Among laptops and vampires
“It’s ok, I saved the laptop!”
I just returned from UK to Sweden after a week of standup gigs in and around London. This was also the first time I met my friend Paul-a cult comedian on the British standup circuit. He was quite well known by the British comedians, and the fact that he was in the crowd to give me support made the other comedians treat me with some respect.
We had been in contact online a couple of years earlier when I helped him restore his webforum which had been hacked, but we had never met in real life. But with some people it’s like you have known them forever, you connect directly and pick up a conversation where you left it some time ago on the web.
After the gigs we usually went to a club or a pub or a restaurant, talking about weird and absurd topics with each other which made people at other tables try to listen in to our confusing discussion on the difference between elks and seabass, why it would not be such a good idea to fly a magic carpet over Scunthorpe at night or just more daily topics like how to make your own sextoys out of things you have forgotten in your basement. Old bicycle pumps, maracas, stuffed squirrels or whatever.
So when it was time for me to go back to Sweden, Paul joined. I had booked a few gigs for him, and a hotel (that proved to be a hostel since I didn’t take the time to read their add thrice) overlooking the Stockholm Castle. Nice view, single room but shared bathroom. I still feel embarrassed for that.
After about two hours flight with the lowfare-company of our choice, we landed at the more or less Stockholm Airport in Nyköping, an hour and a half south of Stockholm. Since the bus wasn’t leaving for Real-Stockholm in half an hour, we sat down and had a “fika”-the Swedish way to spend time without actually doing anything else than drink coffee and eat cinnamon-buns. If it is good for Swedish football coaches it’s good for the rest of us. Paul had no idea what a cinnamon-bun was, and so he took a glass of white wine and a sponge cake.
I took out my laptop from my backpack and started to check my emails. Time flied and without even noticing it, the time to get the bus was rapidly changing from “in time” to “you will miss it”. I swiftly grabbed my backpack, forgot to put my laptop in it and so I just stuffed it under my arm and started to run towards the bus. Paul wasn’t the running type so his choice of transportation was more of the type walking fast.
In Almost-Stockholm it still was winter. Winter in Almost-Stockholm contains snow. And ice. And often a mix of both. As it was on the platform next to the bus. So as graceful as a swan with a severe limp I slipped in front of the bus, hit my back and my head in the concrete ground. “Are you OK?” Paul shouted in a worried but also slightly amused tone of voice. I looked around. No blood, so I wasn’t severely injured. I could stand up. A slight dizziness and some pain in my left shoulder. I looked around. The backpack had landed a couple of meters away. But I still had a firm grip of my laptop.
“It’s OK. I saved my laptop!” This statement made Paul burst out in laughter. The bus driver, who had come out aswell to see if I was OK, smiled and said “well, as long as yo saved your laptop I guess a slight concussion is something you can live with.”
During the bus ride to Stockholm I checked out the laptop to see if it was damaged, and every time he looked my way Paul started to laugh silently. It was not an evil laughter, more like relief over the fact that I wasn’t hurt. So I held up the laptop in front of him, he laughed and I put it back into the backpack. After 15 minutes of very boring bus travel I leaned towards the backpack, whispered “laptop” and he started to laugh again.
Once in Stockholm we looked up his “hotel”. I wanted to sink through the floor. This wasn’t at all what I had expected. Once you found the lobby-which of course wasn’t on the ground floor, why should it be?-on the second floor, you were handed a bag containing sheets, towels and pillowcases. I started to get a cold sweat now. Paul on the other hand smiled at me and said “it’s ok, I’m only going to sleep here”. And considering the lack of anything else than a vending machine with chocolate bars and Diet Coke I realized that any late evening partying would have to take place somewhere else. We went to find his room, and after checking out the area where he was supposed to get a good nights sleep (it did actually HAVE sort of an ensuite: Hooray!) we decided to meet two hours before the gig that evening.
“Hi, I’m Stefan. Stefan Gradin”. Stefan was one of my best friends in the comedy circuit in Stockholm. He was an original with an absurd kind of humor, and that had made him a target for the “THIS is how you should do stand up” posse consisting mainly of comedians who weren’t as well known as they thought, and believed that they had the answer to how to succeed in standup, even though they hadn’t been close to succeeding themselves. But hey-at least they knew someone who knew someone who lived next door to a cousin of a person who had been on a tv gameshow on one of the smaller tv-channels.
Paul said “hello” and the conversation paused. With us on the commuter train were also Jutta, a new comedian who ran a small club in the western outskirts of the Stockholm suburbs, and Sten-Erik. Sten-Erik was an ex teacher, ex ventriloquist, and ex singer and almost ex living person who now at 86 years age wanted to be standup comedian.
The problem with Sten-Erik was that he had some signs of age that was not only grey hair, wrinkled skin and a bent back. He didn’t hear much so the comedians back stage used to have to tell him if the crowd had laughed or not. Mostly the comedians felt sorry for him since he seldom got any laughs and mostly totally bombed, especially after scaring all girls in the audience to death by shouting “I’M SINGLE!!!” , and then laughing “hehehe” with an evil smile, so they told him he was great even though people sometimes left the room and went to the bar during his five minutes. At one gig he had complained that he lost his sight, and it turned out he had a minor stroke. But he went up on stage anyway, half blind and with stroke, since he loved the stage so much.
This time he had cotton wadding in his mouth. Even when un-cottoned his words were slurry and difficult to understand, but today it was totally impossible. “I’ve shlwrlittwud from grown.” We didn’t understand anything but just gave him our thumbs up anyway, just in case he had said something important. He took the cotton out of his mouth and continued. “I’ve extracted a tooth today. A wisdom tooth”.
While informing us on this, blood started dripping from his mouth. Even earlier Sten-Erik was so thin, crooked, grey and dried out that he looked like Maximilian Schreck in the classic German silent movie Nosferatu, and with blod dripping from his mouth all over his jacket he looked like a vampire who had just fed on something. I almost expected to find some feathers from a dead dove or something in the area around his mouth, but there was none. Only blood and foam.
I looked at Paul who sat opposite to Sten-Erik and seemed slightly chocked. “Sten-Erik, put the cotton back in you mouth. You are bleeding all over yourself”. Stefan had a big heart and felt sorry for Sten-Erik since more and more people on the commuter train was looking our way.
“I can’t I throw it in the waste paper bin”, Sten-Erik answered. Then he took up a wrinkled napkin from his pocket and put it in his mouth. Slightly disgusted we all tried to look another way.
After another 25 minutes of blood-dripping travel, we reach our final destination. We all got out and within minutes passers by could watch three comedians and a vampire walking through the streets towards the venue for tonights gig.