‘I’m sure back home they think I’ve lost my mind.’

The morning after my 27th birthday, I hobbled toward the nearest train exit. Willing any semblance of moisture back into my dry, sleepy eyes, I found my feet and eavesdropped, as I like to do. (I think of it not so much as eavesdropping, but as a continuous flow of unchecked Swedish listening comprehension exercises. For as quiet as you may know me to be in English, this feature is more substantial in Swedish.)


One guy, you see, was telling the other about how he had been to Copenhagen last night to see a concert. Which concert? Ben Folds. That’s right…Ben Folds played on my 27th birthday in Copenhagen. For those of you unaware, Ben Folds is a musician. Ben Folds was the musician I so loved in my teenage years that I harbored hopes of marrying him. Needless to say I was a SUPERFAN who sufficiently stalked him. Mom and Margot took me and a friend to Voodoo Fest in 1999 to see Ben Folds Five, just before they announced their break up. Mom subsequently took me to the House of Blues (using Margot’s driver’s license as guise that I was of age when I most certainly was not) to see him sans his former band. I followed all the fan forums. I was on the Magical Armchair Mailing List. I traded bootleg cassettes. I videotaped every instance he was on TV. I bought every magazine. I had the T-shirts. I flew to Michigan to see him. I got the setlists. I met him several times. I even met his mom. I drove him around during one of his shows in New Orleans, eavesdropping as he talked to his wife about their twins, “the monkeys.” I honestly could go on for several more paragraphs about all the Ben Foldsness of my yesteryears. Mind you, it’s not like Ben Folds was some teenage Justin Bieber or of Lady Gaga fame. He was in his mid 30s by then, already fighting a losing battle against a receding hair line. But I loved him so–I even cut him out and inserted him into one of my winter formal photos (pre-Photoshop days, mind you) and proudly handed them out to friends. He was, essentially, my gateway drug into a lifetime of musical appreciation. And well, err, my penchant for dating musicians. But yeah.

Yet after I heard he played on my birthday, I thought, ‘Well thank fuck I never got a tattoo about him.’ More kindly put, it’s a good thing your teenage aspirations can change. Sometimes this is for the best. I wouldn’t have imagined as a 17-year-old that 10 years later I would be anywhere else BUT at a Ben Folds concert on my birthday. Conversely, at 17 I wouldn’t have imagined that in 10 years I’d be stepping off a train in Sweden to go to work. This is what life does with you on your birthdays: It gives you happy reminders of your thankfulness to be just who you are, right where you are. At least maybe it does this with age, when sad song lyrics don’t pierce like they used to. Like this Ben Folds Five one: ‘Here I stand/sad and free/I can’t cry /I can’t see/what I’ve done/no god what have I done?’

Well here’s what I’ve done: I fulfilled a different teenage aspiration of the architectural nerd variety. There’s an issue of W magazine from 2001 with an article about Dutch architecture. In it, there’s a photo of a senior living apartment complex called WoZoCo designed by Dutchies MVDRV. Since seeing this photo way back when, it’s been on my to-do list. This complex is multiply cantilevered, covered in wide wooden planks and has brightly colored glass balconies in orange, fuchsia and turquoise. The balconies randomly jut out, like a library card catalog with its drawers out of whack. And did I mention it’s just for old people? Come on, look at it. Well, in 2005 while studying in England, I took a trip to the Netherlands partly to see a band (not Ben Folds) and partly to see this building. After not fact-checking very well and misremembering the photo’s caption, I hunted for the building in Rotterdam, not Amsterdam. Whoops. That’s why it wasn’t on the map and also why nobody I asked could tell me how to get there.

A five-year detour later and ta-dah! I have seen the building. I have been there. I have done that. I did it very, very hungover, but I did it!  (All the photos I took are blurry because my body gets hangover shakes. Boo.) But hoooray! My Jamaican/Irish/Dutch friend Bryan from Lund grew up in Amsterdam and was in said city for a course. When he invited Karl and I to come on over for a weekend visit in close proximity to my birthday, we obliged. Thanks to Bryan’s generosity, car and kind heart, I got to see my building in the suburbs of Amsterdam. How I ever thought I would get there on a bus is beyond me. Sometimes it’s good when plans and goals fail. I no longer want to marry Ben Folds (though he has married twice since the beginning of my superfandom) and I’ve seen my building. Not too bad for 27 years!

Aside from my self-actualization, you probably want to know how things are. Work is good. I keep quite busy. Eventually I’ll show you some things I’ve done, but since what I work on is done far in advance, you can’t see it until the public can. People seem to like what I write and they’re coming around to liking me, too, I think. Karl is good. He recently had an article accepted for publication, got accepted into a PhD program and has interviewed for his residency spot. So in the coming days we should know if he’ll be continuing in Malmo for his residency. And last but way, way not least, I’m an aunt! Margot and Joel welcomed Grayson Luke into the world just after midnight on Feb. 22. We’ve been introduced via Skype and I can’t wait to meet him in the summertime sometime. Yep, I’ll be home in the summer at some point. I’ll let you know when I know.

Until then, click me and the amazing Dutch cheese that comes with perforated shapes (a sword! a tiny cheese sword!) for photo funtimes. The photos are still (publicly) on Facebook, which I continue to regret but have not had the time to alter. My apologies.

Click me and tiny cheese sword for photos!

Click me and tiny cheese sword for photos!



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2 responses to “‘I’m sure back home they think I’ve lost my mind.’

  1. Carolyn

    Happy (prolonged–not late) birthday Marissa. This cheesy sword photo reminds me of a video I found on my computer the other day. It’s you! Documenting yourself eating HUMAN RICE CRISPIES!

  2. YoMaMa

    My heart was so happy to see Karl in THE flowered apron, and oh, the red chair! Nice how the Universe works with it’s lovely sense of timing. DROOG on baby kid.

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