Fourth of July in Täby

The photo above may seem like a regular Independence Day barbeque, but take hold of your seats, dear readers: this shocking image was snapped at a 4th of July cookout in Täby, Sweden.

And, I hope you’re sitting down, because I must tell you, I believe only two of the nine people in the picture are Americans. The rest are all dirty fucking socialists! I know, right? Looks just like Cold War-era Poland, doesn’t it?

Täby is a town about 20 minutes to the north of Stockholm. I had never heard anything about the place except that they make chewing gum there. Almost any time you buy gum in Sweden, if you look at the fine print on the package, it was made in Täby.

Imagine my surprise and curiosity when my friend Jenny invited me to a 4th of July party in none other than Täby itself. Turns out that Täby is not so enigmatic after all and there really is more than just a chewing gum factory there.

Jenny is Swedish but she was lucky enough to live in another fascinating, mysterious, luxurious land for many years. It’s a place you might know of and it goes by the name of Ohio.

Most Swedes speak perfect English, but Jenny speaks American. You would never know she’s not from Ohio, or Oregon, or anywhere else in the United States that boasts a non-regional dialect.

I was intrigued when she forwarded the invitation to me, not just because of the opportunity it presented to possibly catch a glimpse of a genuine, real-life chewing gum factory, but also because the invitation indicated the party would include grilling out and other “American-style fun like Jello shots.”

Yes, France gave us enlightenment, Russia gave us the periodic table of elements, and America gave us Jello shots.

The Swedes are easier to spot in this photo than in the poolside display above. If you’re holding a Jello shot and looking at it skeptically (as if thinking “I’m supposed to eat this?”) you’re probably Swedish.

Demonstrated here is the more appropriate, American response to the delicacy, although it stops just short of capturing the echo of a sorority-girl “Whooooohooooo!” chorus. That sound is inevitable when such party supplies are produced.

The crew at the cookout was an international mix of people. Naturally, there were people from from Sweden, but Germany was represented as were California, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and well, some dashingly handsome bloke from Louisville (America’s 16th or 27th or 31st largest city).

Most of the attendees were from some sort of mix of places. Although I had only met a couple of them briefly before, everyone was so friendly. It was the type of group where you left in the evening feeling like you had known these people for a long time.

In addition to the front porch of this standard-issue Swedish family home being dolled up with strings of American flags, a veritable buffet of American gourmet specialties was on hand for the event. It’s weird that “buffet” is a French word but “all you can eat”… well, we know where that comes from.

It always seems like the things people consider to be “typically American” are either filled with corn syrup, are terrible for your body, or are hilarious in some other way.

I believe Rice Krispie treats meet all of those requirements.

Oh, I suppose I should say that in addition to American food being funny and/or fattening, all of these things are also totally fucking delicious. Again, no wonder Americans are so fat – the food is amazing!

Chocolate chip cookies (made by Jenny) and potato chips (made in a factory).

In the background you can see American flag cups and Coca-Cola. Of course, there were hot dogs, hamburgers, corn on the cob, and other prerequisite grill fare. A couple treehuggers even had veggie burgers (bo-o-o-ring!)… oh wait, I’m vegetarian.

Perhaps in honor of Old Glory, but for whatever reason, I decided the time had come to splurge and I finally partook in some bourbon and cola. It was a real treat.

It had been six months since I had bought a bottle of bourbon – not that I was counting nor that I had been teetotaling. Honestly, I’ve been drinking plenty of other things, but all in all, I’ve been trying to live a fairly frugal lifestyle here. Kentucky bourbon isn’t quite as affordable or readily available in Stockholm as it is in, say, Kentucky.

In Louisville, with such low prices and the bars being open until 4:00 in the morning, the city is basically daring you to not become an alcoholic. Sweden unfortunately makes it easy to skip quality in favor of price and availability if you want to have a drink with friends. Depending on my mood and the time of day, I can see the benefits of both systems.

Bulleit is my favorite bourbon and holy shit was it amazing when we met again. The Coca-Cola was also great. In Sweden, Coke is made with real sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup. That really makes a difference in the taste and the way you feel after you drink it.

I was happy to share my Kentucky stash with the other partygoers. An important part of being from Kentucky is being an ambassador for bourbon and all things Kentucky. People will ask what’s the difference between bourbon and whiskey, and you must be able to tell them.

On the topic of drinking, the evening ended with some American drinking games – beer pong and flip-cup – which, I’m sorry to say, had to be explained to me. I didn’t really go to college, so I never received proper instruction in these timeless competitions of skill and team-building.

Apparently, Old Timey Tower’s not so bad at beer pong, but this is just one more thing I didn’t think I would discover in Sweden. It may or may not be the last thing I suspected would be revealed to me here.

Speaking of America’s contributions to culture, are those cargo shorts?

Traveling back home from Täby (north of Stockholm) to Haninge (south of the city) takes a little while, especially after midnight. It also requires a combination of exchanges bewteen buses and trains.

When we got out of the bus at Mörby to switch to the Tunnelbana, to our surprise, the bus began moving toward us. We both quickly jumped out of the way and fell to the curb. I think we were more shocked and startled than hurt. It could have been bad, but I escaped with only a sore hip. Getting hit by a bus would not be my preferred method for learning about the Swedish healthcare system.

The only real victims of the incident were some chocolate chip cookies that got broken in the scuffle. I mean, is it a crime to put some cookies in your pocket for the ride home? Or to take some in your jacket for your roommates? If that’s a crime, my friends, well, this defendant is guilty as charged. No further questions, counselor.