Greta’s Guide to the Galaxy

We met on a city bus in Boston in 1998. I was an art student, she was a Swedish au pair working for a German family. She didn’t have a lot of friends and decided to start talking with people on the bus. She told me, “I like your hat”, I replied, “I like yours too”, and so our friendship began. She was studying film and thought I would be an interesting person to document, she was quite impressed with my sense of humour. I was flattered and agreed, I am very funny.
This week we saw one of the things that can happen when two strangers meet, and commit to share more than funny stories on film for fourteen years. Greta’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Astrid Askberger, premiered at the Gothenburg International Film festival. This very personal documentary follows my life, my heart’s path, my relationships, family, artistic growth and of course, my incredible sense of humour.


Friday the 13th in Paris Nov 2015

I slept until 3pm on the day of the attack, I just couldn’t get out of bed. I did a few simple errands in my neighborhood, the famously quiet 15th arrondissement, before getting ready for the theater. Even his yelling was quiet, several cars down on the metro a man holding a grey plastic bag was yelling in a language I couldn’t understand. Through the open train cars I could see his anger, we all could, but his voice mixed with the distance and ambient noise was a whisper in my ears. Several people turned their heads and a few stood up, no one did anything but watch until he left. He continued yelling and gesturing with his grey plastic bag as he made his way down the platform. I shared a look with another passenger, a gesture, a shrug, a universal, “yeah what’s his problem?”.

A shiver of awareness that something could go awry.

I made it just in time to meet my dear friend Valerie at La Comedia for the musical Mistinguett. A 1920s themed song and dance spectacular based on the true story of Mistinguett. Mistinguett a Parisian badass who began her career singing ballads while selling blossoms. She became the most popular French entertainer of her time and highest paid female entertainer in the world, her legs were insured for 500,000 francs in 1919. The spectacle was spectacular indeed, complete with showgirls in pink feather headdresses, high-kicking men in pink suits carrying Mistinguett down a silver staircase baring the glowing emblem of the Eiffel tower. Just before the finale the performers got word that something had happened, a shooting. After the feathers, the solos, the three curtain calls and more, Mistinguett came out from behind the red curtain to let us know there’d been some trouble outside. We were free to leave, but they had closed the metal doors and advised us to stay. Information began pouring in through devices, we were two subway stops from the Bataclan, where 18 were already dead.


Luckily I was with Valerie, and luckily Valerie was with her love Kim. Luckily Kim is in the band for the show and he took us backstage. We sat on couches among unmasked actors who’d changed into their modern Parisian street clothes. We waited, sent messages, I held my breath. There was news feed and a window down the hall. So strange to look out the window and see the world moving. A man eating take out at a cafe across the street, cars driving by, a couple with a map. The Metro was closed, police were about to storm the Bataclan, there were shooters on scooters in the area. They believed the killing was done around 1am and taxis started running. We chose to stay put and Kim made us a bed in one of the dressing rooms upstairs. We slept curled up under a makeup table till morning, when we took a cab to their place and slept again.

I walked home in the afternoon and saw that Paris was still Paris, is still Paris, just quieter. Parisians and tourists alike were shopping, eating and looking at art. I saw a man selling selfie sticks outside the Louvre, and others using them. Mind you, there was only one of him on this day, and only two selling Eiffel tower key chains. Still Paris, just quieter. Many Parisians were home in their beds, grieving and resting. A lot of people were shopping, fancy furniture galleries were busier than usual, Starbucks was packed. The lingerie shop was by far the busiest and that’s the shop I couldn’t resist either. I didn’t buy anything, but I did go in. Were we all looking for something to hold onto? Comfort? A connection to our vitality, mortality, sexuality? Existence? I returned to my famously quiet neighborhood, thoroughly confused and cried.

Luckily, I received an invitation to a warm bluesy flat in the North of Paris for dancing with a real piano that very night. I went, covered in roses. I danced and I sang for real people. I sang in English and French and that felt wonderful. I count myself lucky in every direction. Luckily, I know there is strong medicine in confusion, an essential ingredient for transformation. I hope to find a direction in which I can be of service in this strange time. I open to the journey I am on and not the journey that I think I’m on. Thanks for being with me.