Sunday, June 28, 2009

I'm halfway home from Oslo, stuck at the Newark Airport for a few hours, waiting for a connector to Seattle. I'm drinking coffee to help delay my bedtime. It may be noon in Seattle, but my body thinks it's nine p.m Oslo time. I've been up since seven am Oslo and I have another nine hours to go. Today will be a long day.

Thanks to a laptop, an mp3 player and a pair of noise reducing head phones, I can cocoon myself, listen to music and block out the world. All around me are weary travelers doing the same. Their diversions may be video games or or text messaging, but we are all using our gadgets to tune out, clustering around the power outlets while our devices recharge, but never going so far as to say 'Hi' to one another.

Who says we are social creatures? I think we are creatures that love to be entertained. Our gadgets are now more entertaining than our fellow men so society is being left behind. I have heard of the 'grass eaters' from Japan-- a new generation of young Japanese who don't date, don't engage in society, don't have career plans, they've seen their parents lives and don't want that. They don't want a nice place to live and all the creature comforts it offers. I don't think these grass eaters are unique to Japan. I see them in America all the time. Choosing to opt out by mindlessly entertaining themselves rather than becoming productive and involved.

We don't need that much to be happy. Once you have a good place to sleep, a good meal every now and then, a few good friends, a bit of entertainment and some clothes on your back, everything else is really not necessary. Yet American society has no place for this style of life. Our leaders and role models are most always financially successful. Yet the enticements for the grass eaters to join in-- work hard for 40 years, buy the latest creature comforts, retire someplace nice-- pale in comparison to doing what you want, when you want, with the people you want.

In the past the grass eaters would have loudly rebelled like the hippies of the sixties. What's different today is that they focus their energy into entertainment. Amusement as a surrogate for happiness. No rioting needed. Any squalid place can be a comfortable home when you can listen to music, play games and watch TV. And so, it's easier to drop out now than it ever was before.

The men's bathroom smells bad. Uncleaned outhouse bad. I would have left had nature not demanded I stay.

I've heard my first dead Michael Jackson joke. His will states his plastic parts are to be recycled into Lego so that children everywhere can continue to play with him.

When I heard that, I wanted to text it to my friends. Why text it? I didn't want to call my friends (For free) and tell them the joke. I wanted to text it and pay. More convenient and I wouldn't have to talk to them.

All afternoon a man has been shuttling people back and forth in a golf cart-- the elderly, crippled, parents with kids. The card doesn't emit a warning sound so ever few seconds he shouts "Beep! Beep!" What a great job.

I try out the noise cancelling headphones at an electronics store in the airport. They are pricey but very good. For a few hundred dollars I can block out virtually all noise around me. I also try on the My-Vu glasses that display a TV screen when you put them on. I'm not as impressed with these. The My-Vu screen may be in a pair of glasses, but they don't project a large screen. Instead it looks like a small screen a few feet in front of me. If that's all I get, then I may as well stick with my Zune as it is really is a small screen a few feet in front of me.

But, the My-Vu will improve. Just as blurry 50 inch projection screens have morphed into 50 inch LCD screens more clear than what you seen in a theater, one day, not too many years from now, I will be able to don unobtrusive goggles that display a clear wrap around image. How much will this lower our standard of living? What kind of hovel would I choose to live in if I knew that I could put on goggles and noise canceling head phones and be magically transported away? Grass Eaters already spend most of their free time at the computer and the screen. They really don't care about the kind of place they live in. It's an expense and not an investment. If the right goggles allow them to cut this expense, then they will do it.

Maybe there is a business opportunity here- a rooming house with high speed Internet access and laundry service.

My flight is leaving soon. I quickly get something to eat. I’m tempted to try Mc Donalds, I haven’t ate there in years, but the line is long. I look at the hot dogs at the place next door. They disgust me. I settle on a pizza place. One of the pizzas has greenery on it and I ask what it is. The server doesn't know so I settle on the sausage and pepperoni.

No table is free, but a single man sitting alone at a table for four. I ask him if I may sit there. He kind says yes. We proceed to ignore each other while we eat. Sometimes he smiles, but mostly his face is impassive.

The pizza slice is mediocre. And now I crave a home cooked meal, properly prepared with lots of veggies. I’m looking forward to home. I want to stare at my screens in my crappy office and listen to music on my premium speakers.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

When I say "Western" I don't mean wild-wild-American-west. I mean old style, Western European culture. I really shouldn't be suprized that Oslo is 'Western' After all, 100 years ago it was called Christiana, and the people are clinicly, genetically, definitivly white. By any standard it's one of many founts of Western Christian culture.

