Happy Honey

Happy Honey

Someone I used to know once said to me that Swedish photographers are afraid of specializing. He never elaborated on the statement and knowing him, it was probably something he’d heard off-handedly from someone and hijacked it to sound less boring and more profound.

I’ve nevertheless thought about what he said a few decades ago.

I’m far too interested in far too many things to even have considered specializing in one particular field of photography, painting, or writing. It would be easy for me to argue the virtue of how it would have been better for me to be good at one field than half-assed good at many. But I love life too much not to find just about everything in it appealing and worthy of my attention, time, and creativity.

The woman above was hawking homemade honey on a side street in Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia. She gave me a taste, and her honey was awesome. Though I wasn’t in the market for her goods and we couldn’t communicate very well, I do remember how happy she seemed and it got me wondering about her life and how content she seemed to be with the hand fate had dealt her.

She must have been around 80 at the time, so I assumed that her younger years were mostly spent during the Cold War era, much of it under the rule of fellow Georgian Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili aka Stalin.

A short while ago, I asked a cashier roughly my age at our local supermarket how she was doing. I usually ask this but rarely get much more than a polite reply that it’s all good. This cashier, though, surprised me. Her answer was somehow profound.

She told me that things were as good as they could be and that she was happy with how things had turned out. That as a young girl, all she wanted to be was a cashier and even if her ambitions and expectations weren’t very pretentious, she was still happy. From time to time, I think about what the cashier said and how there’s something “zen” about her attitude and perspective.

Enigmative: Seat 9C

Enigmativ: Seat 9C

I captured this enigmative exposure while sitting in my seat (9C) onboard the Boeing 737 800 from Berlin the other day. The capturing process is technically relatively easy and straightforward. Each session typically yields a half a dozen or more potential keepers but I am ruthless and usualy end up trashing all but one or two.

Copenhagen Contemporary

Copenhagen Contemporary

Daughter Elle and I spent the better part of yesterday in Copenhagen. We took the train across the bridge from Malmö and then walked via Strøget and Nyhavn to Refshaleøen, one of the Danish capital’s most culturally happening islands where we had lunch at Lille Bakery before visiting Copenhagen Contemporary.

Among several exhibits at this enormous industrial space, to us, the standout was definitely Cathrine Raben Davidsen’s drawings and large paintings. The short film shown adjacent to her exhibit offered relevant context to her thought process and an emotional dimension to what her work represents.

I’ve always cherished father-daughter time with Elle. When she was younger, the two of us would frequently take trips to Lapland, Gotland and Stockholm. We’ve also had fun weekend adventures in both Amsterdam and London.As Elle gets older and busier with her work and social life, it gets harder to find time for longer trips. Which makes having Copenhagen so close by very convenient.

street photography Berlin

Thoughts on Berlin

I think this is my seventh or eighth visit to Berlin, and each time is somehow better than the last. I could probably say that about a lot of places. Maybe it’s just me feeling more and more at ease here. If Porto’s USP is its laid-back atmosphere, beautifully aged architecture, and friendly locals, then Berlin offers me a level of diversity, intensity, and inspiration like no other city in Europe.

Especially here in Mitte, where I can easily spend days just walking around serendipitously and never get bored or tired. The diversity aspect is particularly interesting. Even this time of year (arguably the best time to visit Berlin before the seasonal onslaught of riff-raff), you don’t hear much Deutsch spoken in the German capital.

Today’s excellent lunch at a random classic German pub was served by a Croatian fellow, our pasta dinner was presented by a guy from Austria, and the popcorn we bought on the way home for tonight’s film was sold by a Russian gal.

I spent most of the afternoon buzzing after lunch around the gallery district, observing, absorbing, and admiring paintings, photographs, and installations created by artists from all over the world. Far from all the art I saw today was intriguing. Some of it was downright crap. But most of it grabbed me in one way or another. Which is probably one of the reasons I keep returning to Berlin.

I’m fascinated at how Berlin has managed to maintain its relevance and influence for so long – across two world wars, a brutal occupation, and then 41 years of soul-crushing communism (1949 – 1990).

Back in Berlin again

Berlin

Back in the always-inspiring Berlin again. It’s been a year since my last visit and the two images on each side of the middle one were captured here last year and are included in the Re:surfaced book. Today: visits to a few art galleries along Auguststraße, and then my first visit to the Swedish (!) photography museum “Fotogafiska” where Senegalese artist Omar Victor Diop and Brit Miles Aldridge were on display.

