Monday, September 27, 2010


(The Scream, Edvard Munch,

Bob and I jump off the trolley at the Royal Palace in Oslo because it's as good a place as any to start our tour of Old Town.

There is a royal guard standing at attention in the tiny guard house in front of the palace.

I could be wrong but it looks like a black bear cub is tied to the top of his head.

The "cub" is secured to the guard's head by a large chin strap that looks as if it's about to strangle the guard.

His uniform is military black - dark, inky military black.

His demeanor is "stern" - bordering on what I would call "if you touch me I'll kill you."

Several tourists stand in the early morning sun gawking at him.

Bob and I join the gawking party but frankly, I've had more fun watching snow melt.

So we decide to check out the action on Oslo's main drag: Karl Johannes Gate.

We walk down to the Domkirke - Oslo's old and stately cathedral.

Cathedral designs - both the exteriors and the interiors - always fire-up Bob's imagination.

I say to myself: "Bob is really going to enjoy seeing this church."

He pulls the handle of the ancient hand-carved door.

It's locked tighter than a drum.

We walk to the side entrance and I pull the handle to that door.

It's a no go.

We are both disappointed but this is particularly frustrating for Bob since this church will be our one and only cathedral stop in Oslo.

It's not a stretch to assume that the church is locked because of the early morning hour and we reluctantly leave the cathedral's grounds.

We reverse our steps and walk back up Karl Johannes Gate.

This wide avenue is filled with classy shops, lovely restaurants and a bounty of historic edifices.

Bob is having a field day taking pictures of all the architectural wonders on the Gate.

(The pronunciation for "Gate" in Norwegian is: ga -ta, by the way).

We pace ourselves so we will arrive just as the doors open for the day at the National Gallery of Art.

We arrive promptly at 10 a.m.

As we walk up the steps of the art museum I happen to notice a small sign to the left of the building.

It reads: "Museum opens at 11 a.m. on Saturdays."

And this is, of course, a Saturday!

I quickly inform Bob and say to him, "It looks like we have an hour to kill. What should we do?"

Bob attempts to spit it out, "There's a g - g- gi - gift shop across the street. Let's see if it's open."

Miraculously, it is!

Cautiously, I ask Bob, "Are you sure you want to go in there?"

We both know we are tempting fate but we are so completely bored we no longer care.

Like pigs shuffling off to the slaughterhouse, we open the door to the shop.

The die is cast.

We wander through the aisles of cutesy cards, figurines, stuffed animals and novelty chocolates for a few minutes until I discover racks of miniature art prints - copies of original paintings by Norwegian artists - near the check out counter.

I glance sideways at Bob as I lift the first art print out of it's slot on the rack.

I can feel his cold breath as it hits my neck.

His left eye begins to twitch.

His lip starts to quiver.

For the unaware, these are the tell tale signs of a person - usually male - who is entering the initial stages of "shopitis."

This condition is often associated with anyone who abhors shopping for longer than say - 16 seconds.

Bob has suffered from advanced shopitis since the very day of our marriage - nearly 40 years ago.

In fact, it was immediately after our wedding breakfast when Bob and I stopped by a woman's clothing shop in Orem.

I needed to purchase a very warm sweater for our trip to colder than cold Wyoming - the sight of our second open house in celebration of our wedded happiness.

I noticed the aggravated eye twitching and the sickening cold breath on my neck for the first time as we stood in that tiny store studying price tags.

Believe me, it was terrifying.

Not for him, of course.

For me.

It was in that shop that I realized my carefree days of blissful retail therapy were about to be seriously numbered.

These scary memories force cold shivers up my spine as I stand like a condemned woman in the gift shop.

Then I realize that Bob is getting antsy to the maxxxxxxxxxxxx.

He is walking up and down the aisles of the shop trying desperately to contain his mounting frustration.

Just like an FBI agent on surveillance, he steals agitated glances in my direction and waits for any possible signal from me that we are about to leave the store.

To make matters worse, he knows that I am going to hand over the plastic and actually pay for these items in mere seconds.

Then it happens.

I glance quickly across the shop and see Bob standing in the stuffed teddy bear aisle staring at me.

Our piercing eyes lock in utter horror.

When things progress to this point, I must purchase something, anything as soon as possible.

Or I will be forced to leave the shop with nothing.

