Writing these very words while sitting on a huge white corner sofa in an apartment hotel on Soi 2 in the Thai capital, Bangkok – the city of Angels.
It’s five in the morning and impossible to know for sure if the noise coming from Sukhumvit Road below me is generated from late night or early morning traffic. There have been a few occasions with loud and boisterous laughter to remind me that I’m in a city that is never, ever quiet.
We arrived early yesterday morning with Norwegian’s direct (and mostly smooth) flight from Copenhagen. After an unusually long and tedious drive into downtown, we checked in, unpacked, showered and then headed out for a quick lunch at one of the city’s most well-known neighborhood eateries, Suda Restaurant on Soi 14 (BTS Asoke).
Needless to say, but I’ll say it anyway, food plays an almost ridiculously important part in Thai society. If for no other reason – and there are a plethora of honorable and morally justifiable reasons to visit this great city – Bangkok has quite possibly the most restaurants of any city in the world. The width and breadth of the selections is gargantuan.
The dishes offered at Suba are as simple and straightforward as the plastic, pastel colored plates and rickety tables it is served on. That’s not to say everything we ordered wasn’t amazingly tasty. It was. A bit spicy, but still full of harmoniously balanced flavours. I’ve never eaten anything remotely as good in Sweden, in the US or anywhere else. Thai food outside of Thailand just seems, well, counterfeit. Ironic, I know.
After an intense summer and fall of lugging around and handling heavy camera gear to location shoots both near and afar, my shoulders, neck and back have been in more or less constant pain. Maybe not really constant. But certainly nagging and reoccurring enough to warrant remedy. So, to kickstart what will hopefully be a quick fix, I began the week-long visit here with a two hour “Energize Me” session at Health Land – one of the city’s enormously popular massage and treatment centers. The above shot of one of Bangkok’s few remaining canals, or khlong in Thai, is from right outside Health Land near Asoke. Highly recommend a visit there. Great staff and a pleasantly relaxing locale.
Next on my to-do-list was ordering a pair of new prescription glasses at the – at least for me – utterly in-navigable and disturbingly disorienting Emporia Complex – adjacent to the Phrom Phong skytrain station. With my printed prescription in hand, that project took only about 30 minutes to conclude and my new pair of specs should arrive at the hotel on Friday.
Finally, before heading back to the apartment, we ate dinner at another favorite; ISAO Fusion, a small, almost indiscernible Japanse restaurant tucked away between massage parlours on Soi 31. When we lived here for a few spring months in 2013, we loved returning to ISAO where food, service and ambiance enjoy a perfect balance.
So, in addition to eating several great meals, taking care of aches and pains infused by my occupation, providing our shopping addicted daughter with some new garb (from Pratunam, not Siam Paragon), we are also here to provide our friend Annika Jonasson and her staff at the Hang on Hangers project with new photos, perhaps a few videos and eventually, an updated web site shop. Looking forward to this latter part of our week here immensely.
Late Saturday afternoon, I was invited to a conference at Malmö Live to sign the Turning Torso book I produced for HSB Malmö (the premier association for cooperative housing in Sweden) which is aptly titled, Turning Torso. At least a hundred people now own a signed copy of the blue coffee table book which commemorates the amazing skyscraper’s 10th anniversary and includes interviews with several residential and commercial tenants, interesting facts about the building, insights to some of its luxurious facilities, a few pages dedicated to Mr Turning Torso, the always congenial, Jan Andersson, and of course, a wide range of interior and exterior photographs by yours truly.
NOTE: ABOVE BOOK SIGNING PHOTO CREDIT: HSB MALMÖ
Already Friday. It’s been an eclectic week, to say the least. Here’s a taste of what I’ve been working on. Monday: interior photography at Clarion Hotel & Congress Malmö Live. Tuesday: Activity photography (gym and pool) at sports center Kockum Fritid. Wednesday: Filming a field test at BJ Trucks along a highway near Helsingborg for TerraNet AB. Thursday: Post production meeting with TerraNet AB prior to editing Wednesday’s field test footage. Friday: corporate studio photography and editing of a commercial for Sjobeck AB in Ystad.
Shot the above scene (with my pocket friendly Canon Gx7) tonight whilst strolling along the waterfront here in Västra Hamnen after dinner. Inspired by recent meals in New York, I made tempura fried fish tacos with coriander spiced salsa and a garlic infused guac.
I have to admit, after two inspiring back-to-back visits to the always inspiring New York City, it’s kind of hard to get back into “everyday Malmö mode” again. The New York vibe is hard to shake off! Having said that, I did enjoy a dash of genuine cosmopolitan ambiance during dinner at Clarion Malmö Live’s “Eatery” with friends this past Friday. Must of been our friends and the hilariously funny server, Stina, whom kept us laughing, fed us good food and saved our throats from drying out.
I’m pretty sure most everyone in Sweden is anxiously anticipating the inevitably forthcoming dark and dreary season. The colorless, DDR season, as I’ve come to define it. But right now, it’s still summer-like; mostly sunny skies, hardly any wind and the air is beautifully crisp and clear. So far, the Swedish autumn has been surprisingly endurable.
My calendar for October is filling up and I’ve got at least two commercials and a demo-documentary to produce before I fly off to Asia towards the end of the month for an exciting film assignment. And sometime in between then and now, a spanking new website must be populated and launched.
Listening constantly to Sam Smith on Apple Music – which I’ve finally decided to subscribe to – after years of denying Spotify room in my musical life. I’m such an Apple junkie.
