It was here, at the beginning of July of 1983, while on my first European solo backpacking trip, after an uneventful night in Marseille together with my newfound friends from Denmark and Canada, that I slept on the beach Plage Publique des Ponchettes in Nice.
Of all the places I’ve been fortunate to have visited in France (and I sincerely hope to expand that roster in the years ahead), Nice is among my favorites. Elle, Charlotte, and I spent a couple of days in Nice 2016 on our way back from the annual Photo Festival held throughout the ancient city of Arles in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region of southern France.
Here’s my favorite shot of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. My relationship with “P-a-h-r-e-e” is somewhat complicated. The above image is from one of my visits to Paris with Charlotte. I think we were there, at least in part, for Charlotte’s 40th birthday. As mentioned in yesterday’s post, I left the UK for Paris and spent much of my stay there walking to and from all the classic sites and scenes with my thick, orange “Let’s Go Europe” travel guide in hand. I don’t remember where I slept or, how I navigated the city. This was back in 1983, about a decade prior to GPS technology and some 15 years before the Internet started becoming a ubiquitous part of everyday life.
At some point, I must have gotten sick of the intensity of city life and via Gare du Sud, headed down to the south of France. I do recall taking a night train, the TGV to Marseille. When possible, night trains (and night ferries) were the preferred way to travel when on a Eurail pass, as it meant you could sleep on the train (or, on the deck of the ferry) and not have to pay for loggings.
Like many of the great cities of the world, Paris is layered and dotted with distinct neighborhoods of varying interest and allure. My favorite Parisian neighborhoods? Marais and St Germain.
Interestingly, my father met his second wife Margit in Paris sometime just after WWII. He was stationed there as a reporter for the US Army’s newspaper, Stars & Stripes and Margit was in Paris to attend a fashion school. According to what she told me several years before passing away, the two had met at Café de Flore on the corner of Boulevard Saint-Germain och Rue Saint-Benoît.
In the early days of 2003, my relationship with Paris become fraught with tragedy. In an act of desperation and abysmal sadness, my brother Tyko took his life at a hotel near Arc de Triomphe. Of all the places I’d like to return to, Paris is fairly low on my list. Morbid as it may sound, I may one day return to Paris and visit the hotel where my brother’s life ended.
This is one of many streetart captures during my most recent visit to London in 2018. I’ve stayed in about a dozen different areas in the capital, but this was my very first time in Shoreditch, East London. Loved it there! Lots of great curry places and a level of grittiness that tickles me creatively.
I can’t remember last when so much time has passed without visiting London. As an American, the UK is the only country in Europe where, thanks to the combo of a common language and wildly diverse ethnicity, I’ve always felt perfectly at home. The contrasts of HiSo and Lowbrow, new and old, mundane and surprising make almost every visit to London a fun experience.
My first visit was in 1983 during a whirlwind tour of the continent on a Eurail pass. I’d started my train journey from Göteborg, where I was living at the time, through Denmark and Germany and then over to Holland. This was way before the Eurotunnel was available, so I crossed the English Channel with a ferry from Hoek van Holland to Harwich and finally a train headed for Victoria Station.
I’d met a Swedish gal on the ferry who’s father was a pastor at the Swedish Seaman’s Church in London. She convinced me to stay there for a few nights. Restless as always and with only a month of vacation to explore Europe with, I left England after just four of five days and headed to Paris. I had just turned 20 and it was my first solo adventure.
This is one of the last photos I took in Asia in early 2020. Shortly after, Charlotte and I flew to Copenhagen and then onwards to Malaga where we lived for about two months before heading back to Sweden as the pandemic swept across the world. I love the reflection and how it skewed the view behind me. It got me thinking about the transition of the past and the future yesterday below the Capitol in Washington D.C..
I watched the entire inaugural ceremony last night. I laughed and cried. But mostly I smiled. After his third try, Joe Biden finally hit a home run and is now the 46th president of the United States. Talk about being the comeback kid. In India and in Jamaica, people are feeling joyous for Kamala Harris. She is solid proof that the American Dream is still alive and kicking. That change and opportunities are endless.
A friend in L.A. told me a few hours ago how she felt relieved now that Joe and Kamala have replaced Donald and Mike. That the anxiety she’d been experiencing for months had subsided.
