One recent blustery Thursday, I drove to the Nordic Heritage Museum with my mom and a tub of cashews. We paid $5 (suggested donation) and settled down in a small classroom for Norsk Filmklubb, a film night and potluck hosted by the Norwegian arm of the Scandinavian Language Institute. "It's a good thing the Norwegian alphabet has extra letters," announced Ed Egerdahl, my mom's Norwegian teacher, "because we are on plan Å!" Apparently there had been a few snafus leading up to this particular film night: a snowstorm, a film without English subtitles, and a backup film deemed too bizarre for Norsk Filmklubb sensibilities. But patiently, Norwegianly, they had worked it out.
I like thinking about Norway—about moving there in my early 20s (oops, too late), and working on a farm, and living in a red wooden house, and paying a bunch of taxes, and having prettier hair. Maybe I would pick up some whale meat at the fish market and, um, boil it (?) and take it over to cousin Knut's house for dinner where we would all eat rice pudding, listen to Grieg, and talk about how we don't like the new king quite as much as King Olav V (not jolly enough!). Then I would ride home on my reindeer. Or, you know, something totally Norwegian like that.
I identify with Norway more than I should, really. The reality is that I'm American, not Norwegian—but thinking about the Old Country makes me feel closer to my maternal grandparents, who both took off for Valhalla before we really got a chance to hang out. Fortunately, Seattle is the perfect town for people like me who are nursing sentimental attachments to far-removed Scandinavian homelands.
That night, the backup-backup movie was Lange Flate Ballær (or "Long Flat Balls"), an aggressively silly road-trip comedy about aging Norwegian soccer hooligans. Grown men fall down at the sight of boobs, a wacky alcoholic blasts the world's gnarliest farts, and everyone is good-naturedly weirded out by Christians (in that sensible, quasi-socialist, Scandinavian way). There are blowjob-related misunderstandings and much shoehorned sentimentality. It was terrible and great.
The crowd, a friendly cross section of vanishing Ballard, laughed and ate cookies. I took notes in my notesbog, which a pal gave me for Christmas this year. On the front, it says "NOTESBOG" and then, "Have you ever been to Scandinavia? There you'll see a lot of beautiful scenery and people living in lifestyles surrounded by their favorite things." According to Lange Flate Ballær, Norway's favorite things are pratfalls, fart jokes, and alcohol. I guess I am a real Norwegian after all. Skål!
That "one-man welcoming committee" behind the bar is my son Gill, and you hit it dead-on with the reference to "the Dude." Your article caught the true essence of the Alki. My husband, Gill Sr., especially liked your remark that the Alki "doesn't give a damn and never will." After 31 years, why start now?
Just for the record, it's Taco Thursday. On Tuesday we have Wimpy burgers, same deal—$1 build-your-own with the same guy in the kitchen and Gill behind the bar. So come on down Tuesday. Thanks again for keeping the Alki alive and well.
I'm sorry for the confusion, Butch. Onward and upward! I wish you and the Alki Tavern family a very happy New Year.
Alki Tavern, 1321 Harbor Ave SW, 932-9970