Monday, November 26, 2007

BTW

I don’t really read books anymore. About once a year, whenever Michael Connelly finishes a new Harry Bosch novel, I’ll read it to Sara. We’ll cringe at the single, appallingly clumsy lovemaking scene he feels he has to put in every one of his otherwise straight hardboiled detective stories: “They held each other with a passion too deep, too hungry for words.” That kind of stuff. But other than that, nice clean entertainment.

Anyways, after Lasse and Anja’s wedding, coming back to Präz from the St. Benedict chapel, I heard on the car radio that Norman Mailer had died. I made a comment about it to Lasse’s mum, and then forgot all about it. Mailer’s authorship means very little to me. In the army I read most of The Naked and the Dead, but never finished it. I’ve browsed through Harlot’s Ghost at one time, but must admit I found it boring. What else? I know he was against the Vietnam War. And I know they characterized him as a genius, a “Jewish Hemingway,” which seems like a bit of an oxymoron.

And then today I caught the ending of a documentary about him, on Swedish state television. He was so articulate, so attentive to the minutest details of his own language. At eighty-four he was still sharp as a tack. There were little things, of course, certain words and phrasings which seemed a bit too studied, too deliberate. A sense, perhaps, that he’d formulated and re-formulated these thoughts so many times they weren’t exactly fresh ideas anymore.

Still, the scale of his mental power was staggering. I like to write a sentence or two myself once in a while, so I know how hard it is. Yes, yes, I know I’m no Norman Mailer. I’m not a faultless, impeccable voice-of-my-generation literary genius. So sue me.

But then at one point, and this is just the greatest thing, the old guy picks up a marker pen and starts doodling little improvised drawings. It’s between interview takes, a little unrehearsed moment. And with no small amount of pride, he explains how some of his famous artist friends have told him he has a natural talent for drawing – because he writes longhand. So because he’s accustomed to holding the pen, and shaping the letters, drawing comes natural to him, even if he’s started a bit late. He proudly holds up the picture.

Well, let me tell you this: Norman Mailer couldn’t draw worth of shit. His doodles were pathetic and horrible in a way impossible to imitate without that special un-talent for drawing only a very few people possess. And I’m not talking about the people who can’t draw at all, I’m talking about the people who think they can draw a little. There is a special, magical place about midway on the scale from no talent to massive talent, where everything you produce is just a sad waste of good paper. And old Norman was right there, in that zone. Ha ha ha! Don’t quit your day job.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

We must never forget


It's a long way to Taberponny,
It's a long way to go.
It's a long way to Taberponny,
To the sweetest girl I know!

Bring out your dead

We fear we may be having some sort of Malthusian crisis. We have reproduced so greatly that our population now goes beyond the limits of our food supply, and the current pandemic (we call it “the Great Pestilence” after my grandmother) is merely a necessary and long overdue corrective to an overpopulated apartment.

The place is a mess, as you can imagine. Great pits are dug, and piled deep with the multitude of dead. And as soon as those ditches are filled more are dug. And there are those who are so sparsely covered with earth that the dogs drag them forth and devour them throughout the apartment. I’m not going to name names, but, you know.

The mood in general has turned very morbid, and dark with representations of death, mostly in the Greco-Roman style. We gather together in great bands and dance La Danse Macabre. Well, not me, I’m not much of a dancer. I just practice my alchemy and tap my feet to the rhythm.

Alas, father abandons child, and wife husband; for this illness seems to strike through the breath and sight. And so we must perish, and none can be found to bury us for money or friendship. We will cast ourselves in a ditch as best we can, without priest, without divine offices, without shoes on our feet.

O death! Cruel, bitter, impious death! ...Lamenting our misery, we fear to fly, yet we dare not remain.

There are no one left to weep for us, for all await death. And so terrible is this disease that all believe it is the end of the world. I personally blame the Jews. Those pesky Jews have been poisoning our wells. It’s the only plausible explanation.

Adieu! Farewell earth’s blisse -
This world uncertaine is.

Goodbye.

Farewell.

Adieu.

Aaaaaaaand goodbye.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

You're OUT, motherfucker

Oh, joy. Howard lost, lost, lost.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Here, have some milk and cookies

Yesterday I met a man with a terrible scar on his left arm, a big fat scar that went all the way round the wrist. When I asked about it, he explained how, about ten years ago, he’d had an accident in the hobby room: He’d cut off his left hand with a circular saw, severed it completely at the wrist. It fell off.