Sunset Season

Spring Sunset Season

This was our view last night after a cold, windy but sunny Monday. From November until right about now, Sweden is a mostly inhospitable place to live. Unless you live in the far north where there’s a proper winter. A friend recently moved to Åre, about the halfway mark of Sweden’s length and he absolutely loves it.

As of last night’s sunset, I have hope that spring will arrive early and the sun will warm us up again.

Fog in Malmö

Foggy Harbor

It’s been foggy for about a week now. I don’t mind the fog as much as the dampness that comes with it this time of year. In fact, in the spring, whenever a fog bank rolls into the harbor, it usually provides some stunning scenes. Some of which I’ve included in my new, yet-to-be-officially announced book. Should be printed and delivered by May.

You need a hero by Pages

You Need A Hero

Saturday. Malmö. Foggy.

During dinner the other night, “You Need a Hero” from the playlist “Joakim’s Favorites” was played. Charlotte chuckled and asked if that’s the song I’d want at my funeral if I die before her. I replied that it was “Georgy Porgy” by Toto that should be played. It’s both light-hearted and groovy, and it would feel great to have the old music heroes “Luke” and “Jeff” accompany the journey to Valhalla. The mythological one, not the crusty bathhouse in Gothenburg, that is.

In the chorus of “You Need a Hero,” Richard Page (who later became one of the four that made up the band Mr. Mister) sings: “You Need a Hero, Someone to Rescue You, There’s Someone That You Can Run To.” Even though I’ve heard the song at least a couple of hundred times, that line still leaves an impression every time I hear Page sing it. I had ChatGPT analyze the song’s lyrics:

The repeated need for a “hero” suggests a deep yearning for someone who can offer emotional support and stability, which is a fundamental human need according to attachment theory. Attachment theory, proposed by John Bowlby, emphasizes the importance of having close emotional bonds with others for psychological well-being.

Is Richard Page referring to himself? Or is it more generally that we all need a hero who can save us from the impending abyss? Is it perhaps a father figure he missed? I can relate to that. Page is said to be deeply religious, so it’s probably Jesus who is his hero. Maybe the song is really a subversive, religious recruitment tune with a good hook…

There’s something comforting about the old songs on my playlist. They’re like old friends who never got old… or forgotten. But sometimes I wonder if I like them most because I’ve heard them so many times. With a few exceptions, most of the songs on the list have never been top-ranked hits, and many of the artists are completely unknown to the masses.

Now and then, I add a new song by a (new to me) artist. That’s how Anderson Paak, Billie Eilish, Allison Russell, Lana Del Rey, and a few others ended up on it. Mostly, it’s tracks by Michael Franks, Simple Minds, Zeppelin, Prince, Gabriel, Scritti Politti, Manhattan Transfer, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Alan Parsons, Warren Zevon, Zappa, Beatles, Yello, Yes, Zero 7, Massive Attack, Bo Kaspers, Blacknuss, Joni, Sky, Carlton, Hall & Oates, Boston, Fourplay, Eva Cassidy, Gadd, Fugees, Vanelli, Satriani, Rickie Lee, and the old household god Marc Jordan.

It was probably not until I was 16 that I started to listen to music seriously. We were a group of friends who sneered at most of what was played on the radio and out in public, and we took every opportunity to request songs we knew DJs didn’t have in their collections.

We mixed cassette tapes for each other and could sit for hours downing pots of coffee at Café Jungans and discussing music before crossing Avenyn to Domus and scrutinizing the backs of album covers to see who played, who produced, who mixed, and who “mastered” the records.

In 1985, a regular vinyl record in Sweden cost up to a hundred kronor, and an import from Japan could go for a whopping 400 kronor. If just a few from the “studio mafia” were listed on the back or in the inner sleeve, like Umberto Gatica, Lenny Castro, Nathan East, David Foster, Paulinho da Costa, Steve Gadd, Jay Graydon, Lee Sklar, Michael Landau, Dean Parks, Al Schmitt, Chuck Findley, Jerry Hey, or old Bill Reichenbach, it could be enough to convince us that the record would probably be worth the money even if the artist was completely unknown.

I’ll never forget when Abe Laboriel and Alex Acuña from the band Koinonia – who had a gig at Scandinavium – suddenly showed up at the bar at Gothia Hotel and were just the nicest guys.

The other week, my daughter Elle sent me a great song by Wings that I had either forgotten or completely missed. It felt hopeful that some of “my” old favorite artists would live on in her playlist.

Two of the arguably more important tasks as parents have probably been to pass on one’s slightly twisted humor and eclectic taste in music. The rest will always sort itself out.

