13 October 2010


My nostrils were filled with the sweetly burning aroma of whiskey as the man with long, blonde hair fell into me next to the jukebox.  He was Danish and he was happily singing along with a bar full of his countrymen to "Sweet Home Alabama."  I caught him and stood him back up.  His friends told me that they had been to a whiskey festival earlier in the day and that he had drank far too much.  It was apparent as he dropped three cigarettes on the floor, one after another, trying his best to light them.  His friends went on to tell me that he doesn't normally get this drunk, that he used to be an officer in the army and that now his job was to walk the streets trying to save the world.  They told me that because of what he does for the country if he wants to spend a night completely pissed then they'd be here to take care of him and make sure he gets home in one piece.  He interupted the conversation and tried to convince everyone to migrate to a bar where we could order "One very well served beer."  I would later find out that this somehow involved an aging stripper and her aging vagina and a fairly steep price for a single beer, if you ask me.  Three other Danish men independently tried to get me to go to the same place before the night was over.

As the evening wore on, the blonde haired hero sobered up just enough to tell me more about what he did for a living.  His job was to walk the streets of Copenhagen looking for homeless people; anyone on the streets.  He would go to them and talk to them to make sure that they were ok and that they knew that the Danish government would happily step in and take care of them, give them a home, healthcare.  That no one in this city had to sleep on the streets."But some of them, they just want to sit on the streets anyway.  You know?  They've chosen it, to be anarchists or whatever.  Just remember, when you see them, they're choosing to be there.  Don't feel sorry for them.  Don't give them any money."

"So, what do you do when you talk to them about their options and they don't want to accept any help?"

"Nothing.  You can't help anyone that doesn't want help.  I just let them sit there."

Nicholas was staying in my hostel.  He was German but he had been living in Australia for over a year.  He spoke German with a strange Aussie accent.  It was impossible to tell where he was actually from when he spoke.  He told us heaps of stories about his wild adventures in Australia.  If even half of what he told us was true, then Nicholas is easily one of the craziest people I've ever met.

"I mean, I never thought it would work but my friend just kept telling me to do it, 'They'll never know, man!  They won't know anything about Belgium, just go for it."

Nicholas had been pretending to be the Prince of Belgium.  He was cocky enough that people actually believed him, or, believed him enough to get him in heaps of trouble.

"I have been seeing this girl, and you know, I am thinking she is the one for me.  We will probably get married.  But, she is, you know, she is not here now, right?  So I am going to go talk to that girl that's dancing over there."

I was horrified and thoroughly amused.

Standing outside the bar an ex-employee of IBM was groaning over the homeless man across the street.

"It makes me so angry to see that.  I really want to apologize for it.  I don't want you to get the wrong impression of our city.  There are no homeless people in Copenhagen. These people just choose to live this way."

I walked along rivers and canals and glossy sex toy boutiques in the main shopping district and an amusement park called Tivoli with rides that induce as much g-force as a space shuttle launch and a small community that had declared its independence from the rest of the world decades ago.  Aging hippies still live there selling pot on the streets.  It's called Fristaden Christiania and it's apparently easier to just let it exist than to try and clean it up.  There seems to be an understanding with the residents of the area and the police that as long as the hard drugs stay off the street, they can do what they like.  The neighborhood self regulates the drug trade as a survival mechanism.  Photography here was strictly discouraged.

Copenhagen reminded me immensely of Brooklyn.  I could see myself living here in the endless sun of summer and the endless nights of winter.  Maybe.  Probably.  I don't know.  It is a wonderful place; a dirty city full of beautiful people.  Sharp, jagged edges wrapped with foam and silk sheets.

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