Three surgeons had worked on his arm for five hours, reattaching the hand, pulling veins and splicing nerves. And they did it, they put the hand back on. Then he’d been in recuperative therapy for a while afterwards, until he could move all his fingers and everything. Of course he couldn’t exactly play the piano anymore, but the thing worked.

His job before the accident? He was a puppeteer. Quite famous, too.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

A wedding in the Swiss Alps

Lasse, my oldest friend in the world, is taking the plunge with Anja. They need altitude. So where better than the Swiss Alps?

Lasse honours me by making me his best man. I meet up with them in Zürich, and they stuff me into two rental cars full of mothers and nephews. Then they force me to take a bath. Luckily its the amazing thermal bath in Vals, designed by architect Peter Zumthor (This is not my shot - what kind of creep brings his camera to a bath house anyway?!).

We drive across Switzerland to the tiny mountain village of Präz in the Graubünden canton.

It's so old and idyllic, you almost forget it was all PAID FOR BY NAZI GOLD!!! Just kidding. Not this village.

The funny thing is that on the inside the houses look like this.

Oh look, the Alps.

This is the house we stay in, along with a few squillion mice. If my Roman numerals are correct the house was built in 1675 and renovated in 1801.

The backyard. By the way, the key to the house is like a meter long. I've never seen a key that big before. Truly amazing to behold. Well, maybe you should have been there to appreciate it.

This is where the Swiss get their water.

OK, so it's the big day. Talk about a white wedding. Unfortunately one of the rentals has summer tyres, and there's only one set of chains. Perfect.

Will we make it to the city hall in Ilanz, at the springs of the Rhine? For a time it seems no.

One of the cars has to be driven in reverse the first half of the trip. Cows block the road. There's a blizzard. I'm not making this up, look at the pictures.

Is he...? Well, he's probably a little nervous.

We stop to get the car fixed. HURRY UP FOR GOD'S SAKE MR. SWISS MECHANIC!

Thank you, Mr. Swiss Mechanic.

We make it to Ilanz. These two blurry ladies are the lovely bride Anja, and her maid of honour, Mariken.

Look how pretty she is! The bouquet is mistletoe and Bornholm roses. Anja's mother (a florist, conveniently) stayed up half the night making it.

OK, we're almost ready. There's a bit of a panic when it turns out no one but the dashingly handsome best man brought his ID. The ceremony, performed by the mayor, is very moving. My German is a little rusty, but I think I catch most of it. Amongst other things, he quotes Danish philosopher Kierkegaard.

"Where it is good to be, there is the fatherland."

Husband and wife, legally - but it's not over yet. In Switzerland church and state are separate, and so Lasse and Anja have decided to have two ceremonies. The church ritual will take place in a small chapel high in the Alps, performed by a retired Lutheran priest from the Danish mission. He's driving up from Geneva.

But first another photo opportunity.

We travel higher and higher into the Alps. The snow chains come off and go on, off and on, off and on...

The maid of honour is praying. Or maybe her hands are cold.

When the priest finally calls it's bad news: He's stuck in a blizzard, on summer tyres, about halfway from Geneva. There's no way he can make it.

NO PRIEST??? But we're so close! The chapel is right up there. It belongs to a monastery of Benedictine monks.

Their old chapel was destroyed by an avalanche.

So they had Peter Zumthor make them another one!

A chapel that would resist any avalanche, anything the forces of nature could throw against it.

A nice little chapel of wood.

Shaped like a leaf.

With a simple altar.

Everyone is here but the priest. We have a groom.

And his bride. And the church warden, standing next to Lasse's brother Niklas who studies theology. And there's... Waaaaaait a minute. Back up. Lasse's brother is studying to become a priest? Hellooooo.

Is there a priest in the house? It turns out that there is. Complete with a Blues Brothers tie bearing the words: "I'm on a mission from God". How cool is that?

If that's not a miracle I don't know what is.

We did it!

It's hard to tell the rice from the snowflakes.

Afterwards there's some sort of dinner party. We sing songs. At one point I make a speech, but I don't remember a word of it. There's cheese. It's a blur.

We cut the toes off Lasse's socks. It's a really stupid tradition, especially in the Alps.

How can you send him out there with holes in his socks? Have you no pity?

Suddenly it's all over and I'm in a bar at Zürich International. The bartender keeps calling me "my dear", and all the customers seem to be smartly dressed men with shaved heads and gold earrings. I suspect I might have stumbled upon a gay airport bar.

OH MY GOD I'M DRINKING GAY BEER!!!!! It tastes pretty good, actually.

At this point I begin taking pictures of my luggage.

Now if only I can get my two kilos of cocaine through customs.