Walk this way

Today’s my birthday. It’s good day, a happy day, it makes me feel special. Today’s my day all day long, so there’s a little more spring to my step, and my posture’s a little better than usual.

Some time ago, about ten years ago, I decided that I’d never work on my birthday again. Since everybody else was always telling me how it was my day, why not then make it my day for real. On December 8, I don’t do work – writing this isn’t work, this is just me talking to you – and instead, I do whatever I want.

(Almost. I mean, I do have to run Daughter’s ringette practice, and those garbage cans don’t move themselves onto the curb, do they?)

24643610302f9a9a14e7051952415a3b

Continue reading

Break on through

He wasn’t a religious person. He was, however, “a spiritual person”. His words.

It meant that he was snacking on the big buffet table of different faiths and beliefs. Some days he believed in reincarnation, other days in nothing, and on yet some other days, he believed in everything from astrology to God to magic and other dimensions. Those were the days he was at his happiest, although, it was difficult to see cause and effect there.

In short, the happier he was the more he believed in everything and everybody but effect could have also gone in the other direction.

And he was never happier than when he walked through town early in the morning in the summer after a long day and night in his favorite bar in the middle of the said town.

maxresdefault

Continue reading

His Izzyness

 Open the door, Homer
 I’ve heard it said before
 Open the door, Homer
 I’ve heard it said before
 But I ain’t gonna hear it said no more
— Bob Dylan, “Open The Door, Homer”

On the south side of town, there’s a small one-room office space that looks like a living room. It’s on the street level, in the corner of a big building, and with its big windows opening on two streets, it would be perfect for a small store. It’s not a store, though, it’s a folk music center. Or, rather, a Folklore Center. Or, even more accurately since we’re in Sweden, a Folklore Centrum.

It used to be called Folklore Center, way back in the 1950s when it was located in the Greenwich Village in New York, and when Bob Dylan used to hang out there. The founder, Izzy Young, produced Dylan’s first concert at the Carnegie Chapter Hall in New York in 1961 and when he moved to Sweden in the 1970s, he took the center with him and turned it into a centrum.

Basically, Izzy’s been a folk music legend for a good five decades, but up until last winter, I had never heard of him (and that says everything about me). Then I got a new colleague, Danny, who told me stories about Izzy – he helps Izzy run his small concerts in the small space – and we laughed, and then I forgot about Izzy and folk music again.

And then Bob Dylan got the Nobel Prize in literature.

img_5820

Continue reading

Cherry picking

There seems to be at least two Hardy Åstroms. There’s the clog-wearing Swedish chef who can’t catch a beach ball, introduced to the world and kept alive by Don Cherry who’s been using Hardy material for decades.

Have you heard the one about Hardy when Cherry he pulled his goalie in the final minutes of a game to try to get a goal with six skaters on the ice. Åstrom, the backup, saw the starting goalie racing towards the bench so he grabbed his equipment, hopped the boards and raced to the crease, the story goes, to make a goalie change on the fly.

“Funny,” says Åstrom, “but not true.”

And then there’s the Hardy that played in the first Canada Cup in 1976, represented Sweden in two World Championships, was one of the first European goaltenders in the NHL, and who played for Cherry in Colorado for a year.

Before Cherry was fired.

"Was that a puck?" Continue reading

25 reasons why Bob Dylan hasn’t gotten back to the Swedish Academy

“Days after being awarded the literature prize, Bob Dylan has yet to get in touch with the Swedish Academy, or indicate whether he will attend the celebrations.”
– The Guardian, Oct 17, 2016

Swedes! Who do they think they are, thinking that a guy will roll out of bed in the middle of the night just to pick up the phone. Or that he’ll return the call right after he wakes up. Or the next day. It’s not like the world revolves around the Nobel Prize, you know. Here are 25 things that could have kept Bob Dylan from getting back to the Swedish Academy.

1235183310156298364125258516151011o-926x1024

King of Sweden

Continue reading

Psyched about words

“OK, pick a word,” Mika said as soon as I sat down.

I was a little out of breath because I had run all the way from the bus terminal in the middle of town to our school, and had made it to our psychology class just in time. I dropped my blue backpack on the floor, and sat down in the first row, next to him.

“Any word,” he added, like a magician, ready to amaze his crowd.

So I did.

scrabble-005

Continue reading

And don’t call me Shirley

Just as there are times when the Phantom leaves his jungle home and travels as an ordinary man there are times when this freelance writer dresses up for work. Instead of just jumping into a pair of jeans and pulling on a Back to the Future T-shirt, I may wear a shirt. With buttons and everything.

Last Friday was such a day. And when I left the house to pick up the kids from school – it was Friday, after all – I noticed my black dress shoes pushed to the side of our shoe rack and I picked them up. They looked good, really good, considering I had them polished in Las Vegas ten years ago.

I put them on.

There’s something about shoes like that that make me want to tap dance, and vow that one day, I’ll learn a few nice tap dance steps.

img_5470 Continue reading

From Sollentuna with love

Buses in the Stockholm county are red, except the ones that are blue. They’re so special that people refer to them as “blue buses”, instead of using their line numbers. In Sollentuna, an affluent suburb a 35-minute bike ride from downtown Stockholm only the 179 going to Vällingby is blue, the rest of them are red, including the 520.

mAbout 35 years ago, a fair-haired boy got off 520 at the Sollentunavallen stop. He crossed the street, and from the top of the hill, he could see the view over the 17th century mansion and the Baltic sea bay, a running track, and most importantly, the outdoor hockey rink.

It was his big brother who had got him into hockey to begin with, and the kid turned out to be so good that when he was seven, the instructors at the hockey school considered him too good to play with the other kids, and directed him to the youngest junior team in town. The others were two years older but he either didn’t notice it or didn’t care.

The track field got a bandy and skating rink next to it, and they built a new outdoor rink next to the old one. A new indoor arena was built but by then the fair-haired boy was already an international star and the captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

His name was Mats Sundin.

sudden

Continue reading