Ken Gutberlet

5/16/2002 - Descending latitudinal rungs . . .

Hello all! I hope this arrives with everybody well!
Greetings from fresh Denmark! Yes, the shorts-n-t-shirt weather has rolled in, much more wardrobe-friendly than last year's wind chill. I guess I oughta wrap up some Oslo loose ends . . .

I survived what they threw at me. I prayed to St Patrick to lead the naked fiddlers from the flat and presto. The final weekend's crew- the Daithi Rua Band- were much lower-key than their predecessors. Toss is Aidan's sick fiddling and Daithi's musical tale scripting and the experience was top-notch. Their last nite/morning we jammed til after 7 am with some extra Irish players- some that I'd encountered at the weekly Sat afternooon Irish jams. Due to the dobro not being an officially sanctioned Irish instrument, I kept tastefully low-key until they wanted to jam some country tunes. Fun stuff.

I also survived un-klepto-ed, as Rand (March's Rorbua troubador) had his plane ticket, his train ticket, and Nok 1000 (exchange = 8.3 Nok/US dollar) stolen from his room. No locks on individual rooms made storing stuff a gamble. Random bands have random members and "friends". My entropic organization might've prevented someone finding any real goods. The flat itself shared geography with some of Oslo's "undesireables" (well, can ya put a value on desire?). To the north shot-up the all-nite junkies. To the south prostituted the ladies of the afternoon (see, here's where that whole desireability thing gets hard to lay to rest).

I survived (mostly) on one Rorbua meal per day. That included Wednesdee's weekly fried pork-n-beans, pizza (Rand termed it a lasagna sandwich), and mystery specials like fried cod tongue. Some augmentation did occur, like the late-nite burger from the burger cart. For Nok 55, you could get a grease patty with all the toppings. Meals didn't include dessert, so I had to find my own. One tasty find came when I told Lissa- one of the bartenders- that I was from MD. "Maryland Cookies!" she replied. Bunches of Norsk folk replied the same way. These British-made chocolate chip/hazelnut crispies are quite popular thru Norge. Of course, I did ingest quite a few beer calories. One of my proudest moments had me purchasing a liter of beer for Nok 35 (combine my free first half-liter with the 2nd at staff cost and I was drinking sub-Bawlmer economy!).

Some Norge randomness:
Rowdies of Rorbua: Omar, barkeep- chief after-hours instigator fed me plenty of gratis late-nite beers; Peter, Swedish barkeep- cheery greeter, master of the late-nite in-pub snack; Lissa, barkeep- introduced me to John's Pub on a Sundee nite for jumping around to alternative r-n-r (Midnite Oil, Nirvana, REM's "End of the World as I Know It", . . .) and beer racing with Omar; Espen, chef- if he was finished working when I started playing and I had no beer, he'd bring me one or yell at me; Kristen, asst manager- encouraged the stop at the late-nite burger trailer ("the street grill").

A cool moment in Rorbua came on the John's Pub nite. There were half a baker's dozen or so of us in the place- two were Russians who spoke not much English (I know "vodka"). I was battling with communication with one of them and we found our way to discussing that he knew the Beatles "Yesterday". So, we, along with a young Norsk lass dolled up for a late-nite out, screamed out the first verse of "Yesterday". Then Lissa the barkeep played it on the jukebox and everybody sang along. Bonding with the Beatles.

Speaking of the Beatles . . . I ended "KG in Oslo 2002" with "Lady Madonna"- unintentionally. My last night was pre-May 1st holiday, so the masses were out. Therefore, the staff asked me to take some long breaks and I ended up skipping my last set because it got too late. Some folks wanted to hear more music and I had to apologize- only played for an hour & 1/2 that nite.

The freshest day in Oslo came near the end of April and logged the temp at 27 C (the thermo four blocks away read 16 C- sun vs shade). I sat in the sun down by the water. Bliss. Lots of great people watching . . . a puppy interested in a pigeon. The nose takes in a Boardwalky smell- that tar-treated wood fragrance; fresh shrimp for sale on the boat bow; cigarette
smoke- can't escape it even relaxing outside. The ears enjoy a lone trumpeter busking somewhere back towards town: "God Save the Queen" & "Amazing Grace"; the boat restaurant's acoustic jazz band starts up again; that one T-Rex-like claw on the crane moans against concrete; sea gulls on the lamppost overhead; cell phones; trams; cars; lots of chatter. The tree is pollinating me; the leaves are definitely coming out. After a long hibernation, spring is here. Oslo is alive.

The Vigeland Park- - is a great sculpture park where said Vigeland set up a spacious zone to showcase his art. He swapped all his works with the Norge government for a state-built studio. The most popular figure is a pouty little boy. I happened upon a dozen pre-schoolers at the statue as their chaperones encouraged them to pose like the pouter. Their Crayola 8-pack assortment of heavy coat/pant suits was quite a sight. Debating whether or not to grab a photo, I missed the opportunity. While fumbling with the camera, I also missed the chance to just enjoy their half-hearted poses. To be or not to be a tourist . . .

