I’m reeling from meeting DH when I find myself at Christiania every day I’m in Copenhagen. Still strung out on the intensity, and feeling oddly obligated.
I’m in a daze, going through the sites of Copenhagen like I’m flipping through a guidebook. It doesn’t speak to me. I never see the mermaid. For a good time, I need alternative missions.
I waste no time getting to Christiania, I’ve wanted to visit it for as long as I can remember. It’s older than I am. I know I’m a good 30 years too late to catch it at its peak, yet still I am always curious about urban anarchist collectives. I take the bus there, skipping the fare as seems appropriate.
Christiania feels like more hippie than anarchist and I am disappointed. Bike shops and clothing shops and art and painting and street art and vegan food. Yeah.
I wander around aimlessly noting that this is prime real estate, and that many of those that live here now are functionally trust fund kids – they’ve inherited said real estate from their anarchist parents who squatted on it in the 1970’s. Christiania does not feel like an anarchist collective at all.
That is, until I get to the open air drug market.
I do a loop of the market. There are small stands, Maitre D desks, card tables, and other surfaces, with one or two large men standing behind. They are selling weed, hash, and edibles. I note that every single stand has the same selection of products. One guy is smart and only selling rolling papers, pipes and other paraphernalia. It looks like he’s taking in more profit than the dealers.
I get to see security in action when a fellow tourist decides it’s a good idea to try to take a photo at an illegal open air drug market. He is instantly stopped by three men even larger than those behind the sales. I walk closer to observe their enforcement in action. I’m grateful they are speaking English so that I can understand them.
I am impressed.
They explain the situation deeply to the perpetrator and stand with him long enough to be sure that he actually gets why photos aren’t allowed, why it’s a bad idea, and is in touch with the humans he is putting in danger by doing this. When they walk away from him, he turns off his phone and puts it in his pocket. It’s one of the least violent and most compassionate forms of enforcement I have witnessed.
I do another loop of the market, trying to make some choice between all the stupidly identical choices that exist. As I pass one of the stands, I see a glimpse of what I think is a cyan colored silicone container in the hand of one of the dealers. I freeze, staring. He sees me staring. Smiles. He opens his hand, and indeed, I have witnessed correctly. Now to find out if I’m right about what’s inside the container.
“Hi there, sorry I am an ignorant American and I don’t speak Danish.” I say, smiling.
“Well you can’t be too ignorant if you acknowledge that.” he says, also smiling. He is muscular, large, and has close cropped hair receding at the hairline. He speaks in a gruff Danish accent, but the formulation of his sentences is classy and intentional.
“Is that a handful of oil you have there?” I ask sweetly, pointing to the silicone container. He pauses, a smile creeping over his face.
“It is.” he says. He beckons me closer. I pull in. The dealer pops the side of the container open and I see it contains a half gram of clean-looking Butane Hash Oil.
“How much?” I ask.
“300 Kroner.” he responds.
“Do you have more?” I ask. He nods. I note the discretion. “Is there more than one kind?” I ask.
“No.” he says.
“I’ll take 4. 2 grams” I say, prepping the money.
“Ok, so, officially you are buying this cookie right here.” he says “Hold this for a moment please.” he hands me a cookie in a small sandwich bag. It looks machine made.
His eyes dart around, ensuring that Christiania security is looking elsewhere. The dealer prepares a small wax bag, and crouches down to a hidden area behind the stand, and slides the containers into the bag. He then stands up and makes a big show of putting the cookie into the bag.
“Do you need anything else?” he asks, suggestively. It’s clear that this IS an open air drug market, and that cannabis flowers, hash, and cookies are the front. I consider his offer.
I wonder how deep the rabbit hole goes, but I’ve already gotten what I need.
“Are you here regularly, could I come back tomorrow for more oil?” I ask.
“Yes absolutely. Please look for me though. Do not ask anyone if they have it or you will be ejected from Christiania.”
“Thank you. Can tell me how strong is the cookie?” I ask.
“They’re intense. They aren’t for beginners. We usually recommend splitting them into four parts. However, if you’re looking to come back tomorrow after going through 2 grams of oil, that cookie isn’t going to be ridiculous for you, sister. You could eat the whole thing.” he winks at me.
“Thank you for everything, I truly appreciate this.” I smile and hand him the money. “And thank you very much for the cookie.”
“Americans get a bad reputation for no reason.” he says. “You are all very polite and courteous and aware, at least those of you that I have met shopping here. You saw that guy trying to take photos, right?”
“He was Canadian.” he says.
We share a knowing chuckle and I leave Christiania for the day by bus.
