says, although apparently the passion runs too deep for my friend's tastes (or abilities).

I think what's so confusing for the outside world is that Swedes are just practical about sex, there's nothing mysterious about it to them. Which isn't to say that they can't be passionate. It's just a different kind of passion, as Björk says.

The Swedish word for the day is andra. It means second or another.

- by Francis S.

Wednesday, November 06, 2002

Some cities have a color. Morocco immediately springs to mind, where Marrakesh is pink, Meknes is a faded ochre, and Fez is all green roofs. Paris is grey as in grey stone, Washington is white as in white marble and Boston is red as in red brick.

The color of Stockholm is yellow, some of it like cream, some of it like mustard, but yellow nonetheless, although some may argue that it's more a narrow palette of yellows, pinks, reds, greens and browns. But if you ask me, if I try to picture it in my mind's eye, Stockholm is yellow, yellow and yellow.

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

- by Francis S.

Tuesday, November 05, 2002

I'm not really a fan of r&b or pop music, but I am a fan of R. She's smart and kind, self-assured and unpretentious. Her latest album just came out on Monday. And since I am American, I am allowed to indulge in hyperbole and say that I just love it. It's got a weird '80s Tom Tom Club-esque clava track and a sly Lesley Gore-ish '60s girl singer track, and a nasty ode to her ex which made me laugh, all of it produced to the point where it's just shy of being over the top. Which is the place to be. Perhaps I like it because I actually know her. I wonder what the critics will say.

The Swedish acronym for the day is KFUK-KFUM. It looks vaguely obscene in English, but it merely stands for YWCA-YMCA.

- by Francis S.

Sunday, November 03, 2002

M., the t.v. producer, left for London today. The husband is off working, so I saw M. into his cab, feeling sombre in the cold and dark afternoon. We'll see him again at New Year's since the husband decided that we'll have a grand New Year's feast at our apartment with all the best of Stockholm society - the usual crew of photographers and producers and models and actresses and cultural attachés and priests and policemen and editors. Including M., of course. But no one knows when or if he'll ever be back for good.

So I'm wallowing in my melancholy, listening to Handel's Judas Maccabeus even if today is more appropriate for listening to a Requiem, considering it was All Souls Day on Friday. (I'd even gotten a last-minute invitation from Linnéa to go see the Verdi Requiem, but I needed to see M. off instead). As I'm listening, a soprano starts singing about "pious orgies, pious airs" and I can't help laughing at the thought of pious orgies. So I get myself some ice cream, which is as close as I get to a pious orgy.

I have to resort to vanilla with chocolate sauce on account of we have no real chocolate - I belong to the chocolate camp as opposed to the vanilla camp when it comes to pious orgies.

What's your position on pious orgies?

The Swedish phrase for the day is rest bort. It means gone away.

- by Francis S.