Read The Tsar's Dwarf (Hawthorne Books)

Read The Tsar's Dwarf (Hawthorne Books)
"A curious and wonderful work of great human value by a Danish master." Sebastian Barry, Man Booker finalist (Click on the picture to go to the book's Amazon page)

Monday, May 30, 2016

Denmark for Dummies 2016 (A Superficial Guide to the Happiest Nation in the Universe. And That Includes Mars, Too)


Winner of www.Denmark.net's International Contest, 2009. However, you may want to go to the updated version Denmark for Dummies 2017

All Danes are blond and gorgeous. And every single of us have a cabin with a view of a lake. No wonder the whole world wants to be Danish, but don't get your hopes up. We're very protective of our gene pool.
                                                                   

You're smart.

You're planning to go to Denmark.

You've always wanted to visit our country because you know that it's the most exciting in the world. You tell yourself, "Why would I want to visit Barcelona, Berlin or Nepal when I can go rock climbing on Falster?"

"Yes, I'm trendy. Aarhus is going to be the European Cultural City in 2017, and the Danes are so green with their bikes, cuisine, and wind mills. And they're the happiest people in the world. Denmark always makes the news for positive reasons, like killing healthy giraffes in Zoos, or harassing refugees at the border so they get so desperate they flee to Sweden."

That's right. Four times Denmark was named the happiest nation on earth by the UN World Happiness Report. And I'm living proof of that. Right now this novelist is staring at the sleet, enjoying the 44 degrees of sloppy spring, while sipping his $12 latte.

Come and visit us, will you? And please bring all your credit cards because God knows you're going to need them!


                    GUIDE TO DENMARK
               A superficial introduction to your Southern Scandinavian Paradise. 

Name: Denmark (Danmark)

Inhabitants: 5.6 million

Capital: Copenhagen (1.5 million)

Ranking: Most Livable City in the World (Monocle, British Magazine, 2008, 2013, 2014)

Other Top Rankings That We Take Ridiculous Pride In:
a) Most Trusting People in the World (April 2011)
b) Best Restaurant in the World (Noma, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014)
c) Most Pork Consumption Per Capita (not counting your neighborhood Sheikh)
d) Best Government in the World (2014)
e) Second Best City to Visit in Europe in 2016 According to Lonely Planet: Aarhus
f)  Least Corrupt Country in the World, 2016 (We paid a lot of bribes for that position)

Language: Danish.

Government: Constitutional monarchy.

Currency: Kroner. (6.6 DKK to a US dollar, 0.04 to the Angolan Kwanza)

Religion: No, thank you.


Name of Queen: Margrethe II.

Name of Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen, or as the opposition calls him, The Little Swindler.

Size: The 8th biggest country in the world if you count Greenland. (Always count Greenland).

Weather: Not really.




Unemployment Rate: Rising

Hospitality If You're Not White: Falling

Crime per Capita: Fourth lowest in the world.

Average Consumption of Beer per Capita: Fourth highest in the world.

Best Selfie of the Decade: Ex-Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt with her two secret lovers.



Famous Dead Danes: Hans Christian Andersen, Søren Kierkegaard (philosopher), King Canute (conquered England), Tycho Brahe (conquered the universe), Isak Dinesen (conquered Africa), Karen Blixen (conquered Meryl Streep), Vitus Bering (explorer, had a strait named after him), Niels Bohr (physicist), Georg Jensen (design), Carl Nielsen (composer), Carl  Dreyer (film director), Victor Borge (comedian), Bertel Thorvaldsen (sculpturer), Hamlet (Shakespeare's boy toy).

Famous Living Danes: Caroline Wozniacki (tennis player), Lukas Graham (singer), Lars von Trier, Susanne Bier (film directors), Margrethe Vestager (EU Commissioner and Google's worst enemy), Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Mads Mikkelsen (actors in Game of Thrones, Hannibal, James Bond), Lars Ulrich (founder of Metallica), Jussi Adler-Olsen (the Danish Stieg Larsson, just alive), Kasper Schmeichel, Michael Laudrup, Lord Bendtner (soccer players),  René Redzepi (chef), Bjarke Ingels (architect), Margrethe II (Queen of Denmark), Mary (Crown Princess of Tasmania)

Famous Half Danes: Viggo Mortensen, Scarlett Johansson, Ludvig Holberg.


Danes Who Ought to Be Dead: Jante.




Danish TV-Series That Have Conquered the World and Perhaps Mars, Too:  The Killing (Forbrydelsen), Borgen, The Protectors (Livvagterne), The Bridge (Broen, co-production with Sweden).