I'm surprized about Oslo because I'm nieve about Europe. I've been to the Netherlands to visit relatives, but not to the rest of Europe. I've always viewed it as that place we (North Americans) escaped from because Europe was too, poor, or domineering, or whatever. Yet now that I'm here, I see that those poor Eurpeans are really living a refined, maybe even better, version of my life.

After rebelling against European dominance, you'd think we'd create something unique and different. Tommy Boy may be living that life in the south, but me-- well-- Seattle is Olso with urban sprawl, bad public transit and a deeper recession.

It's all grand, like-- I'm still going to take you up on your invitation. I'd love to visit Greece.

I saw "The Scream" today. It kind of surpized me. It's just hanging in the Munchs Museum in the corner of a room. No fan fair. No special signage. It's behind a thick sheet of glass. From the side, the glare off the glass obscurs the view so I didn't realize what it was until I stood right next to it. I wasn't expecting to see it. Then I turned and there it was.

After Munchs Museam, I tried to do some shopping. I wanted to get something uniquely Norwegian for RO. But, the truth is I can anything Norwegian for much less back in the U.S. At the Norwegian sweat shop, the sweaters started at $300.00 and quickly worked their way up to $400.00 & $500.00! Online I can find nice looking Norwegian sweaters for $200.00.

I can't imagine spending $200.00 on a sweater, period.

I'm staying up late tonight to try and get a jump start on reajusting to Pacific Time. It's now 4am and very bright out.

In the evening I went to a small bar and chatted with the bartender. She complained that the Norwegians don't know how to party. They stoop so low as to close the bars at three a.m! Three a.m! At her home in Latvia, the bars never close. I didn't have heart to tell here that at my home the bars close at two a.m. Not that it matters, I'm in bed by ten.

Friday, June 26, 2009

I love Oslo in June. I won't go all the way and say that I love Oslo period-- I haven't been here in the winter and this place is expensive. But this trip has been wonderful. The city is beautiful. The people are friendly.

A pint of beer is 50 kroner which works out to a about US$7.50. A meal that's about $20.00 back in the U.S. is about $30.00 in Oslo.

But, I walk around with a feeling that I don't have to worry about anything. I haven't felt that in years. I don't have to worry about my safety. We accidentatly walked through the tough part of town, and everyone was still polite and respectful. Beggers nod and look away when you say 'No.' At work I didn't feel like I had to be 'on,' My coworkers were so friendly, so nice, that I felt like I was at home.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Last night we went to Vigeland Sculpture Park, a large park in Oslo that has hundreds of sculptures of naked people. It's all very tasteful, sometimes funnly, sometimes creapy, always beautiful.

At dinner afterwards a drunk norwegian came up to us and just started talking, making jokes about how we didn't smell and that he smelt bad. This is the second time we've had a drunk Norwegian just sit with us and start chatting. While it is uncomfortable to have a drunk sit with you uninvited, in some ways it's wonderful that Norwegians are so unpretentious.

We walked back to the hotel at 11pm at night. It was still light out. The streets were full of people. Apparently the longest days of the year are an unofficial holiday. It was good to see a city so alive with so many friendly people at eleven at night. If it was down town Seattle, the streets would be full of the homeless and the drunk.

Monday, June 22, 2009

I think I could live in Oslo; at least in the summer. Although, the locals tell me that the weather is unusually plesent right now and they also speak of long & dark winters.

I'm suprized how many homeless people are here. When I asked what they do in the winter I was told that they stay. The Oslo homeless are very hardy.

Norweigan food is everything I thought Norweigian food would be. Heavy on the cheese, herring and pickles. Light on fresh veggies.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Oslo is very far north. The days are long. Yesterday the sunset was at 10:44pm. This morning the sunrise at 3:54 Am. Even though the curtains are thick, there is a slight glow throughout the night.

I took sleeping pills and got six hours of sleep, so I should be ok today. However 9am Oslo is midnight Seattle. If jet lag hits then this will be a long day.
I am in Oslo. Google and Blogger have detected this. The blog spell check has switched to Norweigian and Google prompsts me " nå tilgjengelig på".

I'm taking lots of pics. I didn't bring along the right cable so I can't download them till I get back.

