ScandiRAYvia #13: Garbo and SCOTUS and Me


It seemed like everyone felt Friday, June 26, was going to be the big day.  The U.S. Supreme Court was running out of time to announce its decision on Obergefell vs. Hodges.

Sweden is six hours ahead of Washington, DC, so I mostly just had to stew for the first several hours of my Friday as the US slept.  By the afternoon I was on a lovely boat tour of the archipelago around Stockholm.  The boat had good wifi access, and I couldn’t stop looking at my phone.  Has it happened . HAS IT HAPPENED?!!

It wasn’t just me.  As the afternoon approached, Facebook started going crazy with anticipation.  I started seeing “Go, SCOTUS!!” posts everywhere.  I added my two cents:


I had barely finished posting that when I got a FB message from my friend Charles:

Charles gives me the news

ZOMG.  The moment I had been waiting for, the moment so many had been waiting for, was finally here!  And I was alone on a boat in Sweden.  Now, that’s not a bad thing, and of course I realize it was a great privilege to be able to be on a boat in Sweden.


But in that moment, I really needed to celebrate. I had to talk about it.

There was a table of men in front of me who I had heard speaking English.  I interrupted their conversation, apologized and explained that I just had to tell someone the news in person.  They were very nice.  “What does this mean for you?” they asked.  “Well, all I need is a date!” I replied.

By this time Facebook was absolutely exploding with rainbows.  I soaked up all of the jubilant posts like a recently-released death camp victim let loose in a grocery store.

I had fully expected this to happen while I was on my trip, but I realized that spending the evening alone was simply not an acceptable idea.  I got back online and put out the call for help:

finding americans

My friend Joakim Zetterberg came to the rescue.  He connected me with a very nice guy named Shannon Kile.  Shannon was getting together Friday evening with “an international group of friends” and I was invited to join.

I almost didn’t go.  I got back to the hotel room, tired and glued to Facebook.  There was the President ecstatically receiving the phone call with the news about the decision!  There was the right-wing going crazy!  There were all the clever new memes detonating all over social media!  Things like this:

those funny flags

I thought, I’m just going to sit here and relax.  And soak in Facebook’s unicorn rainbow party.

Then, thank goodness, I thought, “You idiot.  You’ve been invited to join some nice Swedish gay folks to help you celebrate this incredible day.”  I showered, got dressed and headed out to join Shannon and his friends.

And what a good decision that turned out to be.  Shannon and his buddies couldn’t have been nicer or more welcoming.  We toasted the SCOTUS decision over and over.  We talked about Bergman and history and America and children’s books and Stockholm.

It was also a very cool place, called Mälarpaviljongen, and it was right on the water not very far from my hotel.  It was a joint that sits on pontoons right on the water on the south shore of Kungsholmen, one of Stockholm’s major islands.

And something else really interesting happened at the bar that I’ll tell you about in a later post.

Anyway, we closed the bar down and I walked back to the hotel, exhausted but still jubilant and jazzed and jolly.

Here's the cool bar where we met (shot from the bluffs of the island of Soldermalm).

Here’s the cool bar where we met (shot from the bluffs of the island of Soldermalm).

Even though I missed my friends terribly on this special night, I was thrilled that I had been able to properly celebrate this most special of days.


ScandiRAYvia #12: Bronze Butts and Drowned Dreadnaughts… with extra photos!


The Famous Borg StatueBjorn

This heroic statue of Swedish national hero Bjorn Borg was created 137 years before he was born.  He’s depicted here at the precise moment he won his first Grand Slam in 1974.

When the statue was originally unveiled, Borg was holding a bronze tennis racquet in his right hand.  However only three months after the unveiling, the racquet was stolen by vandals.  They were not particularly intelligent vandals, and they were caught when they attempted to unload the racquet on eBay.

The two thieves were sentenced to fourteen months of the dreaded ABBADABBA, the harshest punishment the Swedish constitution allows.  ABBADABBA consists of house arrest in very comfortable conditions in a secured apartment that has speakers in every room blasting ABBA’s greatest hits twenty-four hours a day.  After the 1,539th time of hearing “Money, Money, Money,” the prisoners officially requested death by lethal injection.


Vasa Museet


The outside of the museum is stunning as well.

