May 16 - Takeoff
Throw everything I'm taking into two backpacks. I hate checking
in baggage. Call a cab, which arrives to whisk me towards SFO.
As I step out of the car, but before I close the door, a flash
hits me, "OH FUCK I FORGOT MY PASSPORT." Get back in
the cab, head home, retrieve passport, return to the airport.
One trip for the price of three!
Purchase magazines (The New Yorker, Entertainment Weekly
(a must for air travel), and something *really* puffy--oh
yeah, Wired) and board the plane. Stretch out in my luxurious
middle seat on the left side of the cabin, and devour EW,
for Vendetta, and a photocopy of a series of essays published
by The Comics Journal
in response to Understanding Comics (thanks Cam!).
Oh, and write my presentation.
At some point relative to an observer it became...
May 17 - Arrival
...and I was still on the plane, which landed at 9 or so in the
morning in Munich. I went from daylight to daylight--all the window
blinds were down during the brief night.
Disorientation begins to set in.
Stumble about Munich International Airport as I have 3 hours
to kill before my connecting flight. Exchange $20 for Deutsche
Marks, eat food, drink beer, continue reading TCJ. Wait.
Sweat (I'm wearing a fairly heavy shirt and a jacket and a baseball
cap and it's getting on being a while since I showered).
Board the flight to Kopenhagen, crash out for one whole hour.
Landing, I'm greeted at the airport by Peter, who has been sent
to take me to my hotel, the Scandic by the planetarium. Where
I freshen up, flip through some TeeVee channels, and then head
downstairs to meet Nikolaj.
Nikolaj is in charge of showing me around Copenhagen before dinner,
so we head out for a wander on the city's streets...
...and right into various phalanxes of armed guards. Tonight
is the big football match between Turkey and England--citizens
of each country have taken to the streets of Wonderful
Copenhagen®, turning the municipality into one giant beer
hall, replete with moronic fight songs (most of which are to the
tune of Volare).
At a previous match between the two countries, two Brits (or was
it Turks?) were killed by fans of the opposing team, so tensions
are high. I hear that there have been actual riots, and people
hurt, and that the Danish police are wholly unequipped for anything
more serious than a jaywalking offense.
Avoiding the hub-bub and just-falling rain, Nikolaj takes me
to Europa, a bar/coffeehouse, where we fill each other in on our
lives up until now. He runs Speednames.com,
an internationally-aware domain name registration service that
can automatically register all available TLDs for your domain
(but do I *really* need peterme.dk?). More importantly, he introduces
me to hyldeblomst,
a delightfully refreshing drink made from elderberry flowers,
that is something of The National Drink of Denmark.
Oh, and don't bother trying to pronouce 'hyldeblomst' or any
Danish word you come across. It involves swallowing every other
letter, and other odd utterings, like the sound "oo"
for the letter "y." "Tycho Brahe" (famed Danish
astronomer) is pronounced something like "too-koh bra"
with some heavy breathing at the end.
The evening is spent at Thorsen, a restaurant/club across the
water in the eastern part of town. There I meet all the Reboot
folks, as well as the other speakers. The latter included Brain-iac
Jerry Michalski (and his
delightful wife, Jen), design
guru Nathan Shedroff, VC
maven Ann Winblad, and the
irrepressible Chris "RageBoy"
Throughout the evening Ann is beside herself with giddiness,
having witnessed the riots from the balcony of her hotel room,
hordes of hooligans approaching each other across the town square
like something out of Braveheart. The glee ratchets up
as she describes the deployment of tear gas, which got caught
in a wind and headed straight for her. Much more interesting than
the Scandinavian boat ride she'd taken the night before.
The dinner, supplied by Base Camp, a local catering company,
is mighty tasty, setting a trend that continues throughout my
Copenhagen stay--*great* food. Healthy portions of a hearty variety
of foods, cooked remarkably well. The meal ends with fresh strawberries
and cream, which we are informed is the traditional dessert of
Another trend set is an obsession with the beauty and charm of
the Danish people. Jen develops the most delightfully girlish
crush on Christian, a tall, dark, handsome, man sporting a a few
days worth of stubble, with a sweet soft speaking voice and friendly
demeanor. Me, well, it takes me about 10 minutes to swoon over
Nanna, the project manager for Operation Reboot, a classic beauty
with strong, angular features, red hair, reddish-tan skin, and
deep green green eyes.
Once dinner is finished, it doesn't take long for the group to
head back to the hotel. By the time I hit the pillow, I've been
up for 26 hours, minus 1 hour of sleep on the puddle jump..
