Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Again With the Sweatpants

Standing in the line at the German grocers, Lidl, today in my sweats and running clothes I was again reminded of an episode of Seinfeld. The one where Jerry chastizes George for wearing sweats in public. He says to him, "You know the message you're sending out to the world with these sweatpants? You're telling the world, 'I give up. I can't compete in normal society. I'm miserable, so I might as well be comfortable."

I knew it was a fashion faux paux here in Stockholm. But I had just finished running and they just feel so good. So comfy. It just seemed like so much effort to go upstairs and change into something more presentable. After all, it was only Lidl.

The truth is, you never see women here out in their sweats. Stockholm women go to some lengths to look nice and they most often do. Young and old alike, they are a well dressed lot. Freshly coiffed hair, made up and I've noticed they often smell really good; like freshly applied potions and lotions. Rarely are they overweight no matter their age. I have learned by observation that middle age spread is certainly not inevitable. I see 50 year old women as fit as 25 year old women.

Additionally, some of the best looking women reside in this city. If I were a single young man, this would be where I come. So much natural blonde beauty in one place, it seems almost unfair that they've been keeping this perfect DNA hidden away up here. I think of all the time and money I could have saved on peroxide over the years if I'd just had a few strands.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Pimp My Green Ride

I have returned from Copenhagen with, yet another, cold. I hate being sick. Another perfectly valid reason for me to abhor public transportation. It's making me sick. The four white blood cells I have are in constant overdrive. I must be making up for last year when I did not get sick all year, unheard of for me.

My first impression of Copenhagen was the cleanliness of the city. It was remarkably clean. It was very green and had a lot of wide open space. I liked that. It also had a great mix of old and new, which I also like. So, I was digging it. It was almost like some European style Phoenix replete with old buildings and sterility.

The streets were calm and aside from the city center pretty quiet. Almost a little unsettling. Stockholm on valium and by default much cleaner. My daughter thought the city had a creepy vibe and I somewhat agree. It had the sense of extreme orderliness common to many German cities. Similarly too, it was much lighter on the commerce, advertising and trade.

That is something I think Americans THINK they would like but when faced with a life without it find out they do not. They miss the constant jockeying for the dollars in their pockets. I know I did. Thankfully Stockholm is not like that. Despite the punitive taxes, the city is always working.

As usual, I couldn't leave well enough alone, I had to dig a little deeper. Well, in this case I didn't have too dig too hard or too far. I really just had to purchase something. Ha!! Holy shit! Someone please, put me on the train back to Stockholm where things are cheap. Yeah, that is what I said. Everything was two times as costly. No joke.

It is all a little unnerving. There really is no end to the levels of taxation these people are 1. capable of and 2. capable of convincing others to pay. Personally, I do not care if Danes want to pay 110% taxes to the state. If it works for you Denmark; great, have at it. My fear is--we actually have idiots who, through, I don't know, fear of getting a passport and relocating, feel the need to try and inflict this type of society on us.

When I got home, I had to research a little. I had to know just what the median income was in a place where a can of coke is $3 at the 7/11 and a casual dinner for a family of four is 5x that of the same dinner in the United States. According to my favorite source of unbiased information, the New York Times, Denmark has a 63 percent marginal tax rate paid by top income earners in Denmark. (anyone making more than 360,000 Danish kroner, or about $70,000). The good or bad news, depending on how you look at it, was the median income was relatively high, about $65,000 a year. Jeez, must be a lot of "rich" Danes paying that 63% tax rate.

The New York Times was also quick to tell me that such effective income redistribution has made Denmark the most egalitarian society on the planet ---that wealth is more evenly spread than anywhere else. Yeah, everyone is equal alright. The productive are equally getting the hell out. One thousand skilled workers flee Denmark each year for greener pastures.

Maybe not truly greener. Copenhagen is something of the mecca to the "green" (watermelon) movement. Green propaganda is throughout the city. Cars are outnumbered by bikes. So, greener may be hard to find.

Bike stands abound and giant hordes of bikers ride purposely through the streets. It must be hard to date when the bicycle is your main mode of transportation. Do you meet out by the bike stand? I don't particularly have anything against bikes. I like bikes. I really do not care for lemmings though. Lemmings I have a problem with. For some strange reason I just couldn't shake the visual of the bikers all following each other off a cliff.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Off to Copenhagen

will return Tuesday...

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Of Mice and Boys and Men

"Swedish dads are tragic with all their nappy-changing and equality"

That is a direct quote taken from an interview given by Anna Anka, Paul Anka's Swedish born wife.

