The Vanishing Ice Pack
A mistake caused the accident that, as you think back on it, could not possibly have happened the way it did, but of course somehow it did happen, even if it seems impossible or highly unlikely, it happened, as accidents happen all over the world, every second of every minute of every day, many thousands, perhaps millions of accidents just like this, every second of every minute of every day accidents occur with no script, no warning. When you least expect it, when you are not paying attention to your surroundings like you should because you are tired, when you think that after a series of hectic activities and travel that finally you are at peace, it is then, in an instant, you are thrown into turmoil. At the point in time when relief settles over your senses, that’s when the bizarre takes over, you lose your balance and everything comes crashing down. The change in altitude you experienced earlier that evening mirrors the rate at which your mental state plummeted from expectant relaxation to dealing with hysteria to abject fear, and then, getting through the puncture point of fear safely, landing safely, you relax before you’ve got everything worked out, the expectant time to relax is only an illusion, a mirage that only you can see and you stare at this mirage that lies up ahead as in a day dream except this is night, and you are walking, thinking the worst is over, that you just have to drop the form in the slot, even though you should have already done so, fill out the form, drop the form in the slot (with the key of course) then calmly wait for your wife to pick you up since you told her your brakes went out and that you will leave the truck at Jerry’s Tire and Auto and then you should have walked, not hurried, as you ended up doing, you should have walked casually over to the drug store with nothing else in mind than to purchase a jug or two of distilled water. She would have been amazed that you would have been able to safely park your truck at Jerry’s Tire and Auto without so much as incurring a scratch on the truck or yourself, taking into consideration that, after all, your brakes went out, no brakes, so that surely her amazement at this course of events would have calmed her down a bit, stabilized her after she saw the distilled water. Upon returning home, you found a third of the house without power, but then on top of the power being out, it was the note that sent her over the top, the note describing a boil order in effect for your neighborhood, a boil order that meant, according to your wife, that you were in imminent danger with no alternate source of water. Your answer to her hysterical outburst was to say that you would get some in the morning, all you want to do now is just relax and get some sleep, but no, that would not fly, your wife needed immediate satisfaction that something was being done, something to ward off the evil atmosphere that had permeated through your house while you were away enjoying yourselves on a vacation.
You think you are acting in the moment, you think you are acting spontaneously, you go on vacation, starting with an airplane trip to Victoria, well not really Victoria but Sidney (not Australia (notice the different spelling) but British Columbia) because there is no airport in Victoria, well, that’s not true, there is an airport for seaplanes or floatplanes that land at the inner harbor and which you could hear each morning from your room in the cozy bed and breakfast where you stayed with your wife and daughter near Fisherman’s Wharf. You did not know about this seaport, or sea airport before taking your trip, you did not know it would have been possible to take a floatplane from Vancouver to Victoria, thus bypassing Sidney but, in bypassing Sidney, you would have missed the engaging cab driver, who took you to your B&B in Victoria, giving valuable advice about which tourist traps to avoid, like high tea at The Empress Hotel, and which events were worthwhile, like the Harbor Ferry Water Ballet that takes place every Sunday morning from May to September. You would have missed commiserating with him as he decried the loss of Canadian glaciers and the vanishing ice pack due to global warming. The small aircraft you took from Vancouver to Sidney was one of those planes you board from the tarmac by climbing portable stairs starting at ground level which reminded both you and your wife of the boarding and the flight of the small plane on your return from Kristiansand to Oslo where you had a swell time in Oslo walking down Karl Johans Gate, a street made for people, people strolling in between shops, cafes, bars and restaurants. You did enjoy walking down this street at midnight in the bright sunshine and you have an image in your mind of the intimate ferry ride across the Oslofjord where you learned from the captain that all the buildings along the Oslofjord must be painted either red or green or yellow, or was it white, red or yellow, anyway, one of only three colors, so when you looked at all the buildings that you passed on your ferry ride in the Oslofjord they all had fresh coats of paint and they were all painted either red, green or yellow, or perhaps it was white, red or yellow, no, now