Swede Thing


Location: Astoria

Rent: $850 (market rate)

Square feet: 600

Occupants: Stina Persson (freelance illustrator; waitress at Torch); Anna Sjoberg (student, Fashion Institute of Technology)

As I approached your red brick house with the white metal awning, I noticed the tank top hanging on the front porch. [Stina] In Sweden we dry our laundry outside. I’m a tank top fanatic. I have 15 more in the bedroom. Would you like some tea?

No, but I’ll have a banana. I was having a banana! Here comes Anna. [Anna] I’ll have a banana, too. [Stina] We’re all bananaying.

You look so alike with short blond hair. [Stina] Everybody thinks we’re sisters. [Anna] They call us Inga and Inga. [Stina] If people see us only separately, they think we’re the same person.

The World Book says that your country’s three most important natural resources are timber, iron ore, and water power. It’s so Swedish here with all the candles, silver napkin rings, painted blue chairs—so Carl Dreyer, so Georg Jensen—oh, he was Danish. Sometimes I get mixed up. Who are your neighbors? [Stina] Everybody’s Greek. I think they think we’re crazy. We sit on the street cutting our hair. We have breakfast on the sidewalk. It’s always cold in Sweden, so when it’s warm you want to be outside. We find so much furniture on the sidewalk. I found a bed on the way to the gym. [Anna] On our way home from the gym we found the sofa.

Everything happens to you on the sidewalk. You met on the sidewalk. [Stina] Near the Swedish church, on 48th. A lot of au pair teenagers go to read Swedish magazines in their reading room. When I came to New York three years ago—to go to Pratt—I must have been really naive because I said, Okay I’ll live in Greenwich Village and pay $300 rent. I was staying in the YMCA on 23rd Street and usually I don’t mind about things, but there were a lot of cockroaches, weird people. Then I see Anna outside the church and she looks so Swedish. I asked, Where do you find an apartment here? She was starting FIT. Somebody told us about Astoria. We went into Century 21 and told them we don’t want any bad things. I think they felt sorry for us. They took us under their wings a little bit. The real estate man drove me back to the YMCA at night. [Anna] He didn’t drive me. He must have fallen in love with you. [Stina] He showed us this apartment. Our landlady is Chinese. She lives upstairs.

It’s so clean, orderly. Here we are, eating Swedish biscuits and salted licorice— we finished our bananas… I see all these large oil paintings of women with deep blue around their eyes. [Anna] They’re by Stina. At first she didn’t want anything on the walls. [Stina] But Anna just put them up, boom, boom, boom. [Anna] She is very talented and I’m very lucky I was with her from the beginning. One day when you’re famous, Stina, I hope you remember me.

Then you’ll live in big huge houses. [Anna] We’ll need to fall in love with someone who has a lot of space. [Stina] Like this woman I know who lived with her aunt for a long time. Later in life she met this man and fell in love, and he had a beautiful brownstone in Brooklyn. They’re the happiest couple I’ve ever seen. She said she never thought she’d live like that. [Anna] So you just have to wait and hope for that, I guess. [Stina] But you’ll have to come back to Sweden for the raw herring.