Wednesday, May 31, 2006

starfishin' the north atlantic, part 2: like in the movies

This is the second segment in our Starfishin' the North Atlantic series. If you're new to the series, click here for context. If you missed the last segment, click here. For the next segment, click here. If all you want to see are pictures without the stories, click here.

In Terminal 3 of Copenhagen's expansive Kastrup Airport, there's a Caviar House & Prunier, a terrifc seafood bar with upscale prices that I wasn't immediately prepared to pay last Thursday. Still, I didn't think it would hurt to just peruse one of the menus that the staff had so neatly placed on all four sides of the bar, especially since there was still over an hour before my flight to Reykjavík was scheduled to board. Standing up at the bar, I opened up a menu. My mouth watered at all of the marvelous selections that I could be sampling (right now!) if it weren't for my ailing bank account balance.

Then, I heard a voice ... which asked me in a sweet, clear, Danish-accented lilt:

Beautiful Agnetha. Caviar House & Prunier, Terminal 3, Kastrup Airport, Copenhagen, Denmark. (2006). With her warm personality and ability to whip up a mean gravadlax in a pinch, I should have proposed marriage.

"Would you like to sit down?"

I looked up. On the other side of the menu, I saw a girl with smiling hazel eyes, silky-soft blonde hair and the kind of pure, effortless beauty that doesn't seem to be easily found anymore these days.

Oh great, now I had to stay and order something.

"Yes, please," I politely replied with a smile. I figured if I were really polite and smiled really nicely, she would love me forever. See, this is how things are supposed to work in my world.

She asked me what I wanted to drink. Instead of ordering a fine French wine like a cool, sophisticated person would have done, I asked for a bottle of water like a dork.

"Oh, I'm sorry, we only have sparkling ... is that all right?"

She seemed genuinely sorry and ignored the fact that I had just asked for a bottle of water like a dork. What a girl! I told her of course it would be fine, in fact, it would be great. As she smiled and whisked off to the other side of the bar to get my bottle of sparkling water, I noticed she was wearing a pair of black, hi-top Nike basketball sneakers, no doubt to ease the discomfort of having to stand on her feet for an entire shift. Beautiful and practical - now I was truly smitten.

I ordered the gravadlax, which is my favourite Scandinavian dish. If you've never heard of it before, gravadlax is fresh, sashimi-like Atlantic salmon fillets marinated in salt and sugar, seasoned with fresh dill, and served with a sweet mustard dipping sauce. The gravadlax pictured above was unbelievably good.

Long story made short ...
  • Her name was Agnetha.
  • I ordered the gravadlax.
  • Agnetha made the best gravadlax I ever had in my entire life.
  • Agnetha had a beautiful personality to go along with her gorgeous self and culinary skills.
  • The next hour would go by far too quickly.
I waited as long as I could without missing my flight before I paid my bill, smiled at her one last time, and said goodbye with a stare I held a second longer than I would have for anyone else at that very moment. Then I turned away and headed to my gate.

A couple of hours later, flying at 35,000 feet over the Faroe Islands, I thought to myself: if I lived my life more like they did in the movies ... I might have purposely missed my flight, stayed at the seafood bar, and taken Agnetha out for a drink after she finished work for the day. And then who knows what kind of blue sky possibilities could have ensued.

Blue skies to the ends of the Earth. Icelandair Flight FI205, en route to Reykjavík from Copenhagen, somewhere over the Norwegian Sea. (2006).

Unfortunately, real life is what it is and isn't like in the movies. Because in real life, the next time I pass through Copenhagen's Kastrup Airport, Agnetha isn't likely to be there.

Tonight, I can't sleep because I keep wondering why I don't live my life more like they do in the movies. I also wonder if the beautiful Danish girl I had the privilege of knowing for only an hour ever wonders the same thing.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

starfishin' the north atlantic, part 1: björkless

This is the first segment of our Starfishin' the North Atlantic series. For some background, click here. To jump forward to the second segment, click here. If all you want to see are pictures without the stories, click here.

