My friends were visiting from DC recently and we popped into Konditori for a quick coffee break while we were in Williamsburg.
Now, if you’ve been following my blog for a while now you know that we Swedes love our coffee. You’d also know that coffee is strongly associated with the culture of the Beat Generation and that I’ve written about Jack Kerouac’s coffee habit. But that one of my all-time favorite quotes is a quote about coffee by Saul Bellow. Of course, Brooklyn is far from the only place with a rich coffee heritage. So, really, is it any surprise that Konditori was on my list of places to check out?
I got the Swedish roast. It cost $2. I had a little mishap and the creamer top fell straight into my cup, so the hipster kid at the counter nicely gave me a fresh cup. I was too scared after that to try to put milk or cream in so I drank it black, which I usually do at home or in the afternoon anyway. I’m oddly not one of those people who takes my coffee the same exact way every time. Strange, I know. Anyway, the coffee wasn’t full and robust, but it did have a lot of flavor to it. I think if I were to go back, I’d try their latte.
What’s your favorite Swedish brand of coffee?
I’ve been connected with so many people these days who are interested in the different writers associated with the Beat Generation. Katie, who is researching Joan Burroughs, turned me on to Interview Magazine‘s feature on Garrett Hedlund, who plays the Dean Moriarty character in the film adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road.
What initially caught my eye was photographer Robbie Fimmano‘s moody portraits of Hedlund. The black-and-white photographs are stunning. I wish I could post them here, but I don’t want to impose on his or the magazine’s copyright, so instead you can check out the online gallery here. He’s looking a bit like Johnny Depp in some of the photographs.
Actor Jeff Bridges, who apparently played his father in Tron (I say apparently because do you really think I watched Tron?), interviewed Hedlund for the magazine, and it starts off kind of cute and silly because they’re calling each other “Dad” and “Son.” Hedlund is from Minnesota and is Swedish, just like my mother, and he talks a little bit about coming from Minnesota in the interview. He also reveals that even though he played Dean Moriarty, the character based on Neal Cassady, in On the Road, he relates more to Sal Paradise. You can read the full interview here.
The film is finally opening in the States on December 21.
With Santa living in the Lapland (the Finnish side), give a gift from Scandinavia is a wonderful way to make Christmas festive! Here are a couple ideas from Sweden or inspired by Sweden. If anyone knows any authentic Sami vendors, please add them in the comments section.
For the person who loves Swedish crime literature:::
The Princess of Burundi by Kjell Eriksson
Bonus tip! – If you can afford it, give the whole set! If you’re not sure the person will like the book, you may want to give one of the books plus a gift card to their favorite bookstore. You can also accompany the book with a coffee mug and Swedish coffee, a book lamp, or a cozy blanket from Swedish chain IKEA.
Gift ideas for the Swedish food lover:::
Hash by Torgny Lindgren
Swedish coffee basket by Anderson Butik
Coffee and sweets gift box by Anderson Butik
Swedish pancake basket by Anderson Butik
Bonus tip! – Select a coffee and food product that naturally go together and give them as a pair. The gift baskets make shopping and wrapping easier!
Gifts for the Swedish home:::
Swedish table prayer tile
Iron candle holder with hearts
Iron candle holder with wild horses
Algfamilj tea towel
Bonus tip! – A gift card to IKEA would go nicely with any of these. A lovely handwritten message or something that is personal and has sentimental value is also nice to give with gifts for the home.
Gifts for people on the go:::
Carrie Swedish lace bicycle basket
Bonus tip! – A nice key chain would go well with either of these.
God Jul! Merry Christmas!
I’ve heard a lot of strange comments in my writing workshops. Someone once told me they thought from my writing that I wished I was a boy. Someone else questioned why I write more about Greek identity than Swedish identity. I expect all sorts of reactions to the content of my essays and that I’ll get criticism in regard to structure. It comes with the territory.
What I never suspected was that I’d get feedback on my punctuation.
I don’t recall ever hearing anyone else in a workshop receive comments on their lack of use of the oxford comma or their split infinitives. Actually, that’s not entirely true. I criticized someone’s use of parentheses. If it’s unimportant enough to place in a parenthetical, it’s not important enough to keep in your book. Edit it out! Of course there are exceptions: for example, definitions of foreign words. The other instance of a workshop debate being generated from punctuation had to do with the use of David-Foster-Wallace-like footnotes. For the most part, though, comments about punctuation—errors in punctuation, that is—are kept to written edits on the writer’s page.
That’s why I found it so curious that at least once a semester, someone raised comments praising my grammar and punctuation. As an editor by profession, punctuation is important to a fault for me. I live by Oscar Wilde’s quote:
I was working on the proof of one of my poems all the morning, and took out a comma. In the afternoon I put it back again.
It just never occurred to me that someone might actually notice my punctuation. After all, correct punctuation should be a given. And when punctuation is correct, it generally doesn’t stand out to the reader.
I figured readers maybe noticed my punctuation because I use crazy marks like the semicolon. Who uses the semicolon nowadays?
