Actively comparing environments in which I have worked, I laughed out loud imagining inviting someone like Reggie Watts to perform for the corporate puppets. The polite smiling but not really understanding what’s going on. Corporate life provides its own brand of lunacy and crazy entertainment. We wouldn’t need a comedy genius like Watts, who would be misunderstood anyway. The average giant company is plump with self-congratulatory pomp and unintentional hilarity.
Where else will we see an over-the-top skit where two dudes go nuts praising “Liam Neesons” and follow-up in their onstage repartee with, “Why do we love Liam Neeson so much?” “I’ll tell you what… Ethan Frome – that’s my jam right there!” HAHA. Does anyone even remember that film version of the book?
Until overdosing on the most recent season I had completely forgotten that Key and Peele were in the first season of TV’s Fargo.
At least there’s a new season of Fargo coming up.
If I ever needed evidence of how cool and community-building Twitter can be, the last couple of days are a case in point. I exchanged a couple of not terribly meaningful Tweets with thinkspace (a company in the Seattle area that is a kind of office space/tech accelerator). I had heard of them but had no real reason to interact. But yesterday having crossed paths on Twitter thanks to the Mink 3D printer story making headlines in the tech world, I checked out thinkspace (awfully cool the work they’re doing in my old stomping grounds – western Washington).
But one of the coolest finds was an article in the thinkspace blog about how “baking builds community” – and this is something I can attest to – having started this blog back in 2009 or so because of my own baking obsessions and inclinations. Earlier parts of the blog are all about baking, recipes and pictures of cookies – 2014 has been almost bake-less, but somehow seeing the mention of baking mania on the thinkspace site makes me think it might be time to come out of hibernation.
Bear with me a minute – I am going to reach a point but before that will discuss a bit about the operational side of my weekly commuting life, a very impersonal and faceless grind. Each week, I spend one night and two days in Gothenburg, Sweden (where I work). Almost every week now, I stay in the same spare, no-frills hotel on the edge of the city. I don’t mind it; it is one of the least expensive options and the staff is pretty friendly. I would never go so far as to say that most Swedish companies, even those squarely in competitive consumer markets, are particularly friendly or service-oriented, but this low-end place has actually been friendlier and offered better service than I got at a lot of the city’s more upscale places.
Generally, in the year+ that I have been doing this “commute”, I have stayed in at least half of Gothenburg’s 90-ish hotels and in all parts of the city. In many cases, I have stayed in the handful of places that are actually whole apartments, which is always more comfortable for slightly longer-than-overnight stays – but they are generally expensive and impersonal, if you can actually book a flat (they are often sold out, as is almost always the case with one specific place in the city center).
This week I got an apartment that is a tiny bit off the beaten path but is nevertheless quite central – a really beautiful flat with the most personal and attentive service possible. The people running the flats (there are, I think, four or five flats there for rent) are personable and really strive to make the stay at their place fantastic. And it was. I fell in love with the apartment I stayed in (it is not one of the more spa-oriented flats that they have fashioned on the lower floor) – it was compact enough that it was not a huge amount of space but had high ceilings and skylight windows and a small loft just for sitting in natural light. It made me feel almost sad that I never found a flat just like it when I was looking to buy a flat in Gothenburg (not that I would have managed to win a bid in the cutthroat real estate market here).
The whole reason I digress and go off into this story was because I had a long conversation with the proprietress of the place – a gregarious Australian woman, and we got onto the subject of baking – my industrial-level baking habit/hobby and how I give all of it away. How it builds bridges, opens doors and of course (as she noted) probably gave me away as an American like nothing else does. Haha. I commented that Australia Day had just passed and I felt bad that I had not made any Anzac biscuits for the first time in years – and she lamented that she had not even had an Anzac biccie in 20+ years.This exchange – discussing baking – yes, just discussing, opened the door to further conversation and personalization. That really made a big difference – a human connection. And it makes me want to fire up the oven and make some cookies right now. Peanut-butter-cup-stuffed chocolate chip cookies anyone?
Baking really does build community – whether you are offering up 20 different kinds of cookies and cupcakes to the office or whether you are just discussing what you like to bake with the people you happen to meet in your daily life. Suddenly I feel inspired to get back in the kitchen.
I arrived home after three+ hours of driving to trudge through ankle-deep snow – snow is everywhere. No big surprise. I cannot complain – winter did not come until late this year.
