All My Friends I Have Never Met.

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“Coming Home From Work”, color pencil on paper, 11″x 14″, 2017.

I am a team member at Whole Foods. I currently work in the prepared foods department and I am one of the people serving customers the food we make. In that roll I am one of the faces representing the company and as such I have to always try to be in a good mood and be nice to customers even when they act like ignorant, needy, spoiled kids. Thankfully most people are great, but every once in a while one comes around who just seem to be there to insult you and tell you how much they hate Whole Foods and what a shitty job you’re doing. I can see past that, knowing that it’s not me, but something lacking in this person’s life is causing him or her to act this way.

When I hand over the product the customer is purchasing, I usually tell them something like “Here you go my friend”and in my head I have played up a scene where a customer will reply “How do you know I’m your friend” or “I’m not your friend” or something like that.

My answer in that imaginary scenario is always: “Well, I’ve never met you before, so you can’t be my enemy.”

And that is how I believe we have to view the world. How can we think of someone we have never met, someone we know nothing about, as an enemy? How can we talk about an entire people or an entire religion as our enemy when we have never crossed paths with  them, or lived among them?

In my life so far, I have met a lot of people in a lot of different places. I met a lot of friends in my days as a travelling musician and I have met a lot of people who I feel are friends of mine since I moved to the US. I often think about places I have never been and I wonder who my friends are there that I haven’t met, that I may never meet. Maybe there’s a guy fixing cars in Tallahassee, Florida, who is a really good friend of mine? Maybe there’s a Muslim man from Iraq driving a cab in New York who I would become friends with if only we met? Surely there’s an older lady in Minnesota who could tell me some fascinating stories about her Swedish ancestors while making some amazing cookies and coffee that we could share sitting on her porch, overlooking the plains outside her family home?

There are friends all over the world that we will never meet. Why do so many of us think about the unknown as scary? Why do so many of us believe that those that are different from us automatically become our enemies? Shouldn’t it be the other way around? Shouldn’t we consider all the strangers in the world our friends until, for some reason, they convince us that they are not?

You know – innocent until proven guilty…?

We live in some very dangerous times. Enemies are produced and presented to us on a daily basis. Today we should hate Mexicans, tomorrow our Muslim brothers and sisters. I believe it’s time to break that cycle and start thinking about everyone as our friend. Get to know a stranger and THEN decide whether or not he or she is an enemy, or maybe just somebody you really don’t like. And that’s OK. We can’t like everybody.

What we can do is treat everybody with respect. We CAN show everybody love.

We can.

Si se puede!

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The Feelings You Get Under A Starry Sky…

I never feel as far away from my previous life as when I look at the stars at night and all the constellations are turned around. It’s the only time I feel lonely, or distanced from my friends and family over there. It’s a cliche, but the vastness of space really makes you think about your own existence and the enormous insignificance of our being. We think we’re so much, so big, so smart, so important…and yet…we are so small and the fact that we are here means nothing, absolutely nothing.

I remember one of the first nights after we had made the move from Sweden to Texas; we stayed for a few months in a little cottage out in the Hill Country outside of Austin and one evening we came home after another day of job hunting in the city, I parked our newly bought van (newly bought, not new) and turned off the engine and when we stepped out, the sky was just overwhelming…I had never seen so many stars in my life and I remember just standing there for several minutes feeling a wave of emotions washing over me.        I felt free, I felt lost, I felt as if everything was too late and anything was possible. I inhaled several deep breaths and looked at the milky way and the millions of stars until my neck was hurting.

I spent a big part of my previous life playing music. I started a band, we did pretty good and we toured a lot around Europe, mainly Germany, but we did trips to Norway, Denmark, France, Holland and the UK as well and many times, as we stopped somewhere along the way at some gas station somewhere in the middle of nowhere, I would look up at the stars and it always gave me that same feeling of being far away and yet so close to something… I have memories of night skies in Berlin, walking hand in hand with my girlfriend, now wife, in the middle of the night after a gig on our way to the hotel. I remember night skies in New York and London and in Flensburg when it was cold as hell and I was missing my wife.

I remember taking a leak in a dark forest somewhere in Germany on a stop in the middle of the night and the birch trees were pale under the clear sky and out of the blue I got images in my head of German soldiers hunting somebody down in the 1940’s. An eerie feeling came over me and I hurried back to the van. I remember being 14 years old sitting on the roof of my mother’s house on a warm summer night, feeling all grown up and small at the same time…

All these nights…always the same feelings welling up inside me, 14 years old or 42. It’s the same.

