Friday, April 16, 2004


It was an astonishing day not to have my camera. More accurately, it was absolutely unsurprising not to have had my camera on such an astonishing day. The sun shone, the water sparkled, the girls unfurled their hair and rolled up their hemlines, and the beer was everywhere. Copenhagen blossomed.

Days like this go a long way toward explaining why millions of men and women over the years have chosen to tolerate the gloomy Danish winters.

It wasn't just the weather that brightened Denmark today: it was also the Queen's birthday and opening day at Tivoli—the fairy-tale garden at the heart of Copenhagen's charm. I'm happy to report that, through sheer accident, I made it to both Amalienborg (the queen's residence) and Tivoli this afternoon—in my way.

Today's Danish class was a "treasure-hunt" (skattejagt), in which my classmates and I were required to hustle about the city to answer questions such as, "How many square meters is the garden in the middle of Kongens Nytorv?" and "What is the actual name of Marmorkirk, and when was it built?"

By sheer coincidence, the skattejagt took us right into Amelienborg. The class begins at 11:30 in the morning, but for various reasons we got a late start and didn't make it to Amelienborg until about fifteen minutes after the queen had come out, waved to her adoring subjects, accepted their birthday greetings, and gone back in for a smoke.

The Danes adore their queen. I still haven't figured out what a social-democratic country whose electorate is almost entirely to the left of the American Green Party finds so exhilirating about a monarch, but there's no disputing the enthusiasm. The streets were thronged with men, women, boys, and girls of all ages, most of them waving their beloved Danish flag, or dannebrog; children hand-delivered their birthday cards to the Yellow Palace (another stop on our skattejagt), sometimes with flowers.

On the square in the center of Amalienborg, the royal guard marched and played music. Every bus and public building in the city was bedecked with the dannebrog; you couldn't toss a glance in any direction without it hitting the Danish flag.

The city was happy: the very bricks and cobblestones seemed tremulous with joy.

After our skattejagt I had to hurry across town to a meeting. Tivoli lay on my path and I was unable to resist its charms. If I were a little younger, a little stupider, and a little more financially secure—or any two of the three—I never would have made it to that meeting. All around me was joy, palpable joy, the contagious exuberance of people who have been beaten down by the cold and dark for half a year and are suddenly and miraculously presented with spring—real spring, radiant spring, the kind of spring that makes all the rebirth myths and legends of all the world's religions seem absolutely obvious.

Also, there was a really cool new rollercoaster. Man, that thing is sweet.

So, anyway... good day. Sorry I didn't have the camera.


I forgot to mention the Almanac is back up. Week 23 Bean update, the inside story on Paul Revere, a Titanic love story with a surprise ending, and so much more...

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Knöck Knöck... 

Okay, I'm an American in Denmark and I'm married to a Danish woman. Also I've had some extremely painful professional experiences with Germans. But those can't be the only reasons I think this "German Humor Sampler" is so hilarious. Can it?

(Thanks to Neil Armstrong (no relation) for the inspiration.)

Hjem Is Bil! Hjem Is Bil! 

Mmm... cartons...

The weather in Copenhagen has been magnificent the past couple of days. Today it's been exceptional. About half an hour ago, the DMG and I were out the door and on our way to run a pregancy-related errand when we suddenly heard the chimes of the Hjem Is Bil—the ice-cream truck.

"Hjem Is!" exclaimed the DMG. My Danish isn't all it ought to be, but my ice-cream radar is flawless. We reversed course immediately and hurried toward the truck.

Danish ice-cream trucks aren't like their American cousins. When the Danish is bil comes along, you don't waddle up with a handful of change and order a single Strawberry Shortcake or Toasted Almond bar like you would from the Good Humor man. Instead, you buy a whole fricking box of bars—in our case, dobbelt nougat for the DMG, chokostang for myself. Then you must assume the discipline to restrict yourself to one per night until the Hjem Is Bil returns again—two weeks later.

(If you never read the hilarious true-story about the Hjem Is Bil on the almanac, please take this opportunity to do so. It's not just a funny anecdote: it's a valuable parenting parable.)

After we got back in the house and loaded all the ice-cream into the freezer our appetites had been whipped into a frenzy and we began making dinner. A few minutes later we realized we'd dropped our pregnancy-related errand altogether.

Yes, we're going to be stellar parents...

Wednesday, April 14, 2004


It's about eleven o'clock Wednesday night here in Denmark, meaning it's a little after five in the afternoon on the east coast. My biological clock is set somewhere in between: late enough to pour myself a drink (excuse me a moment) but much too early to call it a night.

Before I digress from my intended course of digressions, however, I'd like to share a mind-altering recipe for persons intrigued by the idea of hallucinogenic drugs but unwilling to risk the side-effects of chemical stimulants.

An All-Natural Recipe for Hallucination

(1) Spend one year in a nation the language of which you do not speak. Try to learn it. Fail.

(2) Spend 12 days in the nation in which you were raised.

(3) On the last night of your trip, consume at least eight fluid ounces of whiskey and get no more than five hours of sleep.

(4) Do not sleep on your evening flight eastward across the Atlantic.

(5) Spend an hour in an airport in a country whose language is not your primary tongue but in which you were once very nearly fluent. Try to summon your forgotten mastery of that language without getting it hopelessly mixed up with the new language you've been learning. Fail.

(6) Proceed directly from the airport of your newly adopted country to your home. Do not sleep. Shower, change, and rush off to a four-hour class in your new language.

(7) Enjoy!

* * *

Because I had to.

* * *

One of the things I got to thinking about on our return flight was perspective: the way familiar things can quickly become almost unrecognizable. It was an innocuous image that got me started—something like this:

Now, you may be one of those people that sees an image like that and knows exactly what to make of it. I'm not. Realizing that about myself was educational. I'm one of those shallow people that's easily amused by very mundane things because my perceptions of the world are vague enough that something only has to change a little to seem almost entirely new to me. It's a sort of Visual Attention Deficit Disorder, I suppose—which ought to qualify me for some sort of government assistance, or at least some powerful narcotics.

Anyway, that's why I have a hard time talking a lot about the trip now: things that seemed very novel and interesting in the moment seem suddenly sort of normal and unexceptional in retrospect. I'm sure the novelty will come back retroactively once I've acclimatized myself to Denmark, but that's going to take a few days.

So instead of coming at you here or on the Almanac (to be resumed Friday) with one big recap of the trip, I'm just going to pick up where I left off—nowhere—and just work anecdotes in as they become relevant.

I'll try to post some pictures, too.

(I broke my camera, so there aren't that many pictures.)

* * *

Diet Pepsi Twist is good, but not good enough to warrant the amount I drank.

Budweiser is good enough to justify the amount I drank. So is Jim Beam.

For six months I've been telling everyone that one of the things I missed the most about the states was Mexican food. I didn't eat any Mexican food at all in the states. None. Not even an order of nachos.

Now that I've been separated from all the hype and "You're Fired" jokes, I don't mind missing tomorrow's finale of The Apprentice. (But I'll still check the website to see who won.)

The mystery image is a silhouette of North America, rotated ninety degrees to the left.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004


They've got a saying in Denmark: "Øst, vest, hjemme bedste." It means "East, west, home best." Hallelujah—we're home.

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