Hallå, my name is Dàvvet Østend and I live in Lapland – the frozenest place on earth. Actually “live” might not be the operative word to describe existence here. “Survive” might be a better word. Lapland is an icy and forbidding landscape located on the fringes of Scandinavia, well north of the Arctic Circle, where nothing should be located except imaginary lines and Norse mythologies. Lapland is not a God forsaken land. It’s just a forsaken land – God doesn’t even bother with us. Neither does Google. They won’t even map us. Then again, aren’t God and Google really the same thing, except Google knows more about you than God does?
Lost in Frost
Growing up here in “the land that heat forgot” my body temperature never rose above 95°. Hypothermia was the norm and 95° was the new 98.6°. I lamented the depths of my frozen plight to wise old Uncle Anders. And this esteemed tribal elder bestowed upon me his Nordic wisdom, born of years of frigid deprivation: “You see Dàvvet, up here in Lapland, we’re all just in between bowel movements. No more, no less.” As I slowly backed away from my dear old uncle I realized that the constant cold had left both his philosophies and his potatoes half-baked.
There are about 180,000 ardent souls inhabiting our little ice capade gone terribly wrong. We’d better be ardent otherwise we’d all end up frozen solid like Jack Nicholson in The Shining. Ardent isn’t exactly an accurate word to describe our disposition: lemming-sh*t crazy might be a more fitting term for anyone who would voluntarily reside here in this howling tundra. On the bright side however, we don’t have any pathogenic illnesses in Lapland because germs, bacteria and viruses cannot survive the frigid atmosphere. In fact sometimes the atmosphere can’t survive the atmosphere. Occasionally it gets so profoundly cold that the nitrogen in the atmosphere freezes and tumbles out of the sky. This creates a 100% oxygenated atmosphere, and piles of frozen nitrogen for the Zamboni to smooth out. Oh sure, a purely oxygenated environment is a great method of natural blood doping, but try lighting a fire to stay warm and Boom! – suddenly it’s Northern Lights everywhere. Such are some of the frigid indignities of living in the land that heat forgot.
The Digital Divide
We Laplanders are a technologically challenged people. How challenged? Let’s put it this way, we just got the wheel. Our patent office is a Ripley’s Believe it or Not! Our telephones are known as Post-it Notes. Drinking water here is called ice. And our “TV” is a one candle, ceiling displayed network: TSPN – The Shadow Puppet Network. Lapland holds the distinction as the only place in the world untouched by Beatlemania or indoor plumbing. You get the picture? Good because we don’t. We stay here irregardless of conditions. That’s right “irregardless.” We don’t celebrate Christmas. We celebrate Bleakmas with a frozen tear-stained capitol B. At Bleakmastime, instead of gifts we exchange condolonces. I realize I’m ranting, but I either vent or I hop aboard a one-way ice floe to the North Pole.
It’s not inclement here in Lapland. Nope. Copenhagen in January is inclement. Lapland is unfathomably cold, Martian cold, “Kill me now” cold, but enhanced with snowstorms and frostbite. Lapland is more inhospitable than the Guantanamo Bay Detention Center. Did I mention that Lapland is so desolate that not only has God forsaken us, but Google has too? Yes. Yes I did.
How cold is it here? In 1854 the eminent English scientist Lord Kelvin discovered Absolute Zero barely three blocks from my igloo. Lapland’s snow covered moonscape makes us grateful our lives are finite. So if you like 20 hours of soul-killing, dreary darkness in the depths of winter and 20 hours of glaringly-cheery daylight in the false hope of summer, have I got some bi-polar tundra for you.
Our growing season begins on June 21st at 5:12 a.m. and ends later that day at sunset. Our chief crops are nothing and organic nothing. We import 100% of our staples and export 100% of our paper clips.
