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Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Observing Sweden - Christmas Eve at son-in-law's house

A time for presents here. The most surprising gift I received was a can of Surströmmings Filéer, something you eat . . . or maybe not.


When I began to open the can people started screaming, “No! Not in the house!”
It seems this stuff has a bit of an odor. One of the relatives opened a can in his apartment and was evicted the following day. True story. You are supposed to eat it outdoors. “Some people don’t like it,” I was told. “Norrlanders (Northern Sweden) love it,” they said, and suggested breaking a cigarette into two parts and sticking the halves up my nose. “That will help.” 

The English translation for this delicacy is posted in Google as: Fermented Herring. 
I can’t wait.

My second surprise of the evening was being turned on to, The Swedish Elvis – Eilert Pilarm. If you do not already own a collection of his work I strongly suggest you give a listen to his interpretation of Jail House Rock. I guarantee you have never heard anything like it.
He can be found on Youtube.

Ahhh, these Swedes.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Christmas Kats


               “You’d better start believing,  Amber. Pretty soon it’s going to be too late.”
               “You’re tripping, Bucks.” (He’s so naive.)

Monday, December 9, 2013

Christmas Kat


Now Christmas is only a few weeks away
I’m hoping for katnip without much delay
This furry face man In the red coat is cool
I’m hoping you get what you wanted this Yule.

He travels the U.S and Europe I know
Does his sled have spare wheels if there isn’t much snow?
Santa flies through the air on a sled made of wood
With a GPS guide to find your neighborhood.
Let’s hope he’s on time when he’s passing through Sweden
And all of us get the things we are needin.’
          With all my furry love,

Thursday, December 5, 2013

White Stuff


The green has all gone
It’s turned white outside
And my coat’s warm enough
For a nice winter ride.
Here’s new information
That you might be needin’
The angels have dandruff
The ones here in Sweden.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Observing Sweden - Rat Attack

We’re having a rat attack here after Borlänge stopped dumping at one of the landfills. Hungry rats are on the move. Our neighbors say they're probably Norwegian. The city is paying a company $6,800 to distribute rat traps over a mile square area every two months.
. . . . .
  I could take care of this problem in a week. But will they let me go out?
                                    “No Bucks, it’s too dangerous.”
                                    “It’s too cold, Bucky.”
                                    “You might get catnapped.”
  Humans! You can’t live with ‘em and you can’t live without ‘em.

The Jaws of Death

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Observing Sweden - Weather Report - November

Frost 6666                                 
              Sunday morning – Sweden

Late November Sunday morning – Sweden
Sun comes . . . straight at me
Parallel above the frosted yards
This momentary blinding light
Spears through my window.
Never  seen the sun like this
Stays horizontal . . . hovering
It circles the horizon 
Passing by, not passing over
Sometimes hard blue skies
Above what is already arctic cold
The air so fresh and clear
It almost hurts to breath
Exhilarating if it doesn’t kill you
This is only the beginning here
Soon snow will fall
It will get colder
I look forward to it.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Oberving Sweden - Americans Part 2

Our 9th Month in Sweden:

            I think Swedes tend to see America as more affluent, an aspired to state of being where people are slightly better off. Things are expensive in Sweden. Gas is seven dollars a gallon, and a pair of 501 Levis sell for a hundred fifty. Americans have more space, bigger houses and more stuff, bigger stuff. Maybe that’s why Swedish Hollywood Wives is doing so well. It's the Swedish-American fantasy fulfilled; these totally insane ex movie stairs, and others quite well married, are all Swedish. They are in America, in Hollywood, and lap dog rich. These women have achieved the fantasy, a shallow glamor world where they bask in hysterical luxury. This just-over-the-hill gang, posing as a reality show, are filmed and highly paid to act stupid. I've been doing it for free all these years, but whatever.

We are half way through November now. The sun does not rise. It hovers, skirting around the horizon, as if in order to avoid Sweden. By four thirty it’s totally dark. The cost of electrical power will go up over the winter months—also expensive.

Health care seems adequate so far, and very inexpensive. The doctors and dentists have nice equipment, up to date, and adequate. If you were to write a description of what a doctor’s office should have, and what it would properly look like, these offices would be correct. I miss my dentist in Seattle. His office was like rocket science with computers, movies on the ceiling . . . cutting edge equipment. X-rays were displayed as they were taken on a large computer screen. My dentist here commented on his skill. “Your caps caps look very nice, excellent work.”

