I went to a jazz show at the club Blå the other night. Blå was packed, perhaps because they were the only place in Oslo that actually offered something to do on a Sunday night. The band’s called the Frank Znort Quartet, and somehow they managed to cram all of their members, instruments, and equipment on the tiny stage at the front. I wouldn’t call them a straight jazz band, they definitely mixed blues, country and rock-and-roll into their sets. I loved that one of the trumpeters was definitely queering gender. I haven’t seen many transfolks in Oslo, save for the gathering for the talk on Scandinavian trans issues that happened last month during Pride, so it was sort of refreshing for me.
I went there on my own, and stood on my own, and left alone, but I felt alright about that. I wanted to go there as a sort of experiment, to see if I could have fun without drinking—if I could loosen up a little bit and dance without having to be inebriated. Standing at the back of the stuffy club, there was no way I could feel connected with the music whatsoever. As is natural, everyone in the back was talking and drinking among themselves, competing with the band’s loudness and energy. Between sets I walked up to the front and got to be with the folks who were actually dancing up there. The Frank Znort Quartet played several covers, including ZZ Top’s “Cheap Sunglasses” and CCR’s “Down on the Corner.”
My dharma teacher once, when I told her that when I drink it’s often to quell social anxiety, suggested that I take a mental snapshot of my emotional state of ease and courage when I’d had a couple drinks. She asked me to later conjure up that snapshot when sober to see if I could recreate the same courage, but without the heedlessness. As I danced in the front of the crowd with other strangers, and the Frank Znort Quartet blaring a cover of Tom Waits’ “Ice Cream Man” I tried to conjure up this moment. I was reminded of how naturally engrossing rhythms are. Unfortunately, I often get caught up in how to dance—I don’t know how the movements of my body are read by others, who will then gender me based on these observations. This worry couldn’t go away, but for the most part I was really able to have a good time just based on some mental snapshots of courage.
As I walked back to my hostel, I thought a lot about how long it takes me to feel things in general. Sometimes I’m not sure how the actions I’ve taken will affect my heart until much later, perhaps a week, perhaps a year. For example, I rarely get excited about events or objects straight away (unless it’s a band I’m obsessive about). Thinking back to the way I was before this trip, I’m aware that I would often report that I was excited or happy to go on the trip, but without really feeling these emotions. I remember doing the exact same thing when starting high school, having sex for the first time, and graduating college. I remember getting published for the first time was more of a relief than anything. I know all of these moments have had lasting effects on my life, they’re just sort of nebulous and indescribable. I don’t know if my brain works this way as a sort of defense mechanism that’s been built to process trauma; or, if it’s in the true nature of the Way Things Are to know that the way one feels is an independent arising of many different environmental and internal factors, and these may or may not coalesce with whatever’s going on.
This is my last morning in Norway, and I’m not sure yet how this trip has affected me. It’s certainly felt longer than six weeks. I know that I have discovered what I’m capable of—that I can walk 67 miles in a week, through the wilderness, making small talk with strangers as 27 pounds are strapped to my back, and still retain my sanity. That I can’t be alone for too long. I’ve learned that I can dance with myself, that I like toast with cheese and jam, that I need to lead a creative life in whatever way I can. Writing’s the only way that I can attempt to pinpoint these nebulous movements of thought and experience—it feels important to me even if that expression is a completely inconsequential and ephemeral act that’s been done by others, in far more beautiful ways, hundreds of times before. In order to survive, I have to keep in mind what André Gide said, “Everything that needs to be said has already been said. But since no one was listening, everything must be said again.”
Thank you for listening.
Gels change night to day.
Bright stage lights hold us as we
dance: time travelers.
Botanical Garden, Oslo, Norway
Frogner Park, Oslo, Norway
Hanging out with my brothers on the roof of the Oslo opera house.
One of the most precious things I do is spending time with my brothers
Norway Travels Pt. 1
Friday evening rainbow, pointing to downtown Oslo.
Outside, the terrace is covered with snow. We've dug it away a few times, but it keeps returning. Very February.
Ok så tester vi denne. Nå er jeg vel snart overalt.