To get caught up to speed, I route you to the beginning of this epic tale.
My week in Sweden was very educational. During the winter, it was pitch black outside at 4pm. You could buy breast milk in a carton. They have some epic historical sites. The bike lanes were on the curb instead of the street and very nice and wide. Everyone drove with their lights on during the day long before they developed cars that would do that automatically. When I asked about it, I was quoted the percentage by which it reduced accidents. Swedish meatballs from a street vendor are the bomb-diggety. I found out how therapeutic breaking glass really is. There was a really big goth scene at the time that I found myself surprisingly comfortable within. The average Swede hates Americans and from what I was told, with good reason. We do have a really bad habit of expecting people to be accommodating to us even when we are a guest in their homes. The average Swede has a perfect command of the english language and a pronunciation that would allow them to blend into the states as natives. It is the perfection alone that would clue anyone off.
I was asked by one of my host’s friends if I knew anything about Sweden. I was pretty sure I was being tested. I quickly quoted that Sweden was the leading producer of prosthetic limbs and had the highest percentage of suicides in the world. At the time, this was accurate and I had done some research, it just wasn’t really useful. Back then finding information required the use of a library armed with a card catalog and an infinite amount of patience (archaic hand-typed index card-based method of summarizing the contents of a library under a complex system of bizarre number/letter schematics and alphabetical complexities. Used by staring into space until you could think of a keyword and seeing if you could find it. Usually 27% success rate. Asking the librarian usually garnered a dirty, elitist look and a possible 32% success rate).
For some reason that latter statistic actually impressed him, he thought it was wonderful that Swedes had such a command on their proverbial “exits,” and didn’t feel it was a depressive thing at all. I had never thought about it like that and was frankly too stunned to respond. I suppose if it were a situation where if someone was in pain, dying anyway and just didn’t want to go out in a diaper, I can totally get with the program. But I’ve also seen how much it wrecks the people they leave behind when that isn’t the situation. It was an interesting perspective nonetheless.
My host fully embraced the role of guide and took us to see a lot of wonderful places and things, introduced us to his friends, took us to various gatherings he had scheduled and , during the evenings we generally philosophized the world and watched anime and cult movies while the narco slept on. Yes, there was an initial hostility with one or two of his friends the moment they were requested to speak in English in our presence and were informed of our country of origin, but my Swedish friend took a hands-off approach to that and just allowed me to navigate the waters. They were easily the ones to whom I grew the closest and liked the most. I got it. We Americans tend to be rude as shit when we travel and want everything to feel like “home.” I liked everything we experienced because it wasn’t anything like home.
I also found interesting that I seemed to understand the subject matter when my host conversed with his friends. I still had no knowledge of the language but I could usually sum it up pretty accurately. I thought it wonderful that despite everything, we shared quite a lot in our methods of nonverbal communication that I just never felt out, just a bit embarrassed I wasn’t equipped to join in on their terms.
My host was big into LARP (live action roleplay… kind of like cosplay for serious gaming achievements or instead of playing board games, you become the pieces). He had a gathering one night he was beholden to be present for, so me and the narco had the entertain ourselves that evening. Interview with a Vampire had been released not too long before, I’d liked the book, hated the actors cast, but decided I would at least give it a chance to change my mind and narco really wanted to see it. I asked my Swedish friend if there might be a chance there was a showing in English.
I was informed that all movies were shown in their language of origin and it was more customary to have subtitles instead. Between that and the British MTV that broadcast there, I suddenly got why their english was so impeccable. They are constantly surrounded by it. I suddenly had this keen hatred of dubbing in my home country, we could use some more exposure to other languages. We had avoided seeing it while in Germany simply because it was dubbed in German and my traveling buddy would not have understood it.
When I had asked one of my German friends about this particular movie, he had suddenly asked my traveling companion “You want to see Interwoo wit a Wampire?” It just struck us as so funny, we have called it nothing else ever since. The reason is the German W is pronounced like a V, V is pronounced like F, so I imagined trying to twist that backwards to an English sentence can get terribly confusing. I loved it.
Our Swedish host told us that New Year’s Eve would be spent at a vampire-themed party with many of his LARP friends, among others. So the movie sort of prepped the theme. It was held in this fantastic older studio-esque apartment with giant windows to view the city scape. I’d seen movies with this kind of background, but never walked in it. It was really beautiful, slightly humming with the activity and people embracing their respective characters of the night. It was electric, almost like magic with perfectly loud enough but not too loud thumping of the music in the background. It was pretty surreal. That of course was in no small way assisted by the vast quantities of booze being consumed. I never learn, my grudge was against vodka, all the rest were perfectly fine. I have to admit I was fully content just watching from the sidelines, but I managed to not be a dick and mingled as well. I thoroughly enjoyed the company. It was eclectic and blissfully intellectual and playful at the same time.
At some point, we adjourned the party and wandered the streets. My host seemed unconcerned about this, so I didn’t worry about it. The snow, the silence, the darkness of it and the warm glimmers of the street lights were about all that surrounded us. Snow alone always seem to withhold an essence of magic to me, some power to cease the noise of the area in which it landed. Yes, I still felt this way even when I had to shovel several feet of it out of a driveway. It just seemed to blanket and soften the world in a way nothing else does.
I never thought once to ask where we were going. We crossed over a wide bridge over which led to the vast abyss of the sea. I was so taken with this image I just stopped and stared at it for a while. I’d kind of forgot that I had been wandering in a group. One of our fellow revellers pulled me out of my visual consumption of my surroundings in order to catch up with the others. It struck me at that moment that it had just turned into the New Year as I’d stood there. That made me smile. I had hoped that might instill some good vibes to wandering more in the coming years.
I was asked my thoughts while I had been on that bridge. I don’t remember anymore what I said or if I made any sense, but we chatted as we caught up with the others. Again, liquor. This particular fellow had some of the most realistic looking fangs I’d ever seen. I was fascinated and asked how he’d made them and if it was a kit. I was told that he had grown his pinky nails out long enough, cut them to fit and with a bit of filing had used a cosmetic bonding agent to put them on his teeth. I was surprised but the final product was unquestionably excellent.
I remember it wasn’t too long after this that I experienced the deliciousness of swedish meatballs with lingonberry. Ikea has nothing on it, no matter what they do they only pale in comparison. However, it is my only go-to when the craving strikes these days. One day I will explain the reason I don’t try to cook it at home.
We ended up spending the evening and most of the morning at another friend’s house drinking and talking until we passed out one by one. We also found out that we could fit five of us sleeping on one daybed. Apparently, narco and myself made up the “end cushions,” by turning ourselves into curled up balls. This amused Vampire Teeth terribly. We finagled breakfast, more revellers dropped off and wandered home, the rest lingered, it was a mix of languages that when I didn’t understand I watched to comprehend, sometimes to be fair we all spoke German, we eventually wandered back to my host’s apartment and managed to wash off the evening and drinking.
I don’t remember the rest of the time other than it was very fun and quiet and I was very glad to see my friend after so long. I met a lot of fantastic people, got to see MTV be music television once again, got a good dose of cult classics and old favorites, and ahhh the conversations!
I didn’t leave Sweden completely uneducated either. I did learn a little Swedish. I learned “UT”.
I managed to work it out all by myself only because the other door said “IN.”