“I travel a lot. I’ve seen more world capitals than I can count. Each one has its own character. No two alike. Paris, for example, is detestable. Toronto, on the other hand, is rather manageable. They have trolleys. Also the lake. You can always figure out where you are in Toronto. London is civil. That’s worth a lot. Torkyo is servile on the outside and hostile on the inside. Bangkok is harried. The place has been destroyed by automobiles. Stockholm … Stockholm is strangely unsettling.
“Two odd things happened to me in Stockholm. First, I met my sister’s son there. It was a chance meeting on the street. A bit of a shock for both of us, the unexpectedness of it. He had deserted the army during the Vietnam war and landed in Sweden. It seems that he renounced his citizenship in a moment of political passion, so now he is stateless. Stuck in Sweden. He hates the winters.
“The other strange event was like a bad dream. Decidedly unsettling. I had spent much of the night trying to get to sleep and was woken abruptly in the gray of dawn by a thunderous rattle and the beating of wings. I thought I was in another nightmare. I discovered, however, that it was a seagull. I had left a carton of milk on the hotel window ledge and this starving bird was attacking it. I don’t know if he actually drank the milk, but he made a terrible racket and a mess of the carton.
“Stockholm is filled with these birds. I won’t go back there. If I can help it.”
—Stephen Minot, “Reading the News—Keeping Informed”
Art Credit Mark Catesby and George Edwards, The Natural History of Carolina, Florida, and the Bahama Islands