Biggest Danish Single of All Time:  7 Years by Lukas Graham

Most Famous Danish Building: The Opera House in Sydney (Jørn Utzon)

Danish Imperialism: Lego, Maersk, Ecco, Vesta, Bang and Olufsen, Carlsberg, Tuborg, Tiger.

Best Danish Word We Like to Shove Down Your Throat:  Hygge.

Best Danish Word You Shouldn't Teach Your Children:  Listepik

Daily Smokers: 10% of the population. (All of them will be sitting on your lap when you go to an outdoor café)

Obesity Rate: 22% of the population.

Best Danish Food: Moss, lichen, and soil mixed with bone marrow from an animal you wouldn't want to eat. (All from Noma, the world's best restaurant. You can now make reservations for January 2024)




This picture is not from Noma. It actually has a view and you don't have to pay $100 for a glass of water.


Denmark's Claim to Fame in Spain, Greece & Cyprus: Blond girls with herpes.

Denmark's Claim to Fame in the Far East: Badminton.

Denmark's Claim to Fame in the Middle East: Cartoons.

Denmark's Claim to Fame in the UK: Bacon and Sofie Gråbøl's sweater.



Most Important Danish Invention of All Time: The atomic bomb (Niels Bohr)

Denmark's Biggest Contribution to American Sports: Morten Andersen, the all-time leading scorer in the NFL. (Kicker)

Denmark's Best PR Agent in America: Bernie Sanders




Best Tourist Attraction If You're Into Knights in Shining Armour:  Frederiksborg castle and Kronborg (Hamlet's castle) 

Best Tourist Attraction If You're Eight Years Old or Behaving Like It: Legoland.

Best Tourist Attraction If You're Eighty Years Old or Behaving Like It: Tivoli.

Most Overrated Tourist Attraction By Far: The Little Mermaid.

This is the kind of abuse we Danes have to tolerate every day: Foreigners who fondle our national treasure. Shameless, that's what it is.


Time of Glory I: When the Danish vikings conquered England in the 11th century.

Time Of Glory II: When Denmark won the European Championship in football (soccer) in 1992 and the whole country behaved like a frat party.




Cutest Cities in Denmark: Helsingør (Elsinore), Ærøskøbing, Faaborg, Ebeltoft, Ribe, Skagen, Svaneke, Aarhus, Copenhagen and Christiania (if you still think that Che Guevara and bean bag chairs are cool)

Best Months to Visit the Land of the Danes: From late May to mid-September.

Best Month to Commit Suicide Because It's Dark, Dreary, and Everybody Wish They Were in Thailand: January.

Best Danish Traits: Tolerance, sense of humor, informality.

Worst Danish Traits: Intolerance, pettiness, self-satisfied grumpiness with a hint of racism.




What You'll Miss the Most If You're an American Visiting Denmark: TV anchors with perfect teeth.

What You'll Miss the Most If You're Italian: Bread and Berlusconi.

What You'll Miss the Most If You're Norwegian: Norway

Most Beautiful Area of Denmark: The Silkeborg lake district in Jutland and the island of Bornholm.




Most Stupid Thing to Say to a Dane: Now, which part of Germany are you from again?

Second Most Stupid Thing to Say to a Dane: Sweden and Norway are my favorite Scandinavian countries.



Enjoy your stay.  And tourists, please forgive Copenhagen for looking like Pompeii. We're building a Metro that we don't really need.



Copyright, Peter H. Fogtdal, Danish Accent, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2016

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Global Warming (A Plea for Bear Hugs & Mindful Heartbeats)



1.
The sun tan on our shoulders

is like a blanket of freeways

peeling off at the speed of sound.

It’s 96 degrees in the shade,

mercury rising, worlds melting away,

one hibiscus at a time.

Soon bridges will crash under the weight of tow trucks.

Mosquitoes the size of helicopters

will inject poison into the armpits of Olympians.

Planet Earth used to be a holy space for lovers and warriors,

but now we only talk to the help desk at Apple.

Our home is a scorcher where polar bears rent freezers

so they can breathe in the tundra.  

Where else are they going to live

when the only iceberg is in a museum in Brussels?





2,
Soon an orange ghost will move into the White House

and admire himself in his endless mirrors.

He might be lethal but not as lethal as we are

with our selfie sticks and lust for punchlines.

Yes, the boat is leaving the shore,

even though there isn’t much water in the sinkhole.

The last drops have been reserved for small businesses 

while the horizon melts like ice cream

because we mistook it for a bank vault.

