Gothenburg

Gothenburg

Back in Göteborg for a short visit, mostly helping Charlotte’s parents but also spending some time with friends. This is our third visit in almost as many months and I’m sure we’ll be back soon again. It’s a bit of a cliché, but there is definitely a uniquely tangible upbeat vibe and positive attitude in Göteborg that I don’t know exists anywhere else in Sweden.

Shot the above view from on top of my old neighborhood “Johanneberg”, a couple of years ago and near my old buddy Lars’s favorite local spa which I think was called “Pam’s”.

Sunset Season

Sunset Season

Sunset season is definitely upon us and hopefully, we’ll also get to enjoy some warmer temperatures soon. In about a week, my new book covering Västra Hamnen 2004-2024 is arriving from the printer in Lithuania. Looking forward to seeing how it turned out.

Love of Italy

Love of Italy

Monday. Evening. Random Italy.

Arrivederci, Italia. We’ve once again had a blast. Sure, I love Portugal, France, and Spain, too. But only Italy can simultaneously provide all my senses with so much intense pleasure. But like with any passionate relationship, it tends to get a little overindulgent.

I first fell in love with Italy way back in 1983 when I traveled like a hobo from north to south courtesy of Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane, the then famously unreliable, state-owned railway system. Even though very few Italians I interacted with in those days spoke English, communicating wasn’t that hard. Hand gestures, some stick drawings, and a lot of smiling were yesteryear’s translation apps. They worked slowly but flawlessly.

Some thirty years later I have yet to visit a country that offers as much to life’s great delights as Italy. Food, wine, art, music, design, architecture, fashion, geography, history – Italy really has it all. Yet this wonderful country of Medici, Caravaggio, Galilei, Bocelli, Armani, Fellini, and Ferrari, not to mention Modigliani, DaVinci, or Rocco Siffredi, the country’s notorious erotic star stud, is still ranked as one of the most corrupt countries in the Eurozone. A haven of nepotism, bribery, and ties between public officials and Cosa Nostra, the mafia, the mob, the made men.

But maybe that’s just it. Maybe it’s the country’s rebellious character and unwillingness to trust or be subservient to authority that brings forth these amazing creative talents and extraordinary passions they so fully embody. Even some of the men and at least one woman who captained the vaporettos we took between Venetian islands had larger-than-life personalities. Watching how restaurant hierarchies work, even at simple trattorias, could be like having front-row seats at an opera. Drama queens everywhere.

Within almost every Italian man lives a Berlusconi and a Mario Andretti. In every woman resides a Maria Montessori and a Gina Lollobrigida.

Since my very first visit at the beginning of the 1980s, Italy has had 30 governments. Thirty. Yet the country is also one of the continent’s largest economies and produces some of the world’s most well-respected brands and goods. Go figure.

Just think of the fact that when Rome was in its peak era, pagan tribes in what is now Sweden were still forging their blunt Iron Age tools.

As relatively slow-paced and laid-back as Italian life is in places like Pienza, Cortina, Capri, Siena, and the villages of Cinque Terra, I’ve found that it’s in the cities where the full-throttled Italian experience is best observed, absorbed and enjoyed. Naples, Milan, Rome, and to a lesser degree Florence all offer a level of edginess that keeps the blood flowing and pulse beating.

Staying on the Venetian island of Giudecca, right across Canale della Giudecca from Dorsoduro, turned out to be another one of Charlotte’s brilliant location strategies. Giudecca is as calm and local as San Marco is bustling and touristy. But you got to have a little of both.

The last time we visited Venice, about 15 years ago, was also in April but not nearly as hot and crowded as this time around.

According to a few locals I spoke with, temperatures as well as the amount of tourists will soon almost double. Yikes!
Flying less than two hours from Copenhagen down to Venice and then taking a comfortable bus to Cortina in the Dolomites (Italian Alps) was easy-peasy and a great way to combine skiing and hiking with a few days of amazing Venetian canal culture.

