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2012-01-02 10:16 a.m.

Me in Sweden.

People ask me why I like it here so much.

It's not the rain. In the winter it rains, although sometimes the rain is frozen and pretty and fluffy and white. In the summer it rains even more just to mock you.

It's not the waiting—always a queue to do the simplest thing. If Sweden could have its way they would install one of those little machines that tells you what number you are in line just so you could know when it was your turn to get rained on again.

And, it's surely not the friendly, outgoing people. People wouldn't say hello to you on the street unless you were their own mother. And you were on fire. And they were totally drunk. And even then only maybe.

So what is it? Strange, preserved fish presented as food for humans, fanatical nationwide obsession with candles, six dollar cups of coffee, an endless supply of birch trees?

Sweden is a little like abuse. It's something that one can get used to over time. First there is shock, then horror, then numbness. Eventually it seems normal. And, with some effort you can actually find—or imagine—some sick comfort and beauty behind it all. After being punched in the face enough times you can start to discern the subtle nuances of the situation. Today when he punched my face his breath had the sweet scent of decay. Or, today he screamed as he hit me: It sounded like Axl Rose in the intro of Welcome to the Jungle. What a great album that was. Or, this time he didn't just punch me, but also kicked me to the ground and kept kicking me. And he sprayed me in the face with the garden hose. The water smelled like summer camp. I saw a walnut tree as I looked up and the scar beneath his chin. And his shoes. I don't remember seeing those black boots before. They look like they must be terribly warm. Probably waterproof, too. Maybe he got them for Christmas. I always loved the holidays.

It's easier to suffer the beatings when I know that eight million other people are here with me, feeling the same things, suffering the same stings, thinking about breath and boots and summer camp and Axl Rose. A nation of the downtrodden. A big Alcoholics Anonymous meeting where we can all look around the room and find some solace in the understanding eyes of others.