Last Wednesday I traveled with my "European News Media in Transition" class to the temporary headquarters of Berlingske Tidende, the oldest newspaper in Denmark. Our group entered the building and was taken into the cafeteria for our coffee talk. Accomplished Danish journalists dined alongside us. In my smart jacket and boots I fancied myself indistinguishable from the youthful, saavy regulars, but I was promptly put in my place when our host, Michael, politely informed us that we were not permitted to partake in the buffet. As soon as he said that, the colors and smells of the gourmet spread turned to high definition and I felt myself an Oliver in an orphanage, red-nosed and bottomlessly hungry. I asked some dumb questions about fact-checking and drooled myself two inches shorter in the quiet hum of the newsroom. I was disappointed that we didn't get to tour the archives, that branch of the human paper trail, but elated to be near people who wholeheartedly believe in the value of print and get deeply sad at the sight of a page three ad. Anyway, the free coffee was bountiful and Michael was so very handsome.
I guess I like my classes. Besides Intensive Danish and the aforementioned News Media class I'm taking Modern Scandinavian Literature and History of European Ballet. It's not that I don't enjoy going to class, it's just that in the last year or so I've realized just how much I've checked out of the classroom, how uninterested I've become in classroom procedure. I'm that butt in the second row sweating with a comment that never gets said. For me the space of thought is a sleepless bed and a train ride, places where I can word out praise, plan my next dinner party, leave my understanding of texts at the level of intuition and wonder, in light of recent weddings, if I was ever meant to be a young wife. Who thinks these things that isn't awake, in flames and in transit?
Saturday night I went to Det Kongelige Teater for a production of Svanesøen. The whole evening was beautiful from start to finish. My entire ballet class occupied the third row of the second balcony. High up, but there are no bad seats at the ballet. Everytime I go to some enlightening cultural event I get angry at my parents for not forcing me to be talented. In kindergarten I quit ballet after, I think, two months, and quit pretty much everything else I tried after that, from soccer to flute. When I have kids I am going to subscribe to a school of parenting that spawns a Lifetime movie about abusive gymnastics coaches and the slippery slope of discipline. But these thoughts only last a few seconds and the rest of the time I use my energy on being inspired. During Swan Lake I sat and wondered if only all stages of love could be denoted by the harp and why only the most beautiful things make you feel the loneliest.
I think the world runs on magnets. On Friday night I went out dancing with friends of mine. I wore a treasured necklace with something flowy that felt heavenly against my skin. We walked all over the city center looking for our nightclub destination and finally found it. We stumbled in just in time to catch the last part of a popular band's set. The act was some sort of Danish reggae outfit and the crowd was really into it. We slipped to the balcony and watched the men in neon jumpsuits from above. After they cleared the stage, Vega turned into the promised night club. Strobe lights and lasers took over, along with some positively boring house music. Three of us tried to dance but were discouraged first by the lack of other dancers and then by the occasional swarm of eager goons zeroing in on our circle. Since we were tired of dancing in an airtight triangle and the struggle not to make eye contact at any cost, we pooped out after a while and resigned to the smokey, well-lit bar. This gave me a chance to catch my breath, whip out my camera and take a look around at the buzzed and buzzing club-goers. I saw fresh, fun 'n flirty girls like swans talking to well-groomed (or not well-groomed) men. I saw people making out and older men like sharks at the bar, sensing prey and promising they're not creeps. I saw the people who look, the people who look back, the people who keep looking and looking back and the people who get up and walk over. I saw attraction and repulsion in layers and second thoughts. They all looked like gaping question marks. I guess it takes one to know one.
Generally what separates me from their questions is that they go to places like that to ask their questions and I stay home. Their Denmark is questions asked like strobe lights and lasers and my Denmark is whole plain yoghurt and candles and checking my e-mail. But on Friday night I was out there and the extra shimmer on my eyelids gave away that I was asking some questions of my own. I received a familiar answer. I think everyone wants to believe in the power of their own magnetism.