It takes me much longer to secure paraphernalia than it did drugs. The glassware and nail for the dab rig are no problem, the torch is sold in the same head shop. But they don’t sell butane. I am very used to butane being something you can buy 24 hours a day on every corner, but that is not the case in Copenhagen. Eventually I find an open hardware store that has it.
The oil is strong and clean and does me right. I do mad dabs.
I have a reservation at Noma that I attend with a friend of a friend who goes by the nickname Manchovy. He’s Danish, mostly, but has lived in New York. He’s also Jewish, a commonality we realize quickly when he picks me up from the airport and takes me to his girlfriend’s place that I inhabit while she is out of town. In exchange for this, I treat him to Noma, and he becomes a friend.
I have visited my fair share of the best restaurants in the world, and Noma comes with a serious reputation. Many of my favorite chefs got their start here.
It’s utterly disappointing.
I feel as though I am being mocked, rather than served. There are two highlights to the blundering ride through a beautiful, plant-based, yet disjointed, bland, and tasteless 13 course tasting menu.
The first of these starts off the meal. The first course is served in a bowl that is completely hidden by the live plant in a planter that encases it. To consume the soup one submerges their head into the plant to find the hidden straw.
I look down the communal table that Manchovy and I have occupied the very end at the row of 20 incredibly well dressed, rich patrons with their heads in plants.
“I cannot believe I paid $300 to stick my head in a plant.” I confess. Manchovy has a good laugh at this.
“I think you might have paid $600 to see everyone else stick their head in plants.” he says, from behind inside his plant. I’m glad he gets it. He turns out to be the perfect partner for this pathetic parade.
And it is our shared heritage and his genius that makes the evening worth it for me. We have made small talk with our neighbors. One is fully USAmerican. His date has each grandparent from a different country. Somehow, Manchovy begins ribbing the Europeans for Holocaust heritage, and our neighbors politely chuckle, but are uneasy.
“So where did you grow up?” he asks the USAmerican.
“Ohio.” he answers.
“What was that like?” he says, with mirth his voice.
“Suburban?” says the USAmerican, with a guilty shrug for his privilege.
“I don’t know what that like.” says Manchovy, and I am choking back laughter because I too have way too much refugee trauma in my family to know what that’s like.
This morphs into Manchovy asking me how many refugee grandparents I have.
“Two.” I say. “Plus another if you count great-grandparents, and of course if you go far enough back… but that’s not the game, so two. And you?” our neighbors are still listening to our conversation.
“Three. What about you, Ohio?” he asks. I am blushing..
“Uh, None.” Ohio admits. The question goes to his partner, who has a Brazilian grandparent.
“One.” she says.
And then, bless his brave, Danish heart – Manchovy sends this question down the communal table full of rich Europeans.
I am thrilled and mortified. For years after this we call this the HMRGPDYH game, only it is a different acronym every time we refer to it. When I ask if he’s okay with me writing this up it’s HMOYGPWR.
We sit listening to each European uncomfortably stating “Zero” and looking away and down guiltily so as not to sit too comfortably with the fact that they come from old money gained through nefarious means.
But there is one outlier a few seats down. She is an Asian woman. She hasn’t been listening.
“What are we counting?” she asks, in an American accent.
“How many refugee grandparents do you have?” asks Manchovy.
“Four.” she says without pause. Timidly, I ask her where her grandparents were from. “Vietnam.” is the curt answer.
And thus ends the game. There is an awkward silence. Manchovy breaks it.
“Well. You win!”
The next day I am back at Christiania. I haven’t actually run out but want to stock up. My dealer is glad to see me. I realize that my time at Noma was far more anarchist than my time at Christiania. A great lesson that modern anarchy deals in infiltration, not separation.
The following day is the same story at Christiania, only this time I get two more cookies because I did eat the whole initial cookie and slept half a day away for it. It turns out a half is the dose for wandering around Copenhagen. A whole cookie is definitely for professionals.
I eat a half a cookie and cross the bridge to Malmö the next day. It’s a lovely day there, but I don’t quite feel Sweden as much as I do Denmark.
The day after, my dealer isn’t there. I leave without buying anything. Soon I realize that the only relationship I have to Christiania is that it is a place I can easily go and buy my drugs. I never have enough curiosity to venture outside of that, other than hearing stories told by people who do not live there.
I am sure I am not the only person for whom this is true.
Like stories about buying drugs? Here’s more:
1: Drugs and Sex: The European Lovers: Hookup
2: Hasidic drug dealer: Padding the Pushke
3: Route 36 cocaine bar: Route 36
4: Mezcal: Ruta Del Mezcal
5: Sonoma County, California: Tweaker Pool
6: Sugar: Gateway
7: Happy Pizza in Cambodia: Happy Pizza
8: Bhang in Delhi: Cannabis in India: Bhang