(The Scream, Edvard Munch, Art.com)
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.
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.
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.