Thursday, September 25, 2008

Tales From the Faeroe Islands

Twenty years ago; Copenhagen, Denmark. I'm sitting in a Five Star Hotel bar at nine in the morning, drinking coffee with my friend Gunnar. We're waiting for a radio interview. Remarking back and forth about these well-to-do Danish businessmen who start their day with coffee and gamledansk; liqueur and caffeine. Stockbrokers and lawyers fueling up. There's a commotion at the door, and in staggers a bum; God's own hobo. He's got cigarette butts in his hair; beard and wine stains down his coat. He's muttering and swatting flies. Gunnar and I wait for the Hotel police to descend on him. They don’t. People smile and return to their chat. Okay - the tramp walks up to the bar and barks orders (in rough Danish) to the beautiful blonde bartendress. She pulls out a silver tray and places five bottles of the most expensive Brut Champagne onboard. The drifter barks again and she throws two cartons of cigarettes on the tray, then reaches into his pocket and pulls out a wad of Danish kroners that could choke a Clydesdale. He throws a stack of bills on the bar; staggers off toward the elevators, balancing the tray. There's a hooker waiting by the elevator. Together they get on board and disappear up into one of the best hotels in Scandinavia. You waiting for the punch line? So was I. Gunnar and I looked at each other and the bartendress; but it was back to business as usual. Finally I’d had enough and called to her: "What's the story on that guy with the champagne?" She laughed. "You do not know of him? He's is a famous man here. He is from the Faeroe Islands. He bet a rich oil man that he, the old man here, could paddle a kayak from the Faeroe Islands to Denmark in the dead of winter. Impossible distance. Big waves. But he did it. He won fifty thousand dollars, and now he has been here one month. Spending it! All!" That was it. Great story. I used to love telling it. The Faeroe Islands are so far out in the middle of the Atlantic it's impossible to get a take on it from a normal map. I've always wanted to go there. I figure the last bar on earth is out there. Pirates and madmen. Fishmongers. End of story? Not yet. A year or two ago I got a CD from Bill Bourne, a very cool Canadian songwriter. He's singing with a gal from the Faeroe Islands. Great singer. So I write her manager and tell her my old story about the old man and ask her if it's true.
Here's what she writes: "Yes! His name was Roma (I think). He was a big hero in The Islands. But, sadly one day he went out in his little boat into one of our quiet lagoons here. He fell overboard and died." End of story. Huh? Drunk? Suicide? The best sailor on the face of the earth? Metaphors? Punchlines? Naw….just another Tale from the Faeroe Islands. Raise up a jar to old Roma. You'll never hear about this on CNN.......

11 comments:

editor said...

There's gotta be a song in that one...

dynawebb said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
dynawebb said...

"In his novel The Lost Musicians, the Faroese writer William Heinesen has the bell ringer Kornelius Isaksen take his three sons up into the tower of T├│rshavn´s old church. Here for the first time they hear the aeolian harp which the bell ringer has built in the tower, and when the magic tones of the harp hit the ears of the boys, it awakens in them a ravenous longing that will never leave them. The music of the winds takes possession of their souls and they are irretrievably lost in a world of music."

There's gotta be a song in that one!!

Never more than 3 miles from the sea in the Faroes, they have roofs made of grass and they're steeped in music. Perhaps Tom could lead us on a musical caravan there one day...

Saddle Tramp said...

TR ... most excellent post!

Such is the boat we are all in ...

" Life is not despair and death shall not rule " WH


Hey Dynawebb. Whose translation do you prefer? I have heard the music of The Winds singing down through the many canyons I hike. It is real.
Navajo (The Dine') songs overtaking my ears as a Raven greeted my entrance into Red Rock Canyon - New Mexico. "God is alive ... magic is afoot" to quote Leonard Cohen.

-ST Cedar Rapids, Iowa under the twin smokestacks loading for Portland, Oregon

mateo said...

Ye poets, ye men of travel, learn me your lore that I may not walk the earth ignorant of anything other than my little corner. For I am surely surrounded by not much more than the inarticulate consumed with sporting events, television programming, and the latest and greatest trinket of the day. Tis all disquised as status. I do so look forward to these postings and encourge all who participate to continue.

Still keeping the city safe on Ladder Truck 5 in gooberville, TX

Beth Caldwell said...

Here's to Roma . . and to an old fisherman in these parts -- the late CB Smith.

editor said...

Response to Dynawebb:

Ordering this today: The World in Six Songs by Daniel Levitin:

What was the first song that humans sang and why did music become an integral part of human life from the beginning?

Levitin tells the story of the co-evolution of music and of the human brain, how each one influenced the development of the other over tens of thousands of years... he shows how six specific forms of music played a pivotal role in creating human culture and society as we know it....

dynawebb said...

This Is Your Brain On Music was excellent ... and this looks as though it might even be better...thanks for the heads up...

Saddle Tramp said...

You two have piqued my interest in what otherwise would be detoured by me. Will have to take a sniff. My normal conclusion is that I do not question why water quenches my thirst . . . It just does. I don't need a breakdown. This one however, could be fun.

To requote myself:

" I like my music right out of the ground, the muddy water or falling from the sky "

Let us hope the pollution levels recede. I stumbled into the Indian Inter-Tribal Ceremony at Red Rock in Gallup while intending only a hike. A double rainbow was over the canyon. Lightning danced behind Churchrock while their Song and Dance went on. It was as if it were scripted. I have photos. The ancient song repeating itself. That's enough to make me beleive. I return time and time again for hikes when en route to or from California. Magic! Always.

Dynawebb, I would still appreciate a recommend of a translation on your WH mention if you could be so kind.


-ST Omaha, Nebraska listening to David Johannsen's
" Mansion of Fun " where you get it from all directions. Muddy is singing Champagne and Reefer. No Holy Grail
though. It finds you, never the reverse.

dynawebb said...

ST - of course the only way to read Heinesen is in the original Faeroese (if he had written in it that is. As it is he wrote in Danish (a colonial thing). I can read neither so a translation it has to be - and pretty much the only game in town these days over here is Glyn Jones...

Saddle Tramp said...

Much appreciated Dynawebb. I will search for it at Powell's Books in Portland on Monday. I will be starting in the Pearl Room and working my way down from there . . .

-ST On The Oregon Trail that Northwest pioneer Ezra Meeker, at the age of 76, reverse travelled in a oxen drawn wagon. Dave and Dandy, the two oxen took Ezra all the way and the trip was extended to New York City where he went down Broadway and across the Brooklyn Bridge in his efforts to keep the memory of the trail alive. He then continued in his gaudily painted and slogan covered
wagon down to Washington D.C. and had a meeting with
President TR. Later Ezra at the age of 90 would retrace
the trail from the open-cockpit of an Army plane. Eventually a coin was minted ( The Oregon Trail Memorial half dollar )
that was designed by James Earl Fraser and his wife Lauren Gardin Fraser. One side depicts Ezra's oxen drawn wagon. They don't build em' like ol' Ezra anymore.


THE END OF THE TRAIL


" Bye Bye Miss American Pie . . . "

To quote Don Mclean

Lamenting the death of . . .
several.