May 18, 2000 - Conference
After a night of extremely fitful sleep (^#$%ing time change),
our chariot (aka Christian) arrives and drives us to the Torpedohallen,
a former military building where Reboot is taking place. The space
is huge- easily over 100 yards long, 15-20 yards wide, ceilings
about 30-40 feet above our heads.
Sitting, I down coffee in an effort to rev my engines. The first
speakers are Chris (as RageBoy) and Jerry, who bedazzle the audience
with their visionary approaches to commerce, the internet, people,
community, and that most hated word, "consumer." All
throughout Ann whispers comments in my ear, but, frankly, my neurons
are all a bit too foggy to follow the proceedings.
Wandering around dazedly, I'm approached by an old Studio Archetype
colleague, Erica Szabo. When she lived in San Francisco, I'd run
into her all the time, and we'd joke about who was stalking whom.
But she's moved to London, for Chrissakes, and I'm in freaking
COPENHAGEN, and again I run into her! Odd little world.
Flagging on my feet, I sack out on a couch in the lounge in a
desperate attempt to store some energy before my talk. After an
hour of rest I'm, well, I'm not bright-eyed and bushy-tailed--more
like 50-watt-eyed and reasonably-straight-tailed, so I continue
with the coffee diet during Nathan's talk on Experience Design.
When he leaves the stage it's my turn, and after affixing the
microphone to my head (it's one of those hands-free mikes that
all the dance pop stars wear), saunter up to give my presentation.
Surprisingly to myself, I'm not daunted when facing the largest
crowd I've ever spoken to--roughly 2,500 attendees (about half
of whom are paying attention--did I mention there was a bar running
down the middle of the conference floor, serving drinks throughout
the day? What this means is that it's okay they weren't paying
Clicking through the slides any stage fright dissipates, replaced
by a dread that my speech will run either way over or way under
time. It's not a particularly stellar talk, but I get the User-Centered
Design message out and am pretty much pleased with the reception.
Afterward I'm interviewed by a frightfully intelligent reporter
for TVropa, the television arm of Lars von Trier's Zentropa media
company. And I sleep some more.
All the speakers are then brought on stage to blather on about
favorite "tools and gadgets" (my only interesting contribution
is pointing to HyperSnap-DX,
a fab screen-capture application that can snap entire web pages
by automatically scrolling them). Ann laments the sorry state
of email clients, lets us know that Microsoft has no plans for
truly improving Outlook's email capabilities, and offers to fund,
on-the-spot, any reasonable business plan for the development
of a new email application. This gets my
We take advantage of some free time before dinner to walk through
nearby Christiana, the notorious "freetown" within Copenhagen,
best known for Pusherstreet, its central thoroughfare where hash
and pot are openly sold. Taken over by hippies in the 70s, Christiana
is a delightfully funky locale, colorful and amiably run-down.
The dinner is a fabulous beef meal with all kinds of assorted
cooked fresh veggies and cheese and bread and and and... A remarkable
feat considering the number of mouths to feed. This is followed
by the awards show, which is, of course, all in Danish, and thust
Between each award is a funny video vignette, such as the one
where a man spills coffee on the kitchen table, and doesn't know
what to do until a voice-over announcer reminds him of the many
uses of Stock Options, which are shown dispensed from something
like a Kleenex box (Stock Options are also good for wiping a baby's
The most surreal aspect of the awards are the little "Reboot"
identification videos, similar to those wacky MTV station IDs,
but, um, a little raunchier. Take, for example, the one with a
fully-clothed Santa Claus fucking, doggy-style, a totally naked
woman on a couch. A man sheepishly walks up to Santa from the
back, and Santa, clearly frustrated with this interruption, briefly
stops what he's doing to grab a present and aggressively tosses
it behind him, ridding himself of the interloper so he can go
back to the fucking.
Suffice to say it made the Webby Awards video bits seem like
Care Bear fare.
Try as I might to keep with the party atmosphere, my lack of
sleep becomes compounded by the onset of a head cold. Opting to
not hole up in my hotel room for the next two days, I join Nathan
for an early cab ride back to our quarters. It's quite difficult
to hail a cab (there are not many, and the Danes are surprisingly
aggressive at flagging them down), and we find ourselves sharing
a ride with an amicably drunk man named Christian (you find out
after a while that all Danish men are named Christian or Thomas),
who regales us with tales of his brother's upcoming confirmation
ceremony, and engages in other conversation. Arriving at our destination,
Christian asks Nathan and I, in what becomes a plaintive tone,
"Do you play backgammon?" but neither of us are willing
to extend the night further, so we wish him well and head to bed.
May 19 - Talking
Oh God am I miserable this morning. My head full of snot. Slept
terribly. But we have plans for the day, so I get myself out of
bed, shower, and drift downstairs to the hotel restaurant for
some breakfast to get me going. Sitting at the table, I stare
blankly at the food that, when placed in my mouth, feels like
eating paper. I ache all over. "Fuck it," I think, and
return to bed.
