Diana Gameros doesn’t do anything flashy or fancy in this video. She simply plays the acoustic guitar (amazingly) and sings. And man, does she have a beautiful voice. Even more impressive is the way her guitar begins as delicate finger-picked melody in the verses and then transforms into a rollicking Spanish guitar style beauty for the chorus—the way she uses her right hand for the chord playing is great.
This is an absolutely beautiful song, and I was happy to read that she was recently featured on Alt.Latino.
I’m not sure what relaxing location she is in, but it’s nice little room. And even her cat—Lulu—seems to have enjoyed the song.
[READ: February 26, 2015] “My Saga Part One”
I didn’t know that Karl Ove had written this piece for the New Yorke Times magazine until someone brought it to my attention. I was pretty excited to read it because Book Four of My Struggle isn’t due out until April and I think I’m going through Karl Ove withdrawal.
This first part of the story (because of course it would have to be in two parts) was, I have to admit, a little disappointing. It features everything that I’ve come to expect from Karl Ove–minutiae, history, shock at people who are unlike him, and a general misanthropy. But it almost feels like Karl Ove lite–like the Times asked him to write a piece like My Struggle, but, you know, more suitable for a newspaper. Which may even be how they phrased it. Of course, it may also be the translation. Unlike the books, this was translated by Ingvild Burkey. It’s not that the translation is bad, it seems perfectly fine to me, but the story isn’t as compelling in some way, and perhaps Don Bartlett knows how to capture Karl Ove’s voice better?
As it opens, we learn that Karl Ove has a kind of fatalist approach to life: “in my experience [things] always turn out fine.” It gives him, as he says a chance to “turn all my faults and weaknesses into strengths.” He brings this up because he starts the story by saying he misplaced his driver’s license and hadn’t gotten around to getting a new one. When the Times asked him to travel across Northern US and Canada, you’d think he would have made sure he had his license he could, you know, drive around. But he didn’t. And it was a holiday week in Sweden (where apparently the DMV actually works over the phone(!)) so he was really out of luck when he got to Canada.
His plan was to land in Newfoundland and visit where the Vikings had settled. Then drive into the US and west toward Minnesota, where he would visit the Kensington Runestone.
What I liked about the story was him talking about how the historical Vikings seem so far removed from reality. When he was growing up, Iceland was really “Iceland” and their discovery of America was like a fairy tale. He mentions the Saga of the Greenlanders and the Saga of Erik the Red as touchstones. And yet when he does arrive there, he sees something like proof of these fables.
He landed in St John’s Newfoundland and took a flight to St. Anthony. There’s a lengthy meeting with the hotel owner who agrees to drive him to the L’Anse aux Meadows (see right). I wish he would have talked a bit more about it but its sounds like he wasn’t there for very long (an impending snow storm nixed his plans). His main takeaway was just how quiet it was up there.
I stood there without moving for a long time, looking out to sea. The silence did something with the landscape. Usually, something is making a sound. The wind sweeping across the land, whistling past every ridge or rise it encounters. Birds squawking or chirping. And the sea, the constant soughing, night and day, that sometimes in a storm turns into roaring and hissing.
But here everything was still.
All sounds belong to the moment, they are part of the present, the world of change, while the soundless belongs to the unchanging. In silence lies age.
A thousand years is no time at all, I thought.
As I looked out to sea, I had no difficulty imagining a Viking ship approaching land. Green, lush grass, the ocean blue and still, the air filled with the cry of gulls, the smooth rocks crowded with seals.
When he gets back the hotel he settles in for the night. He goes to eat at Jungle Jim’s (he later disparages the food at Pizza Delight) where he marvels at how fat everyone is (he is clearly revolted by fat people) But at least he acknowledges his rather lacking ideas:
my only observation thus far was that people here were fatter than back home. What was that if not the cliché about America?
In typical Karl Ove fashion there is a pretty lengthy discussion of his clogging the poor hotel toilet (and his ludicrous failed attempts to fix it).
After getting himself all settled, he finally arrives in Cleveland where he meets the photographer Peter. And in typical Karl Ove fashion he presents Peter warts and all. They get along pretty well except for Karl Ove’s misanthropy. Peter mocks him a little for planning to write about America without talking to single American
They take a stop in Detroit–not the best place to view America, in my opinion, but perhaps it is all too representative. They see enormous industrial site with steel pipes and walls of flames.
Karl Ove marvels at the sight, while the photographer says “Oh yea, man is an awful and disgusting species.”
Whereas Karl Ove’s reply is” But it is so beautiful.” Sadly, Peter does not have a picture to show us, although he does have a photo of the house with the pink flamingos that they stopped in front of.
Basically, Karl Ove is nothing but disappointed in America. He is bummed by the lame band they see that night in Detroit “the birthplace of Motown and home of Iggy Pop and the Stooges.” But the band they saw
played some kind of blues rock, with reference to the sound of early 1970s, Grateful Dead-ish, but in a high-school-graduation-party kind of way. The band knew how to play, but they knew how to play the way 14- and 15-year-olds know how to play.
Was this for real?
Weren’t we in Detroit?
He is shocked by the poverty and has an interesting take on it:
if this was poverty, then it must be a new kind poverty, maybe in the same way that the wealth that had amassed here in the 20th century had been a new kind of wealth. I had never really understood how a nation that so celebrated the individual could obliterate all differences the way this country did. In a system of mass production, the individual workers are replaceable and the products are identical. The identical cars are followed by identical gas stations, identical restaurants, identical motels and, as an extension of these, by identical TV screens, which hang everywhere in this country, broadcasting identical entertainment and identical dreams. Not even the Soviet Union at the height of its power had succeeded in creating such a unified, collective identity as the one Americans lived their lives within.
Just as the story gets philosophical, (Peter asks “Whats your position on the question of God”) the first part ends and we need to wait a couple weeks for Part 2.
There’s some lovely pictures (taken by Peter van Agtmael) in the piece, like
There’s nothing wrong with the essay per se, I guess I enjoyed the Viking section but found his observations on America to be uninspired at best. And yet as with all Karl Ove, I can’t wait for the next part.