Well, 27 hours really, let's be honest. (Flight time? 19 hours.)
Highlights? Meeting someone amazing. Stunningly beautiful clear skies. And, elk for dinner.
Upon arrival in the basically empty Stockholm-Arnanda Airport, I followed my DL202 flight team into the main terminal.
A taxi ride into town, hotel check-in and it was time to explore. Cameras in hand and woefully unprepared for the slushy sidewalks and streets (my Bacco Bucci's are still in surgery), I rolled though Stockholm under seriously sunny skies. By rolled, I mean walked. And, walked. And, walked. Punctuated by a delish lunch at De Svarta Faren (The Black Sheep! Someone call the Tomasinos!) and stumbling onto the changing of the guard at the royal residence (aka Stockholm Palace).
Back at the hotel after dark to shower and rest and then dinner at Restaurang Agaton. A table by the picture windows overlooking the cobblestone street, with a huge candelabra to light the table. Sadly, I skipped the carpaccio appetizer (which I'm guessing was killer), but the elk entree was unreal. Also, potato strudel. (It's like someone said, "Hey Mister Culverlake, how about we mix your two fav foods into one absurdly life-changing side." Yeah, that.) And somehow I don't have a single photo of this madness.
Drinks at a bar. Staying up til 3AM. Waking up at 9AM and grabbing a super delish breakfast at the hotel before I jumped in another taxi and went back to the airport.
The flight stories I'll leave out, but I can say this ... Getting bumped onto an Air France flight (ARN-CDG,CDG-JFK) included a move into a better class, Air France socks and an amenity kit. Also, mushroom risotto and a hard-backed seat. And, there I was Monday morning at my bleak desk in my bleak office with a smile that the Cheshire Cat could be jealous of.
I've been secretly hating what I've been writing. It's too personal. It's too intense. And, today I went back and read what I've written (all three blog posts) and I realized ... This is who I am. I'm not a dry travel writer. I'm not a pedantic lifestyle USA Today writer. I write about me and my life. Like or not. So, I'm back. Yes, I'd like to share my Galapagos adventures. Yes, I'd even like to share my Stockholm adventures. But, right now, I'm just happy to be here and happy to know you. And, happy that you like me not for my savvy travel advice, but for my personal introspection.
today is the birthday of my best friend .
i lost my best friend just short of three years ago .
the world has been a different place ever since . why?
it misses his smile .
it misses his ability to make everything ok .
it misses our talent for making fun .
i run at half power ever since .
I was all set to write about seeing "The Importance of Being Earnest" last night and as I started to write it out, I realized I'm not a literary or theatre critic. Rather, I'm the kid who reads books, listens to a lot of music, watches movies, and, in this instance, saw a play, and got excited and wants everyone to see/hear/experience it, much in the same way that I did. You see, that's me. I miss a lot of life's marks, but when it comes to experiences, and experiencing things, I'm the guy you want in your group. I cry, I laugh and, usually, I drive.
Seeing good theatre is like seeing a great band or, really, seeing a great movie by yourself. That's where "Friday Night Lights" comes in. It's this movie that should, really, have never entered my radar. (Spoiler alert: I don't care much for American football ...) But, like most amazing things, it found its way in. This movie is not really about football. (My Texas relatives, I apologize.) Rather, it's a movie about what matters. And, even more, about who matters.
I have seen it no less than a million times and today I bought the Blu-Ray, so I can, well, watch it a million more. Yes, I'm biased because "Explosions In The Sky" did the soundtrack and they are one of my favorite bands, but really it's so much more. Sure, the movie is about doing the impossible, with less than what you thought you had. But, really, I'm sure, there's a bigger message. (Chances are, I'm entirely incorrect.)
This movie, and its message, is about survival. The bleak color scheme, the awkward and mostly unknown cast (sans Billy Bob Thornton and an evil Tim McGraw) and the backdrop of a rural Texas that most of us, let's be honest, will never know, is something we ought to hold on to. Our lives are brilliant. Really, our lives our brilliant.
Just for a minute though, that message resonates so well for me. And, it should for you also. Every day for us is that game where we as Permian stand off against a mightier team. The thing is they did it. Permian won most of time. They beat what everyone saw as obstacles. They accomplished something they never should have without Boobie Miles.
We can too. I once had a friend, a very wise and musically-inclined friend, who said to me, "Greg, the thing is, if you want it, it's yours. If you want to meet Ke$ha, you can. If you want to meet Craig Finn, it's possible. Nothing, really, is out of your reach, unless you decide it is."
I might never meet Ke$ha or Craig Finn, let's face it, I'm pretty shy, but that really isn't the point. The point is the world is out there. Grab on to it. Listen to it. Take it for a ride. And, maybe, when you get back, let me know what it was like.
PS My friend's name was Chris and he's married and lives in Canada of all places. That being said, his advice, the advice that he gave me, is something I will never forget.
PPS Permian for State Champs 2012!
I've been trying to figure out a way to start this without doing a "well, I've wanted to write, so here I am" or one of those provincial sort of "welcome to my blog" first entries. Chances are, at least at this point, if you're here, you know me in some form and I've probably begged you to come here. (Relax, take your coat off, stay awhile ...)
Instead, let me try this. It's cold outside. It's kinda chilly in my apartment. I'm wearing a hoodie with the hood up and last night I slept with one of my woolen Burton hats on. Such is life. The past few days have been a blur, the next few promise to be, more than likely, just as blurry. Not drunken blurry, more one of those Ferris Bueller: "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it" things. Seems to me a perfect time to do this. "Do this, here, thing", as Dean Martin used to say.
I'm in the thick of it. I'm stuck in the middle. I've got so much to give, to share, to learn, to grow. Monday, four copies of mae's final EP, "(e)vening", arrived at work (I live in a building without a doorman, so I'm forced to have packages sent to work. Ugh. #whiteboyproblems). Today, I started listening to one of them and was instantly in love, instantly broken and instantly reminded of why this band means so much to me. Love mae or not, there's something different about Dave Elkins' lyrics and something very personal about this and the past two EPs. They remind me of a loss so great, it's practically unimaginable. They remind me that I might never have known about mae without one of my closest friends. And, most importantly, they remind me that I'm still alive and that I not only have my life to live, but, maybe, just maybe, I'm living for someone else too.
That sounds like a burden and I'm sure to some it could, and would, be. To me, it's a challenge. It's a big world and, let's be honest, it's mine for the taking. It takes a song like "Bloom" ("Yeah we've lost our way and walked around it/Yeah we've found our faith and then unwound it/Yeah this midnight air is cold and barren/Yeah but the bloom of hope it keeps repairing") to remind me that I can do it.
So, I'll be here. Writing less frequently than I'd like and probably too infrequently to get really mentioned. But, the kid you've grown to love who tweets and blogs about food trucks, food, schnitzel and what really matters is right here. Let's give this a go and see where we end up. That's what it's all about after all, isn't it?