new Friend Friday #17

new Friend Friday #17

I’m here, mummified in wool and cotton in the orderly and honest land of Copenhagen, Denmark. I’m also here to bring you this week’s NFF. And of course, it wouldn’t be a proper NFF without a little history, so I’ve tucked it in on the loose ends.
To kick things off right, I arrived here on a $17 plane ticket. That much won’t even buy you Fergie’s new c.d. Shortly thereafter I fell in love with Copenhagen’s bicycle scene. I shouldn’t even say scene because it’s more like a way of life. For example, the day they had a huge snowstorm the first lane to get plowed was the bike lane. Oh yeah, did I forget to mention that bikes have their own lane, and on all streets. And even more important the bike lane is separate from the car lane, with its very own streetlights and laws. Just picture a perpetual criminal mass minus the hooting and hollering. So shortly after falling in love with their urban planner I also fell in love with a particular bike shop that makes their own style of bicycles. It’s like a tricycle but built backwards so that two wheels are in the front and one in the back. The handlebars are connected to a large box that makes the bike become a super efficient transporter of paint, books, or even kids. You can see most people in Denmark riding these bikes and four kids can fit in the front, strapped into seat belts and everything. The bike shop is called Christiania Bikes ( and is located in, none other than Christiania. For those unfamiliar with Copenhagen, as I was just a few days ago, Christiania is a section of Copenhagen that was taken over by squatters over 25 years ago. The city allowed them to live autonomously as a sort of “social experiment”. Of course the cost of real estate looks mighty blinging in the eyes of developers and presently Christiania is in a state of unrest as its future looks a bit bleak.

But Christiania is not the only unstable ground in Copenhagen. A place very akin to Holland Project is at risk of being kaboshed just as I’m writing you this. Henrik, graffiti writer and speed-walker extraordinaire took me to the place known as Ungdomshuset or ‘the youth house’. As we walked up to the place a huge new piece in chrome and pink says ‘living the dream’. The wheels on the 4-story scaffolding barely glide over the huge chunks of ice. We go inside and I meet Cecilia, who explains the history of the house to me. Here are the stats: The building of Ungdomshuset was completed on the 12th of November 1897, although its name was at first “Folkets hus” which literally means “The People’s House”. The place initiated much of the labour movement and played a great role in the demonstration against unemployment in 1918 where the workers stormed the Danish Stock Exchange.
Several decades later “Brugsen”, a local chain of supermarkets, bought Folkets hus, with the purpose of tearing down the building to build a supermarket. Due to the historic importance of the place, this was never realized and “Brugsen” sold the ground to the folk music ensemble “Tingluti” in 1978. Tingluti facing economic difficulties had to sell the ground to the municipality of Copenhagen after a number of years. The price back then was 700.000 Danish kroners. In 1982 Folkets hus was assigned to a group of young people, the original founders of Ungdomshuset. In January 1996 Ungdomshuset was ravaged by a fire and the municipality of Copenhagen tried to shut down the place. Finally the building was set for sale to the highest bidder.

This whole time squatters were not budging. They had called the building home for 25 years. Most recently a fundamentalist Christian organization bought the house from the city and is trying to kick the inhabitants out. However, the punks ain’t budging and riots have already started. Everything is hitting melting point and at any moment the police are planning to rampage the place and you’ll be sure to read about it in the NY TIMES.

But before the punks were in the house it was a reading hall where many Russian and Baltic writers and poets came to read their latest work. And before that it was a center to take care of emigrating Germans during and following WWII. And even before that it was where the first meeting was held to establish rights for women in Denmark. Whichever way you flip it, this place has got history and the kids are ready to riot just to save it.

Henrik (who’s last name will remain anonymous) and I stop in the bar next door to chat. Henrik is an electrician by day and waitor by night. But he happens to wait on a special type of person. Yes, most nights Henrik serves cute little Danish sandwiches of mayonnaise and herring to the Free Masons. All the members wear Abe Lincoln style top hats and penguin tailed tuxes as they call one another ‘brother’. Little does this secret society know about Henrik’s other secret society. Let me give you two clues. Fat caps and ski masks.
Henrik is a big graffiti writer out of Copenhagen. And this scene is huge. The Roskilds Festival is out of here as well as the gigantic MOA (monsters of art) crew. Some of the most top-notch writers came out of CPH too such as KEGR, TELE, BATES, Armsrock, and REBUS. Don’t believe me, just google it. This area has also taken a ‘no tolerance’ approach to graffiti under the lead of Lennart Faust, consultant to the Danish Graffiti Task Force. This guy is so nuts about graffiti he gave statements like this to the Copenhagen Post regarding a recently convicted English writer.
“The fact that an Englishman is joining inter-Scandinavian graffiti gangs indicates that this is highly organised, international crime.” However very unexpectedly he just died. Since then, the combination of Faust’s death along with the tenuousness of the youth house, has set the paint in motion. Drippy tags plague storefront windows, chrome throwies attack advertisements, rollers hover on rooftops. T-minus 1, I think we have lift off.

Hope you have fun in the train tunnels with your NFF Henrik. I’ll be chasing sunshine, as far south as I can get on $80. Take care and fight dirty.