Saturday, April 30, 2011

Valborg: The eve of May

So today is April 30th. Back home this is just another day. Here in Sweden it is a day, or night, of celebration. The eve of May is very exciting; Swedes and many other Europeans cultures celebrate the coming of spring with large bonfires, singing and dancing. I had not heard of this, and didn't realize how special it was. I nearly missed out completely, but I did manage to make it a bonfire here in Djursholm. In a small harbor on the Baltic Sea there was a small group surrounding the last of a once great bonfire that glows hot orange. The moonlight is reflecting on the glass still waters of the sea and a cool breeze blows the warmth of the fire to my face as I approach the group. Cold crisp air and the smell of a bonfire is intoxicating to me, it always has been. That feeling and smell now brings back so many memories of nights spent in the wilderness of the Southwest. The memories of all those nights I rested after a long day of building trail, muscles tired and achy, and stared up into the heavens at the vastness of space and dreamt of travel. Here I am now, in the midst of my adventure, my travel, at the edge of the Baltic Sea feeling the last few fleeting hours of the long Swedish winter upon my face and watching the fire and smoke dance in the shadows of the night. I stand, alone, not knowing anyone and observe. I hear a small group starting to sing a song I cannot understand, but it is a happy song. I stand beside a group of young guys speaking in Swedish and am now able to understand the jest of their conversation about "The Godfather”. Their Swedish is interspersed with English quotes from the movie, each trying their best Brando. To my right is a family of three roasting wieners on sticks and enjoying the night. A beautiful golden retriever bounces behind me, also excited by the night. I stand, taking it all in. The sea, the scene, and just how far I have come from what I know. I look up at the house in front of me as I walk away from the fire and see a Swedish flag blowing in the night. It is a shadow, colors indistinguishable, that dances with the smoke billowing past. Everything seems to be welcoming spring and the sunlight that has for months now been a loved one gone too long and the fireworks begin in the distance as a 21 cannon salute fires off from the Palace in Stockholm for the Kings 65th birthday. The Earth trembles from the sound of the cannons and the explosions of the fireworks. Valborg and the Kings celebration fill this eve of May with excitement and life. I breath in the smell of the fire in the night, take in the sound of the cannons and enjoy the coming of Spring.

Monday, April 11, 2011

White Shoes, White Hair and the Beauty of Stockholm

Stockholm is buzzing with the sounds of the first footsteps and chattering laughter of springtime. The sun is shining, and shining longer and longer each day. Swede's live for the sun and coming running out of the darkness of winter at a full sprint. Smiling people pour into the streets, soaking up the sun on the staircases of opera houses, museums and the docks of the canals. The restaurants and cafes have excitedly moved their seats outside in search of the sun, and found smiling faces to fill them.

With the ever warming days, Swede’s shed the restrictions of winter, ice and jackets and trade them in for white converse sneakers, and small H&M shopping bags filled with the first newly bought treasures of the season. To understand the aesthetic s of Stockholm you must set your minds to white and tight! White converse all-stars flood the streets marching like a million Swedish rabbits feet. These shoes can be found in the windows of many shops throughout the city and on the feet of the majority of Stockholmians of all ages and both sexes. The shoes rest below very tight jeans. Skin tight jeans and white sneakers are all the rage. This is all accented by the correct stereotype of Swedish blonde hair. The electric blonde may be dyed but it still is true that the streets of Stockholm are packed with tall blonde beautiful people. Fashion is king in Sweden and it isn’t just for women or a select few with taste. Swedes take pride in health and a clean well-manicured appearance. This makes for a picture of beauty from both men and women. The surrounding beauty of the old city and modest streamlined Swedish design help to create this façade of beauty.

The sound of seagulls overhead and the sea below create a nice soundtrack to the setting of the sun just behind the palace. This city resting on the islands of the archipelago burns with

the majestic glow of the setting sun coming to life in the fire. The shadows dance on the rooftops of cathedrals and the lights of the city begin their illuminating glow on the water and sidewalks of the night. The sounds of the evening begin to rise high as the sun sinks lower. The smell of the sea rises from the water and with it brings the familiar feeling of the birth of a new beginning, a new season. Stockholm is a small city but is large with captivating beauty and thirst for life. The magical spell that Stockholm’s beauty casts will resonate.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Copenhagen Fiasco-

The alarm comes smashing through the silence of 4 am like a branch through a window from the wind. I awaken to the stinging eyes of “too early” and the hurried anxious feeling when getting ready for an early morning flight. Quickly I splash water onto my face, make a peanut butter rescue sandwich and eat a hearty bowl of multi-grain rice crispies. These details are important because they will prove to be some of the highlights on an otherwise very overcast day, both figuratively and literally. Slide into my boots and open the door to the still dark and raining cold of the morning and see the red devil eyes of the taxi in the driveway. We step in, and we are off. This ride will prove to be the first gnawing ants of my day. Nothing too disappointing, but I receive some critiques of my job performance and some requests to change some things. This is to be expected and I am ok with the idea of getting critiques and the idea that I will mess things up from time to time. It is early, and there are multiple things to be discussed. It is slightly disheartening. I can have little complaint though because I will mess things up, and I will do things differently.

We arrive to the airport, sit and wait and share a pleasant conversation in which I realize that all men no matter the age, citizenship, or class have at least small wonder boyhood playfulness. I feel as though that all men, and the imagination of our childhood, have something they wish they will do one day. We share a conversation about flying. The adventurous conquering of freedom that comes with taking to the air. I remember lying on a trampoline as a boy and watching the jets leave the streaks across the heavens and whishing it were me. I would dream about flying with the freedom to choose where I could make my great escape and the Indiana Jonesian adventures it would allow. No surprise, if you know me, Top Gun played a big part in my dreaming and my fashion. I wish I still had that bomber jacket and aviators I was wearing on my 3rd birthday, or at least the picture.