To get here to this calm, quiet, still cottage in the woods, I drove through some unpleasant conditions. All day in Gothenburg the temperature hovered around 0C while a snowy-sleet fell all day, creating a dubious, slick concoction on the road. It was a harrowing, treacherous drive at various points.
I actually break the trip into thirds. The first third is all motorway, which was largely clear – but it was extremely windy, trafficky and the further north I drove, the thicker the snow that started to fall (and the thicker the layer that already covered the ground).
The second of the three parts of my trip starts to become more winding and rural but is still not the worst part. There were a few blinding snow flurries, and the wind, particularly when crossing large open fields, blew mountains of snow up from the roadway into the line of vision.
By the final leg of the trip, which consists of considerably more rugged roads, winding, hilly and unkept, snow and wind were whirling, mildly blizzard-like, the roads were covered – no lines visible at all. The two vehicles that got behind me expressed their displeasure and impatience with my caution with some angry tailgating. My caution was warranted – in three different spots on the road, large groups of deer were just standing in the road. If I had not been going as slowly as I was, we’d have just plowed right into them.
There was a time, long ago, that driving in these kinds of conditions would have scared the hell out of me. I have let go of the fear and nervousness and embraced a healthy respect for the force of weather and just moved forward. Good advice for most things.
I ask virtually every person I meet to sing for me. Mostly to see what their reaction will be. I like to know what people will do in that kind of unexpected situation. Most people are pretty shy and won’t just break into song. Some need coaxing, such as the shy boy from Karlstad who eventually sang – and once he started could not stop, with lovely patriotic songs about Värmland. Some, like an old ex, would never do it at all. Others burst into enthusiastic singing immediately, such as an Egyptian doctor I once met who sang a long and mournful-sounding song in Arabic; my lovely French friend who regaled me with a most rousing version of one of the worst songs I have ever heard, “Mon fils ma bataille” while waiting on the train platform at Aulnay-sous-Bois after he misguided us and put us on the wrong train to the airport, and then the people who are musicians already – they are always ready to go with a song.
Of late I got to hear the most intentionally whiny, horrible version of Snow Patrol’s “Chasing Cars”. I can’t stop thinking about it and laughing. It is especially good because the guy singing it to me is Scottish, and he is snide and sneering about it and puts a special emphasis on the word “world” – making it sound like it has a whole lot more syllables in it than it actually does. My god, I love it.
Since taking on several new activities and (for the moment) spending a bit more time in the office, I have not been at home with my dear oven and beloved KitchenAid mixer in order to get some serious baking underway. As a result, Australians throughout the office will be devastated to learn that I have not been able to supply much-loved Anzac biscuits for today’s Australia Day event. (But follow the link! You still have time to make them for yourself!) Likewise, my intention to bake caramel cream cookies remains just that, an intention.
Rest assured, I have an overwhelming amount of serious writing to do for work, which means I will spend a week or so holed up in my house behind the keyboard. This always means that the oven will be going at full throttle as well.
Cookies, dear addicts, will return soon. I would like to say “…return to an office near you…” but recognize that this is misleading. Chances are, they will only turn up at the Opera HQ in Oslo. 🙂
This year, in a reversal of fortune, I am so happy not to be in Iceland for the winter! The main road between Reykjavik and Keflavik, which is NEVER closed, was closed due to snow. This means the weather has reached an insane level of inhospitability. Icelanders are hardy, tough folks for whom a normal blizzard is just “a few flakes of snow”… so I cannot even imagine what is going on over there right now.
Last night, in mildly snowy Oslo, I went to see Reggie Watts‘s live musicomedy act at Parkteatret. Hilarious in that uniquely Reggie way. A long time ago, when I lived in Iceland, I used to know Reggie (briefly). This was before his comedy had taken off, and he was mostly known for fronting the band Maktub. We both had Seattle connections and had a lot of phone conversations. I eventually messed the friendship up by being more than a bit flaky (those were difficult times).
Last night when I saw the show, it suddenly dawned on me how much time had passed since then. In many ways it felt like yesterday, but when I really reflected, I realized how much has happened in my life since we were acquainted — so I can only imagine how much had happened and changed for him. (No wonder he seemed to have very little recollection of me. Not that I am particularly memorable.) The temptation to run to Stockholm to see Reggie’s show tonight is palpable. I will be wise, though, and stick with my working and baking plans (it’s the responsible, and incidentally, selfless, plan).
Happy Australia Day, my Aussie friends!