Swedish men do live with the stereotype of being what I would call lacking in the testosterone department. It is said that the women certainly "wear the pants" in the family. I can not really attest to it first hand but by just observing it does seem to be the case.

Sweden likes to reverse the order just for the sake of reversing the order. In the early mornings, you will see 98% dads taking the wee one's to nursery school or primary school. There's dad, in his work clothes and lap top rushing off to get little Lars to school. He generally looks rushed and as Anka said, rather tragic.

I do not know where the moms are. My guess would be working too as most women here do work. It's good to see father's involved, do not get me wrong. But, when it's 98% the dad doing the school run that tells me something else. It makes me think, this is just another example of turning the traditional order on it's head just for the sake of turning the traditional order on it's head.

And that is funny to me. Apart from whether it is realistic or sustainable, I have to wonder, in fifty years will tomorrows liberals reverse things back just to turn the new established order on it's head? Probably.

Another thing that perplexes me is that boys here are boys! Fully loaded with testosterone, beating the living shit out of each other, jumping on each other, smelly, unwashed, frog catching and exuding hormones and boyishness at every turn. They travel independently and in packs freely roaming and exploring the city. None of that mom-doting over protectiveness I am used to witnessing (and surely guilty of myself) in suburban United States.

So, I ask myself---what the hell happens to these boys between these ages and adulthood? At what point do they transition and start crossing their legs and carrying man bags?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

I Should Have Been a Bear

It is starting to get cold in Stockholm. I can see my breath in the morning. The days are still mostly warm but the nights and the mornings are getting cool. Yep, it is for real. I am really looking down the barrel of...winter.

Just the word summons dread. I despise winter. I try to embrace some poetic version of the seasons changing and all the imagery that goes with it. Having spent 24 hellish, bitterly cold and grey winters in upstate New York I have engineered my life around, not only rain, but winter. Real winter. Coats. Boots. Hats. All of it. And I have to say, I don't miss it at all. Not one iota.

And even if I do have small lapses in judgment (which I am prone to having) and think I am starting to miss it, I have a house in Colorado. I can drive seven hours to winter. Put on the hats, the gloves, the coats, drink the hot cocoa, do a little sleigh riding and then hop in my car and put winter away. In it's rightful place. The recesses of my memory.

Ocourse, I am telling myself this winter will be different. I will dress for it. I will enjoy it. It is after all, only one winter. I can do this. I can wear boots. I like boots. I never get the chance to wear boots in Arizona. My kids can ski, play ice hockey, ice skate and whatever other activities people engage in cold weather. All activities, lord knows, they will never have the opportunity to do with me around. I can do this...

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

I have overdosed on Swedish meatballs. I started to really get into them. It was after one of those touristy boat rides. They served lunch and I had the meatballs. It was that or fish. I have never really been a big fan of them. It was not that I did not like them. There were always so many other, better, choices. However, here, my options have narrowed. Gone are my beloved enchiladas, frijoles and papitas.

On the boat, they served lunch. A very nice lunch, I might add. I ordered the meatballs. It was the perfect combination. Little Swedish meatballs, gravy, lingonberry sauce, pureed potatoes and razor thin sliced cucumber salad marinated in a sweet vinegar sauce. I was sold. My new meal. I replicated it at home to near perfection. When I was not eating it, I was looking forward our next encounter when I would again savor the perfect balance of tastes. I was barely thinking of enchiladas. Hard to imagine.

Then I moved and the trips to IKEA began. I have been to IKEA a handful of times in the past few weeks. Sheepishly, I must admit, each trip consisted of, yes, meatballs. It was Saturday's meal that finally pushed me to the brink. I can't even think about the meal anymore. I've ruined it. My all or nothing personality has once again taken me from all to nothing.

The Swedish meatball love affair was good while it lasted. But like all torrid love affairs, it has fizzled out. Perhaps we, the meatball and I, with a little absence can get the magic back. Perhaps...

Thursday, September 10, 2009

A Student of LIfe

I attract interesting people over the age of 70, let's put it that way. Tonight, I had an hour long conversation with a former opera pianist who had some sort of an oracle who would tell her things were going to happen. The Oracle, she said, told her Barack Obama wouldn't be elected. Apparently it was one of the only times it was wrong.

She was also a student of Native American shamanism (again, are we detecting a theme here?) and needed me to write the names of my entire family so she could visualize stuff. She never got into much detail about the stuff but she was still holding the paper as I made my escape out into the night. Perhaps, next meeting.

Before this, she read my palm. She said, I had different gifts in special ways. She was tipped off by my apparent unique finger nails. Each one is different than the next. A very special trait. She had only seen a few like them in her 84 years. Then she told me she also exaggerated a lot.

