Vigeland. travel journal by Leslie Howes

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Vigeland Park, July 2013 (Part I)

Her uniform includes blue blazer and colorful flight attendant-like scarf. Her black shoes are scuffed at the toes; narrow trousers don’t quite reach her ankles. Poor guide. She is obedient and disgruntled, her hair damp from a recent shower. Is she drinking her coffee? She is harried. We must be on time. The bus driver has to be somewhere at 2:00 p.m. As she walks, a 3-inch binder filled with notes threatens to slip out from under one arm. We follow her unpredictable gait, her professional yet precarious air. Her voice is gravelly, almost tender, a slight Norwegian accent. She has a peculiar habit of using the perfect tense randomly and often.  

“The most famous statue is the angry boy. You will see this baby. Everyone is wanting to see him. It’s good luck to touch his hand. He is crying–so angry!– and his little hand is being worn from all of the people who are touching him. But my favorite is a little girl. She is not as popular but you will be seeing her. You will see the girl. She is alone. Next to the boy but no one is noticing her.” 

Our Oslo guide is skinny with a fluttery energy, like a hunched too tall butterfly. It’s hard to tell how old she is. Her mid to late forties? Her hair is stringy and straight. She speaks with importance, at a slight remove behind her glasses. In Copenhagen, our Danish guide was generous with details about his personal life. He had a predilection for stories of tryst and intrigue–the little bedroom off of the king’s in Kalmar Castle for the preferred mistress, the real reasons for Denmark’s loss of power after the 17th century, his own divorce. You could imagine him spanking a rosy Rubens model on the ass or having a second helping of  strudel– whatever it might take to demonstrate Denmark’s national (and international) character. He had a clear and obvious delight in scandal, a difficult-to-contest-authority when speaking of kink. She looks like she needs a hug. She looks like she might cry. Also, she keeps referring to her notes. 

“So many statues of children, but he wasn’t liking them. Everyone is surprised by this, but he refused to raise his own children.” 

She checks her binder and blinks above us at the human sized reptilian-bug larva embracing a naked woman from behind. It has a prehistoric, slightly menacing look as it wraps itself under her firm granite breasts, a giant scorpion without the sting. 

“Why are we here?” My mother asks. 

Ignoring her, the guide returns to her notes.


From an essay in progress by Leslie Howes, who lives and writes in Los Angeles and Vermont. For info on Vigeland, see Click here for more by the same author.

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This entry was posted on June 16, 2014 by in essay, norway, photo and tagged .


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