Monday, January 29, 2007

I Took a Shower in Hope

Fellow blogger, ASCii artist and supportive friend who helps me fight insomnia, Danny Bowman, recently posted about a Brown Daily Herald article which explained the consequences of a water shutdown in Keeney Quadrangle. He was right to point out the inherent comedy in the image of hallways turned rivers of vomit. Since I read the article after reading his commentary, I knew what hilarity was ahead. As a result, even dry facts in the beginning of the article became funny. "Cold weather caused the pipe to crack, and a large rock located beneath the pipe caused it to rupture, said James Coen, director of maintenance services for Facilities Management. The pipe has been replaced by 12 feet of new pipe installed on top of clean fill to ensure that another rupture does not happen, Coen said." Ah yes, insurance against future ruptures. The article ends on a rather hopeful note, one that resonates with my current situation. "Despite the disturbance, most students found ways to deal with the shutdown. 'I just walked into a random frat house and looked around until I found a shower,' said Ethan Currens '10, who lives in Archibald House. 'I got some funny looks, but it was OK.'"

Friday night was my first night out in Copenhagen. We began at Den Glade Gris (The Happy Pig) for discounted international student drinks and appalling "grind dancing," as Ben called it. After the strobe light started to freeze my soul, we took off in search of a fabled karaoke bar. A reasonable walk along Stroget saw us to the doors of Sam's Place, a real goddamn karaoke bar. Filled with honest Danish folk taking their songs very seriously, we definitely stood out. A few strategic tables by the door eased our minds.

On Saturday I went on an alternative sightseeing tour of Copenhagen with our guide Lars. Lars is a big Danish man with longish black hair, a little gray by the temples. He is beautiful and married and works for a company called "CPH: cool". He took us to a few interesting pieces of architecture, dropping deconstructivist and Mies and other words like grapes to follow him by in the desert. Oh, Lars, you have me. The tour showed me some interesting sights to return to, like Copenhagen's smallest bookstore, adjacent to Copenhagen's smallest gallery and smallest coffee shop. And then also a little restaurant called Granola, tucked secretly away in an alley. The shop is modeled after a 1950s diner car, built by one of Denmark's premier set designers, and I could see the look of shame and dread on the patrons' faces when a bevy of backpacked Americans on a tour approached their treasured hang out, appearing poised to invade. But instead I went to Bang & Jenssen for the best breakfast ever.

Sunday saw my first successful accidental dinner party. I knew I wanted to have people over that night, so I texted the appropriate people in the morning and went about my usual routine of watching crap television, doing 8-12 crunches at a time, eating milk-soaked Weetabix and finishing half cups of tea. I got confirmation from a few and quickly returned to relaxing. Elizabeth gave me a call after lunch to ask if I wanted to find a nice coffee place to study. We agreed to meet one train stop over from our usual meeting place in the hopes of spicing things up. Frank also joined us and together we walked around Vesterbro looking for someplace open and inviting. We eventually settled in a Gelateria called Paradis and were the assholes who didn't order any gelatto. Instead, we purchased tea and coffee and I made a mess of all my coins. We chose a remote table by the window overlooking the rainy, steamy streets and I hit my head on the light above our table. Seriously, of all the places in the world in which I could have studied abroad, I had to choose maybe the only place that hangs its lights low enough for me to hit them.

At this point I've actually been in this apartment alone longer than I've lived in it with my roommate, who returns on Thursday. I'll be a bit sad to give up my unchecked reign on the sofa, but it will be nice to have someone around to exert social pressure on me not to take naps at 6pm and accidentally wake up 1am, completely rested and curious why the world isn't also up. To ward off loneliness this weekend, then, I organized the aforementioned dinner party. Elizabeth and Frank came home with me from the Gelateria and we chatted and watched YouTube while waiting for Kari. The dinner group was finally assembled so we started cooking right away. I had no idea what we were going to make out of the scraps for groceries I've been subsisting off of for days. We just dove into the pantry and fridge head first and hoped to come out alive. I must say that for an unplanned meal event, we pulled it together. Our table overflowed with pasta, Danish meatballs, sauce in a white gravy boat, sautéed green beans and carrots, a platter of salami, cheese and bread, and a platter of strawberries, grapes and bananas. I'm starting to be really happy here.

