Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Happiest People On Earth

This past weekend I went to Denmark to visit with my old roommate, Thomas Schack von Brockdorff. I learned a number of lessons during the trip. First of all, Thomas no longer goes by SvB, and hasn't for the past decade. His current last name contains an Æ one of the three letters (Æ, Ø, and Å) that Danish has, and English doesn't. Perhaps that's why I had a hard time finding him.

Thomas and I were roommates in 1988-89 in Jerusalem. You may wonder, why a non-Jewish Dane was living in Jerusalem? Thomas went to Israel in 1987 together with some of his high school buddies to volunteer at a kibbutz. Thomas eventually left the kibbutz and found a job at Cowboy Fudge, located in the back of Happening on Ben Yehudah Street. My girlfriend at the time was the manager of the fudge stand, and in one fell swoop, Thomas found a job and a place to live. Things didn't work out with my girlfriend, and the weekend she moved out, in late November 1988, I went AWOL from the army with two of my friends, Phil and Freddie Fresh. The next twelve days became "Freedom Fest," a time when our little group would grow closer and wilder, and our apartment became known as The Swamp.

Recently, Oprah called the Danes "The Happiest People on Earth." I wanted to find out if this was true, so I took every opportunity to ask Danes if they agreed. In this clip, I get answers from Thomas, his old friends who came to Israel with him in 1987, strangers in night clubs, and Thomas' girlfriend Chrissilda. (Look for the segment where the Danish goyim break into song with "Heveinu Shalom Aleichem.")

Clipping the card:

When using the public transportation system in Denmark, one of the most economical ways to go is to get at 10 ride klippekort, or cut card. When entering a station, you put your clip card into a machine that stamps the time and cuts off a piece of the card itself. The card can be used for transfers within two hours of clipping. By the end of the weekend, I was an expert in clipping the card.

Quick Summary of the Vacation:
What I leaned on the trip:
  • The Danish eat danishes, but they call it wienerbrød, which means Viennese Bread.
  • Danes don't dress up for Halloween, but kids do for Fastelavn, which, like other Carnival celebrations, falls out closer to Purim. During this holiday, kids play slå katten af tønden, which means "beating the cat out of the barrel." Although today it's more of a piñata-style game, it began with a real black cat beaten out of a suspended barrel.
  • When you share your wisdom with someone, it's called, sharing the golden nuggets. At least that's what Christian Brøns told me as he wrote down some of my classic one-liners.
  • Hi in Danish means, "hi." Like the word shalom in Hebrew, it's used for hello and goodbye.
At the end of a long Swampy weekend, both Thomas and I were wiped out. After 20 years, nothing has changed.

Thomas in 2009:
The Aftermath
Thomas in 1989:
Thomas in 1988
Hi hi, Danmark, tak for alt det sjove.

Here's all the pictures: