Breaking Up the Routine

Never knew better days.

Just a Little Stroll Part II

A story of nostalgia and happenstance.

Pusher Street is packed with people. It is ten-thirty and even if the sun has set, even if it is not – quite – dark yet, it is clearly getting there. I tilt my head back and make sure the stars are there with me. It's only fifty paces from The Woodstock bar to The Jazz Club. When Freddy and I arrive the door is open. A sign on the counter notes the 80-crown entrance fee for the night's performance. “Shit. It’s expensive,” says Freddy. “But they don’t start to play until eleven anyway.”

Freddy and I and Freddy’s bicycle walk back the way we came, pass Woodstock and arrive at the confluence of local arteries leading pedestrian traffic in all directions. Freddy looks at me and says, “So, is this where we part ways.”

“No,” I say, “we can walk on a bit. I am housesitting on The Children's Meadow.”

We have not walked more than a couple minutes when Freddy stops me. He has an idea. He says: “Why don’t we see if the Koreans are home.”

“What Koreans?” I ask. “Are there any Koreans in Christiania?”

Freddy goes on to explain about a Korean film crew from Seoul shooting a documentary about the squatter hippie village of Christiania. On top of being filmmakers they happen to be musicians too. According to Freddy, they have given two “really weird” concerts in Christiania—Freddy has been to both. Right now the Koreans are staying in The Banana House which happens to be built on the exact spot in Grønnegade Street where my wagon used to sit. Even if I regret that the wagon no longer exists, I must admit it vacated the premises for a worthier construction. The Banana House being indisputably one of the most remarkable buildings in all of Free Town. I have never been inside it either; now I am given the opportunity and I go along with it.

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To reach the top floor entrance one has to ascend a stairway leading up the historic rampart. I am right back to where I used to be thirty-two years ago pissing on the nettles. And it feels strange. At the end of the stairway there is a large terrace laid out on top of the rampart. The door is open, and walking straight in Freddy knocks at it in passing. I linger just long enough for the sensation of the "old" me and the "new" me to catch up with me and clash. For a split second I am not sure which is the younger of the two. Once again I find myself where I was not supposed to be. One day I must come to grips with it: that I lose myself when I am in control and find myself, when I am not.

It turns out only one of the Koreans is in. He greets me cordially in broken English explaining that the others have gone to The Jazz Club. Could he offer me a beer?

My evening stroll has by now taken a highly unexpected turn. I nod to the Korean with the beer in his hand. One beer, more or less… what the hell. I look around at the great interior. This is where The Freetown often houses its guests from all over the world. What a magnificent room. Wherever the eye falls, it is pleased with what it finds. Great craftsmanship, attention to detail combined with exquisite taste. Not a single trace of plaster or metal. Just wood and stone. Solid materials made to last. If the immediate greeting may be a bit rough, at least it is direct and honest. No false pleasantries. It is like a balm on one’s mind. Here, at long last, is something that rests calmly in itself. Our host, who introduces himself as Zo, loves the place too, he says. He is an architect originally, and this (he makes a sweeping gesture with his hand) is “a good place to be.” In such a house, man is healthy and clear-minded. I take a closer look at Zo. He is a man of middle height, he smokes a very short pipe, drinks beer and keeps his black hair in a single knot at the back of his head. He laughs with white teeth and seems pleased with what he has found in Copenhagen. Every time Zo laughs, Freddy laughs too, even if he does not know why; and every three or four minutes the two of them give each other a high-five and laugh even harder.

And so it goes… on and on.

Question is: Should we go to The Jazz Club and meet the others? Just as we are discussing the matter, the door opens and here they are: the minute woman who is directing the documentary followed by three broad-shouldered men. They had walked from the center of the city and now unload their burdens before going to The Jazz Club. Energetic people those Koreans. Unlike what I had imagined, they are casual, have an appetite for new experience and are not afraid of getting it in their own way. Somehow I had always thought Koreans travelled in groups with guides and the word Samsung written all over them. Not these people. They are so hip they would have fit right into original hippie Christiania, what with their tobacco pipes and the concerts they had given which Freddy had labelled "buddhist temple-punk."

Copyright Per Smidl

Per Smidl is a writer in Denmark; his forthcoming book is Wagon 537 Christiania.

 

Per Smidl, a writer in Denmark, is the author of the novel Wagon 537 Christiania.

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