(SNN) - Many years ago, I spent a few cold January days in Stockholm, Sweden. Gray, eerie and beautiful, the city appeared to be skating on an endless sheet of Baltic ice. Around 2:00 PM the leaden sky dissolved into purple haze; within an hour the night was painted so black that not even a bad moon would dare to rise.
One night, I suggested to my friends that we check out a little blues bar I had noticed at the edge of town. I figured that a tiny dive in this most non-bluesy of countries during the dead of winter would be pretty tame.
And so it seemed. A faded poster of Muddy Waters. A tiny dance floor. An over-amplified and below average white band slogging through 12-bar standards and harmless shuffles.
A skinny, threadbare but harmless looking character was spinning around the dance floor alone, carefully avoiding an uncovered hole that opened to a subterranean room. Seconds after our overpriced beers arrived, he two-stepped by our table and, hearing us speaking English, started screaming, “F---- AMERICANS!!!”
“We’re Canadian,” said a quick-thinking friend who really was. I smiled cheerfully, trying to look the part.
The shabby ambassador repeated his warm greeting and then shuffled away, captivated by the band that played the blues so poorly that they needed sheet music. Minutes later, Drunken Jack Flash jumped back with more creative F-word conjugations. Then tangled up in his own shade of blue, he drifted away. Free falling. Dancing with himself.
And the band played on, doing their best to bring it on home. They strangled a slow shuffle as he spun across the floor, reeling and rocking like tumbling dice
But he didn’t give peace a chance. “AMERICA STOLE THE BLUES FROM SWEDEN!” he shouted.
Sweden: the birthplace of the boogaloo. I hadn’t known.
“YOU HAVE NO REAL BLUES IN AMERICA!!” he barked like a howling wolf.
“We’re from Canada,” I said, rambling on in my mind. “It’s like Sweden, without the blues.” At this point there was no reason to wait for the midnight hour. When he launched back into his rapidly decaying orbit, we hit the wet streets trying to remember whose bad idea this wild night had been.
“YOU HAD TO COME TO SWEDEN TO HEAR THE REAL BLUES!!” he yelled, following us out into the sub-zero.
At the crossroads, he was still twisting and shouting. “SWEDEN IS THE TRUE HOME OF THE BLUES!!”
For him it was the gospel truth.
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