that you think about it, the buildings were all painted in green, yellow or red, (or combinations of the three colors of course). All of the buildings along the Oslofjord were painted in these three colors and the effect was quite startling, quite startling in a pleasant sort of way that reflected on the pleasant nature of the Norwegian people whom you met and put you in a pleasant mood. Your wife was taking pictures at random, she even took a picture of the inside of the ferry, a picture of the people you thought you had helped find the ferry landing, of the couple you thought you were aiding by directing them to the proper place to board the ferry for the trip down the Oslofjord. You don’t have a complete memory of your conversation before the faux pas became public, other than you remember he was returning to the city where he was stationed during his tour of duty in the U. S. armed forces. He told you that the superbly maintained brick building in front of you, as you stood waiting at the docking site for the ferry, the beautiful red brick building with the clock tower was the city hall and that he had to go there and make formal requests for legal papers when he was stationed in Oslo. He was quite happy now to be returning on a tour of pleasure to visit this beautiful city with his wife and point out places of interest to her, point out the Råduhset which was finished in 1950, but had been first conceived in 1915 by the former mayor of Kristiania, Hieronymus Heyerdahl, (it was King Christian IV who renamed Oslo, Christiania, in the 17th century after the city had burned and the name was changed to Kristiania in the late 19th century (1878 to be exact)) as one can see in the novels of Knut Hamsun. That is, if one isn’t afraid of mentioning Hamsun or reading Hamsun, if one takes Hamsun at his word, if one would perhaps read On Overgrown Paths, his memoir written while he was interred for “suspicion of treason” from 1945 to 1948, part of it written in a hospital, part at a home for the aged and finished while residing at a psychiatric clinic in Oslo. If one isn’t afraid to open that book and read his statement to the court which appears toward the end of the book and in his own words (speaking of his statement to the court) “it has not been intended as any defense on my part”, …”but it has not been meant as any defense” and “I can wait”…”I have time on my side.” He was in his late eighties, deaf, almost blind but he had time on his side. It is too easy to condemn without reading his words, to look at the black and white and not the gray, not read the books and the man’s life and times where mistakes were made on all sides, why even mistakes were made in the frenzy to publish English translations of his novels after he won the Nobel Prize for Literature. They misled the reader with the translation of Kristiania into Christiania. They translate Kristiania as Christiania, but it is the spelling, Kristiania, that appears in the original Norwegian publication of Sult (1890) (Hunger) even though, for some reason, for some unknown reason, the publication of Hunger in 1921 (the year after Hamsun was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature) spells out the name, Christiania. For one reason or another reverts to the spelling for the city prior to 1878, when in 1879 Hamsun (then known by his real name) moves to Kristiania where he suffers through a harsh winter in great distress, where the seeds for Hunger are sown, where he experiences much distress and feels the pangs of hunger wrench his body and then under his real name (which is not worth mentioning because he assumed the name of Hamsun to be his writer’s name and that is what he became, a writer, that is what we know him for, his writing, after working as a shop hand in Lom, a salesman in Hamarøy, a traveling salesman in northern Norway, an apprentice shoemaker in Bodø, policeman in Bø, a teacher also in Bø, road worker in Toten, salesman in Elroy, harvesting wheat in North Dakota, secretary in Minneapolis) he publishes Sult under his real name, even though he had assumed the name Hamsun in 1885 after moving back to Norway, after becoming ill in Minneapolis he moved back to convalesce then a year later moves to Kristiania where he again suffered much distress and hunger before he returns to the United States and works as a streetcar conductor in Chicago and then as a journalist and lecturer in Minneapolis before moving to Copenhagen where his book is published under his real name even though he had been starved for food as Hamsun and for five years signed his name as Hamsun, for some reason his publisher had to revert back to _____ (name left blank intentionally (you know this name just think it irrelevant)) similar to how the English translation reverted back to Christiania even though he wrote Kristiania in Norwegian and was writing about Kristiania, about coming to grips with starvation in Kristiania, and from 1877 to 1923 he always wrote Kristiania, not Christiania, and it was Kristiania where he starved, not once but twice. Did they think Hamsun was evoking an earlier time period in his novels and that he made a mistake spelling it Kristiania (which is not the case), or was it sheer