Travel Thursday Encore: Chillin’ Edition

Here’s my last tour of Scandinavian capitals. As the rain comes down yet again in SoCal—and on cue the sun comes out—I comfort myself with the thought that I’m not in any of these places at this time of year.

Ever work for a boss so mean that when you say, “Please don’t send me to Scandinavia!” he chuckles evilly and immediately sends you there? Well, just so you know, I love Scandinavia, and I love to play poker with my former boss. . .
“Wouldn’t you rather be halfway around the world than stuck in your house?” the e-mail screamed. That would have been a lot more impressive if I hadn’t been in a hotel halfway around the world.
So, my second Scandinavian tour in three years, but last time was right in the middle of summer and this time it’s in the middle of fall, not blizzarding yet but definitely colder than I’d like.

Two days before I left, I ran into the Icelandic president here in LA. He told me to bring a heavy jacket. Gee, thanks for the advice. Though he did tell me Iceland didn’t need Daylight Savings, so it’s a 7 hour dif instead of 8. That’s more useful, though not by much.
It’s 40 degrees and raining–help me!
The biggest deal to hit the island in a while was the Imagine Peace Tower, which was actually on a smaller island in the harbor: a beam of light radiating from a wishing well bearing the words “imagine peace” in 24 languages. They told me I was the first professional photographer not at the unveiling to shoot it, so another thing to put on the application to the Hall of Fame. Seriously though, it’s not at all different from the light at the top of Luxor in Las Vegas. It may stand for something special, but it doesn’t look like such a big deal. Just goes to show why Yoko Ono’s rep is well deserved. {No, I don’t have any idea what I mean by that either.}
Prices keep going up–last time the burger and fries combo at the Vitabar was about $4, now it’s $7.50, though that’s still less than Mel’s at Hollywood and Highland. They tried to get me to eat something they call a gleym-mer-ey (which translates to “forget-me-not”–guess it looks like the flower), which is a blue cheese and garlic burger. They really don’t know me well. . . or if they do, were actually trying to kill me, since I’m allergic to garlic.
The most fun–to do, not to say–was the “Wonders of Snæfellsnes” tour. That’s a glacier, which Jules Verne used as the portal into the center of the earth in his famous book. Luckily we didn’t go downward, but just in this small area there was black sand beaches, waterfalls, scenic coastlines, seals, and even a stop for lunch at an inn that did not serve fish, thankfully.
Back in town, I went to a handball game, which is a kinda cross between basketball and soccer, but much more exciting. Really wish I coulda played it in my athletic days, though of course not now; I think I could score a penalty, if my life depended on it, but that’s a long field for running. . . nah, I probably would have been a goalie here too. And I was happy to notice the female players used shorts much more akin to volleyball players, rather than basketball or soccer.
Also went to the Reykjavik Museum of Photography, where I was talking to the doorman while we waited a few minutes for the place to open, and when I told him I was a professional photographer, and I was in Iceland to work, he let me in free! So if you go there, give them some monetary love for me.

Fjords need sunlight for a good photo. Looks depressing when cloudy, and when it’s foggy it doesn’t look at all, despite the fall foliage that could rival New England. Did manage to visit this new archaeology dig, which included an exhibit of a Viking queen and princess from 1200 years ago–most fun I’ve had in Norway in a while. I don’t know why, but Norway has always been my least favorite of the Scan countries; it couldn’t be the blondes. . .
Some decades ago, after the U.S. military saw how long it took to get everything ready for the first gulf war, they had the bright idea of pre-positioning supplies in certain parts of the world, so they could get to the war zone quicker–all you had to do was fly in the troops, and the tanks and  other stuff would be waiting for them. Anyhoo, one such place was this massive cave complex in Norway, and it’s still run by the same guys who were in charge back when I visited in uniform so many years ago, so I got a lot of photos I shouldn’t have. . . which is always the most fun, of course.
Don’t worry, I’m not telling the Harrison’s Fjord story again. . .