History and Religion
Lapland was founded in 1848 by Brigham Lapp who led his religiously persecuted sect west, away from Czarist Russia to what was supposed to be our Promised Land. So what if he missed it by 4000 kilometers? Scripture foretold of Brigham resettling his people in southern France. But owing to a balky compass and a cowering laity that didn’t have the gumption to tell their deliverer to make a left instead of a right at Berlin, our gyroscopically-challenged prophet led his hapless Lapps to a lifeless little Petri Dish north of the Arctic Circle. We were so close to the Promised Land of the French Riviera. Now, instead of basking in the yellow glow of the sun-drenched French Riviera, we cringe in the white frigidity of a Nordic sensory deprivation tank. It’s funny how doing things in the name of God is a lot like not doing things in the name of God. Life pivots on the skimpiest of fates.
Although our spirituality is vital to us, we may need to revisit its tenets. Our pagan faith is known as Frigid Animism whereby we pray to a rack of antlers in hopes of deliverance from the biting cold. At first blush this religious expression might be dismissed as primitive and futile. That is until you examine what other religions practice in the name of God – and yet we’re the ones being persecuted? I don’t get it.
There’s little upward mobility in our society unless you’re a snowdrift or smoke curls emanating from an igloo chimney. Everybody here lives in cookie cutter igloos and most of us end up marrying our sisters which may explain the antler praying. Couldn’t we move to Malta or some other warm kingdom known for their falcons – Atlanta maybe? But at least we’re now free to practice our unique brand of paganism away from judgmental eyes that disapprove of polygamy. Ours, however, is a different kind of polygamy whereby the women are able to marry as many men as they choose. And yes, we are in discussions with HBO to produce a sequel to Big Love called Big Frozen Love aka 7 Brides for 21 Brothers.
Industry and Tourism
Lapland’s currency is denominated in Bergs and is broken down this way: 10 Snowballs = 1 Icicle and 10 Icicles = 1 Berg. Often I’ve heard conversation like this around the betting windows in the Pari-mutuel Reindeer Racing parlor, “Hey, gimme 7 Ickys (Icicles) on Rudolph to show in the 3rd and 2 Bergs on Not My President to win in the 4th.” Unfortunately our currency is temperature sensitive. To safeguard it you must use an insulated wallet to keep it from melting into worthlessness. Many tourists have discovered this the hard way when reaching into their pocket to pay a bill, only to remove a damp, worthless hand. What little foreign currency we do earn is generated through the export of virgin slush to 7-11 for use in their Slurpee machines. This revenue is vital to us. In fact exports are of great import to us.
Arctic Tourism also contributes to our GDP. That’s how I earn a living (remember me the narrator, Dàvvet Østend?). I actually take tourists deep sea ice fishing. This is serious ice fishing. One time I caught a 58 lb. cube using nothing but a pair of Zebco Tongs. It’s a record that still stands to this day. Of course I had to throw it back though. The cube was pregnant. Usually we just catch cubes, but we also troll for blue-finned sno-cones and do some old-fashioned hillbilly handfishin’ for grunion – that is, when the grunion are runnin’. We tried fly fishing, but the flies just never seemed to bite. Except for the horse flies…which we later shoed!
In order to entice tourists to Lapland we put on our annual Shivering Festival. Events include Rhythmic Teeth Chattering and Lowest Survivable Body Temperature. The Shivering Festival is very popular with menopausal women who appreciate the cooling relief of a climate that suits their predicament. The festival is so popular that a jury now decides who’s allowed to attend. In other words, many are called but few are chosen; so that many are cold but few are frozen.
And as all politics are local, Lapland is one of the few places on earth that early on recognized the hazards of Global Warming. This disruptive climatic force is a real game changer. And we decided to do something about it by wholeheartedly supporting it. Anything for relief from the ever present bone-chilling cold.
Employment in Lapland is found primarily through Craig’s List ads where we hire out as hostages or organ donors (must have 2 in order to sell one). Most ads are created in-house, but a few are created in the outhouse. This is a fiercely frigid and mean place. For example, in our sister country of Finland, when a hardened criminal is sentenced to solitary confinement, they just send them to Lapland and allow them to freely circulate – that’s solitary punishment enough.