My friend Annemarie came a little late to the meal. She called during dinner to announce her arrival at my train stop and to ask for directions to my apartment. I gave her what I thought were good directions, but what actually instigated a game of lost and panicked. She called to describe her location, naming landmarks like the Shell station she was next to. I hadn't seen a Shell station in my neighborhood at the time and thought I must have directed her back to the States. Why couldn't her landmark have been something Danish, like a windmill or a pølser stand?

On Monday I got on the wrong train home. The sign informed me that the H train would arrive at Spår 3 in 3 minutes. Of course, the B train, which arrived in 1 minute, is the one I got on that took me to the wrong stop, Hellerup. I knew something was amiss when after my usual passage through Svanemøllen the landscape did not turn into rows of apartment complexes but into a neighborhood of big houses with lots of windows and red roofs. I got out of the train when I realized the mistake I'd made. Looking around, I noticed that I was in the middle of vast rows of train platforms, connected only through an underground tunnel. It felt a little like Animal Planet as I'd go under the earth to emerge on another platform, repeating the action until I made it to the right place. Don't let the first four letters of the name fool you; pulling out, the train passed by a muddy park with a row of empty strollers and I wondered if I'd just passed through heaven.

And then this morning on the train I had my headphones on and a lunch that I packed for myself in a plastic bag with a silver spoon for the yoghurt. I get to pass the north harbor on my way to class, see how close the clouds are and an office building named "Dong Energy". I had another music day where all earthly action collapsed into the song I listened to so that the two pigeons that walked for two blocks on either side of me were timed to the beat and everyone I passed on the street was mouthing Mama Cass, asking me to dream a little dream of them. On the ride home tonight I experienced actual Copenhagen rush hour. Everyone had to sit three to a seat and I was squished between a snorty old woman in a fur coat and a stern man in a trenchcoat reading the newspaper. Trained out of saying an American 'excuse me,' I silently gathered my things as we approached my stop and watched as the people around me coiled to let me pass.


Kevin Thomas Sparks said...

Here's the difference between you and me, Michelle:

Whereas I would see a building called "Dong Energy" and feel compelled to write an entire posting on the phrase "Dong Energy" and "Dong Energy" alone, you're content to simply acknowledge "Dong Energy" in passing, as if it were the most natural thing in the world along with clouds and pigeons.

I mean, seriously, "Dong Energy"--let's see a picture already.

dbow said...

I don't know, Kevin. I like how the glossing-over allows the mind to wander and drift with the phrase. "...see how close the clouds are and an office building named 'Dong Energy'."

[Wait...did she just say "Dong Energy"?!?... "Dong Energy"....... "Doooooooooong.....Ennnergy"]

"I had another music day where..."

Michelle Kirstin Snow said...


See, Kevin, by mentioning it in passing -- as natural a thing as pigeons or clouds -- I am merely depicting reality. The sign is unassuming. It is in a small font and placed not atop the building, but somewhere in the middle and to the left. It is made of brick. It is, simply, "Dong Energy". It doesn't want to be written about.

Perhaps your interest was piqued because you envisioned a palace with a sign eclipsing even the sun. I'm sorry to report that this is not the case. We are, after all, in a country called Denmark, and it would be against its very nature to parade its treasures.

Anyway, picture coming soon.

Kevin Thomas Sparks said...

Apparently my comment was completely misundersood.

Michelle Kirstin Snow said...

We cool?

Jackie Q said...

Is there something wrong with me if I have to struggle to read it as "Dong Energy" and not "Dong Entry"? I hope not.