Thursday, September 30, 2004

Various entities are wondering about a decidedly lesbian-ish blog supposedly belonging to Maya Keyes, daughter of Illinois Senate candidate Alan Keyes, who blasted U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney's daughter, Mary, for being a lesbian (links courtesy Queerday, natch). Is it real or a hoax?

Me, I wonder how many blogs are in fact not what they appear to be.

For example, Mig, who tries to convince us all that he is a vaguely shy, self-deprecating, funny, angst-prone middle aged expat who is learning to play the cello, is in fact a 17-year-old St. Louis school girl with a 240 IQ, a penchant for Cheever, an encyclopedic knowlege of Austria, a desire to somehow manufacture the understanding father she never had, and is learning to play the cello.

Jeong-A is not a charming globe-trotting Korean lawyer who just quit her job in Hong Kong, but is actually a middle-aged Australian professor of semantics whose wife left him because he spends all his time chatting on the computer with what he thinks are young women, but are in fact middle-aged men like himself posing as young women.

Eeksy Peeksy doesn't live in Poland. He is in fact the PhD thesis of a University of Iowa writing workshop soon-to-be graduate. Marn is the group project of a sociology class at McGill University. Andrew Sullivan is a libertarian "branding" experiment gone haywire (well, maybe you've actually seen pictures of him, or even the man himself, but that doesn't mean anything).

And Zeke, who pretends to be a comfortingly neurotic guy who's ended up after eight years away, living back at home with his parents and taking over his father's company (does it sound like a sitcom, or what? Everybody Loves Zeke) is actually, um, a comfortingly neurotic guy who's ended up after eight years away, living back at home with his parents and taking over his father's company.

Okay, people. It's confession time. Get in that line. Step up to the little wooden cubicle, speak into the grate. Who are you really?

The Swedish word for the day is sanningen. It means the truth.

- by Francis S.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

The Swedish phrase for the day is chokladbrulé med hallon. It means chocolate crème brûlée with raspberries.

Before she left for the Gothenburg Book Fair last week, our former neighbor, L., the chef, sent over a copy of her cookbook. Complete with recipes for, among other things, chocolate crème brûlée with raspberries, plus dangerously enticing photos and a nice inscription to us, (we even merited a mention in the credits).

Sadly, as we are no longer neighbors, our days of being recipe guinea pigs are over as there don't seem to be any chefs living in the apartment building on Odenplan.

- by Francis S.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Ten years ago today, the huge ferry Estonia sank in the Baltic, taking with her more than 800 Swedes, Estonians and other folk.

In a small country like Sweden, I guess it's no surprise that nearly all of my friends know at least one person who died that night.

The Swedish phrase for the day is vad har hänt?. It means what's happened?

- by Francis S.

Monday, September 27, 2004

First it was the little bronze man on Karlavägen. Now his horse and wagon chariot-thing is missing as well, plus a bunch of rusty iron silhouettes at Ericsbergsparken have disappeared, leaving a solitary flat figure and flat dog.

Is it thievery or maintenance? Or is there a statue shepherd on the loose, herding the statues of Stockholm to some distant place where they can live the rest of their statue lives with others of their species - happy but segregated - instead of being stuck out in inclement weather being fondled inappropriately by random children and adults, and being shit on by birds?

The Swedish phrase for the day is vi skiter i det. It literally means something like we shit on it, but a better translation would be we'll forget about that, more or less.

- by Francis S.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

The night bus that runs from the far suburbs into the city is full of desperately glad teenagers and powdered and rouged little old ladies in low heels and glassy-eyed immigrants under the influence of something untoward and lesbians with toy poodles. Everyone seems secretly worried that if they look back, they'll turn into pillars of salt, or be sent back to hell, or have to live the rest of their lives under the unnatural lights of the bus, or that something else nasty and epic and biblical will happen. I certainly felt that way, my legs all tense, my arms crossed tightly across my chest, talking in a low voice with the husband every now and then as I looked out the window, full of wist.

We'd just been to dinner for the birthday of the husband's nephew.

I merely let loose a tremendous sigh of relief when we got to Odenplan, deciding that the ground was too filthy even for me to kiss.

I think I was around 12 or 13 when I realized that I was meant to live in the city, any city in fact. (Well, maybe not any city, although surely Houston or Phoenix or Orlando don't really count as cities anyway, they're just sprawl.)

I'm a terrible snob when it comes to cities.

The Swedish word for the day is förort. It means suburb.

- by Francis S.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Chatting over drinks at Tranan with the engaging and erudite Stefan Geens - beers for me, vodka lime for him - I seemed to get my mojo back, bloggerly speaking (blojo definitely does not conjure up the right images, so I won't try for any neologisms here). I felt downright born again. Though he might deny it, and it probably isn't intentional, the man is an evangelist. He's got plans, and he was talking all about New York blog cliques (for good and bad), and that he's changed his mind about thinking that it is silly and contrary to the medium for bloggers to meet in person, and that it would probably be better if George W. Bush got re-elected so he could really make things so bad that Americans would be cured of their penchant for the right wing (well, he admitted maybe it wouldn't be so good for Americans and a few random Muslim countries in the short run, plus there is always the possibility that it could cause irreparable damage supreme court-wise, for instance).