Yesterday’s event at the United Nations HQ was a huge success. I feel tremendously proud to have been part of such an accomplished team from the Swedish Mission to the U.N. A team lead by the project’s manager, Lisa Laskaridis Sarmiento and an old friend from my years up in the Swedish arctic (Riksgränsen), Ingalena “Gnydia Stang” Bengtsson. I most definitely want to mention her younger sister, Ulrika Bengtsson, who kindly recommended me for the assignment in the first place.
Sure, there were some last minute challenges and a few glitches just minutes before the first guests appeared. That’s usually the case (especially here, where so many talk the walk but can’t walk the talk). But there was almost nothing we couldn’t solve with Swedish ingenuity, a pinch of stubbornness and good ‘ol American elbow grease. As Nelson Mandela so aptly put it, It always seems impossible until it’s done.
As the evening came to a close, just two supersonic hours after it began, I was introduced to Sweden’s Prime Minister, Stefan Löfven whom shook my hand vigorously and thanked me for my contribution. A most generous gesture, indeed.
It’s been an intense week of choosing, compiling and preparing all the images for large format printing, picking film clips, animating still images, finding music and editing time lapse footage of Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) and finally, transporting it all to New York City in two gigantic hockey bags. I have to admit that I’m both thankful and relieved that this important evening about our planet’s health, went so well. As the guests arrived, they were welcomed by H.M. Queen Silvia of Sweden who stood beside one of my 2 meter tall photos from Lapland. It’s not terribly likely that I will ever be in the same room as so many high level politicians and dignitaries, including the president of Brazil and Angela Merkel, prime minister of Germany.
After a hefty, smoked salmon bagel breakfast with a few friends from Sweden in Little Italy early-ish this morning, I went for a well-needed, 5 hour walk (with about 20 kilos of camera gear) across the Williamsburg Bridge, then along the old Brooklyn Naval Yard and finally over to Chinatown via the Manhattan Bridge. From there I walked more or less straight down to the South Street Seaport, close to my hotel. I’ve got a busy schedule tomorrow before my flight back to Europe and I hope to have time to shoot some new footage for my ongoing and ever-evolving art film project about this great city.
The arctic film.
My first six years of formal education was at Saint Victor’s Catholic Elementary School on Holloway Drive (merely a few blocks below legendary music mecca, Tower Records on the Sunset Strip). All of my teachers were nuns and as stiff as the sticks they used to reprimand most kids with – if for no better reason than to infuse us with a little dose of holy pain. So much for turning the other cheek, right?
One of the church’s head priests, an elderly monsignor who’s name has faded out of memory (mine), passed away during the years I attended. At his funeral, his red and black robed corpse was placed in beautifully decorated, open casket by the alter for all to look at. To this day, his is the only dead body I have ever seen or, been physically close enough to actually touch. I mention this in passing as today, when the event I’ve been working on for a week will take place, I will be heading to the U.N. – just hours after Pope Francis has left that very building for a non-denominational prayer at the Freedom Tower.
From last night’s gorgeous view of Brooklyn’s shoreline as seen from the East River. I’m kinda liking the Financial District after all. Staying has it’s perks.
My very first visit to New York City was sometime in late summer of 1986. I was heading out to L.A. and what turned out to be a short stint in Hollywood. The South Street Seaport had recently opened and was extremely popular among the Wall Street crowd – particularly after the bell rang on Fridays. The busy and smelly Fulton Fish Market was still there (in 2005, it moved to the South Bronx) and I spent an intense weekend hanging out with a couple of friends – Andy and Todd – two New Yorkers whom I’d met during the summer of 1983 while traveling across Europe on trains.
I was twenty three years old when I stepped off the plane at JFK in Queens, and within just a few hours, I was completely absorbed by New York City. Ed Koch was still mayor, Keith Haring was on the verge of breaking out as the first superstar graffiti artist and cocaine, ganja and crack was offered to me (if I remember correctly, it was usually in that order) literally everywhere. For good or for worse, the city back then was ten times edgier than today. Having said that, I really enjoy working here now that I don’t have to worry too much about whipping out a large camera. And if I really want edgy, I just have to take a train uptown to 125th Street (Harlem) or just about anywhere but Williamsburg in Brooklyn.
I’m surrounded by towering, glass skyscrapers filled with hundreds – if not thousands – of offices.
As I write this, around 6:30 a.m. (New York time), most of the buildings are still unlit – but it can only be a matter of minutes before people start filing into entrances, riding elevators, slipping into office chairs and taking on the day’s routines and challenges.
If I press the right side of my face hard up against the hotel room’s window pane, I can actually see a slice of the East River.
Never stayed in the Financial District before. Not overly excited about this part of Manhattan. Battery Park is nice as is the walkway along the Hudson over on the west side. But considering all that’s going on in the city this week, it just seemed practical to stay here – at least for the next couple of days – while I commute to the United Nations north of here.
Almost time for a New York breakfast. It’s been about two weeks since my last one.
One of the benefits of living in a relatively small city like Malmö, is that eventually you will find yourself somehow, someway connected to friends of friends, friends of business partners and friends of clients. Case in point: the star of the commercial I produced about two weeks ago for Nordic Choice latest property, Clarion Hotel & Congress Malmö Live, Kenneth “Ken Wegas” Wahlberg and I have now worked together on two additional projects. Most recently on the rooftop of the aforementioned hotel during an amazing sunset.
The freelancers universe is largely a mysterious place. Most of the territory is undiscovered and even seasoned voyagers will from time to time find themselves in the midst of the most extraordinary circumstances. That’s where I am right now. And so, in a few days, I will return to New York to work on a project for the Swedish Mission to the United Nations. The above picture has absolutely nothing to do with this post. I just think it’s pretty awesome.