This place is an absolute must-see if you’re in Stockholm.  It’s the home of perhaps the worst warship ever built.  Seriously.  The Spruce Goose was a better airplane than the Vasa was warship.

I don’t know how the German ship designer Henrik Hybertsson, or “Master Henrik” got the commission, because based on what happened to the Vasa, he didn’t know shit about designing sailing ships.  Even a moron landlubber like me knows that a ship has to have enough ballast below the waterline to balance the weight above the waterline.  But this clown apparently didn’t know that.


Calling Laurie German. Calling Laurie German. We need an experienced conservator.

The ship was commissioned by King of Sweden Gustavus Adolphus, and in terms of looks at least, he got his money’s worth. The ship was spectacularly beautiful and decorated within an inch of its life.

With much pomp and celebration, the Vasa began its maiden voyage on August 10, 1628.  Since it was simply repositioning to a different spot in the harbor, it didn’t have its full complement of sailors aboard.  In fact, there were women and children on the vessel, also, as this was just a ceremonial portion of the ship’s journey.

At least it was supposed to be.  The ship hadn’t gone a thousand meters before it tipped over and sank to the bottom of the harbor.  As many as fifty people drowned.

It’s a pity that Master Henrik died before the Vasa launched.  He should have lived to suffer the consequences of designing such a lethally incompetent ship.

The cannons were salvaged fairly quickly, but after that, even though the ship was just there, ninety feet below the surface, right there in Stockholm harbor, the ship was lost.  It took modern technology to catch up in order for it to be found again, and that didn’t happen until 1959.  One of the many incredibly important things that happened that year.


Why is there a picture of Arnold as Conan in the Vasa Museet?

This began a decades-long saga of recovery.  The ship was finally hoisted to the surface in 1961.  It looked pretty good for having been underwater for 333 years, but it needed lots of work.

Two factors helped the Vasa do so well at the bottom of the harbor.  First, the Baltic waters were too cold for shipworms, which are the usual culprits for disappearing sunken wooden ships.  Second, until recent years, the waters of the Baltic were VERY polluted, and this toxic brew kept away any other microorganisms that might have nibbled on the hull.  (The waters around Stockholm are now remarkably clean.)

The most important consideration was keeping the wood of the ship from drying out. To keep this from happening, the timbers of the ship were misted with  polyethylene glycol (PEG) for seventeen years.  These conservation experts were not kidding around.

Eventually, this stunning museum was built to house the Vasa . The museum opened in 1990 and is the most visited museum in Scandinavia.  The Vasa itself is the largest restored object in history, and the work on it is ongoing.

Nuns on the Run

Nuns on the Run

Old Town Alley

Old Town Alley


ScandiRAYvia #11: Nobel Arguments are the Best Arguments


On Galma Stan, the small island that contains the Old Town, there’s a museum dedicated to Alfred Nobel and his prizes.  It didn’t sound particularly sexy, but hey, I had the Stockholm City Card, didn’t I?  So I popped in, and boy was I glad I did.  It turned out to be a very interesting place.



I took a tour with a tiny and slightly smarmy Swede who was very articulate and informative.  I learned all sort of interesting things about Mr. Nobel, including:

He never married or had any children.

He was born in Sweden, but lived most of his life in other countries (including twenty years in Russia).

95% of his fortune was left to create the foundation for his prizes.  His extended family members were not amused.

The awards, given in Physics, Chemistry, Medicine, Literature, and Peace, were to be given to people whose work in those fields in the past year had provided the greatest benefit to the world.

Each prize is given by a different organization.  Four of these are in Sweden, and as everyone knows, the Peace Prize is given in Norway and chosen by a Norwegian organization.  Why is this?  I had always wondered, and I thought, finally I’ll find out why!

Are you ready for the answer?  It’s kind of awesome:



We have no idea.  Seriously.  Nobel offered not a syllable of explanation in the will.  He simply ordered that the Peace Prize be given by Norway.

Of course, there are many theories, perhaps the most important being that Norway was more prominent in the international peace movement at that time than Sweden was.  But still:  We don’t know.  I like that little bit of mystery.

By the way, Nobel did not provide for the Economics Prize.  It was created later by the central bank of Sweden, given out “in memory” of Nobel, and the prize money comes from Swedish taxes, rather than the Nobel endowment.

