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My Beloved Long Street, Valby

I love Valby’s Long Street, just as I loved Providencia in Santiago de Chile.

In Chile, during my infancy and childhood, miraculous things used to happened every second. There were crystal sparrows in little clay nests, hidden in the brilliant green belloto trees of the neighboring side streets. Canals of blue water, through which sailed the boats of the port in miniature. Gigantic walnut trees, into which we climbed to collect golden nuts…

And today, in Copenhagen, Long Street gives me the chance to walk among acrobats, ballerinas, knife-sharpeners, organ-grinders, Hindus hypnotizing boa constrictors, Arabs selling Aladdin’s lamps, and vikings – especially the vikings and she-vikings, white as snow. They show off their formidable silver and ruby swords and sing in powerful tenor voices:

Under den hvide bro!
Sejler en baad med to!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Translated, it means:

 Under the white dock
  Sails a boat with two sailors…

These huge vikings are sweet and lovable and very peaceful, contrary to what the legends say. Each has a bottle of beer in hand, and they’re roasting wild boars caught in the forest not far from here: celebrating that it’s Sunday and the sun is out.

Ah, Long Street, Valby…

Today I came to find my friend and neighbor Niels Winter, and we went out for a walk. It was noon, and the street was full of activity. And the surprising thing is that even with all these people coming and going, the cars, the bicycles, the good old drunks in the Plaza, and the miracle-workers, still everything unfolds in silence. One can hear the footsteps on the sidewalk!

When the street is full of snow in the winter, the silence is total, because not even the footsteps are audible. And the miracles happen in a complete and sacred absence of noise.

I remember that in Providencia, everything was noise and happy shouts and horns honking and kids yelling out the latest hits of the Beatles and Rolling Stones at the soda fountain of Copellia.

Nevertheless, the joy of life is exactly the same here. There has been no culture shock for me.

We stopped to talk with a huge, gorgeous lady viking who needed cigarettes and a light. Birgita.

She showed us her moving tattoos. Really! Her stomach, breasts, buttocks, back, arms, and legs were covered in multicolored drawings that moved vertiginously around her body like cobras.

It seemed like a hallucination. A real miracle. She went away singing happily, but not before giving us her telephone number and winking her oceanic eyes.

We ran into a group of schoolboys who were exchanging magazines: moving comic books. That is to say, you opened the magazine and the drawings moved and spoke, like in a movie. Niels and I were unfamiliar with the technology and remarked on it. “It’s not technology, it’s not technology!” the students shouted, laughing. “It’s a miracle!”

Since we were a little tired –keep in mind that I’m already almost seventy and Niels is seventy-five– we sat down at a little café in the open air. The sky was blue as lapis lazuli, and the air was warm and sweet like the breath of a woman. A young couple seated at a little table nearby were exchanging kisses in a way hitherto unknown to me: each movement of their tongues yielded a miniature fruit. A tiny banana from her, a plum from him; a pear from her and a bunch of grapes from him…

Niels wanted to go home. I told him no, we should walk a little more. We still had many miracles waiting for us, which I will summarize here in an INVENTORY.

Inventory of Miracles:

In Valby Plaza, little blond boys and girls flew here and there, and their mothers floated after them so that they would not rise to heaven and turn into little angels.

Winged dogs, smiling happily or laughing out loud, passed over our heads and dropped colorful turds.

A stampede of marauding mosquitos escaped the bird police.

An organ-grinder produced rainbows instead of music.

Near the little hill, which is of course called Valby Hill, there is a giant forested park like the woods in the south of Chile. It’s the Wood of Søndemarken. It’s located next to the zoo, and that day the keepers had opened all the cages so that we walked among lions and giraffes, flamingos and savage tigers.

Multicolored parrots shouted to us, “Hey, old boys!” and imposing gorillas came to shake our hands.

The famous Carlsberg pub is on the left. It has a medieval-style tower at the entrance, and the ghosts of Mr. and Mrs. Carlsberg, who founded the pub two centuries ago, were strolling on its immense balcony.

We decided to return through the Plaza and go into Café Ciré to have lunch. At noon there aren’t many miracles. The windows let in light, and the atmosphere is quiet, free of smoke. Cool, fresh. It’s the antithesis of what happens at night, when famous dead or fictional people show up and the beer and music flow like rushing rivers.

We each ordered roast pork and Danish salads to eat outdoors. A young student called Hans Christian Andersen waited on us, and Pierre, the owner, came to greet us amiably in French.

After such an exhausting miracle, we departed, each to his own house, for a long, well-earned nap.

Niels to things Danish, and I to things Chilean.

Ian Welden, Dinamarca, Chile © 2009

Click here to see this story in Spanish [AQUI]

Translation by Christine Neulieb © 2009

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