Sunday, September 30, 2007

my bum is on the swedish. PART II

I knew it was going to be a good night when a man with an Afro let me take his spot at the bar. We walked in and veered slightly right as to avoid a large train of fashionable Swedes and to look as if we had a destination in mind. Luckily our instincts directed us to the bar. Airing on the side of caution I paid for my drink with a large bill, expecting change without having to ask how much the drinks were; once we had a drink in hand we felt properly armed to descend upon the troops of partygoers.

The room we had left looked like it could have been an upper class ballroom in the Titanic; rich woodwork, dark plush couches and expansive mirrors that reached from the floor to a narrow balcony that bordered the expansive room. A row of three large, crystal chandeliers loomed over the lounging area that was scattered with the eldest of the partiers. While “courteous Afro” seemed like he could be a friend we decided to explore the rest of our new surroundings.

Another room off the main traffic highway carried with it much more of the MTV atmosphere I expected. We were ready for our welcome to the elite Swedish Social Circle (SSC as we call it). The décor of this room varied greatly from the stately room we first walked into. Although the physical structure of the room was similar large canopy beds placed at random replaced the plush velvet couches, and the magnitude of the stage and speaker area in the back replaced the majesty of the chandeliers. The crowd was different as well. Whereas the people in the previous room might have prepared for this party by sipping an aged Cabernet Sauvignon while watching Frasier, this crowd “pre-gamed” with vodka and red-bull while watching The OC.

Despite the flutter of people enjoying their own attractive company I was still reminded of that unsettling feeling of entering the cafeteria the first year of middle school. Everyone seemed to know what to do except me, and their were obviously the cool beds and the not as cool beds; deciding which bed to sprawl out on could determine the fate of my entire night. Rarely does the choice of which bed to go to happen when you enter a club rather than when you leave a club. The bed nearest the door was clearly the most established of all the beds; men, women and possibly a waiter or two were laying, interwoven with each other casually relaxing only to sit up in order to sip their cocktails. While it didn’t seem to be becoming sexual it did seem to be quite private. Our chosen bed was clearly still out there, besides that bed was pretty crowded and I usually like to spread out in bed, bunching up the covers and positioning the pillows in the most comfortable way possible. Something tells me that crowd wouldn’t have responded well to me approaching them with, “Hey guys move over, I hate being squished.” “No, seriously come on, Jesper, Heidi, I really need those pillows, I have a delicate spine.”

Following the cardinal rule of real estate we chose a bed based on location, rather than style. It was situated between the bar, a small roped off private party, and the nearly empty dance floor. The only other people on the bed were another couple who were dressed comparatively drab and were perpetually smiling. They seemed to be oblivious, and while their existence at this party may have been more justified than ours I suddenly developed a strong desire against associating with them. They clearly didn’t understand the mood of the party for they hadn’t yet chosen between “having the best time ever, pass more uppers” or the brooding “I have yet to have fun”. They seemed to be lost on their way to the Best Western and considered the Scandinavian beer on tap a “wild drink!” The middle school cafeteria aura was rearing its ugly head again; the cattiness was becoming contagious.

A cameraman made his way past the dance floor and through the beds, pausing on our bed for a pan. While I tried to look as if I was enjoying myself but had clearly experienced crazier parties I think I just looked mildly confused and my grin was a bit too shaky. Suddenly I wondered where this footage would be aired and had a panic that those same cashiers and metro riders that had experienced my confusing silence and unwarranted head nods in Paris would turn on MTV back home only to see me solidifying my “mentally slow” image in Paris and Europe. This room was clearly bringing out the worst in me. Cara and I agreed that after another drink we should wander again. Where was the “courteous Afro” when I needed him?