I did get into tourist mode when Piles (aka Kristen) showed at the end of the month. Chilled (the weather wasn't too cooperative), partied with the flat band, ran around to some sights. Of the museums visited, the Fram polar exploration ship museum and the Thor Hyerdahl (who recently passed away) museum made the biggest splash with me, offering quite cool nautical/exotic stuff. I do regret not spending any time outside of Oslo, but to get anywhere really different would've taken more than one nite off (unless the in-pool 100 m up-and-back technique was used). So many folks I encountered were from up the coast and just raved about how beautiful things were. Oh well, I guess I'll have to head back.

Descending latitudinal rungs . . .
The alarm beeped shortly after 6 am on May 1- I had a gig in Copenhagen (Kbh from now on- Oslo was easy to type!) that night. After a few hours sleep, Piles and I took a burdensome, rainy, 15 min stroll to the bus station- why did I bring two guitars? Well, a little work ain't a bad thing. We caught the 7:15 heading for Malmo, Sweden, where we had to hop a connection across the Sound to Kbh. Nine hours of bus later, we were in Malmo trying to figure out why the ferry wasn't running (I later found out that due to the couple-year old bridge over the Sound, ferry passengership had been cut in half and, due to economics, service had stopped the day before we got there- hmph! . . . a little more Americana gone away . . . ). So, we hopped the train for the "final" 45 mins of journey. Once in Kbh, we grabbed a cab, Piles got out at her hotel to rendezvous with just-into-town Johnnie Smooth, and I went on to the musicians' flat to discover where I'd be spending most nights of this month of my life . . . Fisken! My cozy fave of last year!

Where to begin . . . how bout flat-mates. The flat itself is in an old warehouse south of the city center. Eight individual rooms ("studios"- all with locks!) open off a long hall. A common area, kitchen zone, shower, and two toilets make up the inanimate rest of the multi-star accomodations. The animate rest is as follows:

"studio" 1 = me- late arriver gets shafted with the room closest to the general action and great noise potentia
2 = Paul- Welsh, living in Brittany, left after three days; in settled Jeff- SW PA'er by way of Nashville
3 = Richie- Long Island pianist
4 = Andrew- Englishman living in south France, left a couple days ago; in settled Paul- Englishman- I shared a month with him last year
5 = Kenneth- San Diegoan, left for a week; in wandered Manos- Greek Canadian- I shared a month with him last year
6 = Mike- Irishman, living on France's west coast
7 = Duncan- Scotsman, owns a house in London, but when you come into the flat it's kinda like you're entering Duncan's house- I shared two months and a few gigs with him last year 8 = Mats- young Swede, he'll be leaving tomorrow and a new flat mate will show . . .

While Piles and Johnny Smooth were here, I didn't hang too much at the flat or with the co-habitors. The Bawlmer connection signed up for a motel room right across the canal from my gig, so I got spoiled with several nights of single-digit-minute late-nite wanders to crash. I good-fortuned into my pub of choice- Fisken will be hosting my encore Kbh tour. "The Fish" is the cellar of a fancy restaurant along Kbh's popular fancied-up wharf zone, Nyhavn. A few of the faces are the same from last year- one bartender, two inspectors (managers), and several chefs. I welcomed myself back for May 2002 with "Nowhere Man" (keeping the Beatles theme alive). Tho mostly empty, once the tunes started, folks started wandering in. My first request was for Townes van Zandt's "Pancho and Lefty". Fun stuff. Nyhavn does attract its share of less than desireable characters: gyrating dude scaring away customers; drunk older dude in blue jump suit singing his own songs loudly and scaring away customers (he later told me my music wasn't good for Denmark . . . uhh . . . like . . . you stumbled in here . . .), but lots of tourists out for a fun time wander thru. On the weekends, it's a duo jam- Duncan comes and joins me- we got to play together a bunch of times last year. That makes for fun nights tho the right-in-yer-face dancers wobble the mic stands- one dude last month lost a tooth to a bouncing microphone. On our first night together the rowdies were thick. Duncan abruptly halted a song to shoo the dancers. They paid no heed, so we played slow songs for the next two hours as the crowd thinned. Yes, we can fire em up and we can bring em down.