When the tour was over, I approached our Pocket Viking tour guide with my particular pet peeve:  The Literary Prize.  That prize is given by the Swedish Academy, which happens to meet in quarters on the second floor of the very building the museum was in.

You could make a very good argument that he deserved to win.

You could make a very good argument that he deserved to win.

“SO,” I asked, “What do the folks upstairs have against writers who have actually moved a few books?  I’ll waive the requirement that it be given to a work created in the year before prize; science and even literature don’t really work that way.  BUT.  Didn’t Nobel’s will specifically state that it was to be given to the person whose work had benefited the world the most?  Wouldn’t that by definition mean the winner would be a popular writer?  Why, instead, does the Academy use the prize as an affirmative action program for obscure writers from exotic places who haven’t sold twenty books, but whose politics the Academy likes and whose work they’d like to promote?”

P.V. Tour Guide was sympathetic to my point.  I continued, “Vonnegut and Bradbury clearly did more good in the world with their work than the people the Academy hands out the prize to.  It’s clearly in violation of Nobel’s will.”

Turns out that, regarding Alfred Nobel’s will, I’m a Strict Constructionist.

NOTE:  The image at the top of this post is of a very sweet crowd that had gathered to greet me as I left the Nobel Museet, which is the background.  After a taxing three hours signing autographs, handing out advice, and kissing babies and boyfriends, I had to beg off.  One does need one’s rest and a modicum of privacy.

View from the bluffs of Sodermalm

ScandiRAYvia #10: The Stockholm City Card Math


On my first day in Stockholm, I purchased something called the Stockholm City Card.  It’s a sort of open

Awesome Giraffe Crane

Awesome Giraffe Crane

pass to public transportation and many museums and other attractions.  Seemed like a no-brainer to me.

Now that my time in Stockholm is done, I have to say I have mixed feelings about the purchase.

The three-day version the card cost about $108.00 USD.  With that price tag, I really felt compelled to use it like crazy!  Every time I’d pull it out to use on another subway ride, or tram ride, or museum ticket, I’d recalculated in my head:  “Okay, now I’ve used it six times.  That means that I’ve paid $18 for each thing I’ve done.  Is it worth it yet?  Is it worth it yet?

I ended up going into more museums than I really should have, and spending less time just roaming around outside, which I love to do.  And besides, one of the museums I was most interested in – The New ABBA Museum (judge me if you must) – wasn’t included in the card.
IG_Old_TowerResearching my next stop, Copenhagen, I learned that it has a City Card, too, but it also has a public transportation card as well, that’s much cheaper.  Like $23 for a 48 hour pass.  That’s what I’m going to do.  Spend much less and simply enjoy roaming around the city.  If there’s a museum I really want to see, I’ll pay for it.  So there.

Update:  Turns out I didn’t even need the transport pass in Copenhagen:  I planned my activities so well I paid less than eleven dollars total for all of my running around.

Side note:  Copenhagen is noticeably less expensive than Stockholm.







ScandiRAYvia #9: Trespassers and Boogeymen


Freedom to Trespass

Here’s one of the things I most admire about Sweden:  the constitutional right of allemansrätten , or tall_dome_and_sky“freedom to roam.”  The concept is that nature belongs to everyone.  In Sweden, you can basically pick wildflowers, berries, or mushrooms anywhere, except in a private garden or right up by someone’s house.  You can also ski, hike, and ride bicycles practically anywhere, and fish or use an unpowered boat in virtually any body of water.

Can you imagine this being the case in the United States?  Can you imagine Barbara Streisand having a meltdown because hippies were picking wild sage on her Malibu compound?  Or a Texas rancher sitting by idly while a group of hikers traipsed across his land, saying hello to his cattle?

Map Boy goes where he wants.

Map Boy goes where he wants.

I imagine this entire idea would sound terribly commie/socialist to many Americans.  Perhaps that’s why I like it so.

And as long as we’re talking about how Sweden is different…

Check out this photo:


This beggar was energetically working all of Old Town the whole time I was there.  Here he’s chatting with some children.  Their parents are about thirty yards away.  Now I ask you to imagine something.

Imagine this happening in the US.

Just think about it for a moment.

