Job Applications???

I just applied to a job in Lille, France, because…why not? Working in Lille would be awesome. You’d be close to the UK, close to Paris but not IN Paris, close to Belgium, Amsterdam, Germany — I guess when you’re in Europe you’re pretty much close to everything.

There were a couple questions on the application that might cause a slight hiccup, namely, “Do you have the right to work in France?” to which I answered, “No,” only because there was no option for, “Kinda” (or, “Be sick if I did…”). So, this job PROBABLY won’t pan out. But a job like this is kind of ideal, since it’s a customer service job in Spanish, but you’d be living in France, which means you’d greatly improve both of those languages, along with the obvious excursion into north Belgium to perfect your Flemish (I’ve been dying to learn Flemish ever since, well, OK I have no desire to learn Flemish). But I absolutely aced the other questions on the application, like, “Have you ever worked for Booking.com before?” and “Would you be willing to attend a paid, 2-4 week training?” (I answered an emphatic yes to both, especially since the paid training MIGHT be in Lithuania). Oh, to have a European Union passport. Or a Schengen Area passport. You people don’t know how good you’ve got it. I wish I could just waltz up to Norway and start raking in kroner — there’s nothing I’d like more in the world — but alas, my American citizenship makes things more difficult (I COULD work in Svalbard due to the Svalbard Treaty , but apparently you really need to speak Norwegian there, and my one phrase [Can I get a black tea?] might not cut it).

God, I want to earn kroner. So bad. I just want to SAY kroner. Over and over and over. And pay 40 kroner for croissants. And marry a Norwegian girl. And have all sorts of odd-looking, Bjork-like babies named Hans and Klaus and Ragnar.

Anyway, that’s what I was up to today. Applying for jobs. I really don’t want to work but I also really do. I know it’s kind of our purpose on earth, to contribute to society, and I know we’re hardwired to feel good when we contribute, and not feel that great when we don’t contribute. We like to live in societies, communities, we’re social animals, blah blah blah, Blink, Tipping Point, Like Water for Chocolate. Django, “Oh my God, did you guys do Rome? Did you do Florence? Did you do Sicily? Oh, we did Sicily last year. We’re thinking of doing Croatia this year. And then maybe next year we’ll do Crete. And then the year after that we’ll do Egypt,” “Oh my god, I’m totally into rock climbing,” “Oh my god, I like, LOVE whiskey,” “Oh my god, I like, love tacos,” “He’s doing really well! He just got made partner at his firm. Yeah, we’re thinking of buying a house outside the city…” “It’s going really well! Yeah, six months, can’t believe it, this guy’s gonna be coming out anytime!” “You know what, he’s doing really well, but his mom’s health hasn’t been that great lately, so we’re gonna be going back to Michigan soon to visit her. Yeah, it’s been tough…”

Etc, etc.

A Review of Delta’s NEW Economy In-Flight Service

Embed from Getty Images

Hear ye, hear ye. It’s a new day. Yesterday I got back from Norway on Delta Airlines and can tell you all about Delta’s new service in economy class. It’s dazzling, it’s sparkling, it will blow your mind. Assuming you’re the kind of person whose mind is easily blown. Or just the kind of person who’s really into airline reviews. If not, I’m afraid there’s not much for you here. Some gnocchi with tomatoes and cheese. Prosciutto and melon. Etc. Etc.

Now, the unique thing about all this is that I actually flew Delta on the very LAST day of their OLD service, aka November 4th. On the WAY to Norway. And then on the way back, AKA yesterday, AKA the day before yesterday, AKA yesterday, I flew on an A330-300, seat 27G, with their NEW service. So I got to see both services, the old and the new, in a relatively short period of time. Which puts me in a unique position to compare and contrast them.

I loved the new service. That’s the short of it. The long of it is I loved pretty much every minute of it, from when they bring you the menu, to when they bring the new, BIG bottles of water, to when they bring the “peach bellinis” around (even though I don’t drink alcohol), up until the very end when they come around with baskets full of Toblerone(!). So, yes, in my opinion, the NEW service is an improvement. I talked at length to one of the flight attendants, and she said the flight attendants aren’t quite convinced. “Too much trash,” she said, and “Too much going on.” “What’d you think of the welcome cocktail?” she asked me. “Well, I don’t drink,” I said, “But I think it’s really cool you did that. Makes you feel like you’re at a resort.”