My first time in Copenhagen, I was walking through the Nyhavn, which is where they have canals and tall ships and basically looks like a less-dingy Amsterdam, when I saw a photo shoot going on, so of course I stopped to watch. Just as I was wondering where the model was going to change, she took off all her clothes and slipped on the next outfit. My seventeen-year-old pen wrote I LOVE DENMARK in huge letters in my journal.
And this time I’m the one who got to shoot there! So awesome. Then did my usual traditions of saying Hi to the Little Mermaid, having lunch under the statue of Hans Christian Anderson, and spending at least three hours at the Glyptotek, the local Getty-type museum (oops, actually spelled that Geddy at first; I was so looking forward to the Rush concert in Stockholm). Remember to be quiet when you walk by Rodin’s The Thinker, because. . . well, he’s thinking, don’t bother him. And also as usual I strolled down the Stroget and looked in all the McDonald’s, but all the cuties I knew who worked there were gone, and I didn’t have time to meet the new ones. Also as usual when I’m in town, Tivoli was closed for the winter, but the theater was still in use, so I managed to catch The Four Seasons with one of my favorite violinists. With its fast-paced and frenetic passages, it might be the only classical piece that could serve as an opener for Rush.
The train from Copenhagen to Helsingør takes 44 minutes–I love train schedules! But this time a friend drove me there instead and it took us all day, stopping in the countryside frequently while she pigged out on strawberries every time we stopped. Got there in time for a sunset shot of the castle, spooky. No ghosts came out in the shots, thankfully {for those of you who didn’t get that, Helsingør=Elsinore, as in Hamlet}. And check this out: In the old days the captain of every ship passing by and wanting to use the waterway had to state the value of ship’s cargo, with the tax calculated depending on the value of the cargo. The king had the right to buy the cargo for the price the ship’s captain stated, which kept the captains from stating prices that were too low. How smart is that?
Legoland is no longer of any interest, with there being one in Cali now. . . and since they opened a Lego store at the Copenhagen airport.
By the way, for those of you who know the story of “A Ton of Redheads,” so many years ago now, I finally got my revenge on blonde Nikki who played that trick on me. But that’s a whole ‘nuther blog in itself. . .

So, name someone else in this whole wide world who goes to see a symphony and then two days later takes in a Rush show? Huh?
A relatively balmy 50 degrees for a high on the day of the concert, with clouds but no rain or snow. Not that it matters much with the indoor Rush show, but on the walk to the subway station and then the hotel it’s way too cold for this SoCal boy, so even though I’m sweating in the heavy jacket, it’s better than the alternative. No doubt the locals would bring out the snark once I got there.
Just so you understand how funny this is, the arena where the Rush concert was held is referred to as the Ping-Pong ball, golf ball, take your pick. It’s particularly a sight coming out of the subway; Stockholm is so beautiful that you definitely do not want to ride the subway during the day, but since it was night and the traffic was heavy. . .
I’m not going to write a huge blog on the concert like I did when I saw them at the Hollywood Bowl, just a few thoughts, like the fact the other fans considered me a guru because I knew all the lyrics. And despite seeing it thousands of times on the internet, I still loved the South Park Tom Sawyer intro; too bad most of the crowd had no idea.
Still, it was a bit of a weird concert. On the one hand, it was the same show I saw at the Hollywood Bowl, but it was also vastly different, being indoors and with a crowd that didn’t know all the lyrics and wasn’t screaming and standing the whole time. In a way it felt more like an intimate club show, though of course the screen and the lasers and the shooting flames belie that. Still, I might say I enjoyed this more than at the Bowl.
Ok, some not Rush stuff. I have a relatively famous photo of a sunrise over Stockholm harbor, all gray and gloomy, with the tall ship/hostel on one side and a pair of swans in the middle. On the day I flew to Helsinki, I went out to take the shot again, to see how the skyline of south Stockholm has changed, and a couple of swans come cruising through again. There’s no way it could be the same ones a good ten years later, right? How long do those suckers live?
And this time I did remember to climb to the top of the city hall tower to get some shots. I don’t know why I torture myself and go to all these towers and even rent planes and choppers when I damn well know I’m afraid of heights, especially considering I got an attack of vertigo a couple of weeks before heading out here. If there’s a psych reading this who will tell me more than “sometimes a cigar is just a cigar,” let me know what my problem is. {How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb? One. . . but it has to want to change.}
OK, what’s the deal with changing from daylight savings and not telling the tourists? Almost missed my flight.

Got to Helsinki on the last day of the book fair! Yay! As usual I bought enough books that I had to put them in a carton and take them to the post office to ship them home. They’ll take so long to get here I’ll forget all about them, of course.
Helsinki likes to say they’re the biggest city in the world without slums (probably not true anymore), but at the same time there really isn’t much to see in town besides beautiful blondes (and some brunettes, and a few redheads. . .), so it’s always good to get out of town. Too cold to get on the water, instead I went for a drive into the countryside to see some more fall foliage while dodging mosquitoes with some of those aforementioned blondes. That’s when the fog isn’t rolling in. Oh well, I got the requisite shots of city hall and stuff.
Helsinki is cool in one way, though: transportation. Most of the town is white or gray, but the subway is bright orange–like Mexico City, only funkier–and the trams are green. These will probably end up being the best photos. The worst part was having to photograph the famous church carved out of rock; places like that give me the chills, both literally and figuratively.
And I am going to write a whole book on birthday traditions to go along with all the photos I took of a beautiful brunette friend’s birthday. Part of the festivities was going to the local equivalent of Staples Center–Hartwall Areena, though I don’t know if it’s named after a local company–for lunch. There was a Pizza Hut and some burger joints, but we went to the Golden Star Café (yes, in English). Unable to resist, I stopped at the ticket office and, yes, Rush was playing that night, the last date on their tour. Should I. . .?
Damn right I did. To think I was so happy after seeing them once. Wonder how that’s going to look on the expense account, though. . .
Quick note: on the first song of the second act, “Far Cry,” there’s a line that goes: “You can almost see the circuits blowing!” And on cue, the guitar amp blew. Awesome.
My last night in Helsinki I stayed awake and then caught the sunrise flight back to Reykjavik, where I slept during the day, woke up and went to dinner with a friend, then flew back to El Lay, so I’m not even close to jet lagged this time. Which also means I get back to the usual grind without any time to “readjust,” so next time I might skip all that and suffer through the jet lag anyway. . .
Or I suppose I could lie about it. . .