I find it’s kinda like when Luke Skywalker blew up the first Death Star and sent Darth Vader twirling out of control into space. I know, comparing Donald Trump to Darth Vader isn’t fair. Darth was pretty cool and had awesome mind-control powers. Donald was uncool and his ability to control feeble-minded folk only worked as long as he was in power.
The challenges that lie ahead are enormous. But with the new administration, the American Idea has been resuscitated. So now, the American experiment can continue, uninterrupted by the tyrannic despot that tried hard to sow fear and doubt and tore feverishly on the American quilt. I’m not sure the experiment will ever succeed. But like with my own life, one must never give up trying.
I wonder if Four Season Total Landscaping will donate a portion of their parking lot for Trump’s Presidential Library…
This is one of my favorites from the cow series. It symbolizes how I feel today. A day when I and the rest of the sane world get to stick our collective tongues out at the soon ex-prez.
I watched Trump’s farewell speech this morning and all I could feel was sadness. Trump came to power by promising so much, to be the antithesis of a politician, which reminded me of T-Mobile’s “Uncarrier” terrific marketing slogan for many years. He portrayed himself as a rebel, someone that could get stuff done.
Tragically, instead, Donald J. Trump turned out to not only be unfit for the gig, but he also came to embrace and embody the worst qualities of a crooked politician, a used car salesman, and a snake oil peddler combined into a whirling cesspool of voluminous spewing bullshit. I couldn’t think of a single thing Trump said in his final speech that wasn’t an extreme exaggeration or a blatant lie. Not to mention the patriotic rhetoric crap that you know he doesn’t believe in but understands how solidly it hits a home run with his crowd of white supremacists, Qanon believers, and conspiracy theorists.
Sure, Joe Biden is an old guy that often looks really tired. But he’s decent, calm, and has in Kamala Harris made an excellent choice for VP. Not just because of gender or her diverse ethnicity, which really doesn’t interest me that much. What counts in my worldview is that she comes across as being very smart and having a good heart. Two qualities that supersede everything else she brings to the table. Let’s hope that J&K can get along with Congress so that they can start fixing stuff that Trump broke and pave the way for a brighter American future.
For many, Trump has represented the liberator of an often exaggerated political correctness that has swept across the world for several years. And it would have been ok if the healthy breath of truth had brought with it an era of more objective and honest politicians who said what they thought, regardless of whether their opinions were politically correct or not.
But it was not just Trump’s unfiltered rhetoric that characterized his four years in power. Instead, it was a never-ending diarrhea of extreme exaggerations and, above all, lies whose main purpose was to set his many followers on fire – especially rural Americans.
Trump could then use his populism and the radical movement he created as both a leveraging device and a whip, a threat to force congressional Republicans to both accept and on the surface embrace his often bizarre political outbursts and rash decisions.
From a historical perspective, Trump’s presidency will be associated with amateurism, cynicism, and fraud. And even though there are small, barely noteworthy gold nuggets from his time as the 45th President of the United States, even fool can get lucky, they are so few and so small that, in my opinion, they are negligible in relation to how much severe damage he has caused the American people and the world. Not least as a terrible representative of a leader for the world’s oldest democracy.
Some believe that Trump was subjected to a witch hunt from day one. But, I think instead, it was Trump who was the witch or the troll. A troll who today finally leaves the world stage so that serious, responsible people can take over the helm. It feels like it will be an early spring this year.
Here’s an ancient border wall near where these words were typed. Seems fitting considering we are soon leaving a particularly bad chapter of our history and, thankfully, moving on to another, hopefully, brighter one.
Tomorrow, the Grifter-in-Chief will be ousted from a position and office he was unsuited of holding and should never have been voted to do so.
It’s clear to most smart people that traditional media together with social media, especially Twitter, enabled the four-year rampage by Trump & Co. I can almost hear a collective sigh of relief now that an era of hatred, division, and chaos is coming to a close.