            My Seattle dentist was expensive. He would not take my dental insurance. They were arguing with him about the high fees he was charging patients. He had three dental chairs that looked like they came out of a space station. One was used by two alternating hygienists. It took a couple months to get an appointment, unless it was an emergency. It’s about the same wait here. It takes longer to see a doctor in Sweden, but the amazing thing is once you appear at the office, you are not kept waiting 
. . . ever. Admittance is easy, brief. You pay a ten dollar fee, then follow a colored line to a cluster of comfortable seats. In less than five minutes, doctor comes out to meet you. A doctor appointment that happens exactly on time?  For my experience, this is amazing.
*         *         *
Gym Photo            
 I’ve been going to a gym here, and exposed to music, radio, and tapes, while working out. A new experience, both gym and the music. Today I heard something called, “We don’t live in America, and we’re not sorry.” I think it was rock and roll, or maybe heavy metal . . . something. I can’t help but wonder if the lyrics are protesting Swedish admiration of America? Am I not sorry I’m not living in America?

            I wasn’t happy to leave, and not really sad about it. There was so much going on while packing up, and not to much to think. There are things I miss: familiarity, an understanding of the law, convenience of a common language, knowing where to look for things. A cognitive map. I’m no longer sure which way is north. I’m sure I’ll miss the West Coast weather, not so much Seattle’s rain. The winter here's a bitch, they say, but I’m still looking forward to it. Wife says I’ll soon change my mind. I miss a kind of wild-west way of being, not so easy to describe. I miss my guns.

Why would anyone want to go to a gym, Amber? I don’t get it.
They’re human, Bucks. Who knows? I notice you’ve putting on a little weight.
It’s fur, not fat.
Whatever. Hmm . . . This bag smells kind of interesting.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Observing Sweden - Americans Part 1


Americans are popular on Swedish television. We are fun to watch. There’s a group of us on one of the most popular reality shows, Allt För Sverige. The contestants have come to Sweden to discover their roots. One of them is eliminated each week. The one left standing will get to spend some days with whatever relatives the program’s researchers can dig up . . . often literally. There are no lies or plots, like on Survivors. They weep and shed tears of grief over the sufferings of discovered ancestors. 

           “Your great grandfather, Gustav Johansson, had only a scrawny pet moose, and a turnip patch. Then the Russians came and  things got worse . . .”

            Contestants are friendly, and polite . . . when on camera. There have been rumors they don’t get along that well between shows. Each week the players are guided though a bit of Swedish history and scenery, a picturesque travelogue in ninety percent English, designed for a Swedish audience. I doubt it will get much play elsewhere, but who knows. The Americans are fascinated by anything over a hundred years old. They have wooden sheds here older than a hundred years, still good as new . . . rock solid, hewn logs, painted Red. Americans would have torn ‘em down years ago, built something better, newer, with less emphasis on permanence.


            Last week’s episode took the contestants to a Swedish Independence day celebration, June 6th. The end of Danish rule . . . a national holiday. Some Swedes say it should not be one, but they probably compromised, thinking a day off, is a day off. They are a practicable people. The Independence Day they televised was modest. A parade with maybe thirty in the band. The band was the parade. A small town, small crowd watching, some in costume. Followers may remember a previous blog, a centennial celebration at Säter.

            They seem to like us here. You see American flags on backs of jackets, purses, sweat shirts, pillows, shoes and key chains. The second most popular show here is, “Swedish Hollywood Wives,” totally worthless, weekly, TV trash that somehow to addicts people. Victims agree it’s trash, and are embarrassed to admit they watch, but can’t stop watching. I kicked the habit after four episodes. 

           The show uses ninety percent Swedish dialog, with a typical sprinkling of English. There are a multitude of much used English words, and phrases invariably threaded though any conversation here. Words like: okay, sure, toast, tree huggers, mail, and spam, whatever, just to name a few.  I’ve been lucky having English as my native tongue, but Swedish kids learn English in grade school, and maybe a little German. A world class advantage.