Travel Thursday Snapshot: Copenhagen Thermometer

Having been born and raised in Southern California, I reach for a hoodie when it gets into the 60s. Oddly enough, I like cool weather, as long as I’m warmly dressed. My hands and feet don’t like it, but my legs don’t mind, which is why often you’ll catch me wearing shorts with gloves. As long as my nose and ears can take it, and the wind isn’t so bad, I’m good to go even in the low 50s.
Of course I did some skiing in the local mountains, shot the Vancouver Winter Olympics—really wasn’t that cold—and most of all did Arctic training in the Marines, where I learned the secret to going to the bathroom in freezing weather: don’t. But that was with the highest tech gear available, and with all the running around I was actually sweating as long as the wind chill didn’t get through the balaclava. So I have been in cold weather before, even ridiculous stuff—I only lasted two hours on Antarctica, but that was partly due to the smell of the penguins—but am in no way used to it.
It was early November as I took the shuttle to LAX, wearing my heaviest jacket because it wouldn’t fit in my luggage. Of course it had to be 104 in the city of beautiful angels that day, but by the time I landed in London it was exactly half that, so I ended up needing the jacket and was glad I’d put up with the sweat to start.
A few weeks later I was in Copenhagen, fully enmeshed in the story A Ton of Redheads, which you will find earlier in this blog history. It was a rare evening alone, so for once I didn’t have a redhead telling me which club to head to. Instead I wandered from the center of town, where the train station was, though not taking the Stroget this time, as I knew it well by now. I’m sure my fantastic sense of direction kept me from getting too lost—could always grab a taxi back anyway—but all these years later I can’t remember just where I was when I stopped to take a photo of something most tourists probably didn’t notice.copen
If my math isn’t as bad as usual, that thermometer on the building had it in the low 40s, but that was early in the evening, and the night was just starting. Take a look at the little kid in the right foreground, blimped up like the Michelin Man, to tell you what his parents thought about the forecast. (I later went over to see what he’d found on the ground that was so interesting, but it must have moved on.) I do remember walking down that street, looking for anything that caught my eye like I do in Berlin or Zurich or many other places. Perhaps I wrote something down in my journal about it, but there’s nothing that comes to mind in my brain about anything I saw there, which means nothing bad happened either. As long as I kept walking I didn’t feel much cold, until my ears and nose couldn’t take it anymore. At a certain point, not having any fun, I said screw it and flagged down a taxi to my hotel, knowing I had a full day of redheaded fun to come once the sun came up. . . and warmed things up a bit.