If a street beggar began engaging with a group of children in Dallas, or Boise, or Atlanta, the parents would absolutely lose their shit.  There’d be screaming.  There’d be threats.  Cops and lawyers would be called.  The children would be checked over for horrible poor person diseases and taken in for counseling.  You know it’s true.

Why the difference?  In America we fetishize fear.  Fear and stupidity and ignorance go together like peanut butter, jelly and bacon.  Swedes don’t think the loaf of bread is possessed by demons or that the beggar is going to eat their children.


ScandiRAYvia #8: A Moose Once Bit My Sister…


So my very favorite object in Stockholm is this astounding wooden sculpture of St. George and the Dragon.  It’s in the 13th-Century Storkyrkan, or Stockholm Cathedral, in Gamla Stan (The Old City).   There aren’t that many 15th century wooden statues still around these days; they don’t survive fire that well.  This one survives because of its political, rather than its religious meaning.

This is one kick-ass 525 year old wooden St. George and the Dragon statue.

This is one kick-ass 525 year old wooden St. George and the Dragon statue.

Yeah, at first glance it looks like the same old St. George we all know and love.  You know, the Roman soldier of Greek origin who was born in Turkey or Syria, and once held a town in Libya hostage by threatening to unleash a dragon on them if they didn’t all convert to Christianity.  That guy.  But there’s a lot more to this fascinating piece than the tired old myth of St. George.

The statue was made by the German artist Bernt Notke and was commissioned to commemorate Sweden winning its independence from Denmark.  Denmark had ruled Sweden for over seventy years until Sten Sture, the elected Swedish regent, defeated the hated Danish King Christian I at the Battle of Brunkeberg in 1471.

So this isn’t merely St. George and the Dragon.  The heroic St. George (looking a bit like Helen Reddy, actually), is conquering the Dragon (which is really Danish King Christian I) while the young lady at the left (yeah, that’d be Sweden) looks on approvingly.  Even cooler, the Pope sent a cache of saintly relics, including items of St. George himself, to be contained in the statue.

When Sweden went all Protestant just a few decades after this statue was finished, many Catholic relics and works of art were destroyed.  The reason that this particular statue survived is mainly because of its great political significance.

But all THAT isn’t really what’s super cool about this statue. Here’s what is: Look closely at the dragon.   Look at the spikes and armor?  Look closely.  Yup, they are made of MOOSE ANTLERS.  Yes, you read that right.  Actual moose antlers.  They’re all over the dragon (see close-up).


I just think that’s so super cool on a double level.  First, it’s amazing artistically.  Second,  it’s just so damn Sweden, don’t you think?

The statue is so popular a bronze recreation of it was put up a few blocks away in the early 1900s.

The Copy

The Copy

PS  There is a story, which I am attempting to authenticate, that near the end of the 19th Century there was a period of rather heated anti-Catholic sentiment in Sweden.  A young clerk or cleric or something at the Cathedral feared that the relics in the statue would be seized and destroyed, so he took it on himself to remove them and filed them in an anonymous spot on a shelf somewhere until the climate was safer.  He then replaced the relics.  According to the story, this young man was August Strindberg.





Two more shots from Galma Stan, or Old Town:


Statistics show that young people in Sweden start having sex very early.  But I learned yesterday that murderers get a jump on things, too.  This little pixie of a killer is preparing to bury her latest victim:

CAKE or DEATH?  Oh, I guess he chose death.

CAKE or DEATH? Oh, I guess he chose death.


ScandiRAYvia #7: Wednesday Was My Good News Day


After spending most of the night working on technical issues, I went back to bed at 6 am just for a nap, and slept until almost 10!  While I was annoyed at missing my free breakfast at the hotel, I figured I needed the rest.

Happily, my gastric drama has not returned, and apart from a minor amount of lingering jetlag wooziness, I felt just terrific yesterday as I made my initial explorations of Stockholm.


Real Men Push Strollers

And in Stockholm, they seem to do it WAY more than women.  I see three or four men alone with children for every woman I see with the little darlings. I wonder why this is?

