Norway/Sweden- day one

OK, I have been back from my Norway (for skiing) and Sweden (for computer architecture) trip for almost a week, and still I’m silent. The truth is, I have been both behind at work, behind in ski training, and trying to catch up with all the idea soup I encountered at the architecture workshop. But some parts are ready to blog.  Day 1 of my trip was spent in Oslo.

I originally intended to blow off the first day because I would have been traveling for 24 hours (clock time) and figured I’d be too wasted to do much, and in particular, to ski. But, Terje the active and enthusiastic Norwegian who had helped me arrange the Norway part of the trip, convinced me I’d be excited when I got there, and then would be wasted after I skied. I had checked into the hotel by 11:00 AM and checked out the map and figured a short ski at the Holmenkollen should be possible. No waxing required as I had guessed the conditions before I left.  Hmmm, a short nap would be a good idea. 

I woke up as the sun was just beginning to set. Sigh. But, no problem, I had wanted to check out some of the cultural aspects of Oslo.  So, first I headed to the National Gallery of Art. I have to say that I was a bit underwhelmed, though in retrospect, everything was probably clouded by the semi-surreal jet lag vision. The museum had lots of Norwegian and other Scandinavian art, mostly from the 19th century. I found the subjects more compelling than the art, most of which was skillfully done in the realistic “grand master” tradition of the 18th and 19th centuries. But somehow, whether it was the art itself, or maybe just the lighting, the paintings just didn’t strike me in that vibrant way I love to be taken in by great art. Once again, I have to wonder about my jet lag. Later in the tour, I ran across works by Matisse, Manet, Gauguin, Degas, Renoir and Picasso.  Click here for a sample. And these too struck me cold, even though I have a natural predisposition for both their pedigree and the century the art came from. Ah well, another trip may make it all right. I did keep thinking about the dramatic change I felt about the permanent collection of the Milwaukee Museum of Art when I saw it in the magnificent new building on the lake. Things that had seemed tired, seemed alive because the venue is so alive. Probably a sign of my lack of real sophistication.

I missed the history museum which closed early. So, the next goal was to hear some local jazz.  I found a nice little record shop and café that specialized in jazz, BareJazz.com. I quickly found out about a local group withing walking distance, and had a nice meal and nice conversation with a local woman about Oslo, jazz and the usual funny travel stories. So, after some good strong coffee, I headed off the the night spot.

I also began to realize, that everybody here speaks English extremely well. Not only that, but they seem to know about as much about American culture and politics as, well better than most Americans. This feeling never left me during the whole trip. Dang, I wish I could do that.

The group reminded me of many I had played with over the years. The players were probably better individually than they played as a group, but had some moments. The trumpet player in particular reminded my of some old friends who grew up in the bebop era and then continued to blow amazing solos the rest of their lives.  Bob Sutherland, where are you?? Anyway, after listening to a set, I struck up a conversation with the trumpet player. One thing led to another, and I ended up sitting in on guitar for most of a set. The international language of jazz! As it turned out, I had known almost every song they played and only had to sight read some of the special arrangements. Too cool, show up in a foreign country, experience jet lag, see art, meet people, play jazz, drink good beer, look eagerly at the deep piles of snow.  Life is good.

So with a warm glow that sustained me through the -20 c walk back to the hotel, I closed down for the day around 2 AM.  Just need to wake up in time to check out, stow my luggage and find the train for Holmenkollen before I head to Lillehammer.  Stay tuned.

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