Talking politics was fun, of course, but I'm usually not into meta-thinking when it comes to blogging. But it got me chewing on how this huge public writing phenomenon will evolve, seeping into god only knows what parts of our lives, individually and collectively.

Agog with it, I felt like Tom Hulce in that scene in Animal House where he smokes pot for the first time and he's doing the "whole universe in an atom of my fingernail" routine.

Then again, the next day I realized it wears me out to think of all this stuff, and it humbles me to have to face the fact that my own intellect is rather sad, small and flabby. I guess I'll just leave it to the big brains.

The Swedish verb of the day is att tröttna. It means to tire of.

- by Francis S.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Sweden is pretty tame when it comes to natural disasters: no tornadoes or hurricanes or monsoons, no tidal waves or uncontrollable forest fires or volcanoes. There is the occasional flood, but that seemed to be about it as far as I could see.

How wrong I was.

Today, southern Sweden was rocked (well, maybe rocked is too strong a word, lightly shaken?) by an earthquake - the epicenter was in Kaliningrad. According to Dagens Nyheter, it was the strongest quake in Sweden in 100 years.

I guess there just is no security in this world.

The Swedish verb for the day is att skaka. It means to shake.

- by Francis S.

Monday, September 20, 2004

For lunch, I met a friend and former co-worker whom I hadn't seen in six months. She'd gone from blonde to brunette (gentlemen may prefer blondes, but she's more into the rugged he-man type) and I almost didn't recognize her. At Grodan, we spent too much of our lunch bitching about the current state of the U.S. and not enough on gossip. Probably because she already had all the gossip from the office, and I seem to be totally lacking in imagination these days. My creativity is all pure consumption - books about imaginary places are a favorite, or movies.

(Which reminds me, Bad Education is the usual Almodóvar feast: what should be desperate, sensational and lurid is moving instead, filling me with longing and hope. There was even a little boy singing "Moon River" in Spanish with a priest theatrically miming an accompaniament on guitar, and two of the main characters went to see La Bête Humaine as part of an alibi. And current "It" Boy Gael Garcia Bernal pays his dues in high heels and takes it up the ass like a man.)

The Swedish word for the day is raggmunk, which is a potato pancake, which Grodan prepares to perfection, served with lingon and thick bacon.

- by Francis S.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

As if to make up for the fact that Sweden tends to get Hollywood dreck six months after the States and the rest of Europe, Almodóvar's latest movie, Bad Education, is premiering here tonight, two months before it's due to premier in New York. And the husband and I got our invitations today in the mail (after a close call in which we almost missed out on the opportunity) to see it tonight at 9 p.m., a week or so before it opens to the general public in the theaters of Stockholm.

I'm shivering in anticipation.

Will it continue the trend of being even better than the last one?

(Almodóvar, besides being hot shit, holds a special place in my heart as being, albeit indirectly, responsible for my living in Sweden. In short, it was first seeing Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown with the incomparable Carmen Maura and the outlandish Rossy de Palma and all those red-hot, pink-hot and orange-hot colors and emotions that Almodóvar paints Spain with that made me think that I had to go to Spain, and years later, it was when I was living in Barcelona that I met the husband.)

The Swedish phrase for the day has to be dålig uppfostran, which is how they've translated the title of the movie. I would translate it as bad upbringing rather than bad education, however. I could be wrong about that - what do you think, native Swedish speakers?

- by Francis S.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Some cultures don't care much for candles - the Spanish associate them with churches and death, it seems. But here, lighted candles are the embodiment of coziness, which is the highest state of being in the Swedish psyche.

It's candle weather again. The sun is setting earlier and earlier, autumn is bearing down with winter at its heels, and there's nothing cozier than candles burning everywhere in the apartment.

The Swedish word for the day is mörk. It means dark.

- by Francis S.

Monday, September 13, 2004

As the bus turned onto Birger Jarlsgatan, we passed a man on a motorcycle with a little wire-haired terrier, complete with leather bomber hat, sitting in between the man's legs.

"Det var kul," the mother sitting in front of me turned back to me and said. Which means that was nice.

Meanwhile, back in America, instead of cute dogs on motorcycles, you get chilling irony. Does anyone else find it incredulous that the same president who created a Department of Homeland Security [sic] has also, along with a republican congress, allowed a ban on assault weapons to lapse? Isn't homeland security supposed to be about America not being a source of weapons for terrorists, let alone, um, alienated teenagers aching to go on a rampage through their local high school?

The Swedish verb for the day is att garva. It means to laugh hysterically.