The days when a delicious meal cost 5000 ($4) lire are long gone. A pizza in Venice (or Cortina) is on par with what they charge in Malmö. But then there’s the taste factor…

Venice Italy

Venice: La Giudecca

Our Italian spring-themed travel story culminates in La Giudecca, the quiet island located just across the Venetian Lagoon with spectacular views of Old Town and where mostly locals live. The combo Cortina-Venice is really quite unbeatable. Coincidentally, the very last episode of the brilliant new Netflix black and white mini-series “Ripley” which is based on the author Patricia Highsmith’s book series, is played out right here in Venice. And though there is no footage from Cortina, the exquisite resort town has a fairly important role among the show’s many locations.

Cortina d’Ampezzo Faloria

Spring Ski in Cortina d’Ampezzo

I’m wonderfully exhausted. As an integral part of our travel story about what makes legendary Italian ski resort Cortina a destination worth visiting in the spring shoulder season, I spent four glorious hours skiing the pistes of Faloria Cristallo today. Since the winter season here in the Dolomites is more or less over, the remaining lifts will close in a couple of weeks, there were no crowds on the hills and no lines to get back up to the top chairlift station, which was terrific as it allowed me to get in a ton of runs before the spring sun melted the snow to slush.

charlottte's 59th birthday

Charlotte’s Birthday

Today is my greatest love Charlotte’s 59th birthday and as per tradition, we’re celebrating in Italy. This time we’re in the Queen Of The Dolomites’, Cortina d’Ampezzo to produce a story about this storied destination.

Öresund Bridge

Across the Öresund Bridge

I moved to Malmö in 1998 and Charlotte the year before. The Öresund Bridge above was completed and opened in 2000. With the exception of 2005 and 2014, we’ve lived in Malmö for nearly 26 years. That’s longer than I’ve lived anywhere else in the world, including Göteborg, and almost twice as many years as Los Angeles. Time flies…

Before the bridge was built, we’d have to take a ferry to Copenhagen Airport (CPH) and on a few occasions, a helicopter shuttle from a heliport located not too far from where this was typed.

Aside from having the always inspiring Copenhagen so close by, for folks that travel as much as we do, the Öresund Bridge has brought with it so much convenience. Without it, I’m not sure we would still be living here. While not the most spectacular bridge in the world, its logistical worth makes it absolutely invaluable.

Elelphant Bathing Koh Chang

Elephant on Koh Chang

I came across this photo while looking for something totally different and it got me thinking.

I had hired this beautiful creature and his mahout for the cover photo of a travel guide we had been commissioned to produce by a Swedish newspaper. In addition to the elephant, I’d also hired a local Thai girl wearing traditional garb to ride on his back. Everything went well and the cover is still available to view here.

The above scene comes from after the shoot when the female elephant was taking a well-deserved bath in the sea off the coast of Koh Chang (aka Elephant Island, named for the island’s shape, not the popular Thai beer).

If memory serves, at the time, the elephant was a teenager and even if more than 20 years have passed since our collaboration, she might still be alive. Hopefully in a peaceful sanctuary.

Qigong in Katterjokk

From a magical return to Lapland a couple of years ago. Weather-wise, Sweden is currently being pulled back into winter. It will pass, for sure, and once spring arrives for real, all will once again be forgiven. Personally, I can’t wait to be able to practice Qigong outdoors again. Haven’t decided if I will have time to reactivate my Qigong group here in Malmö. Time will tell.

Two New Books

Two New Books

Though undiagnosed, I’ve known for a long time that I’m somewhere on the spectrum. I probably had a feeling I was way before there even was a “spectrum”. It’s something most creative people deal with more or less consciously. Over time, I’ve become aware that whatever acronym applies to me, it can be harnessed and used as a positive, creative force. Case in point: I’ll have completed two new books in April. One is a 248-page visual retrospective that documents the 20 years we’ve lived in Västra Hamnen. The other is a 240-page guidebook for male aging. Of all the books I’ve published this far (22 and counting), these two were by far the most challenging – especially the one about aging which I began writing last September and has yet to be given a final title.

