What I meant to say was...


Let me begin by saying that I have nothing against Scandinavians, who are a warm and intelligent people, blessed (I'm told) with a wonderful sense of humor.

Even if I did have some sort of anti-Scandinavian bias (which I don't, honest), you couldn't express it in the newspaper.

It wouldn't be politically correct. I would catch holy hell from so many directions it wouldn't be worth it.

Angry letters from people named Sven and Grette would begin pouring in, written in the neat, distinctive style derived from centuries of spending long winter nights perfecting one's penmanship.

Then I'd look out the newsroom window one day and see a picket line around the building manned by hundreds of very polite, blue-eyed, blond-haired people.

They'd be carrying signs ("Nothing Could Be Fina Than To Be From Goersen Ina") and chanting into bullhorns. ("Two, four, six, eight, Scandinavians deserve a break!") And pretty soon my editor would come goose-stepping up to my desk and bark: "Didn't I tell you to lay off the Scandinavians?! You got five minutes to clear out your desk."

So I'd lose my job and my house and my car, and pretty soon I'd be spending my days --ing up to cars at busy intersections and asking drivers if I could clean their windshields. Nights would be spent sleeping (if you could call it that) on a steam grate.

And of course whenever I managed to shake off the exhaustion long enough to apply for work, the whispers would follow: "That's the poor SOB who ripped the Scandinavians . . ."

No, thanks. Look, I don't need that kind of hassle. So the last thing I want to do is tick off Scandinavians, or the Swedish-American or Danish-American communities, or what have you.

The only reason I bring up Scandinavians at all is that I was in a Scandinavian furniture store the other day and . . . .OK, I guess we should clear one thing up here.

By "Scandinavian furniture store," I don't mean a furniture store owned by Scandinavians. I mean a store that sells Scandinavian furniture. Not that there's anything wrong with a Scandinavian owning a furniture store. I didn't say there was. Most Scandinavians are honest and hard-working and no doubt make excellent merchants, except for Lars Olsen in my old neighborhood, who was a crooked bookmaker and lazy as sin.

But that's one person. Come to think of it, I'm not even sure he was a real Scandinavian. (He pushed his mother down a flight of stairs once -- I don't think a real Scandinavian would do that.)

FTC Anyway, I was wandering through this Scandinavian furniture store, checking out their furniture -- admiring their furniture, really -- when a thought occurred to me.

I hope nobody takes this the wrong way, but even though I admire Scandinavian furniture, much of it seems sort of . . . well, spare.

OK, I used the word "spare." And I see where that could lead.

I can see some big, strapping Finnish-American slamming down the newspaper and bellowing to his wife: "Why do they always call our furniture spare?!"

The shame of it is, that's exactly what I'm trying to avoid here. Stereotyping. Automatically equating the words "Scandinavian furniture" with the word "spare."

That's just not right. I shouldn't have done that. Let me apologize right now.

(Look, if it'll help matters, my wife is Scandinavian. Born in Oslo, Norway. Came to this country six years ago stowed away in the cargo hold of a freighter loaded with . . . OK, not really. She's Irish. And born in Long Island. But I would be proud to marry a Scandinavian woman, if it ever came to that.)

Anyway, maybe we can rephrase this whole thing.

My point is that while Scandinavian furniture is certainly, um, functional, they could jazz it up a little.

You know? I'm not saying they should slap paisley upholstery on everything, or build armchairs with wings like those on a '57 T-Bird.

But a little color wouldn't hurt. I'm all for the natural wood look or that white lacquer finish so popular in Ikea catalogs. But variety -- is the spice of life, if you catch my drift.

(Let me clarify one thing: While I have no problem with a "woody" look in furniture, I'm not advocating it, OK? So I don't want any tree-huggers and eco-nuts writing in and accusing me of championing the wholesale destruction of forests. Please. Let's not get into that whole thing. I've got my hands full right here.)

Anyway, that's all I was trying to say: Scandinavian furniture could use a little . . . pizazz.

Actually I'm sorry I brought the whole thing up.

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