Sunday, September 19, 2004

Somewhere in Norway

I am paying to post this and that, like the imminence of death, sharpens the mind. This trip is about mom: Does she have the stamina to make it? Three days ago on the cloudy fjords we were beginning to doubt it, but Eydie gave her a laxative that stimulates the smooth muscles and Eydie has concluded that the brain, like the intestine, is a smooth muscle. The jokes that will someday flow from this statement warm my heart. For whatever reason, mom has perked up. My theory is that her difficulty in moving rapidly and thinking clearly make her think about death, whatever else she is thinking, so she is somewhat depressed. Naturally, her daughter thinks about her mother thinking about death, which is not the optimum mood stimulant. I am just my natural morose self!!! As for Norway, you are all inivited to come see the slides, most of which have been shot at glacial shutter speeds. That explains Munch -- it was all his mental shutter speed. Meanwhile, I gather that Kerry continues to trail. Never mind, John! I will soon be back with a headful of ideas stimulated by a certain smooth muscle....

Sunday, September 12, 2004

The Herring was Excellent, and We Hate Bush

My wife is just a little disappointed that no one has engaged us on the upcoming election. Of course, we are encountering people in mercantile situations, the point of which is separating us from our money, and the Danes seem naturally polite (if sex obsessed), and I look vaguely like a demented Australian (as mentioned earlier) and Belle Mere isn't the kind of lady you take to bars (and not just because she's 93), but still you wish someone would give us the chance.

So my wife is given to occasionally just blurting out her politics, which must make passersby think that some members of our trio are hard of hearing. I support her in this. Today we are off to Bergen to look at the fjords, which should be fjun. Let us hope that the Norwegians are crankier at the sight of Americans battening on the sweet flesh of the world.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Bullet Points Over Copenhagen

Are my opinions of the Danes a mosaic? Or are they more like an archipelago? Or perhaps stepping stones across a stream? Actually, I would say they are more modernist, a single point of information in a great sea of white....

Anyway, today went better than yesterday. Ma Belle Mere had a little more energy, and I have to admit I do enjoy the herring. I have had the pickled herring in mustard sauce and the fried herring in vinegar on a bed of capers and beets. This was followed by halibut on a mound of pasta that was also quite delicious. Of course, all the good food is at San Francisco prices, but, as it turns out, we are from SF Bay, so the only sticker shock comes from the 6 Danish Kroner to one Yankee dollar exchange rate.

I keep getting stared at -- with reason. One does like to know where one's tourister sucker-friend is from, and I am wearing these bright Aboriginally patterned t-shirts we got in Australia and this slouchy hat with an Anzac feel and a HUGE backpack that would grace the hump of any German.

Also, I have a kind of antique beauty, the patina of age having enriched and in some ways obscured to advantage.

Yes, I am feeling better.

Did I mention we went to the Tivoli Gardens. I despise people who say that Tivoli is no Disneyland, that it's small, just a little shabby around the edges and essentially a very clever scam that charges you ten bucks to get access to the approximately 40 restaurants, most of which are overpriced.

Well, I've never been to Disneyland, though as for the rest....

Copenhagen residents are pretty friendly, though the waiters are well paid enough not to expect a tip unless the service is excellent, and even if the service is excellent, they might not get the tip so what the hell! (That's unfair. We have had some very pleasant waiters, and the absence of the obsequious, "I'm Bruce, and I adore being your server" is welcome. It's just that tourists want so desperately to be loved.)

That's enough. It's just after seven in the a.m. here. You guys need to grieve for another 90 minutes.

Friday, September 10, 2004

Hamlet Ain't Here, Archie the Manager Speaking

In the early days of my wife's appreciation of baseball, she would observe the spectacular catch of a hard-hit ball and say, "He should get some credit for hitting the ball that hard." I am five days into taking me 93-year-old mum-in-law on her royal Scandinavian tour and somewhere somehow I should get SOME credit for doing this.

Mum's back is not so good. Things are progressing -- slowly. Copenhagen is filled with white people on bicycles. Think of a languid Tour de France with less attitude. I need to get back to the room and assist in the movement of things and people, so I will stop short of the expected travelogue. Just let me say that it's a pleasant city, but not one that makes one think, "Wouldn't it be fun to learn the language, rent an apartment and stay for a while."

Herring is good, though. We walk a little, we sit and a little, and thus we make our way around the block.

Sunday, September 05, 2004

We'll Meet Again, Don't Know Where, Don't Know When...

... though no later than the first weekend in October, I should think. My wife and I are off on a visit to Scandinavia with her 93-year-old mother. I considered taking the laptop but it seemed to boil down to a choice between chaining the laptop to the toilet in the hotel room and keeping an eye on my mother-in-law or keeping an eye on the laptop and chaining my mother-in-law to the toilet. Only in the world of jokes, or among certain Republican first families, is this a difficult decision.

I may be able to buy occasional computer access and write from Europe, but vacation writing is pretty dull unless something unpleasant happens, in which case I doubt I'll feel like writing -- at the time. But, as Wordsworth said, poetry is "the spontaneous overflow of emotion recollected in tranquility."