Sitting for nine hours on an airplane in economy is definitely not like being at a resort. It’s more like being incarcerated. But Delta’s new service does everything it can to make your experience better. Starting with distributing menus is a great touch. Makes you feel like you’re in first class. And I loved the big bottles of water, since I was dehydrated AB after a restless night of sleep in the Scandic Hotel Bergen. The appetizer was prosciutto and melon, and as a main I had the aforementioned gnocchi. The dude next to me, who was English and wearing Washington Redskins pajama bottoms and who, right before we landed, spent an extended period of time in the bathroom changing into jeans and cowboy boots, got the chicken, which also looked tasty. To top it off the dessert was Ben und Jerry’s salted caramel icecream. So, 9/10 on the food. 10/10 on the dessert. 10/10 on having a menu. 2/10 on my seatmate’s attire. And also 2/10 on Delta’s entertainment. Not super stoked on their movie selection. Though they do seem to have a lot movies featuring Rachel McAdams, which is nice, because I’m in love with her.

Shortly before landing the flight attendants came around again with “before landing service,” which left a little to be desired. There were basically pizza pockets (though at least mine was gruyere [?] and caramelized onion), and also a chocolate mousse. I would’ve preferred fruit, or something healthier than chocolate mousse. And I would’ve preferred basically anything to a pizza pocket. So, 5/10 on the breakfast/pre-landing service. 9/10 on them shoving Toblerones in our faces just before we landed. Chocolate actually does make you happier.

So, even though it’s not perfect, I still liked Delta’s new service substantially better than their old one. I remember very little about the old one, which says everything you need to know right there. But I remember almost everything about the new one, from the menu, to the improved bread roll, to the salted caramel ice cream, to the semi-bizarre pizza pocket. The flight attendants might not yet be sold, but I certainly am.

-W

The BEST Seat on the A330-300

Everyone wants to know: What’s the best seat on the A330-300 in main economy class? Luckily, I flew Delta twice in the last couple weeks, and each time was on an A330-300, each time in main economy, each time a different seat. In short, I really got to evaluate the experience. And my judgements are swift snd fierce.

First, let me say that it appears Trip Advisor has either bought or acquired Seat Guru, which is awesome because it no longer looks like Seat Guru was designed and coded by a 13 year old. It actually looks nice now. Second, I’ll cut right to the chase: the best seat on the Airbus A330-300 for longhaul international flights, in my opinion but also not in my opinion because I only speak in facts, is 39G.

39G.

I’ll let that soak in for a moment.

Why 39G?

Well, look at the seating chart:

39G.

As the tail of the plane becomes more narrow, the middle row on the A330-300 goes from four seats to three. This means! This means! What does this mean? This means that that the aisle seat on the first row of three seats has a gaping space to the right of it (or left if you’re on the other side) where the fourth seat would’ve been, and where you can, A) stretch out your legs, B) stretch out your arms, or C) keep and tend to a live hedgehog.

But the BEST part of this space? It means that people walking down the aisle, espcecially old people who are afraid they’re going to fall over at any moment and thus manhandle the seatbacks of, and the scalps of the people sitting in, every single aisle seat as they go teetering down the aisle, won’t do this with this seat. I’ve seen it in action. It’s beyond their reach. They grip the seatback of the aisle seats in row 38 and then fairly vault themselves to row 40 or 41, floating dangerously past row 39, skipping it entirely, and thus letting you rest placidly. This is the best part of this seat. And also the space. And also the fact that it’s not too close to the bathrooms. But also an aisle seat so you can get up and walk around whenever you please.

Honorable mentions for other good seats in main economy on the A330-300? Row 27 seats A, B, H and J have phenomenonal amounts of legroom, but don’t have windows (though who looks out the window on longhaul flights anyway?). Also 27 C and G are quite nice, as they’re bulkhead aisle seats, and not nearly as close to the bathrooms as Seat Guru might lead you to believe.

So there you have it. Now you can go about the rest of your day in peace. And next time you’re flying Delta longhaul from Seattle to Amsterdam (for example!) on an A330-300, you’ll know exactly what seat to pick.

You’re welcome.

Review: Espresso House

You can’t really go wrong with Espresso House in Norway: it’s like a nicer, more tasteful version of Starbucks, with better food, nicer decor, better drinks, and an all around better atmosphere.

So, different in just about every way.

It’s not that I HATE Starbucks, it’s just that there are so many better places to go. I’ve heard the age-old argument for Starbucks: “Well, I like going to Starbucks because I know what I’m going to get.”

Huh, that’s weird. At Espresso House I ordered a croissant and they gave me a tank full of live mackeral. Weird. Should’ve gone to Starbucks.

I mean, I get what people are saying. Rather than risk getting shitty coffee at some cafe they don’t know, they get average coffee at Starbucks. Which seems to me about the most cowardly way it’s possible to go through life. A bird in the hand, right?