Generally, there are two fractions that supported Trump; the ignorant millions that could not see that Donald is just a grifter, a conman, a huckster, and the über-cynical opportunists that kissed his ass and injected their tongues so far up his asshole, that they no longer could breathe without him passing wind. Among these mice (not men) are Mitch McConnell, Lindsay Graham, and Ted Cruz. They should feel immeasurable, eternal shame for supporting the Grifter.
I’m not a big fan of Hillary Clinton, but she certainly recognized Trump and his followers very early on: In September 2016 she said:
– You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right?” Clinton said. “The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic — you name it. And unfortunately, there are people like that. And he has lifted them up. The other half feel that the government has let them down and they are desperate for change.
And George Orwell, writing in 1946, had this to say about the deniers, conspiracy theorists and revisionists:
– The point is that we are all capable of believing things that we know to be untrue, and then, when we are finally proved wrong, impudently twisting the facts so as to show that we were right. Intellectually, it is possible to carry on this process for an indefinite time: the only check on it is that sooner or later a false belief bumps up against solid reality, usually on a battlefield.
Finally, I highly recommend listening to this interview with Ronald Reagan’s son, Ron Reagan. Interesting, inspiring, and very funny. While I think Reagan Sr started pushing the Republican party down the dark path that brought forth a character like Trump, in no small way by playing heavily on the nationalistic “America First” fiddle and making it clear that if you’re not a flag-waving patriot, you’re possibly a communist, he was still a decent man worthy of the presidency. Here’s the interview.
Today is Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday. Dr. King was a wise man and he penned many thoughtful ideas and revelatory truths that are still apt and poignant to this day. Here are a few of those that can’t be shared enough.
The time is always right to do what is right.
Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.
In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.
Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?
Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.
We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.
(If I had to choose an American political figure that represented the diametrical opposite of MLK, it would be the outgoing president, Donald J. Trump).
Bjäre always delivers – regardless of the season. I lit a nice warming fire, sat down, and let the day’s magical walk in the snow slowly sink into body and soul. It’s on days like these that I usually say “everything is forgiven”. A thought born of pure gratitude.
When the weather gods offer their widest smiles, it’s an immeasurable privilege to live in Vejbystrand. Today’s excursion went from Stora Hult to Segelstorp via Lillaro where freshly baked sourdough bread was available. Couldn’t wait to get home and tore off a piece along the way home.
A dwarf sparrow attracted a few dozen birdies this afternoon. Thought it was interesting that the gang was looking for an even smaller variant of an already tiny bird.
At the time of writing, it’s -7C/19F. With a little luck, we’ll get even more sun tomorrow – at least for a while. If nothing else for the little blackbird that greets me every day when I come home from my walks. And the dwarf sparrow, of course.
I ate my dinner in front of the fireplace above.
Shot this curious trio yesterday during a refreshing walk in the village yesterday. I’ve realized a few things these last couple of days. Maybe it’s the huge snowfall. Maybe it’s something else. Whatever.
Here we go.
The pandemic has brought forth three positive perspectives.
One, I feel so much more appreciative of all the traveling we’ve been able to do during the last 25 years. I traveled a lot before meeting Charlotte, but once we connected, the traveling increased exponentially. The only other couple I know of that comes somewhat close to us is the Friberg’s.
Once you contract the “travel bug”, you never really get rid of it. At least I haven’t. And while I tend to be more enthralled and inspired by creative folks in general, if they’ve also traveled extensively, we’ll usually hit it off instantly.
We’re all different, I get that. But not filling your life with as many new experiences as possible (as opposed to those that are repetitive, predictable, and safe) is still a life concept I can’t relate to.
Anyway, I know it’s not exactly brag-worthy from an environmental perspective, but since 1997, I’ve logged about 367 000 kilometers of air travel. That’s not including trips before then and not all the domestic distances I’ve traveled via train, boat, car, and bus. In all, 600k is still not too far off from a round trip voyage to the moon (768k).
So, if I don’t ever get to travel again, I’d certainly be disappointed and deeply saddened, but not devastated as in feeling my life had been hollow and boring. It’s been a privileged life and in retrospect, I’m really happy that I’ve thoroughly documented the vast majority of our adventures around the world.
Secondly, because of the situation in my life and obviously in the world right now, I’ve found that I can still appreciate my new, hamstrung boundaries. Living here in the Vejbystrand is also a privilege and though I keep walking along the same paths, beaches, and trails, so far, I’ve not felt the least bit bored.