Travel Thursday: Sweet Danish, part 3

“And the rest, as they sa,” Helle wound up her story, “is vile pornography.”
There was only one guy sitting across from her, ostensively listening to her storytelling, but by now every male in the place was alert to the beauty in their midst. Most thought they were doing a good job of not showing said interest, but all were incredibly obvious in turning to other things when I made my way back and plopped on the chair beside the redhead.
“Aren’t you ashamed?” Helle smirked.
“Not yet,” I yawned, “give me time. And when did you learn that word?”
“I’m broadening my horizons, as the diplomats like to say. My turn yet?”
“Go do your thing.”
“But the point is for him to do my thing!”
“Not so loud, stupid.”
Grinning, she got up and walked slowly over to the worker, who was clearing a now-empty table. She sat on the edge of the next table, ignoring the guy sitting there, a guy who’d been annoying her by playing a portable keyboard. The keyboard itself wasn’t annoying, just his selection, or more likely his lack of skill.
“Wait! You’re about to sit on Beethoven!”
“He never had it so good,” she pouted Mae West-ishly, then ignored him and concentrated on her target, wondering what would be the best approach. She could always say she needed a shower too, but didn’t want to be asked why she didn’t do that when she’d first arrived. The obvious answer was to give me time with the blonde, but that might lead to further questions, and right now she wanted me to be the furthest thing from this guy’s mind.
So, remembering how hard she’d laughed when I’d explained the acronym KISS to her, she smiled sweetly and asked in Danish, “Wanna fuck?”
Looking at her chest, the guy nodded about one hundred and sixteen times.
Lisa had been pretending to look through the brochures by the counter, but now that she saw her lover was alone and likely to remain that way, with the redhead depositing her bag in the space left when she’d picked up hers as she headed toward the showers with the guy who worked there, the blonde quickly scampered over to the seat next to me. She was about to ask just what kind of relationship I had with the redhead, but figured it wasn’t any of her business, certainly not at this moment, and why jinx a good thing?
I smiled as she sat next to me, liking her little nervous return grin. By now I was pretty sure the brainy beauty wasn’t involved with the bad guys, just had been horny after several. . . hours?. . . without sex.
“Glad to see you’re not jealous of the redhead.”
She laughed and opened her mouth to reply, then shut it and blushed. Finally she decided what the hell and blurted, “I was about to say she’d be jealous of me, but I didn’t mean it in an egotistical way. After all, if you guys are together and I butt in, shouldn’t she be the jealous one?”
“Except she just went off to do that guy. . .”
“So you guys have an open relationship?”
“Not that kind of relationship. We’re old friends, and when we’re near to each other we get together, that’s all.”
“Damn, I was so hoping I could make her jealous!”
“Thank you for admitting that.”
She laughed. “Some people say honesty’s the best policy.”
I shrugged. “Others lie about it.”
Still laughing, she let her hand drop into my lap. “I wonder if there are hotels around here that rent by the hour.”
“Doubt it. Not around here, anyway. When you coming back through town?”
“Not till next week. Where are you off to?”
“Amsterdam.” I was surprised that, with all this talk of honesty, I could lie so easily. “But just for a couple of days, on business. Be back Thursday.”
“So you’ll probably be here when I pass by again, though I may rush back anyway.”
The next few moments were spent in mutual caressing, she giving it all her attention and me giving just enough to keep her from complaining as I kept an eye on the friendly redhead.
“Ha!” Lisa suddenly giggled. “That guy over there is watching us. . .”
Helle had been looking forward to the shower, one of her favorite venues for sex, so she hadn’t expected the guy to simply lead her a few feet into the next room and grab a hold of her best parts. Not that such a thing was unwelcome, since she was well and truly primed. . . suddenly she realized the guy had left the door open enough so most of the people in the big room, me and blonde included, could watch them, and probably were. The possibility of being voyeured made her all the more frenzied. . . she couldn’t remember the last time she’d been so utterly stimulated, then realized it had to do with the situation: Jane Bond working undercover, she giggled inwardly. Fucking for the cause. . .
It took less than five minutes to bring her to the moment everyone was waiting for, her target thought smugly. She would be too preoccupied to worry about her bags, so his buddies could take all the time they needed to grab her gear and take off. Rarely would any of the people loitering around the big room try to interfere, and if this redhead’s buddy, the guy who’d had his own fun with the luscious blonde, tried to interfere, well, he’d regret it.
Out of the corner of my eye I saw Helle’s familiar orgasmic throes, and it looked like the guy was getting there too, if Lisa’s squeezing meant anything. If there was a point where the bad guys would strike, it would be now. . .
And just as I thought that, the guy with the keyboard, the only person in the big room who was actually bothering to pretend not to watch, got up and headed toward the couple, trying to hide his erection with his keyboard but failing miserably.
“Guy wants some red!” Lisa laughed. “Good thing he didn’t see us!”
Was this a second decoy? I wondered. If all eyes hadn’t been riveted on the scene, they sure would be now, since all the guys were thinking: if the redhead gives it to that guy, she would surely do me too. So I kept my peripheral vision firmly on the bags against the wall.
And at that moment three guys slinked in the door, hugging the wall behind everyone, and nonchalantly made their way toward the place where Helle’s bags were resting. Two watched the crowd while one scooped up her gear; then, when they saw no one had seen them, they let their hands pick up whatever else they could find on the tables or floor next to the voyeurs, who were still too wrapped up in the sex scene to notice.
I let my free hand, the one not being used to keep Lisa happy for the moment, wander down to my pants pocket. . . no, not for that, especially when she could do it for me. Uh-uh. What actually happened was, ten seconds after I pressed the button, before the bad guys reached the door, a dozen cops were making their way into the establishment, freezing all the occupants.
Most people thought someone had informed the cops about the public sex and pretended to be busy with their own stuff, but the cops quickly corralled the three suspects. I did not see this, though, for I had not taken my eyes off Helle and her temporary pleasure giver. Said guy, still apparently enjoying himself, saw what was going on and let his eyes bulge out the way other parts of him were. Stuffing said parts, condom and all, back into his pants, he made a break for the door, hoping to get behind the counter and get out through the emergency door there.
Somehow Helle managed to react during her long orgasm and dove to tackle the guy, which on second thought was a stupid thing to do, with all the policemen out there. The stupidity of her action was brought into full focus by the pain in her ankle as she landed on his legs and brought him down. Some time during the sex her foot had been caught in the tiny crevice between the bookshelf and the side wall, and when she’d turned to tackle the guy, her ankle had stayed right there. Something had to give, and since the foot and ankle were smaller than the rest of her, that’s what gave out.
Two cops went over to lift and handcuff the guy, then march him over to the rest of his gang, like they were going to take photos of the event.
Seeing things were under control, I went over to see why Helle hadn’t gotten up.
“So it was the obvious guy,” she giggled up at me, then winced.
That’s when I noticed her ankle looked a bit. . . gross. “Doesn’t that hurt?”
“Immensely,” she admitted. “Now that things have kind of settled, could you call a doctor?”
I snapped a command behind me, then told her, “Try not to elevate it.”
“Some poor unsuspecting soul might try to look up your skirt.”
“So what am I looking at?” she sighed, trying hard not to look at her ankle.
I knew what she meant. “If it bent one way, it’s broken. If it bent the other way, torn ligaments. Oddly enough, the ligaments take longer to heal than broken bones. . .”
I stayed with her until the paramedics arrived, which luckily didn’t take long because there was always a couple of them in the train station, waiting for just this kind of situation. . . or a situation, anyway. A couple of minutes later the male medic confirmed this was not a life-threatening injury, and that there was nothing he could do for her but make her comfortable for the ride to the hospital. Trying to hide a grin, the female paramedic handed him the air cast, then stepped away to let him try his best.
“Be gentle with me,” Helle sighed as the guy stabilized her lower leg.
“You won’t feel a thing.”
“Not that gentle. . .”
He tried not to grin. “Somebody help her to the ambulance. Her ankle’s broken and we can’t get the stretcher down here.”
A tall, formidable-looking cop scooped her up.
“Well,” she said, surprised but not at all struggling. “I can think of worse ways to travel.”
The cop smirked at the annoyed paramedic, but Helle put a hand on his arm and whispered something that made the big guy blush. Her other hand reached out and squeezed the paramedic’s arm, and then she grinned at the female medic, who seemed surprised but not overly shocked to be included.
So now that things–like Helle–were well in hand, literally, I moved over to grab her gear and say my goodbyes to Lisa, hoping to get her phone number in Rome while I was at it. But I was distracted as the cops pulled the wicked desk clerk across my path on the way out.
The bad guy did his best bad-guy sneer. “Revenge is a dish best served cold.”
“So is gazpacho.”
And that seemed to sum things up quite nicely. . .


