Nov. 3 - Trine and I went for a walk in the forest Sunday afternoon. Taking walks in the forest is one of those Danish things, like singing or drinking aqvavit, that you just do here. There's no rhyme or reason to it, no objective, you just hop in the car, drive out of the city up to one of several convenient government parking lots, and wander into the woods for no apparent reason.
I saw some wild magic mushrooms, which was interesting, and a lot of fallen timber, which was not.
Trine was enchanted. This is a city girl who's spent most of her adult life in Chicago, New York, and Copenhagen, but she gets rapturous about the forest. "Isn't it lovely?" She kept asking.
And it was.
But it was also just a big bunch of trees arranged around a couple of muddy paths. We took some pictures. When I got home, I loaded the pics onto my computer and admired several lovely birches, a few blurry mushrooms, some imaginatively gnarled stumps, an appealling little fairy-tale cottage with a thatched roof, set into a copse of evergreens—and I recoiled at a photograph of myself.
I've become a Eurodork.
I don't mean I've started following soccer or declaring general strikes. I haven't metabolized Europe to that extent. I have, however, begun to exhibit the early symptoms of Eurodorkism. The physical manifestations.
It's all about baggage.
In the states, for example, a backpack identifies you as a student, a courier, or a hiker. In almost any other circumstance, the backpack is a clunky accessory. Here it's a staple of daily life, and for good reason: one does an awful lot of errands on one's bike, and a backpack is a sensible way to carry things around when you're biking.
People ride bikes in the states, too, of course, but not as often. They don't have to. It's easier to drive a car when gas doesn't cost $10 a gallon and cars don't come with a 180% sales tax. Besides, there's not much incentive to ride your bike in the city when no provisions have been made for bicyclists—when mounting your bike in Manhattan, for example, is less likely to save you a little time than to get your ass run over.
Less biking, less backpacks.
Naturally you don't need a whole backpack every time you hop on your bike, but you usually need at least a little extra carrying capacity—hence the ubiquitous fanny-packs. And once you're in the habit of strapping yourself with bags every time you jump on your bike, you find yourself strapping them on out of habit every time you step out of your apartment.
At that point, the bags have won. And for all the marvels of Danish design, they still haven't succeeded any better than anyone else in designing backpacks that make you look like anything but a bipedal pack-mule, or fanny-packs that don't look like overgrown ass tumors.
So I'm a dork. Big deal. I was hardly the king of cool in the states. But that's the problem: I was hoping to improve myself here. I wanted to go back to the states with a certain worldly sophistication, a certain—well, you know: superiority. Instead I'm going to be twice the dork I was when I left, as neurotically inferior as ever, and a very troublesome dinner guest—in my efforts to eat like a European I've forgotten how to eat like an American and no longer know how to eat at all.
But all of this is good, I'm sure, because everything is the best it could possibly be here in the best of all possible worlds!
* * *
Why end on the reference to Candide? Because of this, from Democratic presidential hopeful Gen. Wesley Clark in an interview in November's Maxim Magazine (my emphasis): "In the 19th century, we were motivated by manifest destiny. In the 20th century, it was the idea that it was our duty to contain the spread of Communism and keep open the door for freedom. Today there is no substantial challenge to American ideals."
I admire the general's optimistic refutation of reality, but I've got a hunch it may not play well with an American electorate being regularly exposed to videos of men vowing to kill them, level their cities, destroy their civilization, and enslave them in theofascism—all in the name of a very serious challenge to our ideals.
But maybe the general just doesn't consider Islamofascism a substantial threat. Maybe he knows the magic wand we need to wave to rid the earth of its blight.
That must be it.
* * *
Today is the birthday of Dolph Lundgren (1959), Adam Ant (1954), Kate Capshaw (1953), Dennis Miller (1953), Roseanne (1952), Michael Dukakis (1933), and Charles Bronson (1921).
It's Independence Day in Dominica, Ecuador, Micronesia, and Panama. It's Culture Day in Japan.
© 2003, The Moron's Almanac