The sun returned today after a month of lolling casually below the horizon. It only just peeped over the top but it felt like a bolt of lightening delivering an electric shock to us desensitised, chilled-out locals.
Sitting in my living room wearing dark shades against the glare of daylight got me thinking. Kiruna’s a quiet kind of hood. No real problems.
Or are there?
The latest ‘Scandinoir’ TV crime drama series, ‘Midnight Sun’, is set in Kiruna. Violence, rampant criminality, murder, wild animals, gang warfare, racism, drug dealing – all part of everyday life, apparently, and I’d never noticed. It’s dark though, that’s for sure, and they say that makes us all a bit mad.
I’d not noticed that people calmly walking along the dark streets are really tense, unpredictable, and ready to crack at any moment. In the summer they wear peaked caps the wrong way round so you know they’re rebels, but in the winter you just can’t tell – they’re just hoodies, in ‘the hood’. And there ain’t nothing good in the hood.
Did I mention crack? Everywhere you turn its white, white and more white. The streets overflow with the stuff. You can’t escape it. You try and try to clear it away, but the next day it’s there again. There’s no escaping the stuff. Legalising hasn’t helped at all.
I start seeing the town differently.
At the end of our street a sign says ‘Hud’. That’s a beauty parlour – ‘hud’ means skin. And yet…. the town has always had its hoods – there’s the company hood, the railway hood, and the commercial hood, and now we also have the New Town hood (nobody will live there), the secret shopping hood (everyone shops there but no-one admits to it), and the husky dogs galore hood (people visiting spend time in this hood, and the rest of us don’t know where it is). Are any of these hoods bad?
Further up the street another neon sign tells us. ‘BAD’ it screams. I’d thought it was a reference to the swimming pool, but now I’m beginning to wonder.
Street gangs, we have a few. They deal of course. Mainly in maggots (fishing is the drug of choice here). It’s too cold to hang out on street corners so you’ll find them chilling out in ‘Empes’, Kiruna’s oldest hot dog stall. Only this year it’s had a facelift – the cold outdoor area is now indoors and heated, the drab wooden building now boasts bright leather seating. But how can you chill, man, on a plush red banquette? ‘Empes’ is a symbol of our lost cultural identity and that is making us all a bit crazy.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, 2016 is the year that brought us Danish ‘hygge’. Tourists arrive expecting to find it. But Kiruna never has and never will be party to the movement of ‘the art of building sanctuary and community, of inviting closeness and paying attention to what makes us feel open hearted and alive’. Celebrating the everyday? Kiruna? It’s not an everyday sort of place.
For comfort, teenagers turn to their Ride. That’s the snowscooter of course. It ain’t perfect for the mean streets, but it works on the white stuff. Actually, Kiruna’s the home of ‘Pimp My Ride’ – it invented the ‘EPA tractor’, the pimped-up car made to be legal for a teenager to drive. But not all the dudes are that lucky, some have to make do with a kick sled. No pimping possible. It can be tough, being cool in Kiruna.
Then, in this hood, where plenty of shit goes down, there’s the derelict, empty buildings, the abandoned streets, the demolition gangs. One day there’s a housing estate, the next day, nothing. That’s the way it is in Kiruna. When the Godfather says something will happen, it happens. One day houses, next day, rubble. Deal with it.
You don’t forget things like that. In the badlands of Kiruna, on the edge of the mine’s pit, they’re blasting, Star Wars style, beneath you. In bed, at two in the morning, the whole house shakes. I’m trying not to lose my head. The Godfather has decided. You pay your protection money, you get rehoused.
Kiruna. Don’t push me ’cause I’m close to the edge.