We passed by the bed that now resembled a plate of human spaghetti; the amount of humans lounging on top of each other had surpassed sexy a long time ago and now just appeared uncomfortable and sloppy. We made our way upstairs to the large balcony that looked out onto the street below. Our desire for human interaction was reaching dangerous levels for we had now been abroad a week without really interacting with anyone. Our expectations were lowering minute by minute and the slightest eye contact or possible head nod caused us to break out into an excited conversation about the possibility of us befriending said person, complete with multiple plans of friendship attacks. We had crossed the line from friendly bar-goers to friendship poachers. We were down to our last room of the party, an unsuccessful time here and we might be headed back to the geriatrics in the Titanic room to lament over the loss of Frasier and get insider tips to the Transport or Post Museum of Stockholm. The stakes were high.

Deciding it best to be near the always crowded bar we found an area close to the traffic but private enough for a couple people to park next to us to engage in stimulating conversation. We must have been parked in a handicap spot for our time was mostly spent observing three Swedish gay men who carried a mysterious large satchel, were thumbing through a magazine they quite probably styled and taking not so hidden snorts from their cocaine spoon necklace. Cara suddenly interrupted my silent staring and deliberate shifts in stance, “Quick go to the bathroom, I’ve made contact with someone and I think he’ll actually come over here if you leave.” Too overwhelmed with the possible idea of human contact to assess the level of insult I quickly agreed; willing to take any directions in order to advance our social situation. “Do you want me to leave completely? I can totally do that; if he asks about me just tell me I’m a waiter or something. Change my name to something more interesting or I can speak in an accent in needed. Should I have a lisp?” I was ready to help in any way possible. My first helpful act was a quick disappearance to the bathroom.

Snaking my way back through the crowd I spotted Cara talking to what appeared to be the Big Friendly Giant, from the Roald Dahl book I cherished as a child. Finally something I can talk about with someone. While I was back I had yet to make my reappearance apparent to either of them but I was happy silently cheering on the success of one of us. After multiple slight adjustments I found the best stance against the bar, leaning back casually as if to show the Swedish crowd that, “yeah, I’m associate with this socialization happening right next to me.” Cara turned to introduce me to her new Swedish friend who, unfortunately was not The BFG but an unpronounceable Swedish name we referred to as Gunner. Gunner said he wouldn’t have guessed I was American but from Great Britain or possibly Denmark. I immediately loved him. I knew nothing about Denmark or how attractive their citizens were but it sounded exotic to me and I was already planning on sharing this comparison with friends, acquaintances and Starbucks baristas back in Boston. Upon meeting someone new in class I’d ask where they were from, prefacing it by saying, “And no, a lot of people have told me I look like I’m from Denmark but I’m not”.

Luckily for me, as Cara’s casual conversation with Gunner turned to innocent flirting two of Gunners new friends reappeared next to him: Johan and Jessica, two genuine Swedes. Johan was younger and although he had brown hair he was born and raised in Stockholm. He had a strong desire to share the best places to go in Stockholm, like the underground ping-pong bar, he even gave us advice on Parisian nightlife.

Jessica began to talk to me with a youthful enthusiasm I thought could only be promised at the empty bar we passed earlier in the night. She was originally from the Swedish country and had moved to Stockholm in the past few months. Like 75% of the young Stockholm professionals she worked for a hip, young magazine. “It’s like Cosmopolitan for younger girls, you know, like ‘Go do your own thing Girls! Like very independent, very girl spirited!” Absolutely, Jessica, absolutely I know exactly what you mean. I was overjoyed to be making new Swedish friends and having broken the barrier of waiting for it allowed me to pass off the creepy obsession we possessed of it before as a novice’s natural worries. Jessica and I began to have an all out gab-sess most likely appropriate for her magazine. She shared her secret of being horrible at flirting, for which I most naturally related too. Another drink and a bit too loudly she began to digress gushing about her admiration for Johan the other companion in our new friendship circle. Apparently they had just met tonight as well and despite my shared confession of flirting fauxpas I began to coach Jessica with her seduction of Johan. “Don’t be subtle Jessica!” I warned her, “He could be really shy and just unsure if you actually do like him.” “Ohmygod he’s so CUTE!” Jessica half said, half giggled. “What do I do Rodney, what do I do?!” Jessica pleaded to me. Five minutes into our friendship and already I was the undeserved dating doctor for Jessica the country girl. I began to question 29-year-old Jessica’s qualifications for dispensing advice to the independent tween girls of Sweden. Johan unfortunately did not seem to be responding to Jessica’s flirtation although she was being less subtle. Gunner and Johan seemed to be talking about leaving but I motioned for everyone to get together for a picture. “Jessica get next to Johan” I directed, “ah yes, you guys look good together” I said as I snapped the picture. Very not so subtly Jessica ran up to me gave me a Swedish bear hug and said “Oh thank you, I Love you!”