"Your room will be ready at 2pm," flatly says the bland girl behind the reception desk at the bustling Reykjavík City Hostel.

I glance at my watch and grimace. 8:30am. Not exactly what I want to hear after taking the red-eye from Boston the night before. Well, so much for taking a morning nap.

A statue of the famous Viking explorer Leifur Eiríksson, the first European to discover the Americas (no, it wasn't Columbus), strikes a noble pose in front of Hallgrímskirkja, the church which towers over Reykjavík, Iceland. (2006). The statue was presented as a gift to Iceland from the United States in 1930 to commerate the 1000th anniversary of the AlÞing, the Icelandic parliament.

But it's just as well because I only have a couple of days in Iceland, which means I don't have much time for finding Björk. So the sooner I start, the better.

I take to the streets of Reykjavík, Iceland's capital city and home to two-thirds of the country's 300,000 people. But on this Saturday morning, there's absolutely no one to be found. Which isn't too surprising, I suppose. Icelanders are reputed to work the longest average workweek in all of Europe and, on Friday and Saturday nights, they really let loose and party. Often, the music doesn't stop until 6 or 7am. So I gather that everyone's still in bed. Which is fine but it isn't helping me in my Björk-finding quest.

Surely, I need a better vantage point. And when in Reykjavík, what better vantage point is there than the bell tower of Hallgrímskirkja, the 75-metre (246-foot) tall church that looms over the predominantly low-rise city?

I gladly pay the 350-krónur (about $5.50 Canadian or $5 US) admission and take the elevator to the top. The cold wind is swirling but the clear, 360-degree views of Reykjavík are spectacular. And, since I seem to have the tower all to myself, I see fit to yell out over the city, at the top of my lungs:


So happens, I'm not alone in the bell tower. From behind a pillar pops out an old, elderly couple, who are staring at me as if I were some kind of deranged madman. I cheerfully smile and wave back to them.

I deeply regret to say that I would end up leaving Iceland without successfully finding Björk.

I probably should have yelled louder.

A view from Hallgrímskirkja's bell tower of the difficult-to-spell-and-utterly-unpronounceable street of Skólavörðustígur, with Reykjavík Harbour in the distance. (2006). It is over this street I called out to Björk, in vain.

Looking north from the bell tower of Hallgrímskirkja. (2006). I love the colourful buildings and rooftops.

Looking northeast from the bell tower of Hallgrímskirkja. (2006).

Looking southwest from the bell tower of Hallgrímskirkja. (2006).

On the ground floor at Hallgrímskirkja. (2006) Interesting fact about the massive church: it took 34(!) years to build, opening in 1974.

Friday, May 26, 2006

starfishin' the north atlantic: some opening words

Well, I'm home. After eleven days of various stops in Iceland, Denmark, Sweden, the USA and Canada for a combination of business, travel, adventure, introspective, and outrospective purposes, I'm not exactly sure where to begin.

Lost without a map on the cobblestoned sidestreets of Copenhagen, Denmark. (2006). Because sometimes, wandering a foreign city without knowing where you're going is the best way to experience it.

So what we'll do is this: instead of overwhelming and boring you with one monster, unorganized post filled with random stories and photos, I'm going to overwhelm and bore you over multiple posts filled with random stories and photos, in a new series we're going to call Starfishin' the North Atlantic. Sound good?

But first, a couple of housekeeping items:

1. If you have no idea why I travelled to the places I did over the last little while, click here, here and here for some context.

2. If all you really want to see are the pictures, click here.

Ok, let's get to the first segment.

Monday, May 15, 2006

gone starfishin'

We'll see what becomes of it all. In the meantime, please direct all inquiries to my editor.

Jag letar efter en sjöstärna ... kan du hjälp?

Friday, May 12, 2006

cupcake redux

Not just because we love cupcakes. But also because I turn 28 today.

Cupcakes make the world a better place. This May 12, shelve your inhibitions and celebrate the Feast Day of St. Dingobear, patron saint of the cupcake, by eating 28 of your favourite frosted microcakes.

