Monday, November 01, 2004

Sweden, which was pretty poverty-stricken until the 20th century, never really went for rococo excess. Partly, no doubt, because they just didn't have the money for all that ormolu. So, the country's answer to spas like Bath and Baden-Baden was a place like Loka Brunn, which is decidedly unpretentious and a bit humble, even if it once was the playground for people like Sweden's party king, Gustav III and Christine Nilsson, a long-forgotten opera singer who sang at the opening of the Metropolitan Opera in New York in 1883 (although she lives on in dubious glory as the model for the heroine of The Phantom of the Opera).

And us, of course.

We were there for a wedding, and for the first time I had my doubts about the Swedish practice of having a toastmaster run things (even though, in my experience, it sure takes the pressure off the wedding couple): We were harrassed belligerantly throughout dinner by a man banging on a pot with a spoon, reminding us that there would be another speech "in three minutes." I wondered if someone had slipped a couple of pounds of anabolic steroids into the guy's champagne. It was like slipping into a warm bath when we at last made our way to the dancefloor and let loose, dancing until we were soaked to the skin.

We arrived home the next day to the big news in Sweden: "the cake man" who after getting laid off, gave his co-workers cannabis-laced cheesecake as a special farewell, only he neglected to inform them that what they were eating was going to make them hungrier and start wondering about the deep meaning of the pattern in the rug. The other big news is that apparently American citizens in the Nordic countries and around the Baltic are in danger of a terror attack, or at least this is what the U.S. government is saying. Which everyone here seems suspicious about. And I'm not talking suspicious about terrorists here.

The Swedish word for the day is skämt. It means joke.

- by Francis S.

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