After a couple hours of the best sleep I've had in days, I awaken
to the sound of knocking on my door. It's Jen, making sure I know
that folks are downstairs ready to go, and I head right down.
In the lobby are Jen, Jerry, Chris, and Morten, our guide for
The rhythm and pace of the day is set there in the lobby. As
we drink our coffees and teas, Chris, who'd had his first good
full night's sleep, regales us with stories. LSD stories, pot
stories, booze stories. Working at IBM, writing for various publications,
etc. Delightfully outrageous stories in which Chris usually does
some dang-fool thing and yet makes his way out of the situation.
We're in the lobby for two hours before we realize we should get
out and see the city.
Morten takes us to Amokka, a cafe/restaurant where we brunch.
(Friday is a national holiday in Denmark, Big Prayer Day, and
so the restaurants are on weekend schedules. From what I gathered,
Big Prayer Day came about because some King in years gone by thought
there were too many holidays for too many different religions.
So he created a single day all the country's religions observe.)
The stories from Chris continue. He's our Buddha, our sage, our
Trickster, sticking it to his uptight bosses at IBM, stunning
the business world with the success of Cluetrain.
Jerry, Jen, and I enjoy the stories, and Morten is eating them
up. Hanging on every word. It's like he can't believe his opportunity
to be in the presence of this great man.
After brunch, Morten takes us to visit his office space, a bright
open space reminiscent of many new media locales. From what I
can gather, Morten's company, Prey4.com,
is an incubator of sorts, developing ideas for startups and spinning
them out. He's the "Chief Ideologist," which puts him
in something of a creative director role. He's also quite the
Renaissance man, having designed all the very cool modern furniture
in the office--cool enough to have been featured in Wallpaper*.
Glancing through the bookshelves of the employees, I spot, next
to a copies of Being Digital and other new economy tomes,
a porn tape box, standing in full view, advertising "FUCKING
AND SPERMSUCKING." The Danish definitely have a more relaxed
attitude about certain matters.
From his current office space, Morten drives us to his soon-to-be
corporate digs, which will be in the just-closed Tuborg brewery
on the outskirts of town. It's a massive single room--8,000 square
meters--that they'll be leasing for something on the order of
10 cents per square foot per month. A bunch of Danish startups
will move in together, creating a new media hub. Right now, it's
just a huge cement block, strewn with broken beer bottles and
defunct equipment. Asked when they're expected to move in, Morten
estimates, "Oh, 4 to 5 weeks." We'll see.
Our next stop is the must-see Little Mermaid sculpture. We park
the car, and, looking around, see no sculpture. One of us asks
Morten, "Where's the Little Mermaid?" to which he sheepishly
replies, turning his head around, dragging on a cigarette, "Er,
I don't know." He asks a couple passers-by to point us in
the right direction. Upon arrival, we're struck by what strikes
everybody--how small the sculpture is. It's use as a city icon
suggests a certain size, but the Mermaid is little more than life
size (well, depending on the size of a real life mermaid). There
are about 20 other people standing around looking, taking pictures.
We give her a wave and return to the car, and then our hotel,
for a nice afternoon nap.
Following our naps, we meet downstairs to be transported in a
7-seater van to Schiott's, where we're joined by a bunch of other
Rebooters for a marvelous 4 course meal. To everyone's delight,
Chris continues pouring on the stories. Well, perhaps not the
waiter's delight. For some reason, the waiter feels it necessary
to announce every course (spring roll appetizer, gazpacho, a main
course I'm totally blanking on, and a rhubarbs-and-ice cream-with-40%-butterfat
dessert) in great detail. However, when the gazpacho is served,
Chris is in the middle of a rather long tale, necessitating the
waiter to hang around, shifting from foot to foot, for many minutes
before it is over.
Me? Well, I love the food, but feel like something of an idiot,
as I'm seated next to the swoon-worthy Nanna, but my head cold
makes thoughts all foggy, and I prove to be a terrible conversationalist.
The meal ends our day, and we're escorted home to our hotel.
May 20, 2000 - Sightseeing
Lord be praised. A decent night's sleep. Not unbroken, but I take
in a good 10 hours of shuteye before I get up. My sinuses are
still stuffy, but my head doesn't throb like it has been.
Today we are fetched by Christian, who drives Jerry, Chris, and
I to the center of town, where we wait for the others to join
us. The day before, Jen mentioned her desire to engage in that
most womanly of travel adventures, Going Shopping, and Nanna arranged
for them to hit the stores this morning. So, they now meet up
with us, pink bags in hand, having done a fair amount of credit
card damage at a clothing store called Pour Quoi (where Nanna
is on a first-name business with the staff). Thomas, Michael,
and Joe also meet up, and our first stop is brunch along the water.
