Destination: Happy Places

Boyleing Points

A very warm Memorial Day threw me off. It felt like the 4th of July, so I said summer was over. And with summer over, I thought it was ok to break the first rule of Rockaway and leave the peninsula for a vacation.

 I had pre-pandemic plans to check out the happiest places on earth (ever since Dalton’s closed) and had to use my travel credits or else I’d get squadoosh.

I don’t know if it’s propaganda like Greenland being called Greenland even though there’s nothing green about it, but all the so-called happiest countries have long, dark, dismal winters. Denmark, which happens to own Greenland, –that tells you buyer beware right there–is always ranked at the top or near the top of happy places. 

And here’s the thing, everybody goes there to find out if it’s true. And they find out it is! Of course, all the curious, unhappy people go there when the sun is shining, and the skies are blue and everybody is singing like Danny Kaye in Hans Christian Andersen.

Same is true in Sweden, another happy place which was the first stop on the trip. Swedes are known for being reserved but the sunny skies make them almost smile and deliver New York style sarcasm. Which made me happy. After a couple of happy days in Stockholm, I was so happy I thought about coming back in the winter.

As a rapidly aging old fart, I got a kick out of the general health advisory that was broadcast overhead while enjoying a boat cruise around the archipelago: if you don’t drink alcohol, you will live a long, good life. But eventually you may become a burden to your children, so drink up.

Everybody speaks English which is wonderful and adds an Up arrow on the happy meter, but which does you no good when you’re asking for directions. They’ll tell you exactly where to go but that’s of little help when every street, island, and neighborhood has 72 consonants, a random vowel, and 14 more consonants. But somehow you get there.

In New York’s subway, you’re told to keep your head on a swivel, staying ever-vigilant, keeping an eye out for criminals, creeps, and cretins. In Stockholm, your head’s on a swivel because the subway is a work of art. Each station has exposed rock, painted or decorated to make it seem like you’ve found a new world at the center of the earth or maybe on Mars.

You might not buy the happy propaganda, but if you google Stockholm subway images, you will want to visit.

And you might want to visit just for the Swedish meatballs. They’re worth going to war for, though the Swedes would never do that, being a neutral country and all. Well, it’s really neutral with a twist. The Swedes are famously neutral in war time, but I learned they sell arms to both sides thereby profiting from war. Wow, that’s a move an American can admire. 

It was easy people watching because the people are easy on the eyes but there was enough variety to keep it real. There was one guy, a guy with three thick brushy mustaches – only one above his lip. The other two…well, I don’t know how he could see upward.

I’m running out of room here, but we experienced the health care system when we got to socialist Denmark, and it was quite excellent. And after seven hours we left the hospital… happy.

 By Kevin Boyle

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