The photographic book will printed this week and I’ve just sent out my first pitch email to a publisher for the aging book. I feel cautiously optimistic yet keeping a level head about how it will be received. The book’s subject matter is unquestionably important (in my mind, anyway) and I’ve done my best to cover all the interesting stuff. But regardless of how it goes, finishing it is liberating as I’ve got a few other books in the works…

Anders Petersen retrospective City Diary

The Venue vs The Artist

Yesterday, before lunch, I spent some time at Hasselblad Center, the popular photography museum/art space in the center of Göteborg.

One of Sweden’s most acclaimed photographers, Anders Petersen, is having an exhibit there called “City Diary”.

I’m not sure what to think.

First of all, in my opinion, there were way, way, way too many images. Maybe I’m just no longer capable of absorbing so much visual information (150 photos) in one small place. That’s probably probable.

Secondly, and this might have to do with the sheer amount of photographs on display, the vast majority of Petersen’s subjects (and the compositions he used to portray them) just didn’t involve me. I’m sure there were plenty of interesting backstories. Perhaps I was just missing context in the sea of imagery.

Documenting people in society’s “underbelly” is almost always intriguing – until it comes across as being too staged, posed, and completely disconnected contextually from when and why it was captured. That’s how I felt about most of the exhibit’s photographs. Which is likely why the show is called “City Diary”. Petersens is sharing his personal visual diary, leaving the rest of us in the dark, detached.

Maybe the exhibit’s title is just a retrofit. 

When Elle and I visited Copenhagen Contemporary a couple of weeks ago, I mentioned to her that whatever we saw enjoyed cultural legitimacy just by virtue of being exhibited there.

I kinda got that feeling yesterday while trying to figure out if Petersen’s exhibit was as important as the venue it is shown at claims it is. I’m not saying Petersen isn’t an important photographer or documentarian. But as a retrospective, I think “City Diary” could definitely have been more emotionally involving. Sometimes, less is more.

Jungans

Jungans in Göteborg
Before heading down south to Malmö this afternoon, I ate a delicious shrimp sandwich topped with roe from northern Sweden (Kalix) at Jungans, one of my old hangouts from a different life. A life when I lived in Göteborg.

What used to be a very approachable place to have a simple egg and mayo sandwich with a hot pot of coffee when I was between 16 to 20 years old, has now, some 40 years later been transformed into a somewhat posh a la carte restaurant.

In my heyday, the then-owner was an elegantly clad older woman from Poland who lived just down the street from Jungans. She had an enigmatic, possibly snobbish quality about her and if memory serves, only employed young teenage girls.Jungans was my go-to place every day of the week and where all kinds of rendezvous took place; from blind dates to all-day hangovers with my friends at the time. ¨

Everything changes and I wasn’t particularly sad to see how Jungans had metamorphosed into something barely resembling my old favorite café. After all, I barely resemble the young dude who sat there sipping coffee some four decades ago.

Back in Gothenburg

Back in Göteborg

Spending a few days during Easter in Gothenburg with family and friends. Always have mixed feelings about this city. On the one hand, it’s the first hometown I had after leaving L.A. Than again I got tired of my repetitive life  here. Still, given the opportunity and the right location, I would move back. If for no other reason than for the optimistic atmosphere and bundle of good friends we have here.

Enigmative: Creation

Creativiity

As focused as I have to be while writing the aging book, when it comes to working on the Enigmative series, I feel so liberated about how little of the creative process relies design.

I’m slowly beginning to understand some of the fascinating biological and neurological underpinnings of the creative drive. It’s literally mind-boggling to think about how the unique wiring of a brain and the interplay between its different parts facilitate the process.

Creativity is, of course, a reflection of the world around us –shaped by curiosity, fueled by a need to express ourselves and empowered by education and the technology that allows us to bring ideas to life.

Enigmative: Heywire

Enigmative: Haywire
When I saw this image while going through captures from Berlin, was intrigued by how abstract it had come out. It’s a seven second exposure and it was the erratic motions I made with the camera during those seconds that created the movement of light sources. The composition made me associate with chaos and how tumultuous the world seems to be right now.