But what if that bird is dead?

My favorite thing at Espresso House are the croissants. They’re pillowy, fluffy, they pull apart into wide, delicate (yet somehow tough) strands, and they cost about as much as a down payment on a house. Espresso House isn’t cheap but Norway isn’t cheap. Espresso House makes up for this – slightly – by having breakfast and lunch specials. A croissant and any hot drink for 59 kroner, for example. Not as cheap as the US, but you could do a lot worse (and you probably do).

The food at Espresso House is also high notch. You know how at Starbucks everything feels like it was just made on a 3D printer in the back, like it’s not really food? At Espresso House it feels a little more like it just came out of the back garden. For example, I just got a bowl with black rice, feta, hummus, and cashews. Coupled with a golden latte as part of the lunch special, it came in at just under 10 bucks. How much would that have cost in Seattle? Probably about the same, actually.

My only critiques of Espresso House are things it can’t really help, i.e. the price and the fact that the feeling inside is always kind of the same. But the latter is also kind of a plus; I know it’s always going to be pretty awesome. That said, I’ll of course keep making forays into other cafes. Like Godt Brød, for instance, also a chain, also awesome, and also expensive as hell.

But hey: Norway.

Everything You Wanted to Know About Norway as Told by an Old Polish Man Screaming at You

HELLO! I AM PETR! I AM POLISH MAN FROM LITTLE VILLAGE CALL PRESZYMYSL. BUT I AM LIVING NORWAY SINCE SIX YEARS. I TELL YOU ALL ABOUT NOW SO YOU ARE NAVIGATING WELL THIS COUNTRY.

NUMBER ONE: NORWAY IS CASHLESS SOCIETY! YOU ARE VERY STRANGE MAN WHEN YOU NOT PAY WITH KREDIT KORT.

NUMBER TWO: TRAM IS NOT FREE IN NORWAY. YOU GET ON BUT NOT PAY! YOU PAY POLICE LATER. IS NOT LIKE POLAND WHERE YOU PAY ON TRAIN. MAN COME AND CHECK TICKET AND YOU SAY “KORVA, NOW I LIVE IN STREET.” NORWAY IS NOT CHEAP COUNTRY.

NUMBER THREE: NORWAY IS NOT CHEAP COUNTRY. YOU PAY MANY KRONES FOR KAFFE. IS NOT EVEN GOOD KAFFE! NORWAY MAN DRINK INSTANT KAFFE, CALL IT KAFFE. KORVA.

NUMBER FOUR: DO NOT GO BERGEN WHEN YOU ARE WANTING THE FINE WEATHER. BERGEN NOT FINE WEATHER. BERGEN ONLY RAIN AND SAD. OSLO ALSO RAIN AND SAD BUT MORE SNOW AND LESS SAD. I OSLO MAN. I LIVE FROGNAR AND SPEAK NORWAY LANGUAGE LIKE, HOW YOU SAY…KORVA. LIKE NORWAY MAN I SPEAK!

NUMBER FIVE: NORWAY NOT ALL THIS, HOW YOU SAY, NORTH LIGHTS. LIGHTS IN SKY LIKE FIRE AT NIGHT. NO! YOU MUST GO NORTH NORWAY WHEN YOU ARE WANTING SEE THIS NORTH LIGHTS. BUT IS BEAUTIFUL! IS LIKE DRAGON IN SKY! MAKE SEX BENEATH NORTH LIGHTS, WOMAN HAVE MUCH LUCKY CHILDRENS.

NUMBER SIX: NORWAY MAN MAKE MORE FLAT SKI THAN SKI IN MOUNTAIN. NORWAY MAN MAKE NORDIC SKI. I AM NOT UNDERSTAND. POLAND WE SKI MOUNTAIN IN ZAKOPANE. IS BEAUTIFUL. IS GREAT MOUNTAIN. NORWAY MAN HAVE MOUNTAIN BUT PREFER SKI IN FIELD.

NUMBER SEVEN: IS NO HOMELESS MAN IN NORWAY. GOVERNMENT IN NORWAY GIVE HOMELESS MAN FREE HOUSE. HOMELESS MAN IN NORWAY RICH MAN IN POLAND. IS FEW KRONES NORWAY MANY POLISH ZLOTY. HOMELESS NORWAY MAN RICH.

NUMBER SEVEN: NORWAY FOOD BAD FOOD. ONLY FISH. POLAND MAN EAT ALSO FISH BUT ALSO MANY OTHER THING. POLAND MAN PAY LITTLE ZLOTY, EAT VERY HAPPY. NORWAY MAN EAT NO FOOD, PAY MANY KRONES. NORWAY MAN EAT PICKLE FISH.