Here in Santa Fe you can see the stars much clearer than any other city I’ve lived in and every night when I let the dogs out to potty in our little front yard, I look up at the sky and I imagine my father halfway across the world looking up at the same stars and I wonder if he thinks about me. I kind of like the idea that he does.

Here’s a picture, not of a night sky, but skies all the same…a cool disc cloud making it’s way across the sky before disappearing in the dark of the night.

 

“Untitled”, color pencil drawing on paper, 2017.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Daydreams.

 

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“Untitled” Color pencil on paper. 2017.

 

Lately I’ve been listening a lot to wtf, Marc Maron’s podcast. He is a master at having conversations and bringing out real honest and interesting moments with whoever he is interviewing. One thing a lot of his guests seem to have in common is that they have struggled for a long time, many of them for years and years before having their moment, getting over the hump, lifting themselves up from the gutter or just making it through whatever trouble they were in. Adversity seem to be a common theme.

As I was driving home from work last night I thought of some of the interviews I’ve listened to and I started fantasizing about being a guest on his show. (And maybe this is the kind of thing you shouldn’t tell anyone because it’s pretty embarrassing I guess, but fuck it, we all do these things. I think? You know; some people sing in the shower and pretend to be on stage, blowing the audience away with their amazing voice and presence, some people pretend to receive an award for something great they accomplished, so I think it should be safe to admit to a brief moment of daydreaming here.)

Anyway, I was playing the scenario in my head where I was sitting down in Marc’s famous garage, telling him about my life and my struggle, my mother’s suicide, my years as a musician, our move to America and the years since, where my wife and I have struggled to make ends meet. And Marc sits back and listens to me and then he asks;

“So when did things change for you, what was the moment were you knew you’d made it and that you would be ok?” And I go “Well, you know Marc, for years and years my wife and I struggled. She was really sick and I was working these low wage jobs trying to support us, which wasn’t really working out, you know, it’s really hard to get by on anything less than $20/hour these days, right? We were really struggling and things were looking worse and worse, in fact; we weren’t really sure how we were going to pay rent…and I guess it was early 2017 and things were really looking shitty for us…then, out of the blue I got an email,  from this dude who owned a gallery and he had seen my art somewhere online and he wanted to represent me and from there, things just started working out until I got to the point where I was doing art for a living and making decent money on it…and that was it…”

I know it was just a stupid daydream, but for a few moments there, it felt like there was hope for a better future. I’m not dreaming about making millions of dollars, just enough so that I can pay my rent, my bills and not ever have to worry about it. Maybe go on a trip once in a while, maybe go out to eat once in a while…you know; just living a regular life without the constant stress over money.

You have to dream. Some dream big, some fantasize, some pretend. I think we all have that in common, no matter who we are, where we live, who we voted for and so on. I mean, fuck; what is life if we don’t allow ourselves to dream and pretend, right?

I don’t expect to get a call from Marc Maron anytime soon, but I will keep working at my art and hope that I never run out of joy in doing so.

Who knows, maybe there’s a future in it, maybe not. All I can do is do my best.

 

 

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On Being Creative, Being Lost and Being Bold.

