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.