I TELL YOU MORE TOMORROW. NOW I SMOKE CIGARETTE, DRINK NORWAY KAFFE. YOU ARE JOIN?

If You’re Bored, You’re a Monster

Whoever came up with the bumper sticker “If you’re bored, you’re boring,” I’d like to shake his hand. And then I’d like to twist that hand around his back and whisper in his ear, “Listen, fucktard. You fucked up an entire generation of kids who think it’s better to be on their phones, at least ‘doing something,’ than staring off into space. Now go run a half marathon.”

Or more accurately: “Get back in your Subaru (I’ve only ever seen this sticker on Subarus), and drive back to Denver.”

David Foster Wallace once said: “It is the key to modern life. If you are immune to boredom, there is literally nothing you cannot accomplish.”

Remember the lobster. Remember when you were a kid and you were bored and it was so painful, but then the best ideas always came after that? And then remember today, 10 minutes ago, when you were bored for approximately 0.4 seconds, and rather than look this boredom in the face like the primate you are, you reached for your phone? And remember when you did that 15 minutes ago? And 20 minutes ago? And back and back, yesterday, the day before, the year before, essentially for your entire life? If you’re bored, you’re boring. Or, if you’re bored, you’re a genius. Or at least you have the potential to be. But not if you listen to that Coloradan rock climbing motherfucker, that scone eating, brunch getting, Teva-wearing shitbag, who still has fucking chalk on his hands from all the fucking stones he’s traipsed up, with his shitty-ass bumper sticker on his used, but not that used, Subaru.

Fuck.

We should all be bored, at least part of every day. Parents, you’ve made your bed, you have to lie in it — you don’t get to be bored as much. Too bad for you. Waa, waa. I still see you, even with the baby strapped to your god-damned sternum, your right hand reaching for an IPA, your left hand checking Twitter or your email, even though you checked it four minutes ago. You have a god-damned miracle strapped to your chest, the birds are chirping, the leaves are twitching ever so perceptibly, and you’re looking at your fucking phone. You’re also wearing some kind of hat from a fly fishing store, or one that says Patagonia, or O’Neill, or something else to do with surfing. Asshole.

I’m here today not to just say it’s ok to be bored, but that it’s essential. If you want your life to be anything other than checking Instagram, and scrolling, scrolling, from now until the end of time, you need to take a serious look at how you can fit a little more boredom into your corporate, oh so busy, I’ve got like six meetings today, shitface schedule. In fact, I have a call to action for you. Here’s what I want you to do. Put your phone in airplane mode for the rest of the day (ok fine, you miserable shit, the next four hours). Do this now. I will wait. I have nothing else to do. Now, during this time, and if you’re at work wait till you get home to do it, though I know you don’t do much actual work at work anyway, you’re not allowed to watch TV, or go on the computer, or even read. Good. Now, what’s that? What is happening? Did you just soil yourself? Yes, you did, because you just realized there’s a whole, beautiful world out there. And it’s just waiting for you. It’s just waiting for you to look at it. You don’t have to do anything. You don’t have to talk to anyone. You don’t have to go fucking hiking. You just have to sit there. And breathe. Inhale. Exhale. And look at it. Don’t do anything.

Now, this is the hard part, don’t go back to your phone. Not yet. Hopefully not ever. I want you good and bored. I want you falling asleep. Except don’t fall asleep, because that’s cheating.

“The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.” ― Franz Kafka

You may think I’m a nut, and you certainly won’t heed my suggestions, but I’m telling you, they are critical to your survival as a non-automaton, and they’re critical to this planet’s survival. So in closing I’d like to offer my own bumper sticker:

“If you’re bored, there’s hope.”

Also: Fuck Denver.

God, What a Great Train Ride

I boarded this train thinking, Well, why not? Let’s go check out this Norwegian capital! I had no idea it would be such a nice train ride. The mountains really were spectacular, and I couldn’t believe all the streams with their cute icicles. It was dazzling! I did get a little tired though. I hadn’t slept well the night before. Oh well, I guess jetlag will do that to you! And I assumed I would sleep on the train but the guy next to me kept snoring. I wanted to walk over to him and say, “Hey! Buddy! Pipe down!” Lol.

The ride really started to get nice once we left the fjordland. I mean I like fjords as much as the next gal, but it actually looked similar to where I grew up in Duluth, if you can believe that. But the high mountain plains, those really took my breath away. And then in this one place called Finse we were even allowed to get off the train and take pictures! It was quite the winter wonderland. And then when I got back on, there was the guy next to me, still snoring! I wanted to go up to him and give him a little slap across the face.