And this brings us to my third perspective.
The pandemic has provided me with time for reflection. I’m working on a retrospective-introspective exhibition of sorts. Essentially, I’ve embarked on a journey without an outlined goal or even a decent map. More like a reckoning and inventory of my 57-year-old life. The idea being that this will eventually clue me into how to move forward, stay fluid, creative, and, continue to suck up as much as possible out of life. Most importantly, I need to be mindful of “The Valley of Doldrums” which many old folks tend to not realize they’ve fallen into until it’s kept them, hostage, for so long, they succumb to Stockholm Syndrome.
Shot this from a dodgy fire escape stairwell somewhere behind Madison Square Park in Midtown Manhattan in New York City a few years ago. Been thinking about New York a lot lately. Especially today after I learned about Martin Scorsese’s new Netflix show where he and Spike Lee interview author and humorist Fran Leibowitz. If you’ve never heard of Fran, start by listening to this wonderfully funny and inspiring interview.
I am worried about the inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris on the 20th. The president continues to refuse to admit all and any guilt in last week’s craziness on Capitol Hill. I’m trying really hard to understand how Donald Trump can be so oblivious to his incitements and continued denial of how his judgment and behavior are wreaking havoc in the minds and souls of so many millions of already lost Americans.
So, as one does, I decided to think of a scene, a defining moment from Trump’s early childhood where his father, Fred Trump, felt it necessary to give his son a profound life-lesson, just as his father, Friedrich Trump, had likely given him at some point.
Fred Trump to his then eight-year-old son Donald:
“Donald, now listen here and listen good. No matter what you do badly, no matter what you say wrongly or however tall a lie you tell, never, I repeat, never admit it. Admission is for losers, my son. Do you want to be a loser, Donald? I didn’t think so. There will come a time in your life when you’ll need to lie to win or just to survive. And since only the strong survive and win, it’s not really lying. It’s showing your strength and survival instincts. Donald, always remember that Trumps are NOT losers. We are survivors and winners.
This is what I use to shoot up methotrexate once a week. Its chemical name is 4-amino-10-methyl folic acid and its chemical formula is C20H22N8O5.
I picked up a new batch of six syringes at the local store yesterday. They come in a tidy box complete with multilingual instructions and antiseptic pads to clean my choice of injection location. I try to alternate between the left and right thigh and the left and right side of my belly.
Since I’ve not felt any improvement since reluctantly beginning this chemotherapy seven weeks ago, my kind rheumatologist has decided to increase the dosage by about thirty percent.
There was a sharp pain today as I injected the thick, yellow fluid. Clearly from the larger volume. I really felt like a heroin addict…minus the rush and euphoria they are said to feel. I made a cup of tea and have since noticed nothing from the shot.
Hopefully, within the next six weeks, I’ll see some improvement with my arthritis. Or, start shooting heroin. Kidding.
Like for many people, January means embarking on a voyage to try to recapture the health one had before the annual holiday indulgences began. The problem with this is that many, including myself, have been indulging way too much for way too long.
Pandemic indulgence is a pandemic in itself.
Since Tuesday, I’ve been coffee-free, alcohol-free, and cut down my meals to one per day. I’ll snack on fruits and nuts and then eat a healthy, tasty dinner. The abstinence from coffee is the most painful. Caffeine withdrawals give me a nagging headache that lasts for two to three days. Today I feel fine.
Tonight I’ll be eating pea soup – made from scratch – with some of the above Greek salad with homegrown winter kale that was leftover from last night’s dinner. Swedish pea soup with sweet mustard tastes a lot better than it sounds.
Here’s a collage that’s fresh from the drawing board. What to say about the rioters and protesters storming Congress yesterday? Should we really be so surprised after all of the instigating from Trump and Rudy Giuliani? I think not.
What I do think is that both of these shady characters should be thrown in jail for their incendiary behavior and for manipulating millions of ignorant Americans (including some of my family members).
This morning I asked myself: can I really blame people for making godawful decisions when their ability to parse what is true and what is not has become too fuzzy and complicated for them? What can you expect from folks that have been emotionally hijacked insofar that they are willing to fight for every single oddball theory and crazy-ass rumor – as long as it feeds their narrative, no matter how implausible or diabolical it may seem?
