romance and the city

"Corinne, you should write a sort of column like Carrie Bradshaw does in Sex in the City but about Stockholm! That would be so fun!"a friend told me recently.

"Yeah right! If I ever did something something like that I'd want it anonymous, and then think about it... with how little Stockholm is, if there was a blog in English from an American... it wouldn't be a secret for long. Everyone knows everyone here. Plus, I want to protect the privacy of anyone I date."
I said.

This is true. I will never write something like that. But I do, in fact, wish I could write about romance. I think it is one of the topics I'm best at. But writing about the cities I live in is almost as good, because really, that is also a romance. I had a long, deep and fulfilling relationship with Santa Barbara, where I grew more in love every year. My love for Lund happened quickly and goes on, although we had too short a time together. And Stockholm... well, it was love at first sight, and I'm sort of wrapped around it's finger. It's not infatuation either. I love this city for all that it is and forgive it for anything that it isn't. It's not Santa Barbara, and that is okay, because no two romances are the same.

The thing about romance with both people and cities is that with each, there will be things you miss from time to time that play over in your mind's eye with hints of sweet (or occasionally bittersweet) reminiscence. And it is a blessing and a curse for me that I have this steeltrap memory which forgets almost nothing when it comes to both these types of romances.

Like sometimes, I miss how it was when he would be driving along the Pacific Coast Highway and pick just the best and most interestingly obscure music to play while we rode along, quiet and taking in the sea. It was one of the most content places I've ever known, next to him in that car, those years.

And then, a different him... I liked the way he would notice when I was cold, and ask me, and I would, as usual, deny it (my lifelong problem with admitting any weakness), and he would do something about it anyway. Give me his jacket or something. I'm not used to being taken care of and this thing that he would do, that I'd never encountered with a guy before, felt really nice. From the first date he did that... like he always saw past my default mode of tough independent girl.

And then with another... this particular thing he did will be one of the lingering memories. Sometimes if we were next to each other, like on the couch, I would start to hop up just to grab something to drink or something. But he wouldn't want to release me. He'd gently keep hold of my hand or knee, just for a moment, with an instinctual reluctance to let me go. Some of the few vulnerable moments there ever were.

Then that Santa Barbara romance of mine.
I miss the way I could go to Butterfly Beach and it made everything better. Stress or worries melted away, and this familiar place would never tire of delighting me with the view through the coastal mist to the Channel Islands and to the sight of this charmed city curving up and out to the west. And I swear that even the sand on this beach is something unique and special. That place has seen more of my laughter, tears and conversations than maybe almost any other one place in the world.

And Lund. Something came over me whenever I would pass late at night past the old stone cathedral. It was the center of town and right next to so many places that I spent my evenings. I would walk home in the early dawn and its towering shadow would hush me and I would think, Oh my god... I live in Europe... and these stones have been watching people creep past for over a thousand years. I was enchanted both in the darkness of winter with the snow falling white around it, and in the late spring when it would be bathed in the middle of the night sunrise. I miss it.

Stockholm. You know when you're right in the thick of a new romance? And you wonder how you can ever be apart from these things you have between you ever again? And one of these things that I think, right now, I never want to not have is this feeling that comes over the city (and much of Sweden in general I suppose) in May and early June... as spring sees summer around the corner. This sensation that the trees, colors, and life have burst into bloom, so much so that the sun never truly wants to sleep. So it doesn't. And all the glory of summer is still yet to come. A friend said to me last year in May that this was the best time of year, in his opinion, and I thought he was selling summer short, knowing how much he loved the warmest season. But this time around, I get it, I see what he means. It's because we love the summer so much, and because you made it through the dark winter, that makes this turning point such a high. There's a restaurant/bar in town tonight that's having an "end of the school year" themed party. In the event description they wax romantic about youthful memories of kicking off summer, and this line I just loved because it is exactly how one feels:

"Do you remember...that you never felt more alive than when you went home barefoot along the asphalt, high heeled shoes in hand, and the sun had just risen..."

I couldn't love that more. I saw this poster on another person's blog who was describing this time of year and how it makes you feel invincible. This is from a club on the island of Gotland in Sweden.

Perhaps it will. Maybe it will not. Either way, the feeling of now... that everything is possible and everything is beautiful... how could I leave Stockholm and let go of that?

This romance has got me. It's got me hard.


  1. I recently wrote a similar prose about my romance with fro-yo, and the chocolate chip ice cream that came between us.. Fro-yo and I had become so comfortable, and the chocolate chip was like this new, exiting thing in my life.. A whirlwind romance I hadn't predicted.
    Honestly though, it was good to read this. Good to hear about that side of you.
    It's a good reminder for when I think back on my romances, dwelling on my memories with chocolate chips; Sometimes they're smooth, sometimes they're dark, but most commonly they're bittersweet.. And that's a taste I never mind.

  2. As Ron Burgundy says, "Great story. Compelling and rich."
    Hi brother. Love you. Why don't you write a regular blog? I miss your Uganda stories. Write some Bay Area ones!


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