Travel Thursday: Sweet Danish, Part 2

As we debarked, I noticed Helle’s not-so-secret admirer right behind us. “That’s what I was afraid of. Get rid of him.”
She almost asked what I was babbling about, but turned and saw, so with a dramatic sigh she shook her head sadly and gave the guy a small flick of the hand to send him away.
“Screw you,” came the muttered answer.
“Get in line,” she yawned, then realized her instinctive reply was not the best thing for the situation. But by now I had gotten into the game and eye-lasered the guy, who may not have known what discretion meant, but still realized it was the better part of valor.
“I have been thinking,” the redhead mused as we made our way through the train station passageways to our destination, seemingly not burdened by her bigger-than-required backpack.
I would have usually tried something like “How unusual,” or “Oh-oh!” at this point; unfortunately, I’d already done so three times today.
“Good boy,” she grinned at my silence, but was fortunately sidetracked when a very obviously American family asked us for directions to Tivoli. The redhead happily provided the info while the family’s third wheel, a boy of about five, stared up at me. “What’s your name, mister?”
“Paul. Can you say that?”
Helle stopped from giving directions to mutter, “Paul. . .” in a warning tone.
“Good!” the little boy yelped, reaching down to peel off the star sticker on his book and slap it on her miniskirt.
“So young and yet already knowing you don’t mind being touched there.”
She looked up to see how the parents felt about that: Mom was laughing, Dad looked jealous. Oh well. . .
Right before the stairwell to the basement was a beautiful young blonde collecting money. I had noticed such girls all over Scandinavia, championing all sorts of causes–this one was Amnesty International–and had to figure the people in charge of these campaigns chose the gals that were sent out with the buckets by their looks. There figured to be three types of people who donate money on the street: single men, all types of women, and men who wanted to impress their dates/wives as to how generous they are. Since the last group would give no matter who was taking the money, it had to be decided which of the other groups to appeal to. Since women were more likely to give to causes, plus there were a lot more female volunteers. . .
Of course I’ll give!” Helle squealed in the meantime, reaching for her purse, not bothering to check the pin on the girl‘s chest. “I love animals!”
I couldn’t resist. “Yeah. She’s been arrested for it twice.”
“But never convicted!”
The blonde smiled at me, and I figured that if I ever ran into her on the street she’d remember me. For a moment I wondered if any guy had offered her a big fat donation for some alone time, but luckily being next to the redhead cured me of having to wonder about anything for too long. Besides, the girl looked conflicted as to whether she should chance losing the donation by being honest about which cause she was supporting, and I didn’t want to make things more difficult for her. Luckily Helle simply plopped in her money and headed down the stairs.
“Am I the most fuckable woman you’ve ever met?” she teased as I followed her, no doubt realizing we weren‘t out of earshot of the money-collecting blonde yet.
“Oh yes,” I murmured, all the while knowing that telling her “Most fuckable” and “Best fuck” were not remotely the same thing wouldn’t help my cause one bit right now.
We entered the room in question and stopped just inside the door to glance around. It didn’t look all that special, although it might have a different perspective after a ten-hour train ride: lots of seats, some computer desks in the corner, phones over there, and a big hotel-front-desk type thing at one end. Doors went deeper into the building, no doubt housing the kitchen and showers.
At the counter was a tall blonde, on the customer side. She could have easily been a local, I thought, but was dressed like a tourist. As I’d often told women, and not just models, the confused look is really sexy, and she looked particularly sexy right now. . .
“What do we do first?” Helle whispered.
I was still smiling toward the blonde, who had a really anxious expression on her face as she looked around for help. “You go ahead and take a seat, rest.”
She glanced at me, then at the place my eyes were pointed. Making no comment other than a knowing grin, she continued on her way.
I was thinking the blonde would make the perfect decoy for this caper, so I had to check her out. . . but that was not all I was thinking.
As the guy who’d just entered approached her, Lisa took a peek at the beautiful redhead he’d come in with. The girl was grinning, and was kinda looking at her the way guys usually did. The blonde didn’t go for that sort of thing, but it was better than the redhead thinking she was about to steal her guy.
“Waiting for help?” I started with the obvious.
“Yeah, so don’t cut in line!” She grinned, letting me know she expected some fun if I was going to stay in the conversation.
“You’re pretty much plastered against the counter, so that’d be hard to do. I know Copenhagen pretty well, so if that’s what you need. . .”