Here’a link to You Need A Hero and Georgy Porgy.

Enigmative Waterfall

Enigmative: Abstract Waterfall

Similarly to how words prompt the imagination of the reader to envision what the writer describes, abstract art either encourages the viewer to make personal associations or just allow what they see to exist without being deciphered.

Just read how the more astrophysicists and cosmologists study the universe’s size, its origin, and expansion/contraction theories, the more there is to study.

A brand new theory proposes that the universe is not expanding infinitely as previously thought but rather oscillating between expansion and contraction at regular intervals.

The oscillation is caused by the interaction between dark energy and dark matter. Even more confusing is the theory that the universe has been around for almost 26.7 billion years, almost twice as long as previously believed.

How’s that for abstract?

For going on 20 years, my writing sessions are always accompanied by abstract, atmospheric instrumental electronica from my go-to station Drone Zone on the Soma FM network.

Enigmative: Crossroads

Enigmative: Crossroads & Personality Test

Here’s another piece for the Enigmative series captured in Porto just a few days ago.

Last night, after watching the first episode of a new and wildly popular Swedish television show about what traits our personalities consist of and how they are formed (genetically and/or environmentally), I downloaded an app and did a personality test connected to the series. Of the Five Big (aka OCEAN), I received the following “score”:

Openness: 102
Conscientiousness: 99
Extraversion: 97
Agreeableness: 92
Neuroticism: 59

The test itself reminded me of those that Scientology offers people that walk by their “churches”. I’ve done a couple of those written tests, at least once in Sweden and definitely, one at their celebrity center on Hollywood Boulevard in L.A. Both took place sometime in the 1980s – but I don’t remember what the incentive was or, even if there was one other than the invitation from a female Scientologist.
The results from yesterday’s test didn’t exactly surprise me. But it would be interesting to take it again in say, 5 or 10 years to see if and how I’ve changed.
Sweden & Nato: Launch codes

Sweden & NATO
Monday. Malmö. Militarily.

After a long day of traveling yesterday, we’re back in Malmö again. I so prefer trains to planes. As efficient as air travel is, the amount of wasted time at airports is mind-numbing and body-crunching. Not to mention how ass-flattening the seats are on low-fare carriers.

When we left about a month ago, Sweden was still formally a neutral country. Now, we’re explicitly part of an expansive military alliance with an enormous nuclear arsenal. Just like when I moved here in 1978, the threat is still the ‘Russian Bear.’ But now I have two citizenships, both of which include me in the NATO club. So now the bear can hate me twice as much…

Sweden’s hypocritical neutrality has always disturbed me, so the country’s NATO membership and the inherent compulsory alignment that comes with joining the club will invariably add a more defined foreign policy. Will joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization be an efficient deterrent to stifle future imperialistic ambitions that the 72-year-old Putin might be pondering? Probably.

But since the Russian president has already threatened to use tactical nuclear weapons several times over (some of which are possibly already stored with his buddy Lukashenko in Belarus), I don’t see how even Article 5 can do anything other than trigger an escalation to the point where Putin feels so cornered that he actually uses a nuke.

The mere threat of a nuclear war in Europe is, in my opinion, still a pretty persuasive deterrent against NATO’s ‘musketeer policy’ should Vlad one day decide to repatriate the Baltic nations and other former USSR satellite states.

Article 5 provides that if a NATO Ally is the victim of an armed attack, each and every other member of the Alliance will consider this act of violence as an armed attack against all members and will take the actions it deems necessary to assist the Ally attacked.

The numbers and letters visible in the Enigmative image above reminded me of launch codes. Maybe it’s time to watch War Games again.

Enigmative: Lunch at Olivera

Enigmative: Lunch at Olivera

Captured this during yesterday’s long lunch at Olivera. More and more, I’m finding how these handheld, long-exposure moments unveil the unseen, the felt, the lived experiences of my life and look upon the everyday with new eyes.

Life

Enigmative: Life

It’s been about a month since we began traveling around Portugal and to say that we’re now even more spellbound by this country’s beauty and relaxed vibe would be nothing short of a flagrant understatement.

When not writing on the ever-expansive aging book, I’ve been keeping myself occupied by documenting new destinations prior to the launch of Charlotte’s new Algarve website as well as for my forthcoming photography book, “Portugal, Serendipitously”.

Until earlier today between two rain storms, there’s not been much time (or, energy) left over for the “Enigmative” series.