Just kidding!

About halfway through the train ride we came to some really nice towns next to a river. I thought, Gee, I wish I’d booked a night in one of these towns, I bet I’d get to see the real Norway! But maybe another trip, I guess. It was all so cozy as the light from the day began to dim, and the lights from all the little cottages came into view. And then I went into the dining car! The girl working there was wonderful! She even taught me how to say, “Can I have a black tea?” in Norwegian! Kan jeg få en svart te? It was a really great experience. It almost made me forget all about the snoring man next to me. When I got back there he was! Still sawing logs! Made me want to go up to him and stick my fingers in his nostrils, and then when he woke up give him a swift boot to the crotch while saying, in a Russian accent, “You work for me now.”

Finally we descended into the fjordlands surrounding Oslo. I got out my cellphone, just to make sure I knew how to get to the hotel. Don’t want to get lost on a November night in Scandinavia! Brrr! It looked like it wasn’t far though. A couple kilometers, and I was sure there would be taxis. Now that I’m getting the hang of the smart phone my kids got me for my birthday I figured I might even be able to take an Uber! Who says you can’t teach an old Christian gal like myself new tricks? I sat in my seat thinking of what I would do in Oslo. Oh, how I wanted to see the Edvard Munch museum. And I’d heard they had some really great cafes. I was so lost in my daydream that I started drifting off to sleep, and just as I did, what do you know, the guy to my right started snoring again! He’d been silent for 10 minutes straight, and just as I’m about to sleep he starts snoring. I chuckled a bit but to tell you the truth I was a bit ticked. Part of me wanted to go across the aisle, sneak up behind him like a snow leopard, and then gauge his eyes out with the wooden cutlery from the dining car, all the while whispering, “I am the devil. I am the devil,” and then get him in a choke hold and then, when he’d stopped struggling, dump his lifeless body at the next stop.

But instead I just sighed. I really do love train rides!

High Tea on the Norwegian Steppes

Like so many culs-de-sac in a row I finally board the train leaving for Oslo at 11:59am. The train leaves a minute early, which I find disconcerting. If you arrived at 11:58am you’d find the train just pulling away, and think of the despair you’d feel. But as they say you can’t shear the same sheep twice, so I settle into my seat, which isn’t actually my seat at all because my actual seat had a female in the seat next to it and I wanted a row all to myself.

Sort of a Yo Yo Ma kind of thing, although I’m not a cello player. Wish I was, but I’m not. I play the piano decently. I really like Chopin’s “Nocturnes,” (quotes his).

There is snow on the ground almost immediately upon leaving “Bergen” as we head further “inland.” I feel like a hippopotamus stuck in a wave pool, as they say, I don’t really know what to do with all the time. There’s a Chelsea football match that starts at 13:30 and if the WiFi is gut enough I’ll watch that, and if it’s not I’ll probably pop a snus in and start screaming at people.

I set out to explore my surroundings, like a decrepit Meriwether Lewis. In the dining car a cute girl with bleached blond hair sells me an English Breakfast “tea” for 34 kroner, or, USD $64.

“Like feeding bamboo to a panda, what?” I say to her.

“Sorry?” she says.

“Sorry, just an old military expression.”

“Is that where you lost your leg? In the war?”

I look down and indeed one of my legs is missing.

“No, it’s just asleep,” I say.

And then I wake up, and realize I’m still in my car, and someone is saying to me, “Sir, sir, you’re in my seat.”

So I move and they turn around.

“Sir, sir, you’re still in my seat.”

And then I wake up from THIS dream and realize ok, here I am, in car 6 seat 21, king’s gravy, what?

I buy another tea and this time it only costs 16 krone. Maybe if I buy another it will be 8, and then 4, and then 2, etc etc, until I’m cutting up kroner with a hacksaw.

The train stops in Voss and too many people get on. But I’m in the “lounge car,” or the “cafe car,” or whatever you want to call it. My tea is steeping and soon it will be a thick sludge of English Breakfast and honey and thwarted desire.

“What are you reading?” I say to the cafe girl when I get my tea refill.

She pouts. “I don’t know how to read. In Norway they don’t teach us.”

“Ouch,” I say, “Double-edged bread knife, that one, what?”

“Will you teach me to read?” Her eyes brighten.

“I can teach you to read Spanish,” I say. “Lost part of my hippocampus in the war. Can’t teach English no more.”

This strikes her as plausible, though to be fair she kind of zoned out after the word “I.”