Tourism (which includes incarcerated criminals at the Brigham Lapp Correctional Igloo) provides a tiny fraction of our GDP. Our tourist slogan is We’re always chillin’ in Lapland! When quizzed as to why they visited our fair and frozen land, both tourists responded, “Well we’d already been to the Holocaust Museum and we wanted to see someplace with worse conditions.” Laplanders are kind of like the Amish, but without the creature comforts and technological gadgetry. No one will ever repurpose Lapland Country as a charming and quaint vacation destination, but we try: Lapland – The Frozenest Place on Earth© featuring the infectious sing-along jingle ♫It’s a Cold World After All♫
Food and Drink
Lapland is a food desert (a food tundra actually), so is it any wonder our national dish is Macaroni & Sleet. Although we have water, water everywhere, there’s not a drop to drink. We Laplanders have to melt ice for our drinking water. That’s right. We cook our ice in order to produce our water. That’s why we’re always ice fishing – to catch our fresh drinking water. Some have nearly drowned trying to cook it. Generally speaking however, we live within a reindeer-based food chain – a complex web of delicate interdependence. The chain begins with us Laplanders. It’s then linked directly to our precious reindeer resource. And then it returns directly back to us again. That’s it. Actually it’s really more of a food charm bracelet than any kind of complex interdependent food chain.
Momma Østend did what she could to put food on the floor (this was before Ikea began sending us their damaged tables). When food was scarce (which was always) she’d improvise and stretch our meager stores with unique reindeer recipes. Many is the time I’d sit on the floor for a thin gruel of chopped antlers in slush or reindeer lymph with pinecones. She’d send us off to school with an ABBA lunch box filled nutritious lichens and a thoughtful little ramekin of pine soot for dipping. And there was always a little sippy cup of ice cubes I’d melt near the communal fireplace of our little one-igloo school house in Rovaniemi.
Our literary greatness is almost entirely due to the enchanting tales of revered storyteller Hands Christian Foote. He is known as the Pied Piper of Lapland. His fairytale children’s books have been made into numerous movies including: Frosty the Snowman Who Wouldn’t Melt and Rudolph the Frostbitten Reindeer. Head to toe Hands Christian Foote was Lapland’s greatest storyteller.
We used to proudly display our traditional Lapp folk dance at the Shivering Festival. But due to various ordinances that have passed recently, we are now forbidden to engage in any kind of our traditional dance even though everyone seemed to really enjoy a good Lapp dance. This once harmless folk dance seems to have taken on a whole other meaning. And there was a time when our pole dancers once proudly strutted their stuff at the local ice rink, but no longer. No more pole dancing either.
Lost in Frost
What’s most galling is that we Laplanders are fully aware of the warm and inviting opportunities south of the Arctic Circle, but tradition and family obligations keep us wed to this frigid landscape; much like the boy who tempted fate and accidentally spot-welded his tongue to the frozen metal pole of a clothesline. No more pole dancing for little Fredo. So we’re all stuck up here till someone unsticks us. There are some compensations to our predicament though. For example we save money on buying freezers because in Lapland, freezers are known as anyplace outside the house. Additionally, there’s no graffiti in Lapland because spray paint freezes and falls harmlessly to the earth before it reaches its intended surface. All of our public protest writing is accomplished by “yellowing snow,” while hoping to avoid frostbite to our writing instrument.
Lapland is located much too close to the North Pole. How close? Well from where I survive you can hear Santa’s elves cobbling shoes and vaping in their bunkhouses. Dwelling in Lapland may be the predicament we’re born into, but what sufficed in 1848 as a noble way to eke out a life in a Northern extremity is now chump change in 2018. That’s what makes our existence here all the more poignant.
As global warming breaks up the once ice-choked shipping lanes in the Arctic Ocean, civilization is beginning to reach us. In fact we just got our first box of Extra Toasty Cheez-Its last week. The fabled Northwest Passage is now a reality, bringing hope that the frozen bonds that once wedded us to this barren moonscape will dissolve and allow us to resume our rightful perch in the warm climes of the French Riviera. I’m planning my departure soon. Meanwhile I sit here like everyone else – in between bowel movements.