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Sweden: It has much more to offer than just herring. Although I haven't found it yet. Behold the herring buffet!

The last day has been pretty wonderful. Christoffer left the studio early yesterday. He had to fly to Stockholm so he could play. He just produced the new Per Gessle album and he's in the band. And, Gessle was scheduled to appear on a morning talk show and perform two songs.

Christoffer explained that the show is taped a few hours before it airs. "That means we have to play at four in the morning!"

So, I got an evening off. I used my free time to go into town. I bought some port wine and some Cuban rum. It's important to drink Cuban rum whenever you can. It's not that it's better or anything. It's just much more fun to do things that are illegal in your own country.

Then I went to the local town's only realy restaurant—an old guest house called Sjöbo Gästgiverigården. Christoffer told me the literal meaning is guest giving garden, more or less. The point is that these used to be in many cities throughout Sweden. They're where travelers go to eat. Now they're overpriced and aimed at rich city folk who are all pumped up on being rustic. "Look at me standing near a cow! And, look here! This is a tree! Whew. I'm so tired from so much cow standing next to time and so much tree noticing! Now I must drive to the nearest village guest giving garden and pay $100 for dinner! Hooray!"

I ate a special dinner that you can only get in December. It's called julbord and it means Christmas table. It's basically an enormous buffet of Swedish specialties you only get during Christmastime. Here's the scoop:

There were 120 different items to choose from. I fucking counted. Twice. It was insane. Everywhere I looked there was more food hiding, waiting to jump into my stupid no self control mouth. Desserts, sauces, meats (oh god, the meaty goodness of it all), fish (cold smoked salmon, salmon mousse, baked salmon, herring, three kinds of eel), breads, home made mustards, more meats (wild boar liver paté anyone?), salted meats (sliced salted fawn meat anyone?), smoked meats (duck breast, ham, goose, pheasant), sausages, candies, fruits, and meats. There were no salads at all. None. And, the only vegetables present were potatoes (not technically a vegetable), and three kinds of prepared cabbages (designed to be eaten with meat, duh).

But the thing that was most impressive was their massive display of herring. Swedes are serious about their herring. But, these folks were out of control. Of the 120 items, 22 of them were herring. Whoever ran that herring ad campaign must've really done a killer job.
Hard rock music plays. Think Mountain Dew ads. A rugged but sexy female off road motorcyclist revs her engine then tears down a mountain. We see many different angles in a few seconds, showing jumps, wheelies, and dirt flying. We cut to her coming to a stop at the bottom of the mountain. She pulls off her helmet and unfurls her sexy hair. The camera is now tight on her face.

"Sometimes there's a hunger deep inside, a hunger for something more. It's a hunger that can be filled by only one thing."

The focus widens. You see her whole body head to toe, as well as the motorcycle. And you can see that there's a bathtub full of pickled herring in front of her.

Licking her lips and pushing out her breasts, she'll say, "Herring." Then the fast talking guy will say, "Paid for by the Herring Is All You're Allowed To Eat Foundation." Except it will be in Swedish.
Anyways, yes. There was a lot of herring. And I ate one bite of every single one. I had to. Couldn't be helped. I tried to eat one bite of every item there. Except bread and potatoes of course. Fuck bread and potatoes. Those are for poor people that don't have anything else to eat. And, there were definitely no poor people in this place. I could tell by the bill. One cola: $3. One christmas herring fiesta: $46. Jesus fuck. Ouch. But, it was worth it. It's an experience I wouldn't get anywhere else—and I might not get ever again.

But, next time I'll check the herring exchange rate before I pick a country to make an album in.

I was pretty full after Herringtime Funlad, so I walked through the town's downtown area. It took all of about seven minutes to fully peruse all the closed shops on the main drag. The town is small enough to inhale if you're not careful.

This was the only thing interesting I saw while walking in Sjöbo, Sweden. No wonder it's the mecca of the western world.

So I figured I should drive back to my little cottage and rest and see how I felt. It turns out I felt like drinking the rum. All of it. This was not a good idea. I've never been much of a drinker. And, I didn't really drink much until later than most—I don't think I ever got drunk until I was 23. So, I have no practice.

People who spent their teenage years getting drunk know what to do and what not to do. They've already passed out naked in pools of their own piss and vomit in public with strange things stuffed into their ass (with pictures to prove it) dozens of times. That week. They've got the experience, so they know how to prevent that sort of thing. They simply choose not to.

I however do not, it appears. I mean, not that I passed out naked in vomit in public with ass violation and photo evidence (this time). But there was definitely barfing. I don't remember it happening, so in theory it could've just been the Vomit Fairy that left all that half digested food in the sink for me. Hard to tell. It seems to me that having a few drinks is pretty ok. But, getting really drunk mostly leaves me feeling like I did something really bad to myself—like I poisoned myself or watched daytime network television or something.

