Though I am a frequenter of grocery stores, I am not a usual patron of a particular one that’s a bit out of the way and on the expensive side. Imagine my content to drop in one day and see a sign proudly proclaiming ‘Äntligen i sverige!’ (finally in Sweden!). What managed to make its way at last? Froot Loops, the beloved cavity-inducing, Toucan Sam-endorsed breakfast goodness. If I were a shrieker, I would’ve shrieked. But I’m not so I just bought some and biked on home. Thanks to mom and grandma, I’m a proud owner of four Kellogg’s plastic cereal bowls featuring the aforementioned Sam and his pals Tony the Tiger; Snap, Crackle & Pop; and Corny the Rooster. (If you don’t know what they endorse, I’m a little sad you didn’t grow up in a culture steeped in advertising to children with cartoon characters.)
Ohh what satisfaction I saw before me! Froot Loops! In a Toucan Sam bowl! Ohhh life is grand. I ripped open the bag, did the shake/shake/shake to slide everything down into the bowl….and like a disappointed Pavlovian pooch, I grimaced. IMPOSTORS! Where’s the electric blue? The unnatural yellow? Why are there only three colors of loops? Where’s the white glow around the ring? And why are they so washed out? My friends, this is what happens when America exports things. The formula goes through the ringer, removing the Americanosity.
This is why, when I visit home, I pay the extra bag fee to haul back a suitcase full, essentially, of crap. What’s inside? Ranch dip powder packets, chocolate chips, annie’s mac&cheese, hundreds of drink mix packets, community coffee, slap ya mama, cornbread mix, monjunis sauce, brianna’s poppyseed dressing, uncle ben’s, granola bars, goldfish, sweet tea vodka, etc. Some things you just can’t replicate and when others attempt to, the result tastes like the responsible taste testing party just took the day off.
Buying my grocery list is a part of every trip home. Other parts include eating out more than I can stomach (literally…every time I go home my stomach goes WHATAREYOUDOING?WHAT?WHY?ICANTBEAREVERYMEALOUT!), laughing as much as possible and attempting to fit everyone into a tightly woven schedule. It never works completely, but I keep trying. Having brought Karl along for the ride this time, for an extended three weeks (and not just one crazy 10-day Mardi Gras period), it was sweet and charming to see things and experiences through his eyes. In an unorganized list, here’s what he experienced that struck me (among other things): withdrawing money from an ATM while in a vehicle; seeing his first seahorses and alligators (normal and white); driving in a torrential downpour so bad he couldn’t see the road; rushing to eat a snowball before the heat disappeared it; fogging glasses when going from air conditioning to outdoor humidity; getting into a car so hot you can’t touch ANYTHING; kayaking through mangroves; betting on greyhounds (and winning); being a racial minority; swimming with glittering yellow and white fish; double rainbow on a stormy beach; riding a zero-degree turn radius lawnmower; going to a baseball game; seeing the world from the heights of a bucket truck; finding surprise meat in his restaurant side dishes; watching cops point their shotguns into the woods on the hunt for an escaped convict; drinking a frozen daiquiri, sleeping in a variety of shotgun houses; eating a po-boy; seeing the Manhattan skyline, etc.
Action-packed? Yes, yes it was. He met a lot of people, some new, some familiar. He was overwhelmed at times. Wouldn’t you be? Hell, I’m overwhelmed at times and most of it’s old hat to me. When I get back to Sweden, it’s even worse. It’s all just gone. No more family. No more longtime friends. No more little baby nephew. No more puppies. Sure I can blame the jet lag for the nights of maddening, incomplete sleep. But I don’t believe that’s really what it is. It’s not my body readjusting; it’s my innermost. OK. Yes. Those people are here, but not here. Deal with it. Let’s go. Get back to where you are.
And then a little while later, I do. Last week, I went to Copenhagen to interview a designer about an upcoming chair. Already happy enough to be going (That’s one of my favorite parts of this job — the one that feels like yes this what my silly master plan was for. It worked.), I took special delight in passing the crowds of exchange students on guided tours. Not only did I know my way around, I knew the way to my favorite bagel place, several grocery stores, free public toilets and to various stations. I haven’t met my ghost yet, but I imagine that’s what it’ll be like — an approving, pleasing nod to where I was, am and the choices I have made. This, people, is where I’m going to be for a few years. I’ll keep on keeping you in the loop if that’s where you enjoy being every month or so (ish), explaining the oh so solid plan as I go along. I hope you like to be here with me. And if you want to keep me in the loop, I’m a big fan of that too.
For those of you who like photos, just click me and my muted Froot Loops for a bunch of vacation memories. Remember, please click ‘show info’ so you get captions, too. We weren’t using my normal camera, so the quality isn’t mind blowing, but oh well. Until next time, I hope you’re happy where you are.