After doing a few touristy things (I'll try the canal ride again later in the warmth) and having Johnnie Smooth jam a few tunes at Fisken, Piles and Schmooooooothe left town the first Mondee of May and presto- the weather became fresh. Summery conditions make for some jam-packed afternoons in Nyhavn. Folks bring along their own beer and sit along the canal. A few numb swimmers take a plunge. One of those swarming nice afternoons was pre-national holidee. That nite's gig offered a good sampling of Nyhavn after dark. On the bus ride to the gig Jeff (Nashvillian) and I encounter a dude who tells us we're speaking American and Jeff is from the south. Seems the dude's originally from Indiana. He also tells us that the next day is a holidee. Oh damn, we'd forgotten. Oh well, crank it up. Having left my gitter strap at the flat, I'll gather the strap from my dobro (that's why I brought two guitars!)- no dobroing on busy nights and no sitting down (as opposed to Oslo). Nyhavn parties in the 9 pm sun. One drenched dude Richter Scale-registeringly shivers. I walk into Fisken and it's not too busy. A bald dude at a table of three twangs "Dueling Banjos" at me. Uhh . . . ok. Guess I'll be playing that. I'm ready to jam and as I'm turning off the Euro-pop the bartender tells me that I should play happy music because the tunes I played the nite before were too depressing. Ok, look, a mellow nite called for mellow tunes. Get in my face early why don't you. As soon as I start on the guitar, baldy "DB" dude buys me a beer since I neg his offer for something harder. After a couple songs I break into "Dueling Banjos" for baldy. On my first break I chat with a grape grower from Champagne and a local dude whose cutie is a big Sringsteen fan. Sure, I'll play some of the Boss. I go back to play and my mic stand is relocated and the mic is missing its windscreen. Hmm . . . probable cause . . . someone dumped the mic stand. Piss me off some more! The curious bit is that the pub isn't too crowded (although the lateral stroll is often exaggerated in this town). Fortunately, I was expecting a low-key nite and planning to do some dobroing, so I have a 2nd mic (that's why I brought two guitars!). So, the 2nd set is distracted as I scan the floor for the mic screen. A dude from baldy's party and a hockey scout from NY begin arm wrestling- more distractions. An argument ensues since baldy's bud got off his stool and got better leverage. A chick at the table to my front left changes into some new pants- more distractions. She has me test a few spots of fabric to verify soft suediness. Verification. Somehwere in all this there's a pissed-off troubador playing tunes, I think. A crew of about ten young dudes- most with Buster Poindexter coiffs: tall vertically gelled hair in front- show up and "wish" lots of requests and sing along and are lots of fun. Hockey scout and his bud want to know about the local "talent" and where it might be encountered. I offer what a guy who spends most every Kbh night troubadoring knows (read: little help). They and baldy's party go off somewhere together- the true post-contest spirit! Then I'm distracted by my mic screen- it hides under a stool where an animated dude bounces on and off of the seat and has the legs dancing. Don't squash it please! I cut off the requests and tunes and salvage the screen. The French dude buys me a beer and I learn a bit about French wine making restrictions. The Buster Poindexter dudes leave and as they pass, six in a row say "very good"- maybe they handed out cue cards to know what to say. Chat with the Springsteen couple and dude is an Elvis fan. More Boss, Elvis, a few random requests, I never rally, and the nite ends eventually. The rowdies of the Nyhavn afternoon never materialized in the pub. The unexpected seems to be the essence of the gig. The next night, upon testing, I find the busted microphone offers no signal- truly busted. Good thing I overpacked!

Fresh Danish weather also had me out on Strøget (the walking street- Europe's longest) practicing some dobro and getting tossed some ice cream money (I saw one shop that offered a 7-scoop cone- mind you, these aren't Amurkin scoops, but they add up). One excessively interactive afternoon session went like this: I start playing and a drunk dude that was snoozing on a step across the street gets awakened and comes over and starts yelling for "While My Guitar Gently Weeps". I cut my opening song short and his vomit-splattered face pleads for me to open his beers (which are open) and praise George Harrison. I courteously try to shoo him as he wobbly dangles his beers over my case. No luck, I close shop and walk away. He follows me around the corner and I reverse and walk by his pleas for ". . . Gently Weeps". I re-set up shop a little away and he harrasses some other folks. After a few more tunes, dude from the shop in front of which I'm playing asks me not to play there. Fair enough- one undesireable to the next. So, off down the Strøget I wander, find a spot, and in the midst of some blues a harpist jumps in- dude from Germany in town for a holiday. We jam another and he's on his way. With all the distractions of the day, I can't afford many scoops.

And, yes, fresh weather means biking! There's a house bike at the flat- reminds me of Pee Wee Herman's (well, it's not quite as flared up, but it is Pee Wee red and it does have splash guards/fenders/whatever they're called for the tires). Biking in a bike-friendly country is splendid. They've got bike lanes all thru town- lots of commuters- and some national cycle routes. The flatness is acceptable and there's a remote wildlife refuge near town with lots of bike trails (no motors allowed!). Of course, when one spots all the power-generating windmills around the region, one might realize that breeze is a way of life on the island. Here's where the headwind removes the flats' value. Another to-be-wary: cars pulling out of driveways don't always stop at the bike lane- rather they stop in it and watch for cars. I got a real good kick in the adrenal gland and have been extra-cautious since. I then saw a lady get cut-off and hit by a car in town- scarily jettisoning over the handle bars. Here's where the whole population having a cell phone comes in handy. She was a little wobbly, but with help she walked off the street. The dude who hit cut her off stayed around about three minutes and drove off- pretty low in my book. A lady said something (?) to me in Danish and I told her what had happened and she said that the biker should have worn a helmet. I agreed and said I should too. She then agreed for herself too.

Ok, one last thing . . .
A heads-up . . . is back up and fancier than ever! Mucho thanks to my buddy Joe Yingling for designing and digitalizing the pages! It looks great! More content to come . . . Also, thanks to my bro Peeps for providing host space!

I hope all's cool!
Go Preakness ponies!!
Ken G