But, the good thing is the booze made me sleep, which nothing else has been able to do. I slept from about 8 PM until 1:45 PM today. This was good. I've been sleep deprived for too long.

I called Ylva to find out when Christoffer would return. She told me I had to leave in ten minutes to go get him from the airport—an hour away. Good thing I woke up!

Meeting Christoffer at the airport was like going to a little family reunion. Helene (the female singer on my last record) and Magnus (from Junk Musik and the band Metro Jets) were also there—they'd played in the band as well! Christoffer is a genius when it comes to nepotism. Per Gessle used to have this other band of guys that backed him up. But, slowly this band has been replaced by only Christoffer's best friends. Fortunately they're all stellar—the best. But, it's funny. And I like it.

It makes sense. When I need something done, I don't look in the phone book (remember those?) or call a "professional" first. I call someone I know who does that particular thing—no matter what their skill level. I mean, of course, I try to go for the one who is really good. But the point is I offer all jobs to people I know and like before people I don't know. I guess the real question is, does anybody do it any other way besides this?

Christoffer suggested we eat at the guest giving place, so we did. This time I was smart and ordered from the normal non–herring–buffet menu. It was great, as usual. But, there was something, well, fishy about it. The bill was disturbingly not exorbitant. Both of our meals combined was a paltry $35—and that's with drinks. It was so surprisingly not outrageously expensive that I felt a little worried. Is Sweden broken? Hello? Anyone? What happened? Why don't I feel stabbing pain in my wallet when I view this bill? Why doesn't this cost as much as a car or a year's wages for an American? I'm confused.

We returned to the studio where we started recording my vocal tracks. We began with There You Are. The backing tracks sound brilliant—luscious layers of guitars that sound like sleeping with shimmery instruments on top. But, for some reason singing with them didn't work. It all sounded so uninspired and wrong.

Christoffer asked me to come into the control room and play the song again on my acoustic and sing at the same time. He said, "I think the background tracks are great on their own. But, I don't think they're right for you to sing with. It happens quite a lot. But, we'll have to redo them."

Redoing a song—that's the worst. We put all this time into making the tracks brilliant and now we need to redo them. He suggested we play without a click track so the feel would match the feel I have when I play the song live. My tempos are all over the place—I speed up and slow down and do whatever the hell feels right on that day. I guess, when I think about it, maybe it makes sense that I shouldn't play with a click? Anyways.

The toy piano we used on So Alone.

Still in vocal mode, we moved on to So Alone. Everything about it felt perfect. I was jumping up and down in the studio I was so happy. After seven takes he told me we were done. I'm not the best singer—and certainly not accurate. So, seven takes is sort of way too few for me to nail a track—way, way, way too few.

He insisted, "No, these are great. We're done. You did great."

Even now it's sometimes weird to think of myself as a singer. What a weird thing to do with one's time—sing a bunch. I don't really even like singing all that much. It just seems like a part of playing songs that you can't do without. I tried to find another singer to sing my songs. Nobody seemed to want to. So, I decided that I better just do it myself. I guess that's how I became a singer. Weird.

Christoffer was tired from all his flying and playing and working and so on. So, we retired an hour early—which gave me my first break to write since I arrived on Monday. Now it's time to go to bed and dream of a world where nobody vomits and herring flows like water in every home.

There You Are
Words and music by Justin Winokur. ©2003 Justin Winokur Music.

The night can be so unsure
a time of fear—a time of wonder.
Will life go on?
Will the morning come?
Will you be there when I awake?
When I awake will you be there?
I wonder will I see you, shining?
Every day would be so wrong
If I awoke and you were gone.

So every morning's leap of faith
I make with childlike anticipation
but I open up my eyes and there you are!
There you are!
All my sweetest dreams come true
because there you are.

I fall asleep in your milky arms.
Your breath is a dewey breeze on my skin.
But, yet my faith is tested by sleep—
will you be there when I awake?

Will you be there when I awake?
When I awake will you be there?
I wonder will I see you, shining?
Every day would be so wrong
If I awoke and you were gone.

So every morning's leap of faith
I make with childlike anticipation
but I open my eyes and there you are!
There you are!
All my sweetest dreams come true
because there you are.

So Alone
Words and music by Justin Winokur. ©2001 Justin Winokur Music.

Sometimes this love is too much for me
and I don't wanna be in it—
no part of it.
Alone is where I wanna be—
an old home locked away inside of me,
inside of me.

So alone—I wanna be so alone.
So alone—I wanna be so alone.

I don't have imagination.
I just wanna tell it like it is:
That this world, and this love, and the sweetness of life—
it's too much.
I run away inside of me.
So alone—I wanna be so alone.
So alone—I wanna be so alone.