I’m in Vancouver, BC at my friend Jenny’s apartment. Last night I went swimming with my friend Jeff at the public swimming pool. We went off the diving board. We practiced swimming underwater. We went in the hot tub. And all the while I was thinking, “I’m going to live in this city.” “I’m.” “Going.” etc etc.
Now it’s 8:02am and the traffic is passing by on 16th Avenue East. I’m contemplating a move to either 49th parallel to get coffee….or tea, or maybe Snackland just down the street to get a yerba mate. A mate. Why do I call it “yerba mate?” Only goons call it yerba mate and the only reason I call it yerba mate is just in case some jackass comes across this blog and doesn’t know what “mate” means. Also, there is never an accent over the “e” in mate. It’s not pronounced, “ma-TAY,” it’s pronounced: MA-tay. Easy. So don’t ever put an accent over the E.
Maybe I’ll make some of Jenny’s coffee.
Today I’m going to: Walk to Whole Foods to get a smoothie, not apply for jobs, smoke a couple rollies with Jeff, write Clara, possibly walk downtown or somewhere far like the Indigo on Granville and Cambie, reserve my train ticket for tomorrow morning even though it would be kinda sick just to go to the island today to meet up with B and H.
And yeah. That’s about it.
Growing up on Bainbridge I used to love to go to the one dollar blackjack tables at Clearwater Casino, but then when they moved out of the bubble they only had five dollar minimums. Too rich for my blood. God, I love going back there. Not to the casino, that place is pretty awful, but to Bainbridge. I don’t know why I never hang out in Seattle. Seattle is a prison of techies and people with lots of money but very little culture. People who don’t read. You gotta fucking read.
Listening to T Swift on the plane back from Vietnam and I’m wondering fifteen things: 1) when is the little shit kid next to me going to stop crying, 2) is Taylor swift the best recording artist ever, 3) why would anyone ever want to live in Ho Chi Minh City, 4) how can I live and work in Kanada? 5) why is Shake Shack stock bombing so hard, 6) am I in love with a girl from Idaho? 7) why don’t I wakeboard anymore, 8) why is jetlag worse going east??? 9) why is Vietnamese the ugliest sounding language ever? 10) is the girl from Idaho also in love with me, 11) are dates good for you? 12) who shops at Whole Foods (I mean like actually shops there), 13) why do people think New York is so cool? 14) and conversely why do all traveling Latin Americans go to Boston 15) and last but not least: when am I going to shower?
I’m also wondering if I should get another coffee, since coffee makes me aggressive.
The flight attendants come over the loudspeaker and announce nothing. It sounds like they don’t realize it’s turned on. China Eastern has a reputation for flight attendants who don’t speak English. The lady in front of me asked for “extra salt” earlier and the flight attendant cocked her head, looked at her, and kept walking. This was a bit of a triumph in my eyes because who asks for extra salt? If you ask for extra salt you definitely shouldn’t get it.
Inshiman shinshiman. This aircraft smells like a pit of landfill. The child across the aisle has been screaming non-stop because of bad parenting. And yeah. Pretty much never fly china Eastern if you have the choice between China Eastern and any other airline. It’s not worth it. Doesn’t matter how cheap it is. It’s not worth it.
Inshiman shinshiman. We begin our descent into YVR aiprort. We’re just about to cruise over Vancouver Island, where two friends of my are getting into their wetsuits, ready to paddle out in the icy water. I wish I could be them. Two children have started screaming like someone is suffocating their mothers and no music will shield the sound. Someone is playing Indian music and not wearing headphones. I’ve been on this plane for ten hours and I can’t be positive because I want to fucking get off. The plane. I want to get off. The plane. I want to get off.
Thirty three minutes to go. I put on the song Faded by Alan Walker and we approach the runway with the gracefulness of an east Indian rhino.
We touch down.
The children stop crying.
The sun comes out.
Psych. It’s cold af outside and I don’t have proper footwear.
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…”
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.
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.
I’ll let that soak in for a moment.
Well, look at the seating chart:
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 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.
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?
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.
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:
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.
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!
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?”
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.