            Mass media has made easy for Swedes to learn English, almost a necessity. The best movies, and half the TV shows here are in English . . . most of the good stuff. If you don’t understand English you’re going to miss a lot. I desperately want to learn Swedish. I can’t read magazines, browse through bookstores, or read labels. Is this Viagra or a sleeping pill?  I'm trying to learn; it is not going well. After nine months I have a twenty word vocabulary, and still have trouble with some of the sounds.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Foreign & Far Away


I’ve just finished the first 150 pages of Foreign & Far Away, and am totally impressed by this world class anthology. Fiction and non-fiction come across totally real, a verbal slide show. Especially enjoyed Craig White’s, Land of Luxury and Wickedness. Valerie Cameron’s poem, Borneo Nights:  “…the clack of mahjong and laughter…” Venesa McMasters’ definition of a serial migrant: “Strange is familiar, foreign is home.”

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Cat Poem

My Cats

I know. I know.
They are limited, have different needs and concerns.
but I watch and learn from them. 
I like the little they know, which is so much.
They complain but never worry.
They walk with a surprising dignity.
They sleep with a direct simplicity that humans just can’t understand.

Their eyes are more beautiful than our eyes.
and they can sleep twenty  hours ­a day without
hesitation or remorse.

When I am feeling low
all I have to do is
watch my cats and my courage returns.

                                  By Charles Bukowski
                                  May he rest in peace!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Buckminster & Amber - Bucks Talks About Nothing


Exploring the Feline Brain.

I’ve looked at Amber’s blog, her Swedish art thing, and it’s nice if you’re into paintings and such. I much prefer TV, watching the colors move . . . And yes. I understand what’s going on. I just don’t care. There’s nothing I could possibly relate to. The servants tried to trick me by installing an aquarium screensaver last week. I gave it a couple half-hearted swipes, and they thought it was a big deal. So what? (I’m going to tell you about, ‘so what,’ some day. But that’s another story.) Where was I?

            Oh yes, talking about nothing. I am going to tell you everything you need to know about nothing. I will describe nothing. I will illuminate nothing, and when you have finished reading this monolog, I promise, you will understand nothing.

             It seems like understanding nothing it should be easy, but it’s not. It’s far easier to understand something. Something happens every day. Nothing hardly ever happens, and is much more difficult to talk about. Most of us believe in something, and why not? The worst that can happen is nothing . . . fade to black. But black is something in the eye of the beholder, and it has a name. Nothing is nameless. I sometimes wonder if nothing is possible.

            Great minds with large budgets are searching for nothing with cyclotrons. They zoom particles around at near the speed of light, in temperatures hotter that the sun, slamming them into one another. A cosmic train wreck . . . particles splattered everywhere, smaller and smaller. Photons are like whales in the sea of sub atomic particles. There are quarks (six kinds of these), and Bosons, Leptons, just to name a few. It seems there’s always something left.

            Scientists predict that they will find nothing sometime in the next ten years. They want evidence taken from the moment before creation . . . to discover the primal building block that existed a split second after the big bang; the mother of all things, including time itself. Before this moment there was nothing. Where did nothing go? Is it still there?  After trillions of years?

            Nothing is beyond my kat-like comprehension, but I think about it all the time. You humans think I’m doing nothing, but I’m always doing something. Naps are something. Nothing seems almost impossible to do, but I am working on it.
                I hope I have at least clarified something for you. Nothing is more difficult to understand.
P.S.  Here’s something I just Googled.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Buckminster & Amber - Catwalk - An Esthetic Tour

A Review of Swedish Art


I’ve been living in Sweden for some time now and have been thinking about the art I see around the house. I should start by telling you there are no kat pictures, which is odd, but then I didn’t decorate the place.
My subject today is Philip von Schantz, a famous Swedish artist (1928 – 1998) famous for painting fruit and potatoes in the seventies. He moved on to pots in the eighties. That’s one of his paintings at the top of this page.

This is what they look like in real life - Too small to sleep in.


Hard for me to understand, but there it is. After the pot phase he moved into vases – I guess that’s what you’d call them. If you stare at them long enough they seem to move. For this reason they were very popular with Swedes who did not own a television.


Bucks on Break


Some of you have complained that my magnum opus, ‘The Bucks,’ is still missing the final chapter. The truth is I needed a break. I mean, hard work is something kats are simply not into. So, I am having a long nap. When I wake up I will republish the whole story in chronological order. In the meantime I am letting Amber have some space to post some of her work, which is probably boring, but whatever.

I’ll be back.
                                                                                                             The Bucks

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Bucks - Pumpkin

These things are so weird. The come around once a year, then disappear after a few weeks. 

