The Moron's Daily Briefing

Apr. 24 - Today is Arbor Day in America. But enough about trees... let's talk about me.

Beginning with today's column the Moron's Almanac will be assuming the added responsibilities of a web log, or "blog." (The scare quotes are for certain blood relations who, if told without further explanation that I was blogging in Copenhagen, would contact the authorities.)

Why a moronic blog? Because as an American writer in Europe I am obligated to expose my ignorance to as wide an audience as possible and I am not one to shrug off obligations lightly (unless they involve manual labor or poisonous snakes).

I came here looking forward to all the anti-Americanism I kept seeing reported on our media. I saw myself, to the probable horror of everyone who knows me, as a sort of goodwill ambassador. I'd be damned if I'd pretend I was Canadian, as some folks were actually suggesting. I wanted to defend our good name abroad. I looked forward to the opportunity to explain how our government wasn't trying to establish a thousand-year Reich or Napoleonic empire, that it wasn't about the oil; that we didn't hate Muslims, and so on.

In the nearly four weeks I've been here, only three people have had anything to say about my country.

First there was a guy in a bar. Someone at the table I was drinking at introduced me to him as "an American." The guy immediately extended his hand and declared, "I do not know if you are a pacific or what, or what you thinks of the President Bush, but I want you should know I think this is a right war, a just war, and I totally supports the United States."

This from a guy who was about to move to Cuba to live with his common-law wife and child. ("I don't like the politics or the design," he said, "but if you ignore that, maybe I think life is not so bad there for the small person.")

The second incident was at the pizza place around the corner. Trine and I were waiting for a pizza while Baghdad was falling. The pizza guy was a Turk and he was transfixed by his television. I was a little nervous. I was afraid he'd realize I was American and try to julienne me to death or something.

Instead, he suddenly proclaimed, "Saddam gone! Saddam gone!" and did a little jig behind the counter. "Good day, good day!" he shouted gleefully. In Danish he told us the sad story of his life as a Turkish Kurd, a truck-driver operating between Eastern Turkey and Northern Iraq, about the family he'd lost in Kirkuk or Tikrit, about his personal experiences with the murderous thugs of the late regime. (This only came out in Trine's translation; it had sounded to me like he was coughing up a hairball.)

Trine then told him I was an American. "Thank you!" he proclaimed in English, clasping my hand in his. "Thank you, thank you, thank you!" He did another little jig and even gave me free chiles on my pizza.

The third time was downstairs, in the basement of this Bauhaus monstrosity of an apartment building we live in, where I literally bumped into a new neighbor while trying to find the laundry room.

He stuck his tongue out when I said I was from the states, and when I told him I was from New York he said it was the most terrible city in the world. At last, a confrontation!

Alas, mere moments later he cracked a smile and confided that he loved America and thought New York the most magnificent city on earth.

(I should also mention that the day Baghdad fell a spontaneous parade of Danish Kurds brought flowers to the American embassy.)

My disappointment aside, it's a good thing my work as an American goodwill ambassador hasn't demanded much of my time; the ongoing fiasco of merely being me has already proved almost more than I can handle.

It began when I cleverly included my passport, birth certificate, and Social Security card in the packages the Danish Moronic Babe and I shipped ahead of ourselves a few days before our departure.

It accellerated with my painful discovery at the gym that the difference between a pound and a kilo is not "whatever." (I'm happy to report the personal trainers here all have extensive medical training.)

It peaked with my discovery of Danish electricity.

Electricity is a wonderful thing: it runs through your walls and when you need some you jam a wire into a hole and hey presto! Power! It's true in the states and it's true here in Europe.

My problem wasn't so much with electricity itself as with the size of the holes in the wall. Here in Denmark they have two little round holes instead of two vertical slits. So you have to buy these expensive adapters, plug your American thing into the adapter, then plug the adapter into the wall. There is no getting around it. You have to do this for every single possession that requires electricity or you'll never get them to explode.

The explosion of my computer's power supply box was especially dramatic and contributed to the long delay in resuming publication of the Almanac.

I was also hoping to touch on my acquaintance with Totte og katten Kisser, the first all-Danish book I've succeeded in reading so far, but that will have to wait for tomorrow's briefing.

Shirley MacLaine is 69 today. Barbra Streisand turns 61.

It's Genocide Memorial Day in Armenia, National Day in Niger, and, as previously mentioned, Arbor Day in the United States.

2002, The Moron's Almanac™

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