Yes, that's right - I said NOTHING!!!!!!!

As far as I'm concerned, that's a fate worse than death.

I hurry and pay for the art prints as quickly as possible.

My heart is about to jump out of my chest.

In a matter of seconds, the deal is done.

Bob and I meet at the check-out counter as the cashier places my art prints in the bag.

Our only goal?

To get out of this shop immediately.

Preferably sooner.

As usual, Bob's breathing returns to normal as we exit the store.

We walk back up the street to the National Gallery.

Mounds of people are gathering on the steps of the museum waiting for the doors to open.

We jockey for position on the steps and wait several minutes before the guard unlocks the doors at 11:05 a.m.

Inside, Bob corners a guard and asks, "Can I take pictures of the art?"

The guard replies, "We don't allow photos in the galleries but you may take interior pictures of the remaining areas of the building if you wish."

I see Bob's hopeful expression change within seconds.

I know he is not happy.

He enjoys taking pictures of the art because he likes to stay BUSY.

We linger in the wonderful landscape gallery where many Norwegian artists shine brightly.

Stunning portraits of blonde-headed children in peasant dress catch our eyes in the next gallery.

The crowds thicken as we near the room that holds Edvard Munch's psychological masterpiece, "The Scream."

This painting is currently one of the most beloved works of art in the world.

People from all countries and every walk of life find it's stark emotionalism intriguing.

Bob finds it worthy of a one second glance on his way out of the gallery.


Please allow me to interpret the meaning of Mr. Munch's masterpiece for you.

Munch has painted his "screamer" at the exact moment his subject learns that he has been permanently assigned to the Fifth Circle of Hell.

He is caught in that very moment - eternally horrified as he realizes that the Fiftth Circle is where all of the gift shops are located.

Bob should have warned him.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


("I Won't Do It and You Can't Make Me"  Emoting Child by Gustav Vigeland, Oslo, Norway)

"We need to get off this ship as soon as possible," I said to Bob during breakfast.

I hastily added: "It's going to take us awhile to get out to Vigeland Sculpture Park and we don't have any time to waste today."

Bob glances at me and says: "We'll have plenty of time to do everything on our schedule if we are ready to go around 8 a.m."

We leave the Star Princess promptly at 7:15 a.m. (hey, we're burning daylight here!) and walk from the dock to the nearest taxi stand a few minutes away.

The taxi will take us to the center of Oslo where we will catch the trolley out to Vigeland Park.

But Bob, my strapping Viking for the day, boldly tells the taxi driver to take us directly to the sculpture park.

I nearly scream with joy!

There will be no "have we got the right trolley" worries on this glorious morning!

There will be no "this is taking forever" trolley transferring today!

My Viking has just hired a taxi for a DIRECT ride to the park, for goodness sake!

As a result of this noble, chivalrous decision I am going to experience a rare, blissful and stress-free sedan ride out to the "Oslo land of many sculptures."

I want to bow down and kiss Bob the Bold's filthy Viking boot!

On second thought.........


Vigeland Sculpture Park is a sight to behold in the early summer light.

Velvety green lawns blanket the entire area.

Blossoming roses in every color imaginable are scattered in flower beds too numerous to mention.

Stately trees and shimmering ponds round out this idyllic scene.

The park is dedicated to Gustav Vigeland - Norway's most beloved sculptor.

Fifty-eight bronzes of men, women and children flank the footbridge over the river that runs through the park.

These human forms are depicted going about their lives in its many dimensions - each figure as naked as a jaybird in June.

The sculptures are shown expressing feelings of joy, anger and sadness as they go about their everyday activities.

As we amble down the walkway into the sculpture gardens, Bob pauses and says to me, ""Do you want pictures of ALL of these sculptures?"

I gaze at him as if he has just arrived from Mars, "Yes, honey, of course, every single one of them!"

Stopping frequently to examine each sculpture in detail, I am delighted by these magnificent figures.

As usual, Bob is not wasting precious time.

He is busily engaged with his camera snapping pictures as quickly as his his nimble fingers will allow.

I turn to him and say, "Do you like these sculptures, honey?"

Stone faced, he slowly turns and glances at me and then returns to his camera.

That look can only mean one thing:

"These people/statues need to stop worrying about their emotional temperatures, put some clothes on and get busy doing something useful."

But, bless him, he doesn't say a word.

