Tuesday, November 23, 2010
A woman was sitting next to me on the bus in Portland, Oregon. She was around forty years old, with an oval face and small penetrating eyes.
"I feel so blessed," she suddenly said to me.
I looked shocked at her. Since I'm from Denmark, I'm not used to strangers talking to me on the bus. In my country, everybody stares into their tabloids when they commute. Danes are comatose. We're highly skilled sleep walkers, especially when we find ourselves on something as gruesome as public transportation.
In Denmark smiling at strangers is a federal crime. Talking to them is usually awarded with the death penalty or at least an icily cold stare.
The woman continued, "I feel so grateful today because the sun is shining and the air is so crisp."
Our eyes met. Yes, my first instinct had been correct: The woman was brain damaged. For a short second, I feared she was going to quote the Bible or worse, try to save my soul, but she just kept on smiling her grateful smile.
A second later, she said goodbye and stepped off the bus. Where she went, I have no idea. Probably to a nice insane asylum or some church with awesome carpeting.
A Danish friend of mine was visiting me in Portland last week.
At one point she said, "You know what I love about Americans? They celebrate Thanksgiving. In Denmark, no one would dream of being grateful for anything. It's simply not in our DNA."
I thought about this for a while.
Was that really true? Does Denmark consist of 5.5 million spoiled Scandinavians who take everything for granted: the welfare state, the sunshine on naked elm trees, the crisp air? Of course not ... but at the same time, giving thanks is not something Danes do well, especially not if it's to a higher power. The only higher power we believe in is the European Union, and even Him we don't like much.
No, Danes would be hard pressed to say, 'I'm blessed', especially on a bus. Even for a Danish Christian it would be too cheesy - because in Denmark we're deeply suspicious of people who have the audacity of believing in God.
'Go and be blessed somewhere else,' we would shout at the woman I met. Or, 'go back to your own country where you can feel as blessed as you want,' others would scream, especially if the woman was wearing a headscarf.
So where do I stand?
Somewhere in the middle, I guess. I'm a Dane who believes in God but I get sick of the self righteous Christians in America who use 'I'm blessed' as a sign of humility when it's just a way of showing moral superiority. I also get sick of the atheism in Denmark and our fear of showing emotions or concern towards people we don't know.
So maybe I should live somewhere between Scandinavia and the US - on a small island in the Atlantic, surrounded by randy raccoons with a spiritual bent?
Then I would feel truly blessed...?
Thursday, November 18, 2010
I don't snoop. I'm a man of high morals.
I've never killed anyone unless they tried to flash me.
I don't eat pork or pretzels.
I'm too pure to to maim cockroaches or Norwegians.
I wouldn't dream of jaywalking. Masturbation is as foreign to me as coleslaw.
I haven't lusted for any woman since August, 1991, and that day I was wearing a condom.
I always pray for strangers.
I love my enemies as much as I love Comcast. I only wear my underwear once, then I give it to charity.
I speak sweetly of the dead, I floss on Wednesdays, and I wouldn't dream of listening to Lady Gaga.
The last time I said fuck, I felt guilty for a decade.
I don't watch Glenn Beck or porn.
I cut my toenails in the privacy of my own bathroom.
I've never lied in my life. If I lied, God would strike me dead before I could finish this sentenc
flash prose, copyright by Peter H. Fogtdal, Danish Accent
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
I love IKEA.
When I was a kid in Denmark, everybody shopped there. You just didn't talk about it - shopping at a Swedish store was considered high treason. But the deals were so great you had to go. IKEA was trendy in a twisted way. You could buy easy to assemble ping pong tables; you could even get laid.
I mean, let's face it, who doesn't love IKEA?
It's Scandinavian imperialism at its best. It's cheap and big - it's like Burger King without the burgers. If you hang out there long enough, you meet everybody you know. And IKEA is the greatest place in the world to get lost.
By the way, I got lost at IKEA in Portland the other day.