Oslo is a plesant city. Very walkable. Parts of it look very old. Parts of it have been retro fitted with clean modern architeture.

I am supprized with how Western it is; at least Oslo Central. Most everyone speaks English. If it wasn't for the Norwegian signs, you could convice me that I was in a smaller west coast city in North America.

Friday, June 19, 2009

I'm off to Norway for for work for a week. I'm kind of excited to get away from Seattle for a while, even though the trip is long (15 hours one way) and I must work hard and act professional the whole time.

RO wants me to bring him back something nice and distinctly Norwegian. This will be challenging. It can't be a nick-nack unless it's art. It can't be clothing unless it's not found in America. Ditto for liquors.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Over the weekend, Boone and Dave had a garden party. This was no ordinary garden since Dave is a Master Gardner.

I'm sure it's taken him hears, but Dave's garden is beautiful; full of a wide variety of healthy plants.

RO is now inspired and jealous. He wants to make our yard just as nice.

Monday, June 08, 2009

RO and I took a day trip to Westport. Westport is probably the nearest place to Seattle that is on the ocean proper. As such it gets a good chunk of tourist activity in the form of day trippers from Seattle.

What do I mean by "the ocean proper?" I mean that, while Seattle is on Puget Sound which is a large body of salt water, you can still see across it. The Puget Sound feels like a large lake. Which is nothing special for an in-lander like me.

The ocean proper means that I can look out over the water and see nothing but ocean on to the horizon. Although I've lived in Seattle for over ten years now. I still thrill when I see the ocean. I still feel compelled to touch its waters. The Pacific's waters are infinite. Seattle's are merely salty.

It's a two hour drive to Westport. The drive wasn't terribly scenic, but the traffic was fast. Westport is very small. Even though we didn't have a map and did no planning on where to go and what to see, the only difficulty we would run into was finding restrooms.

Westport; it's not a happy place. We felt a twinge of disappointment as we drove down along the waterfront. Many buildings are for sale. Others in disrepair. The cars parked along the street are older and rusting. We drove past a burt down restaurant.

After circleing around a few blocks and arguing about parking we got out and went for a walk. Despite the empty buildings, there are no shortage of gift shops and gallaries in Westport. We walk through a few of them. There are all so the same. T-shirts with funny slogans on them. Plastic danglies that clitter in the sun.

The kite store no longer sells kites.

The gallaries sell the the usual metal cut outs, hand made jewelry and paintings of pastoral scenes.

Why is every gift shop and gallery in America so similar? If there is one place where a small town can show off its locol color, it's at it's own gift shops and gallaries. Yet every small town gift shop and gallery I have ever been in looks like they order their products from the same catalog. "Funny saying shirts with your town name only $9.99 each. Metal artist who cuts fish out of steel $500.00 plus food and lodging. Buy one and get a hand-made-jewelry artist for free."

People worry that corporations and globalization are making us all so similar and creating a single global culture. I think the problem is deeper than that. Left to our own devices we learn from and become like the people around us. It's the communication and not the corporation. We see how other people live and work and instead of finding our own solution we think "Hey! I can do that." What's left is a world were originality is the exception. Where the tried and proven path is used over and over without asking "Is this too much?"

We came upon two baby seals as we walked along the ocean. No mother seal was around. I worried that they had been abandoned or their mother died. My worry was premature. Shortly a ranger came along and posted signs to stay away from the seals. He told us that mother seals often leave their babies on beaches while they go out hunting.

After our walk, we picked up some salmon and oysters at a local fish monger. It was all very fresh.

On the way home we stopped off at Aberdeen, the birth place of Kurt Cobain. This city too is not aging well. Stores are closing. Building are empty.

An antique store in Aberdeen has a Kurt Cobain department. Right next to the primitives and the nautical section.

Anacortes has a walk of fame, complete with stars in the sidewalk. The stars are each at leash 50 feet apart. On the list there is an NFL player, Gentle Ben author Walt Morey (though Wikipedia claims he's from neighboring Hoquiam) and silk screen artist. At that point we got back to where we parked our truck. Rather than learning the rest of the Aberdeen glitterati, we continued our trip home.

The oysters and salmon were amazingly fresh and tasty.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

We have a heat warning. it's only the beginning of June and Seattle WA is under a heat warning.

I like it.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Sunday's weather was beautiful. RO and I found the two hammocks that have been hidden in our house for years. We hung them up and relaxed all afternoon.