Friday, March 16, 2007

Monday, March 12, 2007

Two more things that have nothing to do with one another *


These attempts at setting herself free were futile. She sank back into the dreams of her girlhood, but with the difference that now they were no longer illumined by hope. Moreover, she had learned that they were only dreams -- distant, illusive dreams, which no longing in the world could ever draw down to her earth. When she abandoned herself to them now, it was with a sense of weariness, while an accusing inner voice told her that she was like the drunkard who knows that his passion is destroying him, that every debauch means strength taken from his weakness and added to the power of his desire. But the voice sounded in vain, for a life soberly lived, without the fair vice of dreams, was no life at all -- life had exactly the value that dreams gave it and no more.

BowmAn244: I skipped class
BowmAn244: she was going to sleep so we stayed on the line as she drifted off
BowmAn244: and i looked at the clock and was like 'this > class'

*An essential theorem of crushulus: What is impossible sometimes is possible at other times.

A day in Helsingør to see Kronberg (Hamlet's) Castle, after remarking that the only thing in the world I needed was to swing on a swing

You can see Sweden!


Sunday, March 11, 2007

The Modern Breakthrough

We were under a small tunnel to the school that Søren Kierkegaard attended when a woman told us that Kierkegaard left Copenhagen for a bit because he thought it an irredeemably mediocre city. He wasn’t alone; even the famous Scandinavian playwrights it claims to have adopted into its publishing capital agreed on the point of its banality. I became defensive. Having chosen to spend a significant portion of my college career here I wanted to hear its greatest artists and thinkers singing its praises. I never expected them to be among the city's most ardent detractors, among those itching to get out.

Despite myself, some thoughts started to come into place: the greatest achievements of Danishness we learn about in our classes are dated by at least 100 years; other cities claim top honors in fashion, food, art, literature; Copenhagen is dirty despite its luster; graffiti is common, but never striking or poignant; there are no stunning vistas, no natural wonders and a climb to the fifth floor of any building will grant you a view of the entire city, where in the absence of skyscrapers you learn to appreciate copper roofs and the handful or so spires that punctuate the otherwise quaint or industrial view.

And then it hit me: Copenhagen is small. The tunnel we were in was about 20 feet long. The walls were painted white, broken only by a simple glass door. On the other side of the tunnel was a small stone driveway-turned-courtyard surrounded by the offices for the country's most prestigious publishing company. The building took three floors before it stopped, content. The lamps that lit the area were round and dim yellow. In the book shop the clerks had stopped their work to stare at our group. I looked up into the windows of the office and people dressed in black were walking around. Some typed at computers. There are thousands of little nooks like this in the city. Even when I've entered a church here to be stunned, it's only in comparison to the rest of the places I go. The controversial new opera house is despised for its aspiring to something more than itself. It sits proudly across the canal from Amelienborg castle, a big globe with shimmering chandeliers, but you can't help but feel somehow estranged from the rest of the city: it's simply too big, therefore disowned. A big hollowed out church, then, is the closest we come to grandeur, but Sundays come and go and the pews remain mostly empty.

Are the Danes at home in their cribs and nests? Are they too busy lighting candles and renovating their samtalekøkker (conversation kitchens) for their weekly dinner gatherings to go out and build something big? Are they so secure in their serially monogamous relationships, their carefully planned networks of friends, that they don't want to meet me who is also small, who has also stopped going to church, who also lights candles and plans dinners, who also has never built anything big, who also does not want to meet them, but hates that I don't want to meet them and so wonders why no one is meeting anyone?

There is a new ad campaign everywhere on Copenhagen transportation. It's a bright green sign with big bubble letters saying KOM HJEM!. My friend Iva tells me that the campaign is intended to persuade people from Jutland, the peninsular part of Denmark, to leave Copenhagen and come home to their native region. In effect, they're imploring these prodigal people to fill up jobs, soothing them into coming back away from the anxiety of the city to the place 'where they belong.' It's a maternal nudge and a disturbing one. In my head, these people from Jutland walk around distinct from the native urbanites because they're lost.