“Not quite. Going up to Sweden in a few hours, just want a chance to clean up and make some dinner. I will be coming back through here, though, so if you’ve got some time after that, you can tell me all about this town.”
“Sounds good. I just ate on the train, but I could use a shower too. Hope there’s more than one.”
Not quite so fast, buster, her laughing eyes told me.
“So what made you decide to travel around here?”
“Cheapest fare.”
“Scandinavia? Really?”
“My parents wanted to visit me on their trip,” she confessed, “but I really didn’t want them to see where I live in Rome.”
“Or your friends?”
“The guys I sleep with, yeah. So I told them I’d already scheduled my own trip. That was on the phone, while I was quickly looking through the internet for travel bargains.”
“You could have gone with them on their trip, after Rome. They probably woulda paid.”
She sighed. “My parents taught me to love traveling, but they also taught me not to travel with them. Very embarrassing. They’re going to the Holy Land, or some other God-forsaken place.”
I hid a grin, since I wasn’t sure if she was joking. “So how did you get an Inter-Rail pass? They don’t sell ‘em to Americans.”
“I’m studying art history in Rome. If you’re a resident for six months, you qualify.” She didn’t bother asking why I had one, since I obviously did. Then she grinned. “You’re thinking about what I said, right?”
“Which part?”
“When I said ‘guys I sleep with.’ You’re wondering how many.”
“Actually not.”
“Okay, but you’re wondering if I’d be easy to persuade.” She turned to look at the redhead again, smiled, and winked at me. “No one here knows who I am, one of the great perks of living far from your hometown, or even where you live now. So. . .”
I found myself liking her, and hoping she wasn’t a plant. She seemed like a smart cookie who had her life exactly how she wanted it, and just in that there was an attraction. That type of person rarely bullshited. On the other hand, if she was part of the gang. . .
When I didn’t reply, other than to grin, she figured it’d be better to tone it down a little. After all, there was plenty of time before she caught her train to Sweden. Well, who knows where I was going next, she was no doubt thinking, but knew I’d make time, if only for a little variety from the redhead. “Ever been to Bermuda?” she tried next.
“Sure. Why?”
“Friend invited me there, but I was too scared to go.”
“Scared? It’s a safe place.”
“Not that. The Bermuda Triangle.”
“You put a lot of feeling into that one word.”
“I do my best.”
“Do you have any idea how many boats and planes have disappeared in the Bermuda Triangle in the last sixty years?”
I smirked. “Know how many haven’t?”
“Um. . . not offhand.”
I like the theory of a ship full of magnets sinking and drawing others down.”
You would,” she said shortly, but smiled brightly to take out the sting.
So how do you afford living in Rome?”
“Not what you’re thinking,” she replied severely. “Fulbright.” When I didn’t reply, she added, “That ain’t a toothpaste.”
“Sorry.” Her smile didn’t look apologetic, though.
Over the next few minutes she regaled me with tales from her exciting life; she sounded like she needed to get it off her nicely curving chest, so I stood there and took it like a man. Not that it was all that boring, but most of it was typical middle-sized-town Americana: art posters over the bed, tons of pets, going skiing, grandma’s hand-me-down furniture. Pretty typical of strangers waiting for their next travel connection, though I was glad she wasn’t asking about me, at least not yet.
Then she turned it up a notch–or a hundred–by saying she loved sex in exotic places. Instead of finally asking about the plural in her Rome romances, I instead wondered if this place was what she considered exotic.
“A shower’s as good a place as any.”
“You are totally without scruples!”
“I know,” she smirked. “I’ve even dated a congressman.”
“He dump you for someone cheaper?”
“Ooooo, nasty.”
And finally, just in time, someone showed up behind the desk, an obviously local guy who was grinning hugely as he checked our passes. I recognized him as the prime suspect, but right now it didn’t matter: if he was the bad guy, it would be Helle’s job to figure out. At the moment my only job was to find out if this luscious blonde was part of the theft ring. . . yup, someone’s gotta do it. Not that I thought she was, but I believed in being thorough, and a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do. . .
“You can leave your bags here,” the guy pointed to a spot against the wall. “No one will steal them. You, sir, are in cubicle number four, and you, madam, are in number one.” He grinned again, knowing damn well we were going to get together, but giving us our privacy.
Lisa didn’t know about being called madam, but wasn’t about to take the time to argue. She snatched the key up with a big grin, blew the guy a kiss, and dropped her bag in the place told, barely remembering to get her shower essentials before leading the way.
I took a second to look back at the room. Everyone seemed deep into their own thing, ignoring us. Helle had fortunately chosen a seat not quite facing where we’d dropped our bags, but would be able to see it out of her peripheral. She proved that now by turning to me and mouthing “You lucky. . .” but I couldn’t make out the last word, which was probably just as well. . .