Then again, I find a decent amount of soul-softening solace in remembering that the world has always been in a state of flux and that haywire is the norm, not abnormal. There have always been wars and there will always be some that see only violence as a solution. There will always be people who need a religion, who need to believe in a dogma. Regardless of who or what it is.


Titanic Jump

About twenty years ago, I jumped from our local viewpoint, for some reason called “Titanic.” I’m not sure what the name refers to – possibly the ship, possibly the adjective.

In any case, when I saw this clip in my archive, the kid’s fearless jump intrigued me.

As we get older, we tend to lose much of our courage and willingness to be foolish. To me, this seems counterintuitive, as the older we get, the less we have to lose.

Then again, with age comes frailness and a propensity to injure ourselves. So, the mind tells the body not to take too many risks, leaving us feeling safe but bored and lacking the adrenaline rush we enjoy when we push our limitations, jump, and take a leap of faith that destiny will still be in our favor, as when we were young.

American Brunch in Malmö

American Brunch in Malmö

At last, a revelation in Malmö for the American palate! Earlier today I was introduced to Brunchoteket – where my decades-long search for a great American brunch in Sweden is finally over. Imagine a meal where every single bite is a wonderful reminder of an American diner. The Full Brekkie was my choice today, and it turned out to be a perfect assembly of fluffy American pancakes with the rich flavor of real Canadian maple syrup, delicately scrambled eggs, the finest Swedish bacon, and sourdough toasted to a perfect crisp. Friends, this was not merely a meal; it was more of an experience – generous, satisfying, and utterly delicious.

Despite a bustling atmosphere, I enjoyed exceptional service with a smile, thanks to a team of the most cheerful gals I’ve ever been served by in this city. For those looking for the quintessential American brunch in Malmö, look no further. Brunchoteket is not merely recommendable; it’s simply a must. Oh, and this is one of those dog-friendly restaurants, too.

Adieu Kutaisi

Adieu Kutaisi

After an early-bird and relatively smooth flight from Kutaisi, Georgia, we are now back in sunny Sweden. I’m now even more intrigued by the Georgian people, culture and architecture and look forward to visiting again. This was my view from the Rioni River that runs through the city during yesterday’s 25k walk.

Magnolia flowers blossoming in Kutaisia

Blooming Magnolia’s in Kutaisi
I enjoyed a traditional Georgian lunch at Magnolia Restaurant with Mrs. Raboff today during an unusually cold afternoon spring rain. Georigia’s diverse culinary delights didn’t happen by chance. Positioned at the heart of ancient trade routes that bridged the East and West, Georgia was perfectly placed to adopt the most delicious recipes from the Greeks, Mongols, Turks, and Arabs who traversed along the country’s portion of the Silk Road route.

The blooming magnolias in front of the restaurant and namesake hotel were quite the site to see – and smell. Speaking of which, among what we ate today was a local cheese that tasted like it was half buffalo mozzarella and half feta. An absolutely perfect blend of two of my favorite cheeses.

Georgia, Kutaisi

Back in Georgia

Flew into Kutaisi in the Imereti region of Georgia yesterday afternoon. I’ve been yearning to return to this remarkable country ever since my last visit in the fall of 2021. The 4-hour direct flight (in an Airbus) from CPH to KUT was very smooth.

Kutaisi is one of the world’s oldest cities and while perhaps not as formidable as the capital Tbilisi, it’s still perfectly situated for excursions westward to the Black Sea and up north to the Kaukasus mountain range. Might try to do both during my week here.

Last night we had a fabulous dinner at Palaty (პალატი), a somewhat upscale yet traditional and very relaxed Georgian restaurant not far from our hotel. Looks like it’s going to rain today, so I’ll have plenty of time to do some editing in the aging book. I’m in the part of the tunnel where I can now actually see the light at the other end.

Colchis Fountain above is one of the most amazing public art installations I’ve ever seen. It’s so wonderfully over the top.