oversight, sheer noninterest in getting the name of the city that the novel is about correct, the debut novel in the post-Nobel Hamsun library correct? It is a mystery that you would like answered but who do you ask about Hamsun and his translators, that is unless you think it too controversial to mention his name at all, to mention his name among Norwegians which is another faux pas you made, this one later on in Kristiansand, (that’s Kristiansand, not to be confused with Kristiania which again became Oslo in 1925) where you kept pressing a point, kept questioning those friendly Norwegians who had gathered around a table at the band convention to chat, to exchange experiences, just like you, this was an opportunity to swap tales of concerts, to talk about music and the summer of love, you might have asked what news of the summer of love reached Trondheim in 1967, which is where this group of Norwegian musicians were from, but no, you didn’t ask them about the summer of love, you asked them about Hamsun, did they like Hamsun, have they read Hamsun, is Hamsun once again popular among young people, and the blank stares, the open mouths not speaking, not responding, the blank, blinking eyes looking away, looking for a way out, so what do you do, you keep pressing, you mount a defense like the one given by Rolf Nettum in his article The Life and Works of Knut Hamsun that is included in the Nobel Prize Library edition for Hemingway, Hamsun, Hesse and which is further delineated by the perspective shown by Kjel Strömberg by his article, The 1920 Prize in the same book, where he mentions that Hamsun was 60 years old in 1920 and already absent-minded, well he doesn’t use the phrase absent-minded but he tells a story about Hamsun after the Nobel award ceremony that clearly shows his absent-mindedness in 1920. Instead of talking about San Francisco and the summer of love or about the swinging London scene in 1967, you explain about Hamsun’s deafness and his cerebral hemorrhage and how he berated Hitler for his harsh punishment of Norwegian resistance fighters, until finally one of the Trondheimians, one of the assembled art rock aficionados finally looks you in the eye and explains that no one in Norway reads Hamsun anymore. He has never read Hamsun though of course he knows about him, has heard the stories but would really rather not comment and really his favorite band is not the band that you came all the way to Norway to worship (you say worship because now that is what it feels like you are doing, what it feels like the Trondheimians think you are doing) but another band that you don’t really care for, and so you take another swig of your Carlsberg, you shake hands with the one from Trondheim who was bold enough to step in and put an end to your mystifying queries about Hamsun, put an end to your off the wall comments and questions about Hamsun, and so you once again feel out of place. Just as you felt after talking to the ex-G.I. and listening to him talk about places that reminded him of his tour of duty in Oslo. You were in a pleasant mood and when this gentleman asked you if this spot (pointing to a dock platform to the left of the ticket booth) was “where you boarded the boat for the tour”, you naturally wanted to help and said that, “No, I believe we board the ferry over there”, (as you were directed by the woman in the ticket booth) so the man and his wife followed your lead (they probably thought you knew what you were doing since you were there before them (though of course that makes no sense since he was there as a G.I. and you are not Norwegian nor had you ever traveled to Norway before) and had already reconnoitered the surroundings) and waited for the ferry with you to the right of the ticket booth, and then, shortly thereafter, as the ex-G.I. reminisces about his youth, serving his country in Norway, not long after he told you about the old city hall, (of which you have since learned about the history and significance) the ferry you were waiting for (and the ferry you thought they were waiting for) sputters up to the dock, where you are standing to the right of the ticket booth as one is standing facing the Oslofjord, not the clock tower on the old city hall (as it turns out, now that you think about it, this was the whole problem, the lady in the ticket booth was positioned inside the booth facing the Oslofjord, whereas the couple you mislead were standing facing the clock tower when they asked you where to board) and you were pleased that you had helped out the other tourists but, if truth be known, you had no idea what you were doing, had never been to Norway, had just purchased an Oslo Card with the intent of touring museums with ferry passage included, and when the ex-G.I. (who looked rather refined and genteel) asked if this was the boat to the islands you responded in the affirmative. You inadvertently gave the man the wrong information, you inadvertently, single-handedly, led this nice couple astray, led them on a wild goose chase as you were later to find out, find out after heading out on your excursion. After a few brief chitchats with your new friends aboard this small craft, for the Oslofjord is hardly a fjord at all but just a sort of