Monday, February 22, 2010

Sometimes the Clothes Do Make the Man

In the NUDE, all that is not beautiful is obscene.
Robert Bresson

Um, yeah, gotta agree with that one. There are definite stereotypes regarding the American comfort level with nudity and the European comfort level with nudity. If my gym locker room is the barometer of truth regarding that idea, the arrow is pointing way into the the truth side. I do not have a problem with nudity. It is just, as with everything else, I have strict parameters of people who should actually have the desire to walk around nude. It basically limits that pool of people to about two percent of the population.

In summary, people who shouldn't subject us to their nudity:

1. Anyone over 50

2. Anyone who does not routinely groom their pubic hair. (from my observations at the gym this pretty much leaves most European women out)

3. Anyone whose breasts are at the same level as their knees

4. Anyone who is just badly proportioned

Now, before I get the angry messages and emails, I am not saying anyone fitting the above criteria is less of a person. I am just saying, we need to know our limitations. It is healthy. And it's healthier for my burning eyes.

This morning at the gym was disturbing to say the least. I am pretty much used to turning around to have some woman's unshaved 1970s muff in my face as she reaches to get into her locker over me and the 15 person long line of naked women waiting to get into the showers barely causes me a pause anymore. I am growing. Just like you could count on that one country bumpkin from fly over they used to cast on the Real World every season to do. Today, though, it set me back. Set me way back; far, far, far back.

I am sitting on a step in the locker room eating my granola bar and listening to Von Mises as I do so many mornings, when she comes up. She says something to me in Swedish that I can only vaguely make out as needing to get into her locker that my bag is blocking. Then I make out something she says about a table and I assume she is saying something in reference to me eating on the stoop. Whatever, I think, and I go back to the world of the Lost 17 Years and the Japanese economic condition. Then she starts.

Madly she begins taking off her clothes. She takes out what appears to be a Tupperware kind of container with what looks to be water and a wash cloth. I am really trying hard not to watch but she is a mere three feet from me. Next thing I notice, she has one foot propped up on the bench and she begins dipping the washcloth into the water and washing her, having never seen a razor, crotch. In earnest. It's getting hard to finish the granola bar at this point because the area isn't exactly smelling like roses, if you catch my drift.

As I begin to pack up my stuff, she starts dressing. She gets dressed from the waste up. She's commando from the waste down. She begins assembling what I presume is her breakfast. She's bending and squatting and preparing it all in her little two feet of space. Is she airing out, I wonder? Why doesn't she just put on some frikking underwear, I think as she is squatting down, one knee at ten o'clock the other at about two? I am just thankful she was facing the lockers.

Out comes what appears to be an empty paper towel roll which she has inserted a piece of Tunnbröd, a sort of Swedish flatbread, a bit like a tortilla. Pretty ingenious I think, which led me into wondering if there was a market for some sort of portable plastic Tunnesbröd carrying product I could develop and sell. Then she takes out a, mostly empty, tube of something greyish, brownish and epoxy like. Just nasty. I do not know what it was. Food in a tube is just wrong on a lot of different levels.

Whatever it was, it could have been some cheap caviar product or a flavored cheese, she begins again frantically rolling it like an old toothpaste tube to get the remnants out of it onto her bread. Mind you, she's still wearing nothing from the waste down. And from my vantage, she really is not taking that into consideration.

At this point, as she was getting her rice milk out of the bag, I got up to leave. The show was over, for me anyway. The other girl in the area with a big Australian flag towel covering her body as she applied her mascara, looked through the mirror at me as we both rolled our eyes in a knowing kinship of shared understanding.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, Movies and Flowers

Since I spend a healthy portion of my writing railing on (and on and on and on) about how expensive everything is in Sweden, I figured I would rack my brain and give a few examples of things that are actually a good value here. It is true that things are commonly two times, but often three, four or more times, as costly than in the States but occasionally there is a rare something that is not.

Not to fear, we have our own set of economic illiterates in charge hoping to destroy our standard of living as well. They are doing a might good job of it too, I might add.

So, here we go:

Dried Spices: For whatever reason, you can buy just about any dried spice for about the equivalent of two dollars. It is, many times, twice that in the US.

Fresh Herbs: Ditto. And they come in little pots so I guess if you are the green thumbed kind of sort you can "grow" them. Having a black thumb, I have never actually had any success with this endeavor.

Fresh Flowers: You can buy a gorgeous, big bouquet of fresh flowers for the equivalent of ten dollars. Even less sometimes. I shudder to think what they would cost in the US. Generally, a half dead bouquet of varying degrees of not so pretty flowers from the grocery store will run you $10.

Movie Rentals: You can rent 3 new releases for about the equivalent of $12. I think they average around $5 a rental in the US.

Bear in mind, I am basing this on my rate of 7.9SEK to the dollar. The currencies are doing a bit of jostling at the moment in favor of the US dollar as the Euro heads into the abyss, hopefully not taking the Swedish Krona with it.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Fabulous and Poor

Looking forward to a March ski trip to Klappen it dawned on me that none of us have any ski clothes. Faced with the idea of buying new ski clothes, that I'll likely use once or twice, at Swedish prices I was less enthused. Ironically, the quarterly newsletter I received from our relocation service had an ad for a second hand winter sports apparel shop.

I would have never found it left to my own devices. I had already asked the good folks at if they knew of any place and this store was not among the places they told me about. That was probably owing to the fact that it only recently opened for business in October. It is a little, really little, out of the way shop located on an off street in Kungsholmen. (Bergsgatan 18, tbana/Radhuset). In there you'll find everything you could need for skiing or snowboarding, quality stuff and only in good conditions, at relatively decent prices. For the price of one new pair of ski pants, I got three.

It is called Fabulous and Poor. You can visit their website at Cash only, no debit or credit cards.