Now oak trees look like x-rays

with traffic jams moving through the sun roof of our blindness

What else can you expect  when you dry hump the planet 

and cuddle with credit cards instead of pandas? 

WE ARE SHORT OF LOVE, DAMMIT.  
 
Butt-dialing our mother is not an act of kindness.

Tripping over the homeless can never be a tax shelter

                                                                         so wake up!




3.
From June 1st you have to declare your appendix

when you land in O’Hare.

No wonder we need body bags to get through the airport.

Flying is as dangerous as breathing, only fools recommend it.

You might be strangled by stewardesses with secret burkas,

or forced into a love affair with Prozac.

Fear is a cloud, creeping into lungs and breast pockets,

yanking the soul out of our bodies.

Sexpect angels to  descend with eyes full of mischief.

They'll throw away the key to the Internet

and worlds will disappear like endangered species.

For a week it would be a sad goodbye

to cheerleaders giving head in Volvos.

Centuries of Snapchat, gone.

                     Millions of cat videos, purged.

                               Hedge funds and death certificates, stumped.

No need for passwords the length of novels

or tweets from dyslexic dingbats.  

Let's just just pet the neighborhood poodles and breathe.
                                                                                                                                                                                         




4.
So this is a bear hug from one of the monsters.

There are forces for good everywhere, 

ready to serve us with mindful daggers.

Messengers are working with beings we thought were fiction.

Wake up and the world won't turn into a beehive 

because every heart is connected to the universal chest.

We just have to swim through the mudslide

and the morning dew will be back on the prairie again.




********
Copyright, Peter H. Fogtdal, Danish Accent, slightly revised, August 9, 2016
The iconic photo of the polar bear was manipulated by me. I don't know who took it but thanks.

**********

Monday, May 9, 2016

Lemon Subway (New York Jet Lag)



I wake up around five, dizzy from the jet lag, the ear plugs and the Newark shuttle.
There is a lawn mower behind my eyes,
so I turn on the TV and watch the Weather Channel
and a documentary about orphans.
Later I walk out of the hotel praying for coffee.
It's fun watching the buildings breathe,
the empty pawn shops,
the convenient stores bursting with bagels.
An old timer is walking his schnauzer whistling a song by The Yardbirds.
I buy Time Out and a postcard of Harlem
while I talk back at the homeless.
They sleep everywhere, their dreams covered by cardboard and Yankee caps.
I keep on walking as the city puts on its slippers,
yawning into mirrors, fighting dental floss and dog breath.
God, what a vibrant morning it is, so merciless and claustrophobic,
a whole city on caffeine and Quaaludes.
I want to memorize the rain clouds on Lexington,
I want to dive into the East side counting accents and fruitcakes.
But could I live in this place where pop corn is an art form?

No, there are too many pinstriped sewers,
too many ulcers hiding behind sweat shirts.
So I watch my back on the lemon subway
staring down terrorists with flashy cell phones.
Everyone, and I mean everyone, is carefully graded:
The Puerto Rican counting his painkillers.
the pregnant jogger in her dirty trainers,
the born-again Christians moving in for the kill.
They all pretend to be yogis,
their lethal chakras glowing in the dark.
"You can never be too careful on fragile platforms,"
a Chinese woman says and escapes to the Bronx
with a fistful of curlers.
At 10 AM I return to my hotel
browsing through the orange juice and two slices of bacon.
A family from Trieste is threatening each other
with selfies from Macy's.
The hotel carpet seems dead;
it's probably missing the cigarette butts
and Michael Jackson's moon boots from the eighties.
Thank God there's a fire exit in my room
and a mini-bar with icy peanuts.
Two lonely hangers are pining for silk bras
while Gideon's Bible is tugged away in the sink.
I'm in bed watching a game show with housewives winning Mazdas.
They cry happily into the camera,
mascara streaming down their cleavage until they faint.
Washington Square is a rumor
while I move through the five stages of jet lag.
I'm happy in my brownstone but New York is a pinball
with saxophones and scumbags,
cabbies and curve balls,
pushing me into oblivion with a gorgeous shrug.




****
Copyright Peter H. Fogtdal. The first version of this poem is from way back in July, 1981 where I was a college student and attended a workshop with Sam Shepard in Padua Hills outside Pomona. Then I rewrote it at another poetry workshop with Robert Creeley at Vermont Studio Center in 2001, and now I've rewritten it for a third time. I've never tried to have it published but would love to see it in a poetry magazine. Thanks for reading it, all!