02/04/10 7AM SAS910 (meal service, see zaremblog) arrival: dark... snow...
view from the Absalon Hotel, Copenhagen
I'm sitting in my room at the Absalon Hotel (doubles from DK805,http://www.absalon-hotel.dk/sider/forside_74.aspx ), a serviceable enough place a few blocks from Copenhagen's main train station that offers a good 'morgenmad' (breakfast) -breads, yogurt, fruit, cheeses, cold cuts, pickled herring, the whole Scandinavian works. It's cold out, the promotion we've come a day early to do isn't happening and I've got exactly one and a half Danish crowns. So I'm catching up on some writing and thinking about my first trip to Denmark while sitting on my narrow berth-like bed (narrower the better, I wind up thrashing around in a big empty bed). Maybe that's why I like boats. The hum of the engines also helps me sleep. And if hanging around a bar in the middle of the day is a good way to find interesting (and unexpected) conversation, a voyage can combine all the possibilities of a bar, combined with the inducements of the seemingly endless features of sea -with expansive results. Just look at Moby Dick.
I took my first 'international cruise' in 1972 while returning from Newfoundland with my old friends from Maspeth Bobby-O and 'Doy'. We were taking the day-long ferry across the Bay Of Fundy from Yarmouth, Nova Scotia to Bar Harbor, Maine (a mere 23 years earlier, before Newfoundland joined the Canadian Confederation, the ferry there from Nova Scotia would also have been an international voyage). After weeks of wintery mid-June gloom and rain in the Maritimes, we were enjoying the sun on deck when a Nova Scotian Scot introduced himself and his family. Apparently he thought that three long-haired, teenage boys flying on LSD would make appropriate companions for his 13 year old daughter during the voyage. Very thin and somewhat anorexic, with long thick dark hair and eye-brows, her name was Heather -a pretty, very Scottish name indeed. Conversation proceeded awkwardly enough as it would between teens of the opposite sex, when she suggested we play rummy. Spades and hearts, diamonds and clubs were literally dancing across my hand when her father reappeared and offered us all thick, home-made lobster sandwiches. Incessant English propaganda to the contrary, I've never met a Scot who was anything but generous -sometimes grave, but always generous. Neither my friends or I had any appetite, but eating these luxurious sandwiches, even to be polite, was out of the question. Besides, the great chunks of shocking electric-vermillion lobster were slathered in gleaming white mayonnaise. Ever since my childhood I've found mayonnaise completely repulsive. Why would someone do such a thing to lobster? On we sailed for what seemed to be an eternity, me shifting the sandwich here and there, not wanting to appear to be an ingrate, trying to make some sense of the unrecognizable and ever-shifting patterns on the cards in my hand. "Don't you remember this game?" Heather would occasionally say as she reached over to pluck a card right out of my hand. It was with a mixture of sadness and relief that the silhouette of Mt. Desert, which I'm sure never will look more majestic, came into view, signaling the imminent end of our voyage.
The first time I visited Denmark was with The Fleshtones in the mid-eighties. We arrived by sea, the best way to arrive anywhere for the first time. We took the ferry down from Oslo, Norway to Copenhagen. I found myself a spot at one of the long formica tables in the ship's near-empty cafeteria. As we slid down Oslo's long fjord towards the open sea, an elderly man sat down opposite me. Perhaps he noticed me watching the passing shore, so he began to point out the various old shore fortifications as we steamed along. Being somewhat familiar with the story of Germany's 1940 sea-borne invasion of the country, I listened with some interest. It was going to be a long float anyway. As we passed through a narrow point in the fjord, he showed me the spot where a Norwegian battery had managed a direct hit, sinking a German cruiser -I believe the 'Hippler' (actually, it was the Blücher -PZ). "Good for them" I somewhat absent-mindedly commented, almost immediately realizing my mistake. "Good?" my companion corrected "they were only boys -like you, doing their duty!" I realized he was German, himself possibly a veteran of that invasion. Bygones are bygones, however, and he continued his discourse, bringing me right up to the current world situation. The old Soviet Union was then still very much alive and he warned the world was still fraught with danger. "Keep the powder dry" he advised me, bringing his fist firmly down on the table "-keep the powder dry!"