I never have a timeline for any of my personal projects. How could I? You just know when it’s time to finish and move on to the next challenge. So, just as with the Re:Surfaced project, there’s something refreshingly liberating about Enigmative.

Selina Porto

Porto & Selina Coworking

This is the gorgeous facade of Selina Coworking aka Charlotte’s office for our week in Porto. The loft apartment a few blocks from Selina that we’ve rented (and from where I do my writing) is nice and roomy but won’t hold a candle to Charlotte’s beautiful working space. We’ve become fans of Selina’s laidback hotel/hostel/coworking concept after staying and/or working at their properties in Thailand (Phuket), Austria (Bad Gastein), and Portugal (Lisbon/Porto).

If you haven’t been to Porto yet, I humbly suggest you put this amazing city at the very top of your bucket list. From now until May is arguably the best time of year for a weeklong visit. Not too hot, not too crowded, and easy to get a table for decent dining.

Views of Porto in Portugal

Views of Porto’s Soul

All three of these views were captured within about two hours during one of our long walks in Porto. There are many photogenic cities in Europe, but I still can’t think of one more visually pleasing than Porto.

Soul – that’s the word that seems to capture the entire essence of Porto in a way that other descriptions I’ve tried to use just don’t manage.

It’s not just the city’s beautiful architecture, cozy alleys, sprawling squares, or vast views that define Porto; it’s the tangible feeling of soulfulness that envelops all the narrow cobblestone streets and echoes between the beautifully tiled houses.

Porto doesn’t just exist; it thrives with a life force so ancient that it never worries about the future. An attitude makes me a bit envious.

The soulfulness here is like an invitation to slow down, to savor every instant and appreciate the details of life and its fleeting moments.

The city encourages me to explore, to connect, and document, so that maybe, just maybe, I can take home a little bit of the city’s restless soul for my next visit. And the next.

Art Deco in Porto Portugal

Porto’s Art Deco

Returning to Porto is beginning to feel like coming home, a sentiment I share with Lisbon and a handful of other remarkable cities where I’ve had the privilege of staying for extended periods. Among these, Porto stands out as one of the most vibrant and visually intriguing. Like the Portuguese capital, Porto’s terrain is super hilly. And though I’m ignorant in the fields of engineering, construction, and architecture, I can still appreciate the challenges that had to be overcome in this city’s undulating, urban landscape.

The construction of thousands of tall, stone buildings along the city’s steep roads, many leading steeply up from the Rio Douro river and adorned with intricately designed, colorful ceramic tiles – is nothing short of astonishing and what makes Porto so uniquely visit-worthy.

During the 1920s and 1930s, local architects in Porto, much like their counterparts in New York City and Miami, embraced the Art Deco movement with enthusiasm, which explains the numerous stunning facades, and entrances like the one above, so tastefully decorated with design elements from that aesthetically pleasing era.

Lagos Bridge

Leaving Lagos

This is the tiny bridge that you walk over to get to the harbor and beyond that, the beach in Lagos. Leaving the Algarve yesterday felt fine. As beautiful as the nature experiences are in and around Lagos, the city itself is a bit boring and geriatric for my taste. We don’t need more reminders of how old we are, on contraire.

Renting a house next to a cemetery was interesting. The house itself wasn’t much to write home about, though. For what we paid, I found it a bit too dark and surprisingly impractical in many ways. But it still offered us a level of functionality that sufficed for a couple of weeks. It’s obvious to me that I’m getting pickier and pickier as I get older…

I did get a lot of writing done while we were in Lagos, so that’s good. And I’ve now complemented my collection of images from Algarve for the new book, which I am tentatively calling “Portugal Serendipitously” or, “Serendipitously Portugal”  and which should be out within a month.

Surfing Arrifana Beach near Aljezur

Surfing Arrifana Beach

From yesterday’s amazing visit to Arrifana Beach near the village of Aljezur. Taking the train today from Faro to Porto and enjoying gorgeous landscapes as they fly by from my seat window.

Lagos Neighbors

Our Lagos Neighbors

                                                       Lagos. Saturday. Neighbors.

“Think about death.” That’s what the sign at one of the entrances to Stampen’s cemetery in Gothenburg in Sweden reads. During my youth, I passed this serious reminder daily while taking the tram to have coffee at either two of our favorite cafés, Jungans or Evas Paley, in downtown Göteborg.

In those teenage years, death was the last thing on my mind. Instead, I felt immortal. Today, more than 40 years later, the presence of death is much more tangible, especially now that we live next to a beautiful, old cemetery.