- by Francis S.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Almost exactly 25 years ago, I packed a suitcase full of clothes, a stereo and an electric typewriter into my parents' sad little white Vega hatchback, and my younger brother drove me the four hours it took to get to university. It was time to become an adult, which I sort of did, but not right away.

I was horribly lonely in that vast dormitory those first weeks, stuck with an indifferent but vaguely boorish roommate and his indifferent and vaguely boorish friends, who talked about sex in sneering and smutty fashion, no doubt in part because none of them had ever managed to actually do anything more than a bit of frantic groping in a car somewhere. I was a skinny little wimp with braces still (I didn't get them removed until the end of the year), and unbeknownst to them a queer boy as well, but I was far more experienced than they were when it came to girls.

Within the first couple weeks, I found my friends and had little to do with my roommate, and by Christmas I no longer even slept in my dorm room but instead spent all my nights with a much older man - 27! - who had already taught elementary school for five years and was there at university just for a year, getting a masters in education degree.

My roommate was mystified, I think. However, at some point over the winter, he read some of the letters I'd gotten from one of my high school sweethearts (the one who was a guy, not the one who was a girl, natch) and figured the whole thing out. In a sort of revenge, he ruined my electric typewriter that my parents had bought me as a high school graduation present. I never said anything to him, but rather in passive aggressive fashion, I told all my friends what he'd done, and they more or less joined me in despising him.

The next year, Milena Maglic and I claimed we were married so that we wouldn't have to stay in the dorm and instead lived in a roomy and cheerful and dirty apartment where we walked around naked and laughed and fought like mad dogs.

It's been 25 years, but I still don't feel like I'm an adult exactly and all I can wonder is, where has the time gone and how long does it take?

The Swedish word for the day is utveckling. It means development.

- by Francis S.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

"Heterosexuality isn't normal, it's just common."

said by Dorothy Parker, who used to answer the phone with "What fresh hell is this?"

The Swedish word for the day is oss. It means us.

- by Francis S.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Apparently, Paris is full of holes left by those excavating Romans - Lutetia they called the place - and these holes have been built over, naturally, leaving all kinds of tunnels and caverns, like the catacombs for instance.

Now they've discovered a fully equipped modern movie theater decorated with mystical symbols in one these holes. When they came back a second time to check it out, the power had been cut and there was a note: "Do not try to find us."

It's Phantom of the Opera meets the Da Vinci Code.

Don't you love it when life imitates, um, "art"?

The Swedish phrase for the day is underjorden. It means the underworld.

- by Francis S.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

The man - about the size and shape of a piece of firewood with stray branches someone forgot to snap off, only made of bronze - is missing from his place on Karlavägen. He used to be standing behind an equally rough and firewood-like horse of bronze. I could never tell if he was supposed to be a farmer with a wagon, or a charioteer with a racehorse. But now he's gone, and the horse is just standing there by itself, looking twitchy and half-baked.

Wouldn't you know it, the husband is gone, too. A week in Spain, family matters and a bit of business to take care of as well. And I just realized that I actually agreed to let him go off with three of the four pairs of mutual jeans we own, as if he'll use them all and I won't need an extra pair here. The upsides and the downsides of being a couple of homos who are more or less the same size, although he is a bit shorter than I am and not quite as broad in the shoulders.

He only left yesterday, but as usual, I'm bored already.

The Swedish word for the day is ärlig. It means honest.

- by Francis S.

Monday, September 06, 2004

She was wearing a pink shirt with black polkadots, the girl getting a manicure at one of the thousands of hair salons in this little city, and I thought she looked like an antibiotic.

For some reason, those colors reminded me of a high school biology experiment in which we were given tabs of various antibiotics - erythromycin, tetracycline, and god knows what else - all scary yellows and pinks and greens with black markings on them, which we put in petrie dishes filled with agar. We put the tabs in four quadrants of the dish, marked them off, then rubbed cotton swabs into our throats, then dabbed the swabs into the agar. Two days later, we could see how the antibiotic had prevented bacteria from growing. And all I could think of was that the antibiotics looked dangerous, like angry bees somehow; even the names sounded like they could sting you.

The Swedish phrase for the day is säg till, which means, more or less, let me know.

- by Francis S.

Sunday, September 05, 2004

At dinner last night, H., the carpenter, told us that he has a fear of fruit.

"If I'm on the bus, it's like I have a sixth sense," he said matter-of-factly, but with a twinkle in his eye. "I can hear someone opening a paper bag and I can tell it's fruit. They stick their hands in the bag, and I can tell how heavy the fruit is, like, it's too heavy to be a plum it must be an apple, or even heavier, a banana. Then I can hear that little "chunk" when they break off the stem, and pull down the peel and then I smell banana, and I get all sweaty and uncomfortable."

I looked and looked, but I couldn't find the greek word for this fear of fruit. Karpophobia? Froutaphobia? It doesn't seem to exist.

The Swedish words for the day are rädsla and frukt. They mean, of course, fear and fruit.

- by Francis S.