 You can’t eat them. They are impossible to sleep on, and they don’t roll. 

Why are they here?


Monday, October 14, 2013

Observing Sweden - Weather Report

Fall Tree 

         The weather’s changing. Every day increasing wind, foreboding clouds, and cool damp air . . . promise of rain . . . just a wet kiss, but we all know the big one’s coming. Neighbors batten hatches, wax their cars, trim hedges, fertilize the lawn and cut grass for last time. Time to store lawn furniture, umbrellas, barbeques . . . take in the plants that might sleep though the long dark months. We change to studded tires this week—the law here, one that I approve of.

         Christmas decorations start appearing in October. I’ve already seen TV adds selling Christmas cards and decorated glassware . . . little angels. Celebration ends in March. There were still Christmas wreaths on front door when we moved in. Soon windows will soon be filled with candle lights. I think this is the Swedish way of getting through the winter, and there’s alcohol, of course. But we’re way down the list of heavy drinkers. Ireland’s at the top, then Czech Republic, Germany and Russia.
        This will be old news for many of you . . . been there, done that, more than once, but it’s completely new to me. I come from California, and Seattle which has something they call winter, lots of rain. It snows once or twice and freezes sometimes . . . not that often. Not like here.

         Kind of exciting . . . scary? Swedish winter. I could freeze to death on my way to the mailbox. A trip to the grocery store turns into a Donner Party experience. I was happy to be done cutting the yard. Now I’ll be shoveling snow; there’s no escape. People go mad here in the long dark nights.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Crows - 1

They go unnoticed overhead
Above the supermarket malls and cities
Suburban fields and meadows
Airborne gangs dressed in black feather jackets
Fearless wise guys with a raucous comment
For the goings on below.

                                                            Published: Pulsar Poetry U.K.   2011

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Observing Sweden - Life & Death Part 2

            Sunset with music, non-invasive, nice.  I start to understand this quiet river as a symbol, driver, metaphor and simile . . . provocateur. Darlana, here tonight, for me, is life . . . and death. The river curves, goes out of sight into unknown, obscure, event horizon  . . . Death. A major change in life, the mother of addictions.

            Orchestra now playing James Bond movie theme, Gold Finger— simple, unpretentious. Nice. This perfect evening, warm for Sweden in September. Colors deepen . . . masterpiece evolving, still more fascinating. I’m locked in . . . this river, life . . . and death.
            As we grow older, short term memory begins to lose some staying power. Long term memory turns up the volume, in 3D. Things done, and things not done. A Tibetan Buddhist asked me, “If you take away all good things you’ve done in your life, then all the bad things you have done. Who are you now?” An interesting question. 

            Bad things. Remembering. Only had one fist fight in all these years, with a best friend, of course. He’s dead now, and I swear I didn’t do it. I’ve been fairly innocent, did a few stupid things that hurt people, but that was not my intention. I can’t think of all that many good things either. I once taught inner city High School . . . got to be some bonus points for that. If there’s a judgment I should have a 50/50 chance.

            ‘Old’ people read obituaries, curious I guess. Can’t read the local papers here, or understand the Swedish TV news. I do not channel surf for English language views. It’s kind of nice . . . not knowing. But one sees and hears of death. Once famous actors fall like ten-pins, Bogart, Brando, and so many others, long gone, James Gandolfini, almost yesterday. Great writers, Mailer and  Capote. Is it ill advised to wonder, how much time do I have left?
I think about the Hindu Goddess, Kali, belt of skulls around her waist, a severed head held happily in one hand, dripping blood, more instruments of death other hands. We symbolize things we can’t fully understand . . . give them a name to make them seem as known, at least identified, a label. Goddess Kali is no more, or less, than time personified. She kills us all. No one escapes her.

            Time. How much to I have left? A decade? Probably that at least, and maybe more. Another twenty years? I would be ninety-five. If I were asked of years, how many more I want . . . glad I don’t have to answer that. My choice of way to make an exit? By surprise, would be my pick. James Thurber’s wanted to be bit by a blue mamba in the Taj Mahal . . . creative. 

           Things are winding up . . . this magical interlude. Music and fireworks punctuate the night. My mind still floating down the river on a raft of memory . . . exploding colors overhead. Fantastic punch line to this evening. I’m remembering a favorite movie, ‘Meet Joe Black’ (Anthony Hopkins and Brad Pit). There’s fireworks at the end, when death walks off with the protagonist. This river’s been a trip for me tonight. I’m curious to see what happens next. Worst that could happen, a rude unawakening.