Dude, Your Time at the Gym Has Been Well SpentWaving_Nude_1

I don’t know how to say that in Swedish, but this is what I wanted to say to several buff Vikings that I saw today.  Particularly the one on the Tunnelbana.  (No, that’s not Eric’s little brother, it’s what they call the subway here.)  He was wearing a long sleeve pullover shirt and you could still see the veins on his bulging arms.  You know, through the shirt.  Which would have made an impression on me if I wasn’t only and exclusively interested on what’s on the inside of a person.  Everyone knows this about me.


I don’t usually think of myself as a courageous person.  True, I did see “Shoah” at an actual movie theater, by choice, and actually sat through the first four hours of it. But when it comes to real courage, I don’t think so.  I’d be the worst soldier ever.  I’d cry.  I’d desert.  On the first day.

However, I would posit that it does take a certain brand of something like courage to go to a foreign country, alone, where you don’t speak the language, and navigate the cities, hop on and off subways without getting lost, and just generally coping in an alien landscape without freaking out.  And whatever that oddball kind of courage is, I definitely have it.  It’s scary, but it’s a fun kind of scary.

♫ And people ride in a hål in the jord ♫

♫ And people ride in a hål in the jord ♫

I’ve been doing it since my twenties, so I guess I’m used to it and have a certain confidence.  This is my ninth trip abroad since 1987.  I wonder if some people would find it so daunting they wouldn’t go.  You know, like me facing the prospect of going to the movies at the Americana in Glendale.


HEY I’m on a boat!

Stockholm is a magnificent city built on hundreds of islands. There are fourteen major ones.  It’s really like nothing I’ve ever seen.  It’s like Venice writ large.  You’re never more than a dwarf’s toss from the water here.

I took two delightful boat rides today!  The first was to a tiny island where I had a lovely peaceful ramble for an hour.


Goose - Copy

Råy wik Birchentrøllen

Råy wik Birchentrøllen


The second was a circumnavigation of Kungsholmen (King’s Island), the island my hotel is on.  Boat tours are peaceful and relaxing.  I love them.

Town Hall just LOVES my wide angle lens.

Town Hall just LOVES my wide angle lens.

Just How Many Spherical Buildings Are There, Actually?

Next I took a fun jaunt up to the top of the world’s largest spherical building. (Didn’t know there was a contest, did you?)  It’s called the Ericsson Globe, and it’s a sports and entertainment venue.  Very nice photo op on top full stop.

Dome_View_of_Gondolas - Copy We_HATE_the_people_in_the_other_gondola

My_fellow_gondoliers - Copy





I’m already VERY glad I purchased the Sigma wide angle lens for the camera.  It’s doubled my shooting potential very clearly, as the shots it can get are so utterly different from the ones I get with the Nikkor zoom.  Today was a good day of practicing switching out the lenses.  I’m getting better at it on the fly.

Exhausting but wonderful day!

Authentic Troll Door.  My ancient Runic Swedish is pretty rudimentary, but I believe the first few words carved into the door are something like, "If the mountain's a-rockin'..."

Authentic Troll Door. My ancient Runic Swedish is pretty rudimentary, but I believe the first few words carved into the door are something like, “If the mountain’s a-rockin’…”

Edited sign on boat - Copy


ScandiRAYvia #6: First World Problems, or ScandiHURLia


Well, it’s been a challenging first day of my ScandiRAYvia adventure.

Before I go any further, let me reiterate that everything I’m going to recount here is very much a First World Problem.  I’m extremely cognizant of the fact that I’m very lucky to be making this trip.

First of all, let me say that the Airbus A380 was everything I hoped it would be!  It’s a beautiful aircraft, and my Economy Plus seat was very satisfactory.

It was a good thing I made sure I had an aisle seat.  Eleven hours in the air is hard to take, and it helped a lot that I was able to get up, stretch, and even walk up and down the aisles.  It helped keep me sane.

The First Challenge had to do with my connection.  I was concerned when I first got my ticket that an hour and a half was pretty tight for an international connection at Heathrow.  But the British Airways agent in Los Angeles assured me there would be plenty of time.

Well, there wasn’t.  I had a huge journey from one gate to the other, and since it was international, I had to go through security again.  At each bottleneck I very clearly stated that I was about to miss my plane. Happily there was a fast-track line to get to security.

