Copenhagen, Denmark

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The sun rises at 8:30 and it’s dark by 4pm. It’s cold but so cold that no one really notices (except to say it’s too windy to ride a bike, and everyone rides a bike). You walk against the wind and hit the streets for the 3 hours of daylight you’ve managed to nab since you’re still on the incompatible Spanish schedule.

Everyone is tall, but you knew that, and dressed in dark high-quality wool, blond on blond on blond. They’re hotter than you in a distinctly Danish way which maybe also makes you hot to them in a distinctly not-Danish way.

Tinder hasn’t gotten weird in this country yet.

There’s a 7/11 on most corners and that’s comforting. The wind carries you through frozen parks and slick plazas and you keep stepping into the bike lane but they’re too polite to hit you. You eat open-faced sandwiches with the friendliest of friends of a friend from New York and drink the Christiania beer from the north and ask to pay with card for a hot dog at 7/11 and the teenaged clerk speaks better English than you.

You were told it was expensive here but next to Oslo this place is on sale.

You walk through a deep dark hole into the free town commune of Christiania where suddenly you feel like you’re at burning man, but with fewer yuppies. There’s no electricity in the streets but for a blazing flood light to watch for cops. Past trashcan fires and dreads and no photo signs you drink more of that beer and manage to buy a joint of pure skunk at a kiosk covered in that military camouflage webbing. You’re not sure if it’s a successful transaction or not but now you have a joint and he has money and they’re selling chocolate cake at the kiosk next door because these are goddamn businessmen. The bar you’re brought to is pastel and full of colored streamers and reggaeton and everyone dances badly, enthusiastically.

You go across the river and meet up with some Faroese at a bar listening to Nick Cave as if he knew you were coming. The Negronis are strong the punch is stronger. The joint is passed around and it wrecks you and suddenly you can see through time.

The next day you don’t make it to the sunlight but you have muesli and the sad pug at the Airbnb doesn’t want you to go. This country won’t keep you but you contemplate missing your flight and calling the Faroese but you have to teach 1st grade PE in the morning and no one else is going to sing the “hokey pokey” with the correct lyrics.

The airport has chocolate and wi-fi, and that’s some consolation.

You put on 6 layers of many shades of black, hug the pug, and start out for home into the frozen wet darkness of 3:58 pm.

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C’mon Billy

Ain’t it strange: trying to stanch the ebb and flow of relative insanity

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*There aren’t really a lot of photos that are apropos to this post, so I’ll intersperse my diatribe with paintings I did of my (rock and roll) spirit-guides.

I had a rough weekend. After having a veritable army of 3rd graders practically cough into my mouth all month I got a gnarly stomach flu that laid me out for nearly a week. Now I imagine I know what it’s like to contract dysentery;  I had the lower intestine of a pioneer. It was like I was on the goddamned Oregon Trail.

And in my sweat-soaked, bloated, fever-induced delirium I got a bit existential. I began to reflect on my present situation which had slowly become more and more unbearable, and that’s besides the nearly shitting myself to death.

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If I have one major fault (I have a litany actually, which is part and parcel to my charm, but if one could be considered the most glaring) it is the fact that I can be passive to a fault, not exercising my agency more than pure altruism and politesse require, and that harshes my mellow something fierce (you can tell I have a liberal arts degree). To put it briefly I can be a wimp when dealing with particularly strong or willful personalities, which by their nature constantly attempt to exert their will over mine (Nietzsche would be unimpressed). Until of course, I reach a certain point and lose it over some triviality and bite someone’s head off for arguing with me over what constitutes one serving of fruit on the food pyramid (anecdotal). I’m a nice guy and I like to keep my shit copacetic, to the point that my will begins to suffer. I can be inconvenienced and handle a fair amount of BS with aplomb, until I become a pariah, banishing myself into some self-imposed bummer city.

Well, anyway that all sounds like some remedial psychological diagnosis from a freshmen who’s just read some Freud, but there, I’ve bared my soul. I look tough, but I can be fragile, you know? I need to take lessons on what it is to be a post-enlightenment liberal individual or I’m going to continue to keep getting increasingly weird and “offbeat” (euphemism) as I get older (the trend has clearly already started).

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So, wouldn’t you know it, I saw one of these situations creeping up on me since my time here in Madrid. Forces were acting upon me, shaping my experiences in a negative way, and I was just floating down that noxious river, counting it all part of a “character-building exercise (I have character aplenty by now). But enough is too much; I had made a goal for this year.

Actually I can remember the exact moment: it was summer and I was in the back seat of my friend Ben’s newly-acquired Volvo station wagon, driving north on the 101 towards Marin County, just on the other side of the Golden Gate bridge. There is a tunnel there, whose mouth is outlined in a rainbow, and when we passed through its arch I held my breath and wished for the strength to be able to focus on myself for the next year, to act as an individual unit of energy and potential actively driving on my own trajectory.

The whole point of all of this travel is about 35% frolic and jaunt, and 65% putting myself through the emotional ringer so that I can self-actualize into the tough broad of the 21st century that is my innate self before the anomie of the modern condition threw a wrench into my cogs.

And even if it isn’t easy or natural (and it isn’t because I enjoy confrontation about as much as I enjoy a poke in the eye with a sharp stick) by merely enacting an ethic or behavior one begins to internalize and eventually incorporate it into their natural habits. In other words, keep acting like an alpha female and you shall become one. Now all I need to do is get filthy rich and I’m set.

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