This weekend, we took a day trip to Scandinavia, a mythical and confounding area. On our way, we saw a great many things. It was an unexpectedly long and arduous journey, one that took us through parts of New Jersey by all accounts uninhabitable by man. We discovered the little-known nexus where much of the nation’s Vietnamese population has settled and dines on aw-tentic Italian pizza with la famiglia at their side-by-side-by-side (by-side) 99¢ ceramic tile wholesale emporiums. And me without my grouting gun.
We passed yards filled with beheaded, truck-less trailers, lined up and waiting to be filled with all manner of exotic trades — rich spices, fine silks, live chickens, discount tiling — and to be subsequently overturned on the L.I.E., because I’m pretty sure that’s all radio traffic reporters report.
Finally, after many weeks of driving, we came upon it. In an unfriendly land which smelled strongly of feet and fetid air conditioner filters, it towered before us over the vast fields of oil pumps and belching refinery smokestacks. Blue. Yellow. White. The pure and not at all foreboding colors of the majestic, the pristine, the magical Sweden.
I’m pretty sure the actual country very closely resembles what we experienced and I feel confident that I can cross this one off my list of “1,001 places to go before I get so bored I buy that stupid book.” If I’m correct, I can tell you that Sweden is extremely clean, very well lit, and is composed of an endless maze of furniture showrooms which highlight how very much you can do to optimize a small space. Most items are made of pressed particleboard, but they look and feel like real wood! Even the trees! There is an inordinate number of pregnant women who make up the population, and even more babies and toddlers. Unfortunately, I observed the Swedish childhood to be a rather unhappy one, as most young people appeared to be in a constant state of crying, screaming, crying and screaming, or attempting to flee their parents’ clutches once and for all. So, not a great place to raise a family.
At first, I was completely overwhelmed and confused. Where do we purchase things? Why is this same bookshelf in another color all the way over here? What am I supposed to do with this golf pencil? Why does everything smell like meatballs? Of course, traveling in a foreign place is always trying. But, by the time we hit Mile 17: Ktchuëns, I had succumbed completely to the brainwashing tactics of the infamous Swedish totalitarian government. I was a Swedish Nationalist! Raise the flags, pass the Lutfisk, hand over the Fläskkorv, and also while you’re at it we should probably buy that lamp shaped like giant mushroom. It’s only $1.43! Also, we definitely need that bunk bed set. It’s 47 bucks! One day we’ll have a kid, and she’ll get older, and then we’ll have another kid, and then she’ll get older, and all of a sudden they’ll want bunk beds and we’ll be like, holy smokes bunk beds are expensive, we should never have passed up that crazy deal at Ikea. In fact, let’s get two. Here, okay, no, you can’t actually buy that one, just write it on this little piece of paper with this adorable little pencil and eventually someone will let us into the warehouse so we can retrieve them ourselves and carry it all on our backs. It’s just the way they do things here, quit being the Ugly American, you’re embarrassing me.
By the time we finished hauling our enormous boxes of flattened furniture through checkout, I was riding high. Sure, the bill added up, but we had just furnished our entire apartment and bought each of our neighbors couches for the cost of a really (really) nice dinner out! Matt, on the other hand, was thoroughly defeated, not to mention starving. He looked like a two-day-old Surströmming. I saw a girl walk past with a giant hot dog in her hand. I turned to him, bright eyed.
“Want a–” I began.
“Don’t…spend…any…more…money,” he growled.
He shook his head gravely.
“But it’s just
“It’s just a hot–”
“NO. I’m fine. I just need some fresh air.”
Unfortunately for Mr. Grouchy Lederhosen, once you exit through those blue and yellow doors, you’re back in Elizabeth, NJ and the air is about as fresh as Loki’s armpit, which I imagine to be pretty rank.
So, with a car full of living room and our bellies empty of hot dogs, we made the long voyage back to the Upper West Side where we set about constructing our new furniture. From scratch. Because what we had bought essentially amounted to raw parts. So fine, we had to put a little elbow grease into it, and okay, yes, I may have lost part of my pinkie toe. But now Matt and I are practically licensed contractors! And who uses the pinkie toe anyway? Not me, not when I have a brand new table that seats 8 whole people with both legs and everything. Besides, it was probably my fault — I was trying to use part # 22507178 when the instructions clearly called for part # 22507179.
Oh well, live and learn. Or, as they say in my new naturalized country:
“Yorn desh born, der ritt de gitt der gue
Orn desh, dee born desh, de umn børk! børk! børk!”