Maybe these people should automatically get a free pass. They’re certainly lazy-minded and therefore can’t help themselves being drawn into a movement created by sinister politicians and fueled by right-wing media. A movement that has perpetuated conspiracy theories and audacious lies for years without realizing how negative and cynical life has become for those soaking it all up?
Isn’t this similar to what happened in Germany during the 1920s?
Final thought: Maybe someone should ask the Department of Defense how wisely they’re spending their annual 700 billion dollar budget. I mean, how can the US be expected to defend the world from tyranny, fascism, and communism, if they can’t even secure the building where the legislative branch of government resides – let alone stop Russians/Chinese/Whoever from hacking their way into crucial data networks?
Here’s the English version of my short film shot along some of my favorite walks by the coast here in Vejbystrand. In it, I share a few thoughts about how this tiny village in the Swedish hinterland turned out to be the perfect sanctuary for me.
I’ve been visiting Vejbystrand for about 22 years and the timeless milieu here is unequivocally worthy of veritable reverence and vehement admiration. What makes Vejbystrand so unique? The amalgamation of meadows, forests, coastal trails, free-roaming farm creatures, an infinite flow of fresh air, limitless skies, magnificent sunsets, and relentless storms. But I also appreciate not being surrounded by ugly, artificial environments, traffic, and a bombardment of sounds and noises.
Being able to live in such a natural environment as that which Vejbystrand provides has been nothing short of a privilege. I realize this every time I visit a city these days and see how absurd it is that so many people, myself included, live most of our lives in these concrete boxes with only tiny windows to provide us with a hint of a life on the outside. Is urbanism really a measure of worthy progress? Have humans actually evolved since our days as simple farmers? Are we so much happier, healthier, and more caring towards each other compared with our seemingly primitive, cave-dwelling, hunter-gatherer ancestors? I wonder…
My year in Vejbystrand has answered a few key questions on how I want to define happiness going forward. Like the importance of having plenty of breathing space and how identifying situations and interactions that either add or subtract emotional value to my life, is crucial to my well-being.
I should really consider producing a book about Vejbystrnad. Wait! I did that already!
Happy New Year!
When I look back through a year, I tend to think of it in terms of an exhibition at a gallery or a museum. I call the piece above “End of 2020” and it consists of a dozen or so of my images from this remarkable year.
Closing in on 2020. Up until the very end, a year full of surprises – one of which is really great and will be unveiled sometime relatively soon. Like most years, there been both positive and negative challenges. I continue to refuse to use the word problem as it implies the possibility of being unsolvable.
I’ve had plenty of interesting work throughout 2020, including an almost sold-out niche photo book focused on the ancient village of Vejbystrand, an invitation to exhibit new work during the annual Gallery Night in Malmö, and a dozen or so film projects. The last of which will be published here tomorrow.
Physically, life could obviously be much better. I can only hope that sometime in 2021 I will be able to enjoy life more fluidly than what’s currently possible. In the meantime, I am recuperating.
As for the rest of the family, things are looking pretty damn good. Charlotte’s new business idea has been approved and at least partially funded and daughter Elle was just awarded Employee of the Year at the supermarket where she’s been working since February. Elle’s plan is still to begin studying at the university next fall, but in the meantime, she’s making decent money, learning a bunch of new stuff about the food and retail industries, and honing her social work skills.
If we cut away all the bull, the objective of life is essentially procreation and to thereafter support your kids through love, affection, wisdom, and role modeling, so that their ability to succeed on their own is maximized. For all my shortcomings, the one thing – the only thing – I feel a long-lasting sense of pride about is and always will be how wonderful a person Elle grew up to be. She’s still finding her footing on this strange planet, but she’s doing it with stable, righteous steps.
Ira Glass, the founder of one of my favorite podcast shows, This American Life, shares his thoughts in this super-short video about challenges.
This collage is from images captured during a short visit to Göteborg over Christmas. Towards the end of this post I’ll explain why I made it.