bay, not like the fjords farther north that have evidently breathtaking views of high cliffs, no, the Oslofjord has pleasant views all the same and the buildings along the fjord are all freshly painted in one of three colors but on this small ferry boat you were not heading in the direction the ex-G.I. wanted to go. You find this out too late. After hearing the captain, who was only a few feet away at the helm of this rather small ferry, passenger ferry only of course, after hearing him name the upcoming stop, Bygdøy, after the ex-G.I. looks at his map, spreads his map over the table at his booth, he looks up at you with rancor in his voice, “this isn’t the boat we wanted”, and well, you don’t know what to say, “this isn’t the sightseeing cruise”, you are stunned and look at your wife who is busy raising her eyebrows and sinking in her seat, “this isn’t where we want to go” and then he proceeds to talk to the captain while you are left staring at his wife which you don’t want to do so you look at the pleasant scene of the bay and the freshly painted cottages and sheds, all painted only green, yellow and red, then the ex-G.I. comes back to his seat and informs his wife what they need to do, how they need to go back and catch the proper cruise boat, not the ferry, how they have wasted so much time, at which point the man stares daggers into your heart and says, “we have wasted an hour and a half because of you”, and you apologize, you say you didn’t realize, you felt sorry at first but now that the ex-G.I. has overreacted you don’t feel so sorry anymore, you look the other way, out on the bay, you know that’s the end of it, you find out later what he was talking about and where you went wrong, you realize the ferry you and the couple boarded was ferry 91 headed for the Bygdøy peninsula and boarded from Aker Brygge’s pier 3 but at the time you did not know that Bygdøy was a peninsula or that there was an Oslo sightseeing company operating boats out of pier 2 on the very same Aker Brygge, or more precisely, the Rådhusbrygge, (I say Aker Brygge because that is the marina neighborhood that you walked through to reach the Råduhset (City Hall)) (since 1990, the venue where the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded each year) and which borders the piers 2 and 3 in question on the western side of the inlet, whereas the proper dock location is the Rådhusbrygge which, of course, is directly in front of the twin towered (with large clock on the right tower standing, facing from the dock) City Hall (Råduhset) which dedication was not celebrated until 1950 (also the 900th anniversary of the founding of the city of Oslo by the Vikings) due in large part to the Nazi occupation of Norway from 1940 to 1945. During which time the project conceived by the former mayor of Kristiania, Hieronymus Heyerdahl, was halted. That project included, as part of the plan for the new City Hall, the clearing of Oslo’s old harbor slums and for which a foundation was laid in 1931. Later, upon reflection, it was obvious what had happened, why the confusion came about, it was obviously a misunderstanding, the ex-G.I. asked “is this is where you board the boat for the tour”, you remember he said “tour” and you were thinking, the museum tour, for there are several museums within easy walking distance from the dock at Bygdøy and the ticket seller for rides on the ferry pointed out Pier 3 as the loading point, whereas, the ex-G.I. must have been told to board at Pier 2 but you don’t remember seeing signs for Pier 2 or Pier 3, you only remember the lady at the ticket booth saying to wait for the ferry on the dock to the right of the booth, so naturally you responded in this same manner when questioned by the ex-G.I. who was facing the clock tower as you were facing the Oslofjord, thereby, his right was your left so when he pointed to his right you pointed to your right and he took your word for it, he took your word as if you were an authority when in fact you were just repeating what the ticket lady told you, and, you suspect, the ticket lady was the ticket lady for the ferry boats and not the sightseeing cruise which is operated by a private firm and which surely has an office somewhere near that should have been where the ex-G.I. would logically go to ask boarding directions, but no, instead of checking with the proper authorities he asks you, like you would know to distinguish between a ferry ride to a peninsula where one goes to visit museums and a sightseeing cruise boat that tours the many islands in the Oslofjord. It was not quite as pleasant a trip until you reached Bygdøy and could leave the unhappy couple behind. You disembarked, had lunch at a dockside restaurant, and proceeded to walk up a steep hill that led to the Viking museum. Passing from one room to the next, you paused to listen to a tour guide explaining about the Viking ship on display and so you and yours stand on the edge of the group of people who had arrived by one of the buses parked outside. You casually listen on the outer edge of the group only to be yelled at by a woman in the group, admonished by one of the group members who had paid a fee for a package tour that included a tour guide to speak to them