Monday, May 08, 2006

my simulated reality tv life: episode fourteen

May is sweeps month, which means My Simulated Reality TV Life - everyone's favourite simulated reality series - is pulling out all of the stops to grab the attention of viewers just like you! And baby, we won't disappoint because, in a coup of gigantic proportions ... we have guest star simulated Penny from the Long Division, one of the best blogs this side of Bridgette's grotesquely-webbed right hand! Miss the last episode? Click here for a rerun. Completely clueless about what we're talking about? Click here to start at the very beginning. Now don't go away because tonight's much-anticipated episode begins now!

Simulated Felix and wife Bridgette, at it again. Note Bridgette's strategically-placed webbed right hand. Many viewers have demanded more simulated Felix-and-Bridgette love scenes, so there you go. You perv.

Episode Fourteen
Simulated parenting is full of ups and downs. For every first step there's a first fall. For every first word, there's, um ... umm ... a word that's the complete and utter polar opposite of the kid's first word. Yeah, that'll do. And so forth.

Which segues nicely into other pleasantries such as potty-training, also known in some circles as poop camp. (Not my circle, however, but that's besides the point). Anyway, where were we? Right, poop camp. Well, little Felicia's been alive for about seven episodes now, and it's about time she learned the ways of the porcelain throne because come on, the simulated me and wife Bridgette can't realistically be expected to diaper her wee ass forever.

So the next time nature calls, onto the red training potty goes Felicia. It's not long after Felicia starts her, um, business, the simulated me runs out of the house screaming. Does that make me the simulated me a coward? Probably, yes. Does it make the simulated me a bad parent? Also yes. But it's ok because I'm hot. And, oh yeah, also because Bridgette - bless her simulated heart - decides to stick it out and finish "supervising" Felicia. That Bridgette is a real trooper - no wonder the simulated me loves her so much.

Bridgette potty-trains little Felicia. Wait a second ... why does Bridgette think of simulated Felix when she potty-trains Felicia?

How can someone so small create THAT? Haha, I love the look on Bridgette's face while Felicia does her, um, business.

Luckily, outside, it's a beautiful evening. Since it would be suicide to enter the realm of noxious fumes that have permeated through my house, it's a good opportunity for the me to introduce myself to the new neighbour that's recently moved into the big house around the corner. The new neighbour must be rich. Rich like a dentist!

** Knock, knock **

A tall, blonde-ish girl with great bangs answers the door.


"Hi, I'm simulated Felix. I'd like to welcome you to the neighbourhood."

"Nice to meet you, I'm simulated Penny. Your black-framed glasses are some kind of bullshit, you know that? Here, why don't you come in for a beer."

I can tell already, this is the start of a beautiful simulated friendship.

Introducing simulated Penny ... Texas charm with Manhattan bangs. A writer by trade, here she is working on her new novel. Simulated Penny's secret for winning a Pulitzer: typing with her knuckles. That's "k-nuckles," by the way, with a non-silent "K," which is the way God intended it to be pronounced.

Simulated Penny to simulated Felix: "There nothing I love more than a cold beer on a hot Christmas morning." As you might have expected, simulated Penny and simulated Felix have become instant friends.

So what's in store for the next episode of My Simulated Reality TV Life? Will Felicia's potty-training adventures be met with success or failure? Will starfish and waffles come up with the millions of simulated dollars necessary to get simulated Penny to appear in another half-assed episode? Make sure you tune in and find out!

Felicia's teddy bear and Bridgette, in an apparent argument over mammalian anatomy: "I don't believe you!! What do you mean there's no bone in there? Then explain to me, how does it get so hard?"

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

may day

Scandinavia extended - tack on Copenhagen, Malmö, and Lund to the list of places to visit in May.

Due to an unexpected turn of events, there's been a change of plans. Common sense has dictated that I at least visit Lund University in person before I decide whether or not to leave everything behind in Canada. So much for my week of midnight sun 'n' fun in Iceland ... now I only have three days to find Björk.