Tuesday, June 28, 2011
The Day Denmark Moved to Oregon (Welcome to the Danish Cultural Conference in the Pacific Northwest)
Why does the annual Danish Cultural Conference always occur in a place that looks like Norway?
Denmark doesn't have rivers or mountains, so you can't expect us Danes to feel at home in the Colombia Gorge. It's simply too gorgeous. Danes only feel at home when the surroundings are flat, and everybody gets naked.
However, absolutely no one got naked at the Danish Cultural Conference at Menucha in Corbett, Oregon. Most of the people present were in their seventies or eighties. They were Danes who immigrated to the US in the fifties or sixties but still yearn after knækbrød - great people who got teary eyed watching the raising of our Danish flag, Dannebrog. So for three days we could all pretend that Oregon was a Danish colony, just like Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Northern Germany, Ghana, Trankebar, the Virgin Islands and England were in the good old days.
The annual conference offered a lot of cultural event for us fine connoisseurs of leverpostej.
I was the keynote speaker and did my presentation of The Tsar's Dwarf, my novel that's out in English, French, Portuguese, and Danish. John Mark Nielsen from the Danish Immigrant Museum spoke about Jens Jensen, a noted prairie landscape architect that I've never heard of. Christiane Lauritzen from the Royal Danish Embassy in Washington DC enlightened us on the History of Danish Diplomacy. Luckily enough, she didn't bring any of the cartoons they adored in Saudi Arabia and Syria ...
At night we listened to the great folk singer Flemming Behrend from Olympia and Frederiksberg. Some people even got drunk, just to show that they hadn't forgotten their Danish ways. I got to talk with quarter Danes from Solvang and Argentinians who escaped into the woods to avoid all this Danishness.
Yes, you should have been there. Menucha by the Colombia Gorge is gorgeously situated in the middle of nowhere. It's full of wild life, too: elks, bears, bob cats, raccoons, rabbits, squirrels - I bet they enjoyed the raising of the Danish flag as well.
Monday, June 20, 2011
It's dawn in Copenhagen.
It's 5.45 AM, so it has actually been dawn for several hours, but I get up and walk around my hometown like a curious toddler.
I live most of the time on the American West coast, so the nine hour time difference should have done me in. But no, I have to get out and enjoy the silky morning light, the pale sun, the soft shadows on deserted cobblestone streets, the ghosts of Kierkegaard and falafel. I even enjoy watching the party people crawling home after a night of heavy drinking.
Let's face it: there is nothing that beats the smell of vomit at 5.56 AM.
You can't beat all the construction, either. On weekdays it starts early: a symphony of drills and smashed concrete - you could call it Danish devastation at its finest. It's as if Copenhagen has been put in the dentist chair and told it won't get out for the next seven years.
You see, our brilliant politicians have decided that Copenhagen needs another Metro. Copenhagen doesn't, of course. It needs another Metro as much as Dominique Strauss-Kahn needs Viagra, but politicians always get elected when they talk about economical growth.
So now my lovely hometown looks like Pompeii. There are deep pits everywhere, the sound of mean machines have replaced bird song; whole squares seem to sink into the ground never to be heard from again. So Copenhagen is actually the opposite of Pompei. History is destroyed to build a Metro we can't afford. In a city that has had excellent mass transportation for years.
Still, Copenhagen remains beautiful, self satisfied, quaint ... sometimes picture perfect, baroque, aloof, even ever so trendy with modern, rainy architecture, and boisterous blonds riding their bikes into oblivion.
But then again, maybe I'm just a man in love. Copenhagen has always been one of my favorite places on earth. For two weeks at a time, that is. Then I run away screaming. There is only so much beauty a man can take, anyway ...
Read my award winning blog, Denmark for Dummies - A Superficial Introduction to the Happiest Nation on Earth.
Photos copyright by Peter H. Fogtdal, Danish Accent, http://fogtdal.blogspot.com