Things got scary when I actually made it to security, though, as it was moving more slowly than meaningful immigration reform. I explained my hurry and got put into the front of the line, but I could still tell that I was in trouble, as the bags were moving unbelievably slowly.  I found the security manager and explained my situation.  Bless her, she grabbed my as-yet-unsearched bag, marched me down (in the direction of my flight gate) to the nearest security agent who was free and put my bag in her hands and explained my situation.

When I finally got to my gate, boarding was almost over.  I was relieved and happy, but a little alarmed at the idea that if I had trusted the British Airways people, I would have absolutely missed my plane.  It was only my own vociferous (but I hope, not impolite) insistence on my situation, over and over again to multiple people, that got me through on time.  And hey, my bag made it, too!

The flight from London to Stockholm was much shorter than the first flight.  But at least the woman next to me was sick.  As in, barfing right next to me in her seat.  Poor thing.

At Arlanda Airport in Stockholm, border control and customs were a snap.  My bus into town was right outside the terminal door and was there in five minutes.

I finally made it to the hotel.  I was tired, dazed, sweaty, foul-smelling, and as I expected after such long trip, barely human.  I tried to get comfortable in the room.

I was considering going down to the restaurant for a spot of dinner when I realized that the woman next to me on the flight might have gifted me her sickness.  Yay.  What better way to start off your foreign vacation than bowing to the porcelain god?

My First View of Stockholm

My First View of Stockholm

I went to sleep around 8:00 p.m. local time.  Happily, the sickness was a one-time thing (so far!) and I slept well for six hours. I got up about 2:00 a.m. and began working some tech problems.

I spent most of the rest of the night on the phone with Verizon and Time Warner cable trying to sort out issues with my mobile data and email.  Yay!

The upside is all that time on hold gave me a chance to plan out my plan of attack for my first couple of days in Stockholm.

It’s now 6:00 a.m.  I’m going to try to nap just a bit before breakfast.

Oh, and the weather?  And the weather forecast for the next few days?  I can’t even.

I hope my next entry will be jollier!

logo with new font



Well.  After all the pondering, the perusing, the planning, the paying, and the packing, I’m finally on my way!

Today’s going to be a very looooong day and so I’m going to try to wake up and muster all of the patience I can.

Among the things I’m excited about today is the very plane I’ll be traveling on.  It’s an Airbus A380, the world’s largest passenger airliner.  Check it out:

to G-XLEC	. Taken at Airbus Airbus Finkenwerder, XFW

As you can see, it’s on the ground, because of course it’s much to heavy to actually fly.  You just taxi all of the way to London.

It has two full decks.  I’ll be sitting in World Traveler Plus on the second deck.

Here’s a seating chart for this monster:

moar 380 seating

But Airbus isn’t stopping there.  In 2017, Airbus will be introducing the A420, which will have four decks.  The top deck will have feature a lap pool, an air hockey parlor and a gay bar.  Maybe for my next trip.

Anyway, the flight to London will last eleven and a half hours.  That’s longer than the drive to Riverside.  And since I’ll be seating in the next-to-lowest  seating class, I won’t be in the lap of luxury for those eleven hours.  That’s why I paid extra for an aisle seat, so it will be easy for me to stand up and stretch my legs and hopefully get a glimpse of the better looking flight attendants up in Club World.

I’ll also, of course, have my Kindle, and my Nintendo 3DS to keep me company.

It’s an overnight flight, flying east, so I basically lose a day.  Which means my first day in ScandiRAYvia will be a day that I will likely stumble around wishing I was dead.

If only I could sleep on planes!  But I can’t.  I never really could, but now I really can’t, as I can’t sleep at all without my C-PAP.  I’ve never tried to use my C-PAP on a plane, and I’ve never actually seen anyone else use one on a plane.  However, checking the C-PAP community online I see that many of my fellow Apneans do plug in and use this blessed device while flying.  I think my World Traveller Plus seats will have a power outlet.  Perhaps this should be the time I try to use it while flying?

It would certainly help my first day in Stockholm be a bit less groggy.

After the London leg, it’s a mere two-and-a-half hour flight from Heathrow to Arlanda Airport in Stockholm.  I’m a bit nervous, as there’s only a one hour and twenty minute layover between the two flights.  I sure hope I don’t miss the Stockholm flight.  That would displease me.

Ah, well, I can’t control that part.  I vow to try to enjoy whatever happens.

And now, it’s time to leave for the airport!