We arrived in Copenhagen very early the next morning. It was our first time there, so even though we were only 'in transit' and had a boat to England to catch on the other side of Denmark, Bill and I took off to find the famous 'Tivoli Gardens' which being extremely early (and out of season) were of course closed. We then went to see the changing of the King's Guard. They wore big bear-fur hats just like the guards at Buckingham Palace, only their tunics were blue instead of scarlet and they smirked during inspection.
By the time we made it back to the van, the whole band was waiting on us, so we jumped in and began a mad race across the country to catch our ferry on Denmark's west coast. It seemed like we were doomed to miss it, but to my intense relief, we arrived just as the last vehicles were being loaded on the ship. "See, we had plenty of time!"
The ferry was big enough to have a disco, so rather than retire to our miniscule cabin buried somewhere in the iron bowels of the ship, we got right into liberally taking advantage of the cheap drink prices. As a particularly inky dark night fell, we sailed straight into one of those rightfully-feared North Sea storms. In the disco, The Bee Gees and Brit pop like 'Wham' was still blasting. The loquacious English DJ babbled on over the music as gigantic waves slammed repeatedly into the ship, sending drinks and dancers flying. In hindsight (the only kind, it seems) it was foolish that our bassist Marek and I went up to the top deck to drunkenly enjoy the thrill of being buffeted by the gale. We hung on to the rail for dear life as the ship slammed down into the void after riding over each colossal swell, sending the cold sea crashing over the bow. Through the darkness and pelting rain I could swear I could see the back of a woman's figure, the fierce wind tearing at her hooded cape. With water hitting us full-force in the face, we watched in disbelief as she stood there staring off into the fatal blackness of the storm. Suddenly she turned and walked directly towards us. Like in a dream, I was riveted to the spot, unable to move as she came face to face with me, her nose within an inch of mine. There was an insane wildness in her eyes. "I love it when it's like this" she said. By the time we could collect ourselves, she had disappeared.
This time we're flying. Here's where we'll be:
02/04 Copenhagen,Denmark: Råhuset
02/05 Trømso, Norway: Blå (Blue) Rock
02/06 Moss, Norway: House Of Rock w/The Cocktail Slippers
02/10 Oslo, Norway: Elm Street w/ The Cocktail Slippers
02/12 Stockholm, Sweden w/ Stupidity and special guests The Nomads
02/13 Stockholm, Sweden w/ Stupidity and special guests The Cocktail Slippers
We'll also being doing a special afternoon performance at The Fountain House in Stockholm on the 13th.
Hope to see you there!
If you're ready to drop a lot more crowns for style, you could consider staying at Nimb Hotel, a white-white-white ultra-contemperary boutique property on the 'right' side of the tracks (main railroad terminal). A member of the elite Small Luxury Hotel group, it's in easy walking distance to everything, in fact its back door opens directly into Tivoli Gardens. (dbls from DK 2,500 breakfast NOT included, www.nimb.dk).
Before the show we ate at Cafe Mandela (www.cafemandela.dk), part of the same renovated old industrial complex as the Råhuset. Hip without trying too hard, Mandela's most interesting dish is the African Stew -antelope in traditional tomato/onion sauce seasoned with cumin and almonds, served with mashed sweet potato -DK165, or feast on the Mandela Burger (I was joking but they actually have one), the real whopper of 200g of lean (less that 5% fat) beef, chedder cheese, salsa, jalapeños and french fries, DK125. Yeah, everything is expensive. Wait 'till you get to Norway.
And even if you don't arrive by the super-easy quick train from the airport, take time to admire the amazing vaulted roof of Copenhagen's main railway terminal, supported entirely by immense, broad arches of finely worked wood. Oh yeah, the debut of Rådhuset was lots of fun, a situation greatly aided by our friends from The Mau Mau Club and opening band David Peter and the Wilde Sect (www.myspace.com/dpthewildesect), they're kind of like The Swinging Blue Jeans only young and Danish.