So it’s Saturday night, March 4th 2017 and the world is in a crisis. Right?
How else can you put it?
Trump is president and the whole world is in the shitter.
Seen in the shadow of that, my life is pretty good. I mean, I have a wife who I love and admire, we have amazing nature just a few minutes away, I have pets that I love and that give me so much love that sometimes I wonder what the hell they see in me?
Is it really THAT great that I came home from work?
Yes, apparently it is.
It’s beyond tail wagging; it’s a fucking salsa dancing party every time I come home and it makes me very happy.
My wife and I live in a great little duplex, I have a large basement in which I have set up my studio and I spend my mornings down there working on my art. That makes me very happy also. When I take that French press of freshly made coffee and I grab my laptop and walk the eleven steps down into the basement, it is pure joy. I love the mornings I get to spend working on a new drawing.
And I am getting better at it.
I would even say I am pretty damn good at it.
I’ve found my own “voice” and my own expression in my drawings and I feel proud of myself for having developed the patience to do these pictures. Ten years ago, I would not have been able to.
I was very stressed out back then.
I am very stressed out these days too, but life has taught me something, I guess, and that is patience.
Everything takes time. Most things you long for will never happen and it’s OK.
You find something else.
Ten years ago I was devastated because the band I had worked with so hard, for so long, was no more. Instead of being a celebrated musician, I was working for the city, picking up trash in the streets and after I worked for the city for six months, I worked for the Postal Service for a year and a half and I hated every moment of it.
But I did it.
I got up every morning and rode my bike to do a job I hated.
I was in my early twenties when I got my first job as a janitor at the public radio in Stockholm.Now, at 42 I feel like I have done my fair share of hard work and I’m at a point where I have a job that I actually like, but that pays virtually no money.
I am 42 and I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.
Am I the only one, or do other people feel that way?
I am 42 and I have never been so poor. I have made some choices in life that people would say were stupid or even insane, maybe. But I made the choices I made and I feel pretty happy and proud about it although I do wish that I had, over the years, acquired some sort of education to fall back on, because being poor sucks.
It’s OK to be 21 and be poor and not know how you’re going to pay rent. Not so much at 42.
I keep working on my drawings and I keep thinking that maybe people will like it and want to buy something. So I spend $100 I really can’t afford to spend on making a couple of prints, thinking I will sell a few and get my money back and then nobody wants any…
That’s the life of all starving artists, I suppose.
It can be pretty discouraging.
And still, I know that I will continue and I will learn with every new drawing and I will get better and maybe some day something will happen; somebody will “discover me” and things will work out.
I keep thinking these things. And then I remember my mother’s diary that my stepfather went through after her death, and I specifically remember a passage reading something like ” I’m 42 years old and I have still not had my big breakthrough…”
And I think “wow…that kind of sounds like me…”
My mother wanted to be a writer. She was always writing stuff and she kept sending the scripts to publishers and magazines and she kept getting these “Thanks but no thanks” letters.
And yet she kept writing. She kept a diary until the day that she died. The last entry was literally a few hours before she killed herself.
There’s something about the creative process that can never be explained to someone who doesn’t have “it”. “IT” being that urge, that drive, that longing to be creative. It’s not a hobby. It’s not just something that is fun and that passes time for a few hours every weekend. It is so much more; a need so deep and vague and that can be so very satisfying and so very frustrating at the same time.
Unlike when I was writing songs, I have never felt forced to do my art.
It is fun, only fun.

 

I love that feeling and I hope I can keep it that way.

I don’t know where I’d be without it.
p.s. If you are interested in buying a print from me (or an original), send me a message. I accept payments via PayPal.
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Trails.

My wife and I moved to Santa Fe, NM at the end of September. Austin became too much for us; too crowded and too expensive and we decided it was time to go somewhere else. You can only bang your head against the wall for so long before you realize it’s not doing any good.

Since we got here, we have explored a number of trails in the mountains above the city. Some steep ones, some easy ones,some more frequented, some more isolated. There seems to be an endless amount to choose from and it is a pure joy seeing our dogs run around checking out every turn, every new exciting smell and the occasional random dog and human crossing our path. These 1-2 hour long hikes are so rejuvenating and a great medicine for the soul. For a few moments it allows you to forget the stress of the everyday life; bills, illness and whatever else is looming over you.

I have never before tried to do any landscape drawing, I never had the interest before. Now, it’s all I have done for the past two months. Much to my surprise I discovered that it was a lot of fun to try to capture the intricate patterns; the relations between the trees and the shadows, the spaces between, the dark and the light and the incredible variety of shadows and colors. An endless amount of variations that I take pleasure in trying to capture and make my own.

I made a print of one of these drawings, you can purchase it from me, just send me a message if you’re interested. I am only making 50 copies, so hopefully it will be a limited offer (I mean, I hope I will sell out fast).

winsor-trail

 

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From Austin To New York.

From Austin To New YorkMorning.

Let the journey begin. Let this plane take us out of here and in to the next phase, whatever that may be. You’re still sleepy, it’s early, but there’s no way you can get any rest here in these uncomfortable seats. You go get some coffee, you go get some tea, some water; some overpriced airport water, and you drink it without tasting it. Commerce all around. Coffee, tea, tacos, bagels, cinnamon rolls, hot dogs, watches, books, fruit, drinks, snacks, travel accessories, whatever the hell that is…No, this is not a vacation. It may feel like it; after all you’re away from the daily routine and on your way to something you have never seen before, but it’s not a vacation and it’s not a getaway. It’s a chance for life. In a country with an enormous wealth, where some people pay millions for a house or an apartment without even blinking,others are homeless, sleeping in the streets. Where some people can buy anything they desire, others are dying because they can’t afford healthcare. “Can’t afford healthcare”. Taste it. It feels wrong, doesn’t it? You can’t afford saving your life. The affordable will not take you very far anymore.

This is not a vacation, it’s a chance for life. It’s paid for by friends and strangers who donated to a fundraiser you started for a chance for a normal life. You want to be  a part of something. You want to contribute, to be a productive member of society, however lame and stiff that may sound. Don’t want to live in the shadows, like a ghost. Don’t want to be isolated. Don’t want to not have the energy.  We have one life. Yours feels like half a life, the way things have turned out. Morning. From Austin to New York. From home; that low income housing unit in the midst of what used to be “weird” but now has turned into condo, “luxury living”-“amazing views”-heaven, to see the doctor at a clinic where you don’t have to explain or defend yourself.

