The Essence of Odense - or how to meet an unicorn

The Essence of Odense - or how to meet an unicorn
Story | Written by: Brian Lindskov Larsen | Translated by: Fabio Trecca | Monday, January 18, 2016

By now you’re aware that This Is Odense is trying to give Odense a better rep, trying to the point where you – as local, prospective new arrival, quitter or whatever - really uderstand the essence, the singularity, the totally special and very very amazing thing that separates Odense from other, less cool cities, such as Copenhagen, Berlin and Los Angeles. In many ways we think things are moving in the right direction; the majority of the population is aware that should they find themselves, slumped over a bar, one late evening, muttering ‘nothing ever happens in Odense’, a TIO reader will appear out of nowhere and head-butt you to the floor and start lecturing you on next week’s outstanding events within the fields of performing arts or the use of seaweed in installation art. So far, so good, but no matter how far we extend ourselves in our praises of local concerts and art, the thriving gastro scene and the almost modern building projects shooting up all over town, every single thing I just mentioned can also be found in any other cool city. Except for the birthplace of Hans Christian Andersen. ...And we don’t talk about Hans Christian Andersen in This Is Odense.

Fortunately, there’s also something else. Something you can only get in Odense, for a limited time only, something unique, magical and which will change your life forever if you’re lucky enough to chance upon it. Almost like meeting a unicorn, if unicorns were real. You might even say that you’re not a true Odense citizen if this hasn’t happened to you. It reminds me of a convention in the TV show How I Met You Mother, where it is agreed that you can’t call yourself a newyorker if you haven’t seen Woody Allen on the street at least once (and cried on the subway, strangled a rat with your bare hands and stolen a taxi right in front of someone else).

In Odense we don’t have Woody, but we have Kim, and a lot of you may not think about it on a daily basis, but Kim is probably the single Danish artist alive today whose music has touched the broadest spectrum of people across the generations – young and old, pop guys and metal dudes, boys and girls, staunch liberals and stauncher leftists, one and all. Not a word against Bowie – I also shed a tear last week – but when Kim in what I hope is many years from now leaves our green earth, facebook will run AMOK, the entire district around Grønttørvet will be declared a national sanctuary and every street name in Odense will be changed to Jutlandiagade, Havajestræde and KøbBananervej, and I already can picture (with a shudder) the amusement park LarsenLand a few kilometers from Solrødsvinget. Mark my words.

Sure, you might say, I have met Kim lots of times. And I’m sure you have. Mr. Larsen likes to go for a beer after dark and he has his regular watering holes, so you’ll know where to find him. But even though mr. Larsen is up for a chat when the mood strikes him, it isn’t very magical or unicorn-like to pass by him as he’s enjoying a beer and a smoke at Kickoff, even if it may be a little bit great. No. You have to come across him on his bicycle, and he must be whistling, and it isn’t something you can seek out. It either happens or it doesn’t.

Here’s an example:

Many, many years ago, 20 or so, I – an otherwise staunch Copenhagen boy – moved to Odense, to be with my girlfriend and to get away from fast girls, drugs, beer and Istedgade in November. Back then, Odense was really ugly and really small; it mainly consisted of Boogies and Odense University (now University of Southern Denmark) and as Boogies was closed on Mondays, I started taking classes at the university. I used to bike back and forth, wearing my stylish comp. lit. glasses, missing the big city, and thinking what the hell am I doing in this dump, this mockery against architecture, this bog of provinsial self-hatred? Until one Monday morning (I don’t remember what day it was, but it was one of those pointless, grey-ish Mondays, you know?). A nice gent on his gentleman’s bicycle overtakes me on the street. Slowly and with his Kim cap askew. And he begins to whistle. And he is whistling ’Det er i dag et vejr’ because the sun was shining and you have to whistlet that song, the whole song, and when it was over, he turned down another street and disappeared.

I cried like a baby all the way out to Niels Bohrs Allé and when I opened the door to Text Analysis 2 it felt like I had just closed the door to something I couldn’t remember but something important. I can’t explain it any other way. It is like that almost-pleasureable lumpy feeling you get in your stomach on a summer’s night when the blackbird is singing and the summer isn’t endless, again, but multiplied by 100.

Three times in the past twenty years have I been on my bicycle behind Kim, accidentally, and every time he has whistled a song for me, and the other day I passed him, I only heard a few notes, I didn’t even see him, but trust me; no one else whistles like that. I had to stop and close my eyes for a second and then I said to my girlfriend: ”No one can tell a curse and a blessing apart until at the very end”.

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