at museums and explain about ships, conquering forces, whaling and such. The tour guide speaking about the vast stretches of sea covered by these ships and how, what is now Great Britain, had been conquered by these Vikings, and how the Vikings became fearless warriors because they did not fear death, to die in battle meant that they would go to the land of the gods, Valhalla, and there gain eternal life, this Valhalla, or “Hall of gods” as she called it, had many gods as the Vikings were polytheistic and here (there in the Viking ship museum), in the middle of this talk, in the middle of this tour guide (whom you thought was with the museum) giving her description of the gods, is this woman staring at you, and then barking out that you cannot stand there and listen, you did not pay for the guided tour and so on, but the tour was not selling tickets, the museum was not selling tickets to the guided tour, you were not disobeying any signage, had not sneaked in under a rope, no, you had only wandered into this scene, freely under the light of day, you had shown your passes upon entering, in fact you had purchased these passes from a vendor where you boarded the ferry, the Oslo Card that encompassed all the museum sights and public transportation for three days, but still, according to this ugly American, ugly in both mind and body, according to this most unfriendly tourist, this woman who derided you because you happened to be inside the museum at the same miserable time her bus tour was there, just because you had the gall to listen to the tour guide speak about the seafaring ways of the Vikings, just because you did not go to the other end of the museum when the tour guide was speaking about the god, Thor, the god of weather, but followed along at a slight distance, this woman reprimanded you. You didn’t want to cause a scene, so you retraced your steps and looked at another ship in another room from where you could not hear the tour guide give information about the Vikings and their ships and how they ruled over all of Scandinavia. You were ill at ease in that museum and so you left, and upon leaving you noticed the huge bus parked outside, the tour group of course came by a tour bus and they all came together on that sightseeing tour bus, so coming together as they did, they must grate on each other’s nerves, they surely traveled many miles together putting up with each other’s needs and wants, they had to make the best of it, they had to separate themselves whenever possible because they were a separate entity from the rest of the world, the world of average knuckleheads who follow their own noses and hike up steep hills to see the Viking ships that sailed the sea in the 9th century. To avoid further trouble, you left and (on foot) went to the Kon-Tiki museum where you were quite anxious to learn about the exploits of Thor Heyerdahl. Heyerdahl was of special interest to you as you were familiar with his theory that the ancestors of the Polynesians (where he lived in the late 1930s) might have come from South America, and, in order to prove to the skeptics that it was possible for a craft built by American Indians to have sailed the South Pacific almost 5,000 miles to land in a Polynesian archipelago, he built a replica of an ancient, aboriginal balsa raft and in 1947, sailed this raft (named the Kon-Tiki) successfully across the South Pacific from Callao, Peru and reached the island, Raroia, in the Tuamotus Archipelago. It was the book he wrote that you read and the film of the voyage that made an impression. You knew the basic theory, knew that he sailed in a balsa craft that could have been made by early century A.D. Peruvian Indians and that his voyage to Polynesia was successful so you were happy to leave the blood thirsty Vikings behind and their crew of nasty bus dwelling sightseers to enter into the world of peaceful adventure, where the information was freely given to everyone over a taped program that showed the Kon-Tiki and crew setting out on a balsa raft in the Pacific with a short-wave radio their only means of contact with civilization, braving raging storms, eating flying fish that plopped on deck, watching whales toying with their craft, sharks circling for days on end, the Kon-Tiki (named after a pre-Inca sun god) survived the critics disbelief, the critics who claimed the Polynesians were descended from Asian peoples, the critics who predicted the Kon-Tiki would get water logged and sink within a few days. To see this raft up close, how relatively small it was, how fragile it appeared, was certainly worth the price of admission, but of course, there was no admission since you had an Oslo Card, you could stay as long as you liked. You viewed the displays, found out that Heyerdahl later followed up his successful Kon-Tiki voyage with, not only a book and a film (which won the 1951 Oscar for best documentary) about the trip, but also an 800-page academic manuscript in which he details genetic blood types as well as various species of cultivated plants as evidence that South American Indians could have discovered and populated Polynesia before Asian descended people. You marveled at this man’s story, his many voyages and archeological