Scandinavia: Denmark and Sweden

August 2 - August 9

Bradley, my friend from Vanderbilt, lived in København this summer and invited me to backpack Scandinavia with him.  August 1st, I took a train from Rome to Milan, slept in the airport and the next morning I was on a plane to København.  This is the story of my stay in Scandinavia.

This is the main entrance to Christiania.  I find it difficult to describe exactly what Christiania is because everyone I asked about the community said something a little different but agreed it had magic.

This is outside of the National Gallery of Denmark.  We stayed at a hostel in the middle of København and used bikes to navigate the city.  This was my first time in a city where bikes were more popular than cars.

"Who said my father's name?" a voice yelled from the backroom of the art gallery, where Bradley worked.  We had been looking at a painting of a black man under a blue light and a smoky haze with his eyes closed while holding a trumpet to his mouth.  "Who said my father's name?" the voice demanded again before coming around the corner revealing David.

This is the painting of David, the trumpet player.  Marios Orozco painted this in 2014.

Bradley smiled at David and said, "Hey David, I was telling my friend that this painting was of you."  Bradley point to the painting of the black man under a blue light.  I realized the man in the painting was standing in front of us and his name is David and his father's name is David.  David came up to Bradley's chest but he squinted his eyes at Bradley letting him know he should watch what he says.  "That's my father's name," David said.  Bradley explained that David hangs out at the art gallery so he has seen him all summer, but David introduces himself to Bradley as if this is their first time meeting.  Then David turned to me and said, "Have we met before?  You look familiar."  I told him that he probably knew another Nigel.  David had a short afro and a 

great talent with his trumpet.  I heard it sound outside the gallery before David began singing to a guitar played by the man next to him.  Soon, his song drew a crowd of tourists.  Before we left the shop, I asked David if I could interview him for my study and he agreed.  "My father taught me how to be a gentleman.  He taught me how to open doors for people.  Yeah, tomorrow is good, but the time depends on what I get into tonight," he said laughing.  Before leaving, Bradley turns to David and asks him if he remembers his name. David said, "It starts with a 'B' right?" When Bradley asks him what my name is, he shouted, "That's Nigel!" and looked at Bradley like this was an obvious fact.

We camped here in Christiania the first night.  I can not remember camping since I was a boy scout in high school, and this was Bradley's first time camping, but we took care of ourselves.  Gosia showed us the campsite.  She works with Bradley at the art gallery and lives in Christiania.  That night for dinner we had Cup Noodles and canned soup before going to bed.

The day after I met David, Bradley and I went back to the art gallery.  David had yelled at us for merely bringing up his father's name as if we needed to know that the name deserves respect.  It was his name, but it was also his father's.  We were at the art gallery for hours but David was nowhere to be found, and I never saw him again except for in that painting of the black man in the blue light.  He is a ghost.  

I look at the impact fathers have on their families through global perspectives.  My brief experience with David made me think about how people feel connected to their father through a variety of mediums.  David could feel connected through his name.  This whole journey makes me feel connected to my dad.  Marios owns the art gallery and made the painting of David.  He feels connected to his father through his art.  

Marios told me during his interview, "Even when I talk to my dad on the phone today, we talk about art theory.  It is an ongoing lesson."  Marios, Bradley and I were sitting in the art studio in the middle of Marios's micro home listening to the album DAMN. by Kendrick Lamar.  Brushes and paint were scattered on the ground to my left with a painting (pictured to the right).  On my right was his kitchen sink with a plate of eggs and toast on the counter from when Marios cooked breakfast for us when we arrived.

Marios told us about about his life.  "My father has been my rock in life.  My mother was very unstable in many ways.  She became very bitter after the divorce, always ragging on my father and me," he said.  Hist parents got divorced when he was 12, and his father always reminded him that his mother was in a bad space and that's why she was acting this way.  "It's not because she's a bad mother," his father told him.  "That helped me understand that the best way of dealing with people is seeing what they're dealing with instead of reacting to what's happening," Marios said.  Born in Mexico, his father moved to the U.S. 

and joined the military.  "My father, he went to Korea and became an officer, and that was an achievement for a Mexican guy and he was very dark too so he was discriminated against.  He was sent to Alaska to clear railroads, basically a prisoner.  Then he went to Korea.  He only had Mexicans, Asians, Black guys, never white guys, under him.  He never told me about his time in Korea."  After returning to the U.S. his father started to paint. Living in L.A., he realized no one would take him seriously as an artist so he moved to Greece, found Mykonos and opened a gallery there.

This was my last night in Denmark.  I had woken up to journal about my time in København.

We took a train to Helsingør, where saw the Kronborg castle.  Hamlet is supposed to have taken place here.

