June 22, 2007

Stockholm, Sweden
Cheeky Sculptures and Royal Bloodbaths

Remo, who organized things in Madrid, has done a far better job than I'll ever do of tracking this trip and compiling video off YouTube.

There's a lot more out there if you go poking around. There are almost as many cameras as people at these events. It's interesting to see the same event from so many different angles.

Arrived in Stockholm. Just past immigration, Melissa dropped her passport in the toilet, so...bad day for her. Worse since she hadn't flushed yet.

The city is lovely. I have to say that about every city these days, since usually a lot of people from that place are reading. But in this case, I'm not lying.

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Nevertheless, my catalog of photos shows a clear fascination -- not with the architecture -- but with a particular linguistic trait of many Northern European languages.

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I became, for one afternoon, an avid fartographer.

Then there was this set of sculptures we happened upon.

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I don't get it. But I like it.

Here's a thing: in Sweden there are a lot of very very white people and not a lot of not-so-white people. Now and then you will see some very very white people dressing in hip hop fashions -- corn rows, basketball jerseys, articles of "bling." They seem content with themselves and confident that they are pulling the look off with great success. This is because there aren't a lot of not-so-white people around to make them feel like idiots. It's a controlling presence that is sorely needed.

Learned about the Stockholm Bloodbath, which happened somewhere near here.

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The Danish king decided he wanted to run things in Sweden. So in 1520, he invited the entire Swedish nobility over to his house for a barbecue. Then once everyone showed up, he said "gotcha!" and beheaded all of them. They say the streets around the palace literally ran red.

This event becaming a rallying moment in Swedish history and triggered centuries of back and forth reprisals with Denmark. But unlike SOME countries (and I'm not naming names), both sides got over it and moved on.

We shot the clip outside of old town, in the more modern part of the city. The turnout was on the smaller side, which is actually a good thing from time to time cause we can go in closer and allow each person's dancing to register.

For the first time since we started this, we got a group consisting almost entirely of teenagers. I have no idea why.

As part of the sign-up process, I have to take a close-up picture of each person who participates. After accumulating hundreds of these, I'm realizing that what started out as a mundane legal safety measure is actually a bit more than that. I have an opportunity to snap random strangers with little pretense, in fairly unguarded circumstances. They're usually not posing, so their faces and expressions are honest. And because we're prancing all across Europe, I get to see a wide swath of the population looking pretty much how they really look. It's turning into a worthwhile document in and of itself.

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The bottom line is: people are interesting to look at. And the more natural they appear, the more there is to see.

There is an extra spring in my step today, because Steven Spielberg just posted a picture he took.

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I've heard all the ranting and complaining about how old he is and la-dee-da. I don't care. Indiana Jones is walking on this earth again. We're getting another one. To me that means a lot more than when they cart out Rocky or John McClane or the Terminator one more time. This is special, and weirdly moving.

June 18, 2007

Krakow, Poland
"Curse you, Timberlake!"

Went to the train station in Brussels to get to Cologne in time for our 6pm dancing event. Still not sure what happened to my laptop that I left on the train from Paris the day before.

The train with my laptop on it terminated in Amsterdam, so I tracked down the lost and found office at Amsterdam Central. They said they'd put my laptop back on a train heading to Brussels.

This seemed like good news, as I was still in Brussels. But then I realized the train with my laptop on it wasn't arriving for 12 hours, and I was leaving for Cologne in 12 minutes.

Losing my laptop would be catastrophic, but it'd be equally bad to leave a mob of Germans wondering Where the Hell I am. So we hopped on the train and I decided to sort it out later.

Got to Cologne. Danced.

With that out of the way, I called Amsterdam Central again. They were pretty frustrated with me and told me to call the Brussels lost and found. The guy in Brussels told me he hadn't seen a laptop, it wasn't his problem, he couldn't help me, then hung up the phone and refused to pick it up again.

And so, once more, I encounter the refined social graces of the Flemish.

As a last ditch, I called my friend Sophie in Amsterdam. She mentioned knowing a lady at her law firm with the magical ability to sort out problems. A fixer. I asked if she could help and provided all my information.

A half hour later, Soph called back to say that my laptop was still in Amsterdam, that it was being held at the station, and that she would pick it up for me when she got off work. This fixer; this Petronella, had sorted everything out. More than that, she seemed to somehow bend reality toward a more convenient outcome. It was like calling the Wolf from Pulp Fiction. I remain very grateful.

So we're in Cologne, my laptop is in Amsterdam, and our next dancing event is in Munich -- way, way in the opposite direction. The cheapest and most practical option at that point: road trip.

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They gave us a Smart car. It was fantastic -- like driving a roller skate. Those things are zippy!

I want one.

Got to Amsterdam in the wee hours. Got my laptop back. Crashed on Soph's sofa.

Here's a map so you can follow along at home.

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From Amsterdam, we drove all the way across Germany to Munich...really fast.

Stayed with Melissa's friends, Martin and Jessica.

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Danced in the English Garden, near the Monopteros. Martin brought a bunch of signs for his environmental awareness thingy and people got the idea to have me sign them.

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I don't really get autographs or why acquiring one from me is substantial in any way, but they're easy enough to provide, so...

Flew to Warsaw, Poland, where one of the guys who showed up was a photographer. This means I have pictures from Warsaw. Really nice ones.

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That's a close-up of one of the wrist bands we hand out. Everyone who dances has to wear one so we know we have them signed up. It has the release date of the video written on it.

When we finished, a bunch of the dancers invited Melissa and I out for a drink. Sometimes I can't accept and sometimes I can. This time, I could.

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There were both Germans and Poles at the table. I gingerly inquired who had the better beer, then sat back like the samurai from Yojimbo and let them sort it out.

We played digital camera quickdraw.

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After a while, Melissa and I excused ourselves and went over to Golo's house for dinner.

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Golo is a friend of Martin; the guy we stayed with in Munich. I met Golo on my last lap around the planet for the previous video. He's a flight attendant for Lufthansa, so he'd just gotten back from Sao Paulo with some huge Brazilian steaks. He cooked them up and plied us with more alcohol before sending us home in a cab.

Caught a morning train to Krakow. Wandered around for a couple hours before heading off to the airport.

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The Krakow airport is stunningly, inexplicably efficient.

Connected in Copenhagen, then on to Stockholm. Took a long bus from the airport only to discover that Justin Timberlake was performing, so the whole of Sweden had converged on the city and filled up all the hotels.

We loitered at a McDonald's until the AMs, then finally caved and booked a room at a business hotel an hour outside the city. It was the most expensive room we stayed in on this entire trip, and certainly not worth mentioning otherwise.

Took the subway. Along the way, we noted that our day had included travel by taxi, train, plane, bus, and subway. Alas, no donkeys, unicycles, or hot air balloons.