explorations, his excavations of step pyramids in Peru, his discovery of a mythological being, the Birdman, that he found on Easter Island and in several ancient South American cultures. He crossed the widest part of the Atlantic Ocean in a reed boat (Ra II, also on display in the museum) in an effort to show that Mediterranean vessels could have made this crossing prior to Columbus. His craft, Tigris, built from indigenous reeds found in Iraq, sailed the Persian and Arabian Sea bound for Egypt to prove that the ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia, the Indus Valley and Egypt could have made contact via the sea. The Tigris set sail from the banks of the Tigris River and navigated down the Persian Gulf to Oman then eastward to the Indus Delta of Pakistan, then, reversing their direction, the Tigris headed southwest across the Indian Ocean in the direction of the Horn of Africa expecting to land on the African side of the Red Sea but Ethiopia was at war with the Eritreans, Somalia was at war also, civil war had broken out in Yemen, so the boat Tigris is not in the Kon-Tiki museum. It is not in any museum. In a protest aimed at the wars surrounding Heyerdahl, which in large part were funded by the great Western powers and the Soviet Union, at the end of this 4,200-mile voyage, stuck in a polluted harbor of a newly established nation of Djibouti, between Somalia and Ethiopia, Heyerdahl and his crew burnt the reed boat at sea. This was in 1977. Still, he continued to explore and break down barriers, break down old stereotypes found in social anthropology and archeology, so when you left the Kon-Tiki museum, when you ambled down the road (with your heads in the air) to visit the Fram Museum (an “A” frame building with the “A” painted yellow with the word, FRAM, placed above the “A”‘s crossbar) (a museum about the polar explorations on the ship named Fram) you were overwhelmed, you were still in awe at Thor Heyerdahl’s accomplishments, and all this from a lad who was mentioned in a reference book on the various Heyerdahl families, “Slekten Heyerdahl”, published in 1940 as being a middelhavsfarer, which, as you understand it, has the negative connotation of one who is a daydreamer and nonproductive. All this from a lad who had nearly drowned twice as a child in his hometown of Larvik, Norway. All this from a lad who didn’t overcome his fear of water until the age of 22 when he fell into a raging river in Tahiti and was able to swim to safety, all these things you were imagining as you stepped onto the Fram’s massive deck. As you stood at the wheel of the Fram, you weren’t thinking about the diminished Arctic ice pack, you were thinking about Tahiti and how you might visit Polynesia one day. Though you were captured on film pointing past the bow of the giant Fram (giant, that is, compared to the Kon-Tiki) you weren’t pointing to the vanishing polar ice pack, you were pointing to the dock where you would soon catch the ferry back to the Rådhusbrygge, back to the City Hall (Råduhset) where, once you arrived, you decided to go inside and look for rest rooms, but you didn’t realize then what you were about to get involved with, just use the City Hall as a pit stop, as it were, but after you both were relieved and were at ease with your surroundings you looked up at the murals on the walls, the artwork displayed, and you stumbled upon the 1950 dedication, the dedication of the building that came into existence because of the plan presented in 1915, in Kristiania in 1915, by the then mayor of Kristiania, Hieronymus Heyerdahl. Hieronymus Heyerdahl? Surely there must be some connection, surely Hieronymus and Thor must have been related, surely there must also have been some information on the subject, but you were on vacation, you had plans to take the train to Kristiansand the next day, you were tired, you went back to the hotel, you caught a city bus (free because of the Oslo Card) and rode up the steep hill to get within easy walking distance of your hotel. After dinner that evening, you strolled down Karl Johans Gate with the bright high sun shining at midnight, with the bright, beautiful, blue sky at midnight and you, for the time, forgot about Thor Heyerdahl and tried to live in the moment. When you returned to your room and turned on the television there was a documentary about Grieg that gradually put you both to sleep. At 4:30 in the morning you woke and looked out through the curtains to see the sun, somewhat faint, but still alight on the horizon.