If they're anything like me, they're mesmerized. This city that manages to be by turns continental and northern has something about it in the spring, I don't care how that sounds. My body doesn’t know how to react to the sudden sunlight and warmth. It stares wide-eyed in confusion at blue skies, mouth gaping at blooming purple weeds, ears in awe of birds chirping outside my window. I can’t even think to take pictures, I just want to deflate and lie on the dry sidewalk.

Copenhagen reacts naturally while the sun assembles outdoor tables under Tuborg umbrellas. Boots go on sale and sandals emerge, god-expensive. A man plants an upholstered upright piano across from the Post Office Museum on Købmagergade and begins playing a vague tune. The top half of an androgynous mannequin wearing a t-shirt and a hat, some Danes, me and my friends, are his audience.

In the botanical gardens yesterday with Elizabeth and her friend Christy I drank Easter-themed beer in cans with yellow chicks painted on them saying “kylle kylle”. We walked through the greenhouses and my camera fogged over. Today it is sunny again. Today, when the ducks paddle around the lake asking for bread, you give it to them.

My flatmate, Elizabeth, baked again this morning: more chocolate muffins and rosemary bread. When the items have cooled, she puts them in a transparent blue plastic bag, pushes the air out, and ties the ends together, to simulate their natural environment.

At the Royal Theatre to see a double bill of 'The Private Lesson' and 'La Sylphide' I am struck by two things. First, I am struck by the iconic pose of the Sylphide. Second, that I do not hate the miming. She is a fantastical creature. She is unattainable. Those who try for contact are doomed. And so her avatar is diminutive, her arms elegantly crossed over her chest, the forearms parallel, the hands floating on opposite ends like wings. Her torso is turned away from you, but her neck bends gracefully back, her face full of longing, her eyes sad. She is wearing a long bell skirt and she is always well lit. All the characters on stage who mime the plot look beautiful. There is lots of pointing at their hearts and nodding their heads yes or no.

So much has happened here between commutes, crises and whispers. I've taken to calling my parents everyday. I've gone on psychadelic voyages with Frank every Monday and Thursday in our literature class. I eat Thai Cock Kok take-out at Elizabeth's apartment while watching drunk Diddy scream "WINNEBAGO" on Making the Video, Britney Spears wearing a hat that says "CARPE ASSÜM", and Nick & Jay's I Love Ya video a billion times. I've learned an essential lesson from my time obsessing over 24: If you stop at an intersection and a suspicious-looking vehicle does something suspicious, the person you are looking for is probably in that vehicle. Once I fell asleep reading a packet for my media class and when I woke up it was torn apart with the pages sliding like tectonic plates under my body. I've laughed so hard at the internet. I've found hands to put my handshake in. I've made travel plans. I saw Aberfeldy and danced so hard. I turned 21. I thought about writing a year in review, but then seeing as my entire life is a year in review, I didn't risk redundancy. I took more blurry pictures.

I went to Christiania a few weeks ago. We walked through most of it, looking at the makeshift architecture. The walk was pretty standard as far as walks in Copenhagen go: it was quiet and thoughtful. Turning corners I'd hold my breath, preparing for it to be taken away, wondering what I'd see. It would always be just nice, a sigh-worthy view. One doesn't gasp here; one breathes. One is charmed, not seduced.

I've had my breath taken away once in my two months abroad. I was on a short study tour in Odense on the island of Fyn, the birthplace of H.C. Andersen. It was our first night of the trip and a bunch of us went to a bar after a filling buffet. I expanded my tummy by about three sizes when I managed to finish the final delicious plate of the meal: pancakes with ice cream. I was too busy digesting to think about drinking, so I sat at our table and looked out. One of the boys with us struck up a conversation with a man at the bar who turned out to be a scholar in racism. Two went to play pool. There were three of us left and we chatted. A strange man kept poking his head out from behind a wall for a separate area of the bar. After doing this a few times, he started to emerge in full body, bending his knees to the music like he had a dump in his diaper. He'd grin at us and then go back to his cove, emerging every few minutes or so to repeat the gesture. The last couple of times he brought his lighter with him, which he had switched to the torch setting. He'd light it and smile at the tall flame, looking at us, still smiling. We were a little creeped, but also a little giggly. My friend was feeling adventurous so she went over and talked to him. The only message she brought back with her was a question: "Why do Americans think I'm the enemy?"