I’m playing a bit coy, though. I do believe there’s more to punctuation than it just being correct. I don’t intend my punctuation to stand out and grab the reader’s attention. I’m not trying to be a punctuation renegade, experimenting and breaking the rules for purposeful affect. That said, every comma, every em-dash, and yes, every parenthesis conveys subtle meaning.
Think about it. When em-dashes (those long dashes between words) appear in a text, doesn’t it make the work feel more modern and fast-paced than a commonplace comma? And don’t endnotes seem more scholarly than parentheses?
I think punctuation frightens most people. It brings back all this childhood trauma associated with teachers yelling about sentence fragments and marking papers up with green pen. Green is the new red. Green is supposed to be less scary than red, but it isn’t. It means the exact same thing: you made an error.
Don’t let punctuation poison your prose. Get a grip on it and use punctuation just as you use diction as one of your writer’s tools to convey your story to your reader.
Helpful resources for proper punctuation:
Grammar class at New York University
Everyone’s Irish on Saint Patrick’s Day! Actually, my mom and I often get mistaken for Irish. It must be our fair Swedish skin and eyes. I even once got a letter addressed to Nik O’Lopoulos. Yep.
Here’s a couple of St. Patrick’s Day-related links for you:::
- On my last trip to Ireland, I got to visit St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin. Fun facts: Benjamin Guinness — yes, of beer fame — funded the reconstruction of the cathedral and Jonathan Swift (author of Gulliver’s Travels) was dean here. Find out more in my Church Hopping article.
- Then, this summer I took a group Church Hopping to St. Patrick’s Cathedral here in New York City. You can read about that fun experience here.
- One of my colleagues at Burnside, wrote this interesting article about the meaning of hair when Sinéad O’Connor tweeted that she hated Ireland.
- Here’s a review of Irish author Colum McCann’s Dancer, also from a colleague on Burnside.
- You know how four-leaf clovers are supposed to be lucky? Well, someone in Japan found a 56-leaf clover.
- This is a pretty four-leaf clover necklace.
- Have you ever heard this Irish blessing? It’s so beautiful, and it always reminds me of the Rebecca St. James song “Abba Father.”
- Going back to Guinness, the beer company is aiming to set a record for the world’s biggest St. Patrick’s Day party. Sounds fun!
Happy St. Patrick’s Day, everyone!!
Remember when it snowed a lot this past winter? It’s been such a hot and humid summer that I almost forgot about how much snow was on the ground just a few short months ago.
My dad grew up by the beach in Greece and remembers the wonderment of seeing snow for the first time one winter there. Although I spent four years out in So Cal, where people put Christmas lights on palm trees, I was born on the East Coast, and it’s hard to imagine growing up without snow.
My summer reading has included Barbara Sjoholm’s The Palace of the Snow Queen: Winter Travels in Lapland. (Thanks for sending it to me, Merrill!) I thought it would be ironic to read a book about the Arctic Circle while suntanning* at the beach. Also, sometimes I like to remind myself that I’m Swedish-Sami. (*I’m Swedish, I don’t actually tan.)
These hot summer days I’ve been dreaming of moving to Sweden.
The coffee at my office is undrinkable. It’s not just that it’s often weak, it’s that it tastes like old coffee grinds. Maybe I got a little spoiled from my previous job. Prior to this job, I worked for a company that had an on-site chef, who often whipped up fresh juice combinations and smoothies in the test kitchen. Even the employees’ kitchen was well-stocked with a wide variety of flavored coffees so I could select blueberry or cinnamon roll, depending on my craving.
I’m not a huge coffee snob. I can enjoy a good cup of diner coffee. But the coffee here just doesn’t cut it. There’s a great Swedish coffee shop called FIKA, which I used to stop into on my way to work. We Swedes know how to make coffee. Lately, though, I’ve been making my coffee at home before I leave for work. I’ve been taste-testing my way through different brands and flavors. The last three bags, though, have all been what I grew up on: Hazelnut Eight O’Clock Coffee.
My mom is a coffee fiend. I don’t remember ever seeing her drink water when I was growing up. It was always a hot cup of hazelnut coffee. With the coffee machine always on, the kitchen had a warm, sweet smell to it. To this day, the smell of hazelnut coffee relaxes me and makes me feel comforted. It makes me feel close to my mom.
Since she lives in Greece and I live in New York, I don’t get to see her all that often. Maybe it’s silly, but drinking the same brand and flavor that she always drank has made me feel a little closer to her these past few weeks.
This morning, as I was drinking a cup of horrid office coffee (it’s been one of those days when a single cup at home just isn’t enough…), I remembered a factoid I learned when I was reading up on Louie Psihoyos for the post I wrote on the photographer/film director and his efforts to save the whales: he was a major contributor to the UN-sponsored “Material World Project,” a traveling show of portraits of families around the world with their material possessions. The above photograph is a shot of the coffeepot that my friend Mario gave me one year for Christmas (thank you!) and a bag of hazelnut Eight O’Clock Coffee that I took the other day. The only thing missing is my mom.