Recently my girlfriend had a dream in which she was chosen to travel to Mars with a group of Swedish scientists to help colonize the planet. Sadly, when she and the rest the team arrived, they found that it was already populated by an American space shuttle crew presumed lost. I struggled for a few days after she told me to find meaning in it but came up, as they say, empty handed. I wondered if there wasn’t some greater cultural significance here that I should, as an American living in Sweden, be aware of. I tried very hard to make a connection, however weak, to this dream and the Swedish Condition, if such a thing exists.
One of my colleagues, Claes, is from the north of Sweden. This is a place where the sun basically goes down in November and comes up again in March. Claes plays in a heavy metal band with his wife, Annika, who is the lead vocalist. She is a classically trained opera singer. Claes and Annika are both very tall and have blonde hair just like the stereotype says they should. The real life Claes, whom I work with every day and who recently gave me a copy of his latest album, is very different than the Claes who exists in my mind. That Claes is mythic and powerful. He carries a large hammer with which he is able to create thunder and goes by the name of Thor. Somehow the Real Claes and the Mythic one have become mixed up in my mind. I am slightly unable to separate the two of them and have started seeing him as a sort of guide to my life here in Sweden. For this reason I asked him about my girlfriend’s dream and whether or not there was anything I should be aware of.
I explained the dream to him and the few possible theories that I had been developing about its meaning. He laughed at me. “Jensen, you do not understand, Sweden does not send anybody to space. We do not have a NASA.”
“No,” I said, “I understand that you don’t, but do you think that there could be something to the dream? Something about the Swedish attitude towards other cultures and competition maybe?”
“No. But do you know that we have the many moose here in Sweden?”
“Yes.” I was unclear what this had to do with space travel but if Claes wanted to tell a story about moose that was OK with me.
“Do you know what these moose eat for their favorite tasty treats?”
“Did you just say ‘tasty treats’?”
“Yes, I did. In the autumn, all of the leaves fall to the ground and also the apples and other fruits that we have here in Sweden. It is very often that persons have apple trees in their gardens. If they do not pick all of the apples before the autumn, the apples fall to the ground.”
“The apples are more heavy than the leaves and so the apples are under the leaves always on the ground. Then it begins to rain and maybe snow if we are having an early winter. When the apples and fruits and leaves are sitting for a long time they become, what do you say, alcoholic?”
“Yes, fermented. The apples become fermented and then come the moose. This is their very favorite treat. The moose eat very many of these alcoholic apples and become very drunk. Have you ever seen a moose?”
I said that I had. Moose are extremely large animals and have a kind of stupid, drugged look on their huge faces. They are loud, violently territorial, and can run very fast. I am indescribably terrified of them.
“So these moose, they are drunk.”
“OK, drunk moose are scary. Do they do anything? I mean are they violent drunks like humans are?”
“Well, yes. When I was young and lived in the north, we had some apple trees and when the moose came, we knew that we had to live only inside for many hours.”
“These moose, they eat and eat and they like to feel this extra feeling of alcohol in the apples. It is very funny, sometimes they come in groups, a whole family and they will be in the garden for a few hours just eating. It is like their pub. I liked to think about when I was a child that they were telling jokes and laughing like people do in a pub. If when the moose are in your garden, you try to leave your house, these moose grow very angry and will not allow it.”
“How do they not allow you to leave? Can’t you just make a lot of noise and make them run away?”
“No, you are trapped. If you go into the garden, they will attack you.”
“Yes, really. You must to wait until the moose leave or they fall asleep in your garden.”
“So you have to wait in your house while moose get drunk in your yard? What happens if you have to go to work or school or something? You have to be able to leave then, right?”
“No, absolutely not, it is very dangerous. You are only inside when the moose come. They will kick you or run on top of you. Two winters ago, my friend’s father was killed by a drunk moose in Umeå. He went outside to go to work, there was a drunk moose and the moose made a loud noise and ran on top of him. He was dead in two minutes.”
“Yes, very terrible. His head was kicked many times. That is the worst time of course. It is normal that you must just live inside your house while the moose get very drunk. If they get angry you are in trouble, but most times they only pass out. When they wake up in the morning they leave and they have a very big betongskeps (literally translated as “cement cap”, meaning hung-over) and go back to the forests. Also this happens to birds.”
“What happens to birds? They get attacked by moose?”
“No, of course not. They get drunk on alcoholic fruit. These birds, they fly into windows and cars and sometimes in your house. Then you must chase them out with the broom or a newspaper. This is very funny. Have you seen a drunk bird try to fly away from a cat? This maybe is the most funny thing I have ever seen.”
The conversation continued but was more of the same. Then he made a not funny joke about drunken animals and the state alcohol shops, clapped me on the back and told me he had to get back to work.
Claes and I have been working on a project together and have had to come up with some short, catchy terms for the service and product that we are now selling. It has become a great joke between the two of us extending to the lunch restaurants we go to and television shows we talk about during the coffee breaks. Everything gets a slogan. When I told Claes that I would very much like to tell some of my friends from home about his drunken moose he said, “Tell your friends to visit our country. We have the many moose and they are drunk!”
[Forever after at http://eyeshot.net/drunkmoose.html]
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