09 February 2008

Nazis? I hate these guys!

LUND-It was a sunny winter Saturday and Lena and I were walking around Lund, running a few errands in preparation for a tapas party we were throwing that evening but more than anything enjoying the rare sunlight. People were out, sitting on benches, wandering the market with the same idea and we were on our way home, passing through Stortorget, one of the main squares. There, as they are every Saturday, were some older folks protesting the situation in Palestine. We passed them by and were leaving the square when from behind us we heard chanting. I figured it must be the Palestine protesters but Lena suddenly turned around and cocked her head. "They never say anything she said and walked back into the square. Across its width, coming in from Lilla Fiskaregatan, was a column of marchers waving the blue and gold flag of Sweden.

"Shit," said Lena, "Nazis!"

I was a bit skeptical but followed her, thinking perhaps that her Swedish definition of "Nazi" might differ from my more conservative American view but I should have known her better, Lena doesn't joke about Nazis. As she said later, "I may not like Reinfeldt (the current neo-con Prime Minister of Sweden) but I don't think he's a Nazi. We moved closer to the column of perhaps 30 to 40 marchers and I took out my little Olympus Stylus that I always carry. I snapped a few pics and then noticed that the flags and shields the marchers carried were emblazoned with the letters "NSF" which my mind correctly translated as "National Socialist Front" but half-refused to believe until I saw it spelled out on one of the banners. National Socialists?? These are freakin' Nazis! And then I noticed their outriders sporting shaved heads and dark clothes and boots.

A crowd began to gather and I told Lena to stay put. I think she barely heard me. Her eyes were locked on the offending toadies like a pit-bull eyes up a disrespectful chihuahua. I ran the several blocks back to the apartment, ditched my sunglasses and sweater and slung on my Nikon and Leica. By the time I had returned the Palestine protest had packed up and a crowd was beginning to gather. Now for any of their faults the average Swede is anything but a Nazi and the assembled crowd of all ages and backgrounds were yelling back at the National Socialists and widely gesturing with an internationally recognized hand symbol of dissaproval.

There were a number of other photographers hanging back with their teles but I had a 17-35mm on the Nikon and a 15mm on the Leica. Besides, I like it close. I walked up and filled the frame with them and began shooting. Around, people were on their phones and the Nazis must have known their time was limited. Lund, a university town, is a traditionally liberal and free-thinking place, home as well to many groups of student radicals who like nothing better than to put on their anarchist boots and do a little fascist kicking. Two rather large policemen showed up but the march hadn't been advertised beforehand and they were without any backup in case things got ugly. Soon, shouting their filth, the NSF marched off the square. One man lobbed a full bottle of soda into the crowd, luckily missing anyone. A few steps later he tumbled to the paving stones and looked around for the offending attacker before realizing he had simply fallen on his fat ass while trying to goosestep.

Lena and I followed closely behind them as they made for the train station. On the way one of the shaved headed morons smiled at a rather waifish female photographer as she lowered her Nikon. She spit at his feet and he took a step at her then looked over and I smiled back at him, putting a few teeth into the grin. He kept walking. At the station they re-formed and shouted a bit more Hitlerian nonsense. Swedish citizens yelled back. They looked at me and, well, I had to say something so in my best and most obviously American voice I drawled, "Now there, remember what happened the last time ya'll started marching?!"

They walked through the station to the back lot where they had parked their cars and at this point the police wouldn't let them leave. They began to whine about how Lund was a dangerous town for them and they had to get out before the anarchists showed up. The big cops towered over them and gave them a slow lecture about lack of permits and other technicalities. One little weasel walked over and put a sticker on a signboard. Lena walked right over and pulled it off. He showed himself a true ├╝ber man and screwed his pimply face up and gave her a nasty look. Me too. The Nazis got in their cars and slunk away. While they could still hear I waved, "Bye Bye Master Race."

Both of us were shaking with adrenalin and Lena was worked up to a fighting pitch I had never seen her in. I had begun the day blue and down but there is nothing like a few Nazis to improve one's mood. The sun was shining. We'd sent the bad guys away and friends were coming over for dinner. And I was in love with a terrific girl. I felt the weight of my cameras on my neck and my boots securely on my feet and her hand in mine. It was very fine and very good and I smiled fully for the first time in a while.

01 February 2008

How To Get Your Passport

I have often been asked, "How do you travel?" and I answer that it is all in the details. It is not some deep mystery with its roots in a troubled childhood, a mother that made me read the classics, or a pact with the devil. Or it might be. But regardless of that, or anything else, it is still the details that will allow you to see the Pyramids, Paris, Gary, Indiana, any of those places you have dreamed about. So, all you Americans out there, I ask you this one simple question, "Do you have your Passport?"

Because if you don't, you aren't going anywhere except maybe Kentucky. And if you aren't from the United States you aren't going there. Not that I would particularly recommend going to Kentucky anyway, the fried chicken is usually better in Tennessee, but it is pretty sad that a passel of furriners has their passports and you, Mr. or Mrs. American can't even leave your own country. Because you can't if you don't have one. Other countries have rules too.

So this is what you do, this is all you need to do: Go to the Post Office or local court house and ask for an application (they will tell you what to do). Ask for another one for your friend. Fill out the application. You will need a pen to do this. Get two pictures, Passport approved, taken. Any AAA office will do this and quite a few places where they develop film and print pictures will as well. In other words, they make Passport pictures all over the place and if you ask around someone will tell you where to do it.

Mail pictures and application with a check or money order to wherever they tell you to send it. In a few weeks you will get your Passport with your ugly damn picture on it. Then you are free to travel. Before that you are not. Don't put it off. Get the damn thing and the world is your clam. Or oyster, or mussel or perhaps badger. Yes, that's it. Get your passport and the world is your badger.