Her name was Ann Marie and she seems to have lived a full life. Her English was impeccable and she had travelled the world with her craft. As farfetched as some of her ideas, she had a sharp mind at 84 and moved in and out of Swedish to English with ease.

Vanity, if she ever suffered from it, was a distant memory. She was attired in a mix matched ensemble of various colors and styles topped off with a black fedora. Long wispy grey strands hung down as she hung her head and smiled when she couldn't quite bring the English word she was looking for to her mind. Many times she would get stuck on an English word I would use and ask me to explain it's meaning. It was always the simple words--very, much. The larger, more complicated words she seemed to have no problem with.

She spoke 5 languages and had hoped to learn a sixth, Gaelic. However, the instructor had to cancel that class for a lack of interest. She was the only enrollment. At 84, it seems, she is still a student of life.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Koh Phangan

It is hard to say whether it is genuinely the best Thai food in the city but it must must be the as close to a genuine Thai experience as you are going to find just about anywhere outside of Thailand. Koh Phangan, located on the island of Sodermalm, serves up delicious Thai food in a jungle-like, eclectic Thai setting. This is an atmosphere chain restaurants try to emulate but never quite hit the mark.

It will take an hour or longer to be seated but it is every minute worth the wait. Tables consist of individual beach style huts, fishing shacks and private tables made from old tuk tuks. If the unique interior of bamboo and grass walls lit by only colorful strands of lights are not enough to make you feel like you could walk out into a steamy Thai beachfront evening then perhaps the piped in sounds of rainstorms and tropical fauna will.

When visiting make sure to pay attention to the details. Waterfalls, bridges and even a koi pond can be found inside. Thai trinkets, pictures of royalty and other kitschy items adorn the walls. Even the toilets add something of interest.

Stockholm is not short on choices for Thai eating. In fact you probably can not walk ten feet in any direction without hitting either a Thai restaurant or food stall of some variation. However, if you are limited to just one, let Koh Phangan be it.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Trash Talking

Initiative is doing the right thing without being told.
Victor Hugo

There was a steaming pile of dog shit sitting at the entrance of my building for, what, five days? Not really steaming after five days, I admit. Do you think anyone would stop and clean it up? People have come and gone all week, walked around it and carried on their way in and out of the building. Then a plastic bag was added to the mix, then some sort of wrapper. Soon a stroller ran through the poop and tracked it into the building.

OK, so no one touched the dog poop. Cleaned the hallway. But, the trash? Nah. There is an advertising agency downstairs, they couldn't be bothered despite the fact that it is their place of business. Then there was an open house for a flat upstairs. The agent came, hung up some flyers and taped open the doors.

Ya think he might have cleaned some of it up? He did clean up the hall, it appeared but the now growing pile of trash stood at the entrance. Finally, my husband came in, oblivious to my growing annoyance with it, and said, "They are having some kind of open house upstairs, I had to move that pile of crap that was in front of the door". That put an end to my experiment.

It leaves me wondering is it a city thing, a collectivist mindset thing or just that there happen to be a whole lot of lazy people living and working in this building. Probably a combination of all three.

Why didn't I, you probably ask. I wanted to but then I was amused and perplexed watching people walk in and out of the building and each time walking around the mess. Then I just got curious how long it would stay there.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Keys Please

Do you remember the last time you had some keys made? Remember what it cost you? Three bucks? I had to get some keys for my kids last year and they put them on some special little cartoon character keys. I think those cost me about $4 a piece.

Well, any brave soul wanna take a wager what two new keys will set you back in Stockholm? How about about $22. Yeah, not kidding. I almost had a coronary when he said it. 180 crowns.

No, no, old chap, you see -- I wanted ordinary house keys not the 22k gold keys. Not keys to the universe. Just ordinary keys.

Well, you say--perhaps he is the only game in town. Perhaps he has a monopoly on this key making business and he can set his price. Ha! Nice try. Every third store front, after the Turkish pizza places and after the hair cutting places is a key making place.

Then to further boggle my mind, I went down to get some coat hangers. You know, the plastic variety we buy 12 for a dollar sometimes 10 for a dollar. Try about $2.50 for three! Three!? I need, like, 300 hundred. So, I am looking at spending $200 on $20 worth of hangers. Are you frikking kidding me right now?

Thankfully, of the 16 boxes we shipped over here, one was a box of hangers. I knew from experience.

Americans really need to think loooonnng and hard about taxpayer funded *free* healthcare and cap and trade taxes. Long and hard.