That is a chained-to-the-toilet perspective somewhat tarted up to keep Coleridge interested. Good for everybody, not just poets.

So, I'll come back, I'll recollect, I'll write.

Until then, be well.

Friday, September 03, 2004

I Feel His Pain

All day, since I first heard about Clinton's imminent bypass, I've felt twinges in my chest, though sometimes they go away and sometimes they seem to be in my side or in my neck. I walked to the bank and back this afternoon, which must be more than a mile, with part of it uphill. I didn't feel any pain or discomfort or sensation or a tingling or an itching then. I only feel pain, discomfort or sensation or tingling or itching or squeezing or tugging when I am sitting and thinking, which is not usually an aerobic act.

He's 58, Southern, blue collar, a former fat boy who loved bad food. Except for the promiscuity and historic political success -- perhaps "except" pulls a slightly longer train than that but I don't want to aggravate my twinges -- I am pretty much Clinton's doppelganger.

We both know what doppelganger means, I'll bet. We relish our mutual knowing.

Mirror, mirror on the wall/We Left Bush with a Surplus and Now What?

It's not an easy life being in sympathy with greatness. The road is getting bumpy. I take an aspirin every night.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Miller and Chaney Gone Completely Unhinged. These Are a Few of My Favorite Things

But you already knew that.

Into the teeth of what tonight will almost certainly be a torrent of elisions and imprecisions from He Whose Name Must Not Be Spoken Except in Tones of Scorn, I will counterprogram. I will divert myself from things that matter profoundly but about which I can do little other than send a few donations to progressive politicians, make a few phone calls to faithful anti-Bush voters and speak my piece to undecided friends, trying not to scream.

Instead, I will complain about something about which I am even more powerless, but which REALLY DOESN'T MATTER. I will complain about the basketball uniforms worn by female players in the United States and in much -- but not all -- of the rest of the world.

Impersonating the men -- who seem disinclined to appear to emphasize their genitals in what I assume is an act of reverse psychology -- women wear shapeless sacks. Really, they look as if they were caught hiding behind the curtains and then tried to wrestle their way out. I'm surprised they don't play in veils and headscarves.

I have pointed this out to my sister, who lives in Knoxville, Tennessee, and who has season tickets for Lady Vols basketball. Lady Vols basketball is not just a game, it's a dynasty. She sits under one of the baskets and baits the referees and heckles the weakest ballhandler on the opposing team. She understands basketball and she concedes that the women's limp uniforms probably impede their athleticism and certainly disguise it.

This is an issue, since the women's professional league, the WNBA, is also limp, at least in terms of drawing beyond hardcore fans. It would seem to be a dying enterprise, possibly reinvigorated by the victory of the American women in the Olympics this year, but that has happened after previous Olympic victories, and interest has subsided. Men's basketball is so athletic that the play triumphs over uniforms that hide the bodies of the players as effectively as the sheets did in an old Doris Day-Rock Hudson sex farce. The women don't soar and drive the way the men do, so they have much less margin for perceptual error, as it were.

"Women's game is an athletic game," my sister says.

"Yeah," I say, "and if the fog weren't there we could see the Golden Gate Bridge."

Sometimes you need to see what you know.

But my sister says American women -- she says she has talked to the players -- won't accept more revealing uniforms because some of them would feel embarrassed, apparently not the girls who are lean and muscular but the ones with thicker, blockier bodies.

Hmmmm. I see some of USF's female basketball players walking around campus when the weather is warm and if they were to start dressing off court in the style I want them to dress on-court, they would be putting more clothes on, not taking clothes off.

Well, these are just wordswordswords. Let's go to the pictures! Oh, yes there are pictures. I didn't watch any of the Olympics this year -- it would have cut into my Bush hating, which has many different aspects, all of which need to be isolated and worked on everyday, as if they were muscle groups. But I did follow the U.S. women's basketball team in print and wanted them to win. I noted that they beat Australia in the gold medal game. When we were in Australia several years ago, I observed the uniforms the women wore in their professional league. I went on line for documentary evidence of the Significant Difference.

Here is Picture A: Women in flour sacks challenging woman in modest but form-fitting uniform.

You may reply, "Oh, sure. Lean women look good -- but what of our more substantial woman?"

Several remarks suggest themselves. First, look at Serena Williams, who is conspicuously strong and who looks both powerful and physically attractive. There is harmony between the nature of her activity and the functionality of her costume. She is not flaunting herself. She is acknowledging that her costume should mesh, both practically and aesthetically, with the physical requirements of the game she plays. Even if female basketball players do not want to appear powerful, athletic and physically attractive, they should accept the burden for the good of the sport. They can wear chadors off court to hide their shame.

And here is picture B in which a powerful, athletic woman is wearing a modest but form-fitting basketball uniform.

I am exhausted by the intellectual rigor required to make this argument. I will now turn away from this issue and devote myself to the defeat of George Bush, always careful to dress appropriately for the nature and difficulty of that task.