Please join the COA family in welcoming our newest writer, Thorsten Sahlin! Thorsten’s bio will be available shortly on our About page. Subscribe to COA so you don’t miss his upcoming debut piece ‘Whistler’s Mother is LeBron James.’
Q: If you’ve ever had a opportunity to dispel a common misconception about Swedes, this is it. Go!
My family is a couple generations over so I don’t have a ton to say that would incorporate any firsthand experience in the country. Although, as conversations go, people will generally inquire about the derivation of my name. When they find out It’s a Swedish name, 90% of the time they will say something to the tune of “but you’re not even blonde”. Many people are under the impression that Brigitte Nielsen and Dolph Lundgren have spawned the entire nation. Truth.
I don’t know if it’s genes or upbringing, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve realized I’m actually the embodiment of several Swedish clichés. I’m pretty shy and reserved with strangers. I look through the peephole to make sure there is no one in the hall when I leave. I get anxiety walking my dog because people see having a dog as a conversational invite. Small talk isn’t my scene. I would say 25-35% of my diet is some variant of smoked fish.
I think the most Swedish thing I’ve done was participate in the procession of St. Lucia when I was very young. It’s a festival where children don robes and march with candles to celebrate St. Lucy, a martyr from the 3rd century. I was the only boy in the procession so I assumed the robe was a dress. I remember thinking “huh, so I guess my crazy mother is just going to be dressing me like a girl now.” That’s a pretty disconcerting scenario for a 5-6 year old who can count all his friends on one finger.
Q: What made you pick Chicago, and now that you’re here will you stay?
I used to tell people I came here to go to SAIC. In reality, I moved here for a girl. I don’t necessarily regret living in Chicago, but I regret the circumstances which brought me here. I had a good thing going in Seattle, but I was drinking too much and that definitely inhibited my decision making.
I had an old friend come visit me out there and she brought a friend of hers with whom I got along quite well. I kept in touch with her after they left. I think I visited her in Chicago a few times, she came back to Seattle once or twice and eventually I just decided to move here. I applied to SAIC so it would look like I was coming here for another reason. The fragility of my ego at the time wouldn’t let me go anywhere to be with another person, so I had to come up with something…
It was a pretty whirlwind development. At the time, I was generally inebriated 6 days out of the week. I don’t know how I got it together to meet someone, get along so well, and then move to another city in a 3-month span. Not surprisingly, the whole thing fell apart like a month after I got here. We broke up, I dropped out of SAIC and had to do some serious “find myself” things. After some terrible career experiences and a little self-improvement, I decided at 30 to return to school and finally finish my degree. It’s going well now and I’m almost done.
I’m not sure about staying here. My girlfriend and I have a lovely spot with our dog, and I’m pretty content with Chicago at the moment. A lot of it depends on my Master’s degree. I’m applying to a plethora of Universities, so it’s up in the air as to where I’ll be in a few years. I do know that I’m not geographically settled yet. There are so many more places I want to experience.
Q: Malort? Seriously?
Swedes know what’s up. I don’t really indulge anymore, but I can safely say it’s the best thing Chicago has to offer.
Looking out your own peephole drinking Jameson: Creepy as all hell.
Looking out your own peephole drinking Malort: Comedy Gold.
Q: You’re currently a School of the Art Institute (of Chicago) student. What else have you been and how will it influence what you write about for COA?
I’ve worn a hat or two in my lifetime, but I can safely say the most important thing I have been to date is a train-wreck. I’ve had a slew of interests and occupations in my life and I’ve self-imploded through all of them; mostly through drug and alcohol abuse. You know, writer stuff. I’m very fortunate that I haven’t lost much do to external circumstances. Much of my grief in life has been self-imposed.
I think you can let a fact like that devour you, or you can shoot it in the junk and proudly strap it to the hood of your DeLorean.
I’ve undergone a personal renaissance over the last few years. I’ve taken up marathon running and rock climbing. I pursue activities that simultaneously strain me mentally and physically. Much of my success in these endeavors is rooted in the need to overcome those negative aspects of my past.
Watching yourself transform as an individual gives you a hypersensitive insight. Whatever I write about; whether it be sports, art or songs from the 90’s about butts, I’m bringing said insight and striving for improvement. That’s what it’s all about right?
WANT TO JOIN MR. SAHLIN ON THE COA TEAM?
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