After Marios's parents got divorced, his mom moved him and his younger brother to Boston, and his father stayed in Mykonos.  Marios said, "People would say, 'Now you're the man of the house.'  Oh great, I didn't want this.  I've been so fucking serious for most of my life."  Marios felt pressure from his mom warning him that he did not want to live as an artist, but he resisted.  "I was about to go off the deep end with cocaine and heroin and whatever.  One time I was selling acid, and I met this guy at a graveyard.  I should have known it was 

bad luck.  The guy said, 'The cops are behind you.'  I threw the bottle of acid, but they saw me.  It turns out Vice had opened an office across from the graveyard.  I was arrested but I gave the police a fake name because they didn't have the computer to check back then.  It was too late by the time they realized.  I paid half my bail and they let me go.  That month I left the states for Europe.  I knew it was time to go because that was when crack was becoming popular, and I thought, "I gotta get out of here."

This is the view from camping on top of a mountain of Nordkoster, an island part of Sweden. When we arrived in Strömstad a boat was leaving for this island so we hopped on to camp there.

Marios moved to København and set up his life in what today is known as Christiania.  København recognizes Christiania as a "social experiment" and it has no governing body, and Marios has been here since the beginning.  Surrounded by the city, Marios found that Christiania would ultimately become sious about hard drugs so he has been clean ever since.  Bradley asked him if he ever expresses those dark times in his paintings.  Marios said, "My father said, 'You can draw from the dark side or the bright side,' and I choose to draw from the bright side because the dark is not something that makes you happy.  I choose to bring out the happy side so it can bring some joy to somebody."  I thought about that during

a break in the conversation.  That specific piece of advice stays with me.  I think fathers have a real gift for freezing a moment in your mind so you learn a lesson for life.  I asked Marios if his father just sat him down to teach him.  Marios replied, "Sometimes.  I hope my father lives a few more years because I still feel like I am still learning from him.  I remember I was a bartender around 15.  These clients I had from the oil rig in Saudi Arabia.  They would tip well, and they were talking about Arabic and how it sounds like a speech impediment.  I said that to my dad, and he sat me down and said, "That's fucking racist.  How could you say someone's language sounds like gibberish?"  That's what he would do."

Koster Island had delicious seafood. This is my shrimp sandwich.

Bradley and I are brushing our teeth this morning before hiking around.  We got our daily recommended 10,000 steps every day on Koster Island.

Hot chocolate was a welcomed break from our usual canned ravioli we cooked for dinner with a kettle and camping burner.

"I think we try to recreate our parents' mistakes in order to understand them.  I can see that very clearly.  I either choose women like my mother or my father's second wife in order to understand why he broke up our family.  I mean I see now that my mother was a totally great mom, but she did not care about any of his needs," Marios said.  He went on to talk about how he feels about leaving his brother and mother.  "I think a part of that was being the older brother and wanting to make sure no one gets hurt.  I feel guilty because when I left he

became the bull in the bull pen for my mom," Marios said.  This reminded Bradley of my story.  He said, "I feel like with Nigel.  He has not made mistakes kids naturally make and there is a lot of good in that but also a lot of bad.  He is one of my best friends and we have serious conversations.  He has always been very mature and respectable, but sometimes I wonder why he feels like he has to act that way.  Why does he feel like he has to act in such a structured and 'no mistakes' type of way?"

This is Bradley and me with Ann.  She took us out on the ocean to go sea kayaking.  Ann was our waiter at a restaurant on our last night Nordkoster.  She was surprised to hear our American accents on the island and eventually invited us to go sea kayaking after our dinner.  We helped her tow 3 of her family's kayaks to this shore, and she took us around the coast of the different islands.  Kelly Moore, who was the Keegan fellow the year I was born, told me before I left to not be afraid to trust the kindness of new friends at times.  Ann if you are reading this thank you again.  Your kindness is cherished.

Bradley thinks I need to relax more, but he appreciates the depth of our chats.  I am usually in a pensive mood or calculating my next move, and I think Marios can relate.  When he became man of the house, he took on responsibility for his family and to his other relationships.  I feel this way about Granny, my mom, and my sister.  I just want to do what I can with my life to help my family like anyone else.  

"That's my father's name," David had said.  My father's name is Rohan McGeachy.  I have never heard my father's name brought up like David's, but if it happened, I too would stop and find out who was talking about the man who has made such an impact on me.

•    •    •

P.S.: This chair I am sitting in is in the Stop slavery! exhibit in the Worker's Museum in København.  The chair was once used by a slave master in America so he could sit comfortably as he watched his property work in the field.  Now, I sit in this same chair.  This exhibit begins with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations.  I have copied the preamble below.  

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights: Preamble

Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,

Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,

Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law,

Whereas it is essential to promote the development of friendly relations between nations,

Whereas the peoples of the United Nations have in the Charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,

Whereas Member States have pledged themselves to achieve, in co-operation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms,

Whereas a common understanding of these rights and freedoms is of the greatest importance for the full realization of this pledge,

Now, Therefore THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY proclaims THIS UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction. 

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