That Time I Saw Wilt Chamberlin in Sweden

“The medium is the massage.” Typsetting Error Approved by Marshall McCluhan as Book Title
“Happiness is a Swedish sunset–it is there for all, but most of us look the other way and lose it.” Mark Twain
When Twain Forces of Midnight Suns/Sons Entangled Amidst Swedish Massages
by J.B. Pravda
[Derived by this author from his Travel Diary Entries: August, 1971/Stockholm]
“Man, I’m midnight’s own son, dig it………” What I imagined him saying, had I screwed up sufficient gumption this afternoon; that hip retort from the seven vertical feet of well-muscled ebony elegance known as Wilt Chamberlain would have been catalyzed by my too clever by half quotation of another seminal American tourist connecting each’s version of happiness in the presence of a form of Swedish rouge light (a la Moulin for the former, solar the latter).
As things stood, literally, the better part of my (now less) private valor was invoked as a gag order.
Aside from the plain-spoken body language’s favoring of discretion another clear benefit had to do with extreme jeopardy lurking within the factual proposition that the would-be quoted American had been, albeit for mostly literary effect of its essential iniquity, the chief employer of the ‘N’ word as applied by Caucasian fellows of a nation that had enslaved so many of Mr. Chamberlain’s brothers and sisters, not to mention his likely direct ancestors. [Despite its contradictory nature per se, ‘not to mention’ was the operative concept provident of my survival].
It was enough for both of us that this midnight son be permitted to get on with compiling his reputed five-figured horizontal tally in the setting of his occasional courtyards of red-lit happiness. What my ear did record from those lofty lips as he and another NBA colleague sauntered away—‘…time for that massage, man…’—set me on the path of another quest.
My Berlitz informed me that 72 years before my Swedish sojourn that less than innocent abroad, Mr. Clemens, had made his way to a health spa at Sanna, near the town of Jonkoping in south central Sweden where his daughter Jean was to continue her positive results with the Swedish movement cure begun with Dr. Heinrik Kellgren at his Eaton Square Swedish Institution.
Sam Clemens, whose finances demanded that he become the first rock star global citizen of American beginnings, found that this touch therapy helped to make his peregrinations far more bearable. Indeed, he felt himself and kin in mighty company given his knowledge that none less than Julius Caesar himself had found relief from the falling sickness in this therapy first brought to America in the middle of the 19th century.
As he would’ve surely quipped: “I reckoned that so long as my treating attendants had not a whit of relation to old Brutus and company I would be spared Julius’ final fall.” [Attributed by J.B. Pravda]
Beside this self-assurance Clemens found that his reputation for situational humor had long-preceded his arrival, no less than three volumes of his sketches had been compiled and partly translated by an admiring (then) unknown August Strindberg some twenty years before.
Sweden had thus been included in the then vogue for sardonic wit Twain had innovated, along with England and most of the Continent, Strindberg revealing later via his autobiographical novel ‘Son of a Servant’ that he’d been brought to the realization that ‘…everything from the modern point of view…turns out to be bunk.’ While from the rude American West, Twain had exported the very imagery of Buncombe County, North Carolina thereby eradicating any illusions about the essence of his wit: tomfoolery, American English style.
And that Americanized English was to populate the Swedish imitator of England’s ‘Punch’, the unpronouceable (by most Americans & English) ‘Son-Dags-Nisse’ (‘dog’s nose’?, presumed Twainism), thanks to its successive Editors, Mssrs. Vallentin and Hans Zetterstrom.
While they interviewed Twain on 13 July 1899, his contempt for such events was well-known to them, or should have been. “They’s spoken words ‘n they’s writ ones, and they each have their sensory domains such that, like old Shakespeare done teased at—-‘eyes that hear’, ‘ears what see’—mockery, fittin indeed, spoke spot on by ole Bottom, in his midsummer speech; seein as how we’re in midsummer, I’d be the very ass he postulates if’n I were to go on too long…” [Imagined by J.B. Pravda]
And, so, in keeping with my imagined instructions from the master, I’ll move on, as I did one August afternoon in the walkable city, past a vinyl (only, in those days) record shop; I heard a buzzing in my ear (not my Bottom)–it wasn’t a fly (Twain had complained about ‘American flies’ in that ancient interview), but a distinctly distinctive American voice, that of Etta James singing her ‘Something’s Got a Hold on Me’. I rewound my recent mental tape to that son of midnight, knowing that he knew, had always known what that something was; it was the McCluhanesque ‘massage’, the self-same touching feeling now personified by another paler son of the midnight sun, Tim Bergling, a.k.a. Avicii, covering with a mix of Etta’s bad/good feeling, massaging all through a Muse’s musical medium that slays all surface human differentiation–that same force that impelled Twain’s two-natured son to blaze his earthy trail, his Huck as Puck, risking fiery daze where midnight dwells without a hint of Sun, for the tawny Jim’s sake.
The building bore a plaque–“S. L. Clemens, Mark Twain (something in Swedish)”.
As I sit here poking at plasma via my 2016 keyboarded SlateBook I reread Twain’s refrain concerning Swedish sunsets from a letter of his visitation:
“I’ve no business in here — I ought to be outside. I shall never see another sunset to begin with it this side of heaven. This is the place to be. I have seen about 60 sunsets here; and a good 40 of them were away and beyond anything I had ever imagined before for dainty and exquisite and marvellous beauty and infinite charm and variety. America? Italy? The tropics? They have no notion of what a sunset ought to be. And this one—this unspeakable wonder. It discounts all the rest. It brings the tears, it is so unutterably beautiful.”
Adding my new tears, I snap back, now the same age as that scrivener whose recursive cursive lives again, in matter’s fourth state.
Good night, then, Sweden of my twain young/older self; I, too, am feeling Sweden’s blissful massage of the mind.

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