In the evening we walk in the city; we watch tourists straying around, maps in their hands, mild confusion in their eyes, sandals and shorts and back-packs and rain-coats, the latter just in case. This summer has not been great, so brining the just-in-case option is highly justified. It has been cold and rainy for a long time (but improving, if that’s how you see it, in the last week). Nature is full of ticks, because they love this chilly and damp weather; thus we, not being ticks, prefer the pavements, the asphalt, the disharmony of the streets. Or, more accurately, we’re trying to get along with the asphalt, the presence of people and the lack of grass. It’s such a different thing, to be in crowds, or in what I’d call crowds, but to me seeing people at all inspires a feeling of crowdedness. I find relief in the fact that so few of them speak Swedish, and many don’t even speak languages I understand. I always experienced this as a relief. Their words, which I can’t tell apart, become nothing but a background murmur that means nothing and lets me think instead of listen. There are, of course, the Swedish tourists, too, and the Germans, the Americans and the English. The Swedish tourists are really strange beings. To think that they actually live in the same country as I do, but they don’t live in Stockholm. It’s a very odd thought; I can imagine, sort of, what it’s like to live in London or Berlin or even Manchester or Lübeck. Or even small villages abroad: I can think of them without feeling alien. But I can’t for my life imagine what it’s like to live in Borlänge. There are places I can imagine, but they’re few and special.
As for the Americans, they’re often quite funny. Yesterday I heard someone loudly exclaim, to his American friend, that he hadn’t seen as many statues in his entire life as he was seeing in Stockholm. I suppose there are some other European cities he ought to visit, and so many more statues to see. To speak of stereotypes, there’s often something enthusiastic about American tourists that is rarer in their European counterparts. Speaking, technically, the same tongue as the English, they still don’t use the same language. The Americans are, to put it prejudicially, closer to the waldorf ideals of awe and reverence (I wonder what Steiner would have said… he did say things about the American ‘national soul’, did he not?). The American thinks everything is amazing. Every sight and every experience is encountered with exclamation marks. The European has seen it all — or, at least, pretends he has, even if one senses a distinct possibility that he has rarely ventured outside his home town — and plays at stylish indifference. Americans — of course, I’m being prejudicial here and in the awareness that these Americans are easier to note than their more low-key compatriots — are never indifferent; instead, it seems, admit to the full experience, or at least to a sizable dose of enthusiasm for it.
It’s all quite lovely, to my surprise. It has been my habit to flee away from crowds. From people, generally. I wish the tourists would stay for ever and the ordinary residents would not return.
Random old photo of random statue overlooking water and trees. (Spring, 2012.)