Well, the awfully strange Christmas 2020 is officially over now. While Covid-19 still lingers in the shadows, morphing into new variants all over the place, an armada of vaccines is certainly closing in. But it seems as if the virus knows this and is shape-shifting – almost playing with us.
From what I’ve understood, the new vaccines represent the next-level in immunology tech.
But what if this breed of virus is even smarter and capable of mutating beyond what all the involved pharmaceuticals can provide protection against? What if this is just the first installment in an endless cat-and-mouse game where, for example, BioNTech’s synthesized mRNA therapeutical vaccine has to constantly be tweaked to cope with new virus versions?
Listen to Kara Swisher’s straight forward interview with the two head scientists at BioNTech here. Or, better yet, read the transcript from the interview here. Kara’s podcast “Sway” is a new NYTimes.com favorite. Not quite up there with Michael Barbaro’s show, The Daily, at least not yet.
In Sweden, we have this old tradition where children open up “hidden” doors in a cardboard Christmas Calendar until it’s either Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, I forget which.
While driving back to Vejbystrand earlier today in torrential rain and then a snow blizzard, we listened to a few podcasts, including the aforementioned interview with BioNTech. It was while listening to that episode that I came up with the idea for the collage above. Smart scientists have found a door and located a handle to open it with. They’ve even picked the lock. But we don’t know for sure what awaits behind it…
More of my collages here: www.raboff.com/art
Our daughter Elle shot this during lunch at an elephant sanctuary in Botswana’s sprawling Okavango Delta a while back.
Whenever I’ve shown this image, the first reaction people have is that it’s photoshopped. Once I’ve convinced them that it’s not, they then ask how we dared let such an incredibly large and potentially dangerous animal get so close to us.
While definitely one of my life’s most humbling experience, up there with diving with great white sharks outside of Cape Town, we were never frightened or worried. The sanctuary’s three elephants were orphans and at least partially brought up by humans. So beautiful. So friendly.
I’ve been fortunate to have met dozens of elephants over the years in Asia and Africa, none as close as during this amazing bush lunch, though. A few days after this lunch, we saw a herd of elephants that our guide estimated to have about 100 members. That too was a surreal experience. I feel like I need to hug an elephant again.
The winter solstice is one of my favorite days of the year. Especially when I am here in Scandinavia. According to Wikipedia, the winter solstice in the northern hemisphere happens on the 21 of December and is the day with the shortest period of daylight and longest night of the year when the Sun is at its lowest daily maximum elevation in the sky.
Essentially, the winter solstice means that as of tomorrow, we’re once again heading out of the darkness and into the light.
I would argue that the light won’t fully return until January 20 when Donald Trump and his entourage of nitwits, halfwits, and knuckleheads finally leave the White House.
Understandably, at least from my vantage point, I’ve been having serious tribulations about how the disease arthritis is going to dictate my future professionally and ability to function frictionless socially. And if I extrapolate, what will its impact look like in a year, two years, a decade?
My hesitation to begin taking Methotrexate is based on the fact that it’s an immune-suppressing drug with potential life-threatening side-effects. Considering that this is a time of human history when having a strong immune system is crucially important, my worries aren’t exactly unfounded. Also, once you start with chemotherapy, you’re on a slippery slope that doesn’t lead to anywhere pretty.
And if it wasn’t enough to be on chemo, easier this week I found out that my already shitty vision has gotten a lot worse. So, worse case scenario, I might be both blind and bedridden before retirement.
So, as you can probably tell, dear reader, I’ve been having a pathetic “Pity Party” for a few days. I don’t enjoy feeling sorry for myself, but hey, no one is better at it than oneself. And as long as it doesn’t become a pathetic pity orgy, I think it’s perfectly okay to shed a few tears of despair in the face of what at times feels like a grim future.
Fortunately, I’ve had plenty of experience over the years dealing with all kinds of crap thrown my way. I’ll survive. Or, as the legendary Lebowski so aptly put it, the dude abides. There’s too much fun stuff to look forward to. Can’t just allow life to cave in on me. I will need to make some adjustments and learn how to say no more often, though. But then again, that’s something I’ve needed to do anyway.
So, fuck it. Time to move on. The Pity Party is over.
(Created the above collage from several utility boxes I recently shot in Malmö).