Instead, he waits for me to suck the very life out of him while I gush over the spectacular sculptures.

Let me be completely honest here - naked people emoting has never been Bob's thing.

So I reluctantly decide that my long suffering Viking has suffered long enough.

I look at Bob and say, "We'd better get moving if we want to see everything on our schedule."

He smiles and says, "Yes, dear."

We catch the trolley at the entrance to the park, leaving our clothes-free friends behind.


I'm pretty sure that the inhabitants of Hell don't wear clothes either.

Why would they?

The temperature there is off the charts and the humidity?

Literally, unbearable.

Besides, I don't think modesty has a high priority in Hell.

It was time for me to admit the cold, hard truth.

I saw Bob enter the Third Circle of Hell the moment he laid eyes on those bare bottomed bronzes.

And I, unwittingly, had been his guide.

Just call me "Virgil."

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


(Dante:  He Hath Seen Well; Jean Leon Gerome;

Note:  In the original version of Dante's "The Divine Comedy," Dante and Virgil visit the inhabitants of Hell as they wind their way through the nine circles of ever increasing depravity.  My next few blogs will depict the journey of their newest doomed companion - the longest of the long suffering - Bob.

If I'm completely honest about it, I have to admit that Bob's arrival in Norwegian Hell began the night before we arrived in Oslo.

Me being me, I felt duty bound to fully explain my increasing excitement at the thought that I would finally be walking on the same land that my Norwegian grandparents had trod over a century ago.

Our conversation went something like this:

Merry: "Now, honey, you know that I have waited nearly three million years to get to Norway."

Bob: "Yes, dear."

Merry: "And you know that we are going to be in Oslo barely seven hours."

Bob: "Yes, dear."

Merry: I know that you completely understand that our time there will be very precious to me."

Bob: "Yes, dear."

Merry: "I am so afraid that we might miss something very important."

Bob: "Yes, dear."

Merry: "And do you remember how I walked with you all over the beautiful village of Michelfeld, Germany where your grandparents were born?"

Bob: "Yes, dear."

Merry: "I'm going to need that same support from you tomorrow when we visit Oslo."

Bob: "Yes, dear."

Merry: "Basically, it comes down to this: if I ask you to do something in Oslo - even though it may seem ridiculous to you - I will need you to put your ideas and your feelings on the back burner and simply support my Norwegian experience in every way."

Bob: "Yes, dear."

Next, we discussed the setting of the all important alarm clock.

I wanted to see those little black hands land at 5:00 a.m.

Bob held out for 5:30.

We wisely decided to meet in the middle.

The alarm would be set for a sprightly 5:15 a.m.

This would give us enough time to eat breakfast and shower before we stepped off the ship and onto the hollowed ground of Norway in the early morning hours.

Fortunately, I awoke at 5:00 a.m. without the assistance of the pesky alarm.

I am using the word "fortunately" because Bob forgot to actually set the alarm.

I am going to take the high road here and assume that this was an honest mistake on his part.

But if I had decided to take the low road - which is my usual destination of choice - I might have accused him of deliberately trying to sabotage our already skimpy time in Oslo by "accidentally" setting the clock for 5:30.

I watched Bob sleep like a baby for what turned out to be the longest 15 minutes of my life.

Then I boldly startled him out of a deep and restful sleep with these fear-inducing words:

"Honey, it's time to get up!"

Magically, his eyes opened.

He stared at me and asked, "What time is it?"

I smiled at him and said, "It's time to arise and greet the beautiful city of Oslo!"

He stared at me blankly.

Stumbling, we crawled into our clothes and shuffled off to the Horizon Court for breakfast.

We crammed enough food down our gullets to stoke us for the next six millenia.

Then we waddled back to the Baja deck like the over stuffed penguins we eerily resembled and opened the door to our stateroom.

I quickly jumped into the shower stall that was mysteriously growing smaller every day.

I said to myself: "Girl, you have GOT to stop eating those to-die-for pastry swans stuffed with vanilla pudding every time you plop yourself down in the Horizon Court!"

Like that was seriously going to happen.

Minutes later, I clicked the blow dryer into high gear as I said to Bob, "Honey, you have to hurry. I don't want to miss a second of this day!"

From the bowels of the darkened closet I heard these words, "Yes, dear."

The inhabitants of Hell were already grinning.