My girlfriend and I went there to buy toilet seats but we fell so much in love with the place that we decided to spend the night. It was an easy choice; we couldn't find our way out.
"Where's the exit?" I asked a man who didn't look Swedish.
"There is no exit," he said and looked at us gloomily.
For a minute or two, we panicked. Then, we started walking. Exit, a sign said, but soon we ended up in a dead end aisle with Norwegian doorknobs.
"No, it's this way," my girlfriend said, looking paler by the minute. We walked in the opposite direction, but there were crowds everywhere: Seniors looking for easy chairs, children looking for parents, Finns looking for vodka, all of them with their hands full of coupons.
I gasped for air; the walls started to cave in. At one point, I thought I saw Bjorn Borg and Caroline Wozniacki making out on a beach towel ($9.99), but it was probably just my imagination.
A Muslim father fainted in front of me. "Do you know ... we have an Ikea ... in Mecca?" he mumbled. These were his last words.
I looked desperately at my girlfriend: "We have to get out of here," I said.
"No," she said, "they have an amazing deal on coat hangers."
At midnight, we still hadn't found the exit, so we camped out in an aisle with a few other survivors. Luckily, there was a cafeteria we could raid. We munched on herring, lutefisk, and other gross Scandinavian delicatessen that would make any one vomit.
"We're going to die at Ikea," my girlfriend whispered, "you know that, don't you?"
"Yes," I wept and reached out for my blackberry, "but please don't tell any one in Denmark. They're going to hold it against me forever."
Rewritten version of blog post from February, 2009.
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
I love animals, except for rats, snakes, and singing poodles.
I'm the kind of guy who will chase raccoons just to give them a hug. I want them to sit on my lap while I feed them goat cheese. When I see a raccoon in Portland, I scream, "Come to daddy" which makes them run away like they're possessed.
So it's a bit of a no-brainer that I would fall in love with Oregon Humane Society. A few weeks ago, I went there with my girlfriend and another couple. My two friends volunteer at the place, and I would love to do the same as long as I'm not forced to play with feces.
"For 141 years, Oregon Humane Society has been sheltering abandoned animals, fighting cruelty and neglect, and working to build a caring, compassionate community in Oregon" - that's how they describe themselves.
Still, I expected to visit a gloomy place where abandoned Schnauzers would stare into water bowls; where Siamese cats would need anti-depressants in their food - but Oregon Humane Society wasn't like that at all. It was a place full of light and love, happy volunteers, and dogs that weren't neglected at all.
All animals end up being adopted. No one is gassed to death. If this is a concentration camp for canines, it's the warm and luxurious kind where you fall in love and lick your prison guards.
After I'd visited there for an hour, I was a nervous wreck. There were so many animals I wanted to adopt. Or maybe I should rephrase that: there were so many animals that wanted to adopt me: Three Beagles, two Labradors, one Cocker Spaniel, and a Norwegian Forest cat that bit my index finger off but politely spat it out again.
God, I loved visiting Oregon Humane Society. All animals had their own bio (or sales text), so you could read about them. One of them sounded a bit like this: "Tutu is an adorable, playful puppy. She will need toilet training and basic manners, so she can become a fantastic canine citizen. Like all puppies, Tutu likes to have his balls scratched and will adore watching American Idol with you."
When I left Oregon Humane Society, I felt lifted, even though I decided not to adopt anyone but my girlfriend.
"But I want Gizmo," she cried after she'd fallen for a 12 year old mud that needed a loving home where it could draw its dying breath.
"We could have made a difference for that poor dog," she wept while I carried her out to our car. It was an ugly scene, but animals do that to you: They make you fall in love, even when you don't want to.
Yes, I admit it, I'm in awe of the Oregon Humane Society. They have pet cams where you can watch your favorite cat tear other cats to shreds; they have rental cradle programs; they even teach their Bulldogs responsible drooling.
If I were a Great Dane I would want to live there, seriously!
photos: Alicia Dickerson, Four-Legged Photo