After Voss the countryside completely opens up, and it reminds me of my days in the Sahara, albeit colder and greener and with more houses and vegetation and a fair amount of lakes and fjords. Language is the same though. Go inland far enough and all of the Norwegian, explicably, start speaking Berber. I wonder if this is golf country. I bet the cafe girl knows but I don’t want to bug her, so engrossed is she in looking at the pages of her book. You’ve got it upside down, I want to say to her, but fear it might make her feel bad. Would love to get my nine iron out.

What was my last night in Bergen like? It was like running on a treadmill and realizing you can’t turn it off. And if you step off there’s a good chance you’ll fall. I couldn’t sleep, that was the problem. Too much caffeine in the evening, and too much napping the day before. I nap like a Portuguese water dog, but without all the hip problems. Give me a nice flat surface and I’ll take a nap on it. In the war they called me “Count von Dreckens,” though not because of the napping. Actually in retrospect I’m not sure why they called me that.

It was a long war.

This is snowy, snowy country we’re traversing, and I didn’t bring my snow shoes, if you catch my drift. We stop in Udland because there’s a train coming in the opposite direction, though this could be all posturing, some kind of train conducter dick-swinging contest. Suddenly I have this strange feeling, it washes over me like a water cooler full of Gatorade, that I should be drinking green instead of black tea. I go to the cafe girl and say, “Excuse me, but this is a black tea.”

She looks confused.

“Didn’t you order a black tea?”

“Yes.”

What follows is about a 30-second standoff where we look at each other, unblinking.

Finally she says, “Did you want green tea?”

Amazing, this cafe girl. She can’t read books but she can read my cerebellum as if it were tattooed on my sternum.

I get my third black tea in a row. The price does not go down to eight kroner, which makes me what to throw a tantrum. But instead of throwing a tantrum I retreat to my seat, where I continue to gaze at the snow-covered steppes.

Like feeding lettuce to a box turtle, what?

Darkness, Rain and Strange Cheese

Part 1

I walked back to my AirBnb where I fell into a deep sleep listening to Leo at actualized.org. It’s not often I listen to Leo anymore. I used to all the time. But I wanted to know what “duality” is and knew he had a video on it.

Within 10 minutes I was profoundly asleep.

And somehow slept through my alarm. Did I turn it off in my sleep? This shall remain a mystery. Either way I slowly got up, hauled myself to the light rail, and rode it all the way to the end. There, in the center, I was accosted by a guy named Matias who called himself a monk. He was trying to sell me a copy of the Baghavad Gita.

I said, “I totally wanna read that. I just wanna read the Stephen Mitchell translation.”

True statement.

“But this one has the original Sanskrit.”

“Matias, I don’t speak Sanskrit.”

“You should.”

After talking to this brother in spiritual arms I headed to Espresso House, where I ordered a latte and a scone, which cost something absurd like nine US dollars. If you’re going to Norway prepare to start leaking money. The first time I came in 2012 that was essentially why I left. And that might be why I’m already planning to leave on this trip, too.

I don’t want to leak money. I want to leak amor.

At Espressssso House I found a table in the corner covered with dirty plates and cups and posted up. I wanted to see what the scholars had to say about this whole, “Is life worth living” thing, so I looked for some more articles. There was one from Huff Post and one from JSTOR from 1895. And then of course a lot of personal accounts from people dealing with depression. But I’m looking for a more scientific approach. Yes, of course I FEEL like life is worth living. I feel this profoundly. And of course it could never be proven empirically that life is worth living, but I still wanted to see what learned people had to say on the matter.

Mostly there was a dude on Quora who said we’re all just “lumps of meat.” His answer was, “No.”

Cool, bro.

I took a sip of my latte.

Then I did something weird. I got up and put honey and cinnamon in my latte. The taste and smell of milk were overpowering. This is probably why the average height of Norwegian men is like eight feet tall. Bergen is like walking through a city full of Preying Mantises. They grow ’em tall in Norway. I’m like a Gremlin here.

OK, so I know I have to get a job. That much we’ve worked out so far today. Thanks, guys. I could always count on you. Next the question becomes, What job? Indeed. Tricky question. You see because I don’t what to be a Spanish interpreter anymore. I don’t want to be a Spanish teacher. But I do want to do fulfilling work.

Of course the thing I actually want to do is be a writer.

Then there comes the question of love. I already have many platonic relationships in my life. And these are great. But I’m looking to get decidedly unplatonic, and this is where I run into road blocks. I’ve tried OkCupid and Tinder and Bumble. O don’t particularly like them. But maybe they’re a necessary evil? No, I refuse to believe that. Subtract the word “necessary.”