Morning. Sunrise. You’re tired, but there’s a tickle in your chest. It’s an unfamiliar feeling. Is it hope?

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Remnants of Weird

I admit it. I am one of the thousands of people who have moved to Austin in the past 10 years. I moved here in 2009 with my wife and our then 13 year old cat. We had been here twice before; first time, for me, was in 2007 when we did some shows at SXSW. The second time in 2008, when we had just gotten married and chose Austin as our honeymoon destination.

I fell in love with Austin. It was easy. It was way different from Sweden, where I had spent all my life. The mentality here was just so liberating – easygoing, laid back, open minded and respectful. People where genuinely nice and, it seemed, happy with life. Much more so than I had ever experienced anywhere else. I loved the heat and the humidity – I still do – and I felt like this was home, although I had never been here before.

I guess we came here just moments before the floodgates broke and the dam gave way, because in the past three or so years, it seems Austin has changed. For the worse, if you ask me. I see it every day; the increased traffic, the rudeness  and stress in people’s faces, the decreasing number of people that say “Hi” when you pass them in the street. The increase of hipsters and the disappearance of baggy shorts, big t-shirts and flip flops in the streets and on the restaurants patio’s. Something has gone missing. The laid back spirit that I came to experience and fall in love with has been replaced, it seems, by a growing level of stressed out people who seem to be in some sort of race. A race to get there first, to pay more, to build bigger (and in most cases, uglier) to move “forward” whatever that means and to generally compete. It’s like a gold rush all over again and these people, this mentality, this greed, is killing the true spirit of what so many of us fell in love with in the first place. The city is growing and, sure, it’s improving, but if you can’t afford to be in the race there’s really nothing improving for you. Rents have sky rocketed, housing prices are through the roof, the roads are congested (some mornings it takes me an astounding 20 minutes to go from South Lamar, by the new Alamo – and don’t get me started on that whole development – to Cesar Chavez. It’s crazy. There’s a railway track running all the way parallel with South Lamar – why not put a commuter train or tram on that stretch? There could be stops all the way from Ben White, Town Lake, Enfield, 38th, 45th, Anderson Ln and so on.

All these new apartment complexes…I have to say that it seems like the architects all lost their sense of innovation, creativity and design. All over town, these boxy, ugly places are popping up. 300 new units here and 300 new units there and everyone’s got their own car and everyone’s gonna join everyone else on the streets in the morning and afternoon rush hours. And as much as I dislike it, I find myself living in one of these places. My wife and I were fortunate to get a one bedroom – an affordable housing unit – on South Lamar and I love the location. I love the fact that there is a courtesy officer on site that you can call if someone is loud late in the evening, I love the closeness to the greenbelt and all the restaurants around here. We can’t afford to go out to eat right now, but some day we will and I look forward to it. “Affordable” btw means half my paycheck and maybe that says more about my salary than the prices on rent, but if we hadn’t gotten the affordable housing deal, our apartment would cost $1600 / m. That’s crazy, if you ask me, but I guess people make that kind of money these days and can afford to pay that much for living?

All these things going on. And still. I love Austin. I absolutely love living here and I really want to stay here, I have no wish to go back to Sweden and nowhere else I’d rather live but here. I’m not saying that everything was better before, but we need to stop for a moment and think about what kind f city we want to build for ourselves? Is it going to be an including, diverse, exciting, creative city where the old Austin can live together with the new, or is it just going to be a luxurious playground for those who can afford to pay up?  I just wish that this expansion madness would slow down. It needs to. It has to, because Austin – the Austin I fell in love with 8 years ago is disappearing. And that is just too sad. Maybe I don’t have the right, the authority to talk about Austin like this, being a newbie myself, but I love Austin and I don’t want Austin to become what it is becoming.

I call this picture “Remnants of Weird” because it embodies everything that’s going on in Austin right now. You’ve got the old institutions; Saxon Pub with it’s guarding knight by the street, South Austin Music with that spinning guitar, a sense of the old, weird, unique being pushed out before our eyes and replaced by yet another large boxy apartment complex.  Streamlined. Soulless. Soon all that’s left will be apartments and hip expensive places to spend all that IT / web designer money and the old Austin will move further out, or maybe somewhere else all together and then you’re going to have to come up with a new, more accurate city slogan, ‘cos you’re not keeping it weird anymore.

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