norway is not strictly norwegian.

in oslo all the cab drivers are pakistani. i washed down a tandoori reindeer dinner with a portuguese wine while listening to arabic rock and roll. a friend ate balinese squid a la mode. and paprika kangarou [sic]. the next night i danced to a degenerate form of LA rap music with an adorable russian girl who was raised in greece and had more energy than a rising sun. i saw a movie that had two simultaneous subtitle tracks - one in english and one in norwegian. norway is inventive and combinatorial and big.

but when i got off the plane nobody asked me questions, or for my passport, or for proof of anything. i just walked into norway like i'd walk into a gas station. the norwegians are too politically alert to be hated. everyone loves them - iranians, americans, colombians, spanish, ghanians - and if they don't they probably have some family member living there or are descended from someone that lived there, once upon a viking past.

i don't speak norwegian. i can't even understand it. but i can tell it from chinese, german, english, portuguese, japanese, sinhalese, and african-accented french. all of which i heard walking down the streets of oslo.

on january 21 of 2002 a kid named Benjamin Hermansen was killed by some neo-nazis. it was called a racist killing. the norwegians were so upset that 80,000 feet started walking the icy streets of oslo in protest. even Harald V, and Sonja, the king and queen, joined the crowds in that snowy january.

oslo is not strictly oslo. its too political and too modern. even this provincial patch of only half a million people is a tidepool of a hundred countries.

"what characterizes a norweigian?" i ask him.

he was born in england but he's been living in norway for 17 years. i thought he was norse since he has a narrow face with a long chin and high cheekbones and small oval glasses. he could be kris kringle's younger cousin. but because he comes from outside he sees things more clearly.

"They're reponsible."

this is a photograph of the train that took me from the airport into oslo. everyone was reading or watching television.

yes, the scandanavians are all responsible. they do things like fold their napkins on the table after they're done eating, broker international peace treaties, and offer more for less. scandinavians aren't, really, but they seem smarter than anyone else on the planet. they have to be at least a little bit smart; its too damn cold up north. if they don't have their shit together they'll die.

at night they party like a herd of devils. a drinking contest with a scandinavian would leave any mere mortal dead from alcohol poisoning in under an hour. the norwegians, like the swedes, drink like cars. this means that people stand around outside and eat greasy food at 4 am in the morning.

or walk around in pink outfits, at the same hour, as you can see.

Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon in the hotel.

i took a cab to meet some friends but the driver wouldnt get going until he knew the direction. he phoned his dispatch office and some 30 minutes of conversation followed. i managed to record the last little bit of the conversation.

norwegian cabbies are seriously armed chaps. this guy has two GPS systems, redundant credit card systems, two celphones, and snowtires.

but he wouldnt get started until he knew the location of the Evita Cafe. he's a responsible norwegian. so he called the office.

this is all about some confusion finding the "Evita" cafe. it's over on water street, but the cab driver and cab company and a guy on a third line that seems to specialize in this sort of problem spend a good ten or twelve minutes discussing it all. i pull out my recorder to grab the conversation because "Eh-Vee-Tah!" sounds so cute to me, and they keep repeating it, and i'm doubled over in back, laughing, laying on the seat, my face red, holding the recorder near the cabbie shoulder.

. .

after only five days in oslo i got on a plane and flew to los angeles, california.

i immediately went to get a breakfast burrito and went for a walk on venice beach.

the sun is glorious and it feels fine to be back in the mouth of the dragon.