Subtract the word evil. And all you’re left with is a breath of air.

Part 2

Nighttime in Bergen and the day has flown by. After espresso house I took a walk, letting the caffeine course through my veins, enjoying the city. I walked past Cafe Opera and it looked completely different from yesterday. It somehow seemed more elegant, more serious. Then I went back to the library. I love libraries. At home I have three library cards for three different systems. At the Bergen library I read a short story by Roald Dahl, and then a book called Introduction to Zen or something like that. I still don’t really know what Zen is. Apparently it’s not something you can really define; it’s only an experience you can have.

After the library I decided to go buck wild and got two cheeseburgers from Burger King. And then I got a smoothie from the grocery store. And then I rode the light rail back to my AirBnb, not paying. I am a criminal. At any moment the Norwegian constabulary will be beating down my door, then throwing the cuffs on, then condemning me to a life of darkness, rain, and strange cheese.

Back at my AirBnb I felt 43% welcome. I retreated to my room where I began watching an Eckhart Tolle video with binaural audio. The soothing voice of Eckhart Tolle. I’m convinced he’s actually a guy from Cincinnati who just speaks with a German accent. You never hear him speaking German. He does speak Spanish, because he spent his high school years in Spain.

Now it’s time to seize the night. But first a glass of water.

Ghosts of Knausgaard

Part 1

In Amsterdam I start to feel tired, but I can’t sleep. I solve the problem by getting a “sausage roll,” which is basically a croissant with a sausage in it. Despite the fatigue the layover goes fast, and suddenly I find myself boarding the flight to Bergen. I have no idea how long this flight takes. I imagine no more than an hour. There’s a child in front of me essentially screaming, and I can’t figure out which language he’s speaking. It sounds like Italian but could also be Romanian. In my addled state it might even be Dravidian.

The plane is small and I have a row to myself. I had a coffee in the Amsterdam airport, and I swore to myself I wouldn’t have any coffee to ward off jet lag, but now it seems like the only solution. Black tea just wasn’t cutting it. And it does work a bit. I also took some 5-HTP, which I at least partially credit for my better mental health as of late. 5-HTP apparently helps with your seratonin levels. And seratonin makes you feel good.

A guy gets up and goes to the bathroom just as we’re about to start taxiing. The flight attendant is not stoked. I’m not stoked either, because he’s flouting the rules. Should I get another coffee on this flight? That might push me into the realm of insanity. Better to stick with black tea.

Soon the plane has taken off and we’re cruising over some kind of sea. It’s supposed to be an hour and 26 minute flight. It’s just occured to me I don’t know which apartment to buzz when I finally get to my destination in Bergen. Maybe it’s not an apartment at all but a house? Ideally I get to the apartment/house, take a short nap, get up and walk around the city a bit, watch the Ajax Chelsea game tonight at nine, then wake up tomorrow at 7:30am, right on schedule. In the Amsterdam airport I did indeed book the train to Oslo. Which means after four nights in Bergen I’m going to Oslo. And from there probably on to Sweden. It’s all a bit unclear at this point, and I’m fine with that. I like to keep my options open. Ideally I wouldn’t even book a train to Oslo, but the longer you wait the more expensive things get. So I took the plunge.

What will Bergen be like? Apparently it’s a lot like Poulsbo, the small city near where I grew up. I imagine it’s a bit more striking though. Just a touch. When I think of Poulsbo I think of car dealerships and maybe a decent bakery or two. When I think of Bergen I think of fjordland majesty. But places almost always lose their mystique once you get to them. Or rather, the real version isn’t the fantasy you dreamed up in your head. Better to have no expectations.

At this point I haven’t slept in probably 20 hours.

Part 2

Bergen so far reminds me a lot of BC. A mix of Victoria and British Columbia, with everyone speaking a different language and the buildings a bit more European. I even see shades of Port Angeles.

My AirBnb host is Panamanian, which means we’ve been speaking Spanish the whole time. Her English is pretty good, but my Spanish is better. I took the light rail into Bergen from the airport, whicn cost about four dollars and comes every five minutes. It leaves right from the airport. It couldn’t be easier. Then when I got to my AirBnb I expired the space a bit, but the only thing I really wanted to do was lie on the bed and talk to people on WhatsApp and watch YouTube videos. Is it possible this trip was a huge mistake? I feel like it was, but at the same time have this deep-seated feeling that this is exactly where I’m supposed to be, like I’m supposed to be making this mistake. Either way that’s the attitude I want to have with everything. No mistakes. Sort of a Bob Ross mentality.

