4 FEBRUARY 2011

Today is Friday, Day One of my fourth trip to Sweden. I am
surprisingly unashamed to admit that this, what I'm writing here, is a
journal, and only a journal. For once I'm not trying to serve a higher
purpose, do something meaningful. I'm just sitting down to write about
my experiences.

Okay, I lied when I said this won't serve any purpose. Today marks the
first day of the official run up to two of the most important events
of my life – my upcoming wedding to the most beautiful girl in the
world; and our subsequent trans-Atlantic passage in Arcturus. I say
it's the first day because it's the first time that Mia and I have
been together in a 'home' situation in over four months – prior to
this was a measly two weeks in St. Lucia surrounded by people in a
working environment where we never even got to say a proper goodbye to
each other. So it's different now.

And it's different because I am focused. I'm no longer a fish out of
water in Sweden – I have a lot of writing work to get through in the
next few months and a wedding to plan. I am comfortable enough with
the language to make a fool out of myself and not care. I have an
enormous athletic challenge in less than four weeks – 90km of
cross-country skiing – and I've yet to even learn the sport.

I was motivated to start writing this in a real-time, journal format
after reading the first few sections of Black Swan. The author makes
an intriguing point that history is always explainable with the
benefit of hindsight, but that seeing things in real-time gives one a
more intimate perspective when viewing events through the rear-view
mirror. So despite what I recall of this time, between now and June 18
(and the remainder of the summer), I will hopefully have this record
to confirm or deny what really went on.

---

SAS flight 904 landed this morning ahead of schedule. We had a
magnificent tailwind, according to the pilot. I wouldn't have known
anyway – by a wonderful stroke of luck, I managed to doze for most of
the flight, sprawled out across the four middle seats, all of which
were empty. This was indeed a fortuitous turn of events, as I began
the flight against the window, sharing the neighboring seat with a
rather wide man. Once the plane was fully boarded, the flight
attendants roamed the cabin recommending that anyone sitting too close
to their neighbor could move seats if they preferred, as the economy
class was curiously empty.

I was slightly surprised to see the sun this morning at 7 in the am as
we de-planed. I was anticipating the winter darkness until I recalled
that the darkest nights were over a month ago, and every day is
getting brighter and brighter. It didn't last long though – by the
time I got to Mia's apartment (via the Arlanda Express train and the
tunnelbana), the sky was overcast and it was heavily flurrying.

Arlanda Airport is incredible. For some reason the passport control
guy knew I lived here:

- 'Talar du Svenska?'

- 'Ja, lite.'

- 'Du bor har, eller hur?'

- 'Ja vist!'

I was through in less than a minute. Five minutes later my big Helly
Hansen bag emerged on the carousel, and I snagged my skis from the
special baggage department on the way out – they had already arrived.
I don't remember the Swedish astronaut on the wall exiting the
terminal. Is he new?

Oddly, the excitement of seeing Mia kind of wore off once I left the
airport. Being back in Stockholm and riding the train brought with it
a  strong feeling of familiarity – it was like I'd never left in the
first place and riding the train was the most normal thing in the
world. I lucked into meeting Mia as she was leaving the apartment for
school. She was off in an instant and I was left alone again, to
unpack.

When she returned we made a thermos of coffee and walked down to
Arstaviken and sat on a dock overlooking the frozen waterway. The
middle of the channel had obviously been used by the local ferries and
shipping traffic – it'd been broken and refrozen dozens of times over,
leaving a wide swath of jagged ice interrupted by occasional pools of
melted water rippling in the slight breeze. The ice near our dock was
firm enough to stand on (though I only tried for an instant), and was
covered by a thin layer of fresh snow from the flurries this morning.
The occasional jogger ambled by on the trail behind us, and the train
whoosed above our heads on the bridge to Sodermalm, but otherwise we
had the place to ourselves overlooking the water and the city.
Stockholm, Sweden's biggest city, still has places to escape to, and
this is what we love about it.

Mia was off again at 4 to head to Globen for work, so I grabbed my
skis and was off to Sodermalm to the Intersport to have the bindings
mounted. I expected to have to drop them off for a pickup sometime
tomorrow. Instead the guy downstairs apologized for not being able to
do them on the spot – his colleague was using the mounting machine –
and told me I could pick them up in an hour. Okay.

Sodermalm was crowded, but it's Friday, so it's was to be expected. My
timeframe is all out of whack given the six hour difference. It was
getting dark as I emerged from the tunnelbana station at Skanstull. By
the time I'd dropped my skis off and startes strolling up the hill
past Medborgplatzen towards one of my coffee shops I'd assumed it was
nigh on eight or nine o'clock. Alas, it was only just after five. The
darkness I had anticipated.

Tully's at the top of the hill was jammed, so I went across the street
to Wayne's Coffee, Stockholm's version of Starbucks which I'd normally
pass by. There was one table open next to a pair of beautiful girls,
so I sat down, but the internet wasn't working. I didn't stay long.

Instead, I hurried back to Intersport where the skis were waiting for
me (150 SEK later), and made my way home to Globen on the tunnelbana.
Dinner consisted of two baked potatoes with cheese and olive oil while
I watched biathlon on Swedish TV. I was bored afterwards, so I went
for a nighttime run down along the water on Sodermalm in my barefoot
shoes and had a glorious time.

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