            Death is the exclamation point of life. I hope my sentence is a long one. Time enough to add a few more words.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Observing Sweden - Life & Death Part 1

What’s Up Around The Bend

            I’ve been thinking about death this year, but not in a depressive way. More curiosity, an interesting subject, much unspoken of . . . perhaps okay to read about. I’m starting to feel old, a new experience – Awareness? I’ve been lucky all my life, one broken bone, a motor cycle. Mama told me not to ride, but god, such thrill, and women loved it. I’ve digressed again.
            Had hepatitis, and I think, most of the common ailments, plus one kidney stone I will remember always. If you make your way through seventy-five years you have, in fact, been lucky. Lots of people didn’t. Old friends, and acquaintances keep dying, classmates, guys I spent time with in the Army. Writers, Mailer, and Capote, famous poets . . . Ginsberg, Seamus Heaney,  . . . younger than myself by years! 

            I have been thinking about age, and death. Not all the time . . . but sometimes. There’s an intellectual awareness. I’ve been, labeled, classified. It’s strange, the power of these words. I’m suddenly, by definition, old. It’s in the book. Confirmed on television: 

            “It was an old guy, officer, seventy something.” 

            There is no escape. In truth, I find myself less energetic than I used to be, and less resilient, slower, ignorant of high-tech toys. I dislike cell phones, boom boxes, and car alarms, leaf blowers . . . Noise. They all equate to noise, but that’s just me. Oh yes, and also the martini glass – designed to spill. A therapist once said, I was eccentric. Told me it was okay to be eccentric, but confirmed I was one. Good. That’s fine with me.

            You get to be eccentric when you hit your seventies. It’s a benefit. You’ve earned it. At a boring party? “Gee, I’m tired I need to take a nap.” You have the right to refuse a drink, or get drunk. People start driving you to places . . . and events. There was an event here recently, a celebration, Borläng, Sweden’s Salute Festival.

            A dished out, grassy slope, and lawn below, make up a modest amphitheater beside Darlana River. It’s a nice crowd, typical of these sorts of things in Sweden. Ten or twenty thousand here tonight. The mood is easy, light, with happy people, kids. Sitting on camp chairs, blankets on the grass, with thermoses of coffee, sandwiches and quiet conversations.  A pervading, easy going sort of mood, this perfect evening . . . comfortable in a light jacket. On the lawn below, a blue tent shelters a large orchestra that will play popular, non-controversial, happy music, after several high school bands perform with baton twirlers. I’d forgotten twirlers still existed; guess they will be with us always.

             A dance team performs something acrobatic . . . teenage girls. Water ballet on grass. I keep getting a feeling of innocence here in Sweden, along with robust healthiness. I guess you have to have that to survive the winters here.

Those damned cell phones again.

            My gaze drifts out onto the river. Flat, as though without a current, mirrored surface, splashed with green and blue reflections. Images of trees, and woods on pastel pink, and blue. A small, substation’s white, and yellow lights reach out like fingers on the water. Fascinating. Damn, I’m deeply moved, and wonder why. I’ve seen my share of world class sunsets, none has ever hit me quite like this.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Amber Goes to Kat Show

Cat Amber Big Chair 

Well, today has really been something. The servants took me to a cat show. It was right next door, so I agreed to go even though I disapprove of this sort of thing.

The grooming displays were interesting.


There were lots of other accessories as well. They bought me a new cat bed, which I will probably never use, but whatever.

When we were done shopping we took a look around. It was weird. There were all kinds of kats, but no Scottish Folds, of course. A Scot would never participate in one of these things. Here’s one I saw. No idea what breed.


The contestants were constantly being fussed with.

Some of them were totally weird. Just look at this guy. 

Kats in cages . . . Like I said, I’m totally against these shows. For one thing there’s the privacy issue. Strangers everywhere gawking at you. A few of the contestants were given some bathroom privacy, but not many.


And the inspections they were forced to endure . . .  Unbelievable. 
Just look at this. I was embarrassed to be there!


This is what it was all about . . . these stupid metal things. 
I guess you’re supposed to eat out of them, or maybe they hold water.

Humans are nuts!