All three of them exited shortly after, and while I was hopeful for the romance between my two new Swedish friends, I couldn’t help but smile and shake my head at Jessica. Having just arrived in the city from the rural country she clearly had so much to learn about the social ways of Stockholm but luckily she had me for a friend. I’m an expert.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

my bum is on the swedish.

(roughly edited as of 3.10.07)

Determined to make a name for ourselves in the Swedish socialite network, Cara and I turned to where most socialites go for nightclub advice…Google and tourist pamphlets. We read about a nightclub that was “buzzing with energetic and optimistic youth,” it was in the same building as “the Spy Bar,” which was “legendary within the Stockholm community.” For me the Spy Bar carried images of an international crowd dressed mostly in black suits and cocktail dresses; one hand on the martini and the other hand stealthily fingering the Glock 45 stashed above the cummerbund. I couldn’t decide which suited me best for although I am an optimistic youth, I have watched a lot of spy movies.
I didn’t bring a suit with me so we decided it best to head to the bar with those our age; besides it was in the same building as the Spy Bar so if we heard the sounds of gunfire and glass shattering we’d know that the party should move up to Spy Bar.

We had only been in Stockholm for twenty-four hours--ten of which had been spent sleeping--but we decided to make our way to the bar using our new knowledge of the metro and the best of our map reading skills. Although most people in Stockholm know excellent English, I still find the Swedish language best understood when accompanied by an IKEA instructional booklet. Each street had a name consisting of no fewer than eleven characters and many looking like typos of a street near it. In addition to the language handicap, our nightclubbing skills are best described as novice to non-existent. Aside from a few short, rowdy trips to Canada and the occasional “18 and under” night at an American club, our social smoothness consisted of shoving our ID into the bouncers hand and nodding with a nervous smile.

Luckily the area we were lost in had an active scene of hotels, restaurants, bars and clubs so while en route to our destination we compiled a mental list of possible alternative options. When you pass by the same street twice in a city you know nothing about you suddenly feel as if you’re going in circles and every road leads to this one. In our case we were going in circles and were finding our way back to “Dankiensplakanstein”. My mental list of possibilities was inching its way to the front of my mind when we reached our destination. We missed it before because it was…completely. dark. inside. Pressing our faces against the glass we could see what appeared to be a dance floor, and oh, over there looks like a possible bar, and those lights look like they’d be fun when you turn them on! The Spy Bar that seemed to be one floor up was dark as well, not even the faint sound of a silenced gun or refreshed martini. My youthful optimism was draining out of me like the drinks once served at the empty bar.

“There’s a TGIFriday’s over there,” I told Cara as I pointed to the restaurant’s façade speckled with a few too-drunk-too-early individuals who looked like they could have been plucked from the middle of Pennsylvania. Except blonder. We retraced our steps looking for our other options. Walking along one of the nearby streets we could hear what sounded like fun in a side street. Making sure to walk as inconspicuously as possible we came upon an “MTV EUROPE VIDEO MUSIC AWARDS PARTY MUNICH” sign outside a grand hotel and bar. “When did we arrive in Germany?” I thought to myself. The entrance had two security guards flanking a red velvet rope. Next to the entrance was a large MTV logo carved out of ice, and inside music, lights, and hordes of attractive people solidified our notion that this was, indeed, a party. I walked past the hotel fingering my Pennsylvania Drivers license in my pocket and chuckling to Cara at the notion of going to an MTV party while in Stockholm. While I played it off as a joke I was already mentally picturing what kind of activities were going on inside and which celebrity was shouting into their Blackberry, “I can’t hear you! I’m at this MTV thing in Stockholm,” as they absentmindedly brush off the silver platter containing cocaine, caviar and assorted condoms.