You took the train along the coast to Kristiansand, I say along the coast, well, not that you could see any water, you only glimpsed water once or twice for a split second, you couldn’t see the water, but the train ride was pleasant, you had plenty of room and were the only two people in your car. So you watch, for a second or two an opening through the trees, an entrance, a train depot, the train slows down and you see an entrance to a small town with a statue of a musician in the roundabout, a statue of a violinist, they all appeared to be violinists, every town you passed had a statue of a violinist, or some other type of musician, on the roundabout of the entrance street as if to say to passengers on the train, “we welcome (velkommen) you to a small town in Norway, come back and visit and spend some time and we will regale you with song.” That’s what you thought as you were passing by, you thought about the street youth choir you watched sing at the intersection to Aker Brygge in Oslo, you thought about hearing the song “All of Me” while eating dinner in a restaurant on Karl Johans Gate, “All of me, why not take all of me” and the black American woman blues singer behind your booth telling her life story to a Norwegian booking agent as the song was playing, and hearing the same song, “All of Me” being played in the outdoor beer garden near your hotel, you looked at each other, remarked to each other, “we heard that same song at the restaurant”, and then, to your astonishment, an interlude on TV, on television in your room, “All of Me”, that was three times in two days in Oslo you heard that song. Louis Armstrong toured Scandinavia several times, in the thirties, after the war in the fifties you think, you said, he recorded “All of Me” and you seem to know his Scandinavian tour was a huge success and “live” records were issued and he returned again and again, you think, you said, and you remark to your wife, perhaps that song, “All of Me”, made famous by Satchmo Armstrong, became a sort of national jazz anthem for Norway and maybe all of Scandinavia, you remark that maybe Louis Armstrong conquered Scandinavia in the 1950s, made a huge, lasting impression, after all, the U.S. State Department made him an Ambassador of Goodwill to Europe you said, you think, and he even had a record from the mid-fifties (1955) which was recorded during concerts in Europe that was entitled, “Ambassador Satch”. These reflections as you travel to the southern tip of Norway, the train station in Kristiansand. You enjoyed your stay in downtown Kristiansand, you enjoyed immensely the wonderful Norwegian breakfasts that last till dinner, the wonderful Norwegian breakfasts that are included with the price of your room, the wonderful Norwegian breakfasts that always include herring, caviar and salmon, that include every breakfast item you would ever want and always include herring, salmon and caviar, the cheeses, the breads, the pickled vegetables, you couldn’t get over the wonderful Norwegian breakfasts, but of course this stay in downtown Kristiansand was only a prelude to the art rock convention. You were invited to the home of the Norwegian webmaster and enjoyed fresh shrimp from the North Sea. You questioned the Norwegian webmaster about Hieronymus Heyerdahl and asked about his relationship to Thor, received looks of puzzlement, the Norwegian webmaster didn’t know about any relationship between the two, so you asked him about “All of Me” and Louis Armstrong, again a look of puzzlement, he always hated that song, he says, so there you are, drinking your Hansa and fumbling to explain, it couldn’t have been a coincidence, hearing that song four times in three days for you wished you had stayed another night in Oslo, or in downtown Kristiansand where, strolling down Markens Gate with your wife on a beautiful, sunny day, you come across a parade, a parade with a band leading a group of men, a group of senior citizen men all dressed in red sport coats and wearing red ties, all with medals on their lapels, followed by younger men and women in red vests carrying a blue flag with a sort of crown insignia and the word, JERNBANEKORET across the top and OSLO across the bottom, down the middle of Markens Gate in Kristiansand they came marching, the band playing “All of Me” just at the moment in time when you and your wife are strolling down the street, “All of Me” with drums, flute, saxophone, trombone leading this proud group of men and their younger supporters. “All of Me”, the song your namesake made famous in Scandinavia, the song that must have some special resonance to Norwegians to this day, to certain groups of Norwegians, you tried to explain, you asked, only to be looked at with disbelief, as you were at the convention when you asked about Hamsun, Hamsun and then Satchmo, then Hieronymus Heyerdahl, who, though not linked in the minds and hearts of Norwegians to his (you later find out through intensive research at the Norwegian National Library) fifth cousin, once removed, Thor Heyerdahl, will be forever linked by the rite of passage as one boards the ferry in front of the building that was his initial concept in order to travel across the Oslofjord to Bygdøy and the Kon-Tiki museum, but no one here cares, no one sees the coincidences, you once again feel out of place just as you did in Tacoma, just as you did on this most recent vacation, the one you and your wife and your daughter took that led to the breakdown of your body, the compound fractures in both your right wrist and forearm, walking back to Jerry’s Tire and Auto to drop in the work order on your truck that had a broken brake line, with your head down, looking at the form, tired, hot, sweating, just as you were about to step down a wheelchair able ramp in the sidewalk, your right leg cramps up, you get a cramp in your right calf muscle, you reach for your calf muscle as you stumble forward and fall, trying to grab your