“Just hold ’em by the hand and they’re yours,” the bearded black guy with the baritone voice instructed me. “It’s just as simple as that.”
While intoning this tutorial, he reached out for the hand of a handsome Stockholm blonde walking by and said, “Hey … hey, what’s your hurry?”
I’d met the guy through my buddy Busta who, of necessity, found a jazz bar in order to make some money. Tipped off by a musician in a club we’d visited, we went to the place where he started playing within twenty minutes or so of arrival … and he sure could play!
Busta had entered Sweden with a pocketful of money, but after a full day and an evening out in Stockholm where he persisted in his search for a blonde wife he found himself financially embarrassed.
Busta was nothing if not persistent. Ever since we’d landed in Sweden he’d offered practically every blonde he met a once in a lifetime chance to escape the inhospitable Scandinavian winters for the laid-back perpetual summer of the West Indies where the only ice you’d ever see was in a gin and tonic.
But, as much as the indomitable Busta persevered, the fair-haired northern beauties demurred … until a pair of them agreed to have a drink and discuss things in a bit more detail.
“Busta,” I counseled, “You’re on your own here buddy. I’m not so sure these gals are being what I’d call genuine. Be careful.”
“No, no mon,” Busta replied. “This is it! I know it, mon! I can feel it! But, hey mon, you’ve got to come along with us. There are two of them, two of them, mon!”
“Busta, I don’t have enough money to spend on this wild goose chase. Sorry mate, but you’ll have to count me out” I told him as gently, but as definitively as I could.
“No problem mon! I’ve got loads of dough. It’s all on me! Don’t worry, mon! Let’s have some fun!” he said, practically dragging me along.
Well Busta may have had plenty of money at the start of the evening, but after several hours of bouncing around the city’s hottest hot spots, it was greatly diminished. Perhaps sensing that, or perhaps after considering a life with Busta in the Caribbean, the two Stockholm misses excused themselves for a restroom break, climbed out a window and were never seen or heard from again.
After an interminable wait, Busta investigated, discovered the birds had flown the coop and proceeded to have a great, long laugh about it.
“Ha! Can you imagine that, mon! They climbed out of a window, mon! Isn’t that about the dumbest thing you ever heard?” he sputtered between peels of laughter.
The dumbest thing I’d ever heard of? In light of my last few days with Busta I wasn’t sure, but nevertheless I stood in awe of this West Indies man. Nothing seemed to upset him. He’d just go with the blows and make the best of whichever direction they sent him in.
In this case, they sent him, and me, to the jazz bar, filled with jazz and young black ex-pats, some from the West Indies, but most of them deserters from the US Army.
At the time the mess in Vietnam was raging and places like Sweden and Canada were offering safe haven to soldiers or draft dodgers who chose to forgo the trip to Southeast Asia. This club was one of their Stockholm hangouts.
As Busta played, I engaged in a rather heated debate with a gathering of deserters over US foreign policy and the wisdom of the choice they’d made. They looked at each other incredulously as I chastised them, and the more heated the discussion became the more entrenched our positions became.
But that really didn’t affect our connection on a personal basis, especially considering the number of drinks they kept buying me. I think they appreciated my honesty, or my naiveté, or maybe both. In any event, we did share a a common language and similar backgrounds in spite of our political differences. I certainly had no feelings of animosity … I simply felt that their desertion would make their lives much more difficult in the long run than a tour of duty in Europe.
Then my bearded friend asked me if I had a woman. I indicated I hadn’t, and he informed me, “Okay, man, I’ll show you how to get one. It’s simple! All you’ve got to do is grab and hold on.”
“What?” I exclaimed, trying to catch the literal meaning of his words.
“Just reach out and grab one” he repeated, “like this,” which is when he reached out and took the hand of the blonde walking by our table … and he held on.
She stood still, looking at him and making not the least effort to disengage. It was obvious they didn’t know each other. I watched fascinated.
“What’s your name?” he inquired.
“Lisa” she replied.
After a brief chat he turned to me, “Like her?” he asked.
“Yeah … well, yeah, sure, yeah, you bet!” was about all I could manage to utter in my state of incredulity.
And with that he took her hand, which he still held and passed it off to me as if it were a sandwich at a picnic. Naturally I accepted it, but quite unsure of what would happen next.
What happened was nothing short of stupefying, especially for a young man with testosterone pumping through his veins like beer during Oktoberfest.
Lisa and I had a short conversation and a drink, after which she excused herself to phone her husband in order to tell him she wouldn’t be home that evening!
I couldn’t believe it, but it was impossible to doubt! Incredibly, fantastically I’d proven beyond any doubt I may have harbored that, at least in Stockholm, the “grab and hold” theory worked!
Before I left the club with my new friend, I had a brief chat with Busta wishing him well in his quest. I last time I saw him he was wearing a big smile and giving me a thumbs up.
As Lisa and I waved goodbye I thought, “Sweden! Mon! Is this a great country or what!”
Coming next! Driving Around Europe Without A Map, Part 4 … HELSINKI AND A GIRL CALLED CHARLIE
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