It’s 4:45pm and it’s almost dark in Bergen. After getting settled in the Airbnb I forced myself to hit the town. To go in search of Knausgaard. First stop, the place he talks nonstop about in Book 5: Cafe Opera.

It’s amazing to go to a place in real life that existed so intricately in your head. I thought Cafe Opera was two floors. I thought it was always bustling. I thought it was kind of huge.

It turns out it’s on the ground floor, and it’s not that bustling, at least on a random Tuesday afternoon. It’s also a lot smaller than I expected. There are probably only 18 tables. The experience so far is the definition of unremarkable, except for the mozzarella red pesto toasties, which were much better than expected. It is not the places then, but the people we meet there, the experiences we have there. And so this place basically means nothing to me. It’s just a cafe in Norway. Sure, Karl Over Knausgaard, one of the most famous authors of recent years, used to come here all the time. But what did I expect? A hunched over Knausgaard in his 20s, sitting at a table in the corner, drinking a coffee and scribbling furiously in his notebook? I dare say I did. I think a little part of me expected to live an experience exactly like what he described in his book.

It’s also hard to get a feeling for anything, indeed to feel normal, when you’re so jet-lagged. I’m jet-lagged as shit. But it’s also good that I’ve slept so little, because that means it’ll be easier to get on a normal schedule tonight. Obviously I have to watch the Ajax Chelsea game tonight. Other than that I have nothing ony agenda. Tomorrow: more walking.

“I’m sooooooo tired, I haven’t slept a wink.”

Part 3

In a wild turn of events the following things have happened: 1) I’ve actually gotten on a schedule; I woke up at 7:30am this morning even though every millimeter of me wanted to go back to bed; 2) I still haven’t had coffee even though normally in these situations I go down a brief rabbit hole of coffee and despair before finally righting the ship (the day’s not over yet); 3) My Airbnb host and I have gone BACK to speaking English despite my assertion that my Spanish is far superior to her English, though to be fair I think she speaks English constantly with her husband when he’s around (which might be never because he “works at sea”). This last one I actually find a bit disconcerting. Part of me wants to strongarm her into speaking Spanish, and another part says, “Bro, does it really matter? Just be secure in your language abilities.” One thing that’s a little different from other hosts so far is between her and her uncle, who’s visiting her, someone is ALWAYS here. I’d love to have the place to myself a bit. But so far that hasn’t happened. I don’t think her uncle has left the apartment yet. He doesn’t speak English and he definitely doesn’t speak Norwegian.

Upon leaving the house I walk around and probably walk at least two miles. My feet start to hurt. My back starts to hurt. This is weakness leaving the body. During the walk I have a bit of an existential crisis. Just a tiny one. I think the whole not working thing is really getting to me, or affects me far more than I let on. I don’t need to work right now because I “came into some money” two Junes ago. So if I do work right now it would not be so much for the money but for the sense of well-being it provides, the sense of contribution, the sense of fitting in somewhere in the community. I am in a unique position right now where I’m able to sort of examine things from outside. I see people with their heads down, headed to work every morning with such purpose, and in a way it seems so contrived. And yet of course it’s not. When a squirrel gathers nuts for the winter we don’t consider it contrived. But what if all the sudden the squirrel didn’t have to gather nuts? What if they were all provided for her? Would she be stoked? Or would she become listless, roaming the streets, the parks, going from cafe to cafe, questioning the worth of it all? Would she start reading Karl Over Knausgaard?

The thing is, I started to have these sort of existential questions even when I was working. It all started probably five or so years ago. I remember when I was walking the Camino de Santiago I would often fall asleep with the Tao Te Ching playing. You see, if life is worth living, and I don’t know if that’s a question in itself worth asking, if that question even makes sense (is it kind of like saying, “Is the color red worth being red?”) then it then follows that you should do everything in your power to live well. And neuroscientists have actually broken down what it means to live well. It means doing well in the following three categories: love, work and play. It doesn’t mean focusing on this nebulous concept of “happiness.” Never focus on happiness. Happiness is bullshit. Most people widly confuse happiness with excitement. But a deep sense of peace, of contentment, which is what you should really be striving for, can’t be striven for. Instead you focus on doing well in the aforementioned three categories. At least according to this article.

So look, I’m trying not to get too deep or dramatic on you, but I think it’s good to ask these kinds of questions, at least once in your life. First you ask, “Is life worth living?” and then you either say yes or no or that question is stupid. If you decide either the first one or the third one then you ask, “OK, how do I live well?” And then you take the steps to do that.

So does that mean I need to get a job?