The best bet seemed to be an anonymous club that had not only a large group of young Swedes outside but a ton inside as well; the wall of windows displaying the dancing rituatals of the young Swedish community. We passed this bar before and were hesitant as well because Cara had spotted some small pieces of paper clutched in each of their porcelain hands. “Is everything a private party in Stockholm?” I asked, spotting the flyers Cara had mentioned. Cara seemed to be hesitant as to the notion of us going out at all this night and I swear I could have spotted her looking in the direction of the TGIFridays but I was determined to experience Swedish social life, dignity or no dignity. “Let’s just go up to the guy, and see what happens. At least we know its all people our age, a lot of these other places seem to be older people.” I led the way, traversing the chain-smoking youths till I reached the doorman. He said something to me in Swedish and I nodded as if I understood, taking out my wallet and reaching for my ID. He said something in Swedish again and I leaned in further; perhaps if I hear it more clearly I’ll understand the language. I gave him a slight smirk and reached for my ID again. “Have you been in here before,” he said, in English. I looked over to Cara as if she would know more than I would. “No it’s our first real day in Stockholm but we really love it! Stumbled upon a great thrift store and went to a Toy museum that I think you’d really love!” I wanted to say, impressing him with my admiration for his city. I simply shook my head no. “It’s a private party. Under 18 Birthday. No alcohol,” he said, sensing my confusion and putting it into simplistic of terms. “Ohhh” I said as I shook my head up and down showing him how I fully understood now. Looking over at Cara who was silent beside me, I turned back to the man and replied with a friendly chuckle, “Then nooo” as if I still had the option and was simply turning it down due to the fact that it was filled with minors and had no alcohol. I was too much of a mature drinker for that party indeed!

“Let’s just go back to the MTV party, we could totally get in,” I said to Cara as we scampered away from the Swedish Super Sweet 16 we were just rejected from. She groaned as I pressed on. I was devising a mental monologue and back-story I could present the bouncer if they denied us entry. We are American MTV workers who are in Stockholm on some youthful business, this party being business of course. Our intern Rachel should have faxed your people our credentials but it’s so like Rachael to forget (we’d fire her but she’s a college intern and you can’t help but empathize). We had people to meet inside, goddamnit, who know what sort of important MTV business will go unfinished if we don’t get in and meet our colleagues. As we approached the entrance I was mouthing my personal profile and perfecting my business like strut. When I actually reached the entrance a group of people were leaving and I simply walked in as they walked out, blocking the absentminded security guard who was now on her own. Looking back as if someone behind me just said something totally plebian and annoying I saw that Cara had done the same and we were actually inside rather than walking to the real, more heavily guarded, entrance. We did make it inside…looks like intern Rachel finally did something right. I’ll have to make sure to thank her personally when I get back to New York.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

my milkshake brings all the french to the yarddd

The last time we were on the Internet Cara and I we were hunched over our computers ten feet outside the nearby McDonalds; stealing their Wi-Fi while the impending storm and light drizzle stole our time. Formally dressed in a button down, Balenciaga boots and trench coat I was on a broken bench facing the street; amusing Parisian motorists as I crammed all the essential Internet tasks in before the drizzle broke into a downpour or the McDonalds employees caught wind of our grand heist. We first realized the McDonalds down the street from us had usable Internet a few hours after we gave up on a day that we devoted solely to the task of going online.
I would expect no less than the unbelievable irony of McDonalds providing us with the connection to the outside world from our experience thus far. McDonalds has actually been an unusual and unexpected third companion on our trip. It saw us off at JFK with an $8 dollar Big Mac meal thanks to Terminal 4’s lack of culinary options (although it did have a sense of culinary cruelty with the “Coming Soon! Balducci’s!” sign right next to MickyD’s).
That Big Mac quickly became the requiem for my digestive track as it was the last meal I had for nearly 24 hours. While a majority of those 24 hours was spent either in flight or in an airport, entirely too much of it was spent frantically looking for Cara and our Hotel in Paris. By the time I reached her/our hotel room, my shoulders were raw and bruised from dragging my luggage through the metro and streets of Paris, my clothes were marinated in sweat and the only thing keeping me awake was the yelling of my stomach.
While the first few days were devoted almost entirely to the apartment search and capture it goes without saying we were blown away by Paris’ beauty and charm—

