The Art of Living

They say that after you turn 25, not much of your character changes. Thirty-two years later, I can’t but agree with that statement.

I clearly live a healthier life in 2020 than I did in 1988 when smoking, snuffing, and drinking was all part of my daily diet. I never got into drugs, at least not the illicit kind in power form. I’ve always exercised regularly, 90 minutes of Qigong&Yoga this morning) but also fall into spells of spectacular indulgence. As I near my sixth decade, I realize that I still spoil myself regularly and enjoy much of the same stuff as back in my youth. Like the IHOP breakfast above which I ate with great vigor while waiting for a friend up in the Bronx a couple of years ago.

In 1988, I spent the entire summer unloading bananas off rusty boats from Central America (mostly Panama) which arrived weekly in Göteborg’s commercial harbor. Sweden and the other Scandinavian countries were seemingly insatiable when it came to bananas at the time. Each Friday, a freighter chuck full with about 130.000 cardboard boxes of bananas colorfully branded Uncle Tuca, Del Monte and Chiquita would dock and wait to be unloaded the following Monday morning.

At 18.4kg per banana box, placing a few thousand of them onto a conveyer belt from deep inside the vessel each shift was intense. But in retrospect, the job provided me with humbling insights into the world of the working class. Like many other labor-intensive jobs, the fruit company that hired me and my “banana boat” colleagues (which in the summer consisted mostly of students, struggling musicians, and artists) eventually automized the entire unloading process.

In October that year, I flew with Yugoslavian JAT to Thailand and worked for 6 months at the Golden Sand Resort on Lamai Beach, Koh Samui. Upon returning to Sweden in April, my brother Nick called to ask me if I wanted a bartending gig at a hotel in Riksgränsen, way, way up in Lapland towards the very tip of Sweden’s northern border – real close to both Norway and Finland. Financially depleted and desperate for work, I got on a rickety train from Göteborg where spring was abounding and arrived approximately 24 hours later in Riksgränsen where it was still midwinter.

If the lifestyle I had previously been leading – culminating with several seasons working in a bar at a ski resort – was formative, the time I spent in Riksgränsen surely solidified much of it. It took me several years to leave the restaurant business and embark on more creative, less destructive endeavors. But in essence, I’m still more or less the same guy as I was back in 1988. Just older on the outside.

Here’s an interesting documentary from the BBC about the art of living where the team has met a ancient folks living in a remote mountain village in Italy and how their lifestyle has promoted mental and physical health and longevity. As usual, I’m caught between being inspired and realizing how boring that would be.

Nösund Havshotell Kitchen Short

From last week’s “working holiday” at Nösund Havshotell on the island of Orust along Sweden’s beautiful west coast. It’s the third time I’ve been to Nösund – but first time working with model Felicia Kallberg and the kitchen crew.

Quack, Quack, Quack!

Ankbröst på menyn idag i våra trakter – fast till lunch blev det istället en mustig och krämig fisksoppa. Premiäråt hos Niklas på Johan P med Lars-Erik Broberg. Ankan ingår i nya galleriet som finns här.

I got Delhi Belly in Sri Lanka

Somehow, somewhere and from someone (or something) I got this unbelievably persevering, discombobulating belly bug. I know not of how it entered my body nor is there any logic to its schedule. It just arbitrarily decides when it’s time to afflict my digestive system with painful cramps and ultimately, create an emergency need for a toilet. Does coffee trigger an attack? Probably. Have I stopped drinking coffee temporarily? Nope. Does the monkey above have anything whatsoever to do with this piece? No. But, when I shot it yesterday on the patio of our hotel which is nestled in the hill outside Kandy, it kinda looked like I feel today. Confused and discomforted.

As I am currently in Asia, where, for the most part, toilet hygiene – for whatever reason – does not reside on a top ten list of things to prioritize, finding a reasonably sanitized WC to relieve myself – often with extremely short notice – is in itself an almost insurmountable challenge with an uncertain outcome. Correction: the outcome is definitely certain (and certainly fluid).

Case in point: yesterday afternoon while exploring Kandy, I felt a irrevocable surge emerging from below my belt. Luckily, we quickly found a nice little downtown cafe with an unoccupied, albeit filthy toilet that had to suffice – considering the circumstances. I spent a good twenty minutes in there – hoping I wouldn’t leave sicker than when I walked in.

This morning, I woke up at 3:00 a.m. and then again at 5:00 a.m. panicking and with razor sharp cramps followed by several volcanic eruptions, wide-angle, buttocks spraying acid showers and eventually, a mild case of PTSD (posttraumatic stress disorder). It was as if I had just run a marathon.

I spent four months working in Bangkok last spring and traveled to both India and Morocco this past fall. Three destinations where I could easily have gotten sick – but didn’t. And over the last 20 or so years, I’ve visited Asia and Africa many, many times without catching even a hint of a stomach flu. Sure, I’ve had a few occasions with, “Houston, we’re out of control” level bowel movements. Just in passing, though…and usually after a real spicy meal or too many fermented beverages. In fact, I don’t think I’ve been hit this violently since the first few days of a visit to Goa, India, way back in the spring of 1997. So, I suppose that given the amount of opportunities I could of gotten sick but didn’t, I should be thankful.

Knock, knock!

Someone keeps knocking on my door. The staff obviously wants to clean the room. The toilet may need some extra attention today. Just sayin’…

Before I leave the security of my room and its conveniently adjacent toilet, I’ll pop a few more Imodium pills and hope they put a cork on/in the situation.

Usually, laughter is the best medicine…except when treating diarrhea.