I’m moderately superstitious. I indeed avoid walking under ladders, always handle mirrors with extra care, prefer not to stay on the thirteenth floor of hotels, and I’m reluctant to open umbrellas indoors, even though deep down, I know that superstition is as irrational as believing in ghosts, Santa Claus, or Donald Trump.

Having a few hundred graves as neighbors still affects me. I suppose it serves as a reminder of life’s transience and the end of oour mysteriously undefined timeline here on Earth.

It’s like the ultimate cliffhanger.

We can see most of the cemetery from the house’s three small terraces, and we’ve also walked among the graves a couple of times. There are several impressive mini-mausoleums, and even the simpler graves are adorned with colorful plastic flowers. When we were walking around the cemetery the other day, I was reminded that my mother and grandparents no longer have a dedicated gravesite at the cemetery outside Trollhättan.

Several years ago, my now-dead uncle stopped paying for the grave care, and the Swedish Church has then the right to remove and destroy the gravestone, despite the family having paid for it and the grave’s upkeep for over 30 years.

In 2020, the Swedish Church reported assets of approximately 42 billion kronor. Their refusal to allow the gravestones of Agnes, Eskil, and Solveig Andersson to remain is sufficient proof that the Swedish Church (and all other religious institutions) operate just as ruthlessly profit-driven as any other corporation (or mafia family).

But the significant difference is that the church uses emotional blackmail and threats of going to hell as its primary selling points. When I occasionally choose to eat at McDonald’s, Taco Bell, or Pizza Hut, at least I know I’m eating bad food and that the advertising is heavily skewed and retouched. No one has yet been able to prove that the church’s lofty promises hold an ounce of truth (no one can disprove their claims either).

I understand why people still cling to religion, especially as we reach a more fragile age. Religion offers a kind of insurance for life’s final journey but without a deductible. Imagine if it turns out there is an all-knowing, all-powerful patriarch/matriarch in a gigantic, heavenly control tower, managing everything in secret, like some kind of Oz? And that death means you do get everything promised in the “brochure,” including semi-opaque angels playing heavenly snippets on sparkling harps.

In the new book I’m working on, among many other things, I touch on death and how we men can handle thoughts about the inevitable without becoming too depressed.

Charlotte suggested that I include the concept of “Swedish Death Cleaning,” which she read about in a book with the same name by author Margareta Magnusson. So now that’s in the book too.

One of the most beautiful cemeteries I’ve ever visited is on the outskirts of Havana, which is ironic considering that the Castro brothers’ version of Marxism doesn’t leave much room for hymns and religion.

Inside the cemetery that has been our neighbor for a few weeks, some of the area’s stately cypresses might be older than the cemetery itself. I wonder if their root systems penetrate the graves and draw nourishment from the bodies of the dead. Maybe the trees are so stately precisely because of the local food chain.

About ten years ago, my friend Jan Axel Olsen died. He and I got to know each other in Gothenburg’s commercial harbor back in the summer of 1988 when we unloaded banana boxes labeled Uncle Tuca, Del Monte, and Chiquita from rusty Russian cargo ships registered in Panama. After that summer, Janne and I kept in touch until his sudden passing.

Janne had previously worked at the large Kviberg cemetery in Gothenburg. When I asked what he did there, whether he dug graves, he replied as usual with quick wit: “Yes, but we called ourselves ‘departure assistants.’”

Long after Kviberg and the banana gig in the harbor, Janne became a lawyer and during his relatively short career, represented, among several other odd clients, the infamous Swedish rap artist Leila K.

About once a week, I visited his office next to the cathedral in Gothenburg, usually before we went out to have lunch. He often talked about his assignments and legal cases, probably more than he should have, and the lunches could sometimes drag on. Just as I now realize this post has done…

Abrigado means sheltered or protected in Portuguese

Sheltered

I saw this beautiful Art Deco sign during yesterday’s walk in the old town here in Lagos. The Portuguese word Abrigado means “sheltered” or “protected” and is not to be confused with “obrigado” which means thank you. Why the sleek iron sign was placed on that particular wall? I have no idea. But it served as an appropriate reminder that since the dawn of time, we all need to feel sheltered and safe to function in society. At least according to Maslow’s classic hierarchy of needs which I’ve condensed below:

• Physiological, basic human survival, including air, water, food, shelter, and sleep.
• Safety, security, income, health, and property.
• Love, belonging, friendship, and deep, meaningful relationships
• Self-esteem, status, recognition, strength, and freedom
• Self-actualization, realizing potential, self-fulfillment, personal growth, and peak experiences

Happy Valentine’s Day!