That's not what took my breath away. A few hours later we were wandering through the dark, abandoned town, tired and chatty, headed for our hostel. My friends thought it would be funny to give each other flat tires. Then it became funny to trip one another. I walked along, exempt from these games, laughing at their shouting. All of a sudden I felt an arm move around my waist, grabbing me and pulling me back into someone warm and strong. He picked me up and waved me through the air, twisting my clothes and making me scream before placing me back on the ground. I don't know if that could have felt like it did if Copenhagen had an Eiffel Tower.

Photo Suppository Part TWO

Justin made me easily one of the top three birthday cards I've ever received.

Headline news.

Pre-blizzard Kongens Nytorv.


Kongens Nytorv, post-theatre.

Best window.

Everyone loves a good loaf.

A wall of paintings at Statens.

The other wall.

Did I?

Nick or Jay? I can't tell.

House of cards.






Easter beer!

Botanisk have.

Purple flowers. :)

Photo Suppository Part ONE

Brandts Museum for Kunst

A street scene. Twice removed.


Kids in a castle in the clouds. The castle walls had telephones bolted to them.

The march of death in Veyen.

A man by the sea in Esbjerg.

A street in Ribe.


Behind my future home in Ribe.

Ribe Dom Kirke.

Cryptic, quasi-pagan modern art inside.

View from bus ride home.

Sunday, March 4, 2007


In a country with 99 words for “overcast,” it only takes one sunny day to triple the population. With the people comes the trash and I spent the greater part of this weekend sidestepping litter and holding my nose. I guess people don’t shower when they hibernate and I hear turtlenecks can be ovens for baked odor. The blizzard that shut down the city over my birthday weekend made possible some late night adventures, some spectacular snow scenes and some fist shaking at public transportation. Between gangrenous toes and trains of little children in one-piece snowsuits with muddy bottoms, I was beginning to think that the descent of winter was a permanent one. And then on Wednesday we had our first glimpse of sun, which is to say a crack in the clouds. This morning I woke up at 8am to blue skies and the sensation of actual sunlight hitting the objects in my room. And the color! The streets may be stained with salt, but boy does this city know how to sparkle.

I got to experience this sparkle from the top of the city’s famous Round Tower. 25;- got me a ticket up the winding ramp to the top, but the journey wasn’t that easy. To begin with, I had to peel myself out of bed at 3:30pm when my friend Elizabeth presented me with the option of actually waking up and experiencing the day. You see, previous to her call I had been lying in bed watching episodes of 24 nonstop. I was completely horizontal, my nightgown all crooked and bunched, my headphones melting into the sides of my head, and I was drooling out the side of my mouth. My laptop was perched on the desk chair next to the bed and a growing pile of dishes and crumpled napkins told the story of my descent into the Kiefer haze like the rings of a tree. What I’m saying is Elizabeth saved my life.

This morning I was experiencing what I call a road trip mood. Not in the sense that I was craving a road trip (though I certainly wouldn’t turn down the offer were I was shown car keys, some boxes of Special K, mix tapes and an open door), but more like the feeling you get when you’re on a road trip and you’re staring frozen out the window. It’s a mix of nostalgia, restlessness, longing and wonder. And all of it is vague. What’s frustrating about a road trip mood when you’re disheveled in bed is that you’re not going anywhere and the functionality of your muscles is questionable. So is the functionality of that mechanism in your brain that says enough is enough.

So I got up when Elizabeth called. I didn’t have time for a full shower, but I washed my hair and face in the sink, brushed my teeth, put on some new clothes. Walking outside without mud, slush and ice on the sidewalk is motivation enough to keep going, so I hit a stride pretty soon and went with it. I was picking up momentum walking down my street. I passed other people and I raced them, taking big strides and staying focused. I tried to walk all day like that, with rockets on my shoes.

I know it’s been three weeks. Here are some of the more legitimate of the many obstacles to a proper update:

1. I have a paper for my ballet class due on Tuesday.
2. I have an oral and written midterm in my Danish class on Monday and Tuesday.
3. I have seven more episodes of 24 to go.

Once the gridlock of those obligations breaks up, I’ll be back on. If you don’t hear from me in the next 48 hours -- and I’m talking a full text and photo update of my life in the last three weeks -- call Jack Bauer.