Travel Thursday: Sweet Danish, part 1

It had not been a good day, I noticed as I did a 10K through the internet. All the UCLA teams had lost, and my two tennis buddies had gone down as well. One of them liked to be soothed when she lost, but she was half a world away, so she’d have to find someone else. . . which shouldn’t be that hard, I grinned. I’d yet to find out what she did when she won a tournament, but I could just imagine.
Hmmm, I could play the despondent card, just to see how Helle would try to alleviate it. Not that I was so tired of her that I needed to make up games, but it had been a punishing week in Copenhagen.
She did indeed make me forget all about it. . . for a few minutes, anyway, looking moderately miffed at my short attention span, but because she knew she also suffered from it–and I loved to point it out–she figured she’d better not mention it, and maybe I’d give her amnesty next time.
Yeah, right.
The Danish redhead had been mentioned in these literary works (yeah, right again) before, but never in detail, which wasn’t a huge surprise, because beauty like this wasn’t easy to describe: “redhead, slim, curvy, stunningly gorgeous, and a sex drive that wouldn’t quit” hardly scratched the surface. Some people had called her a nymphomaniac, but she protested that she could stop whenever she wanted to, she just didn’t want to. . . stop, that is.
We’d met back when I’d done a stint with United Nations Peacekeeping. She’d been a translator, a job she would have gotten even if she was ugly, considering she was conversant in a number of languages that was well into double-digits, one of those people who just had a natural knack for it. Now she basically did the same job freelance, though with her home base in Copenhagen, her government frequently asked her to pitch in on important international meetings. I found it pretty amazing no one had ever asked her to sleep with a world leader in order to get something out of him, or her. Had she been any kind of actress, she would have made an incredible spy, but truth was she’d never had sex other than to have sex.
Until tonight, likely.
She’d never been on a mission before either, and it showed. Ten minutes later she was still so excited she was breathing heavily, nostrils flaring, looking particularly lovely, and since there was still plenty of time before the assignment began, she fluttered outside to see what mischief she could get into. Apparently it didn’t take too long, to either find a playmate or to use them, for it was about half an hour later she was back and falling asleep for her typical post-coital, as well as early afternoon, nap.
I let her sleep longer than I should have, on the premise that the less time she had to think about the mission the better. When it was finally time for her to wakey-wakey, I found that licking her ear was the quickest, as well as the safest way, to get her awake and purring. “Time to save the world, or at least a smart part of it, Slumbering Beauty.”
She sighed happily as she stretched, her nipple almost taking my eye out. “Finally I’ll be able to use my body to benefit the world.” Then she giggled. “Of course, every time I bring joy to a man, or woman, it benefits the world, but–”
“Don’t finish that. This will be the first time you might have to fuck a guy that you didn’t choose. You gonna be okay with that?”
She waved away that concern. “I don’t mind being used for a good cause.”
“Or a free dinner?”
“Okay. Time to get into your traveling gear, Yawning Beauty.”
She looked dismayed. “No time for a shower?” She added the come-hither to make it clear we could always shower together, if pressed for time.
I gave her my own particular smile, the one she’d come to hate when aimed it at her, though loved when it shot at other people. “No shower, silly. We’re supposedly coming off a long train ride, remember?”
“I do now,” she affirmed, checking her armpits and, while not liking what she found, managed to be satisfied with it.