I'm getting quite bored with describing the glories of Danish
cooking. The brunch was what was becoming standard Danish fare--a
tasty and fresh combination of meats, vegetables, and breads.
We sit on a bench on a little pier in a little lake, sun beating
down on us. All quite divine.
After brunch we drive up to Louisiana, a modern art museum just
outside of town. More a park than a museum, the exhibit space
is much smaller than, say, the SFMOMA, and the collection isn't
of significant interest (though the temporary Warhol exhibit allowed
me to see in person works I'd only seen reproduced--though, I
guess, with Warhol, the whole notion of 'reproduction' gets called
into question). But the museum's grounds are amazing, grassy,
rolling hills, right along the water. There are more children
than I'd ever seen in a modern art museum, and they (rightfully)
treat the whole set-up as one big play space.
We down our beers on the grass behind the museum, and enjoy a
delightfully loopy Pipilotti Rist video installation Sip
My Ocean, featuring an off-key warbling of Chris Isaak's
"Wicked Game", and continue on our journey to right
outside Elsinore Castle.Yep, the same Elsinore where the Melancholy
But first, we nobble ice cream from what I gather is a well-known
scoop store (showcasing a picture of Cary Grant eating there!),
serving five different flavors (vanilla, chocolate, strawberry,
pistachio, and nougat) in freshly-made waffle cones. After that
and a little walk, we're all a bit too tired and cranky for a
real trip to the castle, so we drive by it, wave, and return to
the city proper for a night in Tivoli
Gardens, renowned as the world's oldest amusement park.
We wander aimlessly a bit, find some coffee to get us going,
and then head to a Chinese
restaurant in a wonderfully tacky faux pagoda. Happily, the
buffet is pretty good (and the deep fried shrimp were very very
deep fried.... breading... drool).
After dinner, Thomas takes us to Valhal, an "experience"
ride, where you enter the land of giants or something. It's a
bit like one of the 'enchanted' rooms at Disneyland, with audioanimatronic
birds talking and big goofy moving statues, and it ends with the
crowd sitting on a ship that, through the Power of Illusion, turns
all the way over. All in good silly fun.
We follow Valhal with the girls' quest for cotton candy, and
while picking at wispy flecks of sugar, pass one of those games
where you whack a plank with a mallet in order to ring the bell.
A couple of fairly burly guys are faring poorly, rarely getting
above 600 (on a scale of a 1000). Christian tells us, "I've
got to do this," saunters up to the gizmo, and proceeds,
twelve times in a row, to ring the bell. Clang! Clang! Clang!.
The crowd loves it, as, of course, do we. Who knew we had a strongman
in our little group?
To top this thrill, at 11:45p we witness an inventive fireworks
show. As the hour grows later, my throat constricts, and my nose
drips, and it's difficult for me to enjoy hanging out. Happily,
we soon head home, and I head to bed...
May 21 -- Return
... and maybe 4 hours of fitful sleep before I get up and get
ready to go. An uneventful ride to the airport and flight to Munich
is made, err, interesting when, after boarding the plane, we're
alerted of a "fuel leak," and asked to deplane. So another
5 hours is spent wandering the Munich airport and trying to catch
up on some sleep.
We eventually board and about an hour and a half in the air an
attendant announces over the P.A. that because even though the
fuel leak had been repaired, there was not enough time to fully
fuel the plane, and in order to ensure making it all the way to
SF, excess weight was removed--namely, all the checked-in baggage.
I do a little dance in my seat, as I 'mtravelling only with two
carry-on bags--all that lugging proved worthwhile!
I share a taxi ride home with a man who had been sitting in my
row. Chatting in the cab, I learn he works at Hot
Studio, which wouldn't be remarkable, except that there are
only ten employees there, and I know two of them. So, unknowingly,
I had flown across continents sitting next to a man who works
with one of my best friends.
And now I'm home.
Two more bits on Copenhagen for those who have read this far:
1. Everyone bicycles. It's delghtful. Though more and more of
us bicycle in San Francisco, within the city it's still considered
something of a fringe form of travelling. In Copenhagen, you see
the young and old, mothers toting children, people going to work,
everyone on a bike. And visitors can get in on the fun--anyone
can pick up a City Bike from a marked rack for 20 kroner, which
is returned when you park it at another rack. For the bike-centeredness
alone, I'd be willing to move there.
2. All that hearty Copenhagen cooking I was discussing? Well,
um, this will be a very Guy thing to relate, but, man, did it
make my stool firm. I haven't shit so well in months.