-While walking from one street corner to the next we quickly realized we literally ran into a police chase. We happily crossed a confusingly empty street as a man brushed past us at full speed only to be grabbed and knocked to the ground by two or three policemen, all the while narrated by a series of grunts and hollers from the large crowd that had gathered.
-While happily munching on our baguette sandwiches on a bench near the street we were joined by one of the many Parisian pigeons, who, as you might expect, do not triumphantly strut around the street wearing mini berets, smoking tiny Camel 100s, in fact, many of them are deformed or wounded. This little champ has both legs but only one foot. We may never know the story behind it but the pigeon seemed almost comically unaffected by the lack of foot. Cara and I have found a new sort of entertainment in spotting deformed pigeons in Paris. Much of our time spent under the Eiffel Tower was with our heads down gawking and giggling at the circus freak show of our feathered friends.
- A strange treat of the population around our Hotel was roasted corn on the cob. Little people seemed affected by the sight of a family walking down the street munching on a roasted ear or two and mini grills were set up here and there roasting and selling the corn. While this seemed to be almost customary it may or may not be legal and judging from the time we witnessed a group of “sellers” shrieking and scattering as a policeman approached their street corner my Euro is on the idea that it may be illegal.

The most unsettling aspect of the experience so far is the feeling of one’s on foreignism. We know no one and nothing here. When someone tries to communicate to me I have either pre-planned monosyllabic answers or look at them with a blank stare and try not to piddle myself. While riding the Metro Cara and I are often pretty silent but when we do talk we question how much the other passengers can understand of us and how much they think we can understand of them. We can usually get away with a slight smile, head nod or “oui” or “non” but I’m pretty sure that those Parisians we’ve delt with so far think we’re just “slow”. We’ve blacklisted ourselves from nearly every grocery store in the area after multiple embarrassing and confusing checkout ordeals. A trip to the grocery store is now automatically preceded by a trip to the ATM to ensure the least confusing method of payment.

While our communication and co-ordination with Paris has yet to be found, I find myself again at McDonalds and thankfully it seems France, and myself, is entirely comfortable with the word “milkshake”.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

you have to shift to get a period in france

this post is merely to let people know they can call off the search party and to aanounce my somewhat successful arrival in paris. despite the fact that i have numerous updates including: one footed pidgeons, a double dose of public vomitting (one self-induced), damaging our apartment on the first night and sharing gum with strangers on the metro I will just post my new address and telephone number so you can send me an assortment of treats! my restraint is due to (as you may have infered from the title) the logic-defying french keyboards.

rodney uhler is in paris:

rodney uhler
12 villa daumesnil
3ieme droite
75012 paris 12

calling me from usa:
011 33 68 47 85 91 2

from france:
06 84 78 59 12

i hope i can update soon, perhaps before i leave for stokholm and barcelona!

Saturday, September 8, 2007


In response to the overwhelming demand from publications such as "the paris review", "the new yorker", "gq", and "highlights for children" I have decided to make my literary presence known to the online community. People can only look at porn for so long I guess.

While personally I've created this to document (hopefully with military like disciple) my experience overseas in Paris, it's really for the fans in the end. Maybe with the added technological and aesthetic appeal I'll write a lot more.

Currently I'm still stagnate in Pennsylvania so it would go against the true purpose of the blog to write anything of substance while I'm here so in accordance to my own wishes I'll stop.