An hour later we were standing on a railway platform in a medium-sized city. The drive had been pretty boring, but I’d used the time to psych myself up for what might be coming, whereas she bitched about being hungry. I told her we’d have dinner on the train, and would use the expense account to buy her whatever she wanted, and that seemed to satisfy her enough to take another nap, which was really the best thing for her. But now we were waiting for the train, which according to the schedule should be arriving in the next five minutes.
Had this been summer, there would still be plenty of daylight for hours to come; in winter it would have already been dark and most likely snowing, but for now we enjoyed the last of the twilight. I doubted anyone would be watching for us, unless there was a leak somewhere in the local police and intelligence ranks, but that seemed unlikely for what was really petty crimes. Still, I’d always believed in preparing for a mission like it was the most dire life-or-death situation I’d ever find myself in, so I enjoyed the thought of the coming gloom keeping us hidden as we heard the train a-comin’.
At this time of year the tourists started migrating south, with most of the attractions, at least the outdoor ones like Tivoli, getting ready to close down for the winter. But there were still some tourists, easy to tell from the shivering as the weather dropped and the wind kicked up. Some locals were dressed just as casually, but not shivering, while others were taking their winter gear out of mothballs.
I looked down at myself and grinned. I’d made an extra effort to look touristy, but basically it was the same gear I’d wear at home for a photo shoot: shorts, T-shirt, boots, overshirt for extra pockets. What I found amazing was my seeming imperviousness to the weather. Just a couple of weeks ago I’d been at the UCLA softball stadium, built on top of a hill where wind and other inclement weather wreaked havoc with fly balls. That day had featured a freak storm, bad enough to make me go home and grab a heavy jacket and put sweats on underneath my pants, but even with all that gear I’d been chilled throughout. Today I seemed immune. Mission mode, I figured, then focused.
Ten minutes later we’d stored our gear above their seats, got our special passes checked, then made our way to the dining car.
“I get to choose anything I want, right?” she grinned. “I’m in the mood for two lobsters!”
“You really have become Americanized. . .”
Unfortunately for her there was only one choice that night: smoked salmon, followed by grilled steak with French fries and a small green salad. I waited. . . then, when I saw how much she was enjoying the fish, I traded my swimmer for her mooer, then traded her fries for my salad, so we came out even, as well as happy, diet- and appetite-wise. This showed why we were such great partners and friends.
“So,” she murmured around some flaky stuff, “How’d the last case go? Was it murder after all?”
“Kinda hard not to be when the official police report says they were killed by ‘simultaneous hunting accidents’ where they shot each other in the back of the head.”
She almost choked on a forkful of salad; I didn’t blame her. “Really? They expected people to buy that?”
“You know those kind of people. They really don’t care.” I made a face.
“That bad? Or a sour memory? Perhaps a not so pleasant story girl?”
“No such thing. I bit my tongue AND my cheek!”
“Wow, you are gifted. Try mine.”
“When it stops hurting.”
“But that could take days!”
“Keep a good thought!”
She laughed, claiming she’d never understood that saying. Not that she heard it that often in Noo Yawk, but she had traveled extensively and spent time in the Midwest.
“Your linguistic skills are so amazing you know what it means anyway, right?”
“Indeed, but it’s okay. There’s a guy across the way making googly eyes at me. I could use a quickie in the washroom.”
“Just don’t get too tired or sore for the job.”
“When has that ever happened?” she mock-furied, then giggled. “Nah, he’s not that cute.”
“So you don’t need me to go to the washroom so you can get his number so that you can do him tomorrow?”
“He wishes. I don’t think he deserves me. I always manage to find someone better.”
“Or someones, right?”
“Ummm, don’t start getting me horny before my time, or I really will go do him.” Feeling naughty, she winked at the guy, then did the tongue and lips thing. I did my part by looking out the window, pretending I wasn’t watching her, then told her, “Let’s not make complications. I don’t want this guy following us and getting in the way.”
“Good point, and it didn’t sound jealous at all. Let’s go back to our seats.”
A minute later I was settling back into the seat and closing my eyes. She’d seen me like this before a mission, knew I wasn’t sleeping, just getting centered so I could concentrate on just one thing for the next few hours. Knowing to leave me alone, she tried looking out the window, but by now it was pretty dark, so she took out the notes I’d given her to study. She was supposed to destroy them before we got there, but figured it wouldn’t hurt going over them one last time.
Inter-Rail, which was basically a Eurail pass for Europeans, had a special lounge in the basement of Copenhagen’s main train center, a place where a weary traveler could make phone calls, access the internet, get info, cook a meal, and probably most importantly take showers. You couldn’t stay overnight, because they closed at midnight, but it gave you some moments of peace before you had to wait for your late-night connection with the rest of the riff-raff in the main waiting area.
A group of thieves was working the place, especially stealing while folks were in the shower. To the Danish sense of mind this was extra not-nice, but so far the people there hadn’t been very cooperative; afraid of lawsuits, no doubt. So the police felt there was no other way than to set up a sting.
The game plan was very simple. The cop in charge was sure there was someone working on the inside, but everyone also knew there wasn’t a man in the world who could resist the redhead. . . ideally she would go off and. . . “distract” the guy they suspected while I kept an eye on her gear, while pretending not to. But since there had to be others in on the plot, and one other suspect was a woman, I had to be ready to sleep with the enemy too.
“Are you sure you can handle that?” she’d asked in mock concern. “What if she’s. . .” Her voice dropped to a whisper. “Ugly?”

to be continued. . .