I’ve been going out lately, and Paul likes going out with me. For a very simple reason: because my idea of going out is taking the Olso boat, stuffing myself either à la carte or at the buffet while cruising, then working it all out, exorcising the fat devils, by climbing the mountain to Frogneseteren and then coming down on skis or my bum. We did this together in full sunny glory and minus 10 degrees, and then we sailed back to Copenhagen the day after.
On the boat, one of the best entertaining times is when I get to sit on the 9th deck in the panorama bar, and watch the drunkards go by. I have a strategy. I place myself almost in the middle of a long red couch, which indicates an opening towards others to sit by me. Oh, the stories some of these people have to tell are fascinating. This time around, an unconventional and gay corporate Norwegian took a sit and told me that he had too much to drink. I asked him what he had: “cognac, snaps, beer, and cocktails,” he said. “Oh, that’s bad,” I said. “I’m from Lillehammer, and I like going into the wilderness to visit friends, very special friends” he then said, and I went: “I’ve been there, nice place, nice people.” “Oh, but wait until you see Tromsø,” he said. “I’ve been there too,” I said. “Oh,” he said. “But not for motor-biking, I bet.” He won. I’ve never been motor-biking in Tromsø.
I’m back in Tromsø right now. And while I’m pretty good at car racing – I should try the bike one of these days – I never thought I was any good at winter sports. And yet, I find myself powder skiing from sea to summit. My brain, as always here, feels free and razor-sharp, and my mathematical mind has never felt better. I imagine being able to calculate like a god. I’m thinking of my life a month ahead, when I’ll be done (for now) with saying hello to the Alaskan huskies, chasing the aurora borealis on a sleigh, and drumming with the arctic shamans (Anthony Johnson, Paul Muldoon, and Mari Boine are here too). So, I speculate: what are the odds of having my spirit slumber, as one does in hot places, when I’ll be making odd sounds by playing the tombak and the tar in Teheran and Tel Aviv with the masters? I’m thinking of Zohar Fresco’s name. What’s in a name? And how will it resonate, when I’ll be standing in such close proximity to the grand percussionist, letting his fingers touch mine, and pulling his magical energy to myself? The odds are null, and I’m pleased with this result in spite of the weather forecast: 30 degrees plus. And I’ve already started practicing even by unanticipated coincidence.
As it happened last week on the boat, I found myself counting rhythmical beats. My sister made me dance to YMCA, which I can never resist – as I’ve always been a fan of the gay community and its way of reclaiming the body and other such shit. Not to mention the queer way of wiggling the bum, and courting a lady. Quite sublime. In the middle of the Village People singing, I heard my sister shouting and laughing: “that’s your Norwegian,” and pointing to a guy who managed to fall over the dance floor, landing on his own ass on top of some more drinks on the nearby table. His legs were in the air, showing off expensing pointy shoes. I’m thinking of my own soul suspended between beats when I’ll hit the Middle East, sanction the patriarchy once more, and get lost in the droning sound of the oud. The walls of Jericho will come down on the first beat, and the soul will stand naked to the corner of the eye. Going out as a concept will have outed itself, and with it, so my desire to ever leave the Arctic.
I gave a talk on Wittgenstein and stones here in Tromsø, at the Nordic Irish Studies conference. It went down well. In fact so well that at the closing reception the Irish ambassador quoted from my paper, which he called “wonderful and fascinating.” This catapulted me to experiencing some wonderful 15 minutes of fame. He also ended his speech with these words: “yes, let’s have more Wittgenstein. Let’s get Wittgenstein back to Ireland”. I ended drinking too much while explaining to everyone why an Americanist who doesn’t do Irish studies for a living likes Wittgenstein. I told everyone that it’s because of his last words: “Tell them I’ve had a wonderful life,” he said, thus showing that he never had a blind spot for language. Indeed, ‘the wonderful’ is never up for negotiation. This is an achievement that deserves attention.
On the threshold of the New Year, and since I won’t have time for the regular missive of holiday wishing, what with my going out these days – zipping also to New York in between my Polar and Persian dashing – here it comes now, to you all: I wish you not to be happy but to live wonderfully. The wonderful experience has a history of lasting longer, and of being far more memorable than anything else. Read some Wittgenstein, pay attention to the language you speak, seek the company of geniuses, don’t eat cold cheese, and don’t forget to stand tall mentally. Doum, ta, ka, doum.