calf you stumble on the wheelchair able ramp and fall, fall headfirst into the driveway curb for Jerry’s Tire and Auto, fall headfirst with now your right arm extended at the last split second, you try and catch your fall, so to speak, but your arm, wrist, hand explode against the curb with a snap/pop, in an instant you are broken, you grab your wrist and the world slows down to a microsecond to a minute pace. The forearm and the wrist bones both had broken through the skin and it required a rod, a plate, pins, twelve screws and two operations to repair the breaks, all because your brakes failed, all because your brake line snapped, all because you got a cramp just as you were about to step into a wheelchair able ramp, all because the power was out when you returned home, all because there was a boil order on in your neighborhood when you returned from your vacation. Your wife’s hysteria probably saved your ass, prevented a wreck and worse injury or death for the brake line was about to break, the brake line would have gone the next morning, in traffic, you might have hurt someone else. So no, it wasn’t your wife’s hysteria that led to your nerve damaged feet, the damage that occurred on the operating table while you were under. So you search through your list of causes, you backtrack through your list starting at the cramp on the ramp and you think about how yes, quite often when you ran your five miles, when you ran one of your five mile, six mile runs it was usually the day after when the cramp would come, the day after running when your calf would cramp up, but you figured out if you used an ice pack on your calves after running that you did not get the cramps the next day, or, if you occasionally would get a cramp it would not be nearly as severe and you could get out of it by pulling your toes up to your chest. You go back through your trip to Victoria, the cab driver from the airport railing against global warming and the vanishing Canadian glaciers, the three days exploring the city and riding the ferries around the inner harbor, the restaurants, the gardens, never seeing a policeman, three days in the city and never seeing a policeman, the ferry ride from Victoria to Port Angeles, Washington, your first trip on the ocean, the night spent in the rain forest, the trip down to Seaview, the walks along the beach, one day watching the ocean tides come in from Japan, the next day blinded by the fog and the wind, the North Wind, the trip to Seattle visiting friends, all going well, all going as planned. Once, Pioneer Square was riddled with peep shows and X-rated movie theaters, bums and crazed, lost tribes looking for relief, now there were elegant hotels and upscale clothing and bookstores. Then the other convention, the reunion of old friends in Tacoma. You decide to take a run, go for a little run, run down to Puget Sound. Down the hill wanting to run along the Sound, the asphalt road punishes you, you know this but you think you have something to prove, that you haven’t aged. You make it down (running down hill is always harder than running uphill) and see nothing but an industrial park, it is too far to the Sound, so you run back up the hill, you get stronger as you approach the top, you breeze back to the reunion and then you make your biggest mistake. You think you can cool your calves by getting in the swimming pool. It was 75 degrees, beautiful weather, and the swimming pool was heated. You ran in Norway and felt the salty, sea breeze lift the hair on your arms, you ran in the rainforest through a winding narrow trail around a lake with a mountain view, so you would run in Tacoma and pay the price for not icing down your calves, pay the price for looking past the ice pack, pay the price for wanting to get in the swim of things by appearing nonchalant at the edge of the pool. It was the day after, the day after running down to the industrial park, the day after when you cramped up walking down that ramp, like dominoes, all of your mistakes came crashing down, finally your mistakes came together like a jigsaw puzzle that spelled out disaster. Just when you think the bunion on your big toe, sticking out like the horn of Africa, the bunion that prevented you from running because, combined with the numbness in your feet you had reconciled yourself to not being able to run anymore, you start feeling a stabbing pain on the left side of your left knee and you realize there is no rest for the wicked. That bit of Motherly wisdom has come home to roost, roost in your back yard and in your living room where you sit and ponder your fate as your wife hands you a heating pad.
About the writer:
Satch Dobrey has a B.A. in English from Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville and an M.A. in International Affairs from Washington University in St Louis. His recent poetry appears in Bluestem, Rampike, PØST-, The Red Earth Review, Grey Borders Magazine, Painters and Poets and Blotterature. Fiction appears in Tribe Magazine and the Blue Fifth Review. Dobrey currently works as a librarian/freelance writer.
Image: “Far, far away Soria Moria Palace shimmered like Gold” by Theodor Kittelsen (1857-1914). Oil on Canvas. 45.4 x 68.8 cm. 1900. Public Domain.