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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.

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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.

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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




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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.

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            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




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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.”