Norway begins in the airport — I mean, your airport at home. I’m in Newark, in the departure lounge. There are all these Vikings and Vikettes. One woman’s blue eyes burn right through me. What are all these people doing here?
Then you remember: You’re going to Oslo. (And they’re going home.)
On the plane, there are more natural blondes than I have seen, maybe, in the last three months . . .
When you arrive at the Oslo airport, there are yet more Norwegians. (Imagine.) I’m reminded of a story. I’ve told it in this space before, but I’d like to retell it: first, because it’s enjoyable, and second, because we surely have newcomers, right?
Friend of a friend went to business school in Switzerland. (If I remember correctly.) He was an American. He met a Norwegian girl — a typical beauty — and they were soon engaged.
They traveled to Norway for the first time together, to meet her family. They got to the airport and he looked around. “Hey!” he said. “You were holding out on me. You’re nothing special. They all look like you!”
Somehow, the engagement survived and they got married. This airport episode became a running joke between them.
I’ve mentioned this
before, too, but I’m going to mention it again: The urinals at the Oslo airport are very high. Like, NBA-high. (Don’t worry, I’ll get to the heavy stuff — the torture, enslavement, and murder — soon enough.) In the Oslo men’s room, many American adults would have to go sort of tippy-toe.
This August, National Review will take a cruise leaving from Amsterdam. In Holland, they have the tallest people in the world. Yes, including even East Africa. Some guys might want to bring stilts . . .
People from all over the world are converging on Norway to attend the Oslo Freedom Forum, the fifth annual. OFF is the premiere human-rights conference in the world. In fact, it may be the only genuine one: the only one not tainted by the involvement of tyranny.
You have heard me rail against the U.N. “human rights” panel many times. It is a panel that has included Qaddafi’s Libya, Communist China, Saudi Arabia, the Castros’ Cuba, genocidal Sudan, and on and on.
I offer a definition of the standard human-rights conference: an event at which tyrants from all over denounce Israel.
In Oslo, I run into Tutu Alicante, the democracy leader from Equatorial Guinea. (His outfit, based in Washington, is EG Justice.) He has a hankering for whale. So do I. When in Rome . . .
Hard by the Oslo Fjord, we find a restaurant with two kinds of whale. You can have it smoked or you can have a steak. We have both. The smoked version is gloriously fishy. The steak version is like — well, meat. Game. (And very good.)
We also have a Northern Norwegian Sampler, which includes reindeer tongue and reindeer heart. I thought I’d have just a little, for adventure’s sake. There’s nothing adventurous about it: The tongue and heart are delicious, and you wolf down as much as you can.
I have a question for myself: If I had been born into an unfree country, as Tutu was, what would I do? Would I try to live as normal a life as possible within that country? Would I try to live a normal life elsewhere? Would I devote myself to freeing, or improving, the country, whether at home or in exile?
We who were born into free countries are very lucky.
Running around Oslo are young people in red pants — sort of sweatpants. They have white writing on them: “2013,” for example. These youngsters are high-school seniors, or the equivalent, about to graduate. The red pants are their symbol.
In Norway, national cohesion is very important. I imagine the pants contribute to that cohesion: a sense of solidarity. “Social solidarity” is a byword here.
This has its upside and downside, of course. I have been over the subject before. I’ll just say now that these red pants strike me as kind of a fun rite.
I say hello to Alfred Nobel — to his bust, outside the Norwegian Nobel Institute. It’s like greeting an old friend. I wrote a book about him and his peace prize. I enjoyed getting to know him.
“Parked” by the opera house is a big ol’ cruise ship: the Ryndam. We National Review types have sailed on it. Not in Norway, though. Where, I can’t remember.
In the hallway the next morning, I see Chen Guangcheng walking toward me. I say to him, “My hero.”
I don’t think I’ve ever said this before, to someone I’ve never met. People used to say it to Bill Buckley all the time. Let me give you a memory, please.