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The Lisa Diaries by Lisa Carver  

Death-Swedes

November 29, 1999



All the brochures for Sweden feature half-naked, happy people leaping into bodies of water. What the brochures don’t mention is that summer — when the sun never quite goes down — lasts two months. The other ten months are winter. Walking about Stockholm, I feel like I’m inside a film noir. Only 2:30 p.m., and it’s already dark: dark gray, concrete, wet and cold. Thin, unsmiling people dressed in black hurry by. Because I can’t understand a word they’re saying, it sounds like murders being planned. Inside cafes, people

hunch together over candle flames. They look bored and earnest at the same

time. Perhaps they’re discussing the glory of death, or the nature of guilt, or Kafka. A Swede is the third most likely person in the world to commit suicide,

right after the Hungarian and the Russian.


    

I never saw so many famous people in my life as I did in my first twenty-four

hours in this country. Bjorn from Abba was on the plane with me (he is not an armrest-hogger, I’m happy to report), and the former prime minister was shopping at the grocery store Fredrik and I went to for Oreos and milk. The Chemical Brothers came into Trona and ordered Biff Rydberg — a mostly raw meat and egg dish that The Brothers apparently love. They came over to our table to talk for a minute: They’d played the night before, but left an extra night free on their tour for Biff Rydberg.


    

“They’d better watch it, or they’re going to become Swede-Friends,” said my co-diner when they’d left. A Swede-Friend, she explained, is someone whose career is in decline and they start out innocently touring this sad and lonely country where they’re appreciated, and next thing you know they have a Swedish girlfriend, they move here, and it’s all over. A shortcut to becoming a Swede-Friend is to collaborate with Swedish musicians. “If anyone approaches you about a musical project while you’re here,” she warned, “you tell them, ‘No!'”


    

Practically everyone I’ve met is a fashion designer or a model or they just opened a hot new nightclub. I went to my hotel and turned on MTV Europe and who do I see in a video but Fredrik! Some thugs drag him down into a basement, tie

him to a chair, and give him a good going-over. I called him and he explained that he’d written a bad review of Sweden’s most popular rapper, Petter, and Petter was very upset. When the two met by chance in a restaurant, a fistfight ensued! This caused so much gossip that Petter’s “people” called Fredrik’s “people” (his girlfriend, who happened to answer the phone) and said they wanted Fredrik in Petter’s next video. The magazine in which the bad review appeared, Bibel, was featured prominently in the video, and on the cover of that issue was . . . me, Lisa! (I’d interviewed Jon Spencer for the magazine, and they put both of us on the cover, but I have a bigger head so you see me better.) Maybe being a Swede-Friend wouldn’t be so bad after all.


    

I went shopping, and all the clothes were hairy. Not fur. Hair. Remember when hair transplants were new on the market, and they hadn’t perfected the method? A man would have twelve distinct clumps of hair sprouting out of the top of his head. Well, that’s what the front of this one sweater looked like. And there were hair epaulets on silky shirts, and hair bracelets, and hair fringe at the bottom of highwater jeans. And completely hairy skirts. I saw some things like this in Vogue, but I never thought anyone would wear something so grotesque in real life. I was filled with revulsion after my first encounter with the hairy sweater, but upon reflection decided I need a whole hair outfit.


    

I got interviewed all morning. I think Europeans are smarter than Americans. Or at least their questions are sharper. One journalist who looked like Bryan Adams was getting on me so much about my integrity and credibility, it felt like he really had it out for me. His last question was: “You’ve written that you imagine having sex with everyone you meet. How do you picture me?”


    

I said I bet he’d call me “whore, slut, tramp, bitch.” We were in my hotel room, I was on the bed. “You’d have my head banging against this headboard in three minutes,” I said, and he actually blushed and gathered up his things. “Are you gonna tell me it’s not like that?” I asked. He kept his face hidden and didn’t deny it. It would be a white-hot blaze of midday fury-sex lighting up this country of eternal night. I was dying to find out if it was true, but just then the front desk rang to tell me a photographer was on her way up.



Dave’s Lips and the Human Question

December 1, 1999



I read from my book in front of four hundred Swedes, and did a K-mart makeover on a couple of girls. Perhaps a white trash look — and outlook — would save them from the existentialism that leads to such a high suicide rate. After, I was swarmed by very nice, crazily beautiful people. I’ve never seen such clear

complexions and minimalist chic in outerwear in my entire life. There was one particularly attractive, psychotic-eyed blonde in pink. She stood too close to me and said, slowly, as if she were still adjusting to this odd sensation, “I . . . like . . . you.” She wore pearls around her neck, and it looked like a line separating her doll’s head from her doll’s body. She’d recently attended a dinner with some Norwegian deathmetal gents who, she said, suddenly started stabbing each other and got blood everywhere. “Still,” the strange girl concluded, “I liked it better than a boring dinner.” I gave her my bunny slippers (I carry my suitcase with me everywhere — you never know what you might need) because they had her wild-eyed stare and pink fuzzy body.


    

I felt sexeee not going home with anyone, amidst so many invites. All night long, with each person I met, I felt it — my not going. I kept thinking that out of all the elegant, witty, creative, powerful, foreign, young people in the whole world, the premier lips of all were home in bed in Dover, New Hampshire, sleeping and dreaming and waiting for me to come home and kiss them. People talk about marriage like it’s stifling and boring. But I think it’s great. It says, “Look! Look at these lips! These are the best lips. I made them mine. I never get tired of them. Well, sometimes I get tired of them, but then I like them again. These lips are mine, all mine. Mine, mine, mine! So are the hands, the penis, the face, the heart. Even the disgusting organs. Where those

organs are, that’s where my home is.”


    

After the party, the fashion editor who was supposed to call me a cab ended up walking me back to my hotel instead. It was such a lovely misty night, we wanted to walk. We liked each other and did not wish to part. Brightly-colored, obscene sculptures leapt out of the shadows — unmistakable penises and vaginas, striped and polka-dotted. I remarked that they looked very un-Swedish. They’re French, she explained. Then we found out we both spoke French, so we did.


    

I felt like a princess, and I was disoriented and perplexed. The speech I’d given earlier that day was about how my kind (white trash) might look miserable, but we’re fine because identity is not gelatinous to us. We know who we are and where we’re going, even if it is nothing and nowhere. We stay home, I said, because why would we leave?


    

But if all that is true, how did I come to be cavorting with the cultural elite in mist? Maybe it was jet lag, or the weather, or the fact that I realized for the first time I’d truly switched ranks — slipped from lower lower class to middle middle class (something few people do in a lifetime, and very disturbing to one’s sense of self!) — but I had the peculiar impression of not remembering who I was.


    

The cafes are open all night in Stockholm, so the fashion editor and I stopped in one and ordered the same thing (shrimp soup), like new female friends always do. Suddenly it felt like that was what’s normal — speaking in French about the human question at 2 a.m., with a glittering woman whose hair bobbed deliberately over one eye each time she shifted, like a mahogany buoy.

©1999

Lisa Carver and Nerve.com, Inc.