May 17, 2016
It's been quite a year here on the edge of the river in my hometown of West Lake Woebegin -- where the women are strong, the men are good looking, the children are way above the average SAT score -- and no one is going anywhere.
This is the year our community officials decided to rebuild roads, which is good thing except they decided to rebuild . . .
All of them.
All at once.
At the moment, we are a community of some 180,000 souls – and 200,000 orange and white road construction barrels.
Our local newspaper has stopped announcing road closings. They're just announcing which roads are open.
They haven't found one yet. But they promise when they do they will announce it.
There is actually a proposal before the city council to change the Latin inscription on our seal to "Non Hinc Illuc" – which translates roughly "You can't get there from here."
And since no one can get anywhere, everyone is pretty much just staying home.
People can't even get to church on Sundays, which is a great hardship for Norwegians.
Don't get me wrong.
We can all live without Pastor Linquist's preaching, which has gotten a little long as of late.
What we can't live without is church supers.
Some folks haven't tasted tuna salad, mac and cheese and Jell-O in a month of Sundays.
Since they can't get to church my friend Bjorn Bjornsen decided to go over the Sunday School lesson himself with his son, Bjorn Jr.
Norwegians aren't too original with names.
"List the first four chapters of the Old Testament," Bjorn the father said.
"That's easy," said Bjorn the son. "Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus and . . . Lutefisk."
NO!! the father said. "That's wrong. How could you make a mistake that? Don't you pay attention in Sunday School? Get this right.
"Leviticus comes after Lutefisk!"
Well, the boy figured his father must be right.
But from his own personal experience there was something else that came after lutefisk and it had to do with holding your mouth and a mad dash to the bathroom.
We all agree that the roadwork is needed and it's the right thing to do and it will be great when it's all finished.
We just wish we had even an outside shot at living long enough to see it.
It's a national election year and all the politicians running for president recently poured into my hometown.
Oddvar Trumpetsen was one of the candidates.
He's been campaigning hard to build a wall to stop the flow of people who want to find a better way of life in a new place. We don't mind them finding a new place and a better place.
The problems is they're coming to our place!
You know what I'm talking about. I'm talking about illegal aliens entering our hometown from that city on the other side of the river.
And that city isn't sending it's best people across our boarder. Do you know who they're sending?
They're sending their Swedes. They're pushing all their Swedes off on us.
The Swedes are crossing the river in their Viking ships like they're invading Ireland and just pouring into our nice, quiet, little Norwegian village.
They are coming here with their Dala horses, their Ikea stores, their Volvos, and their Absolute vodka.
Well, actually the Absolute vodka isn't too bad.
The Swedes are coming here with their Carl Larsson paintings of happy children at play.
Do you know what the Norwegian painter Edvard Munch had to say about happy Carl Larsson paintings? (Scream)
If these Swedes keep pouring in our children and grandchildren are going to grow up singing Abba music: "Gimme, gimme, gimme?
We're told we even have to grant these Swedes their civil rights. Now even though they're Swedes if they self-identify as Norwegians we have to let them use --- well I think you know what we have to let them use.
We're have to let them use our fjords!
Do you want your wife and daughters on the same fjords as Swedes?
I should think not.
So Trumpetsen wants to build a wall. And the people in my town are thinking maybe he's right. Maybe a wall is a good idea. But not so much to keep the Swedes out.
They're thinking about putting up a wall to keep out ALL the presidential candidates.
We're a simple people in my hometown, but you know we're living in a time when everything is discussed openly, even things that were once considered the most private.
The other day my Norwegian neighbor Hakon Johansen went to the doctor. He said he wasn't doing well with his wife in the sex life thing.
The doctor told Hakon he just needed exercise. "Go outside and walk 10 miles every day," the doctor said. "Then call me in a week."
A week went by, Hakon called the doctor and told him he'd walked 10 miles every day "Yust like I was told."
"Has your sex life improved?" the doctor asked.
"How would I know," Hakon answered. "I'm 70 miles away from home and my wife."
Well it's a too bad he was walking instead of driving because if he had been driving he'd have gotten nowhere and he'd be home.
Things are going very well over at our little Norwegian Lutheran University, St. Purdue.
It's spring. But everything over there is frozen – frozen tuition, frozen budgets.
Everything our St. Purdue President Magnus Danielsen touches becomes frozen. He says he got the idea from a Hans Christian Andersen story. But we think he stole it from Disney.
I don't know where all this heading and how long he can keep it going, but people are starting to call him President Elsa.
I never come to a Syttende Mai party without thinking about my mother. She loved this party.
Her father's name was Bernt Martinius Berntsen. He came to this country by himself as a teenager.
He loved Norway, as all Norwegians do. He always talked about life there. When she was just a girl he taught my mother to sing the Ja Vi Elsker and she always sang it loudly.
Her papa told her stories about the sea, about Norwegian boats, about how during winter in the Old Country he skied to school and church.
Well, this was Norway. Sometimes he skied in the spring and fall, too.
Norwegians love to ski. They say Norwegians are born with skiis on their feet – which is alovely tale and great for the Olympic team, but not so good for mothers on labor.
For them it would be better if Norwegians were born with ballet slippers on their feet.
As a girl my mother loved joining her mother and father during visits to see relatives and friends.
When they all got together the Norwegians --and a few Swedes and Danes who had sneaked into the family -- would speak the old languages, talking about the old country they had left so far behind.
My mother loved their stories and the musical sound of their voices and their laughter.
Most of all she loved visiting her father's brother, Abraham, and his wife who they all called Tante Jenny.
Jenny was Danish, but they mostly forgave her for that.
On family occassions Tante Jenny would have all her Danish relations over. Danish women were a little different.
My mother loved to be around the Danish women because in those days when dinner was finished all the Danish women retired to the kitchen – and lit up cigars.
Not little things. Big stoogies!
My mother would peak in the kitchen and she thought it was a hoot, seeing all these women smoking big cigars instead of doing the dishes.
Many years later when I backpacked through Europe and Scandannavia as a college student my mother's only word of caution to me was this: "Do not kiss Danish girls no matter how pretty they are."
She said Danish girls had cigar breath.
Well, I filed her advice in the back of my head, as boy's do, and put it out of my mind.
And to be honest I never did kiss a pretty Danish girl. No even once.
There was a pretty French girl. But that's another story.
No pretty Danes. And truthfully, it wasn't because I was concerned about cigar breath.
It's just that no pretty Danish girl ever gave me an opportunity to kiss her.
No pretty Danish girl even got close enough for me to kiss her. However, being a good son, if I had been given the opportunity I would have certainly remembered my mother's warning.
And then -- I would have kissed the pretty Danish girl, cigar breath and all.
I've always lived by a simple rule when it comes to a mother's sage advice.
That rule is this: If a boy always follows his mother's advice he will never get into any trouble.
He will never get into trouble.
He will never have any fun.
But he will never get into trouble.
I always preferred having fun . . . and dealing with cigar breath later.
Of course there's no place more fun than our celebration of Syttende Mai.
And while my mother is no longer with us for this I have a feeling right now at this very moment she's having a good time up in heaven. Maybe she's watching us and getting ready to sing the Norwegian National Antheme with us once again. But knowing her – she's probably sitting in heaven's kitchen with the Danish women near a stack of unwashed dishes – and smoking a big cigar.
And that's the news from my home town – where all the Danish women smoke cigars, where the men keep lots of breath mints on hand, and where the children think lutefisk is the fourth chapter of the Bible.
Copyright John Norberg