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Midnight in the Garden of Swedes and Norwegians

Russ Johnson dodges trolls and other beings that stumble in the bright of night during Midsummer in Sweden's Lakes District.

Vitsand in Sweden's Lakes District
Visand, in Sweden's Lakes District  - Photo: Russ Johnson

It is not easy to be chirpy at 3 o'clock in the morning unless you're a mockingbird or a Swede during Midsummer when the sun hardly sets at all. Swedes are not normally a chirpy bunch, but they do manage to stay awake on summer nights.

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The Big Boom Theory: Santorini, Greece

Santorini, Greece
Santorini, Greek Isles - Photo:
Russ Johnson

Why are dangerous things so beautiful. Frogs, for example. The most poisonous ones are the most colorful. That could go for women too, but I am not going there.

Some of the most striking scenes on earth are formed by cataclysmic events. I spent a few days climbing the hills and walking the paths of the Greek island of Santorini, formed by one of the largest volcanic eruptions since humans put chisel to rock.

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Caving In To Champagne

Mannequin Pis Perrier

I have always enjoyed Champagne, or sparkling wine, but I never appreciated its subtleties. I had a binary rating system: zero to one...maybe a "meh" in between. I was long overdue for an attitude change.

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On Foot in London

Walks in London

 As a Monty Python fan, London in my minds eye is a city of silly walks: eccentric lopes, tortured tangos and Teutonic goose steps. It is really quite opposite that, in fact. That's why the Pythons were funny. Last week in London, Pat and I settled into an apartment off Fleet Street and toured old London by foot. I admit that I now live in a place where the only crowds are formed by geese, which the local authorities are employing dogs to break up, but I do spend a fair amount of time in places like New York, Bangkok, even Delhi, so I am not a weenie when it comes to huddled and non-huddled masses. But walking in London this time around was culture shock.

Lake Garda for Better or Verse: The Mad Poet's Society

Torre del Benaco, Italy - Photo ©2000 Russell Johnson
The Mad Poets Society
Lake Garda for Better or for Verse

Where are the poets of yesteryear, the bards of epic verse, the drunkards and the rakes whose words spurred torrid love and sent armies off to battle?

I have personally known only one professional poet, a guy who lived in a van and used the occasion of the publication of one of his verses in a precious little journal as an excuse to spend several days sampling a menu degustation of controlled substances. Writer Jan Morris told me once that her son, a poet, along with a group of his Welsh comrades, had gone on strike against the country's broadcasting system for more airtime. This could only happen in Wales.

Unless you live in Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwyll-llantysiliogogogoch (a town in northern Wales), become adopted as a poet laureate, occupy a tenured position or change your name to Ice T, your financial life stands little chance of becoming rosy as a result of your poesy.

In history, however, poets had clout and lived in really cool places.

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CEBIT in Hanover Germany: Holiday for Gearheads

Happy Birthday Lithuania!

No, it is not Oktoberfest, even though this beerhall is as big and as festive as the suds and sausage emporiums of Munich. I am at CEBIT, the yearly monster expo of technology in Hanover, Germany. It is so big, it is like a city, with grocery store, pharmacy and quite a lively beerhall catering to people from all over. The rowdyness awards are shared by the Taiwanese, the Russians and the Lithuanians who stood on a table and sang Happy Birthday to themselves.

I guess at least 1000 people packed into this frothy barn.

For pie-eyed thrills, however, expos of any kind are not what they used to be. Imagine parking your horse and buggy under a buzzing arc light powered by a mystery force called electricity at the 1897 Chicago World's Fair. You could sniff the potential and the danger in the ozone.

In comparison, the new pink mini-IPOD doesn't quite cut it.

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Budapest: Wine, Song and Women Who Look Like Zsa Zsa

  Russell Johnson

Audio Story

Old world Europe. Where do you find it outside of faded movies these days? Where do you find the heart wrenching chanteuses, the gypsy violins, the grand, baroque cafes where you can pine about the meaning of life and nibble on cakes.

If you want that old feeling…go to Budapest.

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