I board the plane and take my middle seat, squeezed in tight between a lady and a very tall man that looks like Keith Moon. The flight is smooth and quick and I land in Copenhagen at 7:30 AM. I leave the airport by metro and proceed to a coffee shop to have a coffee and waste some time before I go to pick up my visa. I stop by a Baresso coffee shop at the end of a very long canal filled with large ships. I love canals, especially here in Europe where all the ships look a little older and fill me with the desire to sail the seven seas. I have my coffee and stare out to the ships and dream of being Sinbad, not he awesome comedian, but the adventurer. I realize between my longing to be Indiana Jones and Sinbad and my affinity towards movies like the Goonies and books by Clive Cussler and Jules Vern that I have always wanted to be an adventurer. I easily get my visa and now have something to add to my collection of country stamps in my passport. It solidifies my latest adventure.

That was all nice, the day itself was pleasant. I wandered the streets of Copenhagen the best I could against strong forceful wind. I wind my way down cobblestoned streets and through high bushed gardens by the sea. I walk through an immense courtyard surrounded by buildings that in the overcast grey of the early day look even more majestic and ancient. Walks like these transport me to a place without time but before this time. A place where I am not a man in the street but a warrior or king standing in the courtyard of my palace. I take in the sea breeze upon my face and let my mind fill with these fantastical imaginations where I am not just myself but I am the adventurer in a time of adventure. I continue to walk and snake my way through the city, popping on busses and metros and trying to see everything.

I still have a few hours to waste and I am finding myself tired of walking and tired of being awake. After spending some time at a café and finding some comfort food of a McDonald’s cheeseburger I make my way back to the Airport. After some time I find my gate and begin the wait for my flight. This will prove to be the start of a lot of waiting, sweating, and frustration that will get the better of me. My flight has been delayed from 9 until 10. This would have put me in Stockholm at 11 and home around 12. I was tired and already unhappy with this discovery but it did allow me to revisit some of the things I am writing. I edited and wrote a little more on Bananie Annie. It is a children’s adventure book I am writing. It chronicles a young girl and her rainy day adventures in which she travels the world and finds herself rescuing princes, and saving kingdoms all with a little help from her stuffed lion friend that magically comes to life to help. In her first adventure she travels to the land of Londexi, where the evil Queen Kelley Bell has cast the kingdom into darkness and cold in exchange for youthful beauty and power. Annie must rescue the rightful Prince Dastion to return order and sunlight to the many creature of Londexi. So, at least the wait allowed me to continue that story along with some editing of a movie I have been writing for a while. The hour delay has come and passed and now we are informed that there has been a baggage union strike and the wait is indefinite.

Indefinite until 10:30 when the flight is cancelled and we are told to head to the SAS transfer center to get booked for tomorrow. I hurriedly head in that direction to find myself in a sea of 1,000 plus passengers all stranded. It will become a true airport nightmare. I take my cue number 1,136 and notice on the screen that we are at number 505. Shit. I find a seat and wait in a smaller room just behind the main crowd of people. In this room I hear stories of how this will affect business meetings and all other types of travel tragedies. One couple will now miss their flight in Amsterdam and Barcelona and then home to the States. This will be a total loss of already purchased tickets and now it will cost about 3,000 dollars to get them home. SAS will not help or pay because it is not affiliated with SAS airlines. This is why people hate airlines and unions. Luckily my travel nightmare is just because I have been awake for 24 hrs. and walking all day. Still, I wait and wait. I wait as people get angry, sad and then finally around 2 AM sleepy. People leave and book their own flights most stay and let SAS book our hotels and next flight. I stay, until 3:40AM. I hate everything by this point. I find an open window and get my ticket for the next day and a voucher for a cab and hotel and one for 75 Kroner for food from the 711, no drinks of course. After six hours of waiting on top of 14hrs of day I just spent in Copenhagen I am very tired and smell like a sack of butts. A well-dressed sack of butts that is about to keel over.

I get to the Cabinn Inn hotel. It is nice and has a very Nordic design. Sleek and elegant with no wasted space. I check in and head to my room. I enter the room and cannot get the lights to come on. Great, I thought, just what I needed. I grab the phone, propping the door open with my foot for light, and call down to tell about the no lights. “Did you put your room card in the slot on the wall?” she asks. I just think to myself “Hell no. What the !!??” and then I see it and enter my card and there was light and it was good. I then notice the room is decorated in my favorite shade of blue, there is a TV and a shower but all I care about is the bed. I hop in and find that my one hour nap on the airport chair will give me just enough of a second wind to make falling asleep difficult. Yet I do, and I wake up later that day and head back to the airport. I grab some snacks with my voucher and sneak in a Coke and head to my gate. Finally I will get back to Stockholm. I arrive to my gate to find that this flight will be delayed. An hours and a half after my scheduled time we depart and I am on my way. The flight is ok but I feel a little left out. The open mouth breather behind me must have been given a shit sandwich just before takeoff. I was offered no such shit sandwich but I would get to smell open mouths the whole flight. Yay. I land in Stockholm and, after walking the length of the Airport twice in attempts to find the exit, leave and grab a taxi. I get back to Djursholm and try to leave the past 24hrs behind me.

None of what went wrong was that bad for me I just had to wait forever and was tired. I was lucky compared to most that were stranded. I did get to see Copenhagen in a new light, write some more and observe people in the airport, which I like. All in all it was a stubbed toe of a day filled with frustration and mumbled cursing under my breath